Tuesday, December 23, 2014

christmas party + eshakti! {review}



Last night was our company Christmas party and we had a blast! It was downtown Portland at the Ace Hotel event space and we gave our employees a great time, including a Happy-Matic photo booth and a Frozen singalong competition. It's always nice to let loose a little and I definitely did! 

Let me talk about my beautiful dress! I was contacted by eShakti a few months ago to see if I wanted to try out an item. It took me a few days to choose, but when I saw this dress newly listed I knew it was the one. I went through the ordering process and there are two options: you can pick a generic sizing, or you can enter your measurements and length preferences for a more exact fit. My problem is that I'm still in the postpartum phase so I didn't know exactly where I'd be when the dress came, so I chose a generic size. 


It took about two weeks for the dress to arrive via DHL and upon opening I was immediately impressed with the detail and quality of the embroidery and beading on the chest and sleeves, down the front of the dress and along the bottom hemline. The material and construction was of good quality, no loose threads or shoddy seams, and being made of polyester, it is super comfortable - let's be honest...I'm not one to suffer too much for fashion :) The top of the dress was a bit big, but I also have been losing inches every month after birth so I was already expecting the fit to be different. 



I held on to the dress for a month before it was time to wear it - last night's company Christmas party! Paired with some gold metallic sandals and gold earrings, this dress was the perfect fit for my personality and was comfy enough to wear all night long and even keep on when I got home! My friend suggested pairing the dress with a belt next time and I agree, but I ran out of time to make that happen. So, visualize a belt. 

I'm really happy this is now a part of my wardrobe and will absolutely consider ordering from eShakti again, especially when I need a dress for a special occasion. I like finding different styles that are uncommonly found and the offerings on eShakti fit that bill. They also have a great selection of "boho chic," lucky for me as I always find myself gravitating towards this style. 

They also always have amazing sales running. Right now, they have 70% off sitewide! 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

postpartum update: four months {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

I thought it would be a good idea to include a "postpartum update" as part of the 31 Days of Postpartum Health and Healing series because the way I feel even one-two months later is so different! I go back and read these posts and recognize (even though I knew then) that I was struggling but fortunately and thankfully, the difference when Dylan hit three months was almost like night and day.

I don't know if it is because we all just got acclimated to each other, or the removal of most all dairy that makes her happier, or that it just was the end of the "fourth trimester," but when she hit three months she became smiley, content, and our little social butterfly who loves to see everyone and be wherever the party is happening. She LOVES to be held, and doesn't last too long when she is left on her blanket or in her bouncy, and I've adjusted to that, too. She's my precious little sunshine who is a joy and light in our family!

Rarely do I feel the sheer anxiety and overwhelm that plagued those first twelve weeks of her life, and I'm feeling overall more balanced. I'm tired, to be sure (she's still up every 2-3 hours at night, ugh!) but I also have more energy and find that I'm naturally becoming a more productive person when I get those fits and bursts of inspiration, because now I see a 15 minute window of opportunity and try to get as much done as possible. I've also left her with family more than I ever left the twins in the first 18 months of their lives! The joy of only having one baby, I guess, but I've really enjoyed having the peace of mind that I can leave her safely with Andy or my parents and she'll take a bottle of expressed milk and be {mostly} happy.

Physically, I know my body will never be the same and I have been content with my body even more than I ever have before. Weird, and surprising, and for sure I lament the sagging that is happening, but it's nothing that preoccupies me or is a big issue. For that, I'm very thankful. I'm within something of my pre-birth weight, but I don't have a scale so I'm just going by which clothes I'm squeezing into.

A few interesting observations that show the true symbiosis of the mother and baby relationship is that when I don't get enough calories or water, Dylan gets constipated. If she has gone for longer than 48 hours without pooping, I know that I haven't been eating enough and if I eat a big, complete meal, she'll poop a few hours later! I am only down to a little bit of cheese every now and then, butter on my bread, and a bit of heavy cream in my coffee. I know that seems still like a lot of dairy but it's down from what it was and she is happier. I had a peppermint bark mocha treat the other evening and she was up so much that night.

The big girls have done so phenomenally with this new member of our family. They L-O-V-E her. Ruthie strokes her head and says, "oh, hi sweetheart! My little sweetie!" and Afton is full of kisses and hugs for her. Only when she's upset and crying loudly - mainly in the car - do they say, "We don't like this baby!" It's funny that whenever they're unhappy with her, she becomes "this baby" instead of Dylan. I couldn't be more pleased with their relationship and while I know it will go through challenges later on - just wait until she starts grabbing their toys! - I revel in it right now.

Challenges at this point? Sleeping. Oh, this girl does NOT love to sleep. And I love to sleep, we all are sleepers in this family. I'm awaiting the day when this improves. And honestly, I struggle to eat enough. The big girls have such big appetites that they usually end up eating my food, or it goes cold on the counter because of some activity, or I just forget...so by the time it's 1pm I'm starving and have eaten half an egg and cold toast. My saving grace has been decaf coffee blended with coconut oil and this tasteless protein powder. I'm also taking b12 spray and some homeopathic cell salts. Maybe I'll do a post soon on those.

My best piece of advice for surviving the postpartum period still stands: Rest, rest rest! Care for yourself and get the help you need. The more you properly recover in the early days, the better and swifter your overall recovery will be. It is 100% true. Also, EAT. And hydrate! And enjoy. When it doesn't feel like things will ever get better, please know from one fresh out of the postpartum period, it does. When you wake up one morning and realize you haven't cried in a few days, you'll know you're on your way. It may be three months in, it may be six or nine or thirteen. I don't think I left the house with the twins by myself for the first six months! Every woman, mother, and baby is different. Grace for yourself and for the journey, my friends!


Thursday, December 4, 2014

the small sacred.



I've been feeling very behind this week. Growing up, everything Christmas came out and was put up within the first day or two after Thanksgiving. We arrived home from our Thanksgiving celebration with family and we had one little one with the flu, and another other one who seems to be either in the middle of a growth spurt or starting to teethe. It's been a full contact week and my house looks about the same as it did when we arrived home last Sunday evening and dumped our stuff in the middle of the living room. Things are slowly moving to their rightful places, but besides putting out the Christmas pillows my mom gifted me as a part of her Black Friday goodies, nothing has been done.

Every night this week I've looked around the house and sighed. Andy has been gone late two nights, and worked later than I planned on another night. I get everyone to bed with just enough time to crash with some dinner and wine on the couch while catching up on a show or two.

For our first year really putting an effort into creating our "family" Christmas, I've struggled with feeling like a big ol' failure. The first year we've had a tree in six years and we don't even have it yet! Decorations are still in the basement. Christmas lights are sitting in a pile waiting to be strung up outside. I mean, lots of people on Instagram have their Christmas trees already! And their homes smell like pine and cinnamon! Mine just smells like...nothing. Diapers. Oh, and the Jesse Tree ornaments I printed off to color while we read the daily Advent story, well, they wanted to color them all at once so I let them. And at bedtime, instead of wanting to hear about the Story and the Song, they wanted an Elsa and Anna story. I think I could write Frozen cult fiction and make a good living.

But tonight, I sat on the kitchen floor eating dinner with the girls at their little Ikea table and we listened to a Pandora christmas station while Dylan slept in the next room, quiet after a fussy day. The house was warm, the lighting soft (I put incandescent lamps in the kitchen instead of using fluorescent and it has made all the difference), the smell of curry rice and sausage on the stove, and the girls chatting away. Afton bounced off her chair and came behind me, taking my hair in her hands and said, "mom, I'm gonna give you a braid. Hold still!" Ruthie was deciding whether or not she actually liked the curry sauce on the rice and kept asking for one more bite of mine. She'd twist her face while chewing and shake her head. "No, I don't like it...can I have one more bite?" All this culminated into a moment.

We probably all read those articles that circle around Facebook about focusing not on the "doing" of Christmas but rather the "being," and I subscribe to this idea whole-heartedly, especially as a believer in the magnificence of the baby whose arrival is at the heart of this season. But sometimes it is just so nice to have my own moment, my own realization of the fact in one of those spaces that transcend time, when all becomes still in my mind and heart and I feel the love so present in my life. It's a sweet feeling that one reads about and says Yes but when you experience it, it's a little like, "oh."

I'm so thankful I had one of those moments tonight.

Have you had that moment yet this season? I hope and pray that you make the space in your life to recognize it when you do, store it in your heart as a treasure to revisit again and again.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My Favorite Fair Trade Christmas Ornaments {GIVEAWAY}

This is our first year really making an effort to decorate for Christmas. In years past, we've spent the majority of December in Southern Oregon and so haven't set up a tree or started any of our own traditions. We've had a tree once in our seven years of marriage! 

The girls are really excited for Christmas. They see lights and say, "look mom! Christmas!" and ask, "Can we do Christmas?" So Saturday we're heading out to get a tree, and we'll pull out our rubbermaid of decorations and attempt to make this place more festive.

I also now understand why in my younger years our family ornaments were pretty much indestructible. We had the neat wooden figurines that were fun to make-believe with and other handmade baubles and hot-glued globs. I remember wondering why we didn't do a "fancy tree" like some other families did, but now I understand 100%! Little hands aren't so gentle with glass balls and breakables. 

Along with some vintage wooden ornaments passed down from our parents and some dollar tree balls, I ordered these ornaments from Trades of Hope during their Christmas sale, going on right now! Each ornament is made by a group of women artisans and the production supports themselves and their families. The fabric hearts are made by women in Costa Rica, the gold stars and silver figures are made by women in India, and the tin ornaments are made by women in Haiti. 

I love that we will look at these ornaments over the next decade(s) and know that they made a difference in a family's life. I also like that I will be able to share with my kids stories of empowering others and thinking about the way we live our lives and the way people have to fight for their living in less affluent areas. It will be neat to see how our conversation about these topics evolve over the years as they grow in maturity and understanding, and hopefully it will be one of the ways to plant seeds in their minds and hearts for seeing to the needs of others as just a way of life. 

Costa Rica 
India

Haiti
India

The Trades of Hope Christmas sale is going on NOW if you'd like to purchase your own set of ornaments. They also make thoughtful little gifts if the sets are separated, and each ornament comes with its own "artisan card" that tells about the women who made it and the area it comes from.

As a Trades of Hope "compassion entrepreneur" for the last year and a half, I've been able to make some side income while supporting women artisans and families in several countries around the world. I don't devote a ton of time to it, but Christmas time is definitely the most fun! If you're interested in learning more about becoming a Trades of Hope Compassion Entrepreneur, shoot me an email! This is the mission in a nutshell:

"Trades of Hope empowers women to create sustainable businesses worldwide. We want women to realize their potential as world changers, business owners, dream creators, and heroes of their own stories. We are looking for American women to rise up and be the voice for the women who have no voice, empowering them to rise out of poverty. Become a compassionate entrepreneur to change the world. Host a party to be a part of something bigger than yourself."

I'd like to give away the beautiful Haitian recycled tin snowflake ornament on the bottom left! 

Enter to win below and I'll get it to you in time for Christmas, and check out my Trades of Hope page for beautiful fair trade items: jewelry, scarves, home decor, handbags, stationery, and more! 

HOW TO ENTER: 

1. Tell me your favorite Christmas decoration from your childhood. Mine was our nativity scene! 

2. Visit my Trades of Hope page and tell me your favorite item, Christmas or otherwise. 

Leave separate comments for both entries to be entered twice! 



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

MINTED cards update: our pick!

We chose our Christmas card from Minted and here it is! Love our photos by Linnea Paulina and excited to send these out, although we only ordered enough for the most immediate family...but feel free to FEEL like immediate family by viewing this page :) Minted is running specials throughout December so if you haven't ordered your cards and you're looking for a unique design, head over to the site and browse!


Monday, November 24, 2014

Goumikids {review + giveaway!}


I've had the pleasure of working with another local company making awesome baby things, and am excited to share these products with you!



Goumikids is run by two mamas who use organic, breathable materials and fashionable prints for their baby mitts, hats, and booties.

We received a full set with all three items and they have quickly become my go-to item for getting baby Dylan ready for the day. What's the worst thing about newborn socks? They do NOT stay on their feet! The goumi boots, to my {delighted} surprise, do stay on and only come off when I decide to take them off. She wears them around the house all the time. I've put them through the wash already and they held their shape up well and did not fall apart one bit. The fabric is breathable, so no sweaty baby feet!

The mitts we use less but only because we've been indoors more lately staying out of the rain. They are super cute and are reversible, too! We do use them whenever we catch a break in the weather and decide to take a walk around the neighborhood.

     

The hat, though, is the big winner for me. It is not only completely adorable, but I feel comfortable and confident putting it on her head knowing that the materials used {bamboo and organic cotton} are safe for her to wear for long periods of time. And again, no sweaty baby head due to the breathability of the fabric. It's stretchy but does not stretch out, and it's easy to tie up under the chin or leave untied and the strings hang down. She has worn the hat every day last week and it will be a winter staple.

I'm very pleased with all aspects of these products: the design, the quality of the fabric, the quality of construction and the price point. Generally I don't look to spend much money on these types of items, but after trying all three and loving them, I'm definitely willing to make the investment without second thought. I have two friends expecting babies this winter and I'm planning on gifting them the newborn set...and pick up another pair of booties and a hat for us, too.

And, Goumikids has generously offered to give away one of their hats to a reader! Enter below, and it ends Monday 12/8.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

{disclaimer: goumikids sent me items to review but all opinions are my own.}

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

holiday cards + minted.

Last Sunday we had our first ever family-of-five photos taken by the lovely Linnea Paulina and, to my joyous surprise, everyone smiled like a champ, including the baby! The magic formula? The mini session. 20-30 minutes tops, and then a donut treat afterwards. I can't wait to see our pictures!

So, postal rates continue to increase but even so, sending out and receiving holiday cards is one of my favorite parts of the season. I try to hand-deliver most of them and save the stamps for out of state family.



With that in mind, I've been hearing about the company Minted all around the web, and as I'd like to depart from our traditional Costco photo cards (no dig, Costco, you know I love you), I finally got a chance to sit down and explore their site. What I didn't know was that Minted holds design competitions and the designs with the most votes get put up in the shop! It's a fun way to discover new trends and designers, and I like that anyone, not just professionals, can submit their work.

Checking out Minted was a fun hour-long detour of my night, and these are my current five favorites:






and just for humor: 


I'll be ordering our cards once we get our photos back from Linnea and will be excited to give you all a little peek! You can shop for your own cards here, and it looks like they have some great specials running right now.

Who has a jump start on their holiday cards, or do you take another route?

{All opinions are mine - thanks to Minted for offering me a credit towards our holiday cards in exchange for sharing about their offerings. No other compensation was received.}

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pelvic Floor Q&A with Dr. Mandi Murtaugh {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

OK, so I know that October is officially over and that ends the "31 Days" series...but I'm behind on everything I wanted to talk about, so I'm keeping it going through November! I know, rule breaker. 




Today I'm really excited to have my friend and physical therapist extraordinaire on the blog to discuss something incredibly important for all women: the pelvic floor! We all have one, yes, and we need to know how to take care of it. Mandi is one of my dearest friends and a super smart cookie. I'm looking forward to sharing her knowledge about our lady parts!

Hi! So, what is your specialty? 

I am a Women's Health Physical Therapist and my focus is on the pelvic floor as well as pregnancy and postpartum recovery. 

Ok, so what is the pelvic floor? 

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, kind of like a trampoline or sling, at the base of your pelvis. It controls and supports the bladder, rectum and uterus. It's important for an orgasm, and it helps to support the sacrum and the lumbar spine. It is a part of your deep core. It works right along with the deep abdominals - the tranverse abdominis - to help zip up a diastasis (which we talked about here).

What do you do during a visit?

The first or second visit, I typically do an internal muscle exam - no speculum, no stirrups - just one finger inside the vagina to feel you squeeze and release, and to check for any tender points. They can be tight or have knots or trigger points, just like any other muscle. I also check the position of the organs to see if any organs are migrating down (prolapse) and check for diastasis (a separation of the abdominal muscles that is common). I usually have patients do a bladder diary to look at their bladder habits. 

From there, I do a lot of education. I give them an individualized program for their pelvic floor, which is why I don't give blanket advice, because everyone is different. For example, if a patient can only squeeze and hold for two seconds, I'm not going to send you home telling you to squeeze for 10 seconds, I'll send you home squeezing for two seconds. Recovery is so much more individualized and involved than just a blanket fix-all amount of exercises. For instance, some people shouldn't do Kegels! They actually need to UN-Kegel.

Fun! What are the most common complaints you see in your office from pregnant or postpartum women? 

Urinary incontinence is the biggest complaint, along with back pain. Carrying and having babies is good, beautiful and healthy but it is traumatic to your undercarriage! If you damage another muscle, you're probably going to rehab it, right? A woman gives birth using this powerful muscle and then is supposed to go and lift this seven pound weight repeatedly, most often awkwardly! I think that everyone after their six week checkup should have a pelvic floor consultation, and every woman should have a consultation before returning to exercise. Your doctor or midwife may not mention physical therapy for postpartum recovery.

And how does one's pelvic floor health come into play? 

The pelvic floor is important in controlling bowel and bladder, and so if it's weak or damaged by a tear or episiotomy greater than a first degree (a second degree tear or greater goes through the muscle), you may have some problems. Your vagina is a lot smaller than a baby's head. The muscles stretch, the nerves can get compressed, or if the bones are out of alignment then the muscles aren't attaching quite right and can't pull they way they're meant to.

So peeing your pants or leaking urine long term is NOT normal or healthy? 

It is common, it is NOT normal. It can mean that your pelvic floor is weak or that you have altered timing. You can have a strong pelvic floor but still leak if the muscles squeeze after a cough or sneeze already pushed down on the bladder. Stress incontinence is leaking with coughing, sneezing or exercise - if there is an increase in abdominal pressure - and this is also not normal. If at six months you're still leaking, than you're most likely going to be still leaking a year later if you don't get some help. If this is happening I recommend that you see a physical therapist who specializes in women's health. 

How can women maintain a healthy pelvic floor before, during, and after pregnancy? 

By being able to correctly engage the pelvic floor muscles. Make sure you know how to tense your pelvic floor to stabilize the spine and when you cough, sneeze, or during exercise, you need to be able to "turn it on" and "turn it off." It's not just about Kegels, because the pelvic floor needs to relax when we have sex or poop or pee. Women who have pain with sex oftentimes have an overactive pelvic floor and they need to learn how to un-Kegel.

Can you teach us a quick exercise to find our pelvic floor and engage it? 

Sure! Sit down on a hard surface or on an exercise ball and draw in your pelvic floor by squeezing around your vagina - it's the same thing you would do to stop gas or pee (do NOT practice while peeing!) - you can also think of drawing your sit bones together and your tailbone towards your pubic bone in the front. Your buns should not squeeze, and if anyone is sitting next to you they shouldn't see you move. Then, let it go.

Another good way to self-check is to put your finger in your vagina while in the shower and squeeze. You should feel it close around your finger and when you relax, it should release.

Again, the times you want to squeeze the pelvic floor are before a cough or sneeze, while going up stairs, exercising, or standing up from a seat, and any time you pick something up, whether it's a baby or the milk jug. It only takes a gentle contraction--think 25% of your strongest effort--to stabilize for most normal movements. If you're leaking with these types of things, it may be time to get it checked out!

Mandi Murtaugh, PT, DPT, WCS, is a Women's Health Certified Physical Therapist in Portland, Oregon. She practices at Element Wellness & Sports Rehabilitation and will soon be launching a New Moms exercise group in John's Landing. You can get in touch with her at mandi@elementwellnesspdx.com or www.mandimurtaughdpt.com. 

Thanks Dr. Mandi! There is so much more to discuss and I'm looking forward to picking her brain on upcoming posts. Any questions for Dr. Mandi? Post below! 


Friday, October 31, 2014

mother letter: to a new mama {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing


Dearest New Mama,

The moment you gave birth, did you feel the change? Something amazing happened; a part of you died and a new part of you came alive. This little creation of part you - part man - part God - all love -  has taken over your world, and it's no longer about you.

This little human is the embodiment of your highest joys and your darkest fears. Things you never thought much about (poop, mainly, but also the state of the world and the price of a college education) will become daily concerns.

But YOU still matter. Your heart, your mind, your thoughts, your dreams and prayers...they may feel fuzzy and jumbled for now but you are still you, a woman made for a special and specific purpose. You might feel like that woman is lost or adrift (or asleep!), but don't worry, she'll return soon enough.

Guard your heart against comparison. You are the only mama your child needs, the wife your husband wants, the woman your friends adore and the daughter and sister your family loves. A break from blogs, websites, magazines, books, and television shows that lead to self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy is worth considering. Pursue only those things that inspire and encourage you.

Write your ideal expectations for yourself and your new baby on a sheet of paper, then crumple it up and throw it away. Or better yet, burn it.

Instead, pay attention and get caught up in the tiniest moments. A brush of baby eyelash, the smell of sweet milk-breath, a tiny earlobe, the rhythm of their heartbeat, and the skin between their toes. Their fingernails are so teeny, their hair so soft...how is it that you created this beautiful creature? Amidst the crying, the sleep deprivation, and the messes, these little observations will keep your spirits afloat. This is what matters.

Not laundry. Not dishes. Not being baby-crafty or having a trendy nursery. There is a time and a place for those activities, but now is definitely not the time.

Make cuddling a priority.

Rejoice when you take a shower, or put on something other than yoga pants.

Take a self portrait whenever you do your hair or put on makeup, because in the beginning, those days are few and far between.

In the hard moments it's okay to cry.

In the happy moments it's okay to cry.

In the random moments, it's also okay to cry.

When you wonder if your baby loves you, know that you are the definition of the word in her little world.

On the difficult days, abandon your routine. Get in the car and drive. Put on music and dance. Wrap them up and go for a walk. Get ice cream, sit in the park, and listen to the birds sing. Leave the house even if it's just to run to the store for eggs. On these days, the schedule becomes the enemy and fresh air does wonders.

Know that it's okay if you don't want to leave your baby right away for a "date-night" or just to "get away." You'll know when the time is right, and when it is, get gone!

Resist the pity party. This is so very hard, especially on those difficult days. Find inspiration and encouragement that speaks to your soul and cling to it fiercely. Find friends and mentors who build you up, not tear you or your kids down. Mothering requires sacrifice, yes, but it is not a terrible burden.

Remember that for as much parenting wisdom is out there, your mama-intuition trumps an expert's opinion.

Mothering will take all that you are and even more than you thought you had. Savor, wonder, laugh, snuggle, and store up special moments in your heart. This time is precious and will be forever imprinted on your heart.

You are Loved,  

Megan



This is part of the Mother Letters link-up to promote the inspiring Mother Letters ebook, curated by Amber and Seth Haines. Click here to view more details.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Natural Remedies for Mastitis {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

{This was first posted two years ago and thought it would be good to re-share during the postpartum series! Catching breastfeeding problems while still early can make all the difference. }

I remember my experience trying to ward off my first case of mastitis. I was clogged, inflamed, and in pain.

We were in the NICU about a week after the girls were born, and I asked to see the lactation consultant to see if she could help me. Two came in that day; one helped me get sized for new flanges for the breast pump (they were cushioned! Oh luxury!) and worked with me to try and unclog the duct using heat and massage. The other lactation consultant took one look at my sad, engorged breasts and said, "Call imaging, now! We have to get her in for ultrasound therapy, immediately!"

Well, it was Friday afternoon at 4pm. Let's just say that the imaging people were less than helpful. I didn't get in. So I went back to the properly-fitting pump flanges, hot compresses and massage for the next few days, trying to keep my breasts as empty as possible. Luckily, I was able to stay one step ahead of it before it turned into full-blown mastitis. Phew!

There are many causes of breast infection (mastitis is the clinical term), and can range from incorrect latch to restrictive clothing, or from engorgement due to oversupply or too long between feedings. Pumping moms need to be sure they have the correctly-sized pump flanges. For moms who struggle with recurrent infection, KellyMom suggests checking into potential food allergies.

Prevention is Key

The key is to catch it early. If you feel achy, feverish, and have a clogged milk duct (feels like a lump in your breast that will become tender to the touch, sometimes radiating heat or red streaks), get on top of it quickly. Untreated, it can lead to abscesses and that is a big problem.

It's also important to be extra diligent during the first three months after your baby is born and your body is working hard to produce and regulate your milk supply.

The ideal is to avoid it in the first place, by:
  • Allowing baby to empty the first breast before switching. This lessens your chances of having excess milk build up that can become a problem. 
  • Feed on demand, not by a rigid schedule. Your body will regulate your milk production to meet the exact needs of your baby. It's amazing!
  • Drink more water and nourish yourself with good food and rest. Stress and exhaustion can take a little case of inflammation into a full blown illness very quickly. According to Susun S. Weed, "Breast infections are almost always a sign of too little rest."
  • Wear nursing bras that fit properly without restriction and avoid clothing that puts too much pressure on your breasts. 
  • See a board-certified lactation consultant to check latch and positioning.
Natural Remedies

According to KellyMom, "these treatments should be used in addition to your efforts to find and remedy the source of the problem. Keep in mind that if the source of your recurrent plugged ducts or mastitis is something fixable (for example: oversupply, infrequent nursing, too tight bra, etc.), then solving the underlying problem is the most effective thing you can do."

Physical Treatments
  • DO NOT STOP NURSING! Try and nurse even more than usual to keep the milk flowing through. 
  • Heat or Cold Packs - Apply heat/cold before and after nursing baby. If there is redness or swelling, it's inflammation and you need COLD. Once the swelling goes down, you can use HEAT.
    • Take a hot shower, use washcloths, a towel-covered ice pack, or rice packs as compresses, or use these really cool things called Booby Tubes from Earth Mama Angel Baby. They can be used hot or cold.
  • Massage, while nursing or pumping. 
    • Find the lump with your fingertips, and while nursing baby on the side with the plugged duct, use your finger tips to massage gently but firmly from the plugged area toward the nipple. Massage in the shower for a double whammy!
  • Soak in a sink full of warm water. 
    • Fill the sink, lean over and immerse one or breasts. Do this for 5 minutes 5-7 times per day.
  • Rest! Nap while your baby naps, at least once a day. 
  • Sleep on your side or your back in a cotton nursing bra with no wires. Sleeping on your stomach can put pressure on your breasts and lead to clogged ducts.
  • Wear loose clothing during the day with a well-fitting bra to prevent restricted blood flow. 
  • If you have a breastpump, you can pump for just long enough to relieve pressure or engorgement.
  • If you're really uncomfortable, try nursing for a few sessions on your hands and knees with your baby underneath. It feels strange and awkward but it works to get the milk flowing.
Supplements & Foods:
  • Vitamin C 
    • 1000mg 4-5 times per day
  • Echinacea Tincture
    • Take 3 drops in a glass of water every 2 hours. You can also take it in tea form in addition to the tincture. Continue taking for at least a week after symptoms have resolved.
  • Raw Garlic
    • Eat a whole clove 3-5 times per day
  • Homeopathy 
    • Fever & Swelling: Belladonna 30C – 3 pellets 2-3 times per day.
    • Hepar Sulphur and Phytolacca
      •  Dosage (allow pellets to dissolve in mouth): first, take Hepar Sulphur 30C – 3 pellets; 3 hours later, take Phytolacca 30C – 3 pellets; 3 hours later, take Hepar Sulphur 30C – 3 pellets; 3 hours later, take Phytolacca 30C – 3 pellets. (Per KellyMom)
    • If neither remedies work in the first 24 hours, try another remedy from the list on the Little Mountain Homeopathy Blog.
  •  Propolis
  • Apple Cider Vinegar + raw honey
    • Mix 1 Tbsp. ACV with honey to taste in a small glass of water. Take 3 times per day.
  • Lecithin
    • Eggs are the best source: One mom I heard of swears by 2-3 raw pastured egg yolks per day (add to a smoothie!). If you can't get a hold of some pastured eggs, buy organic and cook the yolk gently. 
    • If you can't eat eggs, try a non-GMO Lecithin supplement
  • Cabbage leaves
    • Place a cool leaf inside your bra, directly against your breast. Leave it for 15-30 minutes, then remove. Do this once or twice per day (careful, it can negatively affect your supply!)  
  • Thieves Oil 
    • 1-2 drops diluted in 1 tsp. coconut oil, rub on affected area - a good friend swore by this!
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic Care - read about Frugal Granola's experience.

And if none of the above treatments work to completely resolve the problem, antibiotics might be necessary, although in my opinion (I'm not a Dr.!) and from many of the informed opinions of those I admire, that is the last resort, because of the damage it can do to your gut and the developing gut of your newborn, and because of the increased risk of a fungal infection like thrush. If you do have to take antibiotics, make sure you supplement with a very high quality probiotic and eat lots of yogurt and naturally fermented foods.


Sources & Resources:

Prevention and Treatment of Mastitis at Keeper of the Home
Homeopathic Treatment of Mastitis at Little Mountain Homeopathy Blog
Natural Cures for Mastitis at Naturally Knocked Up
Mastitis and Blocked Ducts at Holistic Kid

What's your go-to remedy for mastitis or clogged ducts? Have you tried any of those listed above?

I love sharing my experiences, but this site isn't meant to give medical advice, it's only for informational and educational purposes. Please discuss with your own qualified health care provider before adding in supplements or making any changes in your diet. Also, any links to sponsors or affiliates (including Amazon) may give me a percentage of the sale or a pay per click. Thank you so much for supporting this site! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Postpartum Belly Binding {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}


If you're like me, the after shock of what a baby-less belly looks like is a bit shocking. Like a deflated mushy balloon, only it's not air inside, it's your organs! Or it's a little bit like kneading a batch of bread dough...moving on...

A look at postpartum practices around the world will show us one thing they almost all have in common: abdominal binding after birth. Fortunately, postpartum belly binding is becoming more popular in the U.S. as more women are learning about the benefits.

As we discussed in the last post, during pregnancy, the connective tissue of the abdomens stretches incredibly thin, and sometimes has a difficult time coming back together correctly, especially if doing activities that stress the abdominal wall - like crunchies and plank - leading to the condition of diastasis recti. Splinting after birth can assist this healing process. According to Julie Tupler, inventor of the Tupler Technique and author of Lose Your Mummy Tummy"Wearing a splint can be compared to wearing a cast for a broken bone. You want to keep the two bones (like connective tissue) in the same position continuously so they will heal. 'Protecting' the connective tissue is about not doing activities that stretch or put intra-abdominal force or pressure on the weak tissue."


Photo from DiastasisRehab.com
Diastasis can lead to all sorts of uncomfortable problems for women that can last for many years: low back and hip pain, pelvic floor pressure and uterine prolapse, and stress incontinence, and looking like you have a "pooch" that won't go away no matter how many "ab" exercises you do.

While a splint by itself will not heal a diastasis and should not be used long term, it will aid your body and help as you re-learn proper realignment and re-stabilize the core through proper exercises that strengthen the natural corset of the body, the transverse abdominus.


The main goal is to strengthen your core in the appropriate way so that you no longer need the splint.

According to Kelly Dean, PT of the Tummy Team, "Proper positioning of an abdominal splint for belly binding helps approximate the 2 sides of the outer most abdominals...and provides your temporary transverse abdominis (corset) to help realign and support your back and organs and help increase blood supply to improve healing to the area."

If you do decide to splint, make sure you do it correctly - wearing it too tight is the #1 mistake that most women make and was a mistake I was making before being corrected by my chiropractor. Watch this video and read these instructions from the Tummy Team for detailed information.

There are several inexpensive splints available on Amazon (although the belly bandit certainly is cute!) or through the Tummy Team website.

Belly Bandit on Amazon

Resources & Learn More

The Splint is Temporary, Your Transverse is Forever from Kelly Dean, PT
Abdominal Splinting with Video Demo from Kelly Dean, PT / Tummy Team
Binding Your Belly After Birth from Fit2Be
Articles by Julie Tupler, RN or the Tupler Technique
The Tupler Technique book by Julie Tupler and the Tupler Technique web site
Diastasis Recti Test + Exercises: What Works and What Doesn't from Wendy Powell

(Disclaimer: I am not a Tummy Team affiliate, I just love the information they provide! I am however an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission if you choose to shop through the links provided.) 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Do You Have Diastasis Recti? {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}




Lower hip and back pain? Is your belly still pooching out even months/years after giving birth? There's an answer.

Diastasis recti is a common problem among women who have been pregnant and is when the right and left rectus abdominus muscles separate. This is a completely normal experience that happens in every pregnancy as our amazing bodies expand to make room for growing baby, but the problems come after pregnancy, when the abdominal wall is weak and the muscles do not come back together. In subsequent pregnancies, lower back pain can be more severe and can even lead to poor presentation of the baby.

Check Yourself for Diastasis recti

There's a self-test you can do to check for DR. Watch this video on Fit2Be from Kelly Dean of the Tummy Team (a local diastasis recti expert and physical therapist) to check yourself.




If you do find that you have it, don't worry! There are exercises you can do to bring your abs back together. But in the meantime, do NOT perform the exercises listed below.  You have been told these traditional core trainers lead to a flat tummy - nope! They make diastasis worse!
  • Crunches of ANY kind
  • Oblique twists 
  • Pilates 100s
  • Plank
  • Reverse leg lowers 
From my own experience, I ordered a prenatal yoga DVD off of Amazon and, after learning about diastasis after the birth of my twins, was somewhat shocked that the instructor recommended a plank position. So be aware that not all instructors know that the above exercises are not recommended.

Healing Diastasis recti

According to Fit2Be's informative diastasis handout, "The injury is improved by correcting alignment, strengthening the transverse, utilizing upright activities, and discontinuing any exercise or activity in which you cannot keep your transverse abdominus actively engaged (ribs down, navel in). For women, proper prenatal core training and postnatal rehabilitation of the abdominal wall can effectively and non-surgically correct this condition."

Download and print out these "Exercises for Everywhere" and check out Fit2Be for diastasis safe exercises - perhaps join their monthly membership program! I am currently participating in their 5x5 program.

Fit2Be is also offering readers a 30% discount on a year membership that ends July of 2015 using the code bohomama. 

Next up we'll talk belly binding!

Resources:

Diastasis recti printable from Fit2Be
Kelly Dean's the Tummy Team online course
Diastasis Recti Test + Exercises: What Works and What Doesn't from MuTu System





Monday, October 20, 2014

Gifts & Resources for the New Mama {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

Baby gets so many new gifts to celebrate his or her arrival into the world. But I remember at my shower one of the most thoughtful gifts I received was a gift certificate to Victoria's Secret. It was so nice to get some pretty new undies to wear even though I was milk soaked everywhere else! Maybe think about gifting something small but meaningful, like these ideas below:





Starting top left and clockwise:

Organic Body Scrub from JenSan Home and Body
Mama to Be gift set from Earth Mama Angel Baby
Mug from Printable Wisdom
Rooibos from Rooibos Rocks
Happy Mommy Box monthly subscription that brings it right to her doorstep!
Amazon gift card for Kindle purchases
Earrings from Larking Mercantile
Bring them a meal (or two) or set up a Meal Train schedule for the family

You could also gift the family with a gift card towards a restaurant, coffee shop, massage, or pedicure.

One of my very favorite brands is Earth Mama Angel Baby. They have thoughtful products and use herbal mixtures that really work. I'm a proud Earth Mama affiliate and have used/use many of their products. The links below take you to the Earth Mama Angel Baby Site and contain my unique affiliate I.D.




Earth Mama Angel Baby - Breastfeeding Bundle

They also put together a couple of amazing FREE resources: A Comprehensive Guide to Herbs & Breastfeeding and the Earth Mama Lying In Plan.

Send these links to a new mama, or download and print it out to give when you deliver your gift! Click through the photo to go to Earth Mama's site and download your free copies.

Earth Mama's Guide to Herbs and Breastfeeding eBook



Earth Mama® Postpartum Lying-in Plan


Share your favorite postpartum gift ideas below!







Sunday, October 19, 2014

the nursing basket {31 Days of Postpartum Health & Healing}

*This is a repost from two years ago but thought I would share it again, it's such a great idea!*

One of my favorite bloggers and friends IRL is Gretchen from That Mama Gretchen. She is mama to Jemma and Max, a savvy business woman and her blog is chock full of creative and practical content. Basically, she's awesome!

I asked her if I could share the contents of her nursing basket - it's organized and thorough, whereas mine was just a mishmash of things from room to room. Next time I'm sure I'll be much more organized...

Whether you are a new mama or a seasoned one, a nursing basket is an absolute must! Wouldn't you agree? Wait? You're wondering what a nursing basket is? Well, let me enlighten you :)

A nursing basket is a nook of must-have breastfeeding supplies. You see, when a nursing mama snuggles in to feed her baby she will inevitable need a few things within arms reach. Here's a peak at my own nursing basket ...
  1. Disposable nursing pads - You leak, you spray, you need to keep your bra dry. Enough said. 
  2. Burp clothes - I like to keep at least 2 close by. One to layer under baby's chin to catch dribbles and another to lay over my shoulder for actual burping. 
  3. Reusable nursing pads - When I'm having a home day I much prefer to use a wool/bamboo reusable nursing pad. It isn't leak proof (at least not for me), but it does help me to save money and be a bit more green so I use them as often as I can.
  4. Lanolin or nipple cream - Talk about a must! Nip ouches are no fun and must be remedied ASAP. Sample sizes are perfect for nursing baskets, Motherlove is the best in my opinion :)
  5. Reading material - When baby drifts off to sleep I often take advantage of the quiet. Sometimes I stock my basket with a novel or devotional, but with this baby I'll be starting off with house research and Tribes.
  6. A chic basket, tub, or other container - My basket is from Michaels and it perfectly fits a sideways box of nursing pads.
  7. Water - Drinking lots of water is crucial to keeping up milk supply, plus, as soon as I let down I immediately get thirsty. Hence the whopping 24 ounce cup. Just don't forget to refill it before you sit down! Been there, done that, no bueno.
  8. Coconut oil - You know those little make-up sample containers? Once mine are done I fill them up with coconut oil and tuck them everywhere! My nursing basket is no exception. Coconut oil can be used for everything ... nipples, cradle cap, and more. Stock up!
  9. Lotion - I need lotion like I need water. Nursing makes my hands feel super dry so I usually lotion up at some point during nursing snuggles.
  10. Chapstick - Yep, just like water and lotion, I gotta keep my lips hydrated. The pomegranate scent from Yes to Carrots is my new obsession. 
  11. Hair accessories - I've made it a habit to pull my hair back while nursing. I don't like it falling in my face and when baby gets older I don't like it being pulled!
  12. Snacks - Nursing mamas need to eat 300-500 more calories/day in order to maintain a healthy milk supply. Unfortunately this doesn't mean extra cookies (well, unless they are lactation cookies). I usually opt for a high-protein granola bar as my nursing basket snack.
And, a few other tips ... 
  • I highly recommend having a basket on each floor of your house or in every room you frequently nurse in. I have two - one near the couch and one next to my bed. All these supplies are also stocked in my diaper bag so I'm ready to feed the little one when I'm on the go.
  • Restocking your nursing basket is a perfect activity for older children or sweet husbands :) Print up a little checklist and allow your family to take an active role in taking care of you and baby.
  • Nursing baskets make a lovely and personal gift for all the sweet mamas in your life. Talk about a memorable baby shower gift! Even better, after baby is born, why not deliver a nursing basket when you pop in the visit mama and baby?

Thanks for sharing, Gretchen! Be sure to visit her blog and admire her sweet littles!



Saturday, October 18, 2014

the first week after birth {31 Days of Postpartum Health and Healing}





The nursery is ready, baby clothes are sorted and washed, meals are stocked in the freezer and your birth bag is waiting by the door. So much of the last nine months has been spent wondering over this little human growing inside of you - what they'll be like, what sort of mother you'll be, how your life will change. There's a blank spot, though - what of the moments right after the birth? The days to come? Those blurry nights and hazy days that are spent in joy but that can also be really tough. Sometimes we skip over the logistics of those first days (I'm guilty of it!) and it can come as an overwhelming surprise if not prepared for the reality of body after birth.

Here's a brief timeline of what you can reasonably expect the first week or so after a vaginal birth. Of course, every mother and baby are different, so don't hold yourself too strictly to this, okay? For a more in-depth timeline that includes Cesarean info, check out Alpha Parent's Timeline of Postpartum Recovery. And more importantly, check with your doctor or midwife if anything feels amiss or you have questions. This is not medical advice! Your healthcare provider will give you things to be on the look out for to signal problems and please take those recommendations seriously.

Day 1

Did you just run a marathon or climb a mountain? No, you've only just given birth to your baby! You're completely elated yet sore and probably very tired. You're lighter, and probably look about 6 months pregnant as you're now missing the baby, placenta...and amniotic fluid, blood, and all that was keeping your baby alive. You will feel cramping as your uterus begins the slow process of shrinking down to its normal size, and breastfeeding stimulates this action so you may feel cramps come on when the baby suckles. If this is not your first child, the cramping may also be painful, sometimes just as painful as birth contractions. This is where the crampbark tincture comes in very handy! Your breasts are producing colostrum which is all your baby needs right now, so don't worry that they're not getting enough. They are. It takes a few days for your milk to come in.

Vaginal bleeding - lochia - is like a heavy period at this point and the whole area is probably pretty damn sore. Padsicles to the rescue! It's important to remember that you have an open internal wound inside of you after giving birth at the site where the placenta was attached to the uterine wall and requires delicate care. It's also very important to empty your bladder regularly right after birth to avoid a UTI (speaking from experience!).  Use your peri bottle to gently cleanse the area after peeing. A nice warm sitz bath with some healing herbs will be soothing to the area, too.

Rest, rest, rest and more rest. Take a warm shower and get into a clean, fresh pair of jammies. Have someone bring you a hot meal, and take a nap or two in between nursing this new little one.

Day 2-4

Continue the regimen of rest, shower, fresh jammies, hot meal and naps. Arrange childcare for your other children and do not even THINK about starting a load of laundry. Move AWAY from the dishwasher!

You have a lot of excess fluids from pregnancy so you're probably peeing quite a bit. Keep it up. You may have to go poop, which can be a little traumatic. I mean, everything - the bowels, bladder - is just so close down there so yeah, it's scary. And hemorrhoids. Have some natural cream on hand. Avoid straining, try using a squatty potty or propping your legs up on a wastebasket or stool to get to a squatting position. Taking some magnesium powder will help the elimination process go much more smoothly, this is something I will not be without after any subsequent births! (check with your doc/midwife though, I'm not a doctor). Your uterus is continuing to shrink and will continue to cramp during this process. Continue the Crampbark tincture. Some warm sitz baths will be soothing and can be done every day.

You're producing the liquid gold colostrum during this time, but at any point your milk will be coming in. Make sure you stay well hydrated and well nourished to support this process. After it comes, you'll most likely be heavily engorged for the first few days. Honestly, it is not an altogether pleasant experience. Standing in a warm shower and allowing a little milk to self-express can be soothing. Do not express too much milk, as your body works on supply and demand and will take that as a message to make more. Breast pads are helpful to soak up excess leaky milk. And you may leak a lot of not at all - it's no indication of milk supply. The best way to reduce engorgement is to feed when the baby is hungry. Avoid schedules or anything of the sort - it will lead to misery for all.

Check to make sure baby's latch is deep and correct to avoid any excess pain. Your nipples may be a bit sore, and some coconut oil or nipple cream can help. This is now a time to watch for tongue or lip tie too, as that can dramatically and negatively affect your breastfeeding relationship. If you suspect a tie, find a lactation consultant who is qualified to confirm the diagnosis.

You're also probably more sore today than yesterday! The adrenaline rush is decreasing and yep, you can feel it. Padsicles, Crampbark tincture, Arnica every few hours for soreness and Tylenol as needed.

Your hormone levels are fluctuating and can make you feel weepy, anxious, and tired. Basically, you'll be feeling ALL THE FEELINGS. This is normal! Make sure you have a good support network around you or a friend you can call. And nothing is EVER wrong with a good cry.

Day 5-7

You're still in recovery so I repeat: rest, rest, rest. The more you can give yourself the space to rest and heal in the early days means a swifter recovery time overall. The majority of your day should still be spent on your comfy couch or bed, and hopefully you still have some help around the house.

You're still bleeding and your lochia may be changing colors to a darker red or a light brown. A good indication of slowing down or overdoing it is your bleeding level. If you notice an increase in bleeding or it turning red after it has been brown, you've probably overdone it and need to take that as a cue to rest. Bleeding may subside entirely in the next week or continue for a bit longer.

You should also be getting less sore in that lower area and find it easier to move about and get comfortable. If you've had stitches, they'll start to get itchy as the tissue heals. Your peri bottle for gentle cleansing after going to the bathroom should still be used. Pelvic floor exercises will be helpful in bringing everything back together and will help you avoid incontinence and any risk of uterine prolapse.

The uterus now weighs half of what it did right after birth but you still look pregnant and your belly is jiggly, because there is no baby in there any more! Binding with a postpartum binder or a wrap can help your abdominal muscles to not only heal but to help you feel more self-confident, too. Afterpains should be subsiding at this point.

Your breast engorgement should be subsiding as your body learns to produce just the right amount for your baby, although you'll still get engorged if baby sleeps longer than normal without feeding. Milk leakage is just a part of breastfeeding (although some leak more than others and is no indication of milk supply!) so your breast pads will be used often.

Now is a good time to go for a gentle walk. My midwife told me to walk around the block for my first outing and see how I felt. Besides gentle stretching, walking, and some deep breathing and pelvic floor routines, this is ALL the exercise you should be doing for the next 4-6 weeks.

Slowly from here you'll return to your normal self. A good thing to remember is that it took your body nine months to grow this precious baby, so it WILL TAKE TIME to return to normal, in all aspects. Be so, so gentle with yourself. Rest and enjoy these days. They can be stressful and uncomfortable but they really are golden!

Resources:

The Alpha Parent Timeline of Postpartum Recovery (She also included C-Section in her timeline!)
Postpartum Timeline from Pregnancy & Newborn magazine
After the Baby's Birth...A Woman's Way to Wellness by Robin Lim

What would you add to this timeline - anything that caught you off guard in those first few days that you wish you could share with another expecting mother? Let us know in the comments! 



And one more time: I'm not a doctor and this is not medical advice. Please be in constant communication with your healthcare provider to know the signs of infection or other problems. 

{disclosure} This post also contains affiliate links to the death star (amazon) which means I get Amazon credits from anything your purchase through the links above. I really appreciate your support! 












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