Mama Knows Breast

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One Mom’s Story– Breastfeeding Challenges

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Welcome to the January Breastfeeding Carnival. This month we’re writing posts on the theme of “beginnings and endings.” Personally, I’m beginning this year by trying to go to bed before 11:30. So I’m delegating my post this month to my sister in law. She recently sent me a short essay she wrote about the challenges she faced breastfeeding her son. She had a low milk supply, mastitis, and a yeast infection. Here’s her story, about beginning to breastfed, in her own words:
I thought breastfeeding would be fairly straightforward. I had taken a prenatal breastfeeding class, and thought I had learned everything there was to know about nursing. I understood the signs of hunger, mastered the cradle hold with my baby doll, and left armed with nursing pads for leaks and Lanolin for cracked nipples.
Unfortunately, there was some stuff that the teacher didn’t cover—or at least that I didn’t remember. And, as luck would have it, those were the problems that I developed. So, I was completely unprepared when our son lost over 10% of his body weight within a few days of his birth. All babies lose weight in those first few days, but the nurses said this was simply too much. They thought that perhaps he wasn’t getting enough to eat because my milk hadn’t come in yet, so they gave me advice to get things going. Rub his head. Don’t rub his head. Touch his feet. Don’t touch his feet. Squeeze your boob like your eating a hamburger (I’m not kidding!). My head was spinning.
Our pediatrician was also concerned about the weight loss, and advised us to breastfeed and supplement with formula through a supplemental nursing system (SNS). If you’ve never heard of an SNS, picture this: the mom wears a small sack of milk around her neck and a tube goes from the sack to the mom’s breast. The baby sucks on the tube and the mom’s nipple at the same time. So while the baby is getting food from the tube, he is also getting breast milk.
My husband helped me set the SNS up for our first try, and everything went pretty well. But when it came time for the next feeding, he was off doing an errand. I asked the nurse to help, and to my surprise, she refused. She tossed the SNS on the bed and said I shouldn’t supplement with formula. I had been a mom for forty-eight hours, and was distraught by the thought of going against the pediatrician’s advice and not providing my baby the nutrition he needed. But, since I couldn’t use the SNS by myself, I just cried and waited for my husband to return to help me.
As it turned out, my milk supply was low. So, over the two next months, we followed a manic feeding schedule to increase my supply and help our son gain weight. I nursed every two hours, pumped between nursing, took Fenugreek, and gave pumped breast milk using the SNS. It was emotionally and physically exhausting, and there were many days that I wanted to give it up. Along the way, I also got a yeast infection on my breast and mastitis (a breast infection that makes you feel like you have the flu). Yet two more painful problems that I didn’t remember from my breastfeeding class!
We used the SNS for one month and breastfed exclusively for the next six. But by six months old, my son had dropped from the 25th percentile for weight to the 3rd, so our pediatrician again recommended that we supplement with a 4-6 ounce bottle of formula each day. Armed with better perspective, and a little more sleep, this no longer seemed scary or wrong. So once a day, we gave him a “milk shake,” our own name for formula. And given his age, we started giving him solid foods as well.
To this day, I still don’t understand why that first nurse made me feel so terrible about using formula, and why she didn’t put my baby’s needs before her own biases. I am also unsure as to why my breastfeeding class teacher didn’t mention how to fix a low milk supply. Maybe she didn’t want to scare us. But I could have benefited from knowing in advance how to fix the hard stuff. And my friends, who have had breastfeeding challenges of their own, agree.
Thinking about that breastfeeding class…all my teacher really needed to say was, “Most breastfeeding problems can be solved by…you guessed it…breastfeeding!” Mastitis? As painful as it is, nurse more to prevent engorgement! Low milk supply? Nurse and pump. A yeast infection? Latch that babe right on! Hey, what better way to encourage someone to breastfeed?! Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to let moms know that the occasional “milkshake” can help too.

To read posts from the other blogs participating in the carnival, here are the links:
Bad Ass Dad shares his thoughts about encouraging his wife to breastfeed. This is one post you should not miss!
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog likens a ripe fruit to a child who is ready to wean.
Breastfeedingmums writes about being unprepared to begin, and to end, breastfeeding.
Crunchy Domestic Goddess writes about her first few days breastfeeding her baby, and supplementing with formula until they left the hospital.
Nature Moms reviews “Mama Knows Breast.”
Leche Baby writes about weaning a toddler.
Adventures of Pip and Squeak writes about breastfeeding her first child and looking forward to the second.
Reid Elizabeth writes about getting started breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding 123 writes about weaning a toddler, tandem nursing and her third pregnancy.

Celebrities and Breastfeeding– Salma Hayek, Helena Bonham Carter and Jessica Alba

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Hey, Jessica Alba, if you or your agent are reading this, send me your address. I’ll send you a copy of my book since you’re pregnant. I read that you told EXTRA that you’re worried about breastfeeding and have been having dreams about it. So take it from us, it’s ok to be worried, but there’s nothing to be scared of. Breastfeeding might work for you. It might not. But if you do a little homework in advance, you’ll feel a lot better.
And if my book doesn’t help, then get in touch with some other Hollywood moms who think breastfeeding is pretty cool. Try Salma Hayek, or Helena Bonham Carter.

Mothers’ Milk Bank Wins Semi-Finals in Business Contest– Vote in The Finals

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Last week I wrote about a contest on a site called IdeaBlob, urging you to vote for a proposal from the Mothers’ Milk Bank of New England. The winner, chosen by online votes, receives $10,000.
Tanya from the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog is spearheading this, and her proposal made it to the final round. She’s now competing against seven other ideas, in a round than runs from January 22nd to January 31st.
So vote again in the final round. You’ll be supporting the milk bank’s costs for equipment, a ‘Milk Money Fund,’ and outreach materials. So, please, vote here now.

Help Start a Milk Bank in New England With an Online Vote

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Human milk banks have been around since the early 1900′s, providing donated breast milk to babies who are sick or premature. There are currently 11 milk banks in the United States, including a new one about to open in the New England area.
Tanya, of the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog, is trying to raise money for the launch of the Mothers’ Milk Bank of New England. She’s entered an online competition at a site called IdeaBlob. The contest allows anyone to post a business or non-profit idea and compete for $10,000 each month.
On her blog, Tanya writes:
Despite the large number of hospitals in our region, the nearest milk banks to our area are in North Carolina and Ohio! My local breastfeeding coalition has been working to establish a milk collection depot in our area.
The Milk Bank needs money for 1) processing and storage equipment, 2) a “Milk Money” fund to help families whose insurance won’t cover processing fees, and 3) marketing materials to get the word out about the new bank.
Here’s what to do:
* Go to the Milk Bank page on IdeaBlob, and vote for this project! You have to register first and confirm by email, which doesn’t take long.
* Blog or post about this wherever you can to help bring in more votes.

A Video Interview With Me

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The website recently interviewed me, and the story (click here) has some of the best breastfeeding puns you’ll ever come across. It all starts with the headline, “She’s Stacked, Baby.” Now why didn’t I think of that?
If that’s not your thing…just surf around the site to find profiles of people doing pretty cool stuff in all sorts of fields…people like a sneaker designer, a landscape architect and a jazz club founder.
Now click here to watch this video.

How To Make A Brisket And Get Your Kids To Eat

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I once ate an entire brisket. Of course it didn’t happen in one sitting. But slowly, over the course of four days, I polished off about 5 pounds of meat.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. The boys (ages 1 and 3) and my husband were supposed to pitch in. In fact, the meal was designed to get the boys to eat some real protein. They were going through their white period– bread, bananas, yogurt, noodles, oatmeal and some raisins for variety. Maybe an apple. Definitely nothing green.
I figured that perhaps I needed to get more creative. It was time to focus on giving them a good old fashioned meal. So here’s what I did. I called my grandmother and followed her directions:
1. Buy a big hunk of brisket (first cut) from Fairway.
2. Saute some onions and peppers (add salt and pepper) and line the bottom of a glass pan with the mixture.
3. Add in a big can of crushed tomatoes and a package of dried Lipton onion soup.
4. Put the brisket on top. Add in more peppers and onions (not cooked– but I don’t know why). Some garlic cloves go in too.
5. Add in small, pre-peeled potatoes.
6. Cook at 350 for about two hours.
7. Add in mini carrots.
8. Cook for another hour or more. (It’s not possible to over-cook a brisket). Periodically use a spoon to spread the sauce over the brisket.
9. Take the brisket out of the mix and cut it on a cutting board. Slice thinly, against the grain.
10. Add the slices back into the mix.
11. The result is an incredibly tender meat that tastes even better when you re-heat it and serve it on the second and third day.
Laboring all afternoon, I eagerly anticipated the oohs and ahhs as I put the meal on their plastic, disherwasher-safe plates. I envisioned them grabbing fistfuls of meat and smearing sauce on their cheeks. I thought I’d have to tell them to chew slowly as they smashed carrots and potatoes into their mouths.
Here’s what happened instead. The carrots ended up on the floor, the meat was untouched. “Please, stay in your seat,” I pleaded. “Here, just give this a little try. It’s delicious. No, you can’t have a cookie.” As I cleaned up the dinner debris, I ate what they left behind. This scenario replayed itself out at lunch and dinner for the next few days, and my husband was only home for one dinner. Hence, my brisket gluttony.
There were many times, when the boys were babies, that I worried about whether or not they were eating enough. Even in the early days of breastfeeding, I looked forward to doctor visits to see if they had gained weight. That sense of bewilderment is probably what motivated me to write my book in the first place. And despite my concerns, I do know that the kiddies are on track. At nearly 40 and 30 pounds respectively, pushing them in the double stroller is a serious work-out. Who needs the gym? Just try bench-pressing these guys all day.
My mom says not to worry, that they’ll eat when they’re hungry. The pediatrician assures me they’re fine and don’t need vitamins. I even have a 6 foot plus cousin who spent most of his preschool years, as I recall, eating raisin bread and cheerios. So I know it’s not that big a deal.
But I’m not giving up yet. Every night I try to give them a protein, a fruit and a vegetable. I’ve decided that if they won’t eat it, tough. I’m not going to do fancy cooking gymnastics a la The Sneaky Chef or Deceptively Delicious. I don’t have the time or energy to puree beans and hide them inside other dishes. I do give in to their inner Cookie Monster demands, but not as often as they’d like.
Last week, we spent time with my mom. The first night we were all together we sat down for dinner, and she pulled a brisket out of the oven. I watched her put a heaping portion on the kids’ plates. I looked down at the carpet, quietly thinking about removing a red stain from the fibers. I excused myself from the table for a moment, with a shrug of resignation. When I returned, our 1 year old was actually picking at something on his plate, and best of all, his older brother– well, he had a mouthful of food and was already asking for more.
I can’t explain it. Same recipe. Same presentation. Maybe they were finally hungry. Or maybe it was the grandma touch. Come to think of it, hey mom, want to come to visit us this weekend? The kitchen is all yours.

Keeping a Feeding Log

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When our first son was born I kept a meticulous journal of his feedings. I’d note the time he ate, which breast he ate from, and how long he fed. I also marked down wet and dirty diapers. I was on top of things, and pretty proud of myself. At least I was, until his pediatrician more or less dismissed my note taking. I handed him a copy of the log, and he gave it right back to me. “I don’t need this,” he said. But look at all my hard work, I felt like saying back to him. Look, even my handwriting is neat!
What I realize now, is that he was essentially saying, your son is fine. He’s peeing and pooping and most importantly gaining weight– you can relax.
But fast forward to our second son, I did the same thing again. I kept a journal for a couple of weeks because I found it helped me keep track of what was going on. In a post-delivery fog, and sleep-deprived state, it helped me to remember when he ate. It was especially important because he was a sleepy baby, and I had to wake him to make sure he ate frequently enough.
So, I still like the idea of keeping notes for a little while, at least. And I’m sure some moms do it longer. That’s why I was excited to get a copy of this journal from Random House. “Time to Feed: A Journal for Recording Your Baby’s Feeding Schedule” is a great gift for a new mom. In fact, I just gave it to a friend today. It has simple entry spaces for each feeding, whether its boob or bottle, breast milk or formula. Best of all, there is a basic guide to breastfeeding at the back of the book, written by La Leche League.
Time to Feed Baby.jpg