The Motherly Art of Frugality: A Review of Reusable Breast Pads

I only used one kind of breast pad for my first pregnancy and they were cheap and worked fine, except when my daughter occasionally slept more than couple of hours, in which case I woke up drenched. With my son, I didn’t have many problems with leaking so I may not be the best person to attest to these products for someone with massive milk leakage. That being said, when I was shopping around for breast pads I really wanted a good comparison chart, and none existed that I could find. So, in honor of my son’s weaning, as I pack up my breast pads to wait for the next little member of our family, here are my reviews.


Gerber Nuk breast pads: $14.99 for 6 pair

These are some of the cheapest reusable breast pads you can get. These are what I used while breastfeeding my first child and most of them survived to be used again with a second. These are basic and not overly absorbent, but for daytime use, I didn’t need them to be. They are also the only truly flat and thin pads I could find. Everything else seemed to be bulky by comparison. But they won’t hold up to lots of leaks. These are somewhat waterproof but if you frequently dry them in the dryer if will eventually wreck the waterproof later. They can sometimes be found cheaper at Target, so check the prices at your local stores. Overall, if money is tight and you are hoping to save money by avoiding disposable breast pads, these are the way to go.

Charlie Banana71bnIBHBU6L._SL1500_

Charlie Banana breast pads: $15.95 for 3 pair

These are the most absorbent pads I’ve ever used. I bought them on a recommendation from my sister, who said they were incredible absorbent and practically leak proof. The fleece was a little warm feeling in the hot months, but not too bad. These were fantastic overnight pads, but I found them a little bulky for day time use, but they did lay relatively flat. Unfortunately the white interior fleece also stained. Not sure why this was, but it may have been specific to the composition of my breast milk. Granted, no one saw these but me and the baby. But it was discouraging to pay so much for these and then have them stain. But these were my go-to night pads. Rarely had a leak that these couldn’t handle, even when the baby slept through the night.


Happy Heiney’s hemp breast pads: $12.50 for 3 pair

These were another nice option for nighttime, though not as soft as the fleece in the Charlie Banana or the Knickernappies. But the hemp was also cooler than the fleece. I had them in two different diameters, though I’m not sure if they still make them in both sizes. The small size worked Ok for day time, but were still a little thicker than I liked and either size worked at night. In some ways I preferred larger pads at night since almost every brand I tried was prone to move out of place. While the hemp makes these pads very absorbent, they are not waterproof, so I didn’t love them for serious overnight engorgement leaks.


WillowSprouts cotton hemp nursing pads: $14.95 for 4 pair

These are nice pads and a pretty good deal, but really neither here nor there. They are thin, the only pads I could find that hid under clothes almost as smoothly as my Gerber pads. They can handle some leaks, but they aren’t super absorbent and they aren’t waterproof either. But they were also more reasonably priced than most of the breast pads I tried. Though much softer and more comfortable than the cheap Gerber. Also, one of the only pads I could use comfortably when I struggled with blebs.


Knickernappies Stay-Dry nursing pads: $12.99 for 3 pair 

These were my second favorite night time breast pad. They were thinner than the Charlie Banana pads, but not as absorbent, though also just as waterproof. Because of their thinness they were less bulky looking, but also more likely to bunch up. Overall still a good choice.

I liked all of these breast pads and each of them had a great place in my stash. Plus, I saved a small fortune and possibly a small forest by using reuseable instead of disposable pads. Another great sources are your local cloth diaper stores. Babiesrus or Target may have a small selection of reuseable nursing pads, but usually they are limited in their offerings. Buy Buy Baby has been moving in a more natural living friendly direction, including stocking some bumGenius diapers. So check one out if there are any in your area. Most of my pads came from, but I also shopped Kelly’s ClosetCotton Babies, and The only thing I regret never trying was wool, mostly do to the high cost. But perhaps I can snag a few (or make a few) when baby #3 comes around.


Gestational Diabetes: A Survival Guide

A kit used by a woman with gestational diabetes.

I was well into my third pregnancy and trying desperately to keep the stress under control. After a miscarriage less than a year earlier, I was feeling like I’d been pregnant for over a year (which I almost was), and I was just looking forward to finally holding my baby. Then just before Christmas I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I was devastated.

A small percentage of women who get gestational diabetes have no risk factors. The official statistic is that between 2-12% of women will get gestational diabetes. I always thought that the odds of developing gestational diabetes was low for me since I have very little family history, and maintained a healthy weight and lifestyle. My doctor’s office didn’t handle the whole thing very well either. I received a phone call telling me that my blood sugar test results (3 hour glucose tolerance test) had come back elevated and that they were going to send me to Helwig. Now I didn’t know what Helwig was (as it turns out, it’s the diabetes and weight loss program run by the hospital. But everyone abbreviates the name, and for those of us who don’t work for the hospital, the term means nothing). I assumed that my care would be handled by the doctor. The nurse I spoke to wasn’t rude but she also wasn’t very helpful and seemed surprised that I had questions. She probably gave lots of women this news and thought nothing of it. But for me it was a huge blow and I was completely overwhelmed. The next few months were stressful as I tried to manage my condition and minimize the risk to my baby. But in the end, all was well and our boy was born 10 days late at a healthy 8 pounds, 9 ounces.

At the time, I was totally flipping out at the prospect of having to manage a medical condition that posed a risk to me and my child, but looking back it is easier to see the areas where I handled things well and those I could have done better with. Based on my own experience, I’d like to offer some advice and suggestions, many of them things I’d wish someone would have told me.


Don’t panic. I know this isn’t easy to hear. I allowed myself complete and total panic for a day or two when I went completely over the deep end mentally and emotionally. I can’t honestly say whether it was helpful or healthy but it was how I reacted. But eventually I was able to develop some perspective and try to focus on the goal. If I could follow the protocols, my son was likely to be born healthy, that was the ultimate goal. If I could keep my blood sugars properly regulated I still had a chance to have the birth experience I wanted.


Ask for actual numbers. One of the first things I asked for when the nurse called with my diagnosis was my actual test result numbers and what the normal range is expected to be. As it turns out, my two and three hour glucose numbers were elevated but my fasting and one hour levels were normal. While this technically still qualified me as a gestational diabetes patient, I discovered when I met with the nutritionist that this is a non-typical presentation. Most women present with high fasting glucose numbers. There is a debate whether numbers such as mine qualify as a “borderline” case, but doctor’s offices and hospitals treat it anyway. My nutritionist actually said she would like to do a study on women like me who have low or no risk factors and atypical presentation to see if perhaps it is the testing methods that are at fault.


If your doctor doesn’t refer you, find a dietician or nutritionist and meet with one quickly. I was diagnosed the day before leaving to visit family for the holidays and just a week before Christmas. I couldn’t get in to meet with the nutritionist until just two days before Christmas. In the meantime I was faced with traveling away from home without a real idea of what I should and shouldn’t eat. So I went crazy trying to do my own research before we left. But there was very little information available on the internet regarding diet, most of it said to consult your doctor. So I modified what I read regarding conventional diabetes. I avoided most sugars and carbohydrates. I was devastated at the thought of having to give up most of the foods I loved, but I was more concerned about all the potential risk factors to my child so I decided to suffer through it before I even met with a nutritionist. That was a big mistake. First, I probably wasn’t getting enough calories. I was hungry all the time and felt weak and sick to my stomach. Second, I cut out most carbohydrates when in fact carbs are necessary to maintain a healthy pregnancy. When I met with the nutritionist I was actually relieved. Sure, I was still bummed that I was going to have to watch what I was eating during the one time of year when I allow myself to splurge. But I was relieved to find out that I didn’t have to give up everything. In my case, I was put on a diet requiring a certain number of carbohydrates at each meal and a certain amount of protein, since the protein helped to slow the body’s absorption of carbohydrates. High fiber and low fat foods were encouraged and processed sugars discouraged but mostly it was a process of trial and error to discover what my body could tolerate. It was a more expensive way to eat, but it was also a healthier one and resulted in less pregnancy weight gain and quick weight loss after the fact.


Find a lifestyle you can live with

Initially I followed my diet religiously and exercised three times a day for 20-30 minutes each. But as my pregnancy progressed, I found it difficult to keep up with my ambitious plans, so I compromised. I settled for some form of physical activity or exercise as many days of the week as I could get. If I was going to cheat on my diet I figured out when was the best time for my body to have the minimum effect on my blood sugar, and was picky about my cheat items. I actually once took a bite of a dessert item and threw away the rest when it wasn’t very good. I wasn’t going to waste my carbs on something that wasn’t totally worth it.


Make you birth wishes clear

I knew that the hospital would treat me differently because of my condition so I wanted my birth wishes made clear up front. I didn’t want to be given certain kinds of drugs to induce labor (if necessary) because they could cause low blood sugar. I wanted to wait to cut the cord until it stopped pulsing, since that extra flow of blood would give the baby a little extra glucose so his levels didn’t drop too low. I asked to breast feed as soon as possible to make sure my son got immediate nutrition to prevent a sudden drop in blood sugar. Fortunately I had a very supportive doctor who reminded me of the things I wanted when I was too caught up in the moment to remember. Plus I had my very supportive husband and doula there to assist.


If you are choosing to breastfeed, find a lactation consultant at the first sign of trouble.

We did have a few issues with breastfeeding in the hospital and our son’s glucose levels did get too low. I found out months later when we faced some weight loss issues, and I finally saw a lactation consultant, that it is common for women with gestational diabetes to potentially have low milk supply. So if you are having issues, don’t wait. If I had called someone for help sooner, I would have saved myself months of being chained to a breast pump rebuilding my supply.


Try to keep eating healthy and continue to check your blood sugar post partum

I had planned to do this and didn’t do a great job of it. At first I ate whatever I wanted because I was pretty sure that I could. I continued to check my blood sugar for a while after the baby was born but I soon got tired of it. When my son was seven months old and I finally got around to getting my follow up blood work to make sure everything is OK. I recognize that I’m a total hypocrite in this area, but moms need to take care of themselves. Healthy diet and exercise are even more important for women recovering from gestational diabetes because we are now at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.


Gestational diabetes can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to consume your life or ruin your pregnancy and birth experience.  If you developed gestational diabetes, how did you cope with it? What would you have done differently? Did you have the support your wanted and needed?

Dusting the Parachute: Five Minute Friday


I’m the girl dusting the parachute. I plan to a fault. I make lists of my lists. It can be so hard to jump, to let go, to make the big decisions and hope all will go well. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to take a big risk. Since our children were born I find myself trying to play it safe more. Every potential job change or financial decision is weighed against having good health insurance, keeping the kids fed and clothed and my deep desire to home school. Sometimes I look at families who leave it all to start over in a new city or a new country and I envy them. They are the ones jumping out of planes, pursuing their dreams and I’m the one who is stuck in a quagmire of debt and indecision. Some days I want to sell the house, pay off all the debts, pack up one or two suitcases per person and leave the rest. Just go and see what the world has out there. What other possibilities exist. Sometimes I just want to jump. But then baby wakes up, the washer dings and the sink full of dishes demands my attention. I step away from the edge and go back to dusting the parachute.

Another Reason to Visit Cornwall: A Review of the Tutor’s Daughter by Julie Klassen

the Tutor's daughter51N7fCrpUrL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Emma Smallwood and her father have the opportunity to become tutors in residence for the family of two former students, the Westons. One, Philip, was a good friend of Emma’s, the other, Henry, an adversary. But when they arrive confusion arises. Not everyone seems pleased to see them and there are secrets everywhere. While Emma’s father is happy to focus on the education of the two youngest sons of the house, Emma manages to become entangled in the intrigue of family dynamics and the beauty of the surrounding countryside. She soon begins to question who is her friend after all.

I first read Julie Klassen when I picked up one of her earlier books from the library. I was looking for a new author and in the absence of a new book from my favorite author, Lawana Blackwell, I had heard that Klassen’s work was similar in some ways. It was good book. So when I was presented the opportunity to review The Tutor’s Daughter, I looked forward to it.

Perhaps the most compelling part of this book is the beautiful descriptions of Cornwall. While Ebbington Manor itself is fictional it is based on several places Klassen visited on her tours of the Cornwall coast. This isn’t the first time I have been drawn to this beautiful place by the description of a talented writer. (Rosamunde Pilcher has made me want to pack my bags on more than one occasion). The descriptions of the Chapel on the Rock were especially poignant. I found myself wishing I had a retreat like that. While I was able to predict certain parts of the story line, others were total surprises to me until near the end.

I was not compensated for this review but I did receive a free copy of the book to review.

Interested in becoming a reviewer for Bethany House? Apply here.

Starflower: Fantasy, Allegory and I’m Not Sure What Else.

Starflower51Awz+cAFkL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I should preface this review by saying that fantasy is not my preferred reading style. My husband is a fantasy author, and while I enjoy his work, as well as that of C.S. Lewis and Madeline L’Engle, generally fantasy is not my go-to genre. In the immortal faerie realm, a cousin of the queen, the fairest of the land, is kidnapped by a dragon. The resident poet and the captain of the guard, rivals for her affection, set off to rescue her. While on his quest, the poet encounters a young woman who he assumes must be a princess of some kind. She cannot speak (though we the reader can hear her thoughts), and he is certain it is because she is under some kind of enchantment.

This book was a struggle to get through. In fact I was nearly 50% of the way through before I became heavily interested. This is how long it takes before we hear Starflower’s story. Her story is far more interesting than the interactions of the faerie realm. How did Starflower end up in this immortal realm? What horror did she escape from and why can’t she speak? These are questions that will eventually be answered, but in my opinion it took far too long.

This book is well written by the plot seems to meander. Would I recommend it to a friend? That depends. If the friend enjoys all styles of fantasy and revels in the drawn out nature of this epic storytelling style, then yes. But if a reader is looking for a first introduction to fantasy this isn’t it. The average reader is likely to be come bored and listless and possibly give up before the best parts of the story.

I was not compensated for this review but I did receive a free copy of the book to review.

Interested in becoming a reviewer for Bethany House? Apply here.

Five Minute Friday: In the Quiet After

After the children have gone to bed, the house seems quiet. Occasionally we hear sleepy moans and mumbles or little footsteps and doors opening and closing. But as long as no one appears at the top of the stairs or begins to scream, we tune it out. We each spend time on our laptops. Blogging, paying bills, writing, researching. He works getting his paperback ready to launch. I catch up on articles I want to read and spend sometime cyber window shopping for things I’d like but can’t really afford. We stop with enough time to watch a favorite TV show. I do another load of laundry while he serves us dessert.

Later we snuggle in bed and enjoy the quiet. Whispering romantic words to each other and reminiscing about what it was like when it was just us. Before kids. When the quiet was by choice and not necessity. When we stayed up late because we liked to, not because we needed a few hours of personal enrichment before another kid-filled day. But our last words are always

“I love them.”

“I know I do too.”

“I love you.”

“Love you too.”

Allergy Boy and the Quest for a Well-Rounded Diet

Almost 2 months ago, my son was diagnosed with several food allergies. We knew he probably had a problem with dairy products since every time he ate yogurt or cheese, he got hives. So we took him off most dairy (still allowing some diary in cooked recipes like baked goods and soups), and hoped that the problem would resolve itself, as his reaction to avocados had. It didn’t. When we took him to be evaluated by the allergist’s office, he came back allergic to cow’s milk, peanuts and shockingly, eggs. The eggs were his strongest skin test reaction and we had been feeding him eggs several times a week for months. So then we took him for a battery of blood tests. Results showed that he was allergic to some parts of milk but not others (not casein, which apparently is the hardest part of milk to break down with cooking, so it will make our lives easier in the future.

According to our nutritionist, it also increases the chances that he will outgrow this at some point). He did come up as allergic to eggs on the blood test, but at a much lower lever than expected given his skin test results. His milk and peanut blood test also showed lower allergen levels than expected. So we proceeded to the egg challenge.

Over the course of an hour or two, under supervision of the nutritionist and doctor, we fed our son small amounts of scrambled eggs (mixed with apple sauce since he doesn’t really like scrambled eggs) and then observed him. At the end of the test he had eaten an entire egg and a six ounce container of apple sauce. He was observed for another half and hour and ruled a medical marvel (Ok, not quite, but the doctor did say that he had never seen a child with his kind of extreme skin reaction pass the egg challenge like that).

We were so excited but also exhausted after over two hours of keeping our son occupied and happy in the exam room without an afternoon nap. He fell asleep in my arms while we were filling out the final paper work with the nutritionist. Then as we were checking out and scheduling our next appointment, he woke up with a start, coughed suddenly and then vomited everything he’d eaten since lunch all over the floor. After another half an hour of observation, he was fine. But we were frustrated and exhausted. So much for passing the egg challenge.

Two weeks later we went through round two of the egg challenge, this time using hard boiled egg. He hated every minute of it, fighting and spitting until we finally called it quits. He got about 1/3 of a hard boiled egg white, which the nutritionist said was enough. No reaction. No throwing up. Just an exhausted, unhappy baby who may never be willing to eat eggs again and definitely hates the allergist’s office.

So now we are developing an unusual diet for our son. Meat is a big part of his diet, when we can afford it. He loves baked chicken, pot roast and chili. He also eats chickpeas, quiona and homemade sunflower butter on an almost daily basis. We’ve added lentils and hemp seeds to his diet as well. When it comes to other foods I try to focus on nutritionally dense foods like banana, sweet potato and avocado. I give him foods like broccoli and kale to compensate for the lack of calcium in his diet. Now that he is weaned, he drinks coconut milk and protein enriched almond milk from a sippy cup. I feel like none of the milk supplements are a great choice so I plan to alternate between them, if he’ll tolerate it.

So that’s our food allergy story, so far. How about those of you out there with food allergies or kids with food allergies? How do you manage?