Loving Support WBW 2016

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Listening: the Tricky Task

   I've been contemplating the whole concept of listening recently and how crucial it is to both the parent and the child. As infants, our children depend on our listening abilities for us, as parents, to read their minds and meet their non-verbalized needs. We as mothers tend to fall asleep with one ear perked, constantly listening and ready to spring to the baby's call at any given hour. And as the child grows and begins to try his skill at words, we attentively listen to help him form his tiny sounds and complete his short, simple sentences. It's from this moment on that the dialogue between parent and child begins and the give and take slowly forms their relationship.
   The way we, as parents, listen to our sons and daughters also leads to the establishment of their own self worth. Depending on our openness to what they have to say or our quick dismissal of their side of the conversation, our babies could grow up to value themselves and feel assured in their choices as adults, or struggle with indecision and self-love throughout their lives and future relationships. Like it or not, we determine our children's success of independence and maturity through the simplest and most difficult task of listening. 

   It's a tough thing to admit that even as full-grown adults, we thrive on being listened to as an affirmation of self-importance. I realize that listening well, more than anything else that I can do as a counselor, can change the entire direction of a conversation as well as shift the mood of the environment from impossible to possible. It's a crucial skill and one that I need to practice at regularly.
   Some days I just don't listen well. I'm too stuck inside my own head, or too eager to solve the problem that I miss extremely important nuances that could clue me in to what is at the core of an issue. This isn't just with clients, but also with my family. My spouse will point out how he doesn't feel listened to, or my boys will say my name umpteen times, desperate to tell me something that matters to them. If I'm honest with myself, sometimes I actually just do not care about whatever is significant enough to my family members that they HAVE to share it with me. Sometimes I'm just distracted by whatever seems more crucial to me at the moment. Sometimes it's painful for me to patiently sit and listen ...and not interject. But when I stop being selfish; when I halt my own thoughts for a moment; when I realize that these people are what's MOST important to me, then I can make room for what's important to them. I can make a silent space for them to express themselves openly and completely.
Today I leave you with a challenge: Make the effort to listen.

No matter how challenging, frustrating, or excruciating it may be, LISTEN. And when you feel yourself forming your response or you notice your thoughts wandering off while your loved one speaks, draw yourself back into this person and their words. In the end, you will build a new level of mutual trust and support in your relationship. You will show your genuine care for that person and give them the feeling of being understood. Isn't that the one thing we all desire? Who knew that listening was the answer to so many pursuits.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dear Working Mom

My love letter to working moms

This is my letter to the mamas who are committed to breastfeeding their little bundles of joy and to their outside employment. Juggling life is especially tricky as a working, lactating parent, and even more so here in the United States. So I am writing to you supermoms who work outside the home to help you with the specific challenges of simultaneously breastfeeding, pumping, and working for the man. ;)

The best possible piece of advice I have is: Prepare, Prepare, PREPARE... You have roughly 9 months to educate yourself, your partner, your supervisors, your family members, and any potential daycare centers of your goals and plans that come with becoming a mom. I HIGHLY recommend reading "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" as your starting literature. La Leche League sells it on their website, you can probably borrow the book from your local LLL group or WIC clinic, or you can buy it on Amazon here. Sure, there are plenty of other very helpful books, including "What to Expect When You're Expecting," but to be honest, their are apps on your phone that could get you all the info that is in that book and at certain pregnancy markers as you are able to absorb it.
Start making a plan with your HR rep and/or boss of when you'll be returning to work, whether you'll come back full-time or part-time (at least at first), how frequently and where you will be needing to pump and your rights protecting your pump breaks under federal (and state) laws, what measures, if any, you can/will take to store your pumped milk, and anything else you can think of to cover with your supervisors for your unique work/home situation. Virtually as soon as you see that positive signal on your pregnancy test, start formulating your goals and plans to present to your job as well as with your partner and daycare provider. Attending birthing and labor classes and infant feeding education classes with your partner or a support person will help you form a plan as it provides perspectives that maybe you hadn't considered on your own.

Next, is the matter of pumping and building a nice stock of expressed breast milk. When pumping milk for the time that you'll be away, keep in mind that babies may eat a bit more from a bottle, especially if the care-giver is not pacing the bottle feeds. Normally, I don't encourage moms to start pumping or introducing bottles until after 6 weeks. Of course, that's the entire maternity leave of most moms, and some more unfortunate moms go back much earlier than that. The next best timeline to give is the first 2 weeks focusing on exclusively breastfeeding, to get down the routine, and get in plenty of practice to perfect latching on, before adding in pumping, storing, and bottle feeding. If you're going back to work before 2 weeks postpartum, reconsider. Your body has gone through serious changes and, dare I say, trauma and it is not recommended that any postpartum mom be on her feet too much or do any strenuous activity while the body is healing. This is regardless of whether you had a c-section or delivered vaginally, although each has it's own particular precautions to consider. When it comes to pumping, I recommend pumping more often than the baby nurses, at least in the beginning. Fitting in pumping while nursing can help ease the extra work that comes with pumping that often.

Lastly, not everyone struggles with a little thing we call "mommy guilt," but if you happen to feel the burden of leaving your newborn and consequently the guilt of "abandoning" your baby for periods of time, take a deep breath. While going back to work when the baby is so very little is not an ideal situation, it is the reality for a huge number of moms. A reality that I don't see changing anytime soon. But remember that motherhood in and of itself is the hardest job you will ever have and there's no right or perfect way to be a mom. If you love your child and you do your best to provide your baby with the strongest, most ideal start to life, then pat yourself on the back because that is all anyone could ever ask for.
 Being a mom is hard whether you stay at home for the first 10 years of your child's life or you're out the door to work while your baby is still a baby. Neither situation makes parenting easier, trust me. I'm speaking from my own personal experience here. While I stayed home with my oldest until he was 3, I was putting my youngest into daycare when he turned one to go back to school/work. Both situations had their own unique struggles and while I preferred being at home with my teeny, tiny little guys, I also welcomed the freedom of sipping coffee quietly in a cafe while studying without interruption. Either way, if you can nurse your baby while home and if you're even able to exclusively feed your baby your (pumped) breast milk when you're away, know that you are giving your baby liquid love with every drop.  So good job, mama!!! Feel guilty no more. Take heart in knowing that your baby is well cared for just by the fact that YOU care for, worry about, and love him/her with every thought, breath, and ounce of breast milk.

Monday, March 21, 2016

3 Thoughts I Had When I First Met My Husband

I think of all the complexities of life, falling in love is the most mysterious. 
I often look around at my home and family and marvel at how I ended up here. Thinking back at the first interactions with my now husband of almost 8 years, I could never have imagined this is where we'd be. I am truly amazed and grateful on a daily basis for how God has blessed me and guided my path. Despite my best efforts to do my own thing and divert my future from where I stand today, God was faithful to bring someone into my life who grounded me in a way I wasn't (I thought) prepared for.

The year I met my man, I was in a very dark place mentally, emotionally, and financially. I had a string of bad dates and relationships that went nowhere. The pressure of bills without a roommate had led me to take a management job to avoid working multiple jobs, which I'd been doing for too long. Once thrown into a position I was barely trained for with no support from staff nor upper management, I knew that my new position was a huge mistake and very negatively affecting me, crushing my spirit a little more every day. I had become the kind of employee I'm intolerant of and didn't recognize myself at work nor in private. So, I chose to up and quit spontaneously. Immediately after, I jumped in my car and drove to my parents' house to spend one of the last opportunities I had for a Christmas with my entire family. From there, I left my apartment and moved back to my parents' home, compelled by my deep depression. I was fully aware how dangerous my depression had become and knew I needed to be surrounded by people who loved me and would keep me accountable. Under all these circumstances, I still somehow found the capacity to fall in love.
Although I had sworn off men and intimate relationships, I was determined to make new friends, start the healing process, and repair my spiritual life one step at a time. My sister had become the door to a new world of friends and social events, and I took the opportunities that came which led to my meeting my husband.
 So, today I'm going to share with you the first thoughts I had the day I met my hubby-wubs:

1. The very first thing that struck me was how tall he was. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I went to his house for a dinner "party." I was just initially stunned at how tall he was. 

2. His height wasn't the only thing that was bigger than I expected... Hey now, dear readers. Get your minds out of the gutter, I was only referring to his personality! He was so friendly, non-judgmental, hospitable, and such a fresh breath of air. I felt comfortable and relaxed in his presence, which led to great conversation, which led to us finding out how much we agreed on and how compatible we were. Even if I wasn't immediately hearing wedding bells, he was definitely a candidate to become a very, very good friend. I can't overstate how much that helped with my recovery. Hope was reborn in discovering his new friendship.

3. He was exotic to me. He came from a different world both figuratively and literally. He spoke a new language, cooked savory, distinctive food, listened and danced to exciting music. He had such an original perspective on life. I LOVED that. Still do, by the way. ;)

Through all the challenges we've faced separately and together, we were both shaped and stretched into better people. Today when obstacles come, as they often do in life, we choose to take them head on and grow stronger together. This has been our glue in marriage. Bonded we stand, divided we fail. If there is any advice I could leave, it would be: STICK TOGETHER. Fight everything that tries to pull you apart. Life is filled with distractions and tests that will try to keep you apart and drive a division between you and your partner; fight against those things with all of your will. And if you both battle to be united, you will succeed in finding each other and building a stronger union with your spouse and companion. 
Now, it's just the two of us against the world! 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Is your baby or toddler ready to wean?

Recently, I have often been asked about weaning. So, before I give you my best suggestions, ask yourself these Questions: 

+ Is your baby at least a year old?
     If not, reconsider weaning altogether. Remember that a 6 month old who has begun solids is already starting the weaning process."The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant."  What's more is that the World Health Organization affirms that "Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond."

+ Is your baby teething or going through growth spurts? 
     If so, consider that the discomfort he is experiencing may drive him to the breast more frequently throughout his day. Nothing soothes physical and emotional discomfort like mommy's breast milk and cuddles.

+ Do you see that your baby/toddler seeks out nursing when she is out and about or with other friends/relatives?
     If not, that is a good indicator that you can successfully begin fully weaning her from the breast without too much adverse affects on or reactions from your toddler.

+ Are you and/or your family making big changes to your life, routine, etc?
     If so, consider that your child may be more resistant to weaning as it is his place of comfort and normalcy in his new, unfamiliar day. Maybe wait a month or so for things to settle down and for the new changes to become more routine. 

So, Are you really ready to wean completely? 
Sometimes just cutting back on the amount of times you breastfeed can really improve your experience and how your overall weaning process goes. If your baby is under a year, you will still have to supplement a bottle or cup feeding for a missed breastfeeding. 
If weaning is your decision, it's best for you and your baby to do it gradually, and with love. If you wean "cold turkey," your breasts will likely become painfully engorged, and you might develop a breast infection or other complication. Your baby will probably fight the switch from your warm, soft breast to a plastic substitute. He might mourn the loss of "his" breasts. Keep in mind that babies nurse for more than just milk, and a bottle or cup will not comfort or support his development the way breastfeeding does.
An older baby may accept a drink from a cup, a nutritious snack, or just a distraction in the form of a game, a toy, or change of scene.
To wean a baby under a year, if the baby won't accept the bottle from you, (he knows the breast is near!), see if Daddy or Grandma can succeed. Let the baby have a few days (or weeks) between each time you substitute a breastfeeding session with a bottle. If you become engorged , express a little milk from your breasts to your own comfort. Don't express a whole feeding's worth of milk; just take the pressure off. Your body will get the signal to make less milk over time.
A useful resource is The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning by Kathleen Huggins and Linda Ziedrich, available from the LLLI Online Store.

Other Tips:
-A lot of extra love and attention in other forms will be needed now. Try getting out more: to the playground, a friend's house, shopping, museums, anything your child will be distracted with and stimulated by.
-Talk to your child about what's going on. She may understand more than you think.
-Read stories, rub or scratch his little back, sing and dance. It's a whole new stage in your growing child's life. You will still be needed, just in different ways.
-Substitute her least favorite feeding first.
- At mealtimes, try to offer food first, with a short session at the breast for later.
-Avoid sitting down in your special favorite "nursing chair." Put away your favorite nursing pillow, if you have one.
- Substitute a cup of water, juice or cow's milk (if tolerated), or solid food, for your toddler's least important feeding.
- Dad (or another relative) can help by taking the baby to the kitchen for a good breakfast--Daddy style. This can become a special time for both of them. (And maybe you get some extra sleep!)
- To wean a baby who is about a year, or older, all you may need to do is stop offering the breast. "Don't offer, don't refuse" may work for you.
The nighttime feeding is usually the last to go. Completely change the order of bedtime routine items to confuse him/her, creating less demand to nurse when it is not part of a new routine.
-Make a bedtime routine not centered on breastfeeding. A good book or two will eventually become more important than a long session at the breast. Your child may be content just to rest his head on your breast instead of feeding.
Have daddy take over the bedtime routine. It’s good bonding for them. So if you have someone else that can put her to bed, that will help. 
-Instead of breastfeeding, give him a bottle with just water. He will learn that it’s pointless to wake up at night, just for water.
Try putting a drop of ginger extract on the areola (not on the nipple). It’s so bitter that it will put her off.  The next day, rub some on your shirt near the breast to keep her away from the area.
-Try just holding him.  A lot of the times it’s not so much the milk but the warmth, smell, and sound of you that calms him. Make sure he ate enough at dinner and just try being with him. Eventually, he’ll realize that losing the milk doesn’t mean he is losing his mommy.
Put band aids on your nipples and your baby will see that you have an “ouchie”.
Put Vegemite on the areola and tell her it’s a “boo-boo”! 
With food coloring, draw black dots or lines on your breasts/areolas to deter the baby from wanting to latch. Babies/toddlers love familiarity, but if his favorite place to eat looks drastically different, he may not want it anymore.

Basically, like everything in the life of parenting, keep trying different things until something begins to work. But keep in mind that weaning can be a bit like potty training in that you can keep trying to make it work, but if your child isn't ready, it'll be that much more difficult. It may actually mean less stress and frustration if you wait a little while and try again, when your baby may be ready. In the meantime, mamas:  Keep Calm and Nurse ON!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Relentless Optimist

My husband is amazingly optimistic.... did I say amazingly? .... I meant annoyingly....

His smile is seen more often than his frown. He loves to laugh, even at depressing or difficult times. He doesn't give in to reality telling him he won't get that promotion that he's only partially qualified for. He's probably not the guy you want to vent to because he'll find a way to put a happy spin on your misery.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a pessimist at heart. I just have a slightly more realistic perspective. For example, I understand real time frames, where my hubby tries to fit everything plus the kitchen sink into his day-to-day schedule. One day off means he'll attempt to wash the car, bathe the dog, fix the leaky sink, take the kids grocery shopping with him, pay every bill 2 weeks in advance, and cure world hunger. And he'll actually be surprised if he can't get it all done by the end of his day. While I won't be surprised if something gets missed, I have to admit that he does impress me more times than naught. His lofty goals truly do push him to go further, climb higher, and achieve more in less time than most would ever dare. This man could be knocked down and told "no" a million times and he'll still get up and try to change the answer.

But guess what? His persistence got him that improbable promotion... it also got him,... me. ;)  Whether or not he thought I was "out of his league," his optimistic attitude did not deter him from trying to win me over, and it paid off BIG time!
Now we have a loving marriage filled with unconditional security in each other's commitment to one another and mutual respect that binds us tighter every day.
He insists that it's his heritage that causes him to see the world through rose colored glasses. Admittedly, Dominican history does show that his people have overcome many hardships and much oppression and just maybe it's this "relentless optimism" that has brought them through the fire time and time again. I can't say for sure, but I can assert that his optimistic attitude, even when it annoys me from time to time, does make my days brighter, refocuses my mind from negativity, and my life overall is happier than it's ever been!
Thank you, my love, for being my sunshine.  Especially on my cloudy days.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Is "Dieting" An Option When Breastfeeding?

Happy New Year, Dear Readers!!!
As 2016 comes into full swing, I think we all look down at the scale and make some resolutions that include our diet and exercise habits.  The holidays have definitely been good to me and I, myself, would like to change the numbers on my measuring tape. I'm often asked by many a lactating mom, how to lose weight safely without affecting her milk supply. If your supply is already established and you are past your 6 week postpartum checkup, you can most certainly make some dietary changes in your (and your waist's) favor. Honestly, it's not as complicated as we make it seem, but first, I always recommend you talk to your Dr. first before making significant changes to your diet and activity level. Plus, you'll want to rule out other potential issues, like thyroid or glucose problems, etc.

So, first thing is first! Decide (preferably with your Dr.) how much weight is healthy for your body and keep that as your goal. None of us naturally look like super models, and to be honest, who would want to? The best thing you can do is embrace the womanly changes that come with having babies! I actually have hips and breasts now, so for me, losing too much weight would be upsetting and counterproductive to having the curvy, full body I always wanted as a scrawny teenager. So no matter what your pet peeve is, try to love your new body in every possible way, because you are doing amazing things with it!
Since my husband is a nutritionist and I've taken nutrition in college, I feel confident in telling you that without a doubt, the best diet to lose a healthy amount of weight is one FULL of veggies and fruits. Preferably fresh, though frozen produce can be just as delicious and most of the nutrients are preserved in the freezing process; whereas fresh produce that is out of season tends to lose a lot of it's nutritional value through the processes of synthetic growth or long transport to the local grocery store.

-But if your diet is made up of  50% veggies, fruits, and legumes, and evenly split the rest of your diet between whole grains and lean protein, you will do well and feel more energetic.
-Also, look at what you're drinking. Soda, even the diet kind, only creates a pattern of addiction and you fill up on unnecessary empty calories. Lots of water isn't just what your body needs, but it will quench your thirst which could be mistaken as hunger as well. Making fresh juices or smoothies is a great snack and helps get more of the nutrients and filling fiber to kill cravings and fill up on "good for you" foods.
-Avoid the processed stuff. Basically, try to shop along the walls of your grocery store for most of your groceries rather than going through the aisles, since most of that stuff is over-processed pantry items.
-Make a habit of cooking at least once a day and it becomes easier than going through a drive through, believe it or not!  Trust me, before my husband, cooking was such a chore, I avoided it at all costs! Now, after years of practice and habit, I really enjoy the process of experimenting with different ingredients and seasonings to see how the finished product will turn out. And I feel good everyday knowing that my whole family is eating better because of my effort to do so.
As all these wholesome, good foods work through your system and you start to feel better and have a little more energy, you can start incorporating some activity.
-In this case, ANYTHING is better than nothing. So find what works for you: A nice walk in the morning to clear your head or after dinner to wind down. Yoga is great for the mind and body and just 10 minutes everyday can make a big difference in the daily aches and pains. I love dancing! There are all kinds of exercise dance classes or videos to do at home, or you and your partner can take a class together. That's good for your body and your intimacy! Whatever it is that you do, do it because it makes you feel good and you have fun doing it!
Good luck to all you Milk Making Mamas who are making big, healthy changes with the new year. And remember, a cheeseburger once in a while is OK!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Certified At Last!

Hey all!  So, I missed last month completely. Sorry for that. I'm sure you all can relate to how crazy busy it can get around this time of year.
I have exciting news to share with my readers:
     I am officially a certified lactation counselor!

To anyone who is interested in the program and looking into getting certified, let me give you a quick run down of the process. I went through the Healthy Children Project certification training course in October. It was a week (5 days) of classes that took all day and we were thoroughly educated on everything from basic female anatomy to counseling techniques to assessing a good latch. To say it was intense is a bit of an understatement. Imagine attending school full time, no... Imagine attending school double the full time credits for a week, then add homework every night onto that plus group practice work in and out of the classroom. Then a final exam on the afternoon of the last day after your last lesson is crammed into your brain during the morning of that same day. FUN!
So, as you can assume, there is no life to have during that week; especially if you take on a 2 hour round trip commute each of those days as I did. My family suffered through with a shell of a wife and mother whose mind was distracted and body was exhausted. The house suffered as well since its main keeper was preoccupied... the laundry was at mountainous proportions by time the weekend came. If you can prepare yourself ahead of time for all of that, you will be able to focus all of your efforts on learning and passing that exam. Now, the exam is no joke. It's a 2 part exam divided between a multiple choice part and a video assessment part. As challenging as the multiple choice questions could be, the video assessment was truly nerve racking!! You get 3- 30 second chances each to see the right and wrong of 2 different latches, you are stuck with what the camera can show you... Challenging!!! But not impossible. :)
 It's one week of major sacrifice and dedication but you'll emerge with an immense wealth of fresh knowledge and confidence in how to support these lactating moms on a whole new level! And if you do well, you get a piece of paper that legitimizes your hard work and a few initials you get to add to the end of your name. So, there you have it! This is an ideal program for doulas, midwives, nurses, WIC employees, pediatricians, obgyn's, daycare workers, and anyone who works with pregnant/lactating women and/or babies on a regular basis. Also great for anyone who is interested in gaining more knowledge in the realm of breast milk/ breastfeeding in general!

Next stop on the certification train, IBCLC!!!! Woot Woot!