How to Succeed at Breastfeeding Without Really Trying

Standard

In the words of Master Yoda: “Do… or do not. There is no try.” (“Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”)

Permit me to describe what I think would be an ideal breastfeeding relationship.

Birth: Baby is born. Boob is exposed. Baby latches on to boob perfectly. Baby sucks out colostrum and never fusses. Baby poops and pees a lot.

One week later: Baby continues to suck out lots’o milk. Baby never fusses or shows signs of gassiness. Mommy never wonders if Baby is getting enough. Baby poops and pees a lot.

One month later: See “One week later”.

And so on.

emilybrown1

When we take it upon ourselves to be the sole source of nutrition for our brand new, seemingly helpless little angels, we also unknowingly accept unfathomable amounts of anxiety about whether or not we are doing things correctly, baby is eating enough, we are producing enough, and what exactly ‘normal’ means.

Thankfully, resources such as Kellymom.com and local breastfeeding peer support groups have been made available to us. Got a question? Look it up. Need some discussion or reassurance? Find someone to talk to. These resources have been designed to assist and encourage mothers along their unique breastfeeding journeys.

In my unprofessional opinion, based on the self-appointed degree I earned from Googling and browsing mothering forums, I have concluded that one of the most critical factors in a successful breastfeeding relationship is confidence. I mean the kind of confidence that plans and hopes for the best, and understands that Plan B doesn’t need to exist until it needs to exist. Sometimes unforeseen circumstances do change the name of the game, but I think this is one situation where it is better to not plan or prepare for the worst. Understand that it can happen, but don’t entertain the notion. There is a kind of confidence that sustains itself by clinging to the understanding that babies know when they need to eat and when they need comfort. The kind of confidence that says, “I will follow my baby’s lead. I will not try, only do.”

The kind of confidence that recognizes that babies are not as helpless as we think because they know how to regulate their own feeding patterns when we give them the opportunity…

emilybrownfistbump

“You rock, Ma. Thanks for the grub!”

I wish I had studied more about growth spurts and nursing patterns before the birth of my first. I’d heard buzzwords like “witching hour”, “gas”, and “cluster feeding” before she was born, but the practical application of those terms had to be learned the hard way. Those first few weeks were brutal, as the evenings seemed to always bring out the worst in her. She was always hungry, always wanting to nurse, always wanting to fight me and NOT nurse, and always just being a general butthead about everything. I felt helpless, and my husband and I didn’t know what to do besides give her some good old fashioned gripe water and ride it out. The only things I knew for certain during that time were that she would eat when she was ready, and under no circumstances was she going to receive formula. I knew my supply was sufficient (at least my rock-hard boobs seemed to indicate such to me), and she was receiving milk during the other times of the day. She had plenty of good diapers, and was gaining weight. As far as we could tell, she didn’t have reflux. I had read somewhere that evening fussiness is a result of a day’s worth of external stimulation to the baby and that babies’ nervous systems sometimes don’t know how to cope with all the extra stimulus, so they become fussy. Assuming that was true, it became my mission to treat those extra fussy times as times when she needed comfort more than food. I changed my focused to helping her relax instead of continuing to torturing myself by thinking that she was starving to death. I offered the breast as frequently as possible, knowing that she would eventually be calm enough to latch on. I bathed her, sang to her, swaddled her, and talked to her. These weren’t instant cures, but she would always return to normal after some time, and become my sweet baby again.

emilybrown3

I would love to encourage every mother wanting to exclusively breastfeed to not beat themselves up when they think they are failing, because more than likely, things are normal…so normal. Babies go through phases and stages, and they outgrow all of them. I would love to encourage these moms to not even keep to their formula samples as their emergency back-up. I would love to encourage them to trust their bodies, trust their milk, and trust their babies. I would love to hug them and let them know it is difficult, but it WILL get better. I would love to help them see that one day they will look back at what they overcame and be overwhelmed with pride at what has been accomplished. I would love to offer them whatever support or information they need to trust that they can do it. They can achieve their goals, and they will learn so much along the way.

- Emily Brown

 

emilybrown2

If a Doula Were a Drug: Esther’s Birth Story

Standard

There’s a quote about doulas that pretty much sums up how I feel about my doula’s role in the birth of  my baby.

“If a doula were a drug, it would be unethical not to use it.” — Dr. John Kennell

 

esther2

 

When I think about my labor and delivery no detail doesn’t include the involvement of my doula. She was both a friend and mentor so when I was expecting it was the natural next step to ask her to be a part of my labor and birth. I met with her a few times throughout my pregnancy for advice and support, and also to discuss my birth plan. She lent me oils to diffuse and answered all my texts and calls (before and after birth) with usually odd questions and concerns. She calmed many fears and helped me develop a healthy fear and awe for childbirth.

I loved my midwife, but my doula was the first number I called when the morning of labor dawned bright and early. She is the one that told me it was time to go to the hospital. She met me at the car and didn’t leave my side for the rest of the day.

My husband had taken a birth class with me. He knew all the things he was supposed to say, the positions he should suggest, my preferred comfort measures and the ways I wanted him to hold me, but when the time came for labor, what I needed was the touch of a woman who had been through the same experience and understood what it meant to bring a child into the world. During each contraction she placed her hands on me, usually one on my neck and one on my lower back. She whispered during each contraction for me to relax different parts of my body. She reminded me to let my body do what it needed to do. I was in the tub for the first and second stages of labor and I progressed very quickly. I credit this to the atmosphere my doula helped to create. I was the most relaxed during that time.

Once I hit transition, her role changed. During this time, I let some fear (of tearing and pushing) get the best of me and as a result, my labor stalled for about two hours. This was the hardest part of my labor and also when my doula became the most valuable. When all I wanted to do was curl up into a little ball she helped me labor in different positions to help progress. She reminded me that pressure was good and again, what was happening was normal and GOOD. At one point she suggested a change in position and I firmly told her no, I would prefer to stay where I was. After the next contraction ended, she quickly and quietly got me moving into a new position. I know if my husband would have tried this I probably have bit his hand. When I finally admitted I was afraid of tearing she helped me let go of that fear and surrender to my body.

She spooned ice into my mouth and coaxed me into eating small snacks to keep my energy up. When I was pushing and felt like I couldn’t go any further, she squeezed my hand and told me how close I was. When my boy came out she took pictures that I will treasure forever.

Because I delivered with a midwife, the advocacy role was unnecessary.  My midwife had also delivered two of my doula’s children so everyone in the room was on the same page. We were all there to safely, and with the least amount of intervention possible, get my boy into this world. I was able to follow my birth plan and I’m not sure I would have been able to without the support of my doula. Because of my experience, I would encourage anyone to ask a doula to join their birth team.

 

esther1

 

esther4

 

My first birth experience was beautiful, empowering, HARD and something I will never forget. There was just something amazing about having a woman I trusted, who had gone through what I was going through, by my side the entire time. I could have done it without her, but I’m so glad I didn’t have to.

esther3

 

 

esther5

 

- Esther Jean

Renae’s Chronicles of Nausea: A Hyperemesis Story

Standard

It might have been after I threw up on my OB’s shoe…again. Or maybe it was when I found myself telling the cold tile floor that it was the only one who loved me. Possibly it was when I described my pee as “Coke…like Yankee Coke, not Sprite-is-Coke-Texas-talk.” Perhaps it was when I had to lift my head out of the toilet to read the positive sign.

Whenever it was, I realized early on that for every “I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant” special there was one like this in which I and everyone within earshot knew I was pregnant every single moment. It was not an auspicious start. After a miscarriage, I developed what I thought was the worst stomach bug ever. My assessment was close in that it was horrible, but the 9 month duration was unexpected.

With my daughter I ate for 2….villages, so when I found myself completely unable to eat this time, I was a bit perplexed. I am awesome at fluffy. I am the only person who could deliver a baby and leave the labor room weighing 10 pounds more. This time though, at six weeks along, I was in my OB’s office playing “name the shade of purple on the ketone stick”, watching the dial of the scale move backwards for the first time in my life and throwing up in his waiting room, scale area, sink, toilet, floor, and shoe in that order.

He prescribed me Zofran which tore at my hippie heart. All my crunchy friends had suggestions. I wore Seabands like Rolexes, drank enough ginger-peppermint tea to float a ship, and tried every trick in the book. It only intensified, and I was now throwing up 15-20 times a day. At eight weeks I went back and was given the diagnosis of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG). You might recognize this as the pregnancy illness that Kate Middleton had only without the clothing/make-up/spray tan/hair-holding-back team. My plans for a midwife birth were shot, and I continued to drop weight like a prize fighter. Finally, at 12 weeks, I began to get IV  fluids and was receiving the highest dose possible of several meds.

HG1

 

Nonetheless, my HG was not impressed. I had lost over 15% of my body weight, was throwing up blood from bile burning my throat, my hair was falling out, my veins had collapsed, and I was separating ribs from the constant vomiting. My reaction was deflection via humor: “My bikini career is finally taking off. Pregnancy is an amazing diet. I love the smell of bile in the morning.” My OB’s reaction was a bit more pragmatic and he admitted my miserable ass to the hospital. I was expending too much energy vomiting so I was ordered not to eat or drink anything and was given all my nutrition via IV for several days. As I told my OB, “If you wanted to take me out for drinks, you should have chosen a nicer place.” He wasn’t amused and soon after discharge I was a mess again. This is when my angels arrived: home health. I was given a Zofran pump which meant I had to stab myself daily and have medication going under my skin where I couldn’t throw it up.

 

ZoeFrancisHG

Zoe Francis was my homegirl for a large portion of my 2nd pregnancy. Isn’t she gorgeous?

The tube going into my stomach left delightful bruises, and it actually looked like my baby was trying to kick his way out. Adorable little Alien. Once we got the medication dose right I was closer to “normal morning sickness” with chronic nausea and vomiting several times a day. I was not gaining weight but no longer losing it. I looked like Skeletor, felt like death, and smelled like wine (chronic ketosis). Home health continued until I was 26 weeks pregnant at which time I was able to wean off the pump and fluids.

HG26wks

 

I never got completely off the oral meds, but was able to function most days until the last 3 weeks of pregnancy when it returned with a vengeance. When my water broke I was still wearing pre-pregnancy jeans and weighed less than what I started at.

So, what did I learn from having a disease that only strikes 0.5-2% of all pregnancies?

First of all, some people are horrible. They’ll tell you the meds are killing your baby, that you’re lucky you’re so skinny, or that it’s just psychological. This includes some medical professionals, so arm yourself with information and be prepared for battle. There are some excellent support resources on the internet for pregnant women women who find themselves dealing with HG that include standard HG protocols and tips and tricks from other women whose babies are literally eating them alive. Help HER is an amazing organization that includes support forums, suggested treatment protocols and educates providers on how to most effectively help their patients who have HG. There are also many Facebook groups that act as support forums as well. Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and Hyperemesis Gravidarum Sufferers and Survivors! are the two that I found most helpful.

Another thing I learned is that those experiencing pregnancy complications are often treated only for the physical symptoms and not the psychological ones that can occur. Pregnancy and postpartum depression are absolutely rampant in HG mommies along with anxiety and even PTSD. The disease is horrifically misunderstood and often mismanaged. However, if you’re looking for full neglect, ask what psychological support these mothers are given. Typically it is none. I am very lucky that I had an amazing support structure and natural coping mechanisms, but many are not that fortunate. Ultimately, if you are looking for an effective diet, I can’t recommend HG.

Mac3daysHG

Minion and I at 3 days postpartum. I was SO relieved to be UNpregnant!

I wouldn’t sign up to do it again. In fact, we’ve decided that a permanent birth control situation is the best option for our family. My husband may have been forced undergo surgical intervention to prevent his swimmers from ever finding their way out of the isolation ward they’re now confined to, but we got our adorable little Minion out of the deal and we all made it through relatively intact. ;)

- Renae Rose

Too Many Things, Too Little Time

Standard

I sit here midnight on a school night trying to think of a way to share the trials and triumphs of a real WAHM (work at home Mom, for those not in the know). I run a business with international clients. I am a Mother. More importantly, I am a single Mother doing this thing called parenthood all alone. This is a perspective that doesn’t get a lot of press, and the eve before my daughter starts going to a Mother’s Day Out program seems appropriate to write.

In this past month I have birthed a corporation, encouraged my babe to be independent, and seen her take flight. Being a Mom is spectacular, but being a single Mom, doing it alone is commendable beyond belief. Let’s add that to carving a place jess1for yourself in the marketing world…glass ceilings …what??… I want to share my story and encourage other Mom’s out there. I own a company that is well on its way to being very successful in a niche market. I’m not here to solicit my business. I’m here to tell you how I did it.

I began as a contract employee, pregnant single Mom, on all the websites; looking for work. When I met my business partner (who was my former boss for 2 years prior), I showed him that a mom working from home had just as much drive as a college kid looking for an internship to start a career.

This was my third career change, and I knew it would be my last. Ironically it was in marketing which is what I studied first in college. I worked at minimum wage doing maximum production, and slowly over two years I gained responsibility, freedom, and a solid valued place in the firm. Until the day it became clear there was nowhere else for me to go….no upward mobility.

I had had quite a few pipe-dream conversations with my “boss” about how we had a niche market in training people to do what I did for him. He laughed and agreed. This happened for almost a year when he made me an offer….I had just shown how I could train multiple people virtually, and they delivered. In one particular team meeting I remember him asking “Do you think you could do that for different positions?” “ I do, I know I can….” That conversation sealed the deal.

jess2

My office staff!

I am committed beyond normal expectations. I cry as my babe takes her first steps, watching in anticipation, and I hold my breath as I put our lives on the line in the business. I have no safety net and I get no do overs. It’s all on my shoulders. I am a mother the bringer of life and I can do anything I set my mind to.

~Jessica Sanders

Yvette’s Story: Birthing at Home

Standard

I’m the oldest of 4 children, and the only one of my siblings or extended family who would ever even consider an out-of-hospital birth. My mother delivered (all 10.5 pounds of) me after receiving Demoral, and then had scheduled inductions with epidurals with my 3 siblings. She was unsuccessful with nursing, so she bottle fed all 4 of us. Who knows where I got the wild hair to deliver at home, nurse my son until he weaned himself at 13 months, make my own baby food from organic fruits and veggies, not vaccinate until he was 8 (and then only 3 vaccines that were never boostered) and use cloth diapers and homeschool, especially when it was so incredibly rare in 2001.

Actually, I do know why I chose those things. I have a TERRIBLE gene pool including a long history of heart disease, diabetes, ADHD and cancer on both sides of my family. I truly believe that SOME of the risk factors for these diseases are preventable and influenced by diet, environment and lifestyle. I wanted to give my child the VERY best chance at happy, healthy life free of as many of these diseases as possible and was willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to ensure that I had done everything possible to make that happen.

So, I read. And read. And read.

I knew there was yvette1a very good chance I would have a big baby (especially as my pregnancy progressed and I showed signs of borderline gestational diabetes) and I also knew that I was not petite…anywhere. I researched the C-section rates at the local hospitals and was astounded. I knew I wanted to stay away from those institutions but I had no idea how I was going to do it.

Then, I met Ralynn. We were part of the same church and when her daughter was severally injured by a drunk driver, I volunteered to help watch her other six children while she went to physical therapy several times a week. Ralynn had delivered five of her seven children at home! She also nursed them, homeshooled them, and didn’t vaccinate most of them. She was pretty much who I wanted to be when I grew up as a mother!

Ralynn got me in touch with Carolyn Martin, CNM who was the closest midwife to our area and gave me more reading to do. She was my labor coach and braved 24 hours of labor with me while I cussed, screamed and then pushed for 4 hours to deliver my 9.5 pound beautiful baby boy! Because I had a third degree tear and had lost more blood then Carolyn was comfortable with, we visited the local hospital in Huntsville.

yvette2

Caleb’s Apgar’s were 9 and 9 at birth but when he was about 4 hours old, he started to show signs of respiratory distress. About the same time, my blood work from the hospital came back to show I had a sepsis infection from a slow top leak of amniotic fluid and it was suspected that Caleb had aspirated that infected fluid which caused him to become septic as well. Because the Huntsville hospital did not have a Level 3 NICU, Caleb was taken to the hospital in Conroe.

The doctor in Hunstville convinced me to stay for 24 hours of fluids and IV antibiotics but the moment he said my white blood count had plateaued, I was headed to Conroe to see my sweet babe. I stayed by Caleb’s side in the NICU 20 hours a day, only leaving when required due to shift change, as he recovered from the sepsis infection and jaundice.

That was the hardest 7 days of my life. I was so grateful for the medical staff’s expertise that saved his life and mine. You see, I’m not ANTI-medicine. I’m simply anti-intervention UNTIL it’s necessary. My delivery was difficult and post delivery was even more so. Many people have asked me if I would have done anything differently, had I known what I know now. My answer is still no. Had I delivered in hospital, I most certainly would have been sectioned and that in my mind would have been a worse outcome then a very treatable infection. I will say, that after documenting 2 dozen births, natural child birth and certainly out-of-hospital births are NOT for everyone. Much like breast feeding, if you are not 150% committed from the start, your chances of success are slim-to-none. Healthy, beautiful babies are born in birth centers and hospitals every single day and I have 3 siblings and several nieces and nephews to prove that epidurals don’t make bad mommies. They make comfortable mommies who love their babies just as much as I love mine!

 

yvette3

- Yvette Griffith

 

yvette4

Introduction to Babywearing

Standard

As a first time mother, having a baby in the house simply lovely. Sure, the nights could be long, but the baby was cute, and he was my whole world. I went back to work when my first child, Chesley, was 3 months old, but even then, the evenings and weekends were his. Fast forward a few years, and baby brother Drew came along. Big brother still needed attention, but the baby needs a nap. Big brother is having a fit, the baby is crying, and the house is a mess. What’s a busy mom to do?

Babywearing to the rescue!! What is babywearing? Simply speaking, babywearing is the practice of ‘wearing’ your baby in a sling or soft carrier on your body. Doing so keeps baby close, and frees up your hands for other tasks. I got my start fairly early. I did some babywearing with Chesley, but I never found a carrier that I loved and found to be really comfortable. I had a Moby WrapTM , but I didn’t use it as much as I could have. But I kept it around because I knew that I wanted to try it with Drew. Once we got the hang of it, I was in love! Drew was happy and calm when I wore him. I could walk around the neighborhood with both boys. I loved being involved with Chesley and keeping my baby close and letting both children have what they needed from me. I perfected my wrapping skills and wore my baby everywhere: to the park, to church, to the mall, even in the house. Everywhere.  As Drew got bigger and heavier, the Moby Wrap started feeling saggier, and with summer on the horizon, it was HOT. So I bought a woven wrap, then ring slings, and wore them everywhere. hollie 1So, too, began my love affair with fabric!

Slings and carriers can be made from tons of different types of materials, from jersey knit (like a Moby Wrap), to hemp, cotton, and other woven fabrics. Each has its perks and drawbacks; some are better suited for all-day wear vs. intermittent wear; some for summer and some better suited to winter. Over the next few months, I would like to explore different babywearing topics, and share methods and styles that are important to babywearing, including:

  • Benefits of Babywearing (including closeness, bonding, breastfeeding, and family connections)
  • Babywearing on a Tight Budget – How to wear your baby with very little money to spend, even as little as $20 and $30 budgets.
  • Carrier Styles and Options – Explanation of a mei tai, soft structured carrier, woven wrap, ring sling, pouch sling, and others.
  • Babywearing in the Heat & other Safety Concerns
  • Detailed Carrier Reviews – My take on specific carriers and suggestions for different needs.
  • SETX Babywearing Group and what we do

Benefits of Babywearing

Of course there are different ideas on babywearing and I’ve heard lots of different comments, both positive and negative, about babywearing. I won’t even acknowledge all of the negative ones that we all know people say. I believe that each parent/caregiver has to make their own choices on how they will raise their child. I will not say that my way is better, rather I will present an option that has worked for us and hope that you might find something that could work for your family, too. hollie 2

On a day-to-day basis, babywearing means that I keep my baby close to me so that I am there for him whenever he cries. If he is happy lying on the floor, or playing, or sleeping, I leave him alone. If he wants to be held, then I usually do hold him, nurse him, or wear him in a carrier. I truly believe that babywearing saved my sanity when Drew was an infant. It calmed him down like nothing else, especially in public! He was almost always calm when worn, and could sleep for hours in the sling. Babywearing can have a positive impact on milk supply (if you’re breastfeeding), too. If he slept for an hour or two in the carrier, my milk would be flowing. Wearing a baby close offers similar benefits to those of skin-to-skin care.

Babywearing has benefits for older kids, too. Wearing the baby allows mom to have her hands free to participate in activities with older children. I can push Chesley on a swing or make his lunch and talk with him. I can attend church and school functions and pay attention to Chesley while wearing Drew. As baby gets older, there are still advantages to wearing him. Wearing a toddler can keep your busy tot quiet and calm. Toddlers are kind of like caged monkeys anyway, and the carrier or sling helps keep him contained.  There is no way I could put Drew, who is a very active 16 months old, down to walk or expect him to sit quietly in a chair or stroller during a school program. The sling helps him be a part of our activities.

Dads and other caregivers can wear babies too. I love seeing dads wearing their babies. For many dads, wearing the baby can be a source of pride in parenting and can benefit the relationship with the child, especially if mom is nursing. Babywearing allows dad some of the same one-on-one, close contact with baby that moms enjoy. If your baby is used to being worn, then it makes it easier for grandma or a babysitter to replicate a known environment, making outings away from baby easier on everyone.

You may think that babywearing is a bit of an obsession for me, and you’re probably right. I love the fabrics, the patterns, the colors, the fun of getting new things. But I am also passionate about helping parents and caregivers babywear safely and comfortably.  Learning to properly use a carrier is key to safe and happy babywearing, and a great place to do that is through our local babywearing group, SETX Babywearing on Facebook. We have a lively discussion list, with all kinds of information for parents new to babywearing, including videos and DIY resources. Babywearing works for us, and I will spread the babywearing love as much as I can in the hopes that you will give it a try for your family.

Check back for my next post, coming soon, about ‘babywearing on a budget’ and more about SETX Babywearing.

Happy babywearing!

Hollie Phillips

An Alternative Schooling Option in SETX: Yvette’s Story

Standard

Even when pregnant with my son in 2001, I dreamed of homeschooling. I started the Sing, Spell, Read and Write early learning program when he was 4 and we both loved it! But life had other plans as I was not able to afford to stay home with him for Kindergarten. I was blessed to find a wonderful charter school in my area of Northwest Houston that had an incredible academic program and truly encouraged parental involvement in the classroom and at home. When he was in second grade, we moved to Nederland and were somewhat pleased with the Highland Park Gifted and Talented program he was placed in. We loved his teachers, but the large class sizes were a draw back. For fourth grade, we tried Vista Academy and again, he had a wonderful teacher. Unfortunately, Vista grew faster then their facility could keep up with and fifth grade wasn’t going to be an option for us due to the exceptionally large class size anticipated, so we went back to NISD. Central Middle School was our breaking point. While his teacher was wonderful, the class size was again very large and he was bored out of his mind. I could see that he was beginning to shut down and hated going to school. Then we found Vanguard Classical Academy.

Vanguard2

Vanguard is a non-denominational Christian, classical, university-model school that offers students a Christ-centered college-preparatory education. The school is basically a hybrid of homeschooling and private school and the curriculum is based on the classical Trivium.

Vanguard1

 

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Caleb attends school on campus and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we “do school” in our PJs from our living room. As a certified High School English teacher, I can speak with authority that the curriculum at Vanguard is the most academically rigorous of any school Caleb has attended or that is available in SETX. And the best part? It’s customizeable! For 6th grade, I added several courses that I knew he would enjoy to our normal Tuesday/Thursday schedule that enriched his already challenging workload. Because they weren’t “required” classes, we could work at our own pace on these classes and really enjoy them.

Vanguard3

And the concern about class size? How does 6-8 students per class sound?! It was so wonderful to have teachers who were REALLY in tune with Caleb’s strengths and weaknesses who had the TIME and heart to meet him where he is and help him grow! As a busy entrepreneur, I honestly don’t think I have the discipline to homeschool full-time, so Vanguard is the perfect balance we needed! For more information about Vanguard, visit their website at  or their Facebook page.

- Yvette Griffith