all posts, eczema, parentings/things about baby and kids, women's health

on breastfeeding, breastmilk, and NPR

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I’m combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content.  🙂

A while back I took a class on breastfeeding at the hospital where I planned to deliver (North Shore Medical Center Salem Hospital). Below I’ve outlined some of the notes I took as they pertain to women’s health, as well as my own thoughts.

As many people are saying, “breast is best”, it’s interesting to look into why. Studies have shown breast feeding can help women lose some of the pregnancy weight faster as you are expelling energy to produce milk. It can also help reduce your risks of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, as well as it releases hormones to calm you down.

But what’s actually going on in the body when it produces milk? The glands that produce milk (alveoli) send the milk to ducts which lead to the nipple opening. The baby draws the milk out when sucking, and the more the baby drinks, the more our breasts produce. At first we only produce colostrum, which is this fatty liquid that has all kinds of goodies like antibodies and beta carotene for our babies newly-developing immune system and gut. Then the real milk comes in after about 3-5 days. When a baby started nursing each time, first (s)he will get the foremilk which is mostly composed of water, and after feeding for a few minutes (up to 10 minutes) the hindmilk (which is a lot fattier) follows. The Letdown Reflex happens each time the baby feeds and it is when the baby has latched and the breasts transition from letting out foremilk to hindmilk. Some women can feel the letdown reflex happening (described as pins and needles or some localized tightness) but many women feel nothing.

But how does breastfeeding feel? Well, apparently it is a very novel sensation to most when the baby first latches (it definitely was in my experience) and for many it is difficult to get a good latch and takes some practice! The biggest worry is that a baby who has latched poorly and is just hooked onto your nipple and so (s)he will cause the mom pain. The way to avoid this is to make sure the baby gets more of the areola in its mouth rather than just the nipple. To detach a baby from your nipple if they are incorrectly latched, you definitely don’t want to just pull them off (ouch), but instead you should insert a clean finger into their mouth to break the suction, by running your finger along their gum line.

Also leaking is normal, especially at the beginning of breastfeeding, but it usually does slow down and stop as you continue breastfeeding and your baby gets used to it. You can use nursing pads and also press your nipple/cross your arms when you feel like you are leaking to help to try and stop it.

What about your diet; how does it affect the breastmilk? What can you eat? From this class I was told you can eat and drink anything, it’s just a matter of seeing what your baby’s reaction is (if they get gassy, fussy, hiccup-y, etc after a meal, check back to see what you last eat). Obviously some things to consider are making sure things like alcohol and caffeine are out of your system before you breastfeed (I think the advice was if you have an alcoholic drink, you don’t want to feel tipsy, and you want to wait about 2 hours before you breastfeed… but don’t quote me on those hours). Also for babies that have occult blood (invisible blood in the baby’s stool), the first things a doctor may advise you to avoid are probably dairy and soy, because they are the most common culprits that irritate the babies developing gastro-intestinal system (this is what occurred in my experience). The Kelly Mom blog has a post that goes into food sensitivities in more detail.

For pumping, the advice was not to start until 3-4 weeks unless needed and to make sure you get a pump with a suction cup that is sized correctly to your breast; you don’t want your nipple squished on the sides. The other advice was to pump in the morning, or after a baby’s feeding (I believe about 30 minutes after is the recommendation).

For general nipple care, the advice was to try using your own breast milk around the inflamed area first. Then you can try lansinoh or coconut oil on tender area, and then if it’s really bad, use manuka honey (here’s a cream made with it), but wash it off before feeding the baby.

Other painful aspects about breastfeeding include:

  • Engorgement: this occurs when you don’t breastfeed enough so your breasts become swollen and hard. Regularly nursing helps prevent this, but if you need to you can also remove milk by hand (or what’s called expressing milk) you can use a pump. Just express until your breasts are no longer hard. Cold compresses can also be used after feeding to help bring down the swelling. To express, massage the breast tissue and then grab above and below the breast with your thumb and forefinger and press back towards your chest wall, then gently squeeze, moving your hand all around to help drain multiple areas.
  • Mastitis: this is the most common problem, and it is when your breast gets infected with bacteria, causing pain. You will probably have a fever or other flu-like symptoms as well. This can occur from blocked ducts, nipple injuries, or problems with breastfeeding. You want to call the doctor if you feel this has occurred. Also also make sure to wash your hands frequently to reduce infection risk.
  • Blocked ducts: this is caused by not relieving the breasts. A blocked duct will feel sore and tender. Try taking a warm shower and apply moist heat, and/or gently massage before breast feeding. Also try expressing after feedings if you still feel engorged.
  • Yeast infection: this will cause your nipples to be shiny, red, and painful. Yeast (also called thrush) can also grow in your baby’s mouth so look for cottage cheese looking stuff in their cheeks.

Who can you call for help? Nowadays you can call your doctor, your baby’s pediatrician, and/or some hospitals also have lactation support groups (sometimes free), or lactation consultants (usually not free) that you can call to get one-on-one help.

A little more about breastmilk. In lieu of my own little own having some kind of sickness, I’ve been looking more into breastmilk’s functions. This searching led me to this internet viral photo showing how a mom’s breastmilk changed when her infant got sick. The 2013 study mentioned in that post talks about breastmilk’s immunological function and explains how when the mom or baby get sick, the number of leukocytes (aka white blood cells) in the breastmilk drastically increases to help protect them, because leukocytes help fight disease. I find that to be such a cool example of symbiosis. I personally have also noticed that breastfeeding seems to keep both me and the baby from getting some of the sicknesses that were going around (my mom, mother-in-law, and husband each got sick after the baby was born while the two moms were visiting!).

Lastly, I also read an article by NPR addressing the breastfeeding versus formula debate for poor countries.  The major points that this article made were that formula is not a godsend for impoverished countries for the following reasons:

  • formula requires water to make it, of which clean sources are not always available
  • formula causes increased risks of diarrhea and respiratory infections, and
  • formula can cost up to 30% of a families income, and subsequently families made dilute the formula to make it last longer, which reduces the amount of nutrients the baby gets per serving.

The article also talked about how it’s weird that we are constantly trying to research the benefits of breastfeeding when it’s as natural as “breathing, chewing, hearing, passing stool”. It also went on to explain that even an underfed mom can make excellent quality milk, and as for quantity, it is also enough except in the case of severe malnutrition. The latter point is interesting to me because I hear a lot of moms, including myself with babies labeled as “failure to thrive”, which essentially means our babies aren’t gaining weight at a rate that the medical professional expects. In my case, the doctor assumed I wasn’t producing enough milk and told me to supplement with formula. It turned out that my baby drank the same amount of formula as I was producing of milk, so I wasn’t the common denominator and rather my baby just drank only tiny amounts per feed. I’m curious as to why there are many medical professionals that believe many moms can’t produce enough milk when studies may be showing the contrary.

Anyway, the article ended by saying that it is up to the mom on how they want to provide for their child, however, it is important that they have accurate information to make informed decisions. This means that we would need to reform the system so doctors are never paid to handout formula samples, and on in which moms are not incentivized by free samples to use formula.

 

 

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all posts, community, eczema, women's health

why doesn’t the postpartum period include eczema care?

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I’m combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content. 🙂

As you may or may not know about me, my goal in life (career-wise at least) is to create a company that cultivates support for women with chronic illnesses as they embark on becoming mothers. One of my dreams is that services provided will help to make up for the loss of midwifery-type support that towns and cities used to have, and combat the decrease of share “wise woman” spaces, but specifically in the context of helping women who have varying autoimmune or other chronic disorders.

In my dream scenario, this company I create is inspired by community and healthy social growth, devoted to bringing together all people, not just those who can pay, or who are healthy.

If I ever delved into having a physical space for the company (as opposed to being a traveling owner), the space would be free to visit (when not going to a scheduled appointment), and would have lots of nooks and tables and chairs for people to enjoy the space, and some days would have events that would have an entrance fee but it would be reasonable, and would include a free meal that my husband would make along with other perks like meet-the-community-support-team, free lectures/discussions, etc. We’d work with local hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other places that rent out rooms to make sure there were plenty of accommodations ready too, which would help bring money back into the town.

Anyway, I could go on for days, but as a result of my lofty goal, I constantly have my eyes peeled for events or opportunities that bring about that community feel, especially in women’s health. 4th Trimester Arizona is one of those awesome events I learned of after it occurred. It seemed like the perfect fusion of mixing the community members (moms, dads, grandparents, etc) with local businesses, and with health/health care professionals, allowing for support and engagement for new moms and their families. The event included workshops, panels, free wellness services, a dad track, bonding activities, and more, all with the intent of strengthening community.

Going through a few of the speakers of 4th Trimester Arizona led me to Matrescence 4th Trimester Planning and Support, an organization started by Caitlin Green Cheney and Elizabeth Wood. They hold workshops that include how to prepare for the 4th trimester, including how to make a support system. Here is a Q&A session they did that tells a little more about their company and their backgrounds/how they got to where there are. They also encouraged me, because although they are more of a service you pay for, their intent is still to help provide education in tandem with support. I am finding that one thing most humans seem to crave in this day is more support in their endeavors; the world has gotten so big and diverse that finding a space where you feel a part of is so important. Hence my whole reason for wanting to become a postpartum advisor for women that are usually the most isolated, those who are chronically ill.

all posts, parentings/things about baby and kids, women's health

on new adventures (sleep training and postpartum doula training)

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I’m combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content.  🙂

Hello again. It’s been a while since I’ve posted any content, in fact I think I haven’t posted since I was in my second trimester!

Well, I have since given birth to my beautiful little one, Fiona, and am now working through a new stage of life with her: sleep training.

It may seem a bit late as she is almost 7 months now but in reality sleep training can be initiated at any age. In my case, in her earlier months I was so worried about her weight gain (as she is small and has been consistently in the 5% quartile) and her potential food sensitivities that I was eating (she’s exclusively breastfed and she occasionally had blood in her stool), that I focused on nothing else.

As a result, Fi now appears to be in a bad holding pattern where she fluctuates between waking up twice a night to waking up every hour or so from 12pm-5am and fighting going back down to sleep unless I feed her. Her daytime naps are a total crapshoot (sometimes she sleeps like a goddess, other times she will fight it for hours but is too tired to do anything else).

So, I am working on reading through the research about various techniques to go about breaking the latter habit, looking at everything from the Ferber Method to the Sears Method. I’ll be headed to the library later today to get the official books on various methods, but in the meantime, from scouring the internet at 2am, here are a few of the suggestions (from secondary sources):

The gradual retreat/disappearing chair method

  1. place chair by crib
  2. put baby down when drowsy then sit on chair
  3. when baby cries, go to her and pat/stroke her but avoid eye contact
  4. when baby stops crying, move chair slightly further away and sit
  5. if baby cries again repeat pat/stroke and no eye contact
  6. when baby stops crying move chair further back again
  7. repeat until baby is asleep. might take 10 minutes for them to fall into deep sleep

The kissing game method

  1. put baby down when drowsy and promise to return in a minute to give a kiss
  2. return almost immediate to give another kiss
  3. take a few steps towards door then return and give another kiss
  4. promise to return in a minute to give another kiss
  5. put something away/do somethin in room, then give another kiss. 6. promise to return in a minute for another kiss
  6. pop outside room for a few seconds then return for a kiss
  7. as long as child is lying down she gets more kisses (no chat, cuddles, stories, drinks)
  8. repeat until child is asleep

The Ferber Method

  1. put baby in crib awake, turn off lights, say goodnight and leave room
  2. if baby cries, come back after predetermined time (a minute or two). Pat baby in reassuring way but don’t pick up. Leave room promptly
  3. this time stay out of the room slightly longer before returning to reassure baby
  4. continue with longer and longer periods of time
  5. if baby wakes in the middle of the night, start back over with lowest wait time at beginning of night
  6. on second night, wait a little longer than previous night (so first night try for example 3 min, 5 min, 10 min. second night try 5 min, 10 min, 12 min)

The night weaning method

  1. start gradually by nursing baby shorter periods of time or giving smaller amounts of milk in bottle, prolong time between feedings by patting baby to sleep
  2. make sure baby get plenty to eat during day (decrease distractions)
  3. offer extra feeding in evening
  4. avoid weaning during transitions (vacations, traveling, teething)
  5. have non-boob feeder comfort during night
  6. eliminate feedings one at a time. tell her she can nurse in teh morning. pat her belly/back

The pick up, put down method

  1. if baby cries when first put down, put hand on her chest with “shhh” or key phrase
  2. if that doesn’t work, pick up and repeat phase
  3. when she stops crying but is still awake, but her back down even if she starts to cry on way down
  4. if still crying, pick her up again. do until you can see signs that baby is settling (cries getting weaker)
  5. when behavior settling, don’t pick up anymore. place hand on chest and say phrase
  6. leave room
  7. if baby starts to cry, repeat process again as many times as needed until she’s asleep

The nighttime crier method

  1. put baby down when drowsy
  2. Visit baby briefly ever 5-15 min if she’s crying
  3. make visits boring, brief, but supportive
  4. do not remove child from crib (no rocking if you do). Most babies cry 30-90 min then fall asleep
  5. middle of night crying: temporary hold baby until asleep (helpful for transitions) if she cries for more than 10 min. little talking, no lights. dad is often more effective 6. give baby security object 7. phase out nighttime holding

The overall commonalities between all these methods is that you first have to have a good bedtime routine established, and that you should feel free to adjust the timings as you feel best fits your baby.

So far we’ve attempted sleep training once with Fiona (last night in fact), and it took hours to get her down. Jake had to do it because she got ragingly upset if I tried to and me attending to her didn’t result in her getting fed. I am handling the nap version of this today (so far unsuccessfully) and then we’ll see how tonight fares.

Speaking of how things fare, that brings me to my other adventure. I have finally gone and signed up for a postpartum doula course and will be working my way through that in the coming months. I might just skip ahead to do the reading that pertains to sleep habits and use the material to help inform my ongoing real life experience. I’ll be taking the little one to the library next to where we live to stock up on the necessary books and then I’ll come home and work through them with her.

More to come about my course and in depth sleep training experimenting with Fiona soon!

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the 4th trimester, books, and blogs

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I’m combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content.  🙂

The “4th trimester” is a term that has growing in popularity recently (and with it better policies!). It refers to the first 3 months after a baby is born, when there is still substantial growing happening (the baby develops the ability to sweat, to produce tears, to hold his/her head up, etc).

The exciting part is just how much more this period of time is being acknowledged by the women’s health community, including by healthcare providers. People are realizing that this is a period that can be quite difficult for women to adjust to, as well as babies. More discussions about postpartum depression, as well as physiological changes that can happen to the women are being had  (like how many women find that their stomach muscles do not “bounce back” after birth whether its due to diastasis recti aka abdominal muscle separation, or from having issues with pelvic organ prolapse).

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists came out with a statement called “Optimizing Postpartum Care” this past May that talks about changes they believe should be included in the healthcare protocols/coverage, including an initial contact with the Ob/Gyn within 3 weeks of the baby being born, and then a comprehensive examination by 12 weeks to include “a full assessment of physical, social, and psychological well-being, including the following domains: mood and emotional well-being; infant care and feeding; sexuality, contraception, and birth spacing; sleep and fatigue; physical recovery from birth; chronic disease management; and health maintenance”.

There are also doctors out there like Eva Zasloff (the founder of Tova Health), who are trying to reform postpartum care even more by offering comprehensive combined mom and baby postpartum care via home visits. So instead of having to rush out to the doctors’ offices for all these check-ups, she (or someone from her team) comes to you to allow you and your baby to get checked from the comfort of your own home, which can also reduce the likelihood of getting infections/sicknesses from others coming in to see the doctor. Honest Mamas, a group of three moms who are also psychotherapists who make podcasts recently did an interview with Dr. Zasloff that can be found here.

My obsession about learning more about the 4th trimester (in tandem with my love of understanding how pregnancy, motherhood, and parenting are done in other countries) led me to this article called “How the World Nourishes Mothers” the other day on goop.com. They did a Q&A with Heng Ou, a mother and the creator of MotherBees, a company that does meal deliveries to new moms. The meals are based on zuo yuezi, a Chinese ideology of nourishing a new mom with specific warming foods to welcome her and help her transition into motherhood. Ou also wrote a book called The First Forty Days, which I plan to read (and use!) and will write up about afterwards in my books of the season post.

It’s interesting to think about how different cultures respond to new moms. For women that are blessed with communities and support systems, a wide array of behaviors can be seen, from how much rest time moms are expected to have, to what foods people bring them.

And lastly, since I first wrote this when I was getting quite close to my own due date, I’ve been looking to hear more about the 4th trimesters experience of new moms’. One morning, amidst a bout of insomnia, I came across this post by Jen Eddins on her blog Peanut Butter Runner. She talks about her life as a mom of a now 3-week old, her emotions, how her body is doing, etc.

all posts, community, women's health

on matrescence

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I’m combining all my other blogs’ content to this site. Please bear with me as I post older content. 🙂 This is a quick blurb from the women’s health field (a field I find endlessly fascinating).

If you follow news in the field of maternal health, you may have heard the term matrescence thrown around in the last year or so.

Often defined as the transition of a woman into motherhood, it has also been likened to going through adolescence again, mom-style, due to:

  • the fluctuation in hormones,
  • the rapid changes in the body,
  • the newly forming identity of oneself and one’s place in society, as well as
  • changes in one’s day to day life.

Alexandra Sacks, a psychiatrist, wrote a piece in the NY Times called The Birth of A Mother that proposes an idea for why this transition is so powerful, but often overlooked. She explains how a lot of this transition is overshadowed because society focuses on the baby and ignores how momentous of a change it is for the mother.

This lack of conversation around the realities of becoming a mother has been suspect in being one of the many factors that contributes to postpartum depression, as a mother may feel she is supposed to be ecstatic about her newborn baby, without expressing any negative emotions despite the magnitude of change her life has just undergone.

In effort to mitigate that mental divide, allowing mothers to express all their emotions, and to create recognition in society about the magnitude of change motherhood is, many companies, academic institutes, and individual professionals are researching and producing more information about this time, working to get the message across. Another huge player in the field is the clinical psychologist Aurélie Athan, whose focus is on reproductive psychology. She looks at both striving and struggling moms in order to normalize the transition to motherhood and continues to work to revive the term and meaning of matrescence. She has even worked on getting some of the first academic concentrations and graduate-level certificate programs created that focus on reproductive and maternal wellbeing because she recognizes the importance of getting health providers, activists, and others involved in the spread of awareness about matrescence.

So if you are a new mom wondering why you feel so off, so different, and how to deal with these feelings of ambivalence towards your new life, know that you are not alone and that you should definitely speak up about how you feel. It will help cultivate a culture of acceptance around our motherhood adolescence.