Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adventures in Nursing II (Addressing Improving Low Milk Supply Issues with Breastfeeding))

I've been getting some good feedback in my comments and by email about my nursing post, so I thought I'd add a few more things that have helped me.

First, I'm sorry that so many of you are experiencing troubles, too. I hope it helps you to know you're not alone, but I'm sorry for your sake that you're struggling. It's so hard, and it can really be a blow to your mommyhood self esteem. Don't let it be! Keep plugging away, if continuing nursing is what you want!

These are some other things I've learned about improving and maintaining my milk supply. These are in no particular order, other than the order I thought of them in :)

1. Don't use a second-hand personal pump, if you can at all afford it. Ok, before you ignore this, here's why. The manufacturers tell you not to, in case some milk backflows and contaminates the pump. Honestly? I ignored this. I'm cheap and I trust the woman who shared her pump with me. I thought the odds of contamination were pretty small.  My friend is healthy and monogamous and even if there was a tiny bit of contamination, I wasn't concerned that she was going to give Matthew anything. However, personal pumps are designed for only about 400 hours of use. So if a mom pumped a combined total of an hour a day, that pump motor would be exhausted in just over a year. In my case, my friend was a work outside the home mom, so I know her pump got more than an hour of use per day. So unless you know first hand that the pump had very little use, there is a possibility that your second-hand pump could just have lost its "umph" and sucking power. Your own pump that you bought new could have lost its umph if you've been breastfeeding a long time or on your second or more child.

2. Hospital grade pumps are more affordable than you think to rent. They run anywhere from $50-$70 per month and some offer discounts if you rent in blocks of time, like 3 months. That's not pocket change by any means, and I know it's hard to swallow when a personal pump is only $200ish to BUY, but if you're having supply issues, seriously consider it. It's certainly not any more expensive than buying a lot of formula (again, NOT knocking formula at all, but if you're going to have to spend the money either way and you WANT to keep nursing, at least consider renting a hospital pump). Some hospitals rent them, as do some lactation consultants, and mother-type stores. Call the hospital where you delivered or your midwife for a referral. There are some online vendors who do it, too. It's not just that these machines are stronger. Stronger/faster sucking isn't always better. It's also that they're more similar to a baby's suck, which stimulates your milk supply better. The hospital grade pumps run smoother, and allow for more combinations of speed and suction to figure out the best fit for you. Pumping isn't just about RETRIEVING milk. It's about telling your body to make more.  Even if you're never away from your baby and never think you'll need stored milk, pump anyway if you're struggling with supply. Milk production is supply and demand. The more your body detects a request for milk, the more your body will make. The smoother function is also more comfortable on you, making it easier to pump more frequently, and less likely to cause you to give up because it hurts too much or because you're not seeing any results.

3. Pump both sides at the same time. I didn't think it made a difference if I pumped both at once, or one side, then the other. But, it does! It actually makes your body think you have twins--"Whoa! Two babies want to eat at the same time! I REALLY need to make more milk!"

4. Longer isn't always better. Neither is stronger/faster. You want to mimic a baby's habit as best you can. Babies don't suck at 80 sucks per minute for the entire feeding. They fast and shallow at first as they're stimulating and swallowing the let down. Then, they slow to long, slow, hard sucks and swallows. He may speed up again if you have another let down. Watch your baby and try to mimic his eating habits with your pump. The LC I saw yesterday said that pump for a while but when it slows to a dribble and then you get nothing for 2 minutes, stop. She said it's better to turn it off and wait for 10 minutes, then turn it on again for 10 minutes. She said it's called "power pumping." Pump 10 minutes, break 10 minutes. Pump 10 more, etc. Great to do while you're watching TV. She also suggested waiting 10-15 minutes after baby is done eating before you start pumping, rather than right after. I can't really explain it well, but somehow the starting of a "new" session sends a different message to the body than continual, endless pumping. DON'T stop a baby while he's eating (as long as he's getting milk and is hungry), but do consider these techniques when pumping to stimulate/retrieve supply.

5. Your supply can take a nose dive when baby starts sleeping longer. My dip in supply corresponds with when Matthew started sleeping between 8-12 hours a night. However, to keep your supply up, your breasts need to be stimulated 10-12 times per day. Sometimes, older babies just don't need/want to eat every 2 hours anymore. If you're up later than or before baby, pump right before you go to bed, or right after you wake up to get an extra session in. If you're not struggling with supply, these things may not be necessary, because your body adjusts to what the baby needs, and if the baby is sleeping through the night, he doesn't need the milk made during those sleeping hours, but if you do have supply issues, keeping your supply up around the clock is crucial so that your body doesn't back off production.

6. Try adding some galactagogue foods to your diet. My favorite, easiest one is oatmeal (not instant or quick oats). I make steel cut oats in my crockpot overnight and have them for breakfast. You can make Mama Jeeper's Lactation bars-bonus, they taste good! This recipe makes about 40 bars, so feel free to make in smaller batches. My friend Jess has had good luck in freezing them.

2 c. butter, Crisco, or margarine (can mix and match to equal 2 c.)
1 c. granulated sugar
2 c. packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. wheat germ
1/4 c. brewer's yeast (not baking yeast) or nutritional yeast powder
1/4 c. flax meal (or whole flaxseed milled fine in a coffee grinder)
4 c. oatmeal (old fashioned, or as thick-cut as you can find)
1 bag mini semi sweet chocolate chips
1 c. nuts (optional)

Cream butter and sugars well, then add eggs and vanilla. Beat until well blended. Mix all dry ingredients (except for oats, chips, and nuts) in separate bowl. Combine the wet and dry ingredients all at once, stirring as well as possible by hand. Mix with beaters until smooth. Add oats and chips (and nuts, if desired), and stir until well blended. Divide dough into five parts.

Line a 10 X 7 cookie sheet (with shallow sides, like a jellyroll pan) with foil. Spray foil with nonstick spray. Spread 1/5 of the dough into the foil-lined pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

When done, simply lift out foil to remove the bars. Place another piece of foil into the pan and spray for the next batch. Allow to cool at least slightly before cutting each pan of bars into eighths.

7. Water, water, water. Divide your weight in half. Drink that number in ounces of water, every day.

8. Drink a lot of water right before you pump. I have to say I got this tip from Dr. Sears, so, milk fountains aside, that one helped!

9. Have skin to skin contact with your baby as much as possible. Skin to skin contact stimulates prolactin, which is what makes milk. Strip your baby down to his diaper when you feed him, and hold him against your bare chest/torso whenever possible.

10. Prime the pump often. Put the baby to the breast whenever you can, and pump in the off times. Especially with older babies, they may not ask to eat as often as you need to be stimulated. Try to squeeze in an extra session if you can. Especially in the summer heat, the extra hydration for baby is good anyway.

11. Don't rule out other issues like hormones, medications, and diet. Do you have diabetes, or PCOS, or some other endocrine issue? Talk to your endocrinologist or your RE, or even your OB if you're having issues. I linked to a great resource in my last post about PCOS and milk supply. You could do all of the things above and your body could still be working against you. Hormonal imbalances can affect your milk making hormones. Also check to see if any medications you're on could be impacting things. If you're not drinking enough water, or if you eating/drinking things that dehydrate you, that can affect you.

12. Consider supplements. Fenugreek is easily available (grocery stores, drug stores, etc sell it) and has been used for ages to help with milk supply. It makes you smell like maple syrup. Blessed Thistle, Nettle, and Fennel can help, too. You can try Motherlove's More Milk Plus or More Milk Special Blend products, which have all of these in one capsule or drop. My farmer's market grocery store sells it, as does the breastfeeding store, and Amazon.com. Check with a Lactation Consultant or your doctor before taking anything though--DON'T take my advice.

13. Look for help. There are free things. Your hospital might let you use their LC for free--every hospital is different. Watch youtube videos on proper latch, position, etc, if those are your problems. Try kellymom.com. Try La Leche. Try breastfeeding stores. Try breastfeeding support groups. I will say that as much as the breastfeeding activists can be extreme, they are passionate about it, and many are often willing to help you, even if they're a little too helpful or passionate ;) I just ordered this book--I'll let you know if it helps and I can post anything I find to be helpful. You can also hire a lactation consultant to do a private session with you. The going rate around here seems to be $60-$80ish for 1-2 hours, depending on the consultant. They might be less in your area, or if you do a session in her office or at a neutral location, rather than at your home.

14. Get help early on. I regret not getting help earlier. It's easier to keep a supply up, rather than reverse or improve a dwindling one. I wish I would have just gotten over my hangups with the extremists and sought help sooner.

15. Milk production hormones are highest in the early mornings, around 4:00am. If you're up then and can manage a few minutes of pumping, do so. If you're not, don't wake yourself up to do it. Sleep is important to milk production, too. But, just try to pump as often in the mornings as you can without exhausting yourself.  The hormone drops throughout the day and is lowest around supper time, so don't be discouraged if evening nursing/pumping is harder. This is normal for EVERYONE. 

16. If you're pregnant, ask to see the Lactation Consultant in the hospital when you deliver. They all have them, but each hospital only has 1-2, so by default, you'll just see a nurse who has a basic knowledge of nursing. You usually have to specifically request to see the LC. It's free while you're there. They'll probably say something like, "Oh, the nurse can help you." Politely request to see the LC anyway. :) Even if you think nursing is going great or you have no reason to suspect a problem, ask to see her. Professional help can't possibly hurt, and it ISN'T as simple as just sticking the baby on the boob, even if you don't have any supply problems. I asked every day was in the hospital. One day, they were too busy with day 1 moms, but I did get to see one the other 4 days. Pump in the hospital if you have the energy. First, you get to take home the pump parts you use (free!), so you don't have to buy them later. Even if you have a personal pump, if the hospital pump is the same brand, you can use the parts on your personal pump. And even if you rent a hospital grade pump, you have to buy the flanges and tubes and valves, so it's nice to get these things for free. If you have the space, even if you don't think you need them right away or at all, take them home and stick them in a closet and hang on to them until you're done nursing. Save yourself the money. But beyond that, pumping in the hospital just gives you the added time with that great resource for free. You can retrieve more colostrum (it was great the first time Matthew was sick--I pulled out a tube of his colostrum and gave it to him for the added antibodies) and it can encourage your milk to come in sooner. You can take home whatever you pump in the hospital. Breast milk keeps up to 8 days in the fridge and the hospital will refrigerate it for you. No sense in NOT pumping and bringing that milk home, if you have the energy, time, and physical comfort to squeeze in some sessions. Even if you never have any nursing issues, the freezer milk is nice to mix with baby's solids, to give you and DH a date out, to feed to baby in a bottle or cup if he's congested or his teeth are bothering him or he otherwise can't/won't suck. Take advantage of the free resource while you can!

17. Save your receipts! Check with your tax-preparer, but the woman who owns the store here that I mentioned said that under new legislation, breastfeeding supplies are now tax-deductible. If you have an FSA, you can rent/purchase your supplies with your FSA.

Ok, I think that's everything I can think of. I'm not an expert by any means, but those things have helped me in just under 2 weeks time. Several people have been offering to babysit DS so that DH and I could have a date. I haven't been able to take anyone up on it because of the supply issues--DS still eats every 2 hours (not really long enough for us to go anywhere if he eats at both the top and the bottom of the 2 hour window), and I had only 1 2.7oz tube left in the freezer that I wasn't willing to use except in an emergency, and I wasn't able to pump anything else. I now have about 9 precious ounces in the freezer and add a little more every day, plus I have enough to make Matthew's oatmeal with every day, too. A date with my DH might be in my future after all. :)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Adventures in Nursing

"Imagine yourself as a fountain of milk." Yep, that's what Dr. Sears suggests (among other things) as a method for improving breast pumping efficiency. I think he might know my Bradley teacher, who told me to imagine my cervix was a flower. No wonder I would fail Attachment Parenting 101. I have yet to master the art of the ridiculous metaphor. I mean seriously? But I digress... (Disclaimer: I actually have no problem with AP--it's not a philosophy we choose but I don't think it's bad or harmful so more power to those of you who choose it! But really? A fountain of milk?)

Let me back up. How did I get here?

Ah yes. Milk issues. Breast feeding advocates will often list off reasons why "breast is best," among them being, "It's free! All you need is a baby and a boob! Think of all the money you'll save by not buying formula!"

Ah, but as we all know, my body doesn't like to do anything properly. Nope. Nothing.

We had trouble getting Matthew to latch right in the hospital. When he was under the bili-lights and could only be out for 30 minutes at a time and we were spending over half of those fighting with him to latch, the lactation consultant in the hospital finally gave us a nipple shield to make it easier for him. At that time, it really was best, because he could spend all 30 minutes eating, instead of only 10 or 15.  We tried to break him of it when we got home, and couldn't. I waited a few weeks again, and couldn't. Lather, rinse, repeat. He's now 7 months old, and still using the darned thing. And for a while, it didn't matter. It wasn't affecting my supply, or the amount of milk he was getting. He was growing and thriving, I was producing well, everything was hunky dorey. Woohoo!

That all changed about a month ago. I started noticing that at his evening feeding in particular, he was super fussy. He would pull off and cry, then nurse, then cry, over and over and over again. It wasn't the normal evening fussiness for babies. After an hour of this, he'd still act like he was starving. At one feeding, I weighed him, fed him, and weighed him again and he'd only taken in half an ounce after being at both breasts for an extended amount of time. I would pump until I ached, and only produce about 1/2 an ounce total, even if it had been hours since baby ate. It was time to call in some help. I had tried to help myself by taking fenugreek and pumping more, but something wasn't working. (Edited to add clarification: the nipple shield is not the cause of my supply issues. It may have a slight adverse affect, but it's not the primary problem. We're trying to eliminate it now to remove all negative variables, even though the impact of this particular one is relatively small).

I talked to some nursing mommy friends. I called the hospital and talked to the LC there. I read a lot online. One thing I decided to do was rent a hospital-grade pump. These pumps are usually stronger and provide a smoother suck, more akin to a baby's suck. Through a chain of referrals, I ultimately ended up at a wonderful little store (Modern Mommy Boutique if you're in the Phoenix area), and the owner there really knows her stuff. She experienced supply issues with her own daughter and had to go to great lengths to fix them, so she had a lot of ideas for me. I tried a couple of different hospital grade pumps, and ended up with the Ameda Platinum. She also suggested that I take More Milk Special Blend. She immediately asked me if I had PCOS. I said yes, and she said that I needed to rebuild mammary tissue and suggested that in addition to fenugreek, I take other supplements, including Goat's Rue. The More Milk Special Blend specifically contains those ingredients. It's specifically formulated for PCOS. More information on PCOS and supply issues can be found here. So I now drink water like a camel, take the supplement 4 times a day, and pump as often as I can, usually 2-3 times per day.  And I have noticed a difference. Now I can pump anywhere from 2-4 ounces per day, depending on how often I pump. And that amount seems to be increasing every day. That's not a ton, but it's enough that I can mix that amount in with his oatmeal or fruits for his dinner feeding and make sure he's still getting as much of my milk as possible. He doesn't seem to struggle quite so much in the evenings with his feeds.

I'm also having a very recent problem with pain. Nursing shouldn't hurt. After your first few days, it almost always indicates something is wrong. Something with position, with the latch, with your body--something.

Today, I  went to a breastfeeding support group led by an LC. We're still trying to break Matthew of his plastic habit, and she suggested I try a different shield, that's sort of between the size and shape of the natural breast and the shape of the old shield, to see if that can sort of step him down back to the breast. We'll see. She also made some adjustments to my positioning.

So, for me, breastfeeding isn't free. It costs about $150/month in pump rental, supplements, tax, and various odds and ends that come up (but yay! As of this year, things to aid in breastfeeding are tax deductible!) It may cost more if I decide to go with a private LC consultation.

I did everything possible to maximize my chance of success at nursing. We took a great class together before Matthew was born. I have the support of a hubby who is on board with it. I watched videos and read about latching and positions. I talked with nursing mama friends. I eat galactagogue foods and drink a ton of water. I insisted on seeing the LC every day I was in the hospital.

And you know what? Sometimes, that's just not enough. Sometimes, nursing is just HARD. In earlier times when we lived with our mothers and sisters and cousins and friends, a woman was surrounded by tons of built-in help. Now, in our single-family-home culture, you have to seek out help, and even then, it's usually in small chunks of time.

Why am I writing all of this? I guess to assure you that if you struggle with it, THAT'S OK. More women than you know struggle with nursing. A lot of women decide they have exhausted all their options and stop nursing altogether. I thought I was at that point--I didn't WANT to stop but I thought I had run out of options. If you need help, or if it doesn't come naturally, that's ok! Don't get down on yourself about it. I struggle a little with my attitude about it--one more thing my body can't or won't do on its own for my baby. But I am thankful that so far, there seem to be remedies.

If you want to keep nursing, keep at it. Seek out help. You may have to get creative. Keep your spirits up and your patience long. If you have exhausted your patience or your will or your resources and you've reached the end of your nursing journey, that's ok, too! Thankfully, we live in a country with several great options of formula alternatives.

If you do seek out help, I guess, just take it with a grain of salt. There are some real breastfeeding nazis out there, which is honestly, the reason I didn't seek professional help sooner. I've been judged for my use of the shield.  I've been judged for preferring to nurse under a cover or in the privacy of a dressing room or even in my car while away from the home (one person called me a pervert who must secretly find breastfeeding to be dirty, and another said I must be ashamed of it. I assure you, neither are the case. For modesty's sake and for preserving what I believe to be private between my son and I, when I am around strangers, and/or men who are not related to me, I choose to cover up). For some people, breastfeeding is a cause. For me, I just wanted to be able to feed my son. So, as long as you can ignore or blow off the activists and militants, the help out there can be wonderful.  Your hospital where you delivered may offer free help. You may have a breastfeeding store near you like I do. There are tons of books and websites. You can find a support group. You can hire a private LC. You can hook up with the La Leche League if you're really brave.

And like I said, if you have gone as far down the journey as you are able or willing to go and end up closing the book, that's ok too. I am definitely NOT an activist and how you feed your child is none of my business. But if you ARE struggling and DO want to continue, just know you're not alone and you don't have to throw in the towel if you don't want to. There's nothing inherently wrong with you if it doesn't come as easy as the sing-songers say it should. Sometimes you DO need more than a baby and a boob, and that's ok. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

Infertility makes it even tougher when something else goes wrong (pregnancy, birth, nursing, or in my case, all 3!) and part of me is like, "Seriously? I have to fight for THIS, too?" But it's also been a good reminder to me that that's what's in store for me as Matthew's mom. It's my job as a parent to fight for him to bring us to what we think is best for him. I had to fight to bring him out of the freezer and keep him safe in my body. I had to fight to deliver him, and now I'm fighting to feed him. It's HARD. But, it's my pain, my job, and my joy, all beautifully and inextricably interwoven together. I will encourage my IF friends, that the fighting now is a little easier. It's the same fight as before, but with a baby in arms, it's easier to see the forest for the trees. Easier to look down and see WHY you're fighting. Easier to look back on previous battles and go, "ah, now I see why." So if you're in the midst of a fight for your kids, either future kids or those already in your arms, be encouraged. You're doing something right! Every mom has to fight for her kids. We just get a little extra practice :)

If you ARE pregnant and plan to nurse, see if you can't find a breastfeeding class (ours was offered through the hospital). I learned a TON. And beyond the practicality, it's just plain COOL. The way God designed it is really amazing and incredible. Both DH and I were enthralled at the sheer intricacy of all the details.

Anyway, that's my PSA for the day, and one of the posts I referred to last week in my previous post. I've been working on this for days, but my aggressive pursuit of these things this week delayed me.

And in Matthew news, we finally have our first tooth. It poked through on Friday (8/26) during naptime. It's a bittersweet time for this mama, who already misses his gummy little smile. It's also made all these nursing issues super fun ;)

And on another note, I'm so glad I've been keeping this blog because I hadn't been recording the dates he learned to do things or developed new things. I had to fill out an update for Nightlight last week and it was nice to have this to go back and refer to when they asked me things about when certain things occurred. I also used it to finally fill in my baby calendar. So, if I include dates on things from now on, it's not that I think you're all so intricately hung up on the details of Matthew's life--it's so I can retrieve them later!

Anyway, toodaloo!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Matthew Monday (7 Months)

I have finally remembered what I wanted to write about, but it comes with several other things I wanted to write about too. I'm going to try to remember to write all the posts in the next few days.

But we'll start with Matthew Monday! Today, my Matthew-man turned 7 months old.

I think this is my favorite picture of the bunch because this is his personality right now--roaring (rawring!), singing, howling, growling, yelling...

Here's his cute little smile

And here is when he decided to lean forward and come get me (or the camera, really)

Weight: Still flirting with 18 pounds. He teeters within an ounce or two on either side of it, depending on if it's before or after a feeding or a full diaper. This puts him between 25-50% for weight.

Length: 28.5", according to our best home measurement, putting him between 75-90%.

Skills: Rolling all over the place, jumping in his jumperoo (he now tries to bounce in place if you help him stand up--it's really cute), singing, blowing bubbles--mostly the same skills as last month, but more deliberate and precise now. I can't think of anything new he's done. Oh wait, yes! SLEEP! The boy FINALLY sleeps. He consistently sleeps about 9 hours from bedtime until an early morning feed, and then he goes down again after eating, for another 2-3 hours. Then he takes 2 decent naps per day. The boy thrives on routine, and it's good for mama, too. My biggest struggle now is getting my own body to fall asleep. Insomnia often keeps me up until about 2:00am, and then he wants to feed between 4:30 and 5:00. So though HE'S sleeping, my body still feels like I have a newborn because it's rare that I sleep more than 3 consecutive hours. So, I'd love your prayers for that. But, I digress....Hmmmm. Oh! He does this cute little boot scoot boogie on his tummy, but he will only go backwards. He can't scoot forward. It's super cute, though. Oh! And as I write this, I do remember his new "big" skill. SITTING UP! I'm learning that he takes a while to attempt or show any interest in a new skill, but then he learns it all at once. He did that with rolling over. He learned to roll over one way. Several days later, he learned to roll over the other way, and roll across the room in the same day. It's the same with sitting up. He went from barely being able to keep from toppling over to being able to sit up indefinitely in the period of about a week, literally.

Likes: Again, mostly the same as before

Dislikes: We're developing a little bit of separation anxiety. It's not too terrible yet.

Disposition: Still very curious, generally very happy.

Here are the rest of his professional 6 month pictures. I was waiting to post them until his grandparents got them so that they'd be a surprise for them.

We FINALLY got a family picture of him smiling. I look crazy and my hair is a mess, but I don't care--he's smiling! And bonus, it's still his darling little toothless-wonder smile that I love so much!

And his "official" (original) 6 month picture (before the re-takes, which are what are shown above

Ok, that's all for this post. More soon!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Amber (teething) necklaces-a review

There are two things that you probably already do know about me, but just in case you don't, I'll state them here, as they are relevant to my post:

I am a believer in Western Medicine. The most "alternative" I get in our healthcare is visiting the chiropractor. I don't do incense or acupuncture or aromatherapy or cleanses.

I tend to shy away from things that I feel are "new-agey." It's just not our thing.

So, that's why the fact that I'm about to make the following endorsements is such a big deal for me.

Matthew has had a horrible time with teething. It started when he was 4 months old. His gums were super swollen, and he was constantly miserable. At one point, one tooth poked through enough that it caused his gums to bleed, but then everything went back down. Sheila (Matthew's genetic mother) said her son, Seth, teethed the same way. He started at 4 months and nothing emerged until he was 7 months old. Matthew is a week shy of 7 months old and there's no emergence of teeth in sight. The swelling comes and goes. The teeth make a little progress, and then retreat.

But the poor guy was miserable. He was constantly in pain. He would put EVERYTHING in his mouth. He drooled all over everything. When it was bad, he would refuse to nurse. He didn't want to play. He had trouble sleeping. He would just whine and cry in pain, almost around the clock. We tried teethers--they helped some, but especially when he was so young, most teethers were too big for his mouth. He was also too young for any oral topical ointments, and teething tablets have been recalled. We tried frozen things, but often those were too cold for him. Sometimes he'd let me put some counter pressure on his gums but most of the time, he would wrestle away. I took to giving him baby acetaminophen (Tylenol), which helped tremendously.

The problem is, his teething has been prolonged, but he can't really safely take the medication for as long as he's been teething. Giving it to him around the clock for months on end is just not a solution that I felt was wise for him, nor is it recommended by medical professionals or the manufacturers of the medicine.

My happy little guy had disappeared, and in his place was a baby who whined or cried almost constantly. I was desperate to give him relief.

Some friends whose judgment I trust had said they had success in giving their little ones relief through the wearing of Amber Teething Necklaces, such as those offered by Inspired By Finn. Matthew was so miserable, I was willing to try just about anything, even if it fell outside my "box" of normal things I'd usually consider.

From their website, they advertise the following possible benefits of Amber:
Baltic amber is not a stone, but a fossilized tree resin.

Historically, Baltic Amber has been used in Europe as a natural and traditional remedy and curative for many ailments for centuries. Long ago it was considered one of the leading medicines of its time. Baltic Amber is the most esteemed amber in the world, and the healing qualities of Baltic Amber make it unlike any other type of amber found in the world.

When baltic amber is worn on the skin, the skin's warmth releases trace amounts of healing oils from the amber. These oils contain succinic acid and are absorbed into the skin.

Baltic Amber has some of the highest concentrations of Succinic Acid found in nature, and this is what makes it so special. Succinic Acid is a natural component of plant and animal tissues, and it's presence in the human body is beneficial in many ways...

The website goes on to list how Succinic Acid can possibly help with pain, inflammation, reflux, GI issues, immunity building, and energy. The concept of the body absorbing the oil sounded plausible enough, so I decided to try it.

I purchased this necklace for Matthew. It is believed that the more pale and opaque the amber, the higher the concentration of succinic acid. I thought that more=better for Matthew, and this was recommended widely as a popular option for teething so I gave it a try. They have a lot of other choices in all kinds of colors and degrees of opacity.

It arrived at about 4:00pm in the afternoon. I put it on Matthew immediately. It is important that your child only wear the necklace while he is awake and in view of an adult, so as to prevent strangulation. You want to select a necklace that is long enough to go comfortably around the neck, but short enough to prevent him from putting it in his mouth. It needs to have direct contact with the skin.

After wearing the necklace for 3 hours, Matthew was a different kid. I had my happy, smiley, laid-back baby boy back. He played and laughed and bounced. He was alert and social and happy. Bedtime that night was a breeze. The drool reduced substantially. I thought, "this couldn't possibly have worked this quickly! It must be a coincidence." I took it off him for bedtime. The next morning, we put it back on him. He's worn it every day since then, and he hasn't gone back to being crabby all of the time, which is how he had been since this whole teething journey began. And in the week and a half that he's had it, I think I've only had to give him Tylenol twice. He wears it almost around the clock and he's a pure delight to be around again. He coos, and giggles, and smiles. He's made absolutely no progress in the teething department so he SHOULD feel just as bad as he had for weeks prior. However, he's no longer whimpering in pain, and he has learned a ton of new things this week now that he can concentrate again on being my busy little bee instead of being in constant misery.

As I said, it's not safe to have him wear around his neck while he's asleep and/or out of my view, so I take it off for bedtime, naptime, and car-rides. However, I've taken to wrapping it twice around his ankle and putting it on under his 1 piece, footed pajamas (preventing any possibility of him taking it off) for bed time, and I also wrap his ankle with it while he is in his carseat because the harness prevents him from leaning over and reaching his feet. This enables him to be in contact with the amber during those additional hours, too, without posing a choking or strangulation hazard. They do sell anklets, and I do recommend that over my method because I've nearly lost our necklace a couple of times, as it's still too large to really stay on his ankle well and it falls off easily.

Matthew doesn't even notice it's there, so we haven't had any problems with him being annoyed by it. It's just there, as a sort of secret weapon.

I used to suffer from frequent headaches and migraines, usually caused by hormones and orthopedic issues in my neck. Regular trips to the chiropractor alleviated most of them and reduced their frequency from weekly (sometimes daily!) to very infrequently. They've been manageable for 5 years, and I was only getting them a few times per year. However, with the change in my hormones from pregnancy, the awkward posture and strain on my neck created by frequent nursing, the lack of sleep that comes from having a new baby, and the inability to see my chiropractor as often as I would like due to having to work around baby's schedule, my headaches have been coming back with much more frequency. As I am nursing, I try to limit how much medicine I take, especially if I've already given Matthew some of his own.

I was so impressed with the success I had seen in the amber giving Matthew some relief, that I decided to try one for me. I chose this one because it was the lightest, most opaque choice available in adult sizes. It happened to arrive today, while I was struggling with a headache.

I put it on about 3:00pm. It's now 10:00pm and I do feel different. I wouldn't say that I've noticed as significant a difference in myself as I noticed in Matthew's behavior, but that's hard to gauge because I'm not him and can't exactly know how he was feeling--I can just observe. I also am a full grown person so the amber is more diluted in me, and am capable of coping with my pain independently and he is it not, so I don't need as much calming down as he did. That being said, my headache is completely gone, and I did not take any medication. I did have a can of pop for the caffeine, but that is not usually enough to kick it on its own. But within 5 hours, the headache was gone, and I've had it all day. My neck and shoulders feel less tense. The release of tension is huge for me because usually, it just builds and builds until I give in and go to the chiropractor. I no longer feel like I'm teetering on the edge of full blown migraine-land, which is where I was before. Thankfully, my headaches are not constant like Matthew's teething is, so I won't be able to test it again until I have another headache, which hopefully will be a long time from now. I plan to wear it daily, even when I don't have a headache, in the hopes of preventing them or reducing their frequency. Since I'm not clairvoyant, if I never feel the headache, I will have no way of knowing it was warded off, so the best endorsement I can give today is the elimination of today's headache that I DO know existed. It's certainly better than napping, drinking soda, and/or taking a handful of pills!

I said that Matthew doesn't notice his necklace. He does notice mine, and tries to lean over and eat it :) It's pretty cute. Of course, I don't let him, but he is determined to get it one day.

Are you convinced yet? If you want to Amber a whirl for yourself or your little one, head on over to Inspired By Finn. Enter the discount code "Matthew" to save 25% off your entire purchase. I hope whatever you purchase brings as much relief to your family members as our necklaces have brought to us! If you decide to make a purchase, post a comment and let me know what you chose!

Disclaimer: I paid full price for Matthew's necklace. I received a discount on the purchase of my necklace in exchange for posting a review. I would have posted a negative review if I wasn't impressed--it was not stipulated that the review be positive.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I totally had something I wanted to say

But I've completely forgotten what it was. Mommy brain has made me more scatterbrained than I was when left to my own devices, which was bad enough on its own.

So, until I remember, here's my little darling, playing with his best buddy, Lewis. Playing with Lewis is the only time we hear those big cackles.

And, look what we have learned to do!

The first time he actually did it was AT the photographer studio, so we actually got it on camera. His balance was way off, though, naturally. So cute!

But I really wanted to get a picture of him smiling. So, the next week when we were in picking up those pictures, the studio was totally empty, so I asked the photographer if she had time to shoot a few more. She did, and look what we got!

And when I saw this one, I nearly cried. Look how OLD he looks!

Ok, that's all I have for now, until I remember what it is I was going to say! Peace out! :)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Oh, Happy Day!

Matthew and I have had an amazing couple of days. For the last few days, he's been so wonderfully happy and playful. We are just having such a great time hanging out together. I wish I could convey how cute and sweet he is. I'm so glad that whatever has been ailing him for the last few weeks seems to have cleared up. He's so much more himself. He's just an absolute joy and delight to be with. I love this time with him. He giggles and coos and squawks and plays. He loves looking in mirrors and playing with the baby on the other side. He "talks" to my parents over Skype. He plays with his toys. He squeals with delight at the dog. He's just the cutest little baby you ever did see.

I just wanted to write down what a wonderful few days these have been.

Monday, August 8, 2011

With Apologies to the Mommy Bloggers

It appears that my train of thought was not as on track at 2:00am as I thought it was, for it seems I completely derailed and conveyed an attitude of criticism of the Mommy Bloggers, when that was the farthest idea from my point. After all, *I* am a mommy blogger. I enjoy reading many mommy blogs.

Though I am secretly sort of envious of the fact that many of them can somehow manage to be simultaneously professional photographers, master chefs, accomplished seamstresses, Martha Stewart's more talented dopplegangers, fitness gurus, housekeepers who put Adrian Monk to shame, published authors, and experts on parenting and marriage, mommy bloggers are not the problem. When we compare ourselves to them, look to them for our answers, and use them as our measuring stick is when we fall into trouble. As my friend Jess pointed out, it's natural to want to highlight your successes and minimize the public display of your failures. I actually think the blogs are quite enterprising of these women, and as I said, I am in awe that they can be so multi-talented.

I just know that I personally have to be careful to avoid comparing myself to them and assuming that their solutions will work in our family. I need to concentrate on discovering God's best for our family. I have to tell myself that it may appear that they have it all figured out, but I know they're muddling through this just like I am. That was my point. My apologies to the mommy bloggers. Keep at what you're doing! :)

Parent Trap

Do you ever stop to wonder...who ARE these people? The ones who write the books and the blogs and the websites? They have perfect homes, perfect walks with God, perfect marriages, perfect wardrobes, perfect craftiness, perfect household management skills, perfect homeschools, perfect children? And they're ever so eager to tell you how you can be perfect, too.

It doesn't matter WHAT the topic is. Discipline. Sleeping. Feeding. Vaccinations. Schooling. Parenthood brings out the armchair pediatrician, the well meaning know-it-all, the would-be educator and/or the activist in all of us. Why? I haven't quite figured that out. All I know is that whenever I have a question about ANYTHING, there are 20 people lined up to tell me their way of doing things, and as many blogs telling me THOSE people are wrong.

What's a new parent to do? It's easy to get caught up in, "Well so and so said this," or "such and such method worked for her" and, "according to Dr. Blah Blah, I DEFINITELY don't want to do THAT!"

Friends, it's a trap. And I fall into it, ALL.THE.TIME. The devil sure doesn't have to get very creative with me. The same trick works again and again.

I'm desperate to do things correctly, and well. I always have been. I'm a bad combination of the very "Christian" sins of people pleaser, perfectionist, cautious, and anti-confrontational (no, really, I am, despite the fact that I can get riled up in writing). When you add my son to the mix, it's a deadly combination because I now have someone whose life depends on me. And all too often, I take that to the step that says "whose life depends on how well I do or don't do this or that." The reality of it is? I'll screw up. A lot. I already have screwed up. And the Enemy likes to distract the absolute joy that is parenting for me by playing on my fears and weaknesses. My mind fills with what ifs?

Most recently, it was with foods. What foods should I give him first? How long do I wait before introducing a new one? If I start with sweets first, will he grow addicted to them? If I start with carbs first, will they fill his belly with empty calories. If I do it too early, will it set him up for allergies? Why is he unhappy today? Is it because he's reacting to the food I gave him yesterday or is he just having an "off" day?

But it doesn't stop there. Am I holding him enough? Am I properly helping him to sleep well? Did I give him the correct vaccines? Am I stimulating his intellectual growth properly? When I hold him upside down by his ankles (which he loves), am I hurting him? Does he feel neglected when I have to spend some time doing the dishes or folding the laundry or vacuuming instead of playing with him? On and on and on it goes!

And when I have a question, it's so easy for me to go to Dr. Google! Dr. Google has an answer for everything! Actually, the "perfect" parents have an answer for everything, and Dr. Google just helps me find them.

And to make the problem even more complex, every time I think I DO have something figured out, something changes, leaving me to desperately try to determine if it's because the method I had decided on was wrong, or if he's simply outgrown it.

Do you see the madness? If you do, you're quicker than I am, because I'm just now starting to see the real depth of it. The Devil doesn't need to distract me with a lot. Chasing my tail keeps me occupied for hours! And how clever that he's disguised it in the very virtuous thing of loving my son and wanting to care for him to the best of my ability.

But you know what? Matthew's life doesn't depend on me. His health doesn't depend on me. His happiness doesn't depend on me. His character doesn't depend on me. What I should be focused on is pointing Him to Jesus, on Whom those things all really do depend. Matthew 6 tells us:

"Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, `What will we eat?' or `What will we drink?' or `What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Why is it so hard for me to grasp that these things are true for Matthew, too? If I spent half as much time praying over him and his eternal health as I do fretting over his earthly well being, both he and I would be better off. And there is the beauty of grace. Though I forget, Jesus does not. He loves my sweet boy even when I fail to continually surrender him to Him. And He loves him so much better than I.

And as my friend pointed out tonight, God chose Matthew for us. For whatever reason, God decided that we were the best and correct parents for Matthew. Just as He chose you to be the best parents for your child(ren). What other resume or skill set do we need? The God on High recommended us for our jobs! Why do I so quickly forget that?

The reality of it is, Matthew is going to live out his number of God-ordained days in spite of me. Whether I wrap him in bubble wrap, or throw caution to the wind, the number of His days is chosen by God. Whether I feed him sweet potatoes or pears, God's hand sustains and grows him. Whether he learns to sleep now, or not until he's an old man, God will grant him rest. Though I can do all I can to assure him of my love for him, only God's love is truly unfailing. God is MY parent. He is the perfect role model and equipper for this job He's given to me. And when I look in on His life, character, and word? It actually IS perfect.

I need to learn to rest in that. Those of you who know me know that I don't at all mean that we should abdicate our personal responsibility, the use of the resources and intellect God has placed within our grasp, or careful thought in all our decisions. I don't think we ought be fatalistic, or haphazard. It's not even that I think we ought not share our experiences and help with each other when and where it's warranted. However, if you're like me, you're far more tempted to become enslaved to those things than you are to abandon them. And yet, both habits are sin! Thankfully, if we confess our sins, HE is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). So, I confess that I spend too much time worrying, and not enough time praying. Too much time reading Dr. Google and not enough time reading the Word of Life. How gracious is God to reveal these things to me! And I'm pretty sure He'll need to reveal them to me again infinitely more times, yet I know in faith that in His infinite patience, He will! Where is our heart for the gospel? I wish I could say I spent as much time concerned about it as I do about, well...lots of other things. Filling Matthew's life and heart with the gospel will benefit him far more than anything else I can do, even if I did all the rest of it with absolute perfection.

Don't be tempted by the sin of perfection. I'm pretty sure that behind the prettiness of the mommy blogger lives, they have their own battles they're fighting. I'm confident that for every question they have a ready answer for, another sits unanswered in their minds. The truth of it is that we should be constantly pointing each other toward the cross, toward prayer, and toward He who sustains us all, rather than toward checklists, books, and causes. We ought do less advising and more exhorting and sharpening.

Advice and friends and books and research are are helpful to a point. But at the end of the day, I can try every suggestion in the book for every possible parenting scenario I encounter. But God is the One who is ultimately capable and willing to actually effect change! And you know what? He cares about my sweet potatoes and pears! How awesome is THAT?

This post stems today because we're having a rough time with Matthew's eating. His growth has slowed way down (beyond a normal plateau for breastfed babies), and in the past few days, he's started losing weight. I was struggling because I wondered if his recent fussiness was due to him being hungry and I just didn't realize it. That sent me into a nasty cycle of worry and mommy-guilt. We stayed in today to try a re-training baby bootcamp for his nursing and it failed miserably. We do need some professional help, but that's ok! I just have to keep my heart fixed on the fact that this isn't a surprise to God, that He ultimately has a solution, and that He will bring us through this and to it. Fretting isn't going to get me there any faster. Chasing down every internet link I can find with every possible idea isn't going to help me abide this journey in more peace and trust.

So, I would ask for your prayers for the feeding situation with Matthew. With PCOS, it is possible that I am having supply issues. It could be that he's just exercised a lot of his weight off with all his bouncing. It could be the way he feeds. It's also possible that he's just going through a growth spurt and both our bodies have to adjust. There are a million scenarios and I'm sure that with some help, we will get to the bottom of it. God has graciously given us the resources to be able to find some professional help, a network of sweet friends who have been through troubles and had some names to recommend to us, and the freedom of time for me to essentially go wherever or do whatever is determined needs to be done. In those things alone, I am already abundantly blessed. And if nothing else works, I also live in a Valley full of capable doctors, and in a country with grocery stores that sell formula substitutes. I know that before I have any answers at all, I have far more than many other parents around the world and for that I am grateful.

So, the bigger prayer request is for my peace and trust in this and all things Matthew. Parenting him is so easily my spiritual cryptonite. Every time I think I've finally hit my stride and am doing ok with things, a monkey wrench sends me back to my old "friends" named fear and worry. I wish I could break up with those guys. In my head I say, "I'm just not that in to you," but my track record shows that in my heart, I am.

I hope you're encouraged, your challenged, or even in enough disagreement with to think on this farther. And if you're not, that's ok, too. Thanks for reading though, as typing through this has helped me.

I am daughter to the most Perfect and Holy Father, wife to an amazing and wonderful husband, and mommy to the most delightful boy. I am blessed.

Blessings, love, grace, and the peace of Christ to all of you!

A very imperfect mommy blogger

Thursday, August 4, 2011

So cool of God

I've been marveling lately about some really precious gifts that have been given to our family. They're not of any earthly value or even really eternal significance. However, God gave them to us anyway. We marvel at His love, generosity, and attention to even the smallest details.

My husband has the most beautiful blue eyes. I just love them. One thing I wrote back in 2007 was that I was really missing the opportunity to have a baby with my husband's eyes and my grandma's smile. Of course those things don't matter in an eternal world, but I think everyone sort of dreams of having a child who looks like him or herself. Beau has brown eyes, and Sheila has hazel eyes. All three of their kids have dark eyes. But guess who has the most beautiful blue eyes, just like his daddy?

Sheila said that his eyes are bluer than her kids' ever were so it appears that his are more than the "all babies are born with blue eyes" eyes. Sheila's Aunts and Uncles are all blue eyed, so he does have a genetic chance of staying blue. We just love that our boys share that, even if they don't genetically share it.

My boys even have the same hairline. Rounded on the front, a little receding, sort of pinned back at the temples. Matthew has started out bald, and it looks like he'll end up there too, like his daddy will. And they both have cherry cheeks and button chins :)

With all due respect to my mother in law, she'll be the first to tell you that she has really wide feet. And her first four toes are all almost the same length as each other. Guess who has fat little feet with equi-length toes, too? Todd didn't even get his mom's feet, but Matthew did.

Even Sheila has remarked more than once that she thinks Matthew looks more like us (well, Todd namely) than he does them. At first it was weird for strangers in public to tell me that Matthew looks like us. I felt like accepting their comment without explanation was being dishonest. But now, I just accept it with a smile. I love hearing it. Matthew really does look like Todd, all genetic odds be tossed aside.

I wouldn't have cared if Matthew looked like the man in the moon. I gave up a child looking like us a very long time ago and if Matthew shared nothing at all in common with us, it wouldn't make me love him any less. And if he looked completely like a little carbon copy of us, it wouldn't make me love him any more. But the fact that God gave us these little tidbits is just so special. It's special because it demonstrates to us God's great love for us. He pays attention to even the smallest details, the most insignificant of dreams. 7 years after we started trying, and 5 years after I first blogged about the blue eyed baby of my dreams, God says "Hey, I was listening. 5 years ago, when your heart was breaking and your eyes were spilling over, I was listening. I've showed that to you many times, and now, I'm showing you again."

I just think it's really neat.

PS: I have some potentially really exciting news to share but I need to wait for more confirmation. Please pray over what could possibly be a super cool opportunity to share more about Embryo Adoption.