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The Breastfeeding Basics

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

{Sasha is writing this post a breastfeeding counselor in training as well as a mama who has breastfed her firstborn for 18 months and is currently breastfeeding her second daughter} 

Let's face it, there are a million books out there to read about breastfeeding and truth be told it can all get a little overwhelming. Some books are long and intimidating and classes at hospitals aren't always available to us or in coordination with our schedules. Learning about breastfeeding is just plain overwhelming!

What are just the basic, must have tips for breastfeeding?

What are the things that you really must do in order for success?

Well today I am going to try my best to make things simple and easy for you. There's still so much to learn and many things that are not included in this post. But in general, this is breastfeeding in a nutshell for you. We'll talk about a few common problems, the first few weeks and more. Hopefully this can be a starting tool for you to prepare yourself to begin the most wonderful bonding experience ever.

The Breastfeeding Basics

There Are Two Milks. There is fore milk that comes out first (much more watery) and it is followed by the hind milk (much more fatty). Hind milk is the good stuff that you want your baby to get to keep their bellies nice and full.

Alternate Sides. Alternate your starting side each feeding. Whichever side you fed with last at your last feeding, will be the side you start with for the next feeding. This helps ensure that baby gets the good, fatty hind milk and it helps to empty the breast.

It's All About Supply and Demand. The more you bring baby to breast, the more milk you make. Your body will try and match baby's demand -- that's the science behind it ALL.

Don't Watch the Clock. This can be tricky because ideally you want to nurse every 2-3 hours those first few weeks. However, don't watch the clock during the feedings. Let baby nurse as they please whether it is 10 minutes on a breast or 30 minutes. And let them nurse when they want...2-3 hours is just an estimate. It can be every hour or even every 40 minutes; every baby is different and there is no "textbook" perfect breastfeeding baby schedule.

Wake Baby to Eat. For those first few weeks you do want to wake baby from naps when the three hour mark is approaching in order to build your supply up. Your supply is based off of baby's demand, and in those first few weeks you want to make sure you're feeding baby enough to ensure a good supply. Most newborns will typically wake up on their own every 2-3 hours to eat.

Don't Rigidly Schedule. Nursing on demand is much more optimal, at least in the beginning. You can work on a schedule when baby is older and over major growth spurts and cluster feeding.

Know the Growth Spurts. There are three main growth spurts where baby will almost never leave your breast -- 3, 6 and 12 weeks. Feed baby as often as they wish as this is their way of once again building your supply. There are still growth spurts along the way, so when baby wants to nurse more just let them!

Cluster feedings are real. Cluster feedings generally happen in the evenings and can even happen on your first or second night in the hospital. Baby will want to nurse frequently and while it is exhausting, it is necessary. Don't panic that you're not satisfying them, cluster feedings are normal and good! This is baby's way of bringing your milk in during those first few days and their way of increasing your supply for you.

Avoid Artificial Nipples. Starting pacifiers and bottles too soon can cause nipple confusion that can result in baby refusing the breast. Aim for attempting baby's first bottle around 4-6 weeks and if baby seems to need a pacifier (perhaps they want to pacify on you a lot), introduce the pacifier no earlier than two(ish) weeks. Make sure successful breastfeeding and latching has and is currently taking place. Some people are successful at giving bottles and pacis soon, it is really based on when you think baby will do okay with it.

They have sensitive guts. Their bellies are quite sensitive in the beginning which can be a headache for breastfeeding mamas. Trying to figure out what foods you should and shouldn't eat isn't fun. Generally you'll want to stay away from known gassy foods in the beginning (beans, green veggies, etc...) and you'll want to limit things like caffeine. It helps if you know what foods make you gassy and try to eliminate those from your diet. Generally it'll be a trial and error period of finding out what irritates your baby, but just know that eventually they'll likely be able to tolerate it.

It WILL hurt. In the beginning there will likely be lots of pain. You may experience cracked and sore nipples and you may have breasts that are so engorged that they will feel like two giant, lumpy rocks. This will all pass after the first 6-8 weeks. Massage your breasts during feedings to work lumps out, use hot compresses before feedings to help plugged ducts and pump a little for relief before feedings to help baby latch on to full, hard breasts. There are things like mastitis and thrush where you'll possibly have an infection or have to take an antibiotic, but it's still generally safe (and best) for baby to nurse!

There WILL be problems. You will likely run into a problem or two (or three) in the beginning and you WILL have questions. Breastfeeding is not easy, especially for a new mama. While it is natural, it does not always come natural. Babies sometimes need help with latching or mamas have to work out the kinks and plugged ducts, just to name a few issues. There is almost always an answer to whatever problem you have and successful breastfeeding can likely continue!

You DO have enough milk. Just because your baby wants to eat every thirty minutes one day or just because you breasts suddenly feel deflated or just because your baby doesn't sleep as much as your friend's baby, does not mean anything that should stress you out. Many mamas stop breastfeeding because they feel they are not satisfying their baby when in fact they are. It just takes understanding to know that they will nurse frequently, especially in the beginning. Enjoy the bond and don't stress (and don't supplement).

There are ways to increase your supply. If by chance you truly have a low supply (this wouldn't really be known until past 8 weeks or so), then there are natural remedies to try. Supplements like fenugrek or Mother's Milk Plus will naturally increase supply. There are foods that can help such as oatmeal, almonds, lactation cookies and more. Bringing baby to breast more frequently and adding more pump sessions is the way to go as well!

Pumping is NOT always proof of what you're making. In the beginning many mamas are pumping excessive amounts of milk because the body is trying to regulate. Eventually you'll see dips in those pump sessions and often times mamas panic. Remember that eventually you won't be making as much milk when your body regulates to match baby's demand. The key thing to remember is that a pump does NOT retrieve as much milk out as your baby does. Also, pumping throughout the day when you've been nursing does not give you an accurate idea of what you have in there. If you nursed even two hours before you pumped, you won't pump as much. It's just the science behind the boob!

Breast milk is a bad mama jama. Do you have the flu? Have a cold? Worried about nursing your baby while you're sick? Don't be. Babies can be nursed while mama is sick; as by the time you show symptoms of being sick, you've already passed immunity on to baby through your milk. Have milk with a little blood in it? It's perfectly safe for baby as well. The only time to consider whether or not your milk is safe is when you are on particular antibiotics, drugs or if you have consumed alcohol. Baby has a dairy allergy? Breast milk is still the best for them, it just takes a dairy free diet for mama! Baby has reflux? Well, there are multiple positions to try and tactics (and medicines) to try to control the reflux. Breast milk is STILL what is best!

Have support, hope and optimism. It takes a support group on Facebook, a lactation consultant, or a supportive husband or a wonderful text book to get you through the tough days. It takes hope to make it past those first few tiring and painful weeks. And it takes optimism to know that you CAN do this, you were made to do this and the journey ahead will be a beautiful, bonding and unforgettable journey. Just remember, it gets easier and it gets better! 

Email your breastfeeding questions to themushymommy@gmail.com and check out our breastfeeding posts for support

Mother & Baby Essentials for the First Few Weeks

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

There are so many things that we think we need to survive parenthood. There's a kazillion and one baby products that we register for and there's only like five contraptions around your house to sit baby in. You know, bassinets, bouncers, swings, Bumbos, Rock n Plays and much more. There's so much to do in preparation for having a baby and coming home with a baby, that we always want to make sure we have things just perfect. But do we really need it all? Especially in those first few weeks?

Now that I've come home with my second newborn, I've decided to put together the most basic list of mother and baby items that are essentially needed, at least for me. We are all different but I am sure most of these items can be the same for many new (and veteran) mamas.

Yes, we need diapers and wipes. Yes, I use a bassinet every night and my newborn chills in a bouncer every day. And of course, she is sleeping in cute little pajamas and wearing onesies and socks during the day.

But those items are the obvious items that we know we need.

So what are the items that I, as a breastfeeding mother, feel are essential for myself and my newborn? 

1. Nursing Pads. I love washable nursing pads because it cuts down on cost, waste and it is much more practical. Make sure to find some cute and chic prints in our shop.

2. Nipple Cream. Ah, where would a breastfeeding mother be without nipple cream? I'll be honest with you, after a few weeks or so I start slacking on using it and then eventually I just don't need it that much. I will say that I wish so badly I had thought to take it out of my hospital bag on that first day because I did end up with sore, cracked nipples. This Motherlove nipple cream is amazing and is by far my favorite that I've tried. Find it in our shop.

3. Nursing Tanks. Yes please and thank you. I own 14 nursing tops. In fact during the first few weeks I stay in them all day and night sans bra and just slip my nursing pads in the shelf bra provided in the tank.

4. Sitz Bath Spray. First off, soaking in the tub is crucial for me. I love it for recovery and unfortunately when you come home with your second baby, it's harder to find time for those baths. This spray is wonderful to spray on your you-know-what to help relieve sore perineal muscles. This item is available in our shop!

5. Baby Wrap. This is crucial for your second baby. It is not as much of a necessity with your first (not for the first few weeks anyway); but it's a wonderful way to get in some extra bonding while having your hands free! We have wraps, slings and carriers available in our shop.

6. Pads! Oh give me all the pads. Overnights, Maxis with wings, ultra thins and more. I want them all.

7. Muslin Swaddle Blankets. I love these for the car seat, the bouncer, spit up and more. They are light and breathable and great for swaddling as well. We love our Aden and Anais ones!

8. Nursing Pillow. Not every breastfeeding mama uses one, especially with the second baby. However I find with a newborn that it is still so helpful! I love the extra support and so does baby.

9. Velcro Swaddlers. I suck at swaddling - like legit suck at it. Once we came home from the hospital I quickly pulled out our velcro swaddlers and night time feedings got much easier since I wasn't trying to roll up a burrito!

What are some of your postpartum and newborn essentials?

I Pulled Out My Own Baby and She Peed On Me, My Natural Birth Story

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Are you having this one natural too?"

This was perhaps my most asked about question during this pregnancy. Everyone wanted to know if I'd go for a natural, drug free labor again. You'd think that I'd answer, "Well of course." I mean, I already knew I could handle the pain and since second labors are usually shorter it just made sense. However I never answered the question that way; I always said, "I hope to." 

We never know how a labor will go. Emergencies happen, interventions take place and birth plans can quickly become faded hopes and dreams. I was never going to sit there and pretend like I knew I'd have this baby the same, beautiful way that I had my first. I just sat back and prayed that I would and hoped for it. I believed in my ability to do it and I believed in my baby and my body working together.

From day one, we were just certain that this baby would be a "May" baby despite a June 7 due date. No way was I going to have a June baby. At 29 weeks we experienced false labor and found out I was dilated one cm; it was just a sure thing that this would be an early baby! Mother's Day came and I woke up at 36 weeks pregnant with consistent contractions that lasted ALL day. And then it happened again at 38 weeks pregnant and once more one night at nearly 39 weeks. I began to suspect what many birthing peers thought, maybe my baby wasn't in the exact position and this was keeping my labor from progressing, something that is key later on in this story.

Finally, at 39 weeks and 1 day I went to bed with what was yet again a bad back ache and the feeling like labor was coming. But let's face it, I had been feeling like that every day so I didn't get my hopes up. I woke up several times that night to potty and noticed I was contracting, but I still didn't get my hopes up. The next morning while cuddling with my two year old and watching cartoons, I noticed I was consistently contracting at 10-11 minutes apart.

So maybe, just maybe this was it. 

I went run a few errands to have everything done before this baby arrived. I ended our errands visiting my mom where we decided to go walking to move the labor along; it worked like a charm. By lunch time I was contracting 7-9 minutes apart and was actually getting to where I didn't want to talk through some contractions. Eventually they moved up to 6-8 minutes apart and I took Little Bug home to take a nap. While she napped I had hubby on stand by to leave work soon and I decided to get the house perfect. I finished laundry, scrubbed the tubs and cleaned everything. It's possible all of the cleaning moved things even more because as I got in the shower to wash my hair, I had three contractions in 10 minutes and one with immense pressure. I quickly panicked and got out to call hubby to come home and called my mom to come sit with me. I didn't want to deliver a baby by myself!

Eventually I was feeling contractions 2-4 mins apart - some were mild and some were HARD. I was determined that this go around I would have makeup on and fixed hair, so I got dressed. Once my mom arrived we decided things were too close so we dropped Little Bug off and headed to the hospital where hubby would meet us.

And then just like what I was used to, things somewhat slowed down at the hospital but definitely intensified. I was disappointed to learn I was only 3 cm, something I had been for a week already, and I was contracting only every 6-8 minutes. After two hours of monitoring they sent me home despite me telling them I was in labor. I was in PAIN. This IS labor people and you're making me go home just so I can come back here later on -- thanks a lot folks.

I went home and took a long bath and contractions were up to 5-6 mins and were freaking hard. I remembered the doctor saying the baby was posterior earlier at the hospital and just as I thought, that meant she wasn't in prime position. So at 11 pm, I decided to do 10 lift and tucks from Spinning Babies during my next 10 contractions. This exercise helps baby engage in the pelvis and helps to speed things up. I was in so much pain but it worked like a charm. At one point I actually felt her drop down in there, it was kinda crazy!

As hubby slept, I labored in the living room walking up and down the hall, rocking in the rocking chair, standing and however I felt comfortable. There were many times that I wondered how in the heck I did this the first time.


How did I do this? 

I couldn't do this again! 

Around 1 pm I was riding out a contraction when my water just broke everywhere. It was relief! This finally meant that I was in true labor and could go to the hospital. In fact I was shocked it broke. In majority of pregnancies the water breaking is the last thing to really take place. I was ecstatic and also somewhat nervous as I wanted to make sure we made it to the hospital in time. Oh, and as you can imagine, my hair wasn't fixed and there was no makeup on! Go figure.

After changing my pants a few times, we arrived to the hospital only for them to have to work night and day to prove it was my water that broke. Come on people, I didn't piss my pants - it was my freaking water! Finally the test showed my water broke and I was wheeled up to a labor room and was now 4 cm. It's go time people! Wahoo!

From here it gets really quick, so hang in there! Unlike my first birth, my nurses were much more, "What do you want and whatever you want you'll get." I made all of my requests and told them my birth plan --  immediate skin to skin, delay the cord clamp until the cord stops pulsating, immediate breastfeeding, delayed bath, etc... But I left one key thing out that I joked about with my husband beforehand, "How about I pull my own baby out?!" I mean, Kourtney Kardashian did it on national TV, so then I should totally do that, right?!

My nurses were amazing and after settling in, I began making my rounds walking with my mom. She was my rock and walking buddy during the first labor and did it all again with this time (she's the best!). I eventually got nauseous and as my nurse and I both suspected, this could mean things were getting close. She checked me and I was 5 cm but could be stretched to 7 cm (whatever that meant). I requested a bath and went labor in the tub for awhile where my amazing hubby was by my side helping me through the intense contractions (he's amazing, did I mention that?).

During my first birth I used a silly mantra that I said to myself about being a butterfly and using the visual of wings opening to visualize dilation. As crazy as it sounds, I did this again. "I am a butterfly," I said. I also prayed a lot this time. I prayed for God to help move things along because I wasn't sure if I had it in me to do another long birth. And in a sense, I guess I prayed and spoke to my baby girl because I kept telling her, "We can do this together." 

Obviously, I wasn't saying these things out loud as I could hardly mumble a word, but in my own little world I was talking to myself, my baby and God. 

That's how I made it through. 

Okay guys, it's about to get quicker. I started walking again where we made maybe two laps when I started hobbling back to the room with my knees together. There was a baby coming and a baby coming soon! I hopped onto the bed and the nurse checked me. I was only 8 cm, but was so close she called the doctor, "She's 8 and ready to push." Until the doctor arrived I rode out the contractions in bed and tried to ignore the urge to push.

The doctor came (Dr. Buchert for you locals) and said I was still only 8 cm and according to her, "There's still some cervix there so you'll tear a bit if you push." It was a total buzz kill. I kid you not that I stood by the bed to ride out the very next contraction and screamed something like, "Nope she's coming, I'm pushing." I hopped onto that bed, the doctor suited up and I got ready. Finally, I was going to meet this little angel of mine after what felt like a forever of being pregnant!

At this point, I'm somewhat sitting up in the bed with my legs all open and my junk all exposed while the doctor and two nurses just sat there staring at it. They sat there starting with their arms folded just waiting. It was the most pressure I've ever felt and not vagina pressure. I'm talking pressure that I had to prove to them this baby was coming. I had to push this kid out whether I was 8 or 10 cm.

I could feel it happening but no one was moving. Everyone was watching and I screamed something like "Is it happening?" I mean, I'm pushing and feel a human being coming out and everyone's just watching me do my thang like I got this. Finally, the doctor starts working the head out and helps me from tearing. The head comes out along with the arms and she backs up and says, "Pull your baby out." I reach down and pull out the most perfect, cheesiest little person ever. She was so cheesy in her vernix coating that I couldn't get a grip at first. But I pulled her out!  It was and is still the most powerful feeling and I'm so grateful that the doctor told me to do that. Take that Kourtney Kardashian!

My beautiful Little Fox was delivered at 5:43 am and weighed 7lbs and 7oz. She's perfect in every way. The birth was even more perfect and beautiful than I could have ever imagined. No drugs, no pitocin to speed it up and not even any tearing. The cord wasn't cut and clamped by my husband until it stopped pulsating, we did skin to skin immediately after I pulled her out (oh and she peed all over me), and we delayed the bath and breastfed.

It was PERFECT. 

It was everything I imagined and more. 

And so was she.

I was so emotional after this birth, more emotional than with the first. I wanted to sit and cry for some reason and it was because of so many feelings. It was surreal that she was finally here, surreal that it went so quickly and so surreal that my prayers for another beautiful, natural birth were answered. And it was of course surreal that I had another child. Another little person to care for, love on and spend my life protecting. It's amazing how your heart just expands instantaneously for the new little being that you bring into the world.

I have relived this birth every day since then and wish I could go back. My daughters' births are perhaps the most amazing, magical and breath taking moments that I have ever experienced. Yes it hurts no doubt, but it is SO worth it to me. It's so worth it to feel my body do what it was designed to do for them. There's nothing like it... 

Motherhood just rocks. 

And childbirth is pretty flipping amazing!

So when my next pregnancy comes around one day, yes I do plan on having another natural labor. But all I can do is plan and pray. Our bodies are meant to do this and God doesn't give us any pain that we can't handle. While unfortunately not all births can be as smooth, it is possible to have the birth you want. However it's also wise to be open minded and to be grateful that medical intervention is there if we need it -- they save the lives of babies and mothers everyday.

However if your body or your baby doesn't need medical intervention (and most don't), believe in your ability to do this. Believe in your body's ability go to into labor on it's own despite a close or past due date; believe in your ability to deliver a baby no matter how big they may "suspect" (unless it's ginormous of course!) and even believe in your ability to do it naturally. If I can, anyone can. If a natural labor is something you want then go for it. Read some good books and take a class or two and believe in yourself. However never beat yourself up because you couldn't do it or because you had to go another route.

All that ever matters is a safe and healthy delivery. There is no medal or badge for the most awesome labor or strongest woman. We all do the same - we grow human beings, we deliver them and we nourish them. But you can believe in yourself that you can do this. The pain of childbirth fades away...but the memories of that amazing and empowering moment never will.

God doesn't give us anything we can't handle...

Just when you think you can't, you push a little more and the next thing you know, you pushed out a baby. 

“Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” 
― Ina May GaskinIna May's Guide to Childbirth

Thank you for reading our birth story! Here's to celebrating each and every birth no matter how you deliver! We all have a story to tell...

The Ouchless Baby Blocks!!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How many times has your baby had a slew of blocks sitting around that you trip on or that come tumbling down on your feet and "ouch!" those little suckers hurt? Or perhaps your little one is building a nifty block tower and the blocks come tumbling down on baby, ouch!

Blocks are a wonderful toy for babies as stacking and sorting is great for fine motor skills and can keep baby occupied for quite a bit. However, sometimes wooden blocks are just too hard for baby and other times plastic blocks are just too toxic for babies who love to put everything in their mouth.

The Ouchless Baby Blocks, which were started by a single mom of three, is the perfect solution to hard toys lining up your living room. Not to mention that it is a wonderful alternative to toxic blocks out there that can off gas chemicals, contain lead and/or harm baby in some sort of way. While even plastic blocks can be BPA free, there are still numerous other chemicals out there that are harmful to us all and commonly found in plastics.

So what was this mama's solution? While she knew she wanted to steer clear of plastic for the obvious reasons, she chose to stay away from cloth blocks because of the challenge of keeping cloth toys clean. Her solution is wonderful and is in my opinion a great, safe toy for babies -- baby blocks made from 100% food grade silicone. The Ouchless Baby Blocks are certified free of BPA, PVC, lead, cadmium, latex rubber, nitrosamines, phthalates, and other heavy metals - so you don't have to worry about your child's health.
Each block is 2"x 2"x 2" (5 cm x 5 cm x 5 cm) and weighs 2.4 ounces. They come in a set of 6 and are designed to capture your child's attention with bright colors of blue, purple, green, red, orange, and yellow. Bright colors and textured geometric patterns on every side stimulate your child's senses. One side even has a maze for older children to trace. The blocks also have rounded corners for safety and are lightweight for all ages to play with. The Ouchless Baby Blocks are hermetically sealed and waterproof, so they won't trap water and grow yucky stuff. And they float too -- making them great for the bathtub! 
So there is no more apologizing when your baby chunks a block at a play date and smacks another baby in the head. Okay, okay... so yea you may still apologize, but at least the baby won't walk away with a bruise that could be found with a harder block. Aside from the fact that these blocks are "ouchless," I clearly love that they are natural and non toxic. I was a paranoid mama about what my baby chewed on; and while we can't protect them from everything, we can try our hardest. 

So if you are loving these amazing Ouchless Baby Blocks like I am, make sure to check out the website and take a peek at their kickstarter campaign and the video about them. If you want to see The Ouchless Baby Blocks become a hit (and let's face it, we need more safe and non toxic toys), then make sure to check out the rewards for your support of their project! 

This is a sponsored post where all opinions are solely my own. While I don't frequently work with kickstarter campaigns, I will if the project is appealing to me! 

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