Weaning Considerations

A friend recently told me about the sadness she was feeling as her toddler slowly but surely began weaning himself. It started when she replaced her pumped milk with cow’s milk during the work day, and continued as kiddo not only asked for the breast less and less at home, but also began to refuse when this mama offered.

breakfast foodskids with glasses of milkMany moms I spoke with shared similar stories, and we all sat around commiserating on how very hard it can be when our young people decide they are ready to stop nursing. It’s so interesting how sometimes, we get so overwhelmed with nursing we say, “I wish you’d just wean already!” but then when it starts happening, we feel overcome by sadness and other dramatic emotions. 

I don’t really have personal insight into the issue of a child self-weaning. I weaned my older son when I became pregnant with #2, and I’m going one day at a time with #2 as I move along my pregnancy with #3, watching and waiting as my toddler drops nursing sessions. I can, however, relate to the mixed emotions that come with weaning!

One thing I’m glad I did when my first son weaned: Create a New Tradition. I started serving my older son chamomile tea in a Beatrix Potter bunny mug. We’d cuddle on the couch and sip tea together, and it was so nice! As he got more verbal, we were able to have a little chat while we drank our tea.

I also checked in with our pediatrician to Make Sure Nutritional Needs Are Met. Breastmilk is a whole milk, so I never worried about cow milk while my kids were nursing voraciously. But as they (or I…) cut breastmilk out of their diets, I needed to make sure they got enough fat, calcium, protein, etc.

Kellymom reminds us that weaning is usually a gradual process (abrupt nursing stoppages can indicate a nursing strike, distractibility, limitations on times/places to nurse, etc.). Stopping gradually allows for mom’s hormone levels and milk production to balance slowly, which is more comfortable for everyone. This is a great article about comfort measures for moms while weaning, discussing everything from engorgement to depression/mood swings.

Once weaning is eminent, some moms like the idea of a Weaning Ceremony to commemorate their experience and bring closure. The Jewish religion has a ritual honoring weaning. Some mothers anoint themselves with herbs to encourage milk to dry up, while others throw a party for their weaned child.

Moms can always buy themselves some jewelry to commemorate their time spent nursing, too!

One important step for the newly-weaned mother is to go get fitted for bras! Our breasts can change a lot through the course of nursing and weaning. It’s so important to find a bra that fits and supports properly.

Did your child wean on his or her own? Leave us a comment to share how you commemorated weaning in your family!

Camp Grandma Underway!

Well, I did it. I left my children with my parents and drove away back home to Pittsburgh. I almost backed out and brought my Felix back with me–when I got up in the morning he ran over and asked me to cuddle him and I just melted into a pile of mush.

Pictures like this one from my mom help me not worry about them...toooooo much.

Pictures like this one from my mom help me not worry about them…toooooo much.

But, as my husband keeps reminding me, I haven’t slept in years. The past few months have been particularly harsh on the sleep front, and I’m pregnant. I need to think about me and my new, unborn baby. So I beeped the horn and drove away as the kids drove around on the Power Wheels.

I was focused a lot on my milk: Felix was just about weaned, but then contracted croup and has been sick for three weeks, nursing frequently again. Even though I’m 24 weeks pregnant, I worried I’d get engorged given our cold-turkey separation. But once we were at my parents’ house for the weekend, he was too busy to nurse anyway. He nursed to sleep the night before I headed back and that was the last time he even asked.

I sat for a long time in the rocking chair just enjoying the moment in case it was our last time. Knowing him, he’ll probably start back up again when I pick him up on Thursday. Or maybe he won’t!

Frequent text messages and pictures help me see what a good time they’re having at Camp Grandma, and my goodness! It’s easy to get things done at home when it’s just me to think about. I really can’t recall the last time I was alone in my house.

As soon as I got home, I cleared out all their heaps of junk mail and stashed bits of paper and broken chunks of plastic (“treasures,” they call them). I rotated the toys and books that we have out on the shelves. I washed the dishes, did the laundry, went grocery shopping. All of this in about 2 hours. I’d forgotten how quickly it’s possible to do things without little hands and feet “helping” along the way.

This morning, I got up at seven and started work right away, just because I could. By noon, I’ll have done as much work as I usually get a chance to do in a whole school day.

So far, this experience has taught me that I need to get a bit more childcare than I currently have–it would be nice to complete my paid work all during the day instead of having to finish up the bits and pieces at night after everyone’s gone to sleep.

I’ve also remembered what I love most about my kids. This restorative sleep break has been really healthy for me. I’ve been just so run down that I’ve had a super short fuse. Quick to anger, I haven’t been the best mama I can be, and we’ve all had long and frustrating days of late. I’m excited to reunite with my babies on a full tank and see how our days unfold.

Have you ever sent your kids off to Camp Grandma for a few days? Leave us a comment to share what you appreciated most about the vacation. 

Do You Have Your Act Together?

Do you and your partner have a will? Power of attorney? A living will? If not, you’re not alone–only 36% of Americans have a will, according to a poll by Rocket Lawyer.

iStock_000022627467SmallWomanSigningPaperNobody likes to think about this stuff. Who wants to sit with their partner and discuss which conditions you’d remove life support or not? How do you even begin to think about who would take guardianship of your children in the event of tragedy?

The fact remains that death is our only certainty. Even though it’s unpleasant, we need to have these conversations with our partner.

Chanel Reynolds, a young mom living in Seattle, WA, knows from experience the importance of squaring away the details. Her husband Jose was killed in a cycling accident, and while they’d begun a discussion about their wishes, they had nothing finalized or signed. She didn’t even know the password to his phone to contact his relatives.

On top of her unfathomable grief, Reynolds was navigating probate court, spending thousands on legal fees, and wrangling mountains of insurance paperwork.

She felt motivated to help other families avoid this pain and created a website with templates, checklists, and step-by-step information for families to create DIY legal documents. Many of her legal document templates are only valid in Washington state, but the website equips people to find similar forms valid in their own home state.

In short, these 3 documents are the important ones to think about:

Last Will–this document details what happens to your possessions in the event of your death. A will can also outline your wishes for guardianship of your children, should both parents die. Don’t assume everything will automatically go to your partner or your kids! Make these wishes official.

Power of Attorney–this document allows another person to act for you if you are incapacitated (or out of the country). For instance, Power of Attorney lets someone else begin the court process, sell your home on your behalf, withdraw funds to pay utilities, etc. if you’re unconscious.

Living Willthis document outlines your wishes for your medical treatment if you aren’t able to make these decisions yourself. It also outlines who can make these decisions for you.

Since I got overwhelmed thinking about this stuff, I dragged my bag working on it for a long time. Reynolds’ website allowed me to sign up for a monthly nagging email where she reminded me to get on my horse and get my act together. Reynolds points out this work is a huge pain, but so is getting a Pap smear or an oil change, and we manage to regularly take care of that!

My husband and I finally took care of business last year. We created a document that gathers our accounts and digital information so we’d be able to access each other’s information–that took a really, really long time and it was super tedious, but now we never have to do it again.

We used Rocket Lawyer for our will, power of attorney, and living will, because April is “make a will” month and they offer the forms we needed for free. But there are a number of similar websites out there that walk you through each step, much like Turbo Tax does with income taxes.

I felt an enormous weight was lifted in completing our paperwork. There is a great peace that comes with knowing a plan is in place, so we don’t have to think about it anymore. Instead, we can focus on enjoying our lives together with our children (except that we still need to get life insurance! Good thing I get the monthly email reminders!).

Does your family have your act together? Leave us a comment to share your motivation!

Thrush 101

baby with thrush

A baby with a white, yeasty tongue–she’s been diagnosed with thrush. Image Source

Right now, it seems like “supply” is all the rage when discussing breastfeeding challenges. This wasn’t always the case! A few years ago, thrush was the word of the hour. Of course, thrush is still alive and thriving among us, although my sources agree thrush is pretty rare. We’d like to give an overview of thrush, discuss some prevention tips, and review common treatments.

What is Thrush?
Thrush is a yeast infection–so, a fungus–caused by a little critter called Candida albicans. We all have this organism present, and usually our regular flora keeps it in check. It presents on the breast itself, but also transfers back and forth between mama and baby’s mouth.

Thrush presents in mama as burning nipple pain; itching, shiny, flaky skin on the nipples/areola; and deep or shooting pain in the breast. As we know, a number of different nursing challenges also present these same symptoms, so diagnosing thrush can be tricky. The text Counseling the Nursing Mother describes the pain of a Candida infection as, “feeling like hot cords burning in the chest wall”– intense, burning pain that radiates through the breast during or after feedings.

In babies, thrush appears like a white, filmy coating on the tongue (like milk tongue that doesn’t seem to go away). it can also present as a diaper rash, a pearly sheen inside the mouth, clicking during nursing, breast refusal, or excessive gas. (Many of these, too, can be symptoms of other problems! It’s all so confusing, which is why it’s so important to visit a medical provider for a diagnosis)

La Leche League International reminds us that moms and babies are at increased risk of developing thrush if either has recently taken antibiotics. History of vaginal yeast infection could make a mother more susceptible to thrush, too.

How Can We Avoid Thrush?
Taking care of the nipples can be a first line of defense. Yeast can sneak into cracked or wounded nipples, so if you sense this is coming, be sure to treat your nipples with care. Letting them air dry, applying coconut oil, or other ointments can work wonders in caring for nipples.

Oral contraception containing estrogen can make a mother more susceptible to thrush. Consider discussing alternate forms of contraception if thrush is a concern for you.

Take good care of nursing pads, nursing bras, and anything that comes in prolonged contact with your breasts. Damp materials that sit against milky nipples can invite thrush. Plastic lined nursing pads seem to prevent air flow to the nipple area more than cotton or cloth nursing pads.

If you or baby are prescribed an antibiotic, Kellymom says you can help prevent thrush by taking probtiotics. The article reminds us there is evidence in the medical literature that probiotics can decrease the risk of Candida overgrowth (Drisko 2003, Payne 2003, Kopp-Hoolihan 2001, Lykova 2000).

Probiotics can be found in yogurt or fermented foods (sauerkraut, kombucha, etc.), but are also found by themselves in chewable or liquid form. Take care to avoid sugary yogurts or probiotic drinks–sugar can help feed the yeast!

Breastfeeding is one way to avoid thrush–CTNM says infants who are predominantly breastfed have much less occurrence of Candida than babies who are fed with bottles (this could be linked to the challenges of properly sterilizing bottles and artificial nipples between feedings).

How Is Thrush Treated?
 Take note: if a prescribed treatment for thrush does not work within a few days, chances are high you are actually dealing with another problem. MOST nipple pain is related to latch. So, a good first course of action is to really carefully evaluate baby’s latch, regardless of where you are in your nursing relationship.

Many providers say both the mother and nursling must be treated simultaneously, or else they will continue to pass the infection back and forth. Sometimes, just rinsing and air-drying the breasts in sunshine can help clear up mild thrush.

Yeast are tricky little organisms that can resist many forms of medication. Your care provider might suggest moving to a topical, over-the-counter antifungal ointment for mom. All Purpose Nipple Ointment is often a first prescription for mom that can help ease nipple pain while attacking the yeast organisms.

The International Breastfeeding Centre recommends diluted grapefruit seed extract application to the nipples in conjunction with APNO–the extract can also be added to laundry to help keep Candida at bay.

Infants are usually prescribed an oral antifungal, which parents apply with a cotton swab.

Gentian violet is available over the counter and has a long track record of success in treating thrush, though the International Breastfeeding Center suggests the Candida might be evolving to resist it. It’s an antiseptic dye with antibacterial/antifungal properties that you might have seen used on your baby’s umbilical cord stump! CTNM describes how this purple-colored ointment is swabbed on the mother’s breast as well as inside the baby’s mouth. The International Breastfeeding Centre cautions parents should look for 1% dilution, as this product can be very drying.

The next step would be an oral antifungal that the nursing mother would take. These are powerful medications, requiring prescription and monitoring by a physician.

Throughout the treatment process, it’s imperative that families exercise good hygiene: hand washing before and after diapering, using the toilet, and breastfeeding can help stop the spread of yeast. Boiling bras, breast shields, pump parts, etc. can also help to kill the Candida. CTNM suggests discarding anything that goes in the baby’s mouth, such as pacifiers, nipples, and teethers after one week of use. Plus, families should clean toys and clothing in hot water.

Have you and your baby experienced thrush? Leave us a comment to share your prevention and treatment tips!

Camp Grandma

My older son gets a week off from school for Spring Break. I immediately decided we’d send him to Camp Grandma (and Grandpa!) during his vacation–we’ve done this before, taking him to my parents about 4 hours East for half the week and then my husband’s parents gather him mid-way through to drive him . . . → Read More: Camp Grandma

Ways Dads (Or Grandmas) Can Bond with Babies without Bottles

When my first son was born, one of the biggest hurdles for me establishing a great nursing relationship was this notion that the best/only/most important way to bond with a new baby was for loved ones to feed the baby a bottle.

Of course, when a new baby is eating every 90 minutes, feeding . . . → Read More: Ways Dads (Or Grandmas) Can Bond with Babies without Bottles

Male Postpartum Depression: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Did you know that postpartum mood disorders are not just limited to mothers? As we continue discussing postpartum mood disorders (see our previous posts about this subject for more information), we turn our eye toward ways fathers can be affected after the birth of their children.

I first learned about this issue in reading . . . → Read More: Male Postpartum Depression: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention