Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Diva Cup

The Diva Cup is a washable, reusable, Latex/BPA/plastic-free vaginal cup for use during your menstrual cycle.

The beginning of this year, right before my period was supposed to show up, I started looking for different products for my monthly flow.

**If the thought of this topic grosses you out, then just stop reading**
I used to use tampons, but after I had my daughter they hurt and I couldn’t put them in or take them out without crying from pain. So, I switched to heavy pads.
Now, I hate pads. They smell, you can feel them, it is like you are wearing a diaper, and I never considered cloth pads as an option. (Now I totally want some haha).
Anyway, we were discussing options, and one of my best twitter friends (@birthroutes, you know it is you :) ), said she uses the Diva Cup. I had seen it in the health food store, but I didn’t want to spend $40 on something I didn’t like.
So, we talked about it in length, and I ended up buying one from amazon for $25.
It got here right after my period ended last cycle, so I had it sitting my cupboard for a month before I could use it.
I did give it a few ‘dry’ runs (when I say dry, I mean I used olive oil to smooth the way in and out) so I knew how to insert it and how to take it out when Dday eventually got here.
The Diva does have a learning curve. You have to try different methods of how to get it in and out before you find one that works best for you, but once you figure it out, it becomes second nature.
When my period showed up this month, instead of wallowing and being sad, I was actually really excited, just because I finally got to use my diva!
I didn’t know how long I could go without a leak or it filling, especially since my first day of my period is really heavy, and the others are barely a trickle, so I tried different times for empty.
The first night, I had it in for about 10 hours, and right when I was about to change it, it did leak. Which is partly my fault because I did push it till 10 hours and thought I could keep going. It was pretty full, so I wasn’t surprised.

The next time, I had it in for about 5 hours, and it was barely half full so I decided to go a little longer with the next. I had it in for 8 hours and zero leaks and it went beautifully.

My second overnight try, it was in for 12 hours, and barely anything was in it. (I bleed less at night than during the day, and since it is now day 2, I will bleed less and less).

So far, I have had the one leak, but that is my fault for not changing it soon enough.

I couldn’t have tampons because they hurt and I could feel them even if I got them in the right place.

This time, I put in the diva (zero pain on insertion) and I cannot feel it when it is in. I go about my day, and about 8 to 10 hours later I take it out, wash it with hot water, then reinsert it.
I can take it out in seconds and reinsert it in seconds.

Seriously, I am in love.

During my cycle, I just rinse with hot water to get all the blood and such off before I put it back in, but in-between my cycles, I wash it with castille soap (a vegan soap that smells wonderful and washes even better), and then every few cycles I will boil it to sanitize.

Other than that, you store it until next time.

I did wear a backup pad for the first day just in case I hadn’t inserted it right, but after the first time and no leaks, I just did away with the pad, and am so much happier.

I truly do not even notice I am on my period now. I can go to the bathroom without feeling it, I can take a shower or a bath without feeling icky, I can do anything I want and I truly do not even remember sometimes that my period has come.

There are two models of the Diva Cup. The first model is for women under 30 that have never given birth, whether vaginal or cesarean, and the second model is for women older than 30 or women that have given birth, whether vaginal or cesarean. I was skeptical I would need the bigger model since I did have a cesarean delivery, but it is just a little bigger than the other model, and I am so glad I got it.

My bleeding is much heavier since Glade was born, so I am positive they bring that into effect when designing these models.

If you are tired of what you are using during your period, I would definitely check out the Diva Cup. I don’t think I will ever go back to using pads, except after birth.

I truly am in love and wonder how I didn’t know about this amazing product.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Green Mama: 10 Tips for Planning a Unique (Green) Baby Shower

I need one of my local friends to get pregnant....need it, because I am dying to throw a green, AP-friendly baby shower. I love baby showers, but too often the party celebrates what my husband calls "the worst in parenting." Diaper cakes made from disposable diapers, games featuring bottle feeding, and measuring the poor mama's waist with toilet paper (ok, this isn't technically anti-AP, it's just kinda mean). So here are 10 awesome ideas for a baby shower that promotes eco-friendliness and attachment!

1. Forgo the traditional diaper cake and make one from cloth diapers! Let's face it, old school diaper cakes with their plasticy look and smell are so last century. Consider using prefolds, which are easy to work with, and the mama-to-be can use them as diapers or burp cloths. Colorful cloth wipes can be rolled to make flowers to decorate it and diaper pins can be used to help hold it together. Not up to making one of your own, check out these cloth diaper cakes from I Dream in Green on etsy!
2. Lose the plastic cups, paper napkins, and throwaway forks and invest in some reusable party wear or borrow some from a friend. Growing up my mom had three sets of awesome glass vintage party plates. These glass plates were big enough to hold cake or food and had a grooved spot where a matching punch cup sat. Totally chic and you'll never have to buy paper plates for another function! And let's face it, they immediately class up any function. You can find them at antique malls, ebay, and estate sales, or maybe even your grandma's house!

3. Don't tell Emily Post, but paper invites are perfectly passé. Use a program like evite or set up an event on facebook to give your guests the details. People can RSVP and pass important info on your party page. You can always call or write a letter invitation for the less tech-saavy guests.

4. Dying to send something in the mail? Make your invite a cherished keepsake by crafting a beautiful portrait of the mom-to-be that guests can frame. Use an old baby photo of the parents or take a few shots that showcase her pregnant glow. Keep the event details to a minimum and put them on the back, so the invite can be framed or places in a scrapbook. Or consider including a place for a survey or a spot to answer a question about the mom that each guest returns to the party for a keepsake for mom's memory book! Websites like tinyprints.com have customization options at affordable prices on baby shower invitations.

5. Make it a green theme and ask gifts to each bring one cloth diaper to build mom's stash! Not only will this get your mom a leg up on her cloth diapering, it will educate guests on how far cloth has come. Many online cloth diaper sites now offer baby registries!

6. Play attachment-friendly games! Get a couple of wraps and baby dolls and challenge guests to wear their "baby." Afterward demonstrate an easy wrap mama can use with her newborn. Play "Musical Baby" - while the music plays everyone dances with their baby, when it stops, grab a chair with sleeping baby doll, remove a chair each round like musical chairs, start the music back up when "baby cries." This game promotes great calming techniques.

7. Ask guests to share a memory book! Everyone has advice for a new mom, but rather than bombarding her with good intentions, create a book for guests to share their happiest memory of life as a mom/dad or big sister/brother, younger kids can share their happiest memory of their mom. It will be a beautiful reminder for the new parents to treasure each moment.

8. Choose eco-friendly prizes for your shower games. Burt's Bees baby wash, a bouquet made from reusable cloth wipes, or a food mill to make baby food are all inexpensive, useful gifts to award as prizes for shower games.

9. Build a breastfeeding support basket with items to smooth the transition to breastfeeding for the new mom. Include items like a water bottle, granola bars, nipple cream, and magazines/books. You don't have to spend a lot. Just include some supplies she can keep near her glider for a quick snack or to entertain her during those initial long stretches of nursing.

10. Give reusable bags as favors. Skip the cutesy plastic bottles and baby pacifiers you'll find for favors in the party aisle and pick up canvas bags to decorate (how about painting them with "love your mother"). If you're crafty, sew up quick bags. Attach a card with info on how much one reusable bag benefits the planet. Getting guests to switch even to one reusable bag each creates a lasting legacy for the child and helps protect the planet for him or her. Coffee Pot People has directions for making a 1 minute bag from upcycled tank tops here.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Tiny Prints blogging program, making me eligible to get a Tiny Prints gift code worth $50, plus 25 FREE Tiny Prints greeting cards—a total gift value of $149.75! For more information on how you can participate, click here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Made with Love: Stylish, Easy Nursing Wear from Boob Design

Reviewed by Jenn

Once in a while I get to review a product that changes my life.  I'd all but given up on ever finding practical nursing wear when I was given the opportunity to review Boob Design.  What I discovered was chic nursing wear that made breastfeeding easy.

As a breastfeeding mom I'm less concerned with covering my breasts than my tummy.  Boob uses a unique, comfortable design to allow easy, discreet access to your breasts.  Gone are the days of having to strategically layer tank tops under my shirts.  Simply lift the top layer of the empire-styled bustline to reveal a second elasticized layer that pulls down for breast access.  

Having a bigger cup-size makes most nursing tops pointless.  I wear my Boob top to the library, ICAN meetings, playgroups - you name it!  And everywhere I go moms ask me where I got my fabulous nursing top.  I should probably carry business cards with me!

Many of the dresses and shirts from Boob do double duty as maternity wear, so moms-to-be can get extra value out of pregnancy wear.  

Boob sent me the Katia smock top to review and I love it.  They also generously hosted a giveaway for our Breastfest 2010 last month.  Boob comes with a big Connected Mom stamp of approval!

Disclaimer: Boob Design provided a sample for my personal use, but I received no compensation for this review.  This review is my own opinion and based solely on my experience.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Adventures in Potty Learning

Life around here has been messy. Tolliver, my two year old, has decided it is time to potty learn. I will admit that I'm kind of torn over this. Remember, this is change, that thing I am really not so good with.

Tolliver would randomly potty here and there, but nothing consistent. He was quite comfortable wearing his diapers and found no motivation to move forward after seeing his cousin, M (same age) potty while she was here. He was content with using the potty as he desired.

Out of nowhere he decided to start pottying more frequently. He would walk over, go and clap and dance. One night my husband sent me a text letting me know that Tolliver had let him know he had to potty, then went on to do so. We were proud parents! Our boy was growing up.... urgh.... change.

It has been about a week now. Bubba wears his diaper for sleeping, but "unnawears" during wake times. He is doing really well, but we find ourselves with little wet spots sporadically throughout the house. Yesterday I took the opportunity to have a shower. Bubba and Hobby were in the toy room playing. Bubba runs to me in the bathroom as I was getting out of the shower to let me know he has to "pee pee potty" so I quickly get the unnawears off so I can plop him on the toilet. Surprise! I felt warmth. Sticky, gooey warmth. Oh no! Yes, Tolliver had his first poop accident. I didn't really know what to do. As I pull down the unnawears, I covered his legs in poop. Poop is plopping on the floor, he is grabbing at himself.... holy... poop! I laugh. I really, truly just laughed... a lot. I am there, in a towel, barely dry, trying to not cover myself or the bathroom in poop even further. Tolly is disgusted as he is covered in poop from the piggy down. Oy. I rip his unnawears off quickly like a bandage, and toss him in the tub. While laughing and trying to explain that it's ok, and he isn't in trouble. "We poop on the potty, ok?" he stares at me like I'm nuts.

My laughter wore off and I hear Holliday fussing in the toy room. I have a naked, screaming toddler who is now only partially covered in poop, I am now toweless, and I need to somehow tend to Holliday, who is fussing. The feeling of being overwhelmed sets in. It has only happened a few times where I feel that overwhelming "oh my, I have two boys 2 and under" , but this was one of those times. With laughter, quick thinking and a quick bath, we survived.

I ask Bubba often if he has to potty. I think I annoy him with it. I find tiny dabs of wetness on his underwear, but unless he is sopping, I let it be. He has taken it upon himself t decide it's time, and I trust that he will guide us and let us know what he needs to get through this transition. He is a brilliant little boy, and he makes me SO proud!

So, do any readers have some great potty learning advice for me? I have heard some people keeping a potty with a little bit of cat litter in the car for trips out. Pretty great idea! I know there must be more, so share!

My big cloth diaper stash seems less necessary now that Tolliver has decided to PL. How many diapers does one need for one baby in diapers full time? My answer: more ;)

Monday, August 23, 2010

As you Wish: Simple Wishes Pumping Bra Review and Giveaway

I'll admit, I'm not a fan of pumping and as a stay at home mom, I don't need to give a bottle much.  My husband and I have determined the exact amount of time I can leave her with him to get a little mommy time without needing to give her anything.  I used to pump and get a bottle ready, but she never took it, so we've moved away from that.  However, I have a unique breastfeeding challenge: oversupply.  While I generally don't get engorged, if I wait too long to nurse I could change my name to Shirtsy McPuddles.  All in all, I'd much rather deal with this than many other breastfeeding issues.  I was assured that it would regulate itself, and it has to some extent, but at 5 months post-partum, I've given up on it and decided to embrace the oversupply.  The plan?  I'm going to pump and donate to the new milk station at our local hospital.  The milk will then be transported to a milk bank and given to preemie's who desperately need breastmilk.

Which all leads up to why I am in love with Simple Wishes. I hate pumping.  I already spend several hours a day breastfeeding, which I love, but finding the time to set up the machine, get it  in the right spot and sit there and pump for ten or fifteen minutes isn't exactly my idea of a good time.  Simple Wishes takes care of that problem by giving me my hands back when I pump, which is great because a mom with a 3 year-old and 5 month-old always needs her hands free!

One of the best things about Simple Wishes is that you simply wrap the bra around and zip so you aren't stuck wearing it all day long.  Since I am a breastfeeding mom first, I need a nursing bra not a pumping bra.  The Simple Wishes bra only takes seconds to put on, but saves me tons of time!  If you want to wear it as a bra you can.  Oh and did I mention, it's adjustable so you can use it when you breasts are at their biggest after birth and still use it once they've regulated again!

Simple Wishes is a great gift for nursing moms whether they stay home or work.  It's definitely a pumping bag essential. It's also the brainchild of 4 sisters.  That's right Simple Wishes is not only a mom-owned company - its a 4 mom/sister company.  I think that's the coolest thing I've heard in a long time.

Simple Wishes was kind enough to send me a bra for my personal use and has generously offered to give another away to one of our readers during our Breastfest 2010.  To enter, check out our giveaway page here.

Disclaimer: Simple Wishes provided a sample for my personal use, but I received no compensation for this review.  This review is my own opinion and based solely on my experience.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Liquid Gold

On August 5th my son was born at almost 14 weeks, which was way too soon. Even though I work with birth and pregnancy and postpartum, I forgot that once you have a placenta, no matter when your child is born, your milk will come in.

I was torn up about it coming in and being unable to feed my son with the milk meant for him. So many of my friends gave me ways to help the milk dry up, and one person sent me the trailer for the new documentary Prescription: Milk. I had heard of it, but had never seen it.

Instantly, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I was going to pump the milk meant for my very tiny premature baby and donate it to another child that needed it.

I hadn't had any stimulation before my milk came in a few days after he was born, but even then, I was able to pump 4-5 ounces that first day. I was so incredibly excited!

I only had a single electric Evenflo pump (don't get one if you are planning on pumping for long term, or even just for a month. It is not a comfortable pump and it takes awhile to empty your breast). My incredible friends got together from all over the internet and world and donated enough money for me to get a used hospital grade Ameda Elite double pump, and so many companies sent me products to help my pumping time go smoothly.

I am still in awe of the generosity of people.

Breastmilk has been called so many things, but the one that sticks with me always is "Liquid Gold". And that truly is in my book the best name for it.

Not only does milk contain antibodies, stem cells, fat cells, and so very much more, it is the perfect food for infants and toddlers. The WHO (World Health Organization) says the best thing for children is exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and to keep breastfeeding for at least two years. I do realize that some women can't breastfeed, and there are so many reasons for this, and that is why pumped and donated milk is so very precious.

In the United States, most Milk Banks can charge up to $12 an ounce for donated breastmilk, and the majority of insurances won't cover it. They are slowly starting to make the process to pay for donated milk bank milk easier, but for a lot of people it is still an uphill battle. A Milk Bank has set rules on donations, such as you have to be in good health, as does your baby, no herbs or caffeine while donating, and you have to donate a minimum number of ounces (most I have seen are 100 ounces, others are 150).

There is another way to donate milk, besides giving it to someone you know personally, and that is through a Milk Share. Instead of going through a milk bank that pasteurizes the milk and charges what most families can't afford, you mainly list on a forum for your state if you have a donation or a need for milk, and someone will send the milk they have stored to you. Most times the recipient pays shipping costs and any storage costs the donor had, but that is mostly all they get paid.

Donating breastmilk the very large majority of time is a volunteer thing. Rarely do people get paid to donate their milk, and daily I am amazed at the stories I hear of women that donate thousands of ounces or an old stash to someone in need.

I am so honored and humbled that I am able to do this for even just one little baby that needs it. Premature infants need this precious milk more than any other thing, and pumping can be so hard for the mother, with the added stress of the NICU and so many other things.

Even if one baby only gets a few ounces of milk from me, what better way to help that child than donate? It could be the deciding factor between a baby that can go home and one that has to stay in the NICU.

Breastmilk is an amazing thing. If you have oversupply, or a stash at home, please consider donating to a family or child in need. Formula is great, but it will always be second best to breastmilk.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My first review with Connected Mom! I couldn't be more excited to share this with you all!

I have been using Clean B detergent for a few months now. Prior, I was using one of the big names, and wasn't sure how Clean B could possibly measure up. I waited for a '1/2 Way Day' and ordered 2 large bags of her detergent.

Melissa, owner and creator of Clean B, is the sweetest woman I have ever done business with. She is a mom of 7 (almost 8!), she homeschools, cloth diapers, and simpy does it all! She stands proudly behind her products, as she should!

My first impression of the detergent was to drool. This stuff smells amazing! She has over 75 different scents to choose from, and if you like things extra scented, you can 'Double the Yummy' for super scented detergent. My kind of product! Again, I was a little hesitant as I was already in love with my current detergent. However, I didn't use it on all of my laundry because I love all good smelling things and the scent washed away with the other stuff. My first shot was a load of our laundry. Smelled awesome going in, but how would it smell coming out? Amazing! My clothes had a delicious scent! 1 point for Clean B. Next test, diapers. Again, amazing! I think this is where my love (and obsession) for Clean B began. I instantly made another order for various scents and items. Her baby wash is to die for! I made a small suggestion for foaming bottles, voila, she had foaming bottles up for grabs within two weeks! Her Wetwipe Solution is AWESOME! Her pail Freshener is the bee's knees! Try the Natural Oxygen because it WILL get your clothes and diapers brighter!

She has various deals throughout the weeks as well. Monday she has a detergent and pail freshener combo, the first Wednesday of each month she has 1/2 Way Day which is 1/2 price shipping (1/3 off shipping for us Canadian's!) and free Fridays.

I use Clean B for everything. It has touched just about every surface in my house. Laundry, as a carpet shampooer solution, carpet spot treatment solution, dishwasher detergent, all purpose cleaner and even to scrub the toilets. I LOVE this stuff! My husband takes each opportunity to poke fun at me as Clean B has become a common topic of our discussions.

I have converted even non-cloth diapering mama's to Clean B. I have sparked the obsession within a couple of friends, and I think it's safe to say they can't go back now!

As I mentioned before, Melissa of Clean B is a super sweet and generous woman. She has offered up a large bag and full size baby wash to two readers, in your choice of scent. To enter to win one of these awesome prizes, go to the Clean B website, pick a scent you would like to try, then slip over to our Facebook Page and either tell us what scent you want to try in the baby wash, or for the bag of detergent, show us a photo of either a diaper stash needing some Clean B love, or some laundry in need of some Clean B TLC, and tell us what scent you would love to try.

Winners will be announced next Friday!


To win the baby wash - visit Clean B and tell us what scent sounds yummy to you! Post on our Facebook wall.

Large bag of detergent - Post a photo of your diaper stash or laundry on our Facebook wall and tell us what yummy scent you would like.

Tammy, Connected Mom

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Preparing to Breastfeed After Breast Surgery

breast reduction bklyn ny
Photo credit
If you are expecting a baby, whether that baby is your first or subsequent baby, the question of breastfeeding will no doubt arise eventually. A good friend, a family member, a medical professional, or a complete stranger, someone is going to ask you the question.

“Are you going to breastfeed?”

If you have previously had breast or nipple surgery the seemingly casual question can be quite a loaded one. Chances are you have recently come to the realization that a decision you made for many valid reasons years or even decades ago could have consequences that you had not considered then. Maybe you have been told that you can’t, or may not be able to breastfeed exclusively. Maybe your chances of successfully breastfeeding have been given a totally arbitrary number like 50/50.[1]

Chances are you have also heard what we all have heard about breastfeeding. “Breastfeeding is superior to artificial baby milk; it is the absolute best start you can give to your baby. Breastfeeding promotes closeness and bonding and has health advantages for both you and your baby.  Breastfeeding is wonderful, natural, eco friendly and economical” Chances are that the person asking you “Are you going to breastfeed?” has heard all of the same things. It may be hard to explain that you may not be able too, because chances are you may already be mourning this possible loss.

Perhaps mourning isn’t really the right word, the feeling is overwhelming, lonely, and can be quite hopeless. You may be feeling guilty, you may feel as though any mention of breastfeeding is an attack, you may even feel as though you have failed yourself or your child before you’ve even had the chance to try. These feelings are normal. We live in a society that tells women ‘breast is best’ but doesn’t acknowledge that there can be challenges that take a mountain of hard work and support to overcome.

 So how do you answer such a loaded question?

You have been asked a “yes” or “no” question to which there is no “yes” or “no” answer, because breastfeeding after breast or nipple surgery is not so black and white. There is nothing certain or given about breastfeeding after breast or nipple surgery (BFAR). The truth is that you cannot, and will not know until you try.

After all of the emotional wrestling with yourself about the decisions you have made, and your reasons for making them, you may come to accept that what’s done is done and you will do your absolute best with the resources you have; at some point you may take a leap of faith and decide to try. When you make the decision to try, know that you are not alone, and know that there are a number of things that you can do to prepare for a rewarding BFAR experience with your new baby.

1) Research Research Research!  

It’s a sad reality that there is far from enough fact based and accurate lactation training in the medical field. Many doctors, even OBGYNs have little more than a basic working knowledge of lactation and infant nutrition, most have even less information about BFAR. Many may dismiss the possibility outright, or may give you the standard 50/50 chance answer without ever examining your medical history or scar tissue. The fact is that your ‘chances’ of breastfeeding vary greatly depending on a number of factors. Educating yourself will help you prepare to breastfeed your baby and to find the right support. 

I started my research at my local La Leche League chapter. Upon discussing my situation (Breast reduction surgery at the age of 16) my Le Leche League leader lent me the book “Defining Your Own Success” by Dianne West. This book is a GREAT place to start as it combines personal stories and medical research and information to provide a great overview on the subject of BFAR.

My research and preparation for BFAR also included acquiring a detailed record of my breast reduction surgery. Your ability to produce milk after breast surgery depends on the type of surgery performed, the amount of tissue that was removed or damaged, time passed since the surgery, and many other factors. A detailed account of your specific surgery can shed some light on what to expect in terms of milk production.

Lastly I researched various supplementation methods including at the breast supplementation, for use in the event that I was unable to make enough milk for my baby. It is a myth that breastfeeding is a binary function. Conventional wisdom tells us that there are two ways to feed an infant, either with breast milk or bottled infant formula, you either breastfeed or you don't, but Infant feeding does not have to be “either/or”, and if BFAR is important to you then it will be helpful to know when and how to offer supplements if needed without damaging your breastfeeding relationship.

2) Define your own success

The title of that very first book, that shining star of relief and hope that I received is absolutely the single most important part of preparing for BFAR.

While research into the technique and circumstances of your surgery will give you a better idea of your ability to produce milk for your baby, it will not shed any light on your ability to feed your baby at the breast. Whether you produce all of your baby’s milk, just a few ounces or none at all you can still feed your child at the breast.

What this step came down to for me was preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best. There was a very good chance that, because of the time elapsed since and the type of surgery I had, I would be able to produce milk for my baby. But I knew that worst case scenario meant being unable to produce all of the milk that my baby would need to grow, if that should happen and supplementing my milk with donated human milk or infant formula became a necessity I wanted to be able to do so at the breast. For me, the use of a SNS at the breast would be considered a success.

For some; success may be having their child suckle at the breast a few times a day while providing a majority of nutrition with donated human milk or infant formula. Success could be pumping all the milk you can to feed by bottle, or success could even mean feeding exclusively donated human milk or formula while practicing traditional breastfeeding behaviors like skin to skin feeds or infant led cue feeding.

What you define as breastfeeding success after breast surgery is not something that anyone but you can find. It takes many hours of soul searching, research, and reflection.

There were days before my son was born where I didn’t think I could take the disappointment of trying and failing to produce enough milk, there were days I accepted it as a reality and looked forward to my husband getting the chance to feed occasional bottles to our son, there were days where I would look at the SNS and cry tears of mourning for the simplicity, grace, and ease with which other women fed their babies. Other days I would look at the SNS and thank God that such a thing had been invented.

The process of finding your own definition of success can be a long and difficult one. Coming to terms with the reality of what your breastfeeding relationship may look like is far from easy but it is very important.

3) Build Your Team

Once you’ve done all the research, be sure to share it with your partner and encourage them to do some research of their own. Let them in on your journey to defining your success and talk about what BFAR means for your family. Make sure your partner knows how important BFAR is to you because when it comes down to it your partner isn’t just any old cheer leader, they’re your co-captain, your best and most accessible support, and… well, they’re your partner!

Along with your partner, it is beneficial for any woman who wants to breastfeed to surround herself with people who love and support her. To build the rest of your support team I have four suggestions:

1)      If at all possible, seek out and hire a Board Certified Lactation Consultant who has knowledge of and experience with BFAR mothers. Make sure that this IBCLC has the information you researched regarding your surgery and circumstances, talk to her about your breastfeeding goals, and then put her number in your speed dial!
2)      Make sure that the friends and family you surround yourself with before and after your baby is born are supportive of your decision to breastfeed. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy for those with ‘normal’ breasts; there is no doubt that the first few days/weeks/months will be difficult for a BFAR mother. It is absolutely essential that you have support people around who will NOT simply hand you a bottle of formula when the going gets tough. (You may find it helpful to discus ahead of time the different ways your family and friends can help you should you run into trouble.)
3)      Find your local Le Leche League chapter and, even if there are no members or leaders with BFAR experience, start attending before you give birth. I realize that this may be hard; watching women breastfeed and hearing them talk about breastfeeding can leave a bitter taste when you’re unsure if you’ll ever be able too, but trust me, it is important to find support and reaffirm all the reasons why breastfeeding is important to you.  
4)       Make sure that everyone attending the birth of your child and involved with your post partum care (midwives, doulas, doctors, nurses ect.) know about your intention to BFAR. Finding an OB who is supportive of you may be difficult depending on where you live but make them part of your team by stressing to them that you have done your homework and know that you can breastfeed. Do not let them assume that you will bottle feed simply because of a notation on your medical history.

4) Give yourself the opportunity

For women in North America with ‘normal’ breasts getting through the first few days or weeks of a baby’s life without supplementing with formula is hard. (Unless the birth takes place at home or in a baby friendly birthing centre or hospital.) There are many ‘reasons’ why formula is routinely given to newborns in hospital even when their mothers state that they are going to breastfeed. The fact of the matter is that much of the time these supplements are unnecessary and can have long lasting devastating effects on what would have otherwise been a successful breastfeeding relationship.

If you are a BFAR mother the pressure to supplement your infant with formula in the early days may be even greater. Many doctors do not know or do not believe that BFAR is possible and may insist on giving formula. You will also likely be nervous about your child getting enough milk even after all of your research. It is totally normal for you to feel this way, but it is also important to know that unnecessary supplementation could cause milk supply  and other problems where their may not have been any problems before.

Unless you know for a fact that you will not be able to produce any milk make sure you give yourself and your body the chance (at least a week) to breastfeed exclusively. If you are producing colostrum, know that it is designed to be enough for your baby  until your ‘milk comes in’. (Colostrum gradually changes into mature breast milk in the first 2 weeks of your baby's life)  In those first days, put your baby to breast as often as possible, and, if possible, pump or hand express between feedings, the more colostrum your baby gets, the more your breasts are stimulated by your baby (something he won’t do as effectively if he’s full of formula) the more milk you are likely to make. Keep track of wet and dirty diapers and resist the urge to start supplementing until it is proven that you will need to.

If you do decide to offer supplements in the first few days or weeks of life rely on the research that you have done and try supplement in a way that will not effect your milk supply or risk nipple confusion. (Deciding if and when to supplement with donated human milk or infant formula is where having an experienced IBCLC on your team comes in really handy)

5) Trust your body and your baby

Finding faith and trust in your body to work as it is supposed to after it has been medically altered is a bit of a conundrum. It is hard to believe that your body will work as nature intended when it is no longer in its ‘natural state’.

In some cases it is possible to breastfeed exclusively after breast surgery. If this turns out to be your case (sending milky vibes and prayers your way) your body will eventually earn back the trust that you may be lacking now.

But aside from the actual milk making it is important to trust your body to nourish your baby in other ways. Trust the closeness of your body to bring him warmth and comfort. Trust your skin to give him your scent, trust your breath and heartbeat to calm him, trust your arms to keep him safe, and trust your body to give him as much milk as it can. Above all, trust that any amount of breast milk, however small, is valuable, each drop is a very special gift from you to your baby.

After that, trust your baby. Trust that he will tell you in his own way if there is something wrong, trust that he will breathe your scent, learn the rhythm of your breath and heart, trust that he will feel safe in your arms and find warmth and comfort at your breast. Trust that he will bond with you and love you regardless of how much or little milk you make for him.

Then trust that the decision you made to undergo breast surgery was the right decision for you, and that there will be many other chances to nurture and love your child if BFAR does not work out for you.

[1] I honestly don’t know where that 50/50 number came from, nearly every BFAR mother I know was told by her surgeon that her chances of  BFAR were 50/50 and yet I can find no sources stating this as fact!

Do you have a BFAR experience you would like to share? What were the biggest challenges for you? How did you overcome them?
Are you preparing to BFAR? Have questions you would like to ask or concerns you would like to share? Feel free to post them in the comments here, or head over to the BFAR forums to connect with other moms who have breastfed after breast or nipple surgery. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Celebrate Breastfeeding! BreastFest 2010!

Congrats to Debi Gerhart for winning July's Bummas giveaway!  Thanks for your tip on composting coffee grinds, and in case you didn't know, you can also get coffee grounds for your garden at Starbucks!

The Great BreastFest Giveaway!

Want to win a fabulous hands free pumping bustier from Simple Wishes or some super sexy nursing lingerie from HOTmilk?  How about some nursing or maternity wear from Boob Designs?  Here's your chance! We'll be reviewing these lovely companies this month and they have graciously offered to host giveaways.

Breastfeeding is beautiful and we want you to have the gear to make your nursing relationship successful!  A bra to make pumping easier, lingerie for the sexy mama, and nursing clothes for breastfeeding in public!

Here's the deal:

- 1 reader will win a pumping bustier from Simple Wishes
- 1 reader will win a Ruffle My Feathers nursing cami and underwear set from HOTmilk
-1 reader will win a piece from Boob Design


1.  Leave a comment below finishing this sentence: "The best thing about breastfeeding is ___."

Optional additional entries
2.  Visit Simple Wishes and leave a comment here with one cool thing you discovered about their nursing bras or company.
3.  Visit HOTmilk and tell us what your favorite item is in a comment below.
4.  Visit Boob Design and leave a comment with your favorite product.
5.  Like us on Facebook, follow this blog, subscribe to our feed (on the left side), or follow us on Twitter - your choice!  Leave a comment below to let us know!

ALL ENTRIES MUST INCLUDE AN EMAIL ADDRESS!  We need to be able to contact you if you win.  Contest open until midnight CST on Aug. 31st, 2010.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Path of Recovery

I had an unplanned, unnecessary, unpleasant c-section with my first son. Until the actual moment, I never even considered this to be an option in our birth route. I was huge, overdue, done and miserable. I was induced (first step in the wrong direction) and after almost 20 hours of labour, it was decided that I wasn't progressing and it was safest for babe to be delivered via c-section. At this point, I was having incredible contractions, drug free. I couldn't talk, couldn't give consent for the surgery, and couldn't resist the urge to bark at the rude, older nurse as she less than gently prepped me for surgery.

With my second, I knew I wanted a VBAC. I knew I wanted the opposite experience. I wanted to hold and nurse my baby within his first few moments of life. I wanted to be the first person he would gaze at. I wanted to get up and go home within hours of delivery. I prepared this time. I saw my massage therapist sometimes as often as twice a week, saw a chiropractor, had appointments with a reflexologist in my last days of pregnancy, I hired a doula, I wrote a birth plan, I even went as far as planning to have a home water birth with a midwife, however later decided on a hospital birth. I wanted all things natural and peaceful and non-invasive. I was really excited for how my birth would happen. I impatiently waited for things to start. I finally started having good, strong contractions that kept me awake all night. 11 hours of hard contractions that got more and more intense. My husband woke in the morning and there I was, wide awake and delivering the news that I thought this was for real! I stood to go to the washroom, and GUSH.... YES!!! I got to experience that infamous gush I have heard others speak of. Exciting!! I called my doula, called my other doula friend who would be watching my oldest son, and waddled around to get ready. As I did this, something seemed off. After discussing with both my doula and my doula friend, I decided I would go get checked, even though I planned to labour at home. There was blood. A lot of blood. We arrive at the hospital and the nurse that had been doing her job for 100 years wasn't alarmed. She told us my forewaters broke, and told us to go home. She told us we would be back in a couple of hours. I hesitantly did so. I went home where things continued to seem wrong. Another obsessive trip to the washroom, and I knew something was wrong. This time, I panicked. I rushed my husband and son, and almost demanded we go to the hospital. I texted as we drove and tried to calm myself. Within moments of arrival, I saw a younger, more compassionate nurse. She listened, seemed alarmed with my description and with the amount of blood that she was seeing. She called the on-call OB, and boom, there he was. No joking around this time. Within 30 minutes of arriving, I was being whisked off to the OR. My husband managed to run to my doula friends house to grab a camera (the nerves made us forget everything at home, camera included) in the OR garb, and ask if I was ok. They had me hooked to two IV's, prepared me for what was to come, and I sat there, crushed. This is EXACTLY what I did not want. This is the polar opposite of all things natural. I cried. I wasn't OK with this, but I knew it was necessary, something was wrong. It all happened much more quickly this time. There was a need to rush, and I felt it. Within moments, we heard our second sons cry. We saw his purple little feet as they whisked him away....from me. My husband, stuck behind the drape, unable to get to our son, also watched from a distance as they examined him. This is probably the best way he could ever come close to understanding how I felt. Not being able to touch and caress our child. Eventually, they cut him free and allowed him to scope out our newest love. I lay there alone. Scared, and still not sure what was going on. As I tremble on the table, they make light of the situation, and we take bets on how much he weighs. He's big, is my thought. My husband and my son roll off to the NICU, and I lay there... even more alone. I head to recovery and listen to the cackle bird nurses gossip about co-workers. The whole time I am wondering how my baby is. My OB pops in to tell me that I had to be wheeled in for an emergency section due to partial placenta abrupture. Essentially, I had delivered a piece of the placenta, and things could have turned really ugly. He also let me know that Holliday was a big 9lbs 4oz. Big and healthy. I cried. I cried a lot the first few months of my sons life. I felt the disconnect. I felt like I was once again robbed of what was natural. I know my second section was legitimate and necessary. I know that it came down to saving a life, but I still crave the natural experience. I don't know that I will have the nerve in the future to attempt a VBAC. The experience was pretty traumatic, but also pretty rare.

No matter how much planning and preparation we do, emergencies arrive. It's hard not to sell ourselves short when they do. Having no control over medical mishaps is difficult to overcome, but we shouldn't beat ourselves up for things we cannot control. It's easy to say, and almost impossible to practice. I'm not sure what avenue I will choose for the delivery of our future babies, but I hope that I will allow room for forgiveness of myself, no matter what I decide. Until then, I hope that speaking openly of my experience will help with the healing process. I have yet to write, in detail, my sons birth story. I haven't been able to, but I think I am ready. Here's to traveling down the road of healing.

~ Tammy, Connected Mom

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Epidural: Worth the Numbness?

Epidurals. What do we know about them? Do the benefits of no pain outweigh the risks?
Over 50% of women in our country request and use epidural anesthesia for their births. Now, if that many women are using it, there has to be a clear cut reason why.
An epidural is a regional anesthetic that blocks pain in a particular regino of the body. This way, you get pain relief without a total lack of feeling.
To start with, when an epidural is placed, an IV is placed to give you fluids (1-2 liters during labor and delivery to stop a drop in blood pressure). When the epidural is given, you arch your back and must remain still while lying on your left side or sitting up. It doesn’t matter if your contractions are right on top of each other. It is VITAL you do not move.
Antiseptic is used to stop infection. A small part of your back is numbed, this can be felt as a tightness as it is injected. The needle is inserted into the numbed space, it feels like a pinprick, and a catheter is inserted into the epidural space. The needle is then removed, leaving the catheter so that medicine can be given periodically or a continuous flow used. The catheter is taped to prevent it from slipping out.
The benefits of an epidural include, but are not limited to:
- They allow rest
- They relieve discomfort and can cause a more positive birth
- They help you to remain alert and be an active participant (I don’t agree with this one, because you can be an active participant in a natural birth too)
- If you have a cesarean, you get to remain awake and your partner can be there with you during the procedure
- If coping with your contractions is not working, it can help you move past the exaustion, irritability, and fatigue of labor.
The disadvantages and risks of this are, but again not limited to:
- Your blood pressure can take a sudden drop, which is why they do the IV, but that doesn’t always help
- Severe headache caused by a leakage of spinal fluid. This happens in less than 1% of epidurals. If it happens to you, they perform a ‘blood patch’ by injecting your own blood in the epidural space.
- After it is placed, you will have to alternate from lying on one side to the other and have continuous monitoring for fetal heart rate. If you lie in one position too long, your labor can slow down or stop.
- Since you have to lie down once it is received, it is harder for the baby to get into position.
- The side effects are: shivering, ringing of the ears, backache, soreness, nausea, and difficulty urinating
- They make pushing more difficult. Since you are numb, you probably won’t feel the pushing urge and pitocin, forceps, vacuum extraction, or cesarean may be necessary.
- For the few hours after the birth, you may feel numb and need assistance walking.
- In rare instances, permament nerve damamge may result where catheter was inserted
- The baby will have a harder time latching on and nursing. The epidural does pass through the placenta, and makes the baby more lethargic. It should only last 24-48 hours after birth, if you received the epidural more than 1 hour before giving birth.
- If you decide to let it wear off to push, or finish out your labor, the pain will probably be more than when you got the epidural. Until you got the epidural, your body was helping you cope. Now that it doesn’t have to release hormones and endorphins for pain relief, and also because your labor will be more intense, you will feel everything you hadn’t felt before to a greater degree.
- You may not go numb. Most times they don’t numb you completely, so you can still feel your contractions. If you are looking for complete pain relief, it might not happen.
- You must be at least 4 cm and in active labor to receive. (They change this depending on the woman, how long she has been "in labor", especially an induction, and how lenient her doctor and anesthesiologist are with pain medication).
I had an epidural with my daughter, and had to get the dosage twice. The first one they gave went well. Before it started to wear off, my legs went into convultions and I had panic attacks. Finally, it wore off enough I could walk to the bathroom. Then they gave me the second dose. It would only numb half of my body at a time, so they kept injecting more and more medication into me. When they finally cut me open, they had barely gotten me numb with about 3 times the amount it had taken the first time. I was numb most of the day and finally had a little bit of feeling back about 8 hours later.
A lot of times I hear women getting epidurals at 8 or 9 or even 10 cms. You are so close! And I know that I have never experienced labor or transition, but while you are in transition, you will think that it will never end. You will beg for medication. Maybe if some of these women had a birth support to encourage them in the only way another woman could, they could make it those last few centimeters. But then again, maybe I am just crazy since I have never been there.
When you think about getting an epidural, weigh the facts yourself. Try to cope yourself if that is what you want to do. Don’t let nurses, doctors, or even your partner push you into something you don’t want.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Beauty of Breastfeeding

A soft sigh of a smile and flutter of eyelids.
A tiny, detailed hand coming to rest gently.
A milky, sleepy grin as you fall asleep.
A tiny mouth rooting while dreaming.
Two bodies, once one, whole again
When you are at my breast.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bummas Review and giveaway! (closed)

Bummas: The Eco-Friendly Cloth Baby Wipe (Review and Giveaway)
Reviewed by Jenn

Bummas are an eco-friendly cloth-wipe that can be used to replace traditional disposable wipes or to dry bums after a diaper change.  Invented by parents who  didn't want to put a diaper back on a wet bottom and wanted conveniently-sized wipes to dry, wipe, and block "sneak attacks," Bummas can be used for a variety of needs.  (I might need a second set for the kitchen!)  

The folks at Bummas were kind enough to send me a set to sample and I was impressed.  I'm currently using mine as cloth wipes.  As a seamstress, I can tell you the craftsmanship is top-notch.  The serging on these wipes will held well and several washes prove the brilliants colors won't bleed.

Cloth-diapering parents will find they are a great size to throw in your diaper bag and fold easily to be used pop-up style if you want wet cloth wipes.
Bummas come professionally packaged and would make a unique and cute baby shower present.  Someday I'll finally get a chance to make a cloth diaper cake for a shower and these will definitely be on it!

Bummas Product Features from their website:
  • Eliminates the use of talcum powder. 
  • 100% Cotton - Woven Velour Terry Cloth milled in the USA.  
  • Variety of color combinations for nursery themes.
  • Handy 5” x 7” size. Won’t pill, shrink, or fade.
  • Durable. Just throw them in the wash and use again.
  • They will last until your little one is out of diapers and beyond!     
  • Made in the USA

Bummas has kindly offered to host this month's giveaway.  If you've been thinking of switching to cloth wipes or family cloth, this is a great way to get started with a whole set of wipes in Bummas' Wild Ones colors. 

This month there are multiple ways to enter.  August is going to be our eco-friendly family issue and I want your best tips on going green.  What has your family done to go green?  The most unique, useful tip will win.

Congrats to winner, Debi Gerhart!

Disclaimer: Bummas provided a sample for my review.  No other compensation was received.