I realized recently a large portion of the things I feel very passionately about involve the same thing…. Babies. Do to this passion (yes let’s call it passion) I love to tell people about the things I feel passionately about. My sister in law (love you Cassie) is about to have her first baby…. The list of things I want to share with her is ridiculously long so I decided to spare her and share (spew) my “passion” here instead. (You’re welcome world)
First up is nursing. I aspire to be a lactation consultant someday, I cannot tell you how important I feel this single thing is to your children’s lives. The most important reason to nurse is that it is the food God created for your baby… what is better than that?
There’s a million other reasons too…. Things you just really don’t hear about in today’s society, it saddens me how little information new Moms are given on breastfeeding. They are given formula before they even have the baby then again before they leave the hospital. THROW IT OUT!! I guarantee you if you have formula in your house you will use it, without a doubt. Do not own a bottle “just in case”. Breastfeeding is HARD. You will want to quit at some point. Don’t put temptation in your home, it’s akin to dieting with chocolate in your pocket… you won’t be successful.
Things you may not know about breastfeeding and breast milk
Newborns nurse almost constantly. Their stomachs are tiny and the place they feel most comfortable is nursing, they just came into the world, take the time to cherish them. Relax, drink a ton of water, eat, sleep and most importantly nurse as often as possible. Don’t ever wait until baby is crying if you can help it. Once they cry they are very hungry. Watch for “rooting” and feed them as soon as you notice them doing it. Rooting is when they turn their heads, mouths open, looking for food.
I hear so many moms say that they don’t make enough milk but the reality is that if you don’t take care of yourself ( drink plenty of water, eat healthy foods, sleep, relax) and nurse on demand (that means every single time baby wants to and as long as baby wants) you will not make enough. Some mothers do have legitimate issues but the majority of the issues is that society pushes you to do more and expects your babies to act like formula fed babies. Breast milk is digested much more quickly than formula and babies often nurse for comfort not for nourishment. If you will give your baby three short months of your tireless attention I promise you will never trade what you get in return. After the first three months nursing is entirely different. It’s much easier than bottle feeding and much less demanding on your time.
Breastfeeding my babies is the best experience I’ve ever had as a mother, there is just nothing more precious. I didn’t have an easy time, it was a long long road and a lot of work to nurse but I just cannot imagine what I would have missed out on if I hadn’t stuck it out. I did have legitimate supply issues and I cannot recommend domperidone highly enough if you need some help… I won’t get into it but research it, its amazing stuff. I also had wonderful friends who pumped for me to make up for what I couldn’t make. I usually did ok until bedtime, often at bedtime they would get a bottle of pumped milk, some days they didn’t need it, some days my friends nursed them, yes I know, I’m weird, but it worked for us and I’m thankful to those women and always will be. Remember I said that these are the things I wish I had known in the beginning, not what I did know. Most of my babies got more formula than breast milk. I didn’t know anyone to ask for help in the beginning. It took several babies before I had a successful nursing relationship and it was hard won. I know the pain of not being able to nurse. I know the regret and hope for next time.
Before I get derailed again let me tell you those amazing things I wanted to share….
Did you know that your breast milk changes depending on your babies age, the time of day, the temperature ( it is waterier when it’s hot and fattier when it’s cold), whether your baby is sick, growing, etc…. Formula is always the same. While I’m on it did you know formula was developed as a way to deal with the “waste” in the dairy industry? WASTE!
Breast milk also helps immunize your baby naturally to sicknesses Mom is exposed to and if baby is exposed but Mom isn’t that information will still get to the milk making “factory” and baby will get antibodies.
Your baby will be more bonded to you, more secure, easier to comfort, and so many other things. Research it, while you’re expecting, really learn everything you can about nursing so that you have the information you need to make whatever choice you make. I highly recommend the book “So that’s what they’re there for”. Also if you run into trouble ASK FOR HELP!! Le Leche League is a great place, a lactation consultant, friends, family that has successfully breastfed. Don’t be shy.
Also as long as I’m on a tangent I might as well say…. Nurse in public. Do it without shame. If God didn’t want your baby fed that way he would have made the milk come out your pinky. There’s no need to get topless to nurse but there’s also no need to feel like you need to cover up or hide. I honestly think the gigantic cover draws more attention than discreet nursing and babies tend to hate them. Wear a tank top with a stretchy neckline under your shirt if it makes your more comfortable. Pull your shirt up and your tank down and most people won’t even notice that you’re feeding your baby, and if they do the only thing they will see is the back of babies head.
Cosleeping is a Godsend when it comes to nursing. Your baby is near you which is a comfort to them and helps them sleep better, which trust me helps you. Nursing is easy, they stir, you feed, and everyone sleeps more. I much prefer keeping young babies with me, I know it’s not for everyone but once again, it works for us. I know some say it isn’t safe but research it and do it safely and you’ll find the statistics are not always what it seems. Another great option is a sidelong bed. It’s basically a crib with 3 sides even with your bed so they are with you but not in your bed.
A word on crying and “crying it out”, babies do not cry for no reason, they do not manipulate or pretend. Crying is a baby’s only way to communicate. They depend on you for everything. Crying is the only way they have to tell you that they need something. Whether they need fed, changed or simply held those are all needs that they need us to meet. Needing to be held is legitimate. Remember we are all equals in this life, our needs do not trump our baby’s needs. There is no schedule or chore worth ignoring your baby’s needs. Every time you respond to what your baby is telling you your baby learns that they can trust you. That you will be there. That you love them. That is the best reward.
Last thing on the subject… maybe… I did say I was passionate right? Check your baby for tongue tie (google an image), When nursing was the norm it was checked for at birth, now they really don’t check. It can make nursing miserable. If your baby has a tongue tie get it clipped ASAP, if your baby clicks while nursing or if your nipple looks like a fresh tube of lipstick after nursing, your baby is probably tongue tied.
Whew… onto a different soapbox, aren’t you glad I don’t let all this out on a regular basis.
Birthing… oh yes this is a high soapbox. First let me recommend that you watch a documentary called “The Business of Being Born” tons of information.
With my first child I had a typical hospital birth. Pitocin, Epidural, Episiotomy, Forceps, the whole shebang. It was horrible. By the time baby was born I was DONE. I could barely walk for 2 weeks, I couldn’t even wipe my own bottom I was in such bad shape. Horrible birth.
Each birth got gradually better but I want to tell you about two in particular. The first I want to share about is the “I know my rights” hospital birth. Know your rights, it’s your body and your baby, YOU get to make the decisions no matter what the “hospital procedure” is. I’m not going to tell you what to do or what not to do, simply what you CAN choose.
I highly recommend requesting an “against medical advice” form upfront and signing it (but not before you’re in labor because they may tell you to go elsewhere). This releases the hospitals responsibility for your wild and reckless against policy choices and helps them relax a little.
You MAY eat, and drink. In fact I would say you need to. Labor is hard work, you wouldn’t run a marathon on ice chips, eat and drink when you feel like it.
You MAY refuse an IV and any and all medications. They may make you get a hep-lock in case of emergency which is probably safer anyways but you absolutely do not have to get an IV.
You MAY walk around, shower, get into whatever position you wish. Nothing is more uncomfortable in labor than laying in a bed.
You MAY refuse monitoring. I chose to allow them to monitor the baby 10 minutes every hour. Do your research and make the choice you feel good about.
You MAY refuse to let them break your water. It breaks when it’s supposed to and some people think it’s something special to be born in the caul.
You MAY delay pushing until you feel the need to push. You may also deliver in any position that is comfortable to you. We all know the Dr wants to get home… too bad, this is your birth.
You MAY refuse Pitocin after the baby. They give it to almost all women as a “precaution” Most births do not need it and frankly it HURTS. You may refuse any and all medications. Always ask what they are doing and demand they answer before they do it.
You MAY deliver your placenta in your own time, it can take up to an hour, tell the Dr to get comfy and never let them pull.
You MAY delay cord cutting. The blood in that cord belongs to your baby. We all know cord blood is lifesaving, it’s your right to let your baby get that blood.
You MAY hold your baby immediately after birth and never let them out of your sight. They never have to go to the nursery.
You MAY refuse the first bath, insist it’s done in your room or simply take baby into the shower with you.
You MAY refuse the “eye gook” The only reason any baby needs it is if the mother has STDs. They give it to everyone just in case the Mom doesn’t know they have STDs. It delays bonding since your baby can’t see you, if you know you don’t have STDs there’s no reason for it.
You MAY refuse vaccinations. Whatever you view of them is or if you’re undecided you do not have to let them start injecting your baby with stuff immediately.
You MAY choose not to circumcise your son. Research it, don’t just do it because you don’t know any other way.
You MAY refuse all bottles/pacifiers/sugar water and insist upon breastfeeding to raise blood sugar. In the days of smart phones if you get into a situation where you are unsure google is your friend. Request lab numbers and inform yourself before you decide anything. The best thing is to find a pediatrician who shares your views that you can depend on but sometimes that’s hard.
You MAY request a lactation consultant, every hospital either has one on staff or can get you one. If it’s your first baby I can’t recommend it highly enough. I always ask for one, bad latch is devastating to nursing relationships.
Basically remember it’s your body and your baby. Always ask what they are doing and why and feel free to say no. It’s great if you and your spouse discuss your plans before hand and your spouse feels comfortable being your mouthpiece.
The second birth I want to discuss is the home-birth.
My favorite birth was at home. I was almost 43 weeks pregnant (yes 43 weeks) and my baby was 10 Lbs 2 Oz but it was by far my easiest birth. I honestly felt NO pain until my water broke (I was already complete) and she was born within 15 minutes of that. Being at home was heavenly. Baby and I went to sleep and no one bothered us. When my other children woke up they got to meet their new sibling in their environment. It was so peaceful and so right for our family. I know it isn't for everyone but maybe it is for you? It’s always best to know all your options. Another middle of the road option is a birthing center, I've never done this but like I said, know your options.
Another thing I want to share about is baby carriers. The only thing our babies desire more than to nurse is to be held. We have invented a million devices to try to make them happy but in the end all they really want is us. The key to fulfilling that desire is to make it comfortable and easy for you and baby. There are baby carriers like the Bjorn and Snuggli… don’t waste your money or kill your back. Here’s the basics on baby carriers… for more information I recommend www.thebabywearer.com These people are serious about baby carriers but also very well educated about them.
Also use your car seat as a car seat. I can’t stand seeing people kill themselves carrying around those huge things. Get a comfortable carrier and save your back, please. Your baby and your body will thank you. Plus just think of all the room you’ll have in your grocery cart for actual groceries! An added bonus is people are much less likely to touch your baby, I don’t know about you but strangers touching my babies creeps me out.
I’m going to start with my personal favorite. The Wrap.
Wraps come in different sizes and different materials. You can get a knit wrap such as a Moby. It’s about 5 M and stretchy. It’s great for newborns and front carries. It’s not good for heavier babies or back carries. It’s so snuggly if you can afford to get something short term like that. A great way is to go to your local fabric store and purchase 5 yards of a sturdy knit and cut it in half lengthwise. This will give you 2 wraps. If you go to a place like Joann’s or Hancock’s don’t forget your 50% off coupon.
My personal preference is for woven wraps. They are not cheap. They are also worth every penny. Nothing beats the comfort of a woven wrap. Didymos are my favorites. They are by far the most comfortable carrier in my opinion. It’s something you have to learn how to do correctly but once you do it’s amazing. My later babies took almost all their naps on my back in a wrap while I did chores and I was never uncomfortable. I’m prone to back pain so that’s saying something. I also have fat babies. Wraps are amazing. Once again if you think a wrap might be for you do your research. Different size people need different lengths and different people like different methods of using the wraps.
Structured carriers. These are becoming much more popular. You can even buy some at Target. I love Beco and Ergo carriers. They are easy to put on and take off and very comfortable. My kids enjoyed using these to carry the babies because they are so easy to use. Also great for Dads. I used these when it was hot or for quick errands.
Pouch Slings. For the baby that wants in and out… in and out. These are so handy for the quick carry. I used them often at church because of this. I also liked them for clingy toddlers who can’t decide if they want up or down. Super compact and inexpensive but must be the proper size for you.
Ring Slings. All the convenience of the pouch sling with a big more of a learning curve but more options. One of the easiest carriers to nurse in. Also one of the easiest to make. One size fits all.
Mei Tei. These are also great for back carries and front carries alike. You can put a newborn in these or a 3 year old. Very versatile. Also easy to make… do your research so it’s safe.
My youngest is 5 so I may have missed an option or 2 but these are what I know about. Women in other countries wear their babies almost exclusively and end up with happy, well behaved and adjusted children. Where better for your baby to learn about the world than close to you.
Cloth Diapers… it’s not only about the environment. At least that wasn’t why I did it. Imagine wearing a disposable pad 24/7…. Those diapers can’t be any more comfortable. They don’t breathe, they are full of chemicals and frankly they just don’t get changed often enough.
Cloth Diapers are soft, allow airflow, don’t have nasty chemicals in them, can be changed immediately without blowing your budget, and as a bonus they are adorable these days.
If you choose to use cloth diapers learn everything you can about them. How to wash them, different types, different materials etc. There’s a whole lot of information out there. It’s even fairly easy to make your own, all of the ones pictured I made myself. The internet is full of information on using and making cloth diapers. Here’s a very short run down.
Washing… Use a natural detergent with as few things added as possible. No scents etc. Use ¼ of the detergent you would usually use. Wash in hot water. Rinse twice.
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding everything can go in the wash. If your baby is eating solids or formula you need to rinse your diapers. I know it sounds awful but it really isn’t. There are a lot of methods but what I did was this. We attached a kitchen sink sprayer to the back of the toilet water line (very simple, google is your friend) and I would just hold one end and spray down into the toilet any waste. If I was out I would put the diaper in a wetbag and deal with it at home. No there’s no smell, wetbags close well. Also sometimes it just “plops” off into the toilet which you can do anywhere… being a parent can be less than glamorous, you might as well accept it.
I started diapers every night and put them in the dryer every morning. I didn’t like leaving them to sit. We used a large trashcan with a lid and a large wetbag inside it as a diaper pail. I also had a smaller pail in the bathroom right by the toilet for rinsed diapers.
Materials… Decide if you want natural or synthetic and find out what type of water you have (hard or soft) then go from there. Overall cotton and bamboo have been my friend. Synthetics gave my babies rashes and hemp held smells. Microfiber is known to smell as well.
Speaking of smell. If your diapers start smelling off or causing rashes they need stripped. Soap can build up in them and cause problems, that’s why it’s important not to use too much. The best way to do this I’ve found is first wash them in Hot water with a squirt of blue dawn dish soap. Then start the hot cycle over with no soap and pour in a pot of boiling water with the diapers. Repeat until there are no suds. Next put them in a clean dishwasher without soap (I know crazy) and run the cycle repeatedly until there are no suds. The dishwasher simply gets hotter and gets the soap buildup out. Last dry them in the sun. The sun is a magic worker with cloth diapers. The more you are able to dry in the sun the better.
Fitteds. These diapers are made to be used with a diaper cover. I prefer these. They never leaked for me and I used them without covers at home so I knew as soon as baby was wet and was able to change them. Also a great confidence booster when nursing to see how much they really are outputting. I like to use fitteds that have a soaker inside to allow for easier drying and cleaning. That way all the absorbent layers aren’t inside the diaper. Damp diapers breed bacteria and smell, just like wet laundry left too long. You want your diapers to dry as easily as possible.
Covers. You can use so many different things. One is PUL. This is the most waterproof. You will not typically feel any wetness. Now if you leave baby in the diaper for hours and they soak the fitted through you might have leaking, just like if you soak a disposable. PUL covers are great for outings but don’t breathe very well so not great for full time. Still better than disposables but not as good as letting air in.
Wool, Acrylic and Fleece are all great options for breathable covers. Wool must be handwashed and lanolized but is the most breathable. Also the cutest if that matters. Fleece is the cheapest and easiest to care for. All of these you will feel a dampness if you allow your fitted to get soaked, if that bothers you and you can’t change your baby as soon as they are wet it’s probably not for you. Wool and Acrylic can be knit, crocheted, sewn or bought. Fleece can be sewn or purchased as well.
Pockets. Pockets are basically a PUL cover with a pocket that you put the absorbency into. The insert comes out in the wash and you restuff the pockets after laundering. These are great Dad/Grandma/Babysitter options.In the photo to the right the inserts are sitting on top of the diapers. So simple to use and easy to rinse waste off of. These are very trim too if fluffy diaper bottoms bother you.
All in Ones(AIO) I don’t recommend. Hard to dry and hard to keep clean. Just a bad idea.
All in Twos. PUL outer and an insert inside that is either sewn in or snapped in to provide absorbency but still allow easy cleaning and drying. Second favorite for Dad/Grandma/Babysitter.
Prefolds or flats. Great, simple, cheap option. Super easy to clean. Harder to learn how to use but very basic. I always recommend having these on hand for adding absorbency, laundry day, stripping day etc. Make great burp cloths as well and eventually cleaning rags. Get some Preemie prefolds and regular sized ones. Toddler ones never worked for me. Some people adore them. Buy a couple of snappis to close them. They simplify the process greatly.
I hope I don’t sound judgmental or any more opinionated than you already know I am. I have very strong opinions but I also try very hard not to judge others decisions. I often opt to say nothing because I would never want to make anyone feel badly about their parenting. I know that we are all doing our very best and learning as we go. My intention is only to inform, I truly wish I had known all of these things from the start, it would have made my first children so much easier to enjoy. I hope each and every one of you figure out what works best for your family and enjoys their children and family as much as possible. My best advice to everyone is to research everything and know your options. I truly hope I helped at least one person to have more information with which to make their parenting decisions.