Reviving Motherhood

Learning on the Journey


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Red Raspberry Leaf Tea for Mamas!

I was sipping my red raspberry leaf tea today and thinking how much I love it–or more accurately, love what it seems to do for me.  I hear that it’s good for women any time, but I especially try to drink it in the later months of pregnancy.  This eHow article quotes the American Pregnancy Association’s website:

“Medical studies have shown that red raspberry leaf can be consumed safely during pregnancy and can decrease the length of labor and decrease the number of interventions used such as artificial rupture of membranes, assisted delivery, and cesarean delivery…”

All I know is that my first birth was a textbook first labor–18 hours–and my second was about half that time, but nearly unbearable (partly, I think, because I was induced due to a membrane tear…I’d do things differently if it happened again, but that’s another story).
My last 2 births have been 2 and 4 hours of active labor respectively, and much, MUCH easier than the previous 2 in terms of pain and intensity, as well as length.  I didn’t drink RRL during my first 2 pregnancies, but I’ve made sure to consume it during the last 2.  (To be completely honest it tastes kind of like leaves and sticks, but I find that when I sweeten it with a small amount of honey, it has grown on me to the point that I crave it.)  I’m convinced there’s a connection between RRL and faster, easier births.  Just passing on my experience in case it might be helpful to other moms!
In case any of you mamas are interested, here’s where I usually buy it.  A half pound goes a LONG way!
***Sorry about the goofy paragraph non-breaks.  WordPress won’t let me edit them and it’s driving me crazy!***


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Pregnancy Diet

My sister and I were talking about the best foods to eat during pregnancy and she shared what her midwife (who’s delivered somewhere around 1,200 babies) told her.  I found it helpful, since I’ve never ever had a doctor give me any kind of nutritional info throughout my 4 pregnancies.  (And yeah, I’m officially jealous that she gets to have a midwife!)

The midwife recommends unlimited fruits and veggies and 75-100 grams of protein daily.  She does not encourage severely limiting any food group, but if weight is an issues it’s permissible to cut back on carbs.

Just thought this might be helpful to others–it was to me.


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How Long Should I Breastfeed? Part 2

Jenny Silliman, age 50

My Titus 2 mentors aren’t celebrities.  Most of them are moms in the trenches just like me, godly ladies who are farther down the mothering road than I am.  I’ve written before about my friend Jenny.  She’s a mom of 8 children, some of whom are nearly as old as I am.  When I got pregnant with Elizabeth she called me just to congratulate and encourage me.  What a surprise!  Until that point I had mainly thought of her as my mom’s friend, but that phone call changed my life and cemented our friendship.

Her advice particularly impacted my mothering style.  Before that I had some vague notions about mothering but I didn’t have a lot of concrete goals, especially for the infant stage.  Jenny talked to me about preparing for birth, nutrition, responding to and nurturing my baby, and breastfeeding.  Her advice to try to breastfeed for two years took me a little by surprise.  “Baby’s brain is growing so fast until age two,” she explained.  “And breast milk is the perfect brain food!”  Until then I hadn’t given much thought to how long I would nurse my babies.  A year?  Eighteen months?  I had no idea.  This made sense and gave me a goal to shoot for.

I have to admit that I was the odd girl out among my friends.  Most of them didn’t breastfeed at all, let alone for longer than a year.  And that was fine.  I certainly didn’t (and don’t) judge or criticize them for that, but I was definitely alone in the breastfeeding department.

All the same, I am so glad that I took my wise friend’s advice and aimed for that two-year mark!  I soon learned that many experts agree, breastfeeding past one year is fine for baby and may even confer great benefits.  I found it interesting that Jenny’s rule of thumb was being backed up by medical professionals.  (There are a plethora of studies that have discovered the many benefits of breastfeeding to both baby and mom.)

Personally, I can say that breastfeeding longer than average has benefited my children enormously, especially in the area of immunity.  Elizabeth caught her first virus just weeks after I weaned her.  Our one-time pediatrician (himself a father of eight) concurred that in his observation, it made all the difference in the strength of a small child’s immune system.

Breastfeeding until a certain age is certainly not an issue of right or wrong.  When you choose to wean is not something I’d criticize anyone for. I believe God leads each of us differently in our mothering, and the important thing is to be sensitive to Him, even in something as basic as how to feed our children.

I just share my Jenny story just to encourage you: If you have considered breastfeeding past age 1, it’s OK.  Go right ahead.  Not only will it not hurt anything (even the AAP explicitly states so) but it will probably be beneficial to your little one.  It’s fine to nurse for both nutrition and comfort.  In the Bible, Isaiah 66:10-13 makes reference to a mother nursing her child for comfort: “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her.  For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.”  For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees.  As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

It might cause a raised eyebrow or two, but remember that whether you are able to breastfeed for just a little while or whether you choose to go for longer than your friends, what’s important is that you are doing what you believe is best for your baby.  Nourish with confidence!


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How Long Should I Breastfeed? Part 1

mother baby

Note:  This isn’t a diatribe against people who can’t/don’t breastfeed or those  who don’t breastfeed for a full  year.  No judgment here! It’s directed toward moms who haven’t decided how long to breastfeed or who have committed to do so at least till the one-year mark and wonder what comes next.

Recently a first-time-mom friend asked me about how long to breastfeed.  Interesting, because I had just been thinking about writing something along those lines.

The main question some moms seem to have is that they plan to wean at one year, but their babies still seems very attached.  They wonder: Is it OK to breastfeed past the first birthday?

The short answer is yes.  Not only is it OK, it’s probably quite beneficial to baby.  Many babies just aren’t ready to wean at 12 months.  In its most recent breastfeeding guidelines, the American Association of Pediatrics says:

“Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother, especially in delaying return of fertility (thereby promoting optimal intervals between births).

There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.”

Here’s what the World Health Organization recommends:

“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.”

In The Vaccine Book, Dr. Robert Sears (of the well-respected Sears family of pediatricians) says:

“If you are breastfeeding, plan to do so for a minimum of one year.  Two years is better.  Not only will your baby catch fewer illnesses, but her immune system may be better equipped to handle vaccines.”

So if you’ve ever wondered, experts agree that breastfeeding longer than one year is just fine, even to be encouraged.  If you choose to wean at 12 months, good for you for making it to that point!  But if you choose to continue, go for it!

Look for part 2, the story of my mom mentor Jenny who gave me wonderful breastfeeding advice!


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When Babies Wake

mother baby1

I’ve had lots of time to ponder the idea of wakeful babies lately, since my 1-year-old has been both teething and sick.  Some nights she has not gone to sleep till nearly midnight, just to wake again in the wee hours of the morning.  Some time back I determined to make the most of these night wakings.  I’m sure some smart, experienced mother gave me the idea.  I have learned to figure that if God has me awake at night, it must be for a reason…And it usually seems that that’s a good time for uninterrupted prayer.  I’m not always good at this (crying in frustration sometimes wins out…just sayin’…), but my broken nights are so much more peaceful when I use them to pray than when I get frustrated and upset at the sleep I’m missing.  I have also found that many times when I begin to pray, baby is able to settle back to sleep.  Maybe she senses some of that peacefulness?

Here’s another idea for making time with baby spiritually uplifting.  I saw it in mentioned in passing the other day, and realized that I have done this from time to time myself.  Great hymns of the faith make beautiful lullabies. They typically have a gentle rhythm and peaceful tune.  The words can’t be beat for bringing spiritual encouragement to mom, even when baby is too small to understand.  And imagine if baby grows up being familiar with these great, time-tested Christian songs!  For that matter, newer hymns and peaceful worship songs work just as well, and impart a greater spiritual legacy than traditional nursery rhymes (not that there is anything wrong with those).  Try it!  If you don’t know any hymns, get a CD.  (Anyone care to recommend one?)  Or check out a hymn site such as NetHymnal, which has hundreds (thousands?) of hymns…Read the lyrics, listen to the tunes, and find out more about the hymn’s author.

Here are the words to a favorite old hymn that makes a lovely lullabye:

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
And to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus says the Lord!”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more!

O how sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me
’Neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus,

Just from sin and self to cease;

Just from Jesus simply taking

Life and rest, and joy and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

And here’s a beautiful modern hymn:

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.


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Overcoming Mastitis

mother breastfeeding cassat

Ladies!  I am venturing into the the realm of the extremely practical today!  Sometimes we just need practical information, so here’s some that I hope will be a help to someone.

If you’ve breastfed for any length of time at all, more than likely you’ve had a run-in with the ugly beast that is mastitis. Basically, as I understand it, mastitis is a plugged milk duct (painful in its own right…the words hard, hot, and hurting pretty well sum it up) that’s gotten infected. And that can happen at the drop of a hat.

The first couple times I got mastitis I had no idea what I was doing and I ended up on antibiotics and in bed for a week. Now I can see it coming and (usually) head it off before it gets a good foothold. Since I’m not a doctor or medical professional, I’m just going to tell you mamas what I do and you can do your research and make up your mind whether or not you think it’s worth a try next time you are confronted with this scourge of breastfeeding mothers. Or if you are fortunate, you won’t ever have to deal with it, in which case you won’t need to read any farther.

1. Recognize early symptoms. Don’t just say, “Huh, why do I have this sore spot…?” and move on. Be proactive as soon as you think you might have a plugged duct. If you act quickly, you might stop it before it gets started. This has happened to me MANY times.

2. HEAT HEAT HEAT!!! Apply heat as often as you possibly can. My favorite method is to use a rice sock. Easy to make. Fill an old sock about ½ full of rice. Knot the top so the rice doesn’t pour out. Heat in the microwave for a minute or 2. (If you overheat it the rice will burn and smell kinda like burnt popcorn, in which case you may want to start over. Or not.) Apply to the sore place and keep it there as long as you can. Take care not to burn yourself. I sometimes wrap mine in a towel until it cools a bit.

3. WATER WATER WATER!!! Keep the fluids coming. Drink lots and lots. Water is best. Stay away from sugary drinks.

4. REST REST REST!!! Take a sick day or a couple. Nap. Watch TV. Go to bed early. If you can. Don’t overdo it. (Incidentally, getting overtired and run down is one thing that sometimes triggers mastitis.)

5. BABY! Letting baby feed will be painful, but one of the worst things you can do for yourself is to stop breastfeeding. Let your little one nurse as often as he will to keep you from becoming more engorged and infected. The milk is fine for baby. My friend Jenny, a mama of 8 encouraged me, “You can do it! This is when the wimps quit!” Hang in there! It will help!

6. Avoid sugar. Sugar feeds infection.

7. Garlic. I just take a garlic supplement. For a real kick, take fresh garlic. Garlic fights infection.

If you don’t knock it right away, pretty soon you might feel like you have flu, complete with fever, head and body aches, chills, the works. That is why it is so important to act as soon as you think you know what is going on. Even when it’s gotten to that point, aggressive action has enabled me to start feeling a lot better in 24 to 48 hours. It seems to be important to keep treating until you feel *lots* better. Don’t stop too soon. Of course, use common sense and see a doctor if you are really sick. I’m providing info on what has worked for me personally for informational purposes only.

Remember that breastfeeding is so wonderful for your baby! It is worth working through this to get to the other side!


Do the rest of you have any words of wisdom to share about what has helped you?


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Babywearing Love!

ergo

Hmmm, it appears that I totally missed International Babywearing Week, which is probably way more crunchy and alternative and hippie and so forth than most of us–ahem–“normal” mamas. Not that I consider myself very normal. But anyway.

I’ve tried a lot of different baby carriers over the years, and I’ve finally landed a favorite: Ergo. I’m pretty frugal and very reluctant to let go of that much cash (around $100), so I researched for about 2 years, pros and cons, talking to people who loved their Ergos and those who didn’t. Finally I made the splurge and ordered one for myself, and Oh. My. Heavens. Am I glad I did! I wish I’d had this carrier for all my babies!

The main difference between the Ergo and other carriers I’ve used is that it’s designed to distribute weight across mama’s hips instead of hanging baby from her shoulders. This is a big deal for me since my little ones usually skyrocket to 20 pounds in a matter of weeks. That’s a lot of weight to hang from your shoulders for extended periods of time. So comfort is definitely the biggest pro. I’ve been carrying (grumpy teething) Grace around on my back for hours and hours over the past couple weeks, without getting tired. Sometimes I even forget she’s back there. I can do all my work hands-free, yet she’s close and happy.  Babies can be carried in front, back, or hip positions, so it’s very versatile.

Cons: There’s an infant insert which I haven’t used, but the straddle position would definitely not be good for very small babies. Instead of hanging legs, baby ends up in more of a sitting position, which a tiny one couldn’t do. Also, if you’re the kind of person who likes something uncomplicated, like a sling, it does have several straps. It’s a bit of a trick to navigate the first time or 2, and I still have to have Elizabeth help me get Grace in the back carry position.

Ummm…Other than that I can’t think of any negatives. I love it. Highly recommend it. If you’re thinking about giving babywearing a shot, this is definitely the carrier I’d start with.

(pic from the Ergo web site)


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Favorite Baby Item: Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper

I wrote this little review right after Grace was born. There’s nothing in it for me–This co-sleeper is just a product I’ve found incredibly helpful.

What are your favorite baby products? Is there anything that you find really indispensable?

*******************

This is the Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper we got for our sweet new baby, Grace. I am loving it! I’ve tried just about every newborn sleeping arrangement from bassinet to pack and play to crib to full co-sleeping and none of it worked for me. This was recommended by a pediatric nurse friend, and it’s perfect. Grace is right next to me, so I can keep a close eye on her, pick her up easily (without getting out of bed), and during nursing times I don’t have to worry about dozing off and dropping her. That’s always been a big fear. The sleeper actually straps to the bed between the mattress and box springs for a nice tight fit.

She loves to sleep in my arms, but she also does really well in the co-sleeper with her foam wedges and a good swaddle. The nurses at the hospital showed me how they wrap the babies, and while I haven’t perfected their burrito swaddle, I can get her snug enough that she feels secure and sleeps well. This is my first success with getting baby to sleep on her back. I think the swaddle has something to do with it.

In any case, I wholeheartedly recommend the co-sleeper. It’s kinda pricey and at first I thought we had just bought a really expensive pack and play…It’s a lot more than that, though.

The only drawback I can think of is that it’s a bit harder for me to get in and out of bed. I have to get in from the end. However, that’s a small price to pay for a good night’s sleep!


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Frugal Baby

Babies can be expensive—but they don’t have to be nearly as expensive as we think. There are a multitude of ways to cut costs on baby expenses. Here are some. I don’t do all these things, but all are good ways to save money on little ones, starting at birth, literally.

Breastfeed

Formula for one baby for one year will cost between $1,000 and $2,300 depending on whether you use the powdered version or ready-to-pour. (That’s if your baby tolerates regular formula and doesn’t have to have a special–and specially expensive–kind). Breastmilk is absolutely free! What’s more, research shows (and most pediatricians will testify) that breastfed babies are sick far less than formula fed babies, so that eliminates a lot of dollars going out for doctor visits and medicine. I’m sold (literally, haha) on breastfeeding for many reasons, not the least of which is money saved.

Cloth diaper

This is something I’ve dreamed of but never really done. Maybe one day. Disposable diapers cost a lot, even when you buy store brands. Depending on what kind of cloth diapers and accessories you buy, there will be some initial investment, plus the cost of detergent and so forth, but the cost will still be drastically less than disposables.

Make your own wipes

Cut up old towels and re-wash them, or make your own wipes from inexpensive paper towels. One mom recommends just keeping a roll of paper towels and a spray bottle of soapy water handy. If you use regular wipes, try cutting them in half for small jobs. You can google “recipes” online too.

Make your own baby food

The AAP’s most recent breastfeeding recommendations state what a lot of moms have known all along—it’s rarely necessary to introduce solids before 6 months, and sometimes even later. When you do introduce baby to solid food, make your own. There’s no great mystery to this. Some people use the little baby food maker, but I don’t bother. I just mash or blend whatever vegetable or fruit I have on hand. My babies start with things like mashed banana, baked sweet potato, mashed avocado, applesauce, and pureed garden veggies (like squash). Instead of boxed cereal, I just gave them pureed old-fashioned oatmeal and pureed brown rice. And as they got a bit bigger, they ate tiny pieces of whatever we ate. Do stay away from high-allergy foods though.

Don’t Buy New Clothes

You don’t have to buy new clothes for your baby. You can outfit him or her for a little of nothing by shopping at garage sales and thrift stores. When they’re little, babies often wear an item only a few times before they outgrow it, and it’s not uncommon to even find clothes with tags still on. I have beautiful name brand children’s clothes that I’ve gotten at garage sales for mere pennies, far nicer things than I would have gotten if I’d bought items new. You’ll probably be offered hand-me-downs as well, which is where a lot of my kids’ clothes come from.

Try to wait till baby is born before you invest in clothes anyway. Gift clothes often cover clothing needs for the first few months, if not longer.

Shop Dollar Stores

Lotion, shampoo, and lots of other baby supplies cost a fraction of the regular price at a dollar store.

Freecycle and Shop Used

Join your local Freecycle group and be on the lookout for baby items like furniture. Check out Goodwill, junk stores, or other second-hand venues. Just make sure items like cribs meet safety standards.
Stay Home

You won’t have to pay for childcare, as well as food for those hurried mornings when you didn’t have time to fix breakfast or the nights you’re running late and doctor bills from all the illnesses baby picks up at daycare.