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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,