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My thoughts on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, parenting and life.

book review: Simplicity Parenting

By Suzanne Brown on January 5, 2015 in books, parenting, reviews

I have seen Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids recommended in every online parenting group I am a part of – regardless of the group’s philosophy. I put it on my reading list and was thrilled to find it in a local library. I took it along on our road trip and managed to finish it up shortly thereafter.

Simplicity Parenting

Kim John Payne offers a lot of ways to simplify family life and let kids just be kids. Some things I had heard before, like “Get rid of most of the toys.” But some really made me think. He explains the “less is more” principle, that you can’t appreciate something (a toy, for example, or even a book) when it’s buried under a mound of similar items. This extends beyond physical items though and into scheduling and information intake. So many kids today are over-scheduled and don’t have time to just…play, and be kids. (Which, by the way, is SUPER IMPORTANT from a development standpoint. Parents put their kids in all kids of sports, activities, and lessons with the goal of challenging kids, or giving them some kind of academic edge – when the absolute best thing you can do from a brain development standpoint is give your kids plenty of unstructured free time for self-directed play.)

Environment: Payne starts by recommending several toy purges, which is probably good for most families. Including ours. This is what I want our playroom to look like:

waldorf play space

But this is more like it:

(I stole this picture from the internet. I'm not brave enough to take a picture of ours.)

(I stole this picture from the internet. I’m not brave enough to take a picture of ours.)

I had already removed quite a few toys from our play area but after reading this book I am determined to move more out. We still have more things available to play with than the kids can keep tidied up (apparently), which means we have too many. We’ll just keep taking stuff out til they can keep it reasonably tidy on their own. (Don’t worry, while some of it is getting donated, we’ll have plenty of things to rotate in and out.) Payne also included books in the environment category, which gave me pause. I always thought you could never have to many books, but he pointed out that having a ton of books can be sensory overload for kids. I pared down what is out/available (once again, we will be rotating) so now there are a few spots in the house with around 10 kid books. We’ll switch them out to keep things fresh and interesting. Clothes are up next. We are doing pretty well on this front, at least with The Boy. I don’t think The Girl has too much, necessarily, but she definitely has more than The Boy – because she has all his hand-me-downs plus the girl-specific things people buy for her. There is also a short section about scent and lighting, so that your home’s overall environment is peaceful.

Rhythm: This section is about having routines and rituals. Babies and children really thrive on predictable routines. I think we are doing all right in this area, although we perhaps could use a little more structure in our daily rhythm. I thought this chapter could be particularly beneficial to very busy families because Payne has a lot of ideas on how routines can be worked into hectic, busy lives. He gives examples of families he has worked with who have very busy, stressful schedules and ideas they have come up with to provide predictability for their kids. He also uses this section to discuss simplifying tastes (eliminating processed, sugary foods) as well as healthy sleep habits.

Schedules: Here Payne discusses the activities a child may be involved in (and how fewer activities are better than lots). Boredom is fertile ground in which the seeds of creativity flourish. Fewer activities means more anticipation surrounding the ones you do select, and greater enjoyment of those activities. Lots of activities just leads to stress. He recommends planning calm, regular days around busy ones, and I have seen how much better my own kids do when we don’t have busy days stacked next to each other. He also has a very thought-provoking section about organized sports. We haven’t gotten there yet but The Husband has started talking about getting The Boy started in sports, so I found this part very interesting. He goes in-depth with the differences between organized sports and free play, both brain development as well as physical. Free play (including neighborhood pick-up games) involves problem-solving, rule-making, negotiating, creativity, and tends to be more varied; organized sports is about learning pre-determined rules and specialized skills. He also describes the rise in overuse injuries among children and adolescents, due in large part to beginning organized sports at a young age and spending so much time training for a particular sport. He says children under 8 should be involved in free play rather than organized sports.

Filtering Out the Adult World: Since we don’t have a TV, I wasn’t expecting to glean a lot from this section. Payne does talk about reducing (or better, eliminating) TV and screen time here and how kids benefit. Then, he shares a story of a workshop he gave and a parent asked him, “Why did Laura and Mary do what Pa said?” I HAVE ALWAYS WONDERED THIS. Payne’s answer: Pa didn’t say too much. Payne says there’s no need for parents to talk as much as so many of us do – no need to expound upon the child’s own observation, no reason to make every moment into an opportunity to teach or even something “special.” Often, quiet attentiveness is enough. (For example, I turned around to the backseat last week and saw that my kids were holding hands. Rather than gushing about how sweet it was, I let them enjoy their moment together. And I took several pictures on my phone that they know nothing about.) Not narrating every moment of every day makes the things you do say more weighty, which hopefully provides some benefits in the discipline department. Next up is filtering out adult topics. Most parents don’t discuss their sex lives in front of their kids; that is not what Payne means – he is referring more to adult emotional problems, like such as disliking a co-worker or other adult interpersonal problems, worries over money – things a child isn’t really capable of understanding. I do think we’ve let a bit too much of this in, in the hope of being honest or authentic with our kids. Payne points out that it’s not “sharing” when the other party (in this case, a child) isn’t capable of equal and mutual exchange. I am hoping we can find a balance between being honest and sparing our children adult worries.

I think Simplicity Parenting is a GREAT book and I have added it to the Parenting section of the store on my resource page. I loved and agreed with many of the things Kim John Payne had to say in this book and I highly recommend it.


book review: Raising Financially Fit Kids

By Suzanne Brown on December 7, 2014 in books, finances, parenting, reviews

I travel like Rory Gilmore, with a variety of books to suit any whim that may arise during my trip:

I picked up Raising Financially Fit Kids at the library before our recent road trip and finished it pretty quickly. I really enjoyed it and will probably be adding it to my permanent collection. It has a TON of hands-on ideas for teaching money management to kids of all ages, so I can see myself referring to it often in the years to come.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 3.37.39 PM

The author, Joline Godfrey, has parents begin by thinking about their family’s financial values. What do you believe (and practice) about saving, earning, spending, giving, budgeting, investing, etc.? One thing I really liked about this book was that it was very flexible and adaptable – she acknowledges that some people (including kids) are natural savers (or hoarders), some spend everything they can get their hands on, and different families will have different views on how much to save, or charitable/philanthropic giving. So you take your values into account, as well as your child’s money personality, when thinking about how and what to teach them.

Then the book is broken down into four age ranges (5-8, 9-12, 13-15, and 16-18) and Godfrey goes into detail about what concepts kids are able to grasp at these ages and different activities for teaching 10 basic money skills. The skills are:

  1. How to save
  2. How to keep track of money
  3. How to get paid what you are worth
  4. How to spend wisely
  5. How to talk about money
  6. How to live a budget
  7. How to invest
  8. How to exercise the entrepreneurial spirit
  9. How to handle credit
  10. How to use money to change the world

She includes several resources for each skill so parents have additional books, websites, and organizations to look to for additional ideas. One idea I really liked was to ask others (whose money management you respect) to be money mentors for your child and spend time with them a few times a year to talk about or do something money-related, so that you’re not the only voice of financial wisdom in your child’s life. I also really like that she includes being intentional about teaching your children to be critical of media and advertising – this is a crucial component of wise money management and I think a lot of people overlook this. Because we are TV-free I am always aghast whenever we go anywhere with a TV (which is basically anywhere) at the number of commercials, and how pushy they are at encouraging materialism. Teaching your kids to view or hear ads through a filter of “Their motive is to take my money” will help them learn not to believe every marketing ploy that comes their way. For older kids Godfrey encourages research into some of their favorite brands to see what causes the company supports, whether their ads are degrading to women or other people groups, and deciding what kind of companies they want to purchase from.

This book is very thorough and well laid-out. It provides a truly comprehensive approach for teaching personal finance and money management to children and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.


leek & potato sauté: a tasty (cheap) fall recipe

By Suzanne Brown on September 22, 2014 in nutrition, recipes tags: , , , ,

This is one of my favorite fall meals. The first time I had it was when I was training for a marathon and my mom served it one evening before my long run day. I had my best long run of my entire training period, which may have been a coincidence…but maybe not. This recipe is nutritious, easy, delicious, and pretty cheap to make – in fact, all of the main ingredients except the chicken broth are WIC eligible.

 

  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups potatoes, cut into chunks (I prefer Yukon Gold potatoes)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 carrots, sliced (I actually use several baby carrots because I think they taste better)
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and cut into thin slices*
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 small ripe Bartlett or Anjou pear (this dish is BEAUTIFUL if you use a red Anjou pear)
  • 1/4 cup parsely, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar, shredded

In large saucepan of boiling water, cook lentils for 10 mintues. Add potatoes and cook 5 minutes longer (lentils and potatoes will not be tender). Drain well.

Meanwhile, in large nonstick skillet, heat oil until hot but not smoking over medium heat. Add carrots, leek, and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until leek is softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in lentils, potatoes, broth, salt, and black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in pear, cover again, and cook until pear is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in parsley.

Divide leek-potato mixture among 4 plates, sprinkle cheddar on top, and serve.

 

Red, orange, yellow, green...look at all those colors!

Red, orange, yellow, green…look at all those colors!

*This post has great directions with pictures for how to properly prepare leeks. I prefer not to cut off or slice through the root/little beard though because it makes the leek much easier to hold for cleaning and slicing when you still have that part to hold onto.


how to choose prenatal vitamins

By Suzanne Brown on July 24, 2014 in health, nutrition tags: , , ,

When I was in college, I took Environmental Science. We took a field trip to a wastewater treatment plant and yes, it was as disgusting as it sounds. Basically how the wastewater treatment works is that the water comes in and starts going through a series of filters. The first one is for really big items, mostly things thrown into drainage ditches or stuff that isn’t supposed to be flushed. The filters gradually get smaller, taking out all of the solid items and eventually removing dirt, microorganisms, heavy metals, etc. The part of the trip that horrified me the most was not the thought that some people work with huge volumes of poop all day, every day; rather, it was a particular filter.

A vitamin filter.

The plant employee showed us a filter with a pile of pills at the end. “You can still read the brand name on some of these,” he told us. These things were going into people’s bodies, being “digested” and eliminated still intact. I was horrified. Actually, I stopped taking supplements for a few years.

However, not all supplements are pointless – there are some things you can look for to make sure your supplements are high-quality and supporting your health, rather than basically being a pebble in your digestive tract. Many care providers recommend prenatal vitamins to ensure moms are getting enough of key nutrients, and many moms are reassured by taking a supplement. Some types of prenatal vitamins that are more likely to be used by your body are:

1. Whole food supplements
These are supplements made from concentrated whole foods, rather than pressed synthetic nutrients. Your body is able to use more of a food-based supplement. Some examples would be SuperMom vitamins, Rainbow Light prenatals, New Chapter Perfect Prenatals, and Garden of Life Raw Prenatals. (Bonus tip from the wastewater treatment plant: take tablet-type supplements with an acidic juice to help your body break them down.)

2. Gelcaps
These supplements are powder contained in an easy-to-digest gelatin capsule. Your body dissolves the gelatin quickly, and then the good stuff inside is absorbed. Promise Prenatal is one, and SuperMom has a capsule version as well.

3. Liquid
Liquids are easier to absorb than a tablet, because your body doesn’t have to break down the stuff that holds a tablet together (called, appropriately, “binders”). Some brands that offer liquid prenatals are Liquid Health, Nature’s Plus, and Buried Treasure.

A word about DHA: It is recommended that pregnant women get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, as these are important components of brain and eye development for babies. (Omega-3s also help moms produce prostaglandins.) Read more about omega-3s in pregnancy here. However, the best sources of omega-3s are cold water fish…and commercially available fish can have high levels of mercury and other toxins (and thus, pregnant women are advised to restrict their fish intake to twice per week). Many women will want to take a supplement to close this gap. Some popular brands are Nordic Naturals and Happy Healthy Smart. Many brands only have 200mg of DHA in them, but the recommended (minimum) amount is 300mg so make sure you select one with at least that amount.

Unfortunately, it requires a little bit of extra work to locate a quality supplement – they generally aren’t on the shelves at regular big box or grocery stores. You will probably have to make a trek to a health food store or order online. Talk with your care provider about which form of supplements will best suit your needs…and you won’t be flushing your prenatal vitamins down the toilet.

NOTE: I am not a care provider of any type. I just went on a field trip to a wastewater treatment plant that instigated some research into supplements. Check with your care provider before adding any dietary supplements to your life.


gear review: Bravado nursing tank

By Suzanne Brown on June 16, 2014 in books, breastfeeding, products, reviews tags: , , ,

Many new moms worry about nursing in public. Part of this is because you hear about the odd person now and then who gets offended and raises a stink about it (I’m not sure what is so offensive about babies needing to eat, but there are some strange people in this world), and part is because it feels awkward to think about exposing part of your breast or midriff in public. One wonderful modern invention is the nursing tank. Bravado is a well-known brand of nursing apparel – they make some great bras and they also have these famous nursing tanks.

bravado

The Good:

  • - they come in lots of pretty colors (they rotate in and out seasonally)
  • - they are very supportive and comfortable, once you have them on
  • - lots of stores carry them, including online
  • - the clips lay flat, rather than being a giant plastic hook & eye like most nursing bras
  • - comes in a wide range of sizes
  • - quality construction – holds up over several years

The Bad:

  • - the clips aren’t truly one-handed – they release easily one-handed, but can be very difficult to clip back without both hands (note: I have one or two that are easier than the others, so maybe this is a tank-by-tank issue)
  • - the band under the bra seems REALLY tight when trying to get the tank on – it takes me a long time to shimmy in, but I’m sure I have the right size
  • - the shirring on the front means this tank does not look good when layered under another shirt for the most discreet feeding
  • - the bra inside is fabric and can’t conceal breast pads, if you need them…or “headlights,” if you know what I mean
  • - on the expensive side
  • - you’re supposed to hang to dry

The Verdict:
I own several of these in various colors and really like them. I mostly wear them around the house though, since they don’t layer under regular shirts well and putting the nursing flap down leaves your breast uncovered. It’s not my favorite tank, but it’s a solid addition to any nursing wardrobe.

I got nothing for writing this review. I purchased these products with my own money, used them, and wrote about them, and received diddly squat for doing so.


the power of birth

By Suzanne Brown on May 2, 2014 in birth, natural birth tags: , , ,

Yesterday I had the honor and privilege of attending a birth. It is beyond amazing to watch a baby enter the world. And driving home, I was thinking about how cool birth is, how powerful it is, how powerful a woman is to give birth – and yet so many women fear it.

You have to be incredibly strong to push a baby out. There is no way around that. Giving birth is a feat of superhuman strength. Why on earth do women sit around with each other, disparaging birth and scaring our daughters with how terrifying and painful it is? We could be telling our childless friends that we got to be a real-life superhero with tremendous strength, that we are in awe of how powerful our bodies are, and instead we sow seeds of fear. We could tell our daughters that one day they will get to do something miraculous, and instead we terrify them and assure them it’s too difficult. Why do women rob each other of this incredible power?

That is a question with a lot of psychological baggage that I am not qualified to unpack. However, I think a big part of it is that we (women) and we (culture) fear women being powerful. (I know I am sounding like a crazy feminist. I assure you, I am not. I like guys to open the door for me, I appreciate being addressed as ma’am, and I am a stay-at-home mom – which to real feminists makes me basically unempowered.) I read an article this week about the physiological connection between the brain and vagina and, while the article focuses on female sexuality/sensuality, I think a lot of the points apply to birth as well. (Go read it. It’s a fascinating article.) It talks about how the complexity of the neural network in the female pelvis basically means that whatever happens in or to the vagina impacts the woman as a person – for better or worse. This means an orgasm can be transcendent, but also explains why rape is so utterly devastating. Birth is just as powerful. Barbara Katz Rothman says, “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers – strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.” Giving birth changes a woman deeply – she is now a mother, and the way in which she gives birth influences how she processes that. Did she come away awed by her own strength and power, or seeing herself as a victim? And this happens with each birth, not just the first one.

I saw this picture a few years ago and was stunned by what the mom said about this moment:

roar

I begin to scream “I LOVE YOU BABY!!” over and over again as his body delivers. I can’t stop myself from saying it. I’m so overjoyed. I feel like a lion roaring these words. I feel ferocious and strong. I feel beautiful and powerful. I feel completely conscious and primitive.

Why would you not want this? We get a limited number of opportunities in this life to be a lion, and instead we have multitudes of women playing cards or watching a movie during labor because they are numb to the powerful work their bodies are doing. Does giving birth without pain medication hurt? Yes. Yes, it does. But you know what? Any time you look at a difficult endeavor, think you can’t do it, and then conquer it, you grow an enormous amount of respect for yourself. You grow as a person. In 2008 I trained for and ran a marathon and it was hard, it was painful, there were so many times during those months I thought I couldn’t possibly do it…and then I did it anyway. The human body is capable of extraordinary things. YOUR human body is capable of extraordinary things – things that are superhuman. Don’t sell yourself short.

Then, when we’re done talking about how awful birth is, conversation turns to the leftovers. Stretch marks. Saggy boobs. General flabbiness. This body, this body that does incredible things, shows it…and we hate the evidence. Carrying babies changes your body. Giving birth changes your body. Nursing babies changes your body. These are all changes that are SUPPOSED to happen. They are what your body was made to do. A caterpillar is SUPPOSED to turn into a butterfly. Do we disparage the butterfly? No, we honor the change. My mind has changed – I don’t think the way I did 5 or 10 years ago. I’ve read books, talked to different people, thought new thoughts, had wonderful life experiences, changed my opinions. I don’t call those changes ugly. I call them growth, education, wisdom, maturity. I’m glad I don’t think the way I did when I was 17; why would I want my body to be the same? That 17-year-old body had accomplished nothing but breathing and digesting for 17 years. The body that I have now has done incredible things – and shows it. In no other area do we belittle the change that comes with growth – only our bodies are insulted. Other changes are honored as good, even beautiful; sadly, changes to our bodies are hated.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” – Voltaire. The first responsibility is to acknowledge that power, in order to wield it well. Birth is an enormous, powerful event in a woman’s life, and when you accept that the power is in yourself, it can be a transformative, amazing experience.


dealing with diastasis recti – the dreaded “mom tummy”

By Suzanne Brown on April 5, 2014 in diastasis, fitness, health, postpartum tags: , , , ,

After I had The Boy, I was shocked at what my midsection looked like. Horrified, really. “What happened here?!?!??” Postpartum bellies just look weird (and they’re supposed to). I would never in a million years have taken a picture but here’s a pretty typical tummy:

from http://happilydomestic.blogspot.com/2013/05/healing-my-postpartum-tummy-diastasis.html

from http://happilydomestic.blogspot.com/2013/05/healing-my-postpartum-tummy-diastasis.html

However, my belly button had also disappeared. I just didn’t have one any more. Not an innie, not an outie…there was a discolored blotch in the vicinity where a belly button used to be but that was all that remained of my own umbilicus. And when I was holding my new baby up on my chest, if he stretched a little leg down into my tummy it HURT. Like something was ripping. A baby foot shouldn’t feel like it’s tearing your midsection apart. I thought it was just the stretch marks, that they were tender and that weird tearing feeling would subside…but it never did.

When I was 8.5 months pregnant with The Girl I learned about diastasis (or diastasis recti), which is a separation of the abdominal muscles. One of the symptoms is that your belly button becomes an outie after being an innie previously; I’ve never seen anyone say that diastasis can make a belly button disappear but I was convinced that’s what I was experiencing. I couldn’t tell for sure how big or deep it was because there was a baby’s back in the way but I’m confident that I had a sizeable separation. The tell-tale signs of diastasis are:

  • protruding tummy (a “pooch”)
  • low back pain
  • pelvic floor problems/stress incontinence (that’s the polite way of saying you leak pee when you cough, sneeze, or laugh)
  • general core weakness

After I had The Girl, I started working out with Fit2B. Fit2B is an online fitness studio that is diastasis aware (surprisingly, many health and fitness professionals know little about diastasis, or believe it’s only worth worrying about when it’s severe and recommend surgery for treatment). I also splinted my abs for several weeks after her birth as well, and after that I at least had a belly button again (!). However, last fall I realized I needed more help. Bethany (the genius behind Fit2B) is always raving about The Tummy Team and how they helped her heal. The Tummy Team is in Washington so I thought it would be impossible to go there…but they now have an online program! I signed up for the Core Foundations, which is an 8-week program to rehab your core. I learned so much about alignment and my core during this program. And – I dropped jeans size! Without losing weight. Actually I don’t have a scale so I don’t know for sure that I didn’t lose any weight, but I eat chocolate chip cookies pretty much every night so it’s not likely I lost weight. I exchanged a pair of jeans I got right before starting the program for a smaller size, and by the time I finished those jeans were a bit loose, so I may have actually dropped 2 sizes; I just couldn’t exchange them again at that point.

My favorite part of Core Foundations was learning how to do everyday things like move clothes from the washer to dryer in a diastasis-friendly way (or, your dryer could break! Then you wouldn’t have to worry about that one at all! Except then you couldn’t snug up your newly loose jeans.). I don’t think my separation is closed all the way – I don’t check it very often at all – and I could definitely stand to tone up a bit more in the midsection (it’s still obvious that I am, in fact, a mother). But I have much better posture and much better functional strength – like I’m able to sit up straight for much longer now, and I even noticed yesterday that slumping was uncomfortable. That is a HUGE win for me. When I was going through the program I wondered if I would ever get to the point where sitting up straight was more comfortable than slumping. I’m not all the way there yet but I’m creeping along, turtle-style. And, I’m still nursing The Girl which reportedly lengthens ab recovery time, especially because that is one time I just get comfy and don’t worry about posture at all (that is NOT what Kelly of The Tummy Team recommends, by the way!).

Several people have asked me what the difference is between The Tummy Team and Fit2B, and which I would recommend if I could only recommend one. The difference between them is that The Tummy Team is a specific rehab program for your core, while Fit2B is more general fitness that incorporates core work. I can’t recommend only one! If you can only afford one, I would say it depends on how severe your diastasis is and how weak or strong your core is. Some people are able to close their diastasis with Fit2B workouts alone. If you have a wide separation and/or a weak core, I would recommend The Tummy Team‘s program first. But, I do think it’s best to follow up with Fit2B, or do both simultaneously. Being aware of alignment and protecting your core is a completely different way of thinking so whatever you choose to do for fitness, it’s important that you not exacerbate your diastasis or undo all your hard work to fix it.

So, I’m not really into taking pictures of my belly, but I can tell you it has improved drastically thanks to The Tummy Team and Fit2B. You’ll just have to take my word for it.


how to dress like a stay-at-home mom and not look like a slob

By Suzanne Brown on January 31, 2014 in i'm not an expert, parenting tags: , , , , , , , ,

First off, it is HILARIOUS that I am writing anything that could be construed as fashion advice. I am utterly clueless about what clothes are cool – it’s not just my advancing age, I’ve always been that way. So, take this with a grain of salt.

Apparently some people sneer at stay-at-home moms and think we don’t do anything, just hang out all day in PJs. These people are only on the internet, I think. Everyone I know in real life is very supportive of and encouraging of stay-at-home moms, even if it’s not their particular family arrangement. I thought I’d share a few ways to look like you have stuff pulled together when you get an unexpected knock on the door (you KNOW they’re not ringing the doorbell because you have a “Shh, babies sleeping :) ” sign taped over your doorbell) but still be just as comfy as wearing your jammies.

1. Hair. As far as I know, the ponytail is the only hairdo. Ever. There’s not point wearing it down – babies pull on it, it gets peanut butter smeared in, etc. A Flexi clip allows you to maintain this important part of your mom uniform but looks nicer than a regular rubber bandy thing. Plus, you can do some other fancy things like a bun if you’re so inclined. With your hair in a bun you can fool anybody into thinking you know what you’re doing!

flexi

2. Shirt. The cotton/modal shirts from Land’s End are AWESOME. They are pretty much all I wear. They are super soft and comfortable but look ever so much nicer than a t-shirt you got from donating blood 12 years ago. They always have some deal going on like buy 3 and get $15 off. They come in beautiful colors, 3 different necklines, and long and short sleeves. They wash really well, too.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 3.34.27 PM

3. Pants. Yoga pants are, apparently, the new sweat pants. A lot of moms wear them every day because they’re comfy and look a bit nicer than regular sweat pants. I personally like the Starfish pants from Land’s End (I swear I am not a Land’s End salesperson or anything, I just think their stuff is great quality which means I have to shop less frequently, which is awesome. I hate shopping.). They are a nicer material than your average yoga pants – in the reviews some people say they wear them as business casual – but they are super comfortable. They are a little stretchy too so it’s easy to get down in the floor to read Corduroy 3000 times or build an awesome train track. My only complaint is that the waist is a tiny bit too high for my taste, and the thighs seem really roomy. I have big thighs, too. But they’re really comfortable and look nice.

pants

In summer I wear either chino shorts with a reasonable inseam (because, you know, I have thighs and stuff) or Bermuda shorts. Those are the kind that go to your knees, right? These are from Old Navy:

shorts

4. Shoes. I have to admit, I’m still working on this one. For leaving the house, I like these ballet/Mary Jane types. (For the record, I hate that they’re Crocs. Rubber shoes seem weird to me, and they DO make your feet sweat as much as you think they would.) But, they’re comfortable, look sort-of presentable (I mean, they’re rubber…) and are basically indestructible. So if you slosh dinner while stirring (or if your 3-year-old is helping), or if a baby spits up on them, they just wipe up. So those are good things.

shoes

If anyone has recommendations for cute, comfortable, easy-care shoes with a bit of support that aren’t basically galoshes in disguise, please let me know.

For around the house, I also like ballet shoe styles. (What can I say? I want to look like Audrey Hepburn! But without working for it.) These are Isotoners and I wouldn’t be embarrassed answering the door in them, or if a neighbor stopped by for an impromptu visit.

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 3.51.53 PM

I think they’re cute but The Husband says they look like his grandma’s slippers so take that into account. I think these are cute, too (but like I said, I have no sense of fashion so I could be totally wrong). I got them for $12 plus free shipping.

73037CASSIEGRE-2

There you go! Head to toe, some super comfy, really easy options. It can be tempting to hang out in jammies all day but a quick change can really help your outlook as well as persuade the nay-sayers that mothering is a legitimate profession and worthy of respect.


how to nurse a newborn

By Suzanne Brown on November 11, 2013 in breastfeeding, newborn tags: , ,

Some things in life come easily, like breathing. Others require a little work, like learning to ride a bicycle. Still others require the development of superhuman powers, or at least a few extra arms.

You would have no problem nursing anything with arms like this. As long as you had boobs somewhere in there.

You would have no problem nursing anything with arms like this. As long as you had boobs somewhere in there.

Nursing a newborn can feel like that sometimes, that you need a few extra arms. Newborns can feel very…floppy. It’s not their fault – they’ve been floating in water for 9 months and suddenly they’re not. You know how when you’re in water you seem to weigh less and your movements are slowed? Well, babies are probably very graceful and athletic in the womb, and now that they’re earthside they accidentally smack themselves in the face (seriously. Imagine what that movement would look like underwater and you’ll know why they get so mad about it) and have trouble holding their huge heads up. They just need a little extra help (and sometimes, you do too!).

Here are a few ways to make those early nursing sessions a little more doable:

  1. Laid-back nursing: Get in a comfy, reclined or semi-reclined position. You can be laying in bed or on the couch, supported with pillows…whatever is comfortable for you. There are no rules here. Well, the rules are 1. Find a comfortable position and 2. Your top half should be somewhat elevated. Now you lay your baby on you, tummy to tummy. Any position is fine, as long as you’re both comfortable. Baby’s head should be somewhere near your breast. And then…you guys figure it out. You can help baby or not, you can position your breasts or not. (Some women’s breasts seem to be a bit more…susceptible to gravity. If this applies to you, you know what I mean.) The beauty of this arrangement is that babies have these incredible feeding reflexes that are activated in this position. (If you’re skeptical, Google “newborn crawl” and watch some amazing videos.)
    Image from La Leche League

    Image from La Leche League

     

  2. The “cross-cradle” hold: Let’s say you are wanting your baby to latch onto the left breast. In this hold, you will have your right hand under baby’s head. It works best for me if the base of their head, right where it goes from neck to head, is in that webby area between your thumb and index finger; since baby is lying sideways, the weight of their head is then resting on your fingers and part of your palm while the rest of your palm (and that webby part) support the neck. Your baby is sideways, tummy to tummy with you, perhaps supported with a pillow. Your left hand can then make a “sandwich” of your left breast. Often breasts are engorged in the early days so positioning the breast with your hand looking like a C or a U (the way you hold a sandwich) can help make it more manageable for a tiny newborn mouth. This shows it so much better than an explanation:
    from http://www.breastfeedinghelphamilton.ca

    from http://www.breastfeedinghelphamilton.ca

     

  3. Get some extra hands, literally: if you do any researching or reading about breastfeeding you will read about “support” or “partner support.” Sometimes this means that mom has someone she can talk to when is frustrated with a breastfeeding issue, someone who will be sympathetic but still supportive of her breastfeeding goals and encourage her to keep up the good work. Other times it literally means mom needs some hands-on help. With both my babies it has taken (I’m not exaggerating!) 3 or 4 hands to get them latched on at the beginning. I tend to use the cross-cradle hold, and as you can see above both hands are occupied. My son needed his lower lip flipped out every time we nursed because he tended to suck it in, and my daughter needed some gentle jaw massaging (her jaw got a bit jammed during her exit journey, which is normal, and was gently adjusted by a wonderful chiropractor who recommended lightly rubbing her jaw while she nursed for a few days to get rid of any residual tightness). You know who performed these extra-hand duties? Daddy. He was on board with breastfeeding, not in a “Well, it’s your choice” kind of way but in an “I will do whatever I can to help you make this work” kind of way. This is why it is so important for dad to be involved in learning about breastfeeding – why it’s important and how he can help – before baby comes. When the babies and I encountered hurdles, my husband was right there with the extra hands I needed.

Some day, before you know it, your baby will be able to hold his head up on his own and you will be able to nurse one-handed. Until then, having a few positioning tricks like laid-back breastfeeding and the cross-cradle hold can make a world of difference in your comfort and confidence. And if you need a little extra help, don’t be afraid to ask.

 

Note: I am not a breastfeeding professional; I am simply a mama who has breastfed a couple of babies. Take my advice with a grain of salt. If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding I encourage you to contact a local La Leche League leader and/or a qualified lactation consultant.


postpartum recovery

By Suzanne Brown on September 12, 2013 in postpartum tags: , , , , , , , , ,

When I had The Boy, I was totally caught off guard by postpartum recovery. My main birth prep was to read the Bradley birth books, as we were overseas and had no access to a live class. In his book, Dr. Bradley says some things that weren’t exactly true for me, things like “Natural birth moms love the pushing stage!” and “Natural birth moms almost never tear! And if they do, it’s just a minor tear and they can’t feel it anyway because the baby’s head numbs the perineum!” and “Natural birth moms feel great afterward! They walk to their room instead of ride in a wheelchair and they are back to normal in no time!”

Suffice it to say that after my first birth I was cursing Dr. Bradley.

I hated pushing, I did tear – quite badly, actually – and felt every bit of it, and I tried to walk to my room (after eyeing the wheelchair I determined I would never be able to sit again) but nearly passed out when I stood up (THANK GOD Husband was holding the baby) so the wheelchair it was. And it was much longer to feel “back to normal” than I expected. Now, recovery was MUCH quicker and more comfortable after my second, so every birth is different. But I learned it is better to be prepared than sorry. It is a good idea to have some supplies gathered beforehand because you need to stay in bed for a while after giving birth – no running errands! – and if you think it is awkward for you to buy some of this stuff, try sending your husband out to get adult diapers.

1. Bleeding – You bleed pretty heavily after having a baby. It is called lochia and this happens even if you have a c-section because you are bleeding from the site where the placenta detached. My midwife told me to get some Depends and said they were really comfy and I would love them. I scoffed…but she was right. They are GREAT for the first few days. I like these – you can get coupons for them, and if you go here you can get a free pair. You will want more than the free pair, though – go ahead and treat yourself to a whole pack. After a couple of days you can switch to pads – NO TAMPONS. The bleeding usually lasts a few weeks and gradually tapers off. Your bleeding is your body’s way of telling you how you’re healing – if it picks up after slowing down, you are doing too much and need to rest more. You may feel ridiculous for resting as much as you need to but your body truly needs it. You will bleed for a much shorter time if you spend the first days/weeks in bed (or at least laying down).

Depends

2. Soreness – even if you don’t tear, your muscles just did A LOT of work. Your joints stretched. Your entire pelvis will be somewhat sore and your lady bits will be swollen. One of my friends recommended keeping Tucks pads in the fridge and layering them on top of your pad like pepperonis. This feels great! I like these because they also have aloe in them for extra healing and soothing, but regular Tucks will work fine. You can also use a bag of frozen peas as an ice pack. If you deliver with a midwife, she will sometimes give you some herbal teabag-type things to use as an ice pack too.

witch hazel pads

postpartum bath herbs

3. Bathroom – Your first pee and poop after you deliver may terrify you. For pee, your care provider *should* give you a little squirt bottle called a peri bottle (unless you are in France where they give you NOTHING). You fill it with warm water, then as you start to pee you squirt it where the pee is coming out. This dilutes it so it doesn’t burn. (You’ll thank me later.) For poop – many ladies swear by mild stool softeners. Personally I just eat Activia yogurt every day. Basically you do not want to have to push to get poop out so if you have any favorite tricks, this is the time to pull them out. (No pun intended.) Your pelvic muscles are really stretched after having a baby so you may very well discover that you have “stress incontinence,” which means you leak pee when you laugh, sneeze, or cough. Or you just leak pee. Take heart, this is correctable and (usually) a very easy fix. Go ahead and start doing Kegel-type exercises again after you deliver. These are the only exercises you are allowed to do for at least 6 weeks! Do 10 squeezes every time you nurse the baby, or give yourself some other kind of reminder.

peri bottle

4. Abdomen – During pregnancy all your internal organs get squished around to make room for baby. Once baby vacates the premises, these organs start drifting around in search of their previous home. This is a very unsettling feeling, like your whole torso is filled with Jell-O. At minimum I recommend wearing a belly band – the kind you use during pregnancy when your normal jeans don’t fit but maternity jeans are too big – to help everything feel contained. However, the more I learn about diastasis recti (abdominal separation) the more it seems to be very, very common after pregnancy. If you think you may have this I highly recommend splinting your abs, either with this splint or this one. And I know I said you were only allowed to do Kegels but I will also allow you to do a few diastasis-safe ab exercises (no crunches!!!) to take advantage of your postpartum healing hormones. (Short version: try to pull your belly button to your spine and pulse a few times. That’s it. I am not talking about a strenuous workout here, you are just trying to get the left and right halves of your abs to be friends again.)

5. Afterpains – these are contractions after you give birth. They help the uterus go back to its normal size. Supposedly you don’t feel them too much with the first baby and after that they get worse with each kid. Well, I definitely felt them after The Boy, and they didn’t feel good…but they were much worse after The Girl. When you breastfeed, your body releases oxytocin which triggers these contractions so it can be really hard to focus on your baby when you’re in pain. My midwife recommends this stuff called After Ease. There are a few different ways you can take it; I squirted a dropperful into my water bottle every time I filled it up. I started using it right after I had The Girl and I was skeptical about how well it actually worked…until I ran out. Then I promptly bought some more.

After Ease

6. Hunger (and thirst) – I thought I was hungry when I was pregnant. Oh, no. That was just a foretaste (ha!) of Hunger. The first few weeks of The Boy’s life I was RAVENOUS. Beyond ravenous. I was so hungry it felt like I would never be able to eat enough. I was so thirsty it felt like I would never be able to drink enough. If you have someone helping you after baby is born make sure they know to keep the fridge and pantry fully stocked, and ask them to make you snacks. You will spend so much time nursing and changing diapers (and sleeping whenever you can) that it will be easy to skip meals (even though you’re SO FREAKING HUNGRY). Make sure you are getting plenty of protein and fresh fruits and vegetables. Your helper can wash the fruit ahead of time or cut it up if necessary so it’s grab-and-go easy for you. If you don’t have a helper, try to get your fridge stocked ahead of time or ask a friend to bring you some. Also, whether you have a helper or not, it is a good idea to put some meals in the freezer before baby comes. Don’t wait until the last minute to do this…I may have had a bad experience with procrastination on this one.

7. Sweating/leaking fluids – You have a lot of extra fluids when you’re pregnant, and I don’t just mean your amniotic fluid. Your blood volume drastically increases too. After baby is born, your body needs to get rid of all that extra fluid, so you will still find yourself peeing all the time and for a while you may also wake up at night to find yourself drenched in sweat. Additionally, you may also leak milk for a while – days or weeks for some, months for others. After a few nights of waking up soaking wet all over in milk and sweat, I started sleeping on towels. One for the upper body for the sweat and milk (I was sticking a prefold diaper in my shirt, leaking straight through that and still had a puddle of milk around me), and one under my hips/bottom in case of a pad leak. (Postpartum is a very undignified time in your life.) It is way easier to toss a wet towel on the floor and grab a clean one (or two) than to change the sheets, especially if you have to wake up daddy. This time is very short, usually a few days to a week, although the milk leaking may last longer. Breastmilk does stain so use towels you don’t mind having spots on. If your baby is sleeping with you, make sure the towel is big enough for them too because babies spit up and their diapers leak. There are just a lot of fluids going on.

8. Hair loss – After a few months – around 4, in my experience – all your hair will fall out. Even if you know this is coming, even if your friends warn you that it is A LOT of hair that will fall out, you will find yourself in the shower thinking “DEAR GOD, I HAVE CANCER, HOW WILL MY BABY EAT WHEN I DIE?!?!?!” It is a terrible amount of hair. The hair that is left will be noticeably thinner; you will find yourself wrapping that ponytail holder around an extra time or two. Then, around month 7 or 8, just when you think you are more bald than not, your hair will start to grow back so you will have a super-attractive halo of teeny little hairs that stick up all over the place.

9. Nipple pain – Everyone says it’s not normal, but it IS common, and while you get the kinks worked out of how to teach a baby to latch on you want to keep your nipples intact. My very favorite nipple cream/balm is Mustela Nursing Comfort Balm. You can get it at Babies R Us and Buy Buy Baby. They gave me a little sample packet of it at the hospital in France – the only thing they gave me – and I loved it. I acted like that stuff was gold cream the way I treasured it and used it so sparingly. For some reason it did not occur to me to give it to The Husband and tell him to go buy me a whole tube of it. Anyway, I like that it doesn’t have lanolin in it and the texture is like lotion, so it just soaks in and doesn’t stain your clothes or feel sticky. It’s great stuff.

Nursing-Comfort-Balm_0

The most important thing you can know about postpartum recovery is REST. Rest rest rest rest rest. Don’t go to the mall, don’t go for long walks, don’t do any housework that isn’t absolutely necessary for survival. Just stay in bed with your baby and rest. Besides being great for breastfeeding and bonding, you will heal so much faster and better if you take the first few weeks to simply rest. Gather a “kit” of your recovery supplies before your birth so you don’t feel the need to go to the store. Instead, you can focus your attention and whatever energy you have on getting to know your sweet baby!