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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A little Leidi Bird told me...

This blog post is WAY overdue and I have been meaning to do it since I got my diaper bag back in August.  Yes, I got my diaper bag when Levi was already 4 months old!  Not by choice, but because I couldn't find one I liked!!!  The ones at the baby stores just didn't seem right.  So, all summer long I just used a beach bag.  It worked fine, but I knew it would be a little strange to use it through the winter!

Finally, I was on Facebook and noticed something from a friend I hadn't noticed before.  I clicked on her website, to find out that she had her own company--Leidi Bird Designs.  She happens to make beautiful handmade bags.  So I checked out her site for a bit and stumbled upon the fact that she also makes nursing covers, burp cloths, and yes, DIAPER BAGS! 

So I looked at the diaper bag in various views and I knew it would be amazing.  So I ordered a custom bag.  I got to pick out my material and leather colors and everything.

Her bags are really well-made. And you have to know, she is a mother of two, so she designed an amazing diaper bag!!! This bag provides 10 pockets, including two outside bottle pockets and a special waterproof wipes pocket under the flap for easy access anytime. The Daisy Days Diaper Bag has two side stroller straps which hook and lock around your strollers handles (I use this feature daily on my walks)...See more of the description here:

So, if you are in the market for a diaper bag or tote, eyeglass case, nursing cover, burp cloths and a number of other amazing handmade beauties, check out Rebekah's store and awesome blog. You won't be disappointed!

Oh, and I couldn't help myself and I also ordered a nursing cover with matching burp cloths because they were in a special deal.  They were really adorable and would make a really great gift to a new mom or for a baby shower! Everything is handmade and unique, plus you would be supporting another woman/mom in her awesome business.

Hope you love Rebekah's site as much as I do!

In health and wellness,

Friday, September 24, 2010

Another recall? Maybe we should recall our food safety policies...

For those of you who feed your baby Similac formula, please check into whether your current stash is part of the recall: My thoughts go out to you as you must be upset and frustrated with this terrible issue.

Also, interestingly, I saw this article that a friend posted on her Facebook page and thought it was interesting...  Personally, I think everyone has got to do what they gotta do.  I happen to share my experiences with breastfeeding because that is where I am at right now.  I was in the opposite situation 7 years ago with my first son, where breastfeeding was impossible while I was finishing school.  If his formula was recalled I would be really upset and scared.

However, I do have to say, that some of the comments and the general feel of the article REALLY bothered me.  For me, I think it brings to light the fact that moms on both sides feel responsible or guilty about doing the right thing all the time and end up judging one other, but the responsibility of the companies of these recalls is ignored.  The feeling you get in this culture is all about personal responsibility and the companies don't have to be held responsible.  Like the egg recall--they say consumers should fully cook their eggs.  What happened to days where you could lick the cookie batter and eat your eggs over easy and not be scared that you would get sick or die?

Similar to other debates where people judge each other--like to go organic or not.  Maybe the FDA should be holding these companies to a MUCH higher standard than they are currently practicing.  Why should moms have to choose between organic and paying extra or non organic and be scared they are compromising the health of their families? Maybe companies shouldn't be allowed to spray any of our food with dangerous chemicals.  Maybe factory farming should be examined because it has dangerous side effects and compromises the safety of our food system (in the case where the runoff from a meat farm was infecting spinach and tomatoes).  Maybe we should examine our food policies and practices so that it works better for safety of the people as well as the health of the plant.

Food safety in this country (in my opinion) is TERRIFYING!  Even for pet food! I don't go to the farms to buy directly because I want to feel superior to anyone. I do it because it is fresher and safer than going to the grocery store.  Similarly, I don't breastfeed my baby to feel better than anyone else, I do it because I want to and I feel it is the best choice for my baby.  I write about breastfeeding to offer support to women who want to make the same choice.  Not to feel better than anyone else, but to help other women feel supported and have all the information. 

So, whether you breastfeed or not, isn't really the issue here.  I think the real issue is that we should be able to safely purchase something at the store and not have to pray that it won't be tainted or make our families ill. And, if a company sells a product that makes people ill, they should have bigger consequences.

In health and wellness,

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hello Sunshine Soup and Baby Solids

Ahhh...September is so nice in New England.  Hello sunny skies and days that are a little breezy, goodbye August heat and humidity.  So what have I been up to? 

There are T-16 days until baby Levi turns 6 months!  While I am excited for him to turn 6 months and start eating solids, I am a little sad that it is going by so fast! As the date approaches, I am starting to do a little research on solid foods.  I have been a little tempted to start early, but I am holding steadfast to the recommendation to exclusively breastfeed for his first 6 months. 

So why should you wait?  Firstly, your milk is the best thing to fill up baby's little tummy.  When you fill him or her up with other things, you are missing the opportunity for your little one to be eating the perfect food.  Secondly, waiting helps the baby avoid digestive problems and potential for allergies.  Just because your baby may appear ready for food, their little digestive systems may not be as ready as you think! 

Here is a helpful article from that helps you learn how to tell whether your baby is ready for solids:

On a side note, the website is FANTASTIC!!!  I highly recommend looking through it before you start solids and throughout your baby's introduction to solids.  There are recipes for baby food (which is so simple to make and outlined so easily on the website).  Also, there is even instructions on how to make your baby homemade cereals, which are WAY more nutritious and healthful for your baby!

Here is a recipe for a little fall soup, that I whipped up last week.  It is a perfect recipe for fall, but also an easy recipe to whip up while introducing solids.  Simply keep some sunshine squash aside from the rest of the soup, add some water, puree, and freeze the leftovers into ice cube trays. When you serve the baby, stir in a little breastmilk or formula to thin it out.

Sunshine Squash and Corn Soup

Sunshine Squash (or other winter squash)
1/2 large onion
2 ears of corn on the cob
Vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Couple leaves of fresh sage or 1 tsp dried sage

  1. Cut the sunshine squash and scoop out the seeds.
  2. Place face down in a baking dish, add a bit of water into the bottom and bake at 400 for 40-45 min, until fork slides in easily.
  3. Meanwhile, saute the onions in a little bit of olive oil until soft. 
  4. Once it is cooked, scoop out the squash from the skin and put some of it into a food processor.
  5. Add the onions to the processor and a bit of the vegetable stock. 
  6. Puree. Add a little more vegetable stock until it is a nice smooth consistency that you like.  Add more or less if you like thicker/thinner.  If you have too much squash to fit in one batch, then do this step in multiple batches.
  7. Place the smooth squash mixture into a sauce pan.
  8. Cut the corn off the cob (I place it in a bowl and cut downwards). 
  9. Add the corn to the squash mixture in the sauce pan.
  10. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add the sage to taste.
  11. Simmer on a medium low heat until the corn is cooked (about 5-10 minutes). If needed, you can add more vegetable stock.
Hope you enjoy this nice soup that brings us nicely into autumn days! You could even add a grain to the soup like wild rice or barley to make it a bit heartier!

In health and wellness,
Nicole Harter

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Preserving Summer's Bounty

I do not know if you have had the opportunity to read Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, but it is a good one.  It is a memoir about her family's experiment with eating only locally grown foods for an entire year.  Basically she talks about the benefits to the environment, local economy, and your health to eat locally produced food year round.  So how do you eat local vegetables year round in temperate climates such as Massachusetts for example?  Good question!  Barbara Kingsolver helps you discover some of the answers in her book. 

I read the book last summer and it has made a lasting impact on how I view the summer's bountiful harvest and decided that this year I will not squander it!!!  So this year I have preserved the following locally grown treats to last me into the fall/winter months: 

In my freezer: 
This year:  blueberries, green peppers, corn from the cob, tomato sauce, basil pesto, and green beans
Last year:  blueberries, cranberries, green peppers and basil pesto

In my pantry:
This year:  blueberry jam, tomato sauce, salsa, quartered tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and soon to be grape jelly, dried garlic
Last year:  Grape jelly and dried garlic

In my refrigerator:  I made pickles this year!  They only last 2 months, but it helped me utilize those cucumbers for a longer part of the summer!

Now, it is important to note that I do not have that much compared to the quantity that Barbara Kingsolver has in her book. I also do not have a lot compared to the amazing men/women who have been doing this for years. I also cannot live off of just this food for the whole winter (and it really isn't the point).  The point is that I am starting small and learning new things each year. Each year I intend to do a little bit more and learn something else that is new so I can build my winter stash.  This year, if you noticed, I did more than last year.  I did a little bit each month in the early summer, and in August I did some each week! 

Last winter with the little that I did do, it felt amazing when I pulled the veggies out of the freezer or opened a new jar of jelly that I had made out of the grapes from my yard.  I felt more connected to the food I was eating and the earth that I was protecting, if even in a very small way. 

So have you ever preserved anything to last from the summer and into the winter?  If not, then why not try it?  It only takes a little effort to grab a few extra peppers or ears of corn at the farmer's market or farm stand and cut them up and put them in your freezer.  Start small and see how it goes, you just may get hooked on local foods!

Resources for preserving foods:
Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
USDA guidelines for preserving foods
Tangerini's newsletter (my CSA farm) with preserving tips

In health and wellness,

Nicole Harter

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summer Fun Favorites!

Hi again! 

I feel as though I haven't written a post in a while.  I had an amazing vacation in Portland, Oregon to thank for that as well as a seven-year old boy to entertain all summer.  We had a blast!  So, I thought I would list some of the fun/healthy things we did that highlighted this summer!

Fun Farm Afternoon:  Another family and ours met up for the afternoon and decided to head to Tangerini's Farm.  We got some veggies, let the kids run around the hay maze, let them feed the animals, and had some icecream. We had a beautiful afternoon soaking up some fresh air and vitamin D.  The best past of bringing the kids to the farm is that they are exposed to where their food comes from (not just the grocery store) and show them that they have local food available to them as well!

Lake days:  I brought the kids down to some lakes early in the summer, including Wallum Lake in Douglas and Mendon Town Beach in Mendon.  I packed up some of our own snacks like fruit, nuts, air-popped popcorn, carrot sticks, and homemade sandwiches so I could skip the unhealthy snack bars and icecream truck.  We laid out the blanket in a nice shady spot and let my older son run around to his heart's content.

CSA Pick-up Days:  I belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), where I give a farm money to be a member, and then every week I arrive with my bags to pick up this week's bounty.  I belong to Tangerini's Farm, which has been great.  Last year I did Heirloom Harvest which was also wonderful (but too far away with the baby).  Each week my mother and I loaded the kids in the car and picked up our goodies.  The great part is that each week there is "U-pick" items as well.  My son loves to pick veggies and then is more inclined to try them out when they are on his plate later!  For more information about finding a local CSA near you check out  If the CSA isn't for you, they will also tell you how to find local farmers markets as well!

Jammin:  So one morning I woke up and I called my mom from bed and the conversation went kind of like this-- "Hey mom, want to go buy 5 lbs of blueberries and make jam?"  "Sure honey, I will be over in a little bit".  And instead of buying just 5 lbs, we went with 10.  That afternoon we made a ton of jam to last us the winter.  We plan to pick the concord grapes growing in my yard to make grape jelly next week because the grapes are almost there.   Next year we plan to do strawberries as well!

Grill nights with friends/family:  This summer, instead of going out to eat with friends/family, we decided to have them over!  We made simple meals that were local and seasonal and avoided going out for meals that were more expensive, higher in salt and fat, and made from less-than-ideal ingredients!  Examples include:
  • Grampie meal:  Grilled whole chicken, grilled baked potatoes with onion, salad, and sauteed greens.
  • Dad meal:  Steamed mussels in a tomato wine sauce with fresh salad.
  • Friend meal:  Steamed lobsters and steamers, grilled baked potatoes and grilled summer squashes, with a salad.
Picnic in the back yard:  My husband worked from home one day so we decided to have a picnic in the backyard with both kids.  My older son Sam played on his play structure and swing set and baby Levi laid on the blanket.  We soaked up some sun and fresh air and ate a nice little picnic lunch.

I hope you had a happy/healthy summer that include a lot of good memories!  Having a good time and staying healthy can be synonymous if you keep it light, fun and simple!  Although I do have to say, that as much fun as I had this summer, I would say that I am enjoying having Sam back to school to get back into a routine. I do plan on posting more often now that Sam is back in school too!

Enjoy the remainder of the summer! 

In health and wellness,
Nicole Harter

Monday, August 2, 2010

Skip the Juice...

And hydrate your kids with plain, old-fashioned, high quality H2O!

Since my first son was a baby, I had a thing against juice.  I kind of felt like it was liquid sugar, only going to cause problems with his teeth and offer limited nutritional advantages.  Turns out my hunch is pretty spot on. 

According to the website:

"The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that fruit juice not be given to infants under six months of age since it offers no nutritional benefit to babies in this age group. After six months of age, infants may have limited amounts of juice each day. For youngsters older than six months, fruit juice offers no nutritional benefits over whole fruit. Whole fruits also provide fiber and other nutrients. Infants should not be given fruit juice at bedtime, nor as a treatment of dehydration or management of diarrhea. For children ages one to six years old, limit fruit juice consumption to 4 to 6 ounces (120–180 ml) each day."

Do yourself a favor and avoid it early!  Otherwise, it is a pain to try to convince them later that water is better (especially when they have had the chance to taste the sweet stuff).  Stick with water for hydration and they'll never miss the juice.  Give them plenty of fruits when they are old enough to eat solids and you will be giving your child the gift of healthy habits early!

For my son now?  Juice boxes are reluctant treats that I allow only when we are out on playdates and other moms offer it to him--and in those cases I make sure they are 100% juice with no additives.  Honestly, pack your kid a water bottle!  It will save you money if you just use a reuseable bpa-free water bottle and you won't need to worry about the juice boxes! 

The only case that I actually buy juice is when the whole school seems to have a cold during cold/flu season.  I will cave occasionally and buy some orange juice (with pulp) to boost his immune system.  Otherwise, I stick to water!
In health and wellness,
Nicole Harter

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How long should I breastfeed my baby?

One of my friends recently asked me how long she should breastfeed.  Her daughter just turned a year in June and she was feeling the social pressure of when she should "stop." I could tell she (and her daughter) weren't ready to stop.  Her daughter was still feeding 3 times per day. It didn't sound like she was ready to me!  She brought it up because was feeling embarrassed that she was still feeding her baby human milk.  So sad that she should feel embarrassed to do the most natural thing a mother can do with her baby.

So, for all those mommies out there who feel pressured to stop breastfeeding, I will give you the American Academy of Pediatric's answer:  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding (no other foods or supplementation) until 6 months of age.  They continue to say that "Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child." Emphasis is mine, but I am pretty sure they are encouraging that babies receive human milk for longer than a year.  They also go on to say "There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer".

Wow, pretty counter-culture I would say...I remember waitressing in college and one of the wait staff freaking out and thinking it was "disgusting" that a woman was breastfeeding at the table.  Keep in mind that she was covered up (but even if she wasnt...) and the baby was really young (under 6 months). I mean, come on, the baby has to eat! Should the mother stay home for the first year of her baby's life? Should she let her baby scream and cry in the restaurant because it is offensive to some waitress?

I don't know about your pediatrician, but mine recommends at least 1 year and said that 2 is even better. He wouldn't come out and say "you should do this____" because it is not widely accepted to breastfeed your baby much longer than a year and sadly most of his patient's moms probably don't even make it to a year.

How long do I plan to breastfeed Levi?  I don't know. I am taking it one day at a time and going as long as mutually desired between the two of us.  That doesn't account for any one else's opinion including Sally the busybody neighbor, or Carol the babysitter or your mother-in-law, or your mother, or your sister or brother. 

Do what is good for you, and give your baby the milk he/she needs as long as you and he/she deem necessary.

In health and wellness,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Breast is Definitely Best

Believe it or not, there are people out there who don't know the benefits of breastfeeding.  So, I figured I would take a post to explain some of them.  Breastfeeding is sometimes a touchy subject.  I find that there is a lot of defensiveness, judgement, and misinformation out there surrounding the topic.  I think there is an attitude of "I will give it a try but if it doesn't work out there is always formula".  The problem is, that breastfeeding is so difficult in the first few weeks (especially for brand new moms) that many people give up too soon with that attitude. I know, because I was one of them!!! 

When my first son was born, I was 20 years old.  I mistakenly thought that breastfeeding would come naturally.  I took a quick class, but I thought the tough part would be the latch.  They don't teach you that the tough part is getting virtually no sleep the first couple of weeks because you are the sole provider of food for your baby.  Yes, it is natural, but "natural" does not necessarily equate to "easy".  Three weeks after my son was born, I went back to school.  I was in one of my evening classes and my milk "let down"--which is a fancy way of saying that my body thought the baby was ready to eat and the milk starts flowing.  Needless to say, with no place at school to pump and no where to store the milk, I soon sadly decided that breastfeeding and getting through the remainder of my college years wasn't going to work. I felt terribly guilty (and defensive) that I had "failed" at breastfeeding.

This time around, I had the opportunity to do it differently.  It took me at least 2 months to find a rhythm and feel completely comfortable with the breastfeeding. It was hard but I didn't give up!  Knowing what I know now, I have figured out that the first time around I just didn't have enough time/resources/information/support to get used to it and creatively find a way to finish school and breastfeed at the same time. I cannot go back and change the past, but I learned from it and now I can do it a better way moving forward.

So why would I work so hard to breastfeed?
  • Your milk is specially designed for your baby.  The formula makers are finding more and more nutrients/vitamins every year in breast milk that they synthetically try to replicate in formula.  Chances are there are things they are still missing.
  • Your milk is constantly changing to meet the needs of your baby depending on what your baby needs in the moment.  Your milk is different from day to day and week to week.  Your milk's fat content is different in the morning than it is before your baby goes to bed.  Formula is stagnant.  It would be like eating rice cereal every day for every meal fortified with a multivitamin. Would you think that would be healthiest option for your body?  Well, it isn't the healthiest for them either.
  • Babies who are breastfed have the benefit of the protection of mom's immune system, as antibodies are passed from mother to baby in the milk.
  • Babies who are breastfed have a significantly lower chance of dying of SIDS and other respiratory diseases.
  • Babies who are breastfed digest better and have lowered risk of developing obesity.
  • Babies who are breastfed have lowered risks of health and dental issues.
  • Your body was designed to breastfeed your baby.  It helps you contract and strengthen your uterus postpartum, lose the extra baby weight, and reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.
  • You get to bond and be close to your baby very differently than using a bottle.
There are a lot of other reasons--but I thought those were plentiful enough.  For more information on benefits of breastfeeding you can read articles found at

That being said, there is more to breastfeeding that just sticking your baby on your chest once you give birth.  There are whole professions (lactation consultants) dedicated to breastfeeding support for moms.  There is a lot of information out there on how to ensure you have an adequate milk supply. There are tons of places to find support and information.  You can start are and

A couple of hints to start that I have found in books, from my lactation consultants, and online articles (keep in mind that I am NOT a lactation consultant and if you have questions/concerns you should see a licensed professional):
  • The first few days your baby is born is really important to set the stage for your milk supply.  Do not send your baby to sleep in the nursery and let the nurses determine when he/she needs to be fed. And don't let them supplement with formula or water (this can affect your supply). Keep your baby near you. When he/she starts to fuss to eat, then put him/her to breast.  Feed him/her at least every 2-3 hours.  Even if you think nothing is coming out!
  • If you go to your pediatrician and your baby hasn't regained weight to his/her birth weight.  Request another appointment a few days later for a weight check and keep breastfeeding!  Typically within the week the baby will start gaining again.
  • If your doctor has requested you supplement with formula, talk to a lactation consultant immediately.  They can assess whether he/she is latching correctly (this affects how long they eat and how much comes out!) and they can help you to increase your milk supply if necessary.  If you need to supplement, they can help guide you to ensure it doesn't compromise your milk supply.  Believe it or not, if you give your baby a bottle of formula and you don't stimulate your milk supply--you body doesn't think you need more milk and will start producing less (so the situation will become worse).  It doesn't necessarily mean you will never have enough milk. Let someone help you!
  • Don't necessarily go by a strict "schedule" and don't limit feedings in duration or in time between.  If you fed your baby and he/she is rooting an hour later. Feed him/her again!  Feed at least every 2-3 hours.
  • The 2-week and 6-week growth spurts are normal. If you feel like your baby is eating constantly all day--it is normal and won't last forever.  You DO have enough milk!  If you don't, as long as you keep feeding, your body will catch up and start producing more milk!
  • Call for help early if you think something is wrong.
I hope this helps.  I know this time around I was dead set on breastfeeding.  I was stubborn and it has paid off.  I saw/called lactation consultants at least 5-7 times in the first month.  I had one lactation consultant tell me that she "couldn't believe" I was still breastfeeding because of all the issues I had.  But it can be done and it is definitely worth it!

In health and wellness,

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Back to Sleep

I am writing this post as I should be going to sleep, but I couldn't get to sleep without getting this one off my chest. Early this week I got a very sad email. It was a prayer request for a woman in my bible group to pray for her daughter, as her grandson died over the weekend of SIDS.


Every new mother's nightmare. I know, because I saw it happen when I was nine years old. I was at my grandmother's funeral reception. My cousin and I had just been upstairs to check on the baby (her sister) and I came back downstairs. A few minutes later she called for my aunt and then I heard the scream. I remember my mom sprinting up the stairs and desperately trying infant CPR. My cousin Evelyn died when she was just 3 months old.

Just recently my cousin and I talked about that day and how it has affected our parenting. I remember checking on my first son every night to make sure he was breathing. I remember putting him on his back every night and making sure there was nothing near his face while he was sleeping. I bordered on neurotic. I was so afraid of losing him, my little love.

Putting my first son on his back to sleep was easy. He slept like a champ, and he still does to this day. Recently he even slept through a fire alarm one night (thankfully a false alarm). My second child, however, does not have the same magical sleeping patterns. Around 2 months old, it felt like his sleeping stretches were getting shorter and not longer. My husband and I were exhausted and I started trying to figure out how to make it better. I asked around, looked up the topic online, and the result: people talked about sleeping positions. I read countless comments and heard people talking about how their children sleep better on their tummies.

Sigh...I know Levi is uncomfortable on his back, but resort to sleeping on his tummy? I just didn't think I could handle it. But sleep deprivation will lead to desperation. I started to toy with the idea. I brought it up at a baby brunch that weekend with some high school friends and one of my friends reeled me back in. She said "You know, the rate of SIDS has gone down a lot since they put babies on their backs". Bingo. It's true. I knew it was true. I needed to do some research and find another way.

My husband did some research too. He found out that basically every baby would sleep better on their tummy--and that is the whole problem. They sleep so well that if they begin breathing in the same air that is trapped near their face, they don't wake up because they are sleeping too deeply. He found that the best ways to help babies who are uncomfortable on their backs, is to swaddle them really tightly or to help them sleep on their side.

Since we tried those recommendations to no avail, I did what any other concerned mommy would do and I brought it up at his 2 month appointment. My pediatrician listened to his bedtime routine and thought about it for a minute. His thought: "He relies too much on sucking to sleep. Get rid of the pacifier. When he wakes up a little and realizes it is not in his mouth, it wakes him up. I am NOT going to recommend he sleep on his tummy." Wow. I hadn't even thought of that. My husband and I were pretty skeptical. But, since we were desperate we gave it a whirl.

The first night was terrible. He cried and got up almost every hour and sometimes every half hour. The next night was pretty much the same. I almost gave up on it, only the next night got better. Then the next night even better. By the 4th night, we could put him down awake and he would get himself to sleep. Huh. He also started arching his own back and getting himself on his side to feel more comfortable. The end result: he was sleeping better and we were sleeping better and he didn't have to sleep on his tummy.

The moral of the story I guess, is that I get it when your baby isn't sleeping well. It is really tempting to help him sleep better by putting him on his tummy. But, it isn't worth it. Losing some sleep a few weeks or months, is much better than mourning. Talk to your doctor and see if there are other things you can try to help your baby sleep more soundly. But don't jump to putting them on their bellies especially before he/she is rolling over. You know, I know the risk is small in general and chances are your baby would be fine. However, it has affected my life enough to know that is DOES happen. I know the guilt that the parents feel when they lose a child. I know I couldn't live with the guilt. Could you?

Here are the steps you can take to reduce the risk of SIDS They won't eliminate the risk completely, as there are cases where infants sleeping on their backs have died of SIDS as well, but it will greatly reduce the risk.

I hope this helps. Just know that other moms are right there with you when your baby isn't sleeping well and keep hanging in there. Pretty soon he/she will be sleeping better and better.

Just remember to put your baby "Back to Sleep".

In health and wellness,

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Forgiving Ourselves

Today I made a mistake...I prematurely pulled out all the garlic from the garden. They seemed too small, but I was going off a comment my farmer made a couple weeks ago. She harvests her garlic around 4th of July as a rule of thumb. We also have been getting garlic at the farm, so I thought it was "time". We checked them on 4th of July weekend and they looked too small, so we said we would wait.

Well, I went outside today and the leaves were browning a bit and I got nervous and pulled them all out. I didn't want them to be sitting in the ground going bad and miss our chance at garlic! After I brought them inside, I thought "oh crap, I don't think they were ready" and then I went online to see when to harvest. Apparently I was supposed to have waited until they were at least 1/3 of the way brown and practically falling over. Woops. I was pretty mad at myself. Why didn't I look it up before being impulsive? Why didn't I just trust what I knew instead of second guessing myself?

So after stewing for a little while on my own stupidity, I shook my head and laughed. It is my first year growing garlic. I am still learning, and next year I will know better! Then I started thinking about that in the context of so many things. The first time I made a pot of beans: I undercooked them and everyone had some interesting digestive responses! The next time I made a pot of beans: mush. The third time got better and so forth. I even made myself plenty sick the first year I started cooking in my early 20's. Especially anytime I had cooked chicken (I cook it a lot longer now)!

Then a light bulb went off and I just had to post: Part of being a new mommy, is allowing yourself to make mistakes as a parent. Wow. Before having children, especially when I was pregnant, I didn't think I would ever say those words. When we have our own kids, we are supposed to do everything better than the way our parents did them, right? We are supposed to know it all? Supposed to be super mom??!?

Well, it just isn't true.

I think the number one thing I learned when I had my first son is that one-size does NOT fit all, and there is no "perfect" mom. That is a hard thing to grasp when you are a type A perfectionist that likes to control the outcome of situations (haha, the old me was sorta like that). But the truth is, you ARE going to mess up. Say it with me now: "I am going to mess up and make mistakes". It is much easier to acknowledge it in the beginning, so that you can laugh at yourself when those mistakes arise.

Funny story. When my son was 3 years old and in pre-school, he asked me where babies come from...I was like "what??" and I was totally unprepared! I thought it was a bit early for him to be wondering those things and I hadn't researched it yet! So in the moment I told him a little white lie (don't judge, we all lie about Santa and the tooth fairy). I said "You know in Dumbo? The stork comes and brings the little baby" and I thought nothing of it. The next day when I came to pick him up from school, I find out my son was practically in an all out brawl with another kid in his class. Apparently his mommy told him that the mommy goes to the hospital to push out the baby. My son was all but yelling at the top of his lungs "No, the stork comes!!!!" Yikes! I knew I messed up and I learned never to lie to my child again when he asks me a question. I was mad at myself for not being prepared, but I corrected it that evening and my son has minimal scars (or so I think). After that incident, I looked up appropriate ways to talk to children at specific ages about babies, sex and our bodies and I learned how to do it better next time. So the point is, that I acknowledged my mistake and tried a different method.

So, when you become a mommy--or perhaps now that you are a new mommy, just know that we have all been through it and we are all doing the best we can. All moms face different challenges because children are all different. One thing is the same and that is that we are ALL challenged! So, do the best you can and take your mistakes in stride. We all make them and our parents did too.

In health and wellness,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Love Dessert (especially these mini cakes with red currants)

I don't know about you, but I love desserts. I grew up in a home with some strict limits on desserts and I think it made me only love and crave them more. Meanwhile, my husband was allowed to put extra sugar on his frosted flakes as a kid and he can live without it. Go figure.

While I love to eat dessert, I do not love the extra crap that comes with most processed desserts in the supermarket and I certainly do not want my kids eating those things either. The additives include high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavorings and colorings, and loads of other preservatives that allow their shelflife to be longer than the average life expectancy of your favorite pet. Therefore, I do not limit my dessert intake except that they should really be homemade as much as possible. I make exceptions for the local italian bakery and occasionally the bakery at Whole Foods for special occasions, but overall the things that are around the house on a regular basis are the things I typically make myself.

I also love to alter my desserts to be a little less processed and little more natural than most homemade desserts. Now, don't get me wrong. A piece of cake is a piece of cake and should be eaten as such. But I play with other flours and sweeteners to minimize the damage. A cake made with whole wheat flour will spike your insulin levels less than one made with regular white flour. You get the picture, so on with the dessert!

I got some fresh red currants from the farm yesterday, so I wanted to do some experimenting. I found a recipe for red currant mini cakes that I altered a bit to be a little heartier.

Mini Cakes with Red Currants

  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 5/6 cup of powdered sugar (sift if extra lumpy)
  • 1/2 cup of flax meal
  • 3/8 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tps baking powder
  • 3 egg whites
  • Fresh red currants
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease 4 cups on large muffin tin (where there are 6 molds instead of 12).

  2. Melt the butter in a sauce pan.

  3. Mix the sugar, flax meal, flour and baking powder in a bowl.

  4. Lightly beat the egg whites with a fork and add to the dry ingredients.

  5. Add the melted butter.

  6. Mix until just combined with no lumps.

  7. Divide the batter into the 4 greased cups.

  8. Top each cake with currants.

  9. Bake for 20 minutes.

  10. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan.

  11. Remove from the muffin pan and let them cool on cooling rack.

  12. Top each with a little sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Breakfast of Champions and Super Moms!

What wakes you up in the morning? For me it is my hungry baby crying, but that is not quite what I meant. I mean, what gets you going for breakfast? For many people it is a caffeine buzz by way of coffee or tea. For others it is a drink of juice, which is a lot better than coffee but still filled with sugar that will wear off in no time, leaving you with less energy! Being a mom or a mom-to-be, you know that energy is very important and you feel more and more drained these days!

So what will give you a lasting burst of energy starting in the morning? You have probably guessed where I am going, but... fruits and vegetables!!! Since we are supposed to fit in 5-10 veggies a day (according to the food pyramid), many people are left with the question "how the heck do I fit in 5-10 veggies in 1 day?" The answer is to eat them at every meal. Seems so simple, but many people struggle with breakfast. So I figured I would post how I managed to fit in 2 servings at breakfast just this morning and some tips on how to do it daily. And no, it doesn't take a long time--I have a little baby to manage too!

Poached Eggs on Swiss Chard and Asparagus

3-4 spears asparagus
Handful swiss chard
2 eggs
1 Tbs white vinegar
Piece of bread of your choice. Preferably of whole grain variety.
Salt & pepper

How to make:
  1. Prep veggies by washing them. Snap the woody ends off asparagus and chop up the swiss chard.
  2. Get a small frying pan and fill most of the way up with water. Add 1 Tbs of white vinegar and put on high heat to bring to boil.
  3. While you wait for the water to boil, throw the swiss chard in a pan with a little water to steam. Cook chard until tender. About 3-4 minutes.
  4. Crack 2 eggs in a ramekin and set aside until water boils.
  5. Toss a piece of bread into the toaster.
  6. Once the water is boiling in the frying pan, slowly slide in the eggs.
  7. Turn down heat to medium and cook until egg whites appear opaque white.
  8. While the eggs are cooking, arrange the chard on your plate. Then put the asparagus into the same pan from the chard (less dishes).
  9. Put the asparagus on the plate once they turn bright green and tender to your liking (about 1-2 minutes).
  10. Scoop out the eggs with a slotted spoon and place on top of veggies. Salt and pepper to your taste.
  11. Grab the toast from the toaster. Top with olive oil or butter if you would like.
  12. Enjoy!

It is a very simple meal, with few ingredients, and it is packed with vitamins and minerals! I have to admit though, that after breakfast I popped a couple of locally grown strawberries in my mouth for an extra serving! That makes 3 for me before 10 AM!

Other tips for fitting fruits/veggies into breakfast:

  • Use leftover veggies from the night before to avoid having to cook them in the morning. Plus a fried or poached egg on top and enjoy! You can also place leftover greens into an omelet.
  • While making veggies night before, chop some extra of each and put in a container in the refrigerator. Then pull it out in the morning to add to an egg omelet.
  • Make some oatmeal and toss in fresh berries, apples, pears, peaches, or even applesauce!
  • Use fruit with plain yogurt or cottage cheese.
  • Add fresh fruit to your cereal or granola.

I hope this helps to inspire you to step up your breakfast and add some extra lasting energy to your day.

In health and wellness,

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's Poop Again! My Experiment with Cloth Diapering...

When I got pregnant with my second son, there were 2 main things I wanted to do differently: 1. breastfeed a lot longer and 2. try out cloth diapers. If you have read my earlier posts, you know I have been breastfeeding! So what about the cloth diapers and how do they compare with the disposables?

Well, after using the cloth diapers for 8 weeks now, I have to say that I do not ever want to switch back to disposables! I was surprised. I was a little nervous I would hate them. We started them the first week because I was scared I would get into the disposable routine and not want to switch. We started using them and we are doing fine. In fact, this past weekend we took a road trip to Baltimore for my 10 year reunion and we decided that toting dirty cloth diapers across state lines would be too difficult. We used the disposables for 2 days and couldn't wait to get home to our normal cloth routine.

Here are the main reasons why I prefer cloth:
  1. They are more cost effective. They are more money up front, but by 4ish months you have made up the cost and no more expensive diapers to buy.
  2. Better for the environment. I felt bad all the time that the disposables were hitting the landfills and they never decompose. That is a lot of trash for one little baby. Some people argue that you use more water (yes you do) and the harsh detergents are just as bad. I use environmentally friendly detergents, but yes, I do use more water. But I feel better using more water than producing more trash.
  3. They just "feel" better. When I felt the disposables on my hands they feel less soft and more plasticy (I know that isn't a real word). So, the feeling of the cloth diapers on my son's skin feel better to me. They feel more substantial, softer, and more comfortable.
  4. The disposables leaked! He had a couple of big poops and the disposables just couldn't handle it. The cloth diapers never fail me with his poop (knock on wood!). It could have been because they were slightly too small--but that is another reason to love my cloth ones--they are adjustable in size!
  5. They are adorable. They look like little underpants and I match them to his outfit of the day. I know it's silly but they are so cute!
The drawbacks:
  • More laundry. You have to do a load pretty much every other day. But babies make more laundry anyway and I find myself doing daily anyway. If you think "I work and cannot take the time to do it". You would be happy to know my husband cleans them more than I do, and he works a full time job too :)
  • Touch more poop? I haven't really found this to be the case, but some people think that they are messier. I find that a dirty diaper is a dirty diaper, and when you change him it's the same. I take off the diaper, take it apart and toss everything into a pail. Then I dump everything into the washer without really touching it.
  • Don't travel well on trips. I don't really want to drag back a bag full of dirty diapers in a car ride. And, if you do not have access to laundry while you are away, you would be stuck carting them around.
  • Cannot use diaper cream with them directly. The cream stains the diapers. We bought some washable liners (made by Bum Genius) to protect the diaper if he ever gets a rash.
What else is needed?
  • Wipes: We use little baby wash cloths I picked up from the store to do the wiping. We just dip a wash cloth in a little container of water that we keep on the changing table and toss it in the diaper pail with the diaper.
  • Diaper pail and bag: We use a trash bucket with a pop-up lid for the diaper pail and put a nylon bag in it to catch the diapers. When it is time to clean, we just pull out the whole bag and dump it in the wash.

How do you clean them? (my cousin Lynne gave me this recipe for cleaning them and it works beautifully).

  1. Run a cold cycle first to remove stains. We use a 1/2 tablespoon of Charlie's soap, 5-8 drops of grapefruit seed extract, and 2-3 drops of blue dawn dish soap.
  2. Run a hot cycle to disinfect. We use a 1/2 tablespoon of Charlie's soap, 3-5 drops of grapefruit seed extract, and 2-3 drops of blue dawn dish soap.
  3. Hang them on a drying rack or clothes line to dry them. The dryer destroys the Velcro over time and hanging them to dry doesn't take very long.
The grapefruit seed extract is often used to sanitize and has antivirus and anti fungal properties. You can get it at health food stores. The blue dawn prevents you from having to "strip" them because it has de-greasing properties. You can get this anywhere.

What do you do with the poop?

We don't do anything yet because he is still breastfed, so his poops are like mustard. When he starts solid foods, we plan to just plop it into the toilet before throwing the diaper into the pail.

So, in conclusion...
I have decided to stick with my cloth diapers for a long while. We use the Bum Genius brand. I did some research ahead of time and other cloth diaperers seemed more satisfied with that brand overall. But, you can always get a sample of a few different kinds and decide for yourself what works best for you.

So, I hope this helps anyone thinking about going the cloth diaper route.

In health and wellness,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The BEST Nursing Pads Ever...

So, remember how I told you in my last post how I got some better nursing pads? Well, I did want to share what they were and where I got them.

Last Tuesday I went to the lactation consultant because I am having serious leaking issues stemming from being over supplied--and whenever I let down, I am covered in my own milk. LOVELY. Extremely embarrasing in public. So, now in my case, these pads help tremendously. Not only with leaking, but with other breastfeeding issues as well..

They are wool. I know what you may be thinking...Wool? Are you nuts, that would be ITCHY! Well, these are not. I will not even buy sweaters with any wool in them because I itch like crazy. However, these pads do not itch. They are made from 100% organic, untreated wool. Apparently the treatments wool receives when turned into sweaters, etc--is what makes them itchy. Well, I learned something new that day.

The lactation consultant let me take her pair to try them out. I was impressed. Mainly because they didn't itch and they started to heal my nipples even faster! Apparently when the milk gets in them, the natural lanolin content of the wool mixes with the milk and has healing properties. Plus the wool helps to keep the moisture off your nipples, giving them a better chance to heal. Sweet!

I went online to the website and bought another pair. I bought the Ekstra-because I leak heavily, and they are just as soft as the Softline ones. So, if you are having any issues with leaking or sore nipples or know any other Mommies who are, point them in this direction. They will thank you for it!

In health in wellness,
Nicole Harter

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Battle of the Breast

When you are pregnant and decide to breastfeed your baby, rarely does the image contain any of the potential problems that come with breastfeeding. During the first week, the true reality of it can be a little abrupt and somewhat a smack in the face--especially if you have any issues that fall outside of normal.

In my case, where I do fall outside of the norm, it has been an all out battle. I had a lactation consultant actually say to me "I cannot believe you are still breastfeeding"...I have had to talk to 5 different lactation consultants and see 2 of them in person in the last 6 weeks. Yikes. But, I have to say it is completely worth it. If I can do it being what I have been through, then you can too. So if you do have any issues, ask for help. Lactation consultants are a profession because breastfeeding is no easy task, and breastfeeding support groups exist because it is hard work.

So what happened to me? I breastfed in the hospital beautifully. I had plenty of colostrum and my baby seemed so content. He latched on and all was well in the world. I was discharged from the hospital early because I had such a great labor and delivery. All was sunshine and moonbeams until the next day when my milk came in. I literally had enough milk for twins or triplets or the whole neighborhood of children. That would have been okay if I had actually had twins or triplets. I had so much milk that it hurt to shower.

So, what's the big deal? People suggest pumping and storing it and living up the fact that you have so much milk and that it is a blessing! Now, do not get me wrong, I do not wish upon me the opposite problem of too little milk, which can be even more frustrating and difficult. However, the problems that stem from an over abundant milk supply can do a lot of damage and I thought I would share the things to look for in case you suspect you have an "oversupply" like I did.

The first thing was engorgement. Engorgement is where you feel so full and uncomfortable, you cannot bear it. Being engorged a bit the first couple of days is normal, if you feel this way after the 2nd day, call someone to help.

Next up was sore nipples. If the nipples are not addressed early, they become traumatized and cracked. Believe me, it really hurts. But it stems from the inability to get a good latch because your breasts are overly full. Mine was compounded by a strong and forceful let-down. Basically my son would bite down to slow the flow of milk, and my nipples were destroyed. If your nipples feel sore or begin appearing damaged, call someone immediately. If you have cut up nipples, you can develop an infection or mastitis. They can assess your nipples, help you get a better latch and potentially prescribe some nipple cream to prevent such infections.

When you have all that extra milk, where does it go? Well, you start leaking. At least that is what happened to me. I have been covered in milk for 6 weeks and I am just now seeing the other side (due to better nursing pads).

Having an "oversupply" wouldn't be so bad if it just affected momma; however, your baby starts suffering as well. Your baby gets a lot of "foremilk" as opposed to "hindmilk" when you have an oversupply. The foremilk is full of lactose (sugar) and the hindmilk is full of fat. Basically what happens is that your baby's digestive system digests it too fasts, so the baby is hungry more often and the lactose irritates the digestive tract. The baby can become fussy, gassy, and have explosive and watery poops (sometimes appearing green or greenish). They also do not grow as well because they aren't getting enough fat.

If this sounds like you, please seek the help of a lactation consultant and don't give up!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Waiting Game is Over, Levi is born!

Hello all. I apologize for neglecting my blog for the last 6 weeks. But since I had a baby, I forgive myself and I hope you will too.

My new baby, Levi Francis Harter (pronounced just like the jeans) was born April 9th, 2010 at 2:26 AM at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Now, if you are interested in birth details, read on. If not, then skip the rest. I promise there is nothing too graphic. There is a picture of him getting his first bath.

Birth Story:
Thursday, April 8th I awoke with a strong desire to get things done and had the energy to match. I woke up, cleaned my downstairs bathroom and kitchen including mopping and wiping down the cabinets all before 9:30 AM. I left for my chiropractor appointment. I particularly wanted him to focus on my lower back which felt kind of sore that day. He joked that I was looking lower that day and said he thought I may be dropping as we spoke. I joked back for him to try to give me an adjustment without breaking my water.

After my appointment I headed home. My mom stopped by for a bit and I felt like I should rest for a while. My back was sore and I wanted to be energetic enough for yoga that night. I was having a lot of braxton kicks contractions and I also felt kind of crampy, with twinges of pain lower in my abdomen. So I rested for a minute, then proceeded to clean my entire first floor and made some food to freeze for when the baby came. That night I debated about going to yoga and I went because it always makes me feel better.

When I got home from yoga, I put my 7-year old to bed and chatted with my husband. I told him I thought I was getting close. I told him about my backache, my cramps, and the strong nesting desire. Funny thing was that my doula instinctively emailed me at that moment and asked me how things were. I told her about my day. She told me to get some rest. It was 10:30 PM and time for bed. I got up to brush my teeth and felt the familiar pop and gush as soon as I stood up. "Honey, I think my water just broke". Time to head to the hospital. My mom came over to watch Sam, and we hopped in the car. We called the midwife to tell her we were on our way and called the doula to tell her to meet us there.

The car ride over to the hospital was interesting. My husband was driving and timing contractions. They were 30-40 seconds long, 2-3 minutes apart. I was breathing and trying not to curse myself for not bringing more towels. We were calling our family members to tell them to expect a baby soon. We got to the hospital at 11:30 PM. They checked me over, and I was 3 cm and 90% effaced. Everyone thought I had a bit of time before the baby would come. After getting monitored for a few minutes, I went to my own room.

I was hoping for a natural birth, but I was open to however God decided my labor would go. My doula met us there. We spent the first hour breathing and dealing with my back labor. My husband was awesome at massaging my lower back. At around 1:45ish, I started losing my rhythm and couldn't get it back. "How the hell do women do this?" I asked myself. It was as bad as I could take. I could no longer focus or time my breathing. My doula asked if I wanted to see where I was at. I couldn't bear to get checked because I didn't want to find out that I hadn't progressed very far and lose my resolve. I had labored for 7 hours in my first labor and only progressed 1 cm. I couldn't bear to hear that again.
The midwife came in and tried to help me get back into rhythm. She got me to move positions. I told her it felt like my insides were tearing apart. Apparently those were the "magic words". Just after 2 AM, after being in the hospital for a little more than 2.5 hours, she got me on the bed to check my progress and she announced it was time to start pushing. The tearing apart feeling was when Levi was moving into the birth canal. Once they got my into position, I pushed for 16 minutes. Levi was born at 2:26 AM, and I got my natural child birth.

When the baby was born they put him straight on my chest. The skin to skin contact is essential when the baby is first born. If your hospital doesn't do this as common practice, I recommend you ask for it (as long as the baby appears healthy). They also waited a bit before clamping the umbilical cord. The blood continues to pulsate and pump the blood into the baby. Once it stops, the cord is clamped and my husband made the cut. This is also something I would recommend. It provides the baby with enough iron stores so that at 6 months it is not as necessary to supplement the baby with iron. After the cord is cut, they took him to get a birth weight and gave him right back to me to nurse. He nursed for 30 minutes on each side. Nursing as soon as possible after birth ensures that you establish breastfeeding, begins shrinking your uterus, ensures he gets colostrum early, and helps signal to your body for the milk to come in (which usually happens 2-3 days after the birth of the baby).

After the baby nursed, he was taken (with my husband) to the nursery for any initial things like vitamin K and eye ointment. We declined the hepatitis B vaccine that they routinely give the first day of life (I recommend that you read into it and make a decision for yourself). They also give him his first bath (my husband helped and got pictures). I was "sewn" up since I tore a bit, and they pushed on my uterus to avoid hemorrhaging later. After everyone was done we met in the postpartum room and got some rest for the night.

Overall the birth of both my sons were amazing experiences. However, after having experienced one with many interventions and one that was completely natural, I have to say that natural childbirth is the way to go. The bottom line is that they both are uncomfortable and painful (childbirth hurts). But I felt completely present in the moment, I did not feel "out of it" or "drugged" and felt completely empowered in my woman-ness. When I let my body do it's thing, it went a lot faster and the recovery went a lot better than when I had been given pitocin and an epidural. Our bodies are amazing things and know what to do. We just have to let them do it.

However, regardless of how you give birth to your baby, enjoy the time and get ready for the new game to begin. The first month is tough but they are only newborns for a short time. The last 6 weeks have been a rollercoaster for me, as you will find out in my next few posts.

If you are hoping to birth with less interventions, I encourage you to read "Birthing from Within" by Pamela England & Rob Horowitz and "The Birth Partner" by Penny Simkin. I also encourage you to get a doula to help take the pressure off your partner. They are professionals at managing pain in labor and they know what to say/do when times get tough and your partner doesn't know how to help you push through.

If you want to look into vaccinations--I recommend "What your doctor may not tell you about Children's Vaccinations" by Stephanie Cave, and "The Vaccine Book" by Dr. Sears. That should give you some insight about the Hep B shot and other ones that you should be prepared for at the early pediatrician appointments.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Waiting Game

I do not know if it is just me, but near the end it doesn't seem like it can really happen unless you have all the last minute things done (although it totally can). I think my husband and I were almost putting off some of the things we needed to do because we knew the anxious waiting game would begin as soon as the to-do list was completed. Welp, we are there. The last few things are done:

Bags are packed. We went through the list of things to bring to the hospital. A helpful tip we got from the midwife was to pack 2 bags: one for labor and one for post-partum. Just carry the labor stuff with you when it is "go time" and then once you have the baby, your husband can go switch the bags. There is no need to lug ALL your stuff through the hospital, especially if you require room changes.

Car seat was put in and blessed by the local police station (so nice by the way). If you call and make an appointment, your local police or fire department will typically install it and explain to you how to use it.
  • Did you know that you HAVE to put the bar down on infant carriers for it to be installed correctly? And did you know that you shouldn't use those mirrors/toys on your seat?
  • If you get into an accident and your car is impacted, the carseat protects your baby by taking it for a "ride". The seat bounces up towards the seat--if there is a mirror or a bar there, that is what will impact baby on its head and face. You want the bar down and the seat clear so that the baby impacts the soft padding of the seat. Just thought you should know :)

Baby's room is set up and baby clothes are cleaned.

Grocery shopping is done. I went on a stock up trip for some essentials:

  • The freezer is full of frozen veggies (as I will probably get to the store very infrequently during the first few weeks and want access to something GREEN)!
  • Froze some easy-to-make meats for my husband to be able to put together quickly and stress-free.
  • Grabbed some whole wheat pasta and grains that we can make into easy one-pot meals.
  • Toilet paper! All the paper goods.

So, now what? I am due in 12 days and everything is ready. But waiting is difficult, and I read from one of my birthing books that a watched uterus doesn't contract! So it is time to pull out some labor projects. Labor what??? Yes, labor projects. Things you can accomplish that are non-essential that will distract you from the fact that you are waiting for baby. You do not want them to exhaust you or stress you out. You want them to keep you active and distracted!

So what are my labor projects?

  • Making curtains for the boys' rooms. Sewing is a good project. It keeps you active while not exhausting you, and it can keep you busy for hours.
  • Making and freezing some one-pot meals. This will be super useful when the baby comes. Cooking keeps you active and you feel like you did something useful for baby.
  • Cleaning out. Did you ever hear of someone cleaning and organizing all of their kitchen cabinets? Well, I probably won't be getting there. I will probably work on my bathrooms first. But it is useful to use that nesting instinct on something to pass the time (and you probably won't get to it for a long time once baby comes).
  • Blogging! Haha I may post a few more times to pass the time!

So, wish me luck. Hopefully I won't need to pass time for too much longer. I was 9 days early with my first and time will only tell to see if the pattern will continue.

In health and wellness,

Nicole Harter

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Food Rules book review

I just have to mention this awesome book that I just read that I am reading for next month's book club. Food Rules by Michael Pollan. It can be seen here on

It is great, and seriously only takes 30-60 minutes to read. It basically sums up a lot of what I tell my clients about developing a healthy relationship with food, what to watch out for, and basically just common sense about food/dieting.

I also highly recommend two other books Pollan has written: In Defense of Food and Omnivore's Dilemma which have both changed my understanding of food and my relationship to eating forever (in a good way!). But those books are a lot more detailed and dense. If you aren't a reader--see the movie Food, Inc. and it covers a lot of the material as well.

So if you want to start easy/common sense of just the basics of how/what to eat--read Food Rules. Then if you need some more explanation, go to In Defense of Food. And if you become consumed like I did--then read Omnivore's Dilemma.

In health and wellness,

Feeling swell? Or just swollen?

Got cankles? Mine haven't started yet, but I had them when I was pregnant the first time with Sam and I remember them vividly. I have recently needed to remove my rings too, which I know is a sign of things to come.

Interesting to note, that swelling in the hands, feet, and face (called edema) is a normal part of late pregnancy because of the additional blood and fluid in the body. ALSO, the body retains water in order to "soften the body" in order to loosen up the joints to allow for safe passage during labor/delivery. That is pretty comforting to me, knowing that the body has a purpose and plan for all that fluid! AND, it accounts for 25% of weight gain for women during pregnancy. So suffice to say, once you have the baby, you will stop retaining all that water and your weight goes down significantly.

So what can we do in the meantime to help you lessen the effects of the swelling and keep it to a minimum?
  • Drink a lot of water to help flush out the fluids! I know it is painful for frequent trips to the ladies room, but it really does help!
  • When you are sitting, put your feet up. And don't cross your legs--it affects circulation!
  • Avoid prolonged sitting and standing (take breaks).
  • Exercise by walking or swimming throughout the day.
  • Avoid too much salt (limit going out to eat or highly processed foods that have a lot of salt). Salt to taste in your own food. No need to avoid it all together.
  • Eat more potassium. Potato skins, sweet potatoes, dried fruit, nuts, grapefruits and citrus (if heartburn not an issue), and bananas (if constipation isn't an issue). This also helps with leg cramps if you have been suffering those as well!
  • Avoid caffeine or other dehydrating beverages.
  • Avoid "long days" of activity. Especially in the warm weather and sun! Take breaks with legs up and drink plenty of fluids!
  • Avoid using tight elastics around ankles and wrists.
  • If it is really bad, try support stockings.
  • Use cold compresses on swollen areas.
If your swelling is really bad, talk to your doctor or midwife. They will also be looking at your blood pressure. If the swelling is really bad and your blood pressure is sky-rocketing, it can be a sign of preeclampsia, which is serious.

I hope this helps ladies. At the end of the pregnancy, all of these minor inconveniences will be part of your distant memory!

In health and wellness,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Feeling the burn (heartburn that is)!

So, I am 36 weeks, which I am calling the "beginning of the end". Basically it is when all of those interesting side effects of pregnancy start becoming worse if they haven't already. Like, thought you had a backache before? Ha, it becomes a whole new ball game in the last few weeks.

So one of the latest side effects that has descended upon me in the last week is heartburn! I consider myself lucky because many women have it way worse than I do, and have it set in a lot earlier, but it is unpleasant none-the-less. So I did a little reading on the subject and thought I would share some tips that I found:
  • Eat multiple small meals per day (5 or 6) instead of 3 bigger ones. When your stomach becomes empty, acid starts building and making the heartburn worse. If it starts and you are due to eat dinner in a bit, having a couple of saltines or oyster crackers can help to neutralize it until you sit down to eat.
  • Don't overeat and stuff yourself. Basically the little doorway to your esophagus isn't working the way it used to, so give it a little room.
  • Watch your intake of citrus, tomatoes, caffeine, chocolate, garlic, onions, acidic and spicy foods and see if you feel better on days where you limit those items. Try re-introducing them to see if they are triggers for you.
  • Avoid greasy and fatty foods.
  • Eat slower and chew thoroughly. Inhaling your food will make it worse. If you chew more, your stomach won't need as much acid to break down the food. Also, when you eat slower your body will send a signal that you are full before you over-stuff yourself.
  • Keep yourself hydrated. But do not fill up on water during meals. Try drinking more between meals. When you drink during meals it can fill your belly too much so you feel stuffed.
  • I have read that a glass of milk or a bit of yogurt after meals helps with short term relief.
  • Do not lay down right after meals. Let yourself digest a bit by walking around and moving. Propping yourself up a pillow or two may help (not just your head because that can hurt your neck).
  • Do not eat right before bed. Give yourself a couple of hours to digest.
  • Be careful not to pop too many antacids--and talk to your health care provider about which ones are safe. Some can interfere with uterine contractions because they contain too much magnesium later in pregnancy.
Another interesting side note about heartburn is about the correlation between newborn hair and heartburn severity. I thought it was probably an old wive's tale joke that I saw on my friend's Facebook page. But then my mom mentioned it. She said it is true, and that she had a lot of heartburn with me (I had a lot of hair) and none with my little sister (bald as can be).

So I looked it up, and HA there have been studies that DO link the two seemingly unrelated events! I was kind of blown away. But here is a link to the study I saw: . Apparently there is a relationship to the two. The explanation from this study states "We propose a shared biologic mechanism involving a dual role of pregnancy hormones in both the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter and the modulation of fetal hair growth".

Well look at that, I learned something new in the little exercise and I hope you did too. In case you are interested--I had very little heartburn with Sam. He had a little bit of hair (more like fuzz) and it was gone very quickly. Sam was bald thereafter well past his first birthday. His first birthday pictures show a happy little bald kid. This baby is giving me more heartburn than Sam did, so I will see if this one has more hair!

In health and wellness,


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tea time?

Something I have missed during my pregnancy is a hot cup of tea. Especially because I am no longer a coffee drinker, I miss the warm feeling of settling in with a hot mug and feeling the warmth flow down my throat and into my belly.
Now, I haven't stopped drinking tea because it's necessarily "bad for you". I mainly stopped for the following reasons:
  1. During my first pregnancy and in my first trimester of this pregnancy it caused me to become nauseous and toss my cookies more than once. I took it as a sign that my body wanted nothing to do with it.
  2. I do not like the idea of taking in too much caffeine. Caffeine does cross the placenta, your baby cannot metabolize it, and there are no conclusive studies to tell us how much is "safe" for the baby. I limit my caffeine intake to chocolate.
  3. Many herbal teas (especially in tea shops or loose teas) have a mix of all different kinds of herbs, some of which are not recommended when nursing or pregnant. Since I feel uncomfortable with my limited knowledge of herbs to know which herbal teas are okay/not okay to have during pregnancy, I have been skipping it.

One type of tea, however, has peaked my interest because of it's claims of healthfulness in pregnancy: Red Raspberry leaf. So I decided to do a bit of research and see what I could find. Here is the general gyst of what I found:

  • The consensus is that Red Raspberry tea can be used as a "uterine tonic" and that it stimulates the uterus to contract and tone itself to prepare for labor/birth.
  • However, there is controversy as to when to begin drinking it. Many believe drinking it too soon (1st trimester) can cause miscarriage, while others believe toning the uterus earlier will help to have an easier labor/birth from a stronger uterus.
  • The conservative approach is to start drinking it later in the pregnancy (some say 3rd trimester and some say when you reach 36 weeks).
  • Be careful of other herbs found mixed in with the red raspberry leaf teas, as they can be unsafe for baby.

One day in Whole Foods, I saw the Yogi brand "Mother to Be" tea and I inquired with my midwife (since it contains red raspberry leaf tea). While the package doesn't mention the controversy, my midwife advised that I wait until later in my pregnancy to take it. Upon further investigation, I found that some of the herbs are listed as "unsafe for pregnancy" like stinging nettles, is actually found in the Mother to Be tea. So you really do need to be careful with these herbal teas, even the ones that are marketed towards expectant mothers!

So, if you do decide to start drinking herbal teas. I do recommend that you talk to your health care provider about it, let them know what you are drinking/how much/etc, and make sure you are doing the best for your body and situation. Resources for herbal teas and safety during pregnancy:

Unfortunately the lack of tea will not stop when the baby is born. There are herbal teas that affect your baby when nursing (e.g. feverfew can increase baby's heart rate, goldenseal can be toxic) and some that can affect your milk supply (mint, sage, parsley can lower your milk supply). Seems scary to me, so I just leave them on the shelf. So just BE CAREFUL at tea time and maybe opt for some hot water with lemon.

In health and wellness,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The first week: things no one talks about (but should!)

When my first child was born, I remember thinking "labor was nothing compared to the pain of recovery". I also remember that I had felt completely unprepared. No one had talked about my own physical recovery, they only spoke of the pain of labor. None of my classes or books covered it either. In what I have seen in postpartum topics, it seems like everyone typically talks about the possibility of postpartum depression, breastfeeding, and then getting back into your pre-baby body. Which, while some of that is helpful, they do not talk about the normal healing process.

As a result, my mental image of bringing the baby home from the hospital was this rosy picture of me sitting in my rocking chair, nursing, and cuddling my baby as we both blissfully fell into our afternoon nap. I thought the pregnancy aches and pains would be over, the pain of labor behind me, and I would be into baby bliss. Ha. I was mistaken.

Lately, I have been thinking about those first two weeks of baby bliss: the emotional/hormonal breakdowns as your hormones try to re-balance, the stitches I had because I tore in two places, the fact that I couldn't walk up and down the stairs, the menstrual cramps you have because your uterus is shrinking back to it's former size, the insecurity of when you first start breastfeeding, the hemorrhoids from pushing with an epidural, and the tiredness from waking up at all hours of the night. Where was all that reality in the baby books?

Now, don't get me wrong. It is all COMPLETELY WORTH IT. These are things that once you get into the 3rd-4th week you begin blissfully forgetting and don't cross your mind until you are preparing to go through it with subsequent children. BUT, I would have liked to been more prepared the first time, and I thought I would share so that other first timers could get a little more mentally/physically prepared for their own recovery (since most of our energy is focused on getting prepared for the little ball of joy we are growing in our tummies).

Here are some things to consider:
  1. Where is your baby stuff in relation to where you will be spending most of your time? Do you have to take stairs to get to all your baby stuff? The first week or so, you may not be ready for many trips up/down the stairs. The first week I had Sam, I could only make 1 trip per day up the stairs (in the evening to go to sleep). Therefore, we needed to set up a mini camp in the living room or a side room on the first floor so I could still be near a bathroom and the kitchen throughout the day.
  2. Do you have someone who can be home with you the first week (or preferably 2)? If your husband/partner can't be there, a friend or relative would be very helpful while he/she is away or at work. This person will be invaluable helping you around your house, bringing you a glass of water, helping you lift the baby. They can also run to the pharmacy if you need anything. Then you can focus on healing and on nurturing your new baby. It is good to work this out ahead of time. This is vital in cases where you give birth by cesarean and have even more healing to do.
  3. Can you prepare meals ahead of time or have a sign up sheet for loved ones to bring food for the first week or two? Think about how much you'll want to be up and down getting yourself water/food much less cooking after giving birth. You will be tired and sore. You will also need good nutritious food/energy. Don't be afraid to ask for help and support. No one expects you to do it all on your own. If people offer their help and support, practice saying "Yes please, that would be great".
  4. Who can you call? Post phone numbers for the nursery, local lactation consultants, other new recent moms, and a local postpartum group. Make sure you feel supported and do NOT be afraid to reach out to other people. If you begin feeling isolated or overwhelmed, you will need people to call who have been there before. You are NOT alone! If you are the first one of your group of friends to have children, be understanding that they may not necessarily know what you need because they haven't been there before. So either tell them what you need, or be prepared with other phone numbers to call!

Next, while you are getting ready for baby, prepare a Survival Kit for your own healing/recovery needs. You may not need any or all of what I list here. I have met some women who have natural births and are up and around a day or two later. The trouble is, you cannot predict if that will be you. So this is nice stuff to have on hand, and then you can always save the receipt and send your hubbie/partner/mom/friend to the pharmacy to return whatever you didn't use or need.

  • Sitz bath: you will need this if you develop hemorrhoids from pushing or if you need stitches from a tear or episiotomy (or if you are lucky enough to have all of the above!)
  • Pads: The overnight, long kind. You know that period you haven't had for 9 months? Well the first few weeks more than make up for it. Do NOT use tampons.
  • Cotton rounds: You can soak these in witch hazel and use as a compress.
  • Witch hazel: to use as a compress and to clean areas...
  • Donut pillow: It is sore to sit. It feels better to sit on a donut for a few days.
  • Stool softener that is approved by your doctor/midwife or some kind of guidance on what to eat to ensure soft passage of stools. Things are going to be all sore down there, you do not want any more trauma.

Now, hopefully I am not scaring you, that is really not my intention. I think it is just really easy to miss this stuff when the cultural focus is on the cutesy stuff like new clothes and decorating the nursery, which is clearly more fun! So, I hope you enjoy bringing home your new bundle of joy. It truly is a remarkable part of life. Hopefully feeling more prepared and supported will make it even smoother and more enjoyable for you!

In health and wellness,


Monday, February 22, 2010

"I'm good, but I wish I could poop the way I used to..."

It is funny to me that whenever I see anyone that I haven't see for a while, they always ask "How are you feeling?". And it is not necessarily funny that they ask (they are just being sweet and polite), but my reaction is always funny to me. Of course, I typically answer the obligatory "Oh, I am feeling pretty good" or "Good, but a bit tired". In my head, I laugh at myself for telling another little white lie. No one really expects you to run through the little aches and pains that typically accompany pregnancy and no one ever really wants to hear that your pipes are running slower than usual. Just once, I would like to say "Good, except I wish I could poop the way I used to" or "Good, except the lower back pain I am encountering whenever I stand longer than 20 minutes" or "Super, but I wish I could get some sleep without having to go to the bathroom 3 times in the middle of the night"....

Funny though, several months ago, I went to a concert with my husband and some friends and one of the girls was late in her first trimester. It was our first time meeting, and I thought she was hilarious and refreshingly honest. Like me, this woman eats very healthy and, as a result, is used to a comfortable level of regularity. When I (politely) asked her how she was feeling so far, one of her first complaints was that she felt nauseous, but the worst thing was how she wishes she could go like she used to! Oh, I think of that story now, and think that woman is braver than I!

The truth is, that more than half of pregnant women experience constipation. So you are not alone! Much of it is due to the increased iron supplementation. However, it is also caused by the natural relaxation of your intestines, which causes everything to move a bit slower. Another thing that may contribute is that cup of coffee that you may have given up that used to help you go more reliably. Great, so it is a normal part of many what can we do to help move things along?
  • Eat high fiber diet. Especially fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Prunes and dried fruits can also be very helpful. Dark leafy greens are high in magnesium and will also be helpful.
  • Avoid constipating foods. Maybe just for a while, pass on the cheese and bananas until you feel better.
  • Drink a lot of fluids (mostly water). I'll admit, this is my pain point. Part of me dreads drinking too much at this point of the pregnancy because I am literally going to the ladies room every 30-45 minutes. But, not only is the fluid good for constipation, it is good for a lot of other things too. So drink lots of water (and prune juice if you are already constipated). Hot water in the morning can also be helpful.
  • Relax and manage stress. Stress, worry, and anxiety can contribute to constipation.
  • Eat good fat and oils. Avocados, olive oil, nuts to name a few. Fish oil and flax also can help move things along for you.
  • Watch your iron supplements. Take iron in small doses spread throughout the day if you need to supplement. Experiment with other types (floradix or brewer's yeast for example).
  • Watch your calcium intake. Calcium can be constipating. So try to get it in high fiber forms (like broccoli). Eating too much dairy (high calcium and low fiber) can also be constipating.
  • Exercise. Nothing intense. Just a quick walk during a 10 minute break at work, maybe some yoga and/or stretching before bed.

So I hope you have enjoyed this post or at least found it useful. Constipation is not your friend, and if it gets really bad it can lead to other problems like hemorrhoids--which is really not pleasant to bring up at the work picnic. So, truly do not ignore it. If you have really bad problems, bring it up to your doctor or midwife before turning to any laxatives or things of that nature, because many of them are not safe in pregnancy.

In health and wellness,


Monday, February 8, 2010

Beef up on your iron (literally) and Recipe for Beef, Lentil and Tomato Stew with Greens

Typically during your 28 week appointment (or closest one), your doctor/midwife will give you the lovely orange drink for glucose testing (for gestational diabetes screen) and will also recheck your hemoglobin levels (they typically check it with your first bloodwork too). Hemoglobin is your red blood cell count and typically lets the doctor/midwife know whether or not you are low in iron. The interesting thing is that in your last trimester of pregnancy, your blood volume gets much larger, so the hemoglobin will naturally become diluted and your iron levels will lower accordingly.

Doctors/midwives will diagnose anything under 11 "anemia" and recommend a supplement. "Your iron is borderline" is result I got in both pregnancies. Since I am normally "borderline", that answer was not surprising to me. Upon further inquiry, I find that my iron is a 10.7. I recommend that you find out what yours is, if you are told you need iron supplementation because you should know how much to take (keep in mind that you get some in your prenatal too if you take one). I say this, because iron supplementation is very constipating, and who needs MORE constipation during pregnancy? I vote no to constipation.

When I asked if there are other options, the midwife then explains that I can eat more iron-rich foods, more vitamin C with the vegetarian forms of iron, and we can recheck closer to my due date. I like that option better. Maybe a burger a day will keep the doctor away...

So what does a diet look like when you are trying to increase your iron levels? First, get yourself a cast iron pan. The iron leaches into your food and increases the iron substantially. You can get one for a decent price. Just follow the directions on seasoning it and use it! Then use the lists below to increase iron rich foods and foods that enhance iron-absorption, and decrease foods that inhibit iron-absorption or eat those at different times of the day.

Iron-rich foods that have highest absorption because they contain the heme form of iron:
  • Red meats like beef, pork, lamb, liver (limit liver to 1/week because of high vitamin A levels)
  • Chicken, duck and other poultry
  • Fish and shellfish

Iron-rich foods that have lower absorption because they contain the non-heme form of iron (but should still be considered):

  • Unsulphured or black strap molasses
  • Green leafy veggies (kale, chard, broccoli, spinach, beet greens, etc)
  • Dried Beans and lentils, and legumes
  • Dried fruits like raisins and appricots (which have the vitamin C in there too!)

Foods that enhance iron-absorption:

  • Foods high in vitamin C which includes fresh/raw fruits/vegetables, fruit juices (read the labels 100% juice with no added sugars!)
  • Foods high in folate (folic acid) which are dark leafy greens, dried beans, wheat germ and orange juice

Foods that inhibit iron-absorption:

  • Whole grains with phytic acid. Soaking grains can neutralize it's effects
  • Calcium-rich dairy foods and supplements (eat at different times of the day)
  • Tea with tannic acid
  • Some herbs, including peppermint and chamomile
  • Coffee
  • Cocoa

If supplementation is needed:
However, if after talking to your doctor/midwife, they find it absolutely necessary that you supplement your iron or you feel uncomfortable relying on your diet alone: consider using Floradix or Brewer's Yeast instead of a synthetic vitamin. They are more easily absorbed and will cause less constipation. Do not supplement if you are not anemic, iron is not excreted easily and you could become iron toxic, which you do not want either.

Recipe: Beef, Lentil and Tomato Stew with Greens
I adapted this recipe from a basic lamb stew recipe I got from I have used lamb in it as well and it also works nicely. The beef, lentils, and greens will give you a big iron boost.

Olive oil
1 pound of beef stew meat
1 onion chopped up
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp minced, peeled fresh ginger
1-2 carrots, diced small
1 stalk of celery diced small
1 Tbs curry powder (or more if you like)
2 cups beef stock (or water is fine)
1.5 cups jarred diced tomatoes with juices or a chunky tomato sauce
1 cup dried green or french lentils
2 cups chopped greens (kale, collards, spinach or chard would work nicely)


  1. Brown the beef in the olive oil.
  2. Add onions, garlic, ginger, celery and carrots. Saute until onions and carrots get cooked down a bit.
  3. Add the curry powder and mix it in for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the stock or water.
  5. Add tomatoes and lentils.
  6. Cover the pot and let simmer for 45 min to 1 hour until the lentils are tender.
  7. Toss the greens in and cook down until tender.
  8. Serve in bowls by itself or serve over brown rice (soak the rice for several hours before cooking to neutralize the phytic acid. Phytic acid will block the iron absorption).