Category — Breastfeeding
As the new year approaches, many people start focusing on what is to come and putting together their lists of resolutions and other things they want to do differently in the coming year. I personally like to take a moment at the end of the year and make a list of things that made me feel thankful over the past year. I find it to be a calming and encouraging ritual during the craziness of the end-of-year holiday season. While there are many things I’m thankful for personally, this is not my personal musing blog – it’s my nutrition blog! So I thought I’d make a list of a few things in the world of health and nutrition that made me feel thankful this year. Hopefully they make you feel the same!
I am thankful:
- That the human body is much smarter than we realize and it is always looking out for our best interest. One example of this over the past year was learning that candida (the type of yeast that grows in the body) eats heavy metals. So, for people who have stubborn candida problems that won’t respond to anything else, sometimes the body is allowing the candida to grow in excess because that is helping to relieve their body’s burden of heavy metals such as mercury (and in some cases, copper). People in this situation may benefit from having a mineral profile test done by their doctor to see if they have an excess of toxic metals and/or a deficiency of healthy minerals and how to deal with it. This knowledge helped me give hope to a few clients who were struggling with candida and angry at their bodies for letting it overgrow!
- That a fetus feeds off of the yolk sac for the first few weeks of life, which means it gets the nutrition it needs (as long as mom was building up her own nutrition prior to pregnancy) and is not as directly affected by what its mother eats the way it is later in pregnancy. This is such an amazing adaptation that I am so very thankful for because in those first few weeks of life a woman may not know she is pregnant and may decide to go on an exciting party date with her husband while on vacation in California because their toddler is with grandma for the evening, and maybe the restaurant they ate at had a $5 martini special and maybe she had too many lemon drop martinis and then found out a few weeks later that she was not alone in her body! Not that this ever happened to me personally in the last 6 months…
- That plastics are being recognized as a significant source of health problems for men, women, and children – especially those containing Bis-phenol A and phthalates. Maybe this seems like something to be sad about, but I am actually thankful that the knowledge is getting out there and more and more people are making changes to avoid plastic exposure.
- That the FDA recently conceded that raw milk can be transported across state lines for personal consumption. This doesn’t mean raw milk is becoming legal for sale, but it is quite encouraging to finally have the FDA not persecuting people for ridiculous things such as drinking milk from their own healthy cow. Yes, there are many other things I am not happy with the FDA for approving (Splenda, aspartame, pesticides, the list goes on) but this is one small victory.
- That the CDC is working with hospitals and taking steps to encourage women to breastfeed their babies at least through the first 6 months of life. This is still much less than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 2 years or more, but it’s an encouraging step!
There are many other things I could list, but these are the first that come to mind. When you have a minute, I encourage you to make your own list of things over the past year that you are thankful for and tuck it away somewhere – it’s always fun to come across lists like that later on and read them again. It’s also a great exercise that acts kind of like a mental “feng shui” treatment – clearing out the clutter of stress and worry and helping your mind focus on the things that make you happy. I have found that being thankful for what I have helps to bring more things into my life to be thankful for. Happy new year!
December 30, 2011 1 Comment
The other day I was talking to a friend when suddenly, just like Jennifer Lopez, a luxurious lock of hair that was fabulously cut to cheek length fell across my face. And of course, I – again like J. Lo – swept it away deftly and gracefully and kept talking. And then I realized that I don’t have bangs and haven’t had them since I was about 6 years old. This realization prompted me to flash back to the months right after Mr. Muscles was born a little less than 2 years ago when I would look in the mirror and see little sproutlets of hair standing straight up all around my hairline like the awkard feathers of a silkie chicken. My luxurious movie star bangs are just the remnants of the hair shed during the postpartum days, those magical days when your body hurts, you feel like a milk cow, you’re exhausted, and you still look pregnant enough for people at the grocery store to ask how far along you are even when you’re holding your newborn. And oh yeah, your hair falls out. Any man reading this post – single or married – should make a mental note at this time to be absolutely certain to tell ANY woman in their life who just had a baby how beautiful and wonderful they look, while also remembering to never ask them why their hair looks like that and never ever offering to buy them hair gel as a gift to keep their weird hair spikes down as my wonderful, loving husband did (he is in fact wonderful and loving and luckily he made this comment when our son was about 6 months old and I was far enough past the post-partum months to think it was funny).
But enough about that! Let’s talk about why postpartum hair loss happens and how to keep it as under control as possible:
- In a non-pregnant woman, about 90% of hair is in a growing phase and 10% is in a resting stage. The resting stage hair is what tends to fall out with brushing and every day activity.
- During pregnancy, estrogen levels get very high. Estrogen is the hormone that (among other things) encourages cell growth, so it makes sense that high estrogen levels would encourage more hair to stay in the growing phase and discourage hair from falling out.
- After baby is born and breastfeeding begins, estrogen and progesterone levels fall as prolactin levels rise. This abrupt change in hormones is what makes some women susceptible to postpartum depression and it is what is responsible for the bulk of hair loss after pregnancy. It’s not so much that MORE hair is falling out, it’s that all the hair that was delayed from falling out when estrogen and progesterone levels were high starts to wake up and realize it’s time to fall out. And most unkindly of all, they decide to all fall out together in those months after baby is born.
- Other factors contributing to postpartum hair loss include stress (but new moms are never stressed so ignore that one), low iron levels (check with your midwife or doctor to see if you need to take iron after the birth), insufficient protein intake, insufficient vitamin and mineral intake, and hair being pulled too tightly by hair clips and/or baby.
- To help keep hormones in balance during the fantastic transition after birth, I highly recommend drinking red raspberry leaf tea up to and after the birth. I actually kept drinking it all through the nursing phase and now that I’m pregnant again it’s another regular part of my tea rotation. At the rate I’m going, I will probably be drinking red raspberry leaf tea for the next ten years and beyond!
- Nutritionally, it’s also really important to take iron if your healthcare provider recommends it. This would usually be the case if you were anemic during pregnancy or you had a lot of bleeding during or after the birth. You can also include iron-rich foods such as grassfed beef and blackstrap molasses in your diet.
- Since low protein levels contribute to hair loss in everyone (not just pregnant women), it’s important to make sure that new moms get adequate protein in the postpartum months. Since it’s not always easy to sit down and eat 3 square meals a day with a newborn, I encourage moms to keep protein-rich and easy-to-eat snacks handy, such as nitrate-free cold cuts, yogurt or cheese from grassfed cows, hummus or other bean dips (if your baby is ok with beans), nut butters, deviled or hard boiled eggs, smoked salmon, and protein bars made with whey or rice rather than soy. If you have friends or family nearby that can help with cooking, enlist their help in keeping your fridge stocked with protein-rich meals and snacks. In addition to preventing hair loss, eating protein in the postpartum months helps to prevent postpartum depression and accelerates the rate at which you’ll be able to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans!
- I also usually recommend that nursing mothers take a double dose of their prenatal vitamin for the months following birth, since it’s such a time of transition. Depending on the vitamin you’re taking, you may want to double check this with your healthcare practitioner.
- Another thing that is obvious to some people but not to others (like myself) is that you want to avoid pulling on your hair in the same spot. When Mr. Muscles was born, I had my hair back in a bun or pony tail most of the time pulled straight back from my face which is probably why most of my postpartum hair loss happened around my forehead hair line. Most women lose hair from the front and sides of their hair rather than the back, so this is normal, but looking back I could have varied the natural part of my hair and tried braiding it into pigtails once in a while to reduce the weight of my hair always pulling on the same spot.
- If you feel your hair loss is extreme and you see visible bald spots after having a baby, be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife about it. They can run tests to see if your thyroid needs support or if there is another underlying imbalance that needs to be addressed.
Above all, if you’re experiencing postpartum hair loss, try to remember that it’s a normal thing that will eventually stop. And in a couple of years you may be lucky enough to have surprise movie star bangs without having to pay your stylist!
November 7, 2011 5 Comments
This week I received several requests from friends with babies asking for help finding something to supplement their breastmilk supply, which may have decreased since they returned to work or may not be enough to keep up with their babies’ growing needs. The priority for these mothers and for me is to help them get their supply up by making that they are drinking enough water, eating enough healthy fat, and using herbal teas or tinctures to promote milk supply. In addition to this, they may want to take their baby in for an osteopathic or chiropractic evaluation to see if any cranial work needs to be done to improve the sucking reflex – I actually had a miraculous experience with this recently that I hope to blog about in the future. If after these two measures there still is a need for a supplemental source of nutrition, I would recommend the recipe below. I created this by looking into the chemical composition of human breast milk on the USDA nutrition website. Interesting reading! From there, I put together a list of ingredients to mimic the composition of breast milk as closely as possible while using healthy, low allergy, and easily obtainable ingredients. I also added an infant probiotic to supply healthy bacteria, one of the most important things a nursing child gets from its mother. The base for the formula is coconut milk, which is very low allergy and supplies brain-boosting fats as well as lauric acid, a fatty acid found in breastmilk that protects against infection, especially from viruses. This is by no means a recipe that should be a child’s sole source of nutrition, but it makes a great supplement to babies who are breastfeeding or on formula and also to toddlers in place of other milks. If you are a parent looking for formula recipes that can safely supply everything your baby needs (but that are a little more complicated to make), I suggest visiting the Weston Price Foundation’s formula recipes web page. Here is the recipe, I would love any feedback from parents out there who try it! Some of the ingredients in it are practitioner-only supplements so if you have a hard time finding them, feel free to contact me and I can help you find a practitioner in your area or if you are a client of mine I can just have it drop shipped to you.
Low-Allergy Baby Formula Recipe
In a sterile quart-sized Mason glass jar, combine the following:
- 1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk, preferably Native Forest brand (they don’t use BPA in can lining)
- 1 heaping Tbsp unsweetened, unflavored whey protein Dairy free babies can use an equal amount of unflavored rice protein or pea protein
- 5 Tbsp. Lactose A note about lactose: Lactose is the primary form of sugar in breastmilk and it has special nourishing qualities for the brain and the healthy bacteria in the gut. Lactose also has the benefit of being one of the least likely sugars to promote tooth decay. Many babies who are allergic to cow’s milk formulas can still handle pure lactose as long as their gut bacteria is healthy because the most allergenic item for a baby in cow’s milk is the casein protein. I know 5 Tbsp seems like a lot! But if you’ve ever tasted breastmilk you’d know it tastes like melted ice cream :). For toddlers this amount can be decreased to 3 Tbsp. Parents of babies who are truly lactose intolerant can use 4 Tbsp of Grade B maple syrup instead to supply the carbohydrate content – this is a much better choice than the white sugar and corn syrup used in many dairy-free infant formulas.
- 1 tsp Standard Process Calcium Lactate Powder (preferred) or 1/2 tsp KAL brand Dolomite Powder
- Contents of 2 capsules Allergy Research Group Dessicated Liver from grassfed cows
- 2 tsp Udo’s Infant Probiotic powder
- 2 tsp liquid Cod Liver Oil, either Nordic Naturals or Carlson or 1 tsp Green Pastures Brand
- 1 large egg yolk (for children over 4 months only) from a healthy chicken that has been raised on pasture. This supplies cholesterol, arachidonic acid, and other nutrients that are extremely important for brain growth. I boil the egg for 3 1/2 minutes (just long enough to harden the white but not the yolk) then peel, and release just the yolk into the formula. This is optional and can be omitted for egg-free babies as long as they are getting healthy cholesterol somewhere else, such as in grassfed butter or meat.
- Distilled or Reverse Osmosis water to 4 cups
Shake to combine (using one of those springs that comes with protein powder shakers
can be really helpful). Will keep in fridge for up to 48 hours. Formula will separate, so shake before pouring into bottle or cup and gently warm to drinking temperature in a warm water bath or bottle warmer.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: This recipe is intended to supplement a nursing or formula-fed child’s diet. It is not intended to be a complete replacement. This blog does not replace the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner. Jessica Stamm assumes no responsibility for the reader’s interpretation of the contents of her blog.
September 9, 2011 39 Comments
It seems like I have a freakish amount of friends and relatives who are pregnant or are looking to get pregnant soon. Either the government is adding something to the water or the people I know are just happy and want to bring another life into the world to share their happiness! In honor of all of you, I wanted to post some fun facts about raspberry leaf tea that I’ve learned either from research or from personal experience. And no, you don’t have to drop lemons into your glass of tea from a height of 10 feet as seen in the above photo to enjoy the benefits.
- Has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy to increase fertility. If druids drank it, then so can you.
- Strengthens the uterine wall while relaxing smooth muscle in the uterus, which improves chances of implantation and prevents miscarriage (basically the bizarro opposite effect of gin).
- Full of vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that help the body to detoxify extra hormones that may impede conception.
- Hugely miraculous and amazing remedy for morning sickness (according to reports from friends – I did not try raspberry leaf tea myself for this as I did not realize I was pregnant for the 4 days during early pregnancy that I was vomiting and thought I had stomach flu but actually had a parasite known as Mr. Milk).
- Provides vitamins and minerals including A, B complex, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium in an easily absorbable form to help baby grow while keeping mom nourished.
- Many women also report that it reduces leg cramps and swelling associated with late pregnancy.
- Has been shown to concentrate the effects of contractions to make them more effective. From personal experience, I drank 1-2 quarts daily of raspberry leaf tea during my last 2 months of pregnancy and had a great labor (8 hours labor at home, 30 minutes in hospital, 10 minutes of pushing). I can’t say it was just the tea – I think laboring at home helped a lot because I could run around like a crazy person with each contraction rather than being confined to a small hospital room and Mr. Milk was only 5 1/2 pounds at birth (yay for being a small Filipino mom!) – but I do think it helped.
- May be especially helpful for women who are planning a VBAC (vaginal birth after Cesarean) because of its ability to tone uterine muscles (since the uterus was cut open during the C-section).
- Many reports I have read from midwives say that the tea especially helps to shorten the second stage of labor (the pushing stage – from complete dilation of the cervix until the baby is born). I have also heard from midwives that women who drink the tea later in pregnancy tend to have extremely strong membranes protecting the baby. I would attest to this, since my water never broke on its own – the midwife actually had to break it when I got to the hospital since it didn’t break even as the baby was emerging – and I think the fact that this membrane remained intact was the only reason that Mr. Milk was not born in the bathroom at home or in the car on the way to the hospital.
- Has been reported to “bring in rich milk”, most likely due to its mineral content.
- Helps to balance postpartum hormones to prevent the drastic change in hormones that causes many women to experience postpartum depression.
Even if you don’t want to get pregnant benefits
- Has been shown to reduce menstrual cramps and may help to regulate the flow of menstruation due to its effects on the uterus.
- Helps to detoxify excess hormones which is very helpful during times of hormonal shift such as menopause or in the second half of the menstrual cycle (the two weeks before starting your period, which is when most women experience PMS).
Benefits for menfolk (also known as dudes but since this is a blog about herbs I thought to use midieval terms like “menfolk” and if possible I will throw the most despised of all renaissance terms – “m’lady” – in here somewhere)
- In herbal terms, it’s a “nourishing reproductive tonic” for men, which is just a fancy way of saying it helps your junk work better.
- Its ability to detoxify extra hormones is helpful for men also since they are bombarded with artificial estrogens on a daily basis from commercial meat and milk, plastics, food additives, and chemical fumes (especially if they are in the construction business). These extra estrogens, along with too much unresolved stress over a lifetime, are major culprits in the phenomenon known as “andropause” or male menopause, which is characterized by a drastic drop in testosterone levels.
- May also help with diarrhea, which if you’ve ever been kind enough to clean the bathroom at a location shared by several college age men who drink beer, you will see that diarrhea is apparently something that needs to be helped.
The nice thing about raspberry leaf tea is that it is a balanced food so it’s safe for virtually everyone at every stage of life (I even saw one article about giving it to children with stomach aches) and you can’t really overdose on it. Herbal experts and midwives recommend between 1 cup daily all the way up to a gallon daily during pregnancy with no side effects. I did a little bit of research on PubMed and only came up with 2 research articles on raspberry leaf tea, but neither of them found any negative side effects and the articles I saw on other research sites only found unwanted side effects when specific active ingredients were taken out of the tea and used in ridiculously huge doses. Drinking the tea in its whole state is supposed to be “self-regulating”, meaning the active ingredients balance each other out.
To make the tea, I suggest 1 Tablespoon of bulk tea per cup of hot water. Or you can just buy tea bags and follow the brewing instructions. I also like to use the bulk tea to make sun tea (since I am too lazy to boil water, which is why I specialize in nutrition and not delivering babies). I just take a handful (mind you a small, half-Filipino handful so if you have big hands ask a half-Filipino neighbor to do your measuring for you) of bulk tea leaves and throw it into a half gallon Mason jar, fill it with water, put on a lid to keep out bugs, and set it outside in the sun to brew to desired darkness (also known as, set it out and forget about it for several hours until my husband comes home and asks me why I left jars filled with dirt and leaves and is that urine? on the back porch) like so:
Then I just keep it in the fridge and have iced tea to sip on whenever the mood hits. So drink up, m’lady!
NOTE: This blog is not intended to replace the advice of a qualified healthcare practitioner. All information contained in this blog is the opinion of Jessica Forbes and is not to be interpreted as medical advice.
October 8, 2010 79 Comments
A few days ago I turned 30! And I’m excited about being 30 for reasons I will explain in another post if Mr. Milk stays asleep long enough for me to enjoy some birthday week blogging. Last year at this time I was very pregnant and wrote a blog on stretch marks. I must admit here that I did not escape from pregnancy stretch-mark free – I do have a few souvenirs around my midriff to remind me that my little daredevil baby decided not to “drop” (the term used to describe when the baby moves from kicking you in the ribs constantly to a lower position in your pelvis which makes you waddle like a penguin and is usually a sign that they baby will be born in the coming weeks) until 8 hours before he was born. So, rather than the gradual drop that most women get to enjoy a week or two before labor, I experienced rapid stretching of the skin as my little boy planned his great escape from my uterus which will cause some stretch marks no matter how much lotion it rubs on its skin. But they are fading with time (and liberal application of coconut oil) so there is hope.
Stretch marks and all, I’m pleased to share that I’ve been happily sporting a bikini since my first trip to the beach a couple months after the boy was born. And somehow I’ve managed to lose the baby weight well enough that I don’t have to wear my son as an accessory to explain to other beach goers “it’s baby weight, so stop wondering if I’m still pregnant”. Don’t get me wrong – I’m no Heidi Klum – but I was able to get back down to my pre-pregnancy weight pretty quickly without turning into a fitness freak mom. Here are some things that helped me, hopefully they can help you too!
- If possible, breastfeed. Breastmilk contains about 20 calories per ounce, and with Mr. Milk drinking an estimated 40 ounces of milk daily I’m burning 800 calories extra calories a day doing nothing but sitting on the couch!
- Eat lots of healthy fat. The term “lots” may mean different things to different people (gauge it by how you feel when you eat healthy fat) but to me this is about 6 tablespoons of extra fat daily in the form of butter, cream, coconut oil, avocado, and olive oil on top of a base diet of foods rich in healthy fat such as fatty fish, eggs, shellfish, organic cheese, and grassfed meat. Eating healthy fat helps your body to get rid of extra fat pounds and has the added benefit of making sure your baby is getting all the good brain fats from your milk.
- Eat enough protein. This helps your body to build muscle mass, repair from birth, and keep your hormones at healthy levels to prevent postpartum depression. A good general marker is to eat the number of grams that is equal to half your body weight in pounds. For example, a woman who is 120 pounds should eat about 60 grams while someone who is 160 pounds should eat about 80 grams a day. If you are under more stress or are very active you may need more protein to help conserve muscle mass. Also, if you have kidney problems then you may need less protein (ask your doctor). To give you an idea of the protein content of foods, an egg contains 7 grams of protein, a large chicken breast or hamburger patty contains about 30 grams, a 3 oz. piece of fish contains about 20 grams, and a cup of beans contains about 15 grams.
- Eat small meals all day (and night, if you’re up and you’re hungry). This one is easy to do with a newborn because unless you have a live-in nanny or your mom lives next door you probably won’t be sitting down to three big meals a day for a while!
- Drink lots of water. Again, amounts vary but drink enough that your urine is light yellow (even if it is fluorescent from vitamins) and your milk (if breastfeeding) flows freely. It’s easy to mistake thirst for hunger and overeat the wrong kinds of foods as a response. I have found that drinking out of a huge cup or quart-sized mason jar with a straw helps me drink enough water through the day to keep up with demand.
- Take the baby for walks. This was especially helpful for me in the weeks after Mr. Milk was born because I needed to get out of the house!
So that’s it! It’s not rocket science but it worked (and was about all I could handle as a new mom figuring out how to care for my new creature). If any of you have tips for losing baby weight please share them in the comments section!
September 27, 2010 3 Comments
This weekend will be my first mother’s day! As I revel in my new role as a full-time milk cow my thoughts turn to all the other new moms out there who are also learning how to be the provider of love, warmth, shelter, adoration, and of course…milk, to their wee bundles of joy. Here are a few things I have learned that I hope can help you also. Feel free to post more info that you may have learned in the comments section – we milk cows have to help each other out!
- If you find that your milk production is low, make sure you’re eating enough healthy fat (I recommend the Weston Price diet for pregnant and nursing moms) and drinking enough water. Some women have to double their water intake from what they were drinking before nursing just to keep up with milk production!
- If you will be separated from your baby for an extended period of time (going back to work, medical reasons, etc.) use milk producing herbs such as fenugreek to keep milk supply up. I recommend 2-3 cups daily of Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk Tea which can be purchased at most health food stores. If tea doesn’t work for you, you can usually buy some form of herbal tincture that is indicated for breast milk production and use that in water or juice (just follow package instructions for dosing).
- Pumping may be useful also if you really want to get milk production going so you can freeze extra milk for later during those times that you have a sitter or are going to be at work. In my case, I don’t have too much extra to pump since Mr. Milk wants milk on the hour every hour until he finally passes out into a 4-hour milk induced coma by early afternoon. However, it is really nice to know that I have 2 bottles of breastmilk in the freezer that I pumped a couple weeks ago and stored for the occasion when I need a break from being on call for milk duty.
- If you decide to pump, please, for the love of milk, make sure that the nipple flange on your pump is the correct size for you. Most pumps come with a 25 mm flange that works for most people, but those of us with larger milkshakes may need to bump up to the 27 mm flange size. And no, you don’t have to have National Geographic nipples to need a larger flange size. If you experience any pain or discomfort while pumping that is not alleviated by rubbing a little bit of coconut or jojoba oil on the flange to allow for lubrication, you may need the larger flange size. They’re around $15 and can be purchased at Target or online and are WELL worth the investment if you need them. Your nipples will thank you.
- If you find that your baby has trouble latching on and this is not relieved by working with a lactation consultant, you may want to consider having your baby’s head, neck, and spinal alignment evaluated by a chiropractor or an osteopathic physician. In fact, even if your baby doesn’t have trouble latching on this would be a good idea as the birthing process is pretty intense for you and for baby! For the first couple of months after my son was born I was producing way more milk on my right side than my left. I had heard this was normal and figured it was okay, except for the inconvenient thought of having to wear two different bra sizes if things didn’t normalize. My son’s head was perfectly round after birth due to a relatively easy labor and his small size so I didn’t think his nursing would be at all affected by spinal alignment. However, when I took my son into our chiropractor for his first evaluation at about 8 weeks of age, he had a little bit of misalignment in his neck that may have made it harder for him to nurse on the left side. The doctor gently manipulated it out – no cracks or pops (photo of my ridiculous smiling boy getting his first adjustment below). That evening after nursing a few times during the afternoon, I noticed that I was completely even! And I’ve stayed that way.
- Once your baby is accustomed to latching on, I highly recommend trying the side lying position for nursing. It is great for middle of the night feedings if your baby is near you and can be easily brought into your bed to nurse. This helps make up for the lack of sleep! It’s also nice for mid-day feedings just to give both of you some time to lie down and rest together.
That’s it for now. As I said before, moms everywhere should feel free to post advice in the comments section to keep others from having to learn what they learned the hard way! Also, please include Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding in your reading list of new mom materials. It is an excellent book that’s easy to read and is sure to provide useful info for even experienced milk cows. In fact, everything I have read so far by Ina May Gaskin has been wonderful. I would definitely include her on my list of “people I haven’t met but if we knew each other in person we would be BFF’s” along with T-Pain and Patti Stanger.
Happy mooooooooooooooooo-ther’s day!
May 7, 2010 4 Comments