Everyone deserves a song

Everyone deserves a song

It was very early in the morning on Easter Sunday. My plans were interrupted. I remember being irritated that the Hospital was keeping me from my wife. She was bleeding and it didn’t look good. I walked back and forth in the lobby aimlessly until they waved me through. The doctor didn’t have any emotion on his face. I felt numb. The baby didn’t make it. Our first pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage.

Pregnancy after miscarriage

Pregnancy after miscarriage

The loss of a child, regardless of age, is at the top of the list of the most painful of life experiences for most people.

We can tell it’s painful for us as a society based on how tough it is for us to discuss it. Our physicians sometimes even describe the loss as though it’s non-emotional and non-relational: chemical pregnancy, blighted ovum, etc. 

But miscarriages are far from non-emotional or non-relational. The moment a woman gets a positive pregnancy test result, she’s already envisioned her newborn baby grown through school and graduating college as an adult. It’s no wonder a miscarriage feels much more emotional and intense than simply a “chemical pregnancy." 

It’s also why previous a miscarriage (or several as is sometimes the case) make the next positive pregnancy test tough to trust or enjoy. Often women with previous losses have trouble accepting and settling into allowing themselves to be hopeful that this pregnancy will be different. As a therapist, I’ve worked with many women in just this situation. So how do we handle such a vulnerable moment? How do we make it through another pregnancy unsure of what will occur?

I believe the answer starts with a general good rule of thumb - allow yourself to authentically feel your way through your emotions.

Anxiety and fear are normal responses to pregnancy after miscarriage, but you don’t have to remain anxious and fearful throughout your pregnancy. Since anxiety and fear often come from not allowing ourselves to feel our emotions, the solution is to explore how we feel and work through the pain. Thankfully, you don’t have to do this alone.

Professional counselors are trained to provide the space and support you need in ways that help you process your pain so that you can feel relief and ultimately happiness and fulfillment. Friends and family play a large role in support, but they can’t replace the training, experience, and nature of working with a licensed counselor.

There is relief and freedom on the other side of fear and pain. Miscarriages are extremely emotional and painful. Processing this pain with a professional counselor can be very helpful in aiding this grieving process along.

If you or someone you know has experienced miscarriages and is having difficulty moving forward with hope, please have them reach out to me at www.kristencounsels.com

 

Kristen Machado, MA, LPC, NCC in New Orleans, LA

Kristen Machado is a life coach and licensed professional counselor living in New Orleans, LA. She earned a Masters in Clinical Psychology and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. Over the last 7 years, she’s worked with hundreds of clients, helping them go from ugly cry to transformation one session at a time. You can learn more about Kristen by following her on Instagram (@kristencoaches) and checking out her website (www.kristencoaches.com).

The myth of the freezer stash

The myth of the freezer stash

One of the common questions I get as a birth professional and postpartum doula is, "When should I start pumping after my baby is born, and how much do I need to have saved?"

On FaceBook and in articles online, we see these women who have massive freezers full of thousands of ounces of pumped breastmilk. For some, that becomes the goal. However, most of the time, a giant freezer stash is not necessary. In fact, it may be problematic in some ways. 

Let's talk first about the potential problems with a massive freezer stash.

1. The mother very likely has an oversupply in order to produce so much extra milk on top of what her baby is eating. Many people would say, "That's awesome! It's better to have too much than not enough." However, as an over-producer myself, I know what unique challenges come with having too much breastmilk. 

An over-supply can mean problems for the baby, such as gassiness, choking due to trouble handling the fast flow of milk, fussiness (to put it mildly) at the breast, green and foamy bowel movements, and spitting up.

It can also cause problems for the mom, including sore nipples, constant leaking, breasts that always feel full and heavy, plugged ducts, and mastitis.

2. If the baby is fed bottles from the freezer stash and the mother does not then pump, or if the baby is "topped up" after breastfeeding sessions with the freezer stash milk, this can lead to a drastic decrease in the mother's milk supply. Breastmilk supply is a demand-supply system, so if the demand decreases because the baby is being fed from the freezer stash, the supply will decrease accordingly. This can undermine the breastfeeding mother's long-term goals if her goals are to continue breastfeeding for the first year. 

3. If a mother is not able to achieve a full deep freezer full of milk, she may feel like she has failed and is not capable of providing for her baby, even if her baby is growing happily! Just last week, I talked with a brand new mom who was afraid that she wasn't doing things correctly because she only had around 50 ounces of milk stored up so far. That's actually more than enough, and her baby is growing perfectly! 

Now, let's talk about what might be a more balanced approach to pumping and saving breastmilk. 

Disclaimer: the tips below only apply when nursing is going really well and there are no concerns about sufficient supply or the baby's growth. If you have concerns, please contact an IBCLC or breastfeeding counselor. I have lots of recommended care providers, so please feel free to reach out if you need a breastfeeding specialist.

For the first week or two, if all is going well and the baby is nursing and growing fine, there is no need to pump. Sometime around week 3 would be an ideal time to start a pumping routine. Once or twice a day, choose a time to add a pumping session. You can choose to pump after your baby nurses, or at a time when they're sleeping and won't wake up to eat for at least an hour or two.

Pump for around 10-20 minutes at each sitting. If your milk is still flowing after that point, you don't need to keep going until empty! This would just trigger your body to produce more and more milk, thinking it has two or more babies to feed. 

After a few days, you should have plenty of milk saved up in order to be able to leave the baby with a sitter for several hours so you can get a massage, go for a solo walk, or spend time with your partner. Just remember to pump close to the same time that the baby is having a bottle so that you don't go more than 3 hours between pumping or nursing sessions.

If your goal is to return to work and be able to feed your baby pumped breastmilk, you only need 1-1.5 ounces for every hour you'll be away from your baby. Then while you're at work, pump the milk for the next day's bottles. 

If your goal is to be able to take a weekend trip away from the baby, you can figure for an average of 20-30 ounces per day. Then, again, pump while you're away to maintain your supply and replenish your stored milk.

 

I hope this has helped shed some light on why it's not necessary to have thousands of ounces stored up in order for someone to successfully feed their baby. For the first few weeks, relax and get comfortable with breastfeeding. It should get easier and easier, especially after the first 6 weeks. Then you can focus on adding to your stored milk!

It's OK to be a grey parent

It's OK to be a grey parent

Grey is all the rage these days: from home decor to fashion accessories to books about the many different shades of the color.

However, one area where grey isn't all too welcome is parenting. We're expected to parent in an all-or-nothing, black or white universe, fully committed to one philosophy, technique, sleep environment, feeding method, or disciplinary theory.

"If you're breastfeeding, you can't use a pacifier. If you like wearing your babies, you can't sleep train them. If you do baby-led weaning, you can't use store-bought purees."

In parenting, as in life, things are very rarely black and white. Yes, it's wonderful when you find a parenting philosophy that resonates with you, especially when it helps you to find support from other like-minded parents. However, it can be oversimplified to categorize certain parenting tools as "good" and others as "bad". For one thing, a system or choice that might work really well for one family would possibly not work for another family. Secondly, labeling certain choices as "bad" will "otherize" parents who are making that choice for their family.

This judgment that we pass on other parents who make choices that don't go along with our own parenting philosophy can lead to internalized self-judgment if we ever come to a place where we need to make a similar choice for our children. For example, a parent who highly values feeding their baby breastmilk and judges those who feed their babies formula is apt to be much less at peace if they ever need to give their baby formula, either by necessity or choice. 

Out of all of the choices we have, there may be a few that would work equally well. This is not to say that these decisions shouldn't be taken seriously, or that we shouldn't decide on our own family's values to guide our decisions. But there are only a few really, really bad isolated choices that can traumatize a child. The rest might be a toss-up! We need to give ourselves the grace and permission to change plans when one or more items in the set of parenting guidelines to which we've ascribed isn't working for us. It's not a slippery slope to get rid of a tool that is no longer serving you.

It's really wonderful to be able to consider all of the different theories and parenting styles, pick and choose the best of the best from each style, and build a pot-luck of tools that work for your family. Don't be afraid to consider a parenting choice that doesn't seem to align with the philosophy of your other parenting choices. Embrace the grey spaces so you can parent in full-color!

Top 10 nice-to-have items for baby

Top 10 nice-to-have items for baby

You might remember my recent post on the top 5 must-have baby items, which listed the 5 categories of things you actually need for a baby. While a baby doesn't truly NEED much, there are some things that are super nice to have.

Here are my top 10 picks for items that make those early parenting days a little easier:

1. Baby seats, swings, and bouncers

True, a baby doesn't need a seat in every single room in your home, but it is really really nice to have somewhere the baby can hang out and be entertained while you shower, prepare dinner, or exercise. Consider having at least one of these items be something that is easily carried from room to room (not while the baby is in it, please!) like a Rock 'n Play or bouncy seat.

2. Bathtub with newborn insert

There's not much in this world that is sweeter than a freshly bathed baby. However, newborns are notoriously wobbly and slippery at bathtime, so a newborn-specific tub insert can make those first baths a little less daunting. I've seen some really clever infant tubs that are designed to fit into a sink, which can be game-changing for a parent who is recovering from vaginal or cesarean birth - no bending, kneeling, squatting, or carrying a heavy tub full of water!

3. Hooded towels and soft washcloths

Yes, you can use normal washcloths and towels to bathe and dry a baby, but there are some pretty amazingly soft baby washcloths out there! Bonus: if you have too many, they can be repurposed into reusable wipes if you're using cloth diapers. After your baby is all clean and sweet-smelling, they will love to be wrapped up in a soft hooded towel. I prefer towels that are the same thick, absorbent terry cloth as normal towels; extra points if it has teddy bear ears on the hood :)

4. Bottle and nipple cleaning supplies

Cleaning bottles, nipples, pump parts, and pacifiers can be a real pain. Bottle and nipple brushes make it a little easier, as do those clever drying racks with spots for all the tiny parts. For sterilization, many parents find that microwave sterilizers work beautifully - just remember to add enough water or you might melt your parts!

5. Diaper bag

Whether you want your diaper bag to double as a purse, or you want it to be a little more dad-friendly, a well-stocked diaper bag makes outings a breeze. You'll want lots of pockets for things like pacifiers, several changes of clothes for the baby, burp rags, blankets, a portable changing pad, toys, and of course diapers and wipes. Some diaper bag models even have an insulated section to keep bottles cool! Other things to have in the bag include bottled water (for rinsing soiled clothes), hand sanitizer, baby powder, diaper cream, a wet bag for wet and dirty diapers, another wet bag for soiled clothes, and sunscreen or a hat. 

6. Swaddle blankets

Most newborn babies love a good, snug swaddle. Keep in mind the environment they just came from: they were hugged securely from all angles in the womb. We can mimic that sensation with a good swaddle blanket! My favorite are muslin swaddle blankets; for example, the swaddle blankets from Aden + Anais are light enough so the baby won't overheat, but large enough to get a really secure wrap. Halo also sells a combo sleep sack/swaddle that is very easy to use.

7. Stroller

You're going to want to look for a stroller system that is easy to set up and collapse, has ample room for carrying the diaper bag and the parent's drink, phone, and keys, and has a decent tray for when the baby gets older. Many stroller systems have compatible infant car seats that can easily click in, which is lovely when you don't want to have to unstrap a sleeping baby. It's best if you can actually test the stroller before buying since the handling can vary widely between brands.

8. Baby carrier

Wearing one's baby(ies) is a centuries-old tradition, but it has recently gained lots of popularity in modern cultures. Parents love that they can hold their babies and keep them close while still having their hands free to work on other things. The two most accessible and popular options I've seen with my clients are ring slings and soft-structured carriers, such as the Tula or Ergobaby. Both of these options can be used from the newborn stage all the way into toddlerhood. There are so many instructional videos, babywearing instructors, and support groups if you'd like to give it a try!

9. Changing table

While not a true "necessity" since a baby can be changed on basically any flat surface, it's helpful to have a dedicated place for diaper duty. It's very convenient for a changing area to have a contoured changing pad and organization containers like baskets or drawers for items like diapers, wipes, diaper cream, burp cloths, lotion, changes of clothes, and anything else you want to have within arm's reach during diaper and outfit changes. If you have a multi-level home, make sure you have a changing station on each level, or you could assemble a portable diaper changing caddy that goes where the baby goes. You really don't want to have to traipse up and down the stairs with a baby who just had a massive blowout!

10. Rocking chair/glider

Generations upon generations of parents have used rocking chairs as a place to feed, soothe, and bond with their babies. It doesn't have to come with all of the bells and whistles to get the job done, but most parents appreciate some well-placed padding to make feeding more comfortable for everyone. It's also handy to have a side table nearby with items like breast pads, burp rags, snacks, and water bottles to make your sit more enjoyable. 

With all of the various baby products and advertisements out there today, it's hard to know what items are actually helpful. I hope this gives you an idea about how to build out your baby registry!