The Benefits of Lactation Consultants and a Review of Mahala Mama

When my daughter was a year old I battled a horrible breast infection of some kind. I say of some kind because in spite of multiple doctor’s office visits and dozens of different treatments including antibiotic, antifungals, herbal, topical over the counter etc, none of the doctor’s I talked to could track it down. I was desperate for a local lactation consultant. But when I talked to the local hospitals I was told that I could only see their lactation consultants if I was being treated in the hospital. So eventually I gave up. After almost two months of fighting pain so bad that I felt like someone was crushing glass inside my nipples after every nursing session and losing days of my life to crippling pain, I quit breastfeeding. The pain stopped almost immediately. But I was disappointed that no one really knew what was wrong. My doctor was wonderfully supportive and while she was breastfeeding friendly, she was a family doctor and her knowledge was limited. We tried everything she could think of.

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Robin (on the right) looking way too skinny

When my son began losing weight at around 5 months, I headed to my doctor’s office for blood work to check my iron and thyroid levels to see if there was a chemical reason for my low milk supply. I asked if she could recommend a lactation consultant locally and this time she gave me a pamphlet for Mahala Mama. Mahala Mama was initially based out of New Jersey, but they now have a consultant based in the LehighValley, Amy Nansteel. While Amy was unable to give me a full consultation immediately, she got me a hospital grade pump the day after I talked to her and came to give me some informal instruction on how to use it. She and Beth (one of the NJ based consultants) came to see me as soon as they could and their visit made all the difference.

One of the great things about Mahala Mama is that their consultants come to you. Beth and Amy visited me in my own home and worked with me in my living room. They showed me how I could change the position in which I nursed my son to help with his reflux and thus make him more willing to nurse again. (Part of the issues with my low supply were caused by his refusal to nurse for long because of severe reflux). They recommended a more ideal bottle that I could use for feedings so that he wouldn’t get too used to the bottle and then refuse the breast. (They weren’t the most expensive specialty bottles on the market either). Most importantly they encouraged me that I was doing the right thing and that with a little help I had a very good chance of rebuilding my milk supply. On their recommendation I began taking fenugreek and the Mother Love Plus and Mother Love Special Formula several times a day in addition to my pumping efforts. Within two months he was back on my breast milk via nursing alone without any supplemental bottles of my sister’s breast milk. (It was so nice having a sister whose baby was the same age as mine who had a massive oversupply and a freezer full of milk).

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Finally getting a little pudge in those cheeks.

Later, when I had to give my son formula during a nursing strike, Amy didn’t condemn or ridicule me. She gave me tips via phone and email the best that she could but ultimately encouraged me to take my baby to the doctor to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong. Amy’s primary goal as a lactation consultant, and the goal of all the members of Mahala Mama is to give you the nursing experience you want. They helped me push through because I wanted to keep nursing as long as I could. But I ultimately decided to wean my son at 12 months because I was ready to be done nursing for a number of physical and emotional reasons, Amy didn’t think any less of me. In fact, she applauded all the hard work I had put in to make it as far as I did.

I’ve heard horror stories from friends about some lactation consultants who would rather see a baby lose weight than supplement with bottles. Amy always considered my son’s health and my needs first, never letting her own opinions or agenda get in the way. However, most lactation consultants are wonderful, caring medical professionals who are there to help you and your baby through a difficult time. I wish I had called Amy sooner, rather than waiting until my son lost weight. Next time, I think I’ll call her right after the baby is born if things are not getting well established. My son was never a very strong nurser because of his laid back personality and severe reflux. I also found out that my milk comes in unusually late, which can sometimes be a problem, but now I know in the future what I need to be prepared for.

If you are looking for a lactation consultant, or are having any struggles with nursing don’t wait, call a lactation consultant. If you are an expecting mom or a new mom and you feel unsure of yourself when it comes to nursing, don’t wait, call a lactation consultant. If you are from the Lehigh Valley/Eastern NJ area, call Mahala Mama. They love what they do and they’ll help you every way they can.

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My God Shall Supply All Your Needs

So last week during church I felt inspired. Well, maybe inspired and a little bit convicted. I was singing along with the worship songs and reflecting on how much God has blessed me, despite the difficulties that we have faced when suddenly Matthew 6:25 popped into my head. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (NIV translation, courtesy of Bible Gateway.com) (Granted, I didn’t actually remember that the scripture I recalled was Matthew 6:25, but I am admittedly terrible at scripture references, but I looked it up on Bible Gateway later in the day.) I ended up reading the larger section of scripture surrounding it, Matthew 6:25-34.

IMG_0482As a mom I spend a lot of time planning and taking care of my family. We have a limited food budget so meals must be carefully planned. I have a child with food allergies, so that adds a unique twist to family culinary endeavors. I’m also constantly mentally tacking what big clothing purchases need to be made in the future. Lately I’ve been concerned about the fact that our clothing budget for the remainder of the year is minuscule. I know that my son has a hand-me down winter coat sitting in his closet that will work, but I worry that my daughter will out grown last year’s coat before winter. (You know, the one I bought big last year so that she’d get at least two seasons out of it). She has outpaced the older children of most of my faithful hand-me-down sources. I find myself worrying that she won’t have a winter coast and boots this year.

Yet, we have never been without in the past even for things that seemed unnecessary. I remember when she was 18 months old, Christmas was coming up and she didn’t have any dress shoes. The only shoes she had were sneakers and in my silly, vain, mommy mind I just didn’t want her to go to Christmas Eve service in a cute little dress (which I found at a consignment sale for $4) in her sneakers. A friend with two older daughters gave me a bag of hand me down clothes and as I opened the bag, on top was a pair of black patent leather little girls dress shoes in just the right size.

100_2960I find myself looking at our ever rising grocery budget and lamenting the things I can’t buy. We’re approaching one of my favorite times of year when it comes to fresh produce. I could easily spend most of my budget every month on squash, corn, berries, cherries and peaches. I hate having to say no. I worry that we won’t be able to afford to sustain a healthy diet for my son because of his limitations. But yet again, I know that God has always provided.

100_3813I always add to this scripture mentally, don’t worry about where you will live because I think a lot about that too. We would like to expand our family in the future, but based on our current financial situation we are unlikely to move in the near future. We have three bedrooms, one is really tiny. So we are faced with relocation or renovation neither of which we have the money for at present. I think a lot about how long we will be living in this house and whether or not we will ever be able to leave. I worry that we won’t be able to house our children properly or be unable to have the family size we desire because of the limitations of our house.

As I sat in the Sunday morning worship service I felt inspired to let go; to stop obsessing as much as I do. Yes, I need to feed my kids. Yes, I need to get them dressed each day. Yes, we need to pay our mortgage and plan for future children. But I don’t need to worry about how we will be able to keep buying groceries as our children’s appetites grow but our income doesn’t. I don’t need worry about if my daughter will outgrow her coat before winter. I don’t need to figure out this week the exact size of our family and how we will house them for the next 18 years. My Father will take care of those things. Each day has enough of its own trouble. So I am renewing my commitment to spend less time thinking/worrying about these kind of things, and when those thoughts do cross my mind to pray, thanking God for fulfilling our needs of the past and expressing my hope and confidence that he will meet those needs in the future.

IMG_0116What areas of your life do you have difficulty giving over to God? How have you allowed yourself to surrender your worries to him?

He’s Got Rhythm: Five Minute Friday

IMG_1513My son doesn’t say much. He knows maybe ten words, but uses two of three. None of those is mama. I don’t compare him to my daughter who knew probably 50 words at the same age. I try not to compare him to his cousin who knows several dozen and is beginning to string small sentences. He likes music but doesn’t sing. He’s got rhythm though. He rocks and bounces, grunts to a beat.

Sometimes life seems disappointing because you are looking for music. You don’t hear the tune and the melody seems non-existent in the craziness of motherhood and the chaos of daily life. But if we are still for a moment we can feel the rhythm. The quick staccato of anticipation of exciting coming changes. The slow drum beat of the seemingly monotonous days, driving us ever forward. The slap of chubby hands on the furniture and the rumble of four little feet echoing through my house. The rhythm of these days may seem never ending, but sometimes when I listen closely there are subtle changes. The steps become more sure, the thumps of falls fewer, the cries of impact replaced by the grunt of exertion to stand again. The melody is not exactly what I expected, but I’m learning to enjoy the rhythm.

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Fleece Sleeper to Baby Doll Diapers: Upcycled Presents for My Daughter

Last week I featured a post about the baby doll carrier that I made my daughter for her birthday. That first project set off two weeks of a sewing frenzy just prior to her birthday. I found this website and was suddenly inspired to attempt a whole baby doll diaper changing set, plus a few baby doll clothes too.
My goal: 1 size 4T fleece sleeper, with holes in the feet +  two pair of old jeans (or really one and a half ) + pink corduroy maternity pants with ruined cuffs = Equals diaper bag, changing pad, wipes and wipe case, doll baby diapers, and basic doll clothes
It was most definitely a tall order, and I only had a two weeks to do it.
I started with the baby doll carrier and followed quickly with the cloth diapers. I found a free and easy pattern. But I modified the instructions slightly.
I used fleece from the sleeper for the outside and scraps from a pair of old cotton shorts (they had a seriously large hole in the crotch and were only saved from the textile recycling for use for household rags).
IMG_1501 I folded each piece of fabric in half before folding it and cutting it as instructed. Since I don’t how to do much more than a basic stitch, that was mostly all I used.
IMG_1500I pinned the two pieces of fabric, right sides facing each other. The fleece had an obvious right side and wrong side and for the cotton knit fabric it didn’t matter. Then I stitched all the way around except for the center of the top back edge.
When finished I turned the diaper inside out and top stitched all the way around the edges. I should probably have done something special to close the opening at the top back edge, but I just folded the fleece down over the exposed edge and stitched it closed. I added two little tiny tabs of velcro and there you have it–two finished doll diapers.
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The diaper bag pattern was easy to follow and while the sewing didn’t take long, but it required some very detailed measuring and cutting which took me quite some time. (Of course anything involving numbers is always harder for me when I have two small children clamoring for my attention and in this case quite literally climbing on my back.) For the outside fabric I used old denim blue jeans and for the inside a cut up pair of pink corduroy maternity pants.  I didn’t have the fusible fleece that was recommended for the pattern so I just decided to go without it. It made the bag more floppy, and a bit more casual-purse like (I think my high school backpack was very similar actually), but still fully functional. It was a little bigger than I imagined so my daughter can actually carry her baby doll around in it when she wants to.
IMG_1633The instructions for the changing pad came from here and it was really almost an afterthought, as I finished it the night before my daughter’s birthday.

I never did get around to finishing the wipes and wipe case (the pieces are mostly cut up I just never sewed them together) and the doll clothes were a complete disaster. My main advice is to follow the patterns carefully. Part of my problem was that I ran out of fabric because I misunderstood the instructions and cut everything all wrong. Hopefully I’ll be attempting the baby doll clothes in the future. For now my daughter is enjoying her diaper bag, changing pad and cloth diapers.

This was definitely one of the more challenging sewing projects that I have attempted, but overall it turned out well.

What new challenging sewing projects have you attempted? Any tips for easy to make baby doll clothes?

Working My Way Through One Bite at a Time: Eat That Frog

Adult leopard frog
Adult leopard frog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been meaning to read Tsh Oxereider’s One Bite at a Time since it first came out, but thanks to the Ultimate Homemaking ebook Bundle, I got a copy along with several dozen other books I’ve been wanting to read. While the book does contain 52 challenges, she encourages the reader to work through them that your own pace, so I’m trying to do so. So you will periodically see me post the details of my attempts, but it probably won’t be one every week.

Eat that Frog. This isn’t a new concept for me. Not so much because my frog is things I don’t want to do (of which there are many like dishes and housework) but the things that if I don’t do them first thing, there is little hope of them being done at all. Exercise, eating breakfast, quiet time with God (I say quiet time rather than devotional time because I am able to work in devotional time occasionally, but with my kids roaming around, it is rarely quiet), getting dressed. So I have far too many frogs and children who wake up inconsistently and far too early. Truthfully what I really need is a good review of Tell Your Time with a workable plan in place. I have too many things to do and not nearly enough time. But I can’t quite let go of any of them. They are all important, most are necessary, many of them are things I love and sustain me. Those things rarely overlap, so how can I find a balance?

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sunrise (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I tried waking up early for a while to exercise before my kids got up. This worked well for a few weeks until my son started getting up at 6:30. Given the choice between getting up early to spend an extra hour child wrangling, or taking my son into our room and falling back to sleep, sleep usually wins out. Once the kids are up most of my high goals for the day are shot anyway. So how do I find a way to eat the frog will having the kids in tow? Have can I keep from getting distracted by all the little things that need to be managed in the morning? So I’m probably going to try again to start getting up early again, to exercise, get dressed, sometimes shower and try to get breakfast for the family started. The hardest part about this will be going to bed earlier so I can get up earlier, but I think I can probably manage that. It’s possible that some frogs can be more easily eaten in the morning if the kitchen and cooking implements are prepared the night before.

Wake-Up Call to Duty: Five Minute Friday

IMG_1639Listen

I hear him first at 5:15 AM, earlier than usual even for our early riser. I wait and listen to see if he will go back to sleep. I doze on and off, thinking about all I have to do today as the early morning light seeps through the cracks in the curtains, slowly filling the room. 5:45 the screaming begins. Louder than usual, Loud enough for my husband to quick run and bring the little buddy, weeping and blurry eyed into our bed in the hopes of all of us getting at bit more sleep. But instead we get a kicking, climbing, clawing, crawling, standing boy who is too tired to settle, too awake to sleep and probably wet and hungry as well. I remind myself that someday I will look back nostalgically at these moments as I start the day a bit earlier than I had planned, tagalong in tow.

IMG_1642He inhales his breakfast as I sit at the kitchen table and try to get my mind awake and organized. The room is filled with the sounds of his white noise machine whoosing through the monitor. I left it on in the hopes of keeping his sister abed for a bit longer. The refrigerator hums. His grunting, munching, slurping, sputtering, coughing and shrieks for more fill in the rest. Yet this is probably my “quiet moment” for the day. I strain my heart for the lesson in today’s moment when I would much rather enjoy my breakfast in solitude.  I shoot off a simple prayer, “Help me to hear you, help me to listen, even in all of this.”

Join us for Five Minute Fridays. One Friday or every Friday, share your words and thoughts with us.

Great Beginner Sewing Project: Old Jeans Become Baby Doll Carrier

About a month ago I discovered an adorable tutorial on Simple Mom about how to make your child a carrier for his or her baby doll. I thought it was an adorable idea and wanted to make one for my daughter for her fourth birthday. Problem: I didn’t have much left in the budget for buying her presents.  Solution: an old pair of jeans.
Ages ago I had started a scrap fabric bin for my sewing practice, since I am still a beginning sewer. In that basket were two pairs of my husband’s old jeans that had rips in the crotch or shredded pant cuffs. But one pair ended up being the perfect for this project.
Start with an old pair of jeans, at least 32 inches in length. If you don’t have an old pair of jeans available try a thrift store or garage sale. If you are worried about not having enough fabric because you want to make the project larger, buy the largest size you can find. (A sewing friend of mine said that she goes to the thrift stores and purchases the largest clothing she can find in good condition for the yardage alone, since fabric has become so expensive). My husband’s jeans are 32 X 32 and I had enough for this project plus enough to spare towards another project (more on that later).
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Cut off all seam edges (don’t try to stitch rip and reuse the prehemmed sections, trust me).  Then follow the directions of the tutorial.

You need to cut: 

  • Long straps: 2 pieces that are 3″ x 31″
  • Short straps: 2 pieces that are 3″ x 15″
  • Main: 2 pieces that are 7 3/4″ (top/bottom) x 9 1/4″ (sides), or one piece that is 7 3/4″ x 18 1/2″ (folded in half)

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To make the straps, fold each one in half lengthwise (“hot-dog style”) and press it. Pin along the long side and one short side, then sew a quarter-inch seam down the one long side and one short side.
I am not the best at pressing, Ok, in truth I can’t remember the last time I used an iron. I know it was sometime before my children were born (my oldest is 4).
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In spite of using a rotary cutter and a cutting mat, I am still terrible at cutting in a straight line. Fortunately, this project is very forgiving when it comes to that sort of thing. In fact in some ways it makes a great first sewing project because it is involves basic sewing in straight lines. (Yes, that is a box of cereal in the background, I’m ironing on my kitchen table)

Turn straps inside out. I use a fat, dull knitting needle that I stole from my mom’s stash. Stick the knob end in rather than the pointy in if you use one.

Turning the straps right side out actually took longer than the whole rest of the project combined. I was beginning to regret using denim. I suggest making the straps a little wider if you are using a heavy denim to make this step easier. While the knitting needle was helpful initially I mostly ended up working with my fingernails and had very sore fingers the next day.

Press your straps and top stitch around three sides.

So with my apologies I will admit that I forget to take photos of this oh, so important assembly stage and now that it’s done and my daughter is using it, I can’t exactly take it apart so please refer to the Simple Mom post for detailed pictures. Don’t worry, I’ll wait here.

1. Start here by laying the long straps at the top of the main piece– sticking the unsewn ends out one of the shorter sides just so about a quarter inch sticks out. Gently fold them back towards that same side.

2. Do the same with the short straps– their unsewn ends will stick out a bit at the bottom of each of the long sides of the main piece. Line them up just above the fold or if you used two pieces for the main part, position them about 5/8″ above the bottom. Gently position all the straps so they are going out the top edge of the main piece.

3. Carefully fold over the main piece or lay the second main piece over all the straps (right sides together).

4. Pin where the strap ends are and in-between. Sew along both long sides and along the top just far enough to stitch down the top long straps but leaving an opening where all the straps are sticking out.
Now you’ll be able to magically turn the whole thing rightside out and you should see two long straps sticking out the top and two short straps sticking out the sides. Press, turning under and pinning shut your opening.
Top stitch around the top and put an X through the middle for extra stability.
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This project was great practice for my sewing skills and denim is very forgiving at hiding crooked stitching as well. It won’t fit my daughter for too long, since she is big for her age. But I plan to add some velcro to the end of each corresponding strap so that as she grows the straps won’t need to be tied anymore.
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I give full credit for the italicized portions of this post to Simple Mom where the tutorial was originally posted. This was their idea, and I am providing my own modifications of it and personal experience in this post. Please use their post for more details.