Archive for the ‘ Health and Wellness ’ Category

Wait. Pacifiers Actually Promote Breastfeeding Now?

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Did you catch the latest study calling the idea of “nipple confusion” into question?

In an effort to promote breastfeeding, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Oregon literally put its pacifiers under lock and key. To get one, nurses needed a good reason, such as soothing post-circumcision. And they were required to enter a code as well as the patient’s name.

This practice did not promote breastfeeding rates. On the contrary. Breastfeeding rates declined by 10 percent.

“Despite the common belief among medical providers and the general public that pacifier use negatively impacts breastfeeding, we found limiting pacifier use in the Mother-Baby Unit was associated with decreased exclusive breastfeeding and increased supplemental formula feeds,” explained Kair [a resident in pediatrics at the hospital].

Well.

In an article on the study at Today Moms, The World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund sticks to its guns.

“The primary reason for WHO’s policy on pacifiers is the potential for interference with suckling and establishing lactation,” says Dr. Chessa Lutter, a senior advisor in food and nutrition for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization.

“There is some evidence to suggest that giving pacifiers or bottle nipples can interfere with suckling and getting a good latch on. It’s very important that the baby be able to properly latch on, which evolves over baby’s first week of life. Establishing a good suck is extremely important for the mother as well, so her own nipple isn’t irritated or damaged,” Lutter says.

Confused yet?

I confess to being a rule-follower, especially when it comes to my kids. If prevailing knowledge says to hold off on the pacifier for about a month to prevent nipple confusion, I hold off on the pacifier for about a month to prevent nipple confusion. Which is what I did. My 12-week-old now digs her pacifier. She also digs the boob. And the bottle. She’s quite equal opportunity, nipplewise.

I want people to continue to examine issues relating to my children, even if—especially if?— doing so shatters previously held beliefs. But it does get maddening when it’s drilled into your head to do things one way, for the clear health and well-being of your child, and then someone comes along with an, “Oopsie! Scratch that. Reverse it. Now carry on!” Tummy sleeping and drinking beer to promote nursing both come to mind.

My takeaway: Go with your gut. Even when experts are telling you one thing, if your built-in mama instincts are pulling you in the opposite direction, go there. (Within reason, of course.) Those instincts truly are worth trusting.

Were you a rule-follower like me, or one of those rebels that used a pacifier out of the gate? How’d that go for you and the kid?

Also: Check out my fellow Parents blogger Jill Cordes’ thoughts on the matter. (Hint: She’s less of a rule-follower than I!)

 

Image: Face of Adorable Baby with Pacifier in Mouth Looking at Camera via Shutterstock

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The Unique Pace of Baby Bonding (Or Love Letter to My Two-Month-Old)

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

With Roy, it hit me like a truck. A big ol’ bulldozer. Like a hungry young prizefighter, or a grand piano whose pulley-rope snapped twenty stories directly above. Bam! I was done for.

A fierce protectiveness expanded inside me so quickly it seized my heart; pushed a boulder into my throat; forced tears from my eyes. I was blind, dizzy, sick in love with this nameless tiny boy, who took his first breath mere moments earlier. Mine, I thought. I can’t believe that he is mine forever.

With Vera, it happened differently. Not to say that I didn’t love her immediately, because I did. I loved her before that, even. Maybe that was part of it. The first time around, I didn’t fully comprehend the connection between baby in tummy and my son until I saw him. Held him. So when I did, the reality of that connection, and everything that comes with it, exploded like a Fourth of July finale.

With Vera, the floodgates were already open. I knew her name. I felt her personality. I had no trouble connecting the thumps jostling my tummy to the little tiny feet kicking from within, connected to roly-poly legs, which I would squeeze and gobble one day soon, which would carry her across a room way too soon after that. I got it. And I could not wait to meet her.

So when she arrived, she was just here. Finally here. There was crazy excitement and pure joy, but not exactly trucks and pianos.

Friends had told me not to worry about loving kid number two. They had worried; didn’t know how that surprising, expansive, all-encompassing love for your firstborn could possibly leave room in your heart for anything else. It grows, they told me. Somehow, it grows.

So I didn’t worry. I just loved her and waited.

I bathed her and slept next to her, with my lips touching her head. I wore her in a sling, pulling up the sides so she could sleep against my chest in darkness and resting my hand on her back to feel the steady rise and fall of her breathing. I took her on walks and named the things that made her eyes wide: Birds. Leaves. Flowers.

I listened to her, too—to the trilling coos directed at stuffed animals dangling above her bouncy chair, to the happy grunts and gulps as she suckled, to the throaty groan-sighs that accompanied whole-body stretches as she woke from deep sleeps. I locked eyes with her and smiled. She smiled back, all slick gums and glossy baby-blue eyes and cheeks so chubby they run seamlessly into second chin.

And then, it happened. I’m not sure exactly when, I just know that I feel it. That crazy-powerful mama-bear love; the I-would-throw-myself-in-front-of-a-bus-for-you love.

My friends were right. My heart grew. Not in one big, painful bang, but in a happy succession of pretty little fireworks.

I can’t believe that she is mine forever.

How did it happen for you, my fellow mamas? Papas, too. Fast or slow?

 

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Where’s the Oddest Place You’ve Nursed?

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

I’m not necessarily a lactivist. It’s just that I have a newborn who demands to eat quite a bit. And if we’re out and about, I’m going to feed her. I’m nursing exclusively, so feeding her means attaching her to my boob. Having a newborn as well as a toddler also means that I don’t have the time, energy or self-consciousness to worry about whether or not that dude over there will be bothered by the sight of a baby eating as nature intended. I just don’t give a sh*t. Wait, does that make me a lactivist by default?

I kind of just like saying that word.

So it was Family Day at the hair salon last weekend. For the three of us, at least. I was in for a long overdue foil, and at the last second, my awesome stylist agreed to sneak the boys’ haircuts in while I was processing. (Christine happens to have a son about Roy’s age as well as a newborn daughter at home, so she’s 100% down with our crazy/volatile family situation at this moment.)

Initially, I’d envisioned this outing as a chance at a little me-time. But after the boys got involved, it was clear it’d be anything but. The big question was: What to do with Vera? The girl does not sit silently in her car seat, whether or not it’s locked into a moving vehicle. She usually does sit silently on me, but could she be counted on to perform (meaning not perform?) on command? Newborns. So darn unpredictable.

We decided not to chance it, but rather let her roll with the boys. I’d sneak in a quick nursing session during the dudecuts. Then she’d take off with the boys again.

But Vera is definitely a mommy’s girl. She screamed for nearly the entire hour I was gone. Once the three of them got to the salon, she nursed and then fell sound asleep in my arms. So after the boys were nicely sheared, we decided it was best for everyone’s sanity if she just remained snuggled in my arms.

Of course the sweet snuggling stopped abruptly once we went in for a rinse. So there I was, reclined in the wash station (right off the busy waiting area, by the way), my head in the sink, cape thrown aside, tanktop and nursing bra stretched down, adjusting that little newborn body against my tummy with one hand while blindly navigating her wailing mouth to my bare nipple with the other. Nothing to see over here, folks! Just feeding my screaming kid while getting my fancy beauty needs attended to! Move along!

Darned if I didn’t successfully nurse her in that awkward position, then proceed to have my first-ever haircut/babygazing session.

And so the day brought two milestones: Our first girls’ salon outing, and my oddest nursing experience yet.

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January Jones, Placenta Eater

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

The practice of placenta-eating grabbed headlines recently after Actress January Jones extolled its benefits in People magazine.

Jones had the organ encapsulated after the birth of her son, and credits her high post-baby energy levels to the placenta pills, which she pops daily and “anytime she feels tired or down.” People quoted her insisting, “It’s not witch-crafty or anything! I suggest it to all moms!”

If you read this blog regularly, you probably remember that my doula offered me the option of placenta encapsulation. She said that mamas who ate their placentas had increased energy and milk supply, and that the pills also helped combat postpartum depression.

Ultimately, I chose not to have my placenta encapsulated. Now that I have a two-month-old and find it near impossible to stay awake past 9 PM, part of me wishes I’d made a different choice. Maybe the pills would’ve helped with the exhaustion that’s part of life with a newborn and a toddler.

I have friends who did it, and their experiences in doing so intrigue me. Like so much about having a child, from pregnancy to birth to parenting, it’s personal. I love hearing the stories of people who made choices different than mine and how they played out.

I think it’s cool that Jones talked about placenta encapsulation in People. She knew she was inviting controversy. That the “Ew, gross!” comments would prevail. Because, well, eating your own organ is kinda gross. But by offering herself up as the poster child for placenta eating, and in doing so thrusting the practice into the spotlight, Jones may help others.

And sure. No press is bad press, right?

Let’s move beyond The Ew Factor for just a moment, though, shall we? It may help overcome breastfeeding challenges, stave off postpartum depression, and give new mamas the energy to make it through the inevitable difficult times. Speaking from my current seat on the New Babyland rollercoaster, that’s serious stuff.

Women such as Jones who choose to encapsulate swear it does these things. (Theorizing and personal experience are the main practice drivers here. As one friend who had her placenta encapsulated pointed out, there likely aren’t lots of studies to quote because who will pay for them? No one profits [monetarily] directly from a woman downing her own placenta.)

Have you done it? Would you? All experiences and opinions welcome.

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My Birth Story: Part Two

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

I left you hanging at the end of My Birth Story: Part One having labored at home, driven to the hospital, then spent another couple of hours contracting in various positions before deciding I was done. If this birth was going to be anything like my first, I had another fifteen or so hours ahead of me. The pain of each contraction was too great, and they were coming at me faster and faster, so, um, no thank you. Done.

But. But! I’ll have you know that I’d identified this roadblock during my HypnoBirthing work, which asked: What might hold you back from navigating this birth drug-free? My answer, without question, was my first birth. To be specific: My first, 30-hour birth, which featured three tries with the vacuum, four—four!—hours of pushing, and a phone call to get the c-section doctor headed our way, before ending in a vaginal birth. I knew I’d have a hard time not fixating on those excruciating, drawn-out dramatics. I knew it would be hard to give this birth the chance to evolve on its own.

So there I was, not giving this birth the chance to evolve on its own. I told my husband and my doula, Dawn, that I couldn’t take this pain for so long again.

“It won’t be that long,” they both insisted.

I said I didn’t believe them. That they were just trying to trick me into staying with it. “I think you’re lying,” I said. I was serious. After all, how the hell did they know?

Dawn did her doula thing and made a deal with me. “Last time, you stalled out at a four [dilation-wise]. They want to check you at 10 AM—in just  twenty minutes. How about you two walk a few laps, then come back and get checked, and if you’re at a five, we’ll go in the tub. I bet you’ll be a five.”

“Do you really think so?” I asked.

“I do,” Dawn said.

So I agreed. Clint and I went back to walking the carpeted hospital halls. When a contraction hit, I bent over the ballet-style bars lining the walls and stuck my tush out so Clint could squeeze my lower back in this crazy-magical way that took the edge off. It was a move Dawn showed him, and it helped just enough to keep me going.

The nurse took her sweet time coming in to check me, so it was 10:15 by the time we found out if we were heading into the tub or calling the anesthesiologist. The verdict: A five; stretchy six, and 85 percent effaced. I stuck to my end of the bargain. Into the tub I went.

Dawn was so sure of that five that she’d already drawn a hot tub and decorated the bathroom in a string of white lights. I slipped in wearing a tank top because for some reason, that layer of material made me feel a little less vulnerable while floating there, all massive, slippery and moaning in front of a small crowd.

I dialed back in to my method of dealing with the contractions, tweaking it ever so slightly to fit my new environment. I’d wait silently and gratefully in the stillness; floating, relaxing, breathing, with a cold washcloth (supplied by Clint) on my forehead. Then a contraction would surge, and through the white pain I’d picture it moving my baby down while I shifted and wriggled through the water.

Like my first birth, they came at me unpredictably—5 minutes, then 8 minutes, then 2, then 10. But they were getting stronger, sitting heavy on my lower back and wringing my midsection like a wet towel. In the quiet space between contractions, my skepticism resurfaced. I mumbled to Clint, camped out next the tub, “I really don’t think I can do this.”

His reply: “You’re doing great. You’re almost there!”

I willed my head up to meet his gaze and said, “You do not understand.”

Then came a machine-gun string of contractions. Bam! Bam! Bam! They hijacked my body, shooting down through my legs like an electric current. Sounds originating from somewhere deep inside me left my lips without my consent. In the brief moments between each, I was not so much relaxing as going limp; giving over to whimpering, watery eyes and chest heaves. Though it bore some resemblance to crying, it wasn’t. That would’ve required energy. I had none.

“We need to call the doctor,” Dawn said. “I think it’s about time for you to push.” I still thought this was the old It-Won’t-Take-Long-This-Time Routine, designed to keep me in the game.

But then I heard my doctor’s voice from the hospital room. He poked his head in the bathroom door. “It sounded like things were moving along pretty quickly, so I figured I’d come by,” he said. I knew that Dr. C only showed up for the final stretch, so reality began to sink in. Maybe it was true. Maybe I was almost there. “Let’s get you out of the tub and get you checked,” he said.

I didn’t want to move. Not because I loved being in the tub, but because moving required effort. I geared myself up, and in the space between contractions they rushed me to the bed where Dr. C confirmed: I was at a nine-plus, and just a rim away from being completely effaced. I’d opened a full four more centimeters during my time in the tub, not even 45 minutes.

It was true. We were almost there.

Four more surges and I was completely dilated and 100 percent effaced. Time to push. Finally, I believed I wasn’t destined to repeat Birth #1. I would not push for nearly four hours. I would push simply as long as it took to meet my little girl. And with any luck, that wouldn’t be long at all.

My instinct was to tense and straighten my legs. My instinct was wrong. When each contraction came, I worked to tuck my chin to my chest, curl my butt under and push, push, push, push. On about the third round of pushing, I found it: The sweet spot. The pain disappeared, a white light filled my head and engulfed my body, and I could feel her moving through me. To me.

As much as I wanted it to, my body did not remember this position. It took a couple more tries for me to find it again. And again. The last time I did, I stayed there, pushing past one contraction and straight into another as the pressure and burning built, then released. Finally. Released. After twenty minutes of pushing, our baby arrived at 11:42 AM. Just 17 minutes before the “best case scenario” time I’d wished for the day before.

They put her on my chest immediately. She was absolutely perfect.

Clint cut the cord as I held her, transfixed. “Look at her,” I said. “She’s beautiful.” Then, prying my eyes away to look at Clint: “I can’t believe it did it. I did it.” It was almost a question.

Clint took off his shirt and had his skin-to-skin bonding with her as all my fun post-birth stuff unfolded. The placenta birth and stitches (an “almost two” tear—not bad) and whatnot. We did let them weigh and measure her (7 lbs 2 oz, 21 inches!), but after that, we insisted on keeping her near, nursing and snuggling her first hours away. She’s a cuddly one.

People keep asking me if Hypnobirthing worked, and my answer is: It helped. It did not erase the pain, but it helped me work through it in a way that I was unable to do instinctively during my first.

But enough about my first, already. This is the story of my second, entirely different birth.

The birth of our little Vera Loraine.

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