Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Real Nappies Cloth Diaper Review

I love cloth diapers.  I've saved about a thousand dollars so far, but we also don't buy paper diapers unless we are travelling somewhere, which isn't often.  I have enough diapers for three days, so I wash every three days, though less often recently since she has started potty learning on her own.

We've used cloth diapers since our youngest was born 15 months ago.  I started with covers and prefolds, and as she grew and became mobile at about four months old, pockets with prefolds became our standard.  Nights have always been a struggle for us, since she would sleep on her side or stomach, and by morning she would be sopping wet with leaks and a lot of times end up with the start of a rash.

I received the Real Nappies Cloth Diaper Top Up Pack to review, which has been an incredible addition to our collection.  It came with two Velcro covers and six Indian Cotton prefolds.  My daughter is on the smaller side, just barely over 19 pounds, but their crawler size from 18-31 pounds fits beautifully!

We use these diapers for night wear.  They're bigger than the prefolds we were using, so we don't need to double up anymore, and they are so absorbent.  I prepped the prefolds and diapers before using, and I have been so impressed with how they've held up and how much moisture they hold.

At first, I was nervous at how long they are, but we have also been using the infant size from cottonbabies, so we should have upgraded awhile ago to a longer and bigger prefold.  She is smaller, so we fold it in half after trifolding, but this makes it perfect for her since she is a stomach and side sleeper and we have trouble with leaking.

I'm not a fan of Velcro on cloth diapers because it does wear out faster, and my daughter learned to peel those off at six months old so Velcro has only been for night use with full pajamas for awhile, so that didn't need to be changed.  The cover is designed really well, and they fit better than a lot of other covers we tried.  Not only does she not leak, but the diapers don't move very much while she is sleeping, which was a problem with other Velcro diapers for us.

We haven't had these as long as our other prefolds, but we also haven't had the rash problems yet with these prefolds, which is a big plus.  I'm sure over time they will need to be stripped and washed, but for now, they are much easier to use than our current night set up.

Real Nappies come in four sizes - 6-13 pounds, 11-19 pounds, 18-31 pounds, and 29-40 pounds. I like one size diapers because they grow with the baby, but my kids grow slower so they are in sizes like this for a lot longer, so we aren't spending a lot of money upgrading sizes.  I like how their sizes are set up.  They're big enough gaps that you will use a diaper for more than a month, but small enough so as your baby grows and wets more, the next size up is around the size you would need.

The company also has other baby and kid products, not just cloth, so take a look at their site to see.  A lot of their products are green and all are safe for kids and babies, and shipping was so fast.  Overall, just a great company to work with!

Monday, February 17, 2014

I Why not just switch to formula?

2 day old Sullivan nursing with the help of a nipple shield
I have to admit that I don't really want to write this post. Well. That's not true. There is a lot I want to say but I'm never sure who it is I need to say it too. Parents? Healthcare providers? Other support people? Or really what exactly I'm trying to do by saying it. Encourage other parents? Call out bad healthcare providers? Challenge those who support pregnant and breastfeeding women to think about things in a different way? Demand better support and care for women and children in general? 

What I can be sure of is that by writing this and publishing it online I will no doubt be spending the next few hours/days/weeks moderating comments and emails from people who think I am being hard on or unfairly 'judging' parents who formula feed their babies even though I'm writing this entire paragraph to say that I AM NOT. 

What I am doing is addressing some of the suggestions and questions I have been getting since my second son was born 6 months ago. All of which boil down to the same thing. 'Why don't you just switch to formula?'. 

A little history: after having breast reduction surgery in my late teens breastfeeding my first son, Oliver, in my early twenties went relatively smoothly, a few bumps in the hospital that resulted in unwanted, coerced and non-evidence-based formula supplementation and latch issues that left us reliant on a nipple shield for over 5 months but over all he gained weight (slowly), blebs & plugged ducts happened here and there but were never serious, and we "successfully" breastfed for over 4 years. 

I use the quotations around "successfully" because when I became a doula and learned more about breastfeeding through other birth and lactation professionals I found that many if not all of the trouble my oldest son and I did have could be traced back to a tongue and lip tie. And as it turned out many things I was told were 'normal' or dismissed as 'not a big deal' were actually huge red flags that we had some serious problems. Everyone survived so I'm not going to think on it more than lessons learned, we struggled but we managed and I don't regret it for a moment. 

Pregnant with my second son, Sullivan, I did a lot of research, identified the red flags I had missed the first time around and was very glad when a dentist in my area started offering laser frenectomies in his practice. 

I cannot begin to say how thankful I am that Sullivan was my second. While Oliver and I had struggled a little and he was, in hind sight, a slower gainer than he should have been, he never lost any weight, he always filled diapers regularly, he was alert and met milestones early or on time. 

Sullivan, on the other hand, struggles with the scale constantly, when my supply drops in the slightest he immediately stops dirtying diapers, and he regularly goes through phases of being sleepy at the breast eating just enough to take the edge off his hunger but no more. Had he been my first, had I not known that I was capable of nursing a baby well into childhood, had I been less aware of not only the risks of formula use but the absolute joy that the breastfeeding relationship brings, I would have folded at my ten week midwife appointment when my midwife looked me in the eye and told me no one would blame me for giving up if all the work I was doing to breastfeed became too much for me. 

(Note: while that statement may be technically true, that no one would have blamed me and it would be 'ok' to switch, suggesting that, as a professional, to a tired new mom when that's not what she's asked you is about as helpful and supportive as telling a labouring woman it's 'ok' to have an epidural when she has expressed that she wants a natural birth. And if you don't know why THATS not helpful or supportive I suppose I'll have to write a whole other post about it.) 

Nursing with a homemade at-the-breast supplementation system
Instead, under the close supervision of an IBCLC,  I max out doses of herbs like fenugreek, blessed thistle, alfalfa, fennel, and lemon balm. We limped along with a nipple shield (properly this time) to get him feeding without swallowing too much air and transferring milk effectively, I pumped regularly every day to supplement his intake with an at-the-breast-supplementer off and on for months. I feed him almost hourly at the slightest cue of hunger doing breast compressions to make sure he gets enough without tiring too quickly. I have not used any artificial nipples what so ever, no soothers, no bottles, not even my fingers, if he wants to suck he does it at the breast. I weigh him every day to make sure he's on track. Sullivan has now been to the dentist for frenectomy not once but twice and we have been seeing an osteopath regularly to improve the mobility he needs to feed effectively. He is growing, he is happy and fed, but it doesn't come 'easy' like it did the first time around. 

So why do I do it? Why not 'just switch to formula'? 

  • Because to me making the switch to artificial milk should not ever be the first suggestion or made out to be the easiest or best alternative when breastfeeding hits a bump. There are literally dozens of other ways to manage supply issues and other common problems.
  • Because using artificial milk, even prepared properly (which most people don't), has very real and sometimes serious health risks for both mothers and babies. 
  • Because breast feeding isn't just about health and nutrition. It is an integral part of the way I parent my children. It provides biological protection for my babies in our family bed, it soothes them when they are hurting or teething, it settles them when they're overstimulated, it provides security and builds trust, it forces me to slow down and engage my children even when life gets hectic. 
  • Because becoming reliant on artificial milk would be a huge financial burden on my family, thereby negatively impacting my older child and my family's food security in general. 
  • And mostly because the way we start our life is important. Everyone needs to stop discounting that. 

Do I expect that every mother should work as hard as I did to breast feed exclusively no matter her situation or support network? NO, absolutely not, I get that it is my privilege and my connection to a network of well trained birth and lactation professionals that allows me to do so. 

But I do expect that every single person who works with, provides any type of care to, or even comes in the slightest contact with mothers and babies understand that when we do things to interfere with or damage the breastfeeding relationship between mother and child we are interrupting vital biological systems that can drastically effect not just the health and development of that baby, but also entire communities. So maybe there is a small part of my brain that just wanted to prove even with multiple factors that can negatively impact breast feeding, bottles and formula don't have to be a part of the management plan. 

We need to stop treating breastfeeding like it's a great thing to do 'if it works out', and start treating it like a vital biological system that must be protected and maintained. It isn't binary, and bottles of formula aren't the inevitable conclusion when things don't start off or continue to go well. 

In short; If you are a mother who's baby isn't doing well and the only advice you are hearing is EITHER "just keep feeding, just keep feeding, you can do it, he's just small" OR "you're starving/harming your baby, you need to give him formula right now" know that there are amazing care providers out there who can give you real answers and help you find a management plan that will help you achieve YOUR goals. If you are one of the people handing out the above advice on either side, please search out the amazing professionals who have real answers and let them educate you. 

"Why not just switch to formula?" Because you don't really have to. Not if that's not what you want, and you can find the right support. 

To find a qualified IBCLC you may search for your area at: 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Why Changing Birth Culture is Important for Our Sons as well as Our Daughters

My son loves books.  When we are at the library I try to preview most of what we check out, but sometimes books surprise me.  Recently, I checked out a book my son asked for that I thought was a standard book about welcoming a new baby into the family.  It turned out to be a very realistic and well done book (Hello Baby) about what a homebirth is like for young children.  The story is honest and simple and the illustrations are beautiful and specific without being too scary or overwhelming for the very young.  In fact, my son was fascinated by them.  The book actually brought about one of the coolest conversations I have ever had about birth with anyone.  After explaining that the illustration of the baby crowning was not the mama "pooping" out the baby, although I let him know I could understand why he would think that from the angle of the picture, I explained to him that a mother pushes a baby out of her vagina.  Instead of being repulsed or shutting down when he heard that word  (the way almost every male has reacted my entire life especially in a context about birth),  he was awestruck.  "That's why mamas have vaginas and not penises?  God makes them able to grow babies AND makes a way for the babies to get out into the world?  That is so AWESOME."

I forget sometimes what a new culture I am working to build for my sons, but moments like this remind me of why I am so dedicated to it.  No matter what he learns from the culture at large as he gets older, no one will ever be able to take away the honest, frank wonder and respect he felt for women that first moment when he realized how a baby is really born and why women are designed differently from men.  It's not because women and their reproductive organs are "yucky" or "impolite."  It's not because they are just mysteriously "different" just to confuse men.  It's because women have to be biologically different for us to procreate.  It is what we are designed to do. My son knows from the start that women are designed to birth babies and that a woman birthing is awe inspiring.  Imagine how he will feel about the woman who may one day birth his child.  Imagine how he will feel about being a birth partner if his initial memory is always one of wonder and not disgust or fear.  How much more prepared is he to be a good birth partner than most of our male partners were initially just starting from a place of understanding and respect rather than from ignorance and fear?  One day, he can look forward to his child's birth not only to meet the child, but also to see the wonder of his child's mother as a capable birther.  He doesn't need to be overwhelmed by any feelings that he does not "belong" there or that birth is scary or a secret that was never shared with him.  He can know what many of us didn't know until we were preparing to birth our children:  women are made to birth and birth may be powerful and life changing, but it  is also beautiful.

Changing birth options and birth choices may be couched in our understanding of women's rights and we may fight for best practices for our daughters to experience birth in a supportive, understanding, and safer environment, but we are also changing things for our sons who will one day support and love our daughters.  If I can teach my sons to be able to say the word "vagina" without giggling and to think of birth as natural and wonderful and I can teach my sons that breasts are made for breastfeeding first and sexuality as an additional, lovely bonus, I am normalizing birth and breastfeeding for men and women and creating a more supportive culture for women and men.  That's an awesome thing in and of itself.

Thanks for Reading,

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Woman's Birth Deserves Respect

I've hinted at a few things people have told me about my freebirth, but one that is permanently fixed in my mind is someone giving my baby a nickname having to do with the color of the water when she was born.

Someone decided to give her the nickname "Jello baby" because the water was red when my husband sent out the announcement picture.  She had been born less than 10 minutes before, so we were still in the pool, and yes, I bled in the water (which happens in a waterbirth) so the water was red.

Now, if this nickname was because she's a chubby baby, I wouldn't care.  I never thought I would have a chubby baby and I'm loving it, so the nickname for that would be endearing to me.  But simply because you are making fun of how she was born because it's not a common choice?  That is not okay on any level.

Let's say I had a hospital birth or another cesarean, whether scheduled or not.  If our announcement of her birth had been sent out with me in the hospital holding her, or of her in the OR, or anything like that, no one would dare make a nickname based on that.  There would be no jokes about how the room looked, how she looked, what I was wearing or where I had her.  Everyone would be so supportive of our choice to have her in a setting they understand.

The thing is, it doesn't bug me as much as it did when I heard the nickname the first time.  What bugs me is that women that give birth in a situation others don't understand have to face scrutiny for it.  Sneers and jokes and comments about bravery and risks.  It doesn't stop.

Just like how we need to take control of our own births, we need to respect the births of others and not poke fun at them if they are different than the "normal" birth we imagine.

There is a huge difference between spreading information on birth choices and picking the births apart for a joke.  There is a huge difference between sharing links and resources with someone looking for change or hoping to help someone feel empowered in their own choices and hoping they don't see the underlying mean spirit.

I am not ashamed of my birth choices.  What makes me feel ashamed is how others treat those choices.  When other homebirthing mothers call me brave and roll their eyes, I wonder what I am lacking in their eyes.  When women hear about my birth and then instantly change the subject it makes me wonder what was so wrong with my choice that I can't talk about it like I could if I had chosen to have my baby in the hospital.

I hate that I feel I have to justify my choice to others.

No woman should have to justify her choice for her birth.  You may not agree, I know I don't agree with many choices others make, but that doesn't give anyone the right to make them feel less because of it.

If we want to change the way that women birth, we have to believe their birth was special.  It doesn't matter how they birth, it was special.  A mother is created, and a baby is born.  How is that not one of the most special things that anyone can do in their life?  Creating life should be treated as the sacred act that it is, regardless of how that came about.

We all deserve to take power from our births, and that starts with changing the way we treat the births of others.

Monday, February 10, 2014

the dance of winter - dealing with the dreaded snow day

Here at Connected Mom we run the gamut from Stay at Home Mamas to Work at Home Mamas to Work Outside the Home Mamas. I fall in the latter category. Each of these choices has its pros and cons. In the pro column for us is that, as an only child, we love that Gwen gets to play with a whole group of kids everyday, and that she has made some great friends. I love that I get to see other adults everyday, and talk about things completely outside the realm of parenthood. However this winter, which has been a doozy, has shown that a con is definitely the occurrence of multiple snow days in close succession.

I remember before Gwen was born. My office rarely closes for snow, but when it did, it meant a day full of hot chocolate, PJs, and lazy hours of movies and books. Now though, my daughters daycare/preschool closes far more often then my work does, and has no concern for when I have important work meetings. Suddenly snow days are full of guilt because you cut out on your coworkers, guilt that you aren't giving your child enough (if you are attempting to work from home), and possibly a cranky child who doesn't understand why we can spend all day out in the snow.

So here, in no particular order, are my top 10 tips for surviving unexpected snow days:

1. Talk to your boss beforehand. Figure out what works best for both of you in the event of a snow day. I know some parents that will probably be using half their vacation days before spring arrives. See if you can work out a half-time arrangement, so you don't have to take a full vacation day. Something has to get done? Promise you'll telework over nap. But let them know that you will be entertaining your child and that you just won't be able to give the same 100% you would if you were in the office.

2. Talk to your spouse beforehand. My husband and I check out the weather at the start of the week, and if there are big storms brewing, look at our work schedules to see if there are days one or the other of us can. not. miss. Having an idea of who is staying home when, before the morning of, is a huge stress reliever.

3. Try to get outside, if only for a little bit. Lots and lots of layers, maybe culminating in only being outside for the same amount of time it took to get all those layers on and  back off, but the fresh air and energy release is worth it!

4. If you can't get outside, make sure you get some physical play going. The cold has been intense this year, some days in the negatives when accounting for wind chill. Those days, its just not safe to go outside. But my daughter and I will have races in the hallway, or do yoga together, to burn off some extra energy. My girlfriend taught her daughter how to do jumping jacks, which her daughter loved and practiced for a good half hour on her own. Remember that your child is used to running around all day with a handful of other kids, all of whom probably have more energy individually then you do!

5. Make it special. My favorite memories of snow days when I was a kid are hanging out in my PJs, and my Mom's from scratch hot chocolate. My daughter, like me, loves the chance to spend some extra hours in her PJs... so that's what we do. She also gets a movie in the afternoon, which she loves, and gives me a few hours of work time that won't leave her feeling neglected.

6. If you have to work, reconnect throughout the day. We've had so many snow days lately that my days at home have mostly been work from home days. Its hard for my daughter to not have my undivided attention, and I feel guilty that I'm not giving 100% to either work or child. So I'll make sure to take 15 minutes or so after I finish each work project to be silly with Gwen, read her a book, ask about her game, or just give her some cuddles. And at lunch, I give her my undivided attention and lots of conversation so she feels heard and loved.

7. Keep your cool. For me at least, if I'm having a day when I'm feeling too torn, and the guilt of not giving my all to anyone who needs it can make me cranky. It helps me to remember that Gwen is off her game too. She didn't ask for this snow day either, and while she was excited about it initially, that doesn't mean she isn't going to miss her friends or her school routine. So it helps us both to do something silly to change it up and remind her (and me) exactly why she was excited to be home in the first place. I try to do something that will get her laughing, and gives me a chance to breathe and reboot. Throw on some music, break out your best/worst 80s moves and have a dance party in the living room. Just try to be frustrated when you're doing your version of the moon walk!

8. Provide them with their own work space. Gwen has gotten much better about playing independently while I work, and one of the biggest helps to that has been making sure her little desk (next to our computer desk) is stocked with paper and markers, and making sure to rotate the toys in the toy chest in that room as well. She's happy that she can be in the same room as me, I'm happy that she has options to keep her imagination running wild. A spare blanket has become a fort, and her toys all got a trip to the dentist the other day, all while I knocked out my work a foot away.

9. Keep a special activity in your back pocket. When its been a week or two in a row of multiple snow days, my daughter starts to get a little tired of her same toys with no other friends around and Mama working. That's when I pull out something different. It could be a sheet of stickers I picked up at the store, or a toy of hers that I stashed away when it wasn't getting a lot of play (its amazing how not playing with something for a few weeks can make it seem new again!), sometimes just changing the mix a little can reignite that imaginative play!

10. Remember that these days are fleeting. Soon enough spring will be here and we'll be wishing for a day at home!

Only 37 days until spring!!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Sacredness of an Imperfect Pregnancy and Post Pregnancy Body

I hate that my body doesn't show pregnancy until I am in the third trimester AND is back to prepregnancy size in six weeks or less.  Yes. You read that right.  I hate what most magazines tell you that you should kill for.  However, I have good reason for it.

A pregnant body and, for that matter, a newly post pregnant body is a sacred space.  It is meant to be different, curvier, and fuller because your life is different, curvier, and fuller.  Desiring your prepregnancy body at such times might be an attempt to feel "normal" but the changes you see are the message to the world that "this" IS the NEW normal.  Why would your body not reflect the emotional and spiritual growth that is happening within?  The fetishism of youth and life before children is not only ridiculous but also pointless.  Your life before children transitions into something else post children; your body makes that transition, too.  That doesn't mean you won't be fit again or you won't look good again, but it does mean you may not look or feel the same and that's alright.

You have earned the right to look the way you do.  You are accomplishing a great thing.  You have grown or are growing another perfect human being.  You have kept an entire human being safe and nourished when no other could.  Your body is sacred.  It is a universe onto itself in which your baby will spend or has spent every second of his/her existence before birth and when the birth needed to happen, YOU did that whether by natural means or c-section. What could possibly be more beautiful than that? A size 6?  A size 2?  I don't think so!  Who the heck can/should care whether or not you look as traditionally, culturally "sexy" as you did before you created an entirely new life?  Consider this. . . Which is a healthier view of beautiful or normal? An eternal image of what you looked like in your teens and/or twenties or an ever evolving image of the rest of your sixty to eighty years on this planet?  Who really wants their lives to be exactly the way it was pre-children? Why would you want your body to be that way?  

Love yourself and your post baby body.  Forget about its size and its relationship to what others may construe as attractive.  Forget about getting back to "normal." Embrace the awesome abnormality and sacredness of your birthing years.  That is true beauty. (In the meantime, I will try to find the beauty of looking about the same on the outside while being transformed on the inside.)

Thanks for reading,