Thursday, September 5, 2013

Evening Primrose Oil to Prepare for Labor

(Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor or in any way medically trained. Please consult your doctor before you try ANY method of inducing or helping labor!)
When I was pregnant with Lila and hit my due date, my midwife suggested I try Evening Primrose Oil to help my cervix soften and prepare for labor. I had never heard of Evening Primrose Oil, but trusted my midwife, so immediately after my appointment I went right to the store to find some. (I also did a little research of my own. A few informational sites here and here.) Evening Primrose Oil doesn't induce labor, but it does help to soften and ripen the cervix, which will help with dilation.

I followed my midwife's prescribed regimen, which is as follows:
Day 1: 3000 mg (6, 500-mg capsules taken at 6 different times during the day)
Day 2: 2500 mg (5, 500-mg capsules taken at 5 different times during the day)
Day 3: 2000 mg (4, 500-mg capsules taken at 4 different times during the day)
Day 4-baby comes: 1500 mg (3, 500-mg capsules taken at 3 different times during the day)

(Note: I started the capsules on a Friday night and went into labor Sunday night! I think the EPO capsules definitely helped with dilation)

I found my EPO caplets at Smith's (the Kroger store in my area); EPO capsules can also be found at health food stores and perhaps other grocery stores, as well.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Bottled Cubic Zirconia: Another Amazing Use for Lanolin

Ah, Lansinoh Lanolin. When Reed was born and I was blissfully unaware of the pain that can accompany breastfeeding, I had never even heard of lanolin. In the hospital postpartum, when I was cracked and bleeding, I quickly learned of the miraculous power of lanolin when a lactation consultant gave me a tiny trial-sized tube of Lansinoh lanolin--and when I say tiny, I mean tiny. By the time we left the hospital, the lanolin was already gone. So Ryan and I left Reed in the care of my mom--we really needed to get out of the house--and went on a date to Target. When we saw the price of the lanolin, Ryan declared it "Bottled Diamonds"--then edited that to "Bottled Cubic Zirconia" when we realized we were exaggerating a little on the price. At the time, Ryan was still in school and we were living on a very small budget, so I almost passed on the lanolin. But Ryan made me buy the lanolin and I was so grateful I did because many painful breastfeeding days were ahead of me. 

Anyway, you probably know of the benefits of lanolin for breastfeeding mothers. But in the hospital, I learned another use for lanolin: lanolin makes the absolute best lip balm for dry, cracked lips. My four year old has eczema and also has lots of trouble with dry, cracked lips. His poor little lips get very cracked and very sore very quickly. But, after only 1-2 applications of lanolin, his lips are completely back to normal. Nothing else works even close to that well when his lips are bad. We just call the Lansinoh our "special chapstick" and no one bats an eye. He might find the use of lanolin a little odd once he gets to, say, middle school, and pays attention to the tube...but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Making Baby's Room {Super} Dark: A Few Ideas

I'd realized that Lila's room needed to be super dark for her to sleep well (which was of my own accidental doing, yes). I'd also realized that the black guitar blanket, though effective at blocking out the light, wasn't doing the d├ęcor in Lila's room any favors. So I started researching my room-darkening options.

Option 1: Blackout Curtains (Purchased or DIY'ed)
Perhaps the most obvious option, no? I found several options available, like these curtains at Target. But, honestly, I couldn't find any I loved that looked okay with what I already had going on in Lila's room (not that the black quilt did)--and I didn't want to shell out the $$ for something I didn't really like.
Eclipse™ Twine Thermaback
I did find this tutorial to make your own blackout curtains--and then was super disappointed when I found out Joann's no longer carried the fabric line my mom had used to make Lila's bedding. Sad day for me, yes. If I find a coordinating fabric, I still may make curtains. You know, in all my free time.

Option 2: Window Film
I didn't know window film was a thing (beside window tinting for cars) but apparently it is. Ryan, my go-to resource for researching any purchase, found mainly really good reviews: the film blocked out light well, reduced heat, etc. Home Depot and Wal-Mart both carried a 3 ft. x 6.5 ft. roll for only $16.87, so we decided to give it a go. We purchased a roll of Gila 3 ft. x 6.5 ft. Black Privacy Window Film. The film is simple yet somewhat annoying to hang up. First we cleaned the window (easy). Then we cut the film to size (easy again). We sprayed the window with water (use A LOT) (and easy again), then stuck the film on (easy). The difficult part came when we tried to smooth all the bubbles out of the film. Yikes. There are still bubbles, but luckily, the blinds in the room cover the bubbles so I don't have to look at them every day.

Gila 3 ft. x 6.5 ft. Black Privacy Window Film
We hung the film at night, so had to wait until the next morning to see how well it worked. The picture below is a pretty accurate portrayal of light levels, though somewhat deceiving due to my lack of photography skills (picture Lila's room just a touch lighter). The office and Lila's face the same way and have the same blinds installed--the only difference is the window film. Impressive, no? The film did help with heat reduction, as well. (By the way, don't mind the messy office. Who has time to clean their office just for a picture of lightness levels? Not this girl.)

The next day, though, Lila's naps were horrible. And the day after that. And the day after that. I held strong for a while, knowing that it takes time to break habits--but finally I gave up. Ryan hung a blanket between the window and the blinds and guess what? Long naps once again. At least you can't really see the blanket now! I do think that if Lila weren't used to such a dark room, the film would have darkened the room sufficiently for her to nap well. Note to self: next time, darken the room with film, not a blanket, from the beginning.

Option 3: Whatever you have on hand
You may not want to invest any money into darkening the room, especially if you aren't sure a dark room is the reason behind your child's sleep problems. I have heard (sorry, no first hand experience) that tinfoil and cardboard are both excellent at blocking light. Or you could go with the blanket over the window method, like me. Maybe that will become a trend, right?

Hopefully reducing the light in your child's room will help him or her sleep longer--it certainly worked for me!

Monday, August 26, 2013

What Worked for Me: Making the Baby's Room (SUPER) Dark

To start this post off, let me direct you to My Baby Sleep Guide's Top Sleep Tips Post. This post is seriously life changing--or at least it was for me.

Sleeping Reed, three days old
Two weeks after Lila was born, we moved (great timing, I know). The house we moved into had zero window coverings and, well, we live in the desert so it's essentially bright all day long. Lila's room was one of the worst as far as brightness-factor goes. Ryan was at the beginning of busy season (he's a tax guy) and I was two weeks postpartum and trying to keep three small children alive, so window coverings were not extremely high on our priority list. So we did what anyone would do: we nailed a blanket over Lila's window. Her room was instantly uber-dark.

A full month later, we had family coming in town who were kind enough to help Ryan install the blinds we purchased the day before they came. Blanket down, blinds up, check. That weekend, there were a lot of people who wanted to hold Lila (of course)--they were meeting her for the first time. So when her naps started to be an issue after everyone left, I just assumed she was used to being held. However, despite my best efforts, her naps kept getting shorter and shorter until she was only napping for 30 minutes at a time. I tried everything, to no avail.

I read My Baby Sleep Guide's Top Sleep Tips Post yet again and the part that explains creating a good sleep environment--including a dark room--slapped me in the face, essentially. The new blinds? Yes, they blocked out light, but not nearly as effectively as the blanket had. Ryan re-hung the blanket over the blinds when he got home that night. The next day, each of Lila's naps were at least 1.5 hours long. Hallelujah.

So there you have it. Perhaps it's a little ridiculous, but I'm willing to make the room super dark to get my baby to sleep. Have you tried anything crazy to get your baby to sleep? Does your baby need a dungeon-like darkness to stay asleep?

Stay tuned for my next post, where I'll highlight a few slightly less ghetto options to help darken the room.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why I Value Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding: Part 1

Let me preface this by saying that I am by no means a breastfeeding expert, nor do I think I have all the answers. If you have breastfeeding questions, I am happy to give you what advice I can, but I also recommend talking to a lactation consultant. and La Leche League are also both amazing resources for breastfeeding moms.

Reed, 4 Months

Before my first baby, Reed, was born, I planned on breastfeeding. I went to the class offered by the hospital and read a few things (but not many), but basically assumed breastfeeding wouldn't be an issue. I had no idea that many women struggle with breastfeeding. I had no idea that breastfeeding wasn't simple, as it seemed it should be. And I had no idea that breastfeeding might would hurt, at least at first. Essentially, I was super uniformed, but had no clue as to how uniformed I was.  At the time, I was finishing my final semester of college, was working 20 hours at an internship, and, until my seventh month of pregnancy, was working 30 hours as a waitress, as well--so honestly, I didn't have a ton of extra time to become informed. 

I digress. Reed was born on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. He had breathing issues at birth, so was rushed away only for the breathing issues to resolve themselves within a few hours. But I didn't get to breastfeed him for the first time until a few hours after birth, which was late in the day. I thought he was latching okay, and so I continued doing what I had been doing. 

By Sunday afternoon, we realized that perhaps he wasn't latching very well after all--breastfeeding really, really, hurt, and I already had the beginnings of sores on my nipples. I finally got to see a lactation consultant, who helped me figure a few things out, then we left the hospital the next morning.

Those first few weeks of breastfeeding were a nightmare. Because of the damage caused from Reed's first day of a poor latch, every time he latched thereafter hurt so badly that I would cry. I couldn't even wear a shirt or bra for the first few days at home because anything at all touching me made me cry out in pain (and I'm not just a wimp). I dreaded Reed waking up because I knew him waking meant I had to feed him. My mom was staying with us and she went to the store and got a nipple shield and a bottle for me, just in case--but the shield was too big and I didn't want to try a bottle because, well, I'm really stubborn. Already, I really didn't like breastfeeding. 

At Reed's two-week appointment, he was barely over his birth weight but the doctor assured me that all they hope to see is the baby reaching the birth weight by week two--so no one was concerned. Gradually, my  nipples healed and breastfeeding became much better. I could actually feed my baby without crying. Right when I finally felt like we were in our grove, though, breastfeeding got much, much worse.

Reed started crying every time he latched. He would latch, suck for a few minutes, scream, latch, suck, scream, on and on. This cycle was exhausting. I didn't know if he wasn't getting anything, wasn't really hungry, was having reflux, what was going on. It was Christmas and I was eating a lot of treats, so cutting out chocolate and a few other gas-inducing foods was my first solution. No luck. I tried Mylicon, which seemed to help a little, but not much. I bought a pump and found that after 15 minutes, I could pump 5 ounces from my right breast and 0.5 from my left. I knew the left didn't produce as much--here was proof--but he had to be getting milk because my right was obviously producing just fine. He didn't spit up a ton or arch his back, so reflux didn't seem to be the issue.

Why didn't I take him to the doctor? I had health insurance through the university I attended, which ended when I graduated (a little over a month after Reed was born). We were in the process of getting private health insurance coverage, but I didn't realize how long that would take, so we were currently not covered. I didn't want to go uninsured to the doctor if there wasn't really a problem. Sometimes Reed ate just fine. Why didn't I see a lactation consultant? I thought about it, I really did. I even called, but it happened to be after hours. Honestly, I didn't know if I was making a big deal out of nothing, since I was a first-time mom and didn't know what to expect. I didn't want to take him in for no reason.

Finally, we got insurance coverage and I took Reed to the doctor just after he turned two months old. And I found out that I had reason to be worried. Reed, who was born at 7 lbs., 9 oz., was only 8 lbs., 13 oz. at two months old. In other words, he was failure to thrive. Can I pause for just a moment to vent about the term "failure to thrive"? Seriously, whoever coined that term must not have children. Because when you tell a mother her baby is failure to thrive, that mom feels like the worst mother to have ever lived. Ever. Especially when she has no idea that there was a problem. (Stepping off my soapbox.) Anyway, the doctor suggested I start supplementing with formula and gave me his daughter's number, who happened to be a La Leche League consultant.

I talked to his daughter that night and, though she gave me good advice, nothing she told me to try really helped. That night I also gave Reed his first bottle. The formula can with it's proclamation that formula is not as good as breast milk felt like a personal attack. "Yes, formula company, I know that what I'm feeding my baby is sub-par. Please stop reminding me." And then Reed drank so fast it was as if he'd never been offered food before. Which, of course, made me feel even worse.  Thereafter, I would offer Reed the breast and, if he didn't eat well, give him a bottle. He usually took about 2-3 bottles a day. And guess what? After one week, we went in for a weight check and Reed weighed 9 lbs., 13 oz. A full pound increase in just one week. 

We continued supplementing and, over time, Reed stopped being willing to even attempt breastfeeding. And the whole situation had been so emotionally draining that I stopped really trying. My feelings of guilt concerning Reed being failure to thrive far outweighed my feelings of guilt concerning not breastfeeding. So Reed became an exclusively formula-fed baby right around four months. And at his four month mark, he weighed 13 lbs., 15 1/2 oz.--well within normal range.

Honestly, I'm still coming to terms with the guilt I've felt about the entire situation. Writing this post was difficult, because I can see now how many mistakes I made and how the situation could have been prevented. But I have also realized that I'm not a bad mom, and I was doing the best I knew how to do. And, because of Reed being failure to thrive, I will forever value formula and bottles because they gave him what I couldn't--the calories he needed. Bottles and formula are not bad and formula-fed babies aren't inherently at a disadvantage--because my Reeder? He's as smart and clever and creative as they come.

(Asher's story to come in Part 2.)

Monday, August 19, 2013

What Worked for Me: Noise maker (or that time I realized I had been wrong all along)

Before we had kids, Ryan and I thought that noise makers were a little bit weird and a lot annoying. So with Reed, we didn't buy a noise maker. When Reed was about eight months old, I happened to mention that I thought Reed would like one of those light-up things that plays music for 15 minutes or so, then turned off. Ryan's mom was on her way to the store and happened to pick one up for me. She's awesome like that (Seriously, I wasn't looking for her to buy it for me--she just knew I wanted one and got one for us!) Reed's "fishie songs," as they were lovingly referred to, were our only form of noise maker.

When Asher came along, we didn't pull out the "fishie songs" right away. We did around 7-8 months, and he liked them well enough. We do happen to live in the desert, so once summer hit, we put a box fan in his upstairs room so he wouldn't melt during nap time. Fast forward a few months to late fall, when we took the box fan out. Asher suddenly started napping poorly. And I realized that I had inadvertently turned his box fan into a noise maker. I didn't want a fan blowing air around his room in winter, so we weaned him off the noise--by first putting the fan in the doorway, with the door ajar, then in the hall right outside the door, with the door shut, to finally a little down the hall from his room, and then turned it off all together.

When Lila was born, I again didn't want to buy the noise maker. But when she started napping poorly and I started trouble-shooting, one thing that I concluded was that perhaps a noise maker would help her. He brothers are not exactly quiet. First we tried the "fishie songs"--in addition to playing songs, they play a water-like white noise. But once the white noise turned off, she immediately woke up. I tried downloading a white noise app on my phone and it actually helped--but I was tired of having my phone with her during every nap. So I gave in. We bought a noise maker and put it in Lila's room. (Side note: A white noise machine is also one of My Baby Sleep Guide's Top Sleep Tips.) And guess what? That noise maker, coupled with a darker room, helped Lila start taking longer naps.

So I was wrong. A noise maker for baby? Not weird. And actually not too annoying--the noise maker has helped me sleep better, too, even hearing it through the monitor. Who knew?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Potty Training Part Two: Tips for Success

If you missed the first part in this series where I describe my potty training method, go here.

After potty training two boys at the age of two, I learned a few things that I wish I had known at the outset of potty training. Here are my most helpful potty training tips, in no particular order:

1. Wait until your child is ready 
I know, I know. Typical advice. But I mean it--be sure your child is ready. When I potty-trained Reed, he was showing every single sign of potty training readiness. But when we tried to potty train? He flipped a lid. Oh. My. Goodness. He would NOT have anything to do with the potty. So I waited three months and tried again. And guess what? He was potty trained in three days. I had a very similar experience with Asher. Here is a great (though somewhat extensive) list of readiness signs. The signs that were most telling for my boys: they started to hide somewhere whenever they had a bowel movement (Reed's place was under the stairs. Ryan called it "the pooping closet"), they stayed dry for long periods of time, they'd tell me when they needed to be changed, and they were both communicative enough to let me know they needed to go potty.

2. Learn the value of a bare bottom (and do NOT use pull-ups!) 
Honestly, it may seem a little odd to have your child running around bare naked all day (it may also not seem odd at all--some kids refuse clothes anyway, am I right?). But it's important! When you put a child in underwear right away, the child doesn't really understand yet that the underwear is not just another receptacle for their pee. And when you put a child in pull-ups, you're really sending mixed signals. To me, pull-ups give this message: "Here is something to cover your bottom that feels quite similar to a diaper. But, though it feels the same, you're not supposed to use it as a diaper." It's not so easy to remember to use the potty when you're wearing a diaper or pull-up. The bare bottom will help a child remember to use the potty.

3. Don't give up after day one
Potty training, day one with Asher was an absolute nightmare. He was whiny and grumpy and had ZERO successes. Zero. In one one-and-a-half-hour period, despite taking him potty every twenty minutes, he had three accidents--two of which involved poop. I was extremely discouraged. But I decided to give potty training one more day before I decided he wasn't quite ready and to try again a few weeks later. The next day, after a very long morning with no accidents or successes, Asher had his first-ever pee in the potty. Hallelujah. Everything got better from there until, two days later, Asher had his first accident-free day.

4. The first success is the hardest
For both of my boys, the initial success was the very hardest one. Once they had actually used the potty successfully, they realized that going potty really isn't that big of a deal. And they just did it. After their first success, both boys had very few accidents--Reed only had one accident after that first success. So though the first several attempts are pretty trying and honestly, quite frustrating, just hold on until you get to a success. I promise potty training will get easier after that first success (and if it doesn't, let me pre-apologize now).

5. Know who is in charge
Here's a truth: your child likely will not want to start potty training and will avoid the potty at all costs. When it's time to go potty, don't be surprised if your child tells you he or she doesn't have to go or doesn't want to go. They will likely try to resist. But guess what? You're in charge. You might have to fight with your child for the first few tries or possibly even the first few days. But it will get easier and it will be worth it. Don't let your child determine when it's potty time until you've made it through a week--because they likely won't realize they need to go potty soon enough to make it to the potty.

6. Use a reward system, treats or otherwise
For the first three days of potty training, I gave my boys one small treat (like an M & M, a candy corn, or something else small) for every successful pee in the potty, and two small treats for every successful poop in the potty. After three days, they got one sticker for every pee in the potty and two stickers for every poop in the potty. We used the stickers to fill up a chart and, when their chart was full, we let them pick a small toy from the toy store. I realize not everyone wants to give their child a treat for every success, and I don't think you need to. But something tangible (be it a treat, a toy, a sticker, or whatever) is very helpful. My kids loved being rewarded. And, for the first few days, a tangible prize for every success was key to their willingness to try going potty. Later, when they filled up their sticker sheets, they were so proud of their accomplishment and so pumped to pick out a toy. After that, we didn't need a reward system because going potty was just part of our routine. Choose a reward system, whatever you like, and implement it.

7. Have a method, but be flexible
You may find that my method doesn't work for you. Maybe you just don't like my method. But I think it's important to at least have a general method before you start. And while I think consistency is extremely important, I also found it important for me to evaluate and change my method as needed. After an abysmal day one with Asher, I decided to change my approach somewhat. He doesn't have to pee as often as Reed does--still, to this day, he uses the bathroom fewer times than Reed. So instead of taking him potty every 20 minutes, I took him every 40 minutes. And while Reed didn't mind the timer going off signalling potty time, the timer really upset Asher. So I kept time myself, without the timer. I found that Asher was much more willing to try going potty when he wasn't already upset about the timer and when we didn't go quite as often. I still used my general method, but changed it a bit to fit Asher's needs.

8. Don't get angry about "accidents"--but do talk about each one
Accidents are a normal part of potty training. But, I'm not going to lie, sometimes accidents are terribly frustrating--especially when you've gone a few days without an accident. But getting angry about an accident doesn't help at all. Keep it together (which, trust me, can be so hard) and don't yell. But you do need to discuss each accident. I tried to use the same dialogue each time we encountered an accident--repetition works wonders. If an accident happened, I'd ask, "Where does our pee pee go?" I'd wait for them to answer "in the potty," and prompt them if needed. Then I'd ask, "What do you do if you need to go potty?" I'd wait for them to answer, "Tell Mommy" and, again, prompt them if needed. Your "talk" doesn't need to be long, but it does need to happen.

Good luck!
I hope my advice helps and that you are able to potty train successfully without going too crazy!