Friday, May 28, 2010

Ava is the Indy 500 Queen and a Young Race Fan!

Ava is 11 weeks old today and she has been going to her daycare for 3 weeks now. A few days ago, her teacher told me that Ava is going to be this year's "Indy 500 Queen" for the mini race at school. They picked her because she's the youngest baby girl. They have a race for the kids to kick off Memorial Day weekend and get ready for the big race on Sunday. They do a parade with all the kids and Ava as the queen and another little baby boy was the King leads the way! They gave her a cute little tiara to wear. This was the first time she'd been in a stroller like this without our carseat so we had to pad it all down for her so she wouldn't fall out. She was introduced with her King at the start of the Indy 500 Mini Race!

It's a very hot day today so I pulled her out of the stroller to keep her cool after we made it to the back lot for the race festivities. Some of the parents were there to join in a watch their kids "race." The toddlers were hilarious! They had toy carts to push and they did 3 kids at a time. Of course, the toddlers were all over the place and needed lots of coaching. It was really cute!!

It was my first parent event so it was fun that I could make it because I was working from home today and it started the normal time that I pick her up. She never cried or got fussy! She enjoyed the parade walk because she likes to look around and be outside.

Memorial Day Weekend Plans: Ava's Daddy is proud of her because he's a huge Indy 500 fan. In fact, Aaron took the day off of work today to go to Carb Day where the drivers practice and have Pit Challenges on the Track. Aaron will be at the race on Sunday, meanwhile Ava and I will be up at the lake visiting her Grandma and Grandpa Berkey! We plan to help celebrate Colt's 2nd birthday hang out with Betsy and her kids. The youngest, Sam, is only 4 days older than Ava. They are destined to be good friends!

I'll be watching the race up at the Lake with Ava cheering on the Andretti Autosport Team! ExactTarget just signed a sponsorship with Andretti and we've had Michael speak at many of our events, including our Sales Kickoff in February. There is a demo Indy car in ExactTarget orange with the Cotweet logo. Andretti team driver, Ryan Hunter-Raey was a surprise guest speaker and I got his autograph at a team offsite meeting last week at the Track. Here's the picture I took of the "Pagoda" tower at the Track during our offsite. Racing fever in Indy is so fun and I'm glad Ava got a taste of it!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cooking with a Newborn. Is it Possible? YES!

Since Ava was born (almost 11 weeks ago), we've had a lot of friends and family visit. We both love to host, which is why we bought our house because it's really easy to entertain here. I've been able to do lots of cooking since she was born and our visitors always ask me "how do you cook with a newborn?" So here is the post for those parents out there that can't figure it out. Cooking at home is a priority to me because we like to eat nutritious meals and it's nice to have healthy leftovers in the fridge ready for lunches to grab and go.

Yes, I've even cut green beans with Ava in this sling carrier in the picture. It really works!

  • Give yourself more time: Before Ava was born, I cooked quickly because I have my tools (sharp knives, access to equipment, etc), but now I leave myself more time. Truth be told, we eat later now, typically around 8pm if I'm cooking a meal. The baby needs care and when she's hungry, you can't ignore a baby with a growling tummy so I stop what I'm doing to feed her. I've learned to make a dish when she's sleeping or playing happily and then stop and then go back to cooking. I put the baby in the swing in the kitchen or even on the floor on her Baby Einstein and talk to her about what I'm doing. It can be a 2-hr process sometimes. It depends on how it goes that night. This leads to me to my next tip...
  • Strategically plan your cooking nights: The first 4 weeks back to work, I work in the office on Monday's so I cook a larger meal (like my Enchilada Casserole) on Sunday for about 4-6 servings of leftovers for the week. Then, Mon night comes around and we'll have leftovers or a sandwich and fruit for dinner. On the days I work from home, I will cook something simple like a quick pasta and veggie or prep the slow cooker in the morning so it cooks throughout the day. I recently made Lentil Stew in the crockpot. A great option!
  • Weekly shopping and meal planning: I do meal planning and shop once a week on Saturdays. I hit the stores efficiently when Aaron is home with Ava or sometimes even take her with me. The baby loves the lights in the stores. Shopping once a week helps stay on budget because you're not running to the store randomly or even getting takeout.
  • Keep it easy when entertaining: One night I made Beef and Noodles (homemade semolina flour) and that was more extravagant, but most times I made really easy meals when we're hosting people for dinner. I might make steaks, steamed veggies or salad, roasted potatoes or even frozen french fries. Panini sandwiches are really easy to make because it's super easy and people can customize how they want their sandwich. You can serve with a salad and fruit. For dessert, we usually buy something or if our guests offer to bring something, I suggest dessert.
  • Kitchen organization: Check out my post on kitchen work zones. When we moved into the house, I organized the kitchen into functional work zones so that I would be efficient. Now, I can whip together muffins or even Banana Chocolate Chip Snack Cake really quickly because everything is in reach.
  • Stocking the pantry: My success with cooking with a small baby is that I keep essentials that I use all the time handy in the pantry. I get an organic produce delivery every week and always have seasonal produce on-hand and stock basics like cans of beans, rice, chicken stock, cheese, eggs, bread, milk, etc. I can always whip together something healthy even if it's a turkey sandwich with avocado. Easy sides work. Check out my post on the snap peas that steam in the bag in the microwave!
  • Get a helping hand: Aaron is really good about helping me when I have to stop cooking to feed Ava. He will finish something for me so I can stop and take care of her or just hold her while I'm getting food on the table. Our friends that have come over are always willing to do the same! After all, they're getting a nice meal!
Many nights Aaron and I eat dinner later than we like or staggered because as the food is ready Ava is ready to eat, too! But we make it work and we're still living healthfully!

Even if you don't have a newborn and you have a toddler, or you're a busy person without kids, these tips can apply to you! In real life, we're all busy, but taking care of our bodies (our ONLY body), is a great priority to ensure a higher quality of life and hopefully a longer one, too!

Send me your tips or comment below to share your secrets.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Thoughts as a New Working Mom

I took this picture last weekend when Ava and I were hanging out together when I watched the Indy race qualifications on TV while Aaron was a the Track. It reminds me of our precious time together.

I'm 2 and 1/2 weeks into the working mom-mode. Logistically, it's busy, but manageable because I'm a plan-ahead, organized person. But, emotionally, it's rough. The first day, I left Ava at daycare I called Aaron for support. He's been leaving her every day for work since she was born so I thought he'd have some helpful coping tools. He told me that because I'm the one that's been spending every moment with her and carried her during pregnancy it's harder to be separated. Aaron put words to what I was feeling inside. It's always different for the mom. Dads bond like crazy with the baby, but moms bond so intensely. After all the maternal instinct is what protects a species!

It's unnatural for a mom to be separated from her baby at 8 weeks or even 6-months. The first 12 weeks of a baby's life is more likely a "4th trimester" needing transition time to be out in the world. I've said this moms need technology (aka breastpump + gear) to be separated from their babies. If a nursing mom doesn't pump every 3 hrs, she's at risk for losing her milk supply, which prevents her baby from even nursing at night and weekends when they're together. I'm lucky to have a nice spot at the office to pump. This is why many moms have to wean earlier than they planned from nursing because they put off time to pump because of work schedules or their less inspired (totally understandable)! Like many working moms, I have a regular "meeting" in my calendar to pump and fit it in when I'm at offsite meetings, wherever. I have sweet pictures of Ava on my iPhone that I look at when I'm pumping and it helps me reconnect with her, but often times it makes me sad because I miss her terribly.

In our family, we need both incomes to accomplish our lifestyle and savings goals. Maybe in the future it will be different. I know she's ok at daycare and even having fun socializing with babies her age! We picked a Christian daycare center only 10 minutes from the house and I take her there every day. The first 4 weeks back at work are easier. I'm working 1 day a week in the office and the rest from home. I take her to daycare a half day so I can work while she's at daycare. Like I said, logistically, we have a good system.

I NEVER thought I'd be a mom that would want to quit her job and stay home with the baby. Being a mom is a full-time job. No joke, it is! And I have another job that I'm proud of and work hard for, but it's different now. I have to leave work exactly at 5pm to get up to my daycare not only because they close at 6pm and I nurse her when I arrive, but because I'm DYING to see her. Working on the weekends is really hard for me to justify since we have so little family time together. So when I'm at work, I'm laser focused to do what I need to do. My organization and efficiency skills help.

Sometimes I think that it's no different from even stay-at-home moms that take their small children to preschool or kindergarten. It's heart-wrenching to them, but they know they have to let go so they can go to school and explore on their own. And then when their children leave home for college, there's another time when you have to let go. I've gotten a taste of the bittersweet side of parenting that you've created a human that you love so much, who will grow into an independent person and you'll have to "butt out" when the time is right. My in-laws really have this down. (Seriously, they're a great example of this).

When you ask working moms how their doing, they may tell you something to gloss over it or even if they say it's hard, you have NO idea how hard until it happens to you. Holy cow! Ava knows I love her because she smiles at me when we're together. She will come to know her schedule that mommy or daddy will come pick her up after she's had her day. I love that Ava is socializing and learning age-appropriate activities, but being her mom and leaving her at 10 weeks old, is MISERABLE. These emotions are hard wired, intense, and all encompassing. But, I know that being apart really makes me enjoy my time with her even more.

Ava's Fun Playtime

Playtime: Ava is 10 weeks old now. Here are some fun videos that I took last week of Ava's playtime. The first video is her playing with mom at night. I talk to her and she likes to coo and play by moving her arms and legs. It's really fun to see her socialize!

At daycare there's a baby boy that's only a few weeks older than her. The caregivers like to sit them together because they look at each other and smile! So cute! They sit by each other in the swings or on the play mat. I see a budding friendship in the making!

Starting to Roll! Ava is able to roll to her side, mostly just to her right side at this point. It's something she's been working on the last couple weeks and now she's able to balance herself on her side. I watched the Indy qualifying coverage this weekend and I had Ava in the basement with me and she rolled and played on the floor down there. All this new activity is making her more hungry and want to nurse more when we're together. I've heard this from other Le Leche League moms that say when they're babies are doing something new like walking, they are more into nursing because they want the comfort. Plus, I just think she has a bit appetite when she's awake.

Work Schedule...I'm loving my new work transition schedule. I work in the office a full day during the week and work from home the rest. I take her to daycare for half-days when I'm working at home. It's great because I can see her more and I work while she's napping or playing. The daycare schedule is so flexible that I have here there when I have meetings and conference calls. Beginning June 7, I'll be in the office Mon, Wed, and Thurs and then working form home the others. It's going to be great! I cook a big meal on Sunday and I've been using the crockpot a lot for meals the rest of the week. It's working out really well. We're getting into the swing of things.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kid & Adult-Friendly Treat: Banana and Chocolate Chip Snack Cake

One of our favorite ways to use bananas is to make this dessert snack cake. Our produce delivery service in Chicago always sent us bananas in every shipment of our fruit box. Since both of us don't like fresh bananas, I used to freeze the bananas for smoothies or use ripened bananas for banana bread or this cake.

A couple of years ago, our neighbor in Chicago, Viviana, brought this cake to our house to share and Aaron raved about it. I asked her for the recipe and she gave it to me, after warning me that she doesn't really have a recipe. She just wrote down what she thought she used to make the cake. I followed the original and it didn't turn out like the way she made it. After many experiments later, I finally perfected it to taste like her version.

The cake has 2 ripe bananas, which means you don't have to use a ton of butter for the rest. The top is sprinkled with chocolate chips so it's really not too sugary. I like to eat with milk. Try this treat and let me know what you think!

Banana and Chocolate Chip Snack Cake
Makes 12 servings
From Viviana Barraza

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cups butter
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Dash cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray baking pan with cooking spray.
In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt; set aide.
Blend in vanilla, cinnamon, with melted butter in a large mixing bowl and cool slightly. Beat in eggs and milk. Blend in mashed banana, then flour mixture. Spread in pan and add chocolate chips. Bake for 45 minutes.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Vitamin D Drops for My Breastfed Baby: Decision Made!

If you saw my post last week, you know that I've been struggling with my decision on how and if to supplement Ava with Vitamin D. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have started recommending Vitamin D drops for breastfed babies because the primary way people get Vitamin D is through sun exposure (from the skins reaction to the sun). This is true for adults and children. Since babies have tender skin and shouldn't be in the sun, the AAP recommends supplementing. Vitamin D is important for bone strength and helps in calcium absorptions, which is why whole milk is fortified with Vitamin D.

Our pediatrician recommended TriViSol or VitASol, which I found out are made by Enfamil. I bought TriViSol in a hurry without reading the label. It turns out there's artificial flavors and other vitamins like A and C, that my baby doesn't need. In fact, I've read that breastfed babies are able to absorb vitamins and nutrients present in human milk because it's highly digestible.

Most supplements are just passed through the baby and not absorbed through the body. This is true for iron for example. Human milk is lower in iron than formula, but the baby has stores from pregnancy gestation and absorbs iron in the human milk because it's again, easily digestible. It's not until the baby is about 6-months that you can add iron to the baby's diet through solid foods. Check out this great resource page from

I was lucky that I ran into the lactation consultant that works at the hospital near my house and led my breastfeeding group. She recommended Carlson because it's just Vitamin D. She and I discussed Le Leche League's position on Vitamin D supplementation and she said that Ava is not likely to get Rickets, from Vitamin D deficiency, because of her complexion and access to sunshine.

My decision...
The point was that Ava's doctor wanted her to have Vitamin D, which I want to supplement on days that we're not in the sun. On days that we're outside taking a walk or she's exposed for 10 minutes, then I won't supplement. I decided AGAINST the TriViSol because of all the additives. I bought Carlson Baby D-Drops from my local hospital's pharmacy, but I know they also sell it at Whole Foods. I LOVED the directions. You turn the small bottle upside down and it automatically dispenses the drop of 400 IU of PURE Vitamin D. They recommend you drop it right on the mom's nipple (or pacifier) and start the feeding. The baby should suck for 30 seconds.

Carlson understands breastfeeding moms because we tend to be more holistic minded. Thank you, Carlson. Thanks to the the moms that have recommended it to me!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Making Decisions about Vitamin D Supplements for Breastfeed Babies

I'm navigating through uncharted waters. Ava's pediatrician recommended that I supplement her with vitamin D drops since you can't get that from diet and it's not safe to expose baby's tender skin to sun. The latest recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) are that breastfed babies have 400 IU of daily vitamin D supplementation to prevent infections and a condition called Rickets. Our pediatrician recommended TriViSol in Ava's one-month visit and then again in her 2-month visit.

Why Vitamin D? I've seen lots of health news recently about vitamin D deficiency, which in babies can weaken their bones and delay crawling and walking. Very few foods offer vitamin D. The primary way we get vitamin D is by sun exposure, without sunscreen, which allows your body to synthesize the hormone. The amount of time is dependent of the darkness of your skin.

In deciding whether to supplement Ava, I consulted the Le Leche League's position, since their positions are typically aligned with the AAP and have the best interest of breastfeeding moms and babies. Their position is that mother's milk can be tested for vitamin D. I've continued to take a daily prenatal vitamin to ensure that my nutritional stores are strong to produce high quality milk for Ava. Now, I'm considering having my milk tested so I don't have to supplement Ava.

Regrets. I bought it and now I want to take it back. After the two recent visits and getting the same recommendation to supplement, I went to the Target pharmacy to get the TriViSol that the doctor recommended. I horrified when I saw that the product brand is Enfamil, the formula company. The $13B baby formula industry falls prey to moms that are exasperated while trying to nurse their babies. It's in their best interests when moms fail to establish and continue breastfeeding. They give the "free gift" at the hospital to breastfeeding moms that includes a sample of their formula and a little book that says it's OK to supplement your child. Can you tell I'm upset? While I know women that despite their heroic efforts to get lactation resources and support to exclusively breastfeed, could not do it without supplementing. And you have to feed your baby. I get that. But, Enfamil is wanting and EXPECTING women to fail at exclusive breastfeeding. I'm blessed with a very abundant supply of milk so if Ava and I continue what we're doing as a nursing pair, she'll be exclusively breastfed for as long as she needs. Yep, that means I might be nursing a toddler, too.

What fires me up is that Enfamil is selling this product to the breastfeeding moms market segment and their marketing messages are enough to make me crazy and angry! Their product marketing manager should be ashamed of themselves. The dosage directions state "Drops may be given by dispensing directly into the mouth. Drops may also be mixed with formula, fruit juice, cereal or other foods to increase your child's acceptance." Where is the mention of expressed breastmilk? The completely avoid it! They start with formula, which is not a surprise since that's their cash cow product, but "OTHER FOODS." Excuse me, but babies are born to drink breastmilk. It's completely unacceptable. The product marketing manager for TriViSol is a moron.

I'm still undecided on what to do. I'm going to investigate getting my breastmilk tested for vitamin D. I don't want Ava to miss out on vital nutrition, but I also don't want to supplement her needlessly.

By the way, I just found a really good resource page on about how rare it is for moms to be deficient in vitamin D in Western countries or women and babies with lighter skin.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm the Mother of a 2-month old....How Did That Happen?

Ava is 2-months old today! The "baby-moon" is officially over and now I'm back to work. I'm not sad about the work part, just that I can't spend every moment snuggling, nursing her, cooing with her, talking to her and all that fun stuff. Like I've mentioned before in my last post about breastfeeding, I have a flexible schedule since I'm not taking the full 12-weeks. I'm working 4 days at home and 1 day at the office the first 4 weeks. Then starting June 7, I'll work from home on Tuesdays and Fridays. I'm thankful to have this flexible schedule so I have more time with Ava. My daycare will lets me bring her for a half-day and I'll pay for what I use, which is fantastic!

Ava's Growing - 12 lbs 1 oz & 24 inches: We went to her 2-month check-up today and she got her first round of shots. She was a trooper! She cried, but honestly, I've seen her cry worse when she has gas. I nursed her right after they shut the door and it soothed her. Then I dropped her off at daycare and she wanted to nurse again. I can't imagine bottle feeding because breastfeeding gives her so much comfort and mommy's love instantly!

Ava has grown 3 inches and about 4 lbs since birth! The pediatrician told me to keep doing what we're doing because she's very healthy and growing very well. She's so tall and in the 92nd percentile. We could have guessed because her sleepers are always too short before they are too tight in the body. I'm going to find vitamin D drops, per her recommendation because we're keeping her out of the sun (obviously) and the nutrient helps boost immunity.

Development Milestones:
  • Smiles at mom and dad started when Ava was 7-weeks old. We can tell she recognizes our voices and faces by the looks she gives us. We love those big grins. It makes us feel connected to her. She give me eye contact when we nurse and it's super sweet!
  • Ava's breastfeeding like a champ! Breastfeeding without the nipple shield started at 6-weeks and now I'm not using it at all. Ava is able to get a good latch, but I'm trying to make sure it's not too shallow. With all the work we've done up front, it helped establish my milk supply. On my first day back all day at work on Monday, I pumped 3 times and got 17 oz! Ava only had 10 oz at daycare in the time she was there. So I'm producing more than she needs and I'm hopeful this will continue as her requirements increase as she grows. I'm hoping this will continue by my flexible work from home schedule that keeps us nursing on demand a lot. I'm using inspirational pics of her when I pump and it helps me reconnect with her when we're apart.
  • Cooing and socializing: She makes cooing sounds now. One day last week, we were looking at each other and I said "oooew" and she responded back "oooew!" I was so impressed because she did it twice in a row. Ava makes cooing sounds at night when she's falling asleep in her bed, too! It's the sweetest thing.
  • Sleeping longer at night! Ava is giving mommy 4-5 hours of sleep at a time now. She wakes up anywhere between 2:30am to 4am to have a snack before going back to sleep. In case you're wondering, Aaron is able to sleep through all of it, which makes our cosleeping arrangement work since his sleep is not disrupted.
  • Putting herself to sleep at night. I've heard it's best for the baby to go sleep on her own without rocking, nursing, etc. I put her to bed drowsy, but not asleep. I'm lucky that she will do that this young. I feed her and change her diaper one last time and then swaddle her. I put her in her cosleeper bed and she'll lay there quietly and coo and chill out. I'm in the room getting ready for bed so I'm sure that comforts her that she's not alone. And she'll fall asleep in 5-20 minutes, depending on the day.
  • Getting ready for rolling! Ava moves her hips from side to side and even can balance herself when you lay her on her side. She's getting closer to rolling by herself.
  • Arms and legs are going wild...Ava likes the bouncy seat so she can move her arms and legs. Check out the video.
  • Obsessed by ceiling fans. First, it was a fascination, now it's moved to an obsession. Most of our rooms have ceiling fans in the house and she stares at them all the time. They don't have to even be in motion!
  • Loving the Baby Einstein play mat! Ava is now able to grab the toys from above and she loves the bright colors, textures, and music. I try to give her 10 minutes on the playmat a couple times a day with a few minutes of Tummy Time.
  • Looking at trees outside. Ava loves to take walks outside in her stroller or just a quick break outside in the yard with mom or dad. She looks around at the trees and soaks it all in. Being outside also helps calm her when she's upset or fussy.
  • Loves the water from the shower. I just realized that Ava never fusses when I'm in the shower. I put her in her bouncy chair when I'm taking a shower and she loves the sound of the water. I'm a lucky new mom that can take a shower because Ava is soothed by the sounds.
  • Watching Bena play. One night, Aaron was throwing a toy for Bena in the house and Ava was watching the whole thing and loving it! Bena is very sweet with Ava and loves to have her nearby. Sometimes when Ava is crying at night, Bena is laying down by her bed. It's so sweet! Here's a video of them together.

Ava is both a Mommy and Daddy's girl. She has special time with both of us. It's really special to have this bonding time with her!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Breastfeeding Does a Body Good, But Why is it So Hard?!

Babies are BORN to breastfeed. And mothers finish the cycle of childbirth by lactating. There is no question in my mind or even the American Academy of Pediatrics, that baby's optimal nutrition source is human milk, ramping up starting in the middle of the baby's first year to solid foods. Breastfed babies are sick less than formula babies (from Le Leche League). Breastfed babies are shown to have fewer allergies, lower risk for obesity, better jaw development, better absorption of nutrition since human milk is easily digestible. And mom's uterus contracts after childbirth by breastfeeding, which helps her uterus return to normal size easily.

When I thought about being a mom, exclusive breastfeeding my baby without formula was always THE priority. I never questioned it. I thought that I'll deliver my baby and breastfeed the baby because that's the most natural and best way to feed and bond. I heard from other moms that it would be hard, but who knew HOW hard! When I was pregnant, I read the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding from the Le Leche League, a national breastfeeding support group of nursing moms. But, my friend, Jill reminded me when Ava was 5-days old and I felt I was at wits end trying to breastfeed little Ava that that's why breastfeeding is called an "Art" and not a science. That really comforted me!

My in-laws sent the LLL book when I was pregnant. My mother-in-law, who is an amazing support, was a LLL group leader back in the 80's when she was heavily in nursing. Moms in the group are breastfeeding advocates now, but can you imagine what the climate was like 30 years ago when nearly every baby was formula fed, including yours truly! Michele brought the whole family into it. Aaron and his sibs babysat the babies and my father-in-law talked to the fathers in those days about the benefits of breastfeeding, peer-to-peer. Growing up knowing breastfeeding is best for babies, Aaron was in lock-step with me and my biggest supporter. He told me Ava's position should be adjusted and comforted her when she was raging because she was hungry and couldn't latch so we could try again.

I'm now 8-weeks into breastfeeding and it's still a challenge sometimes. I'm wondering why is it SO HARD?? If it's natural, then why? I've learned that it's dance between babies and mothers that involves the right and left brains! Emotions and biology are wrapped up in one with breastfeeding! The good thing is that I have established a fantastic supply of milk starting with the frequent breastfeeding in those early hours and days. I used a nipple shield in the hospital because I had flat nipples and Ava had trouble latching the second feeding. By about 6-weeks, my nipples were drawn out by frequent nursing for Ava to latch and now by 8-weeks, she's completely weaned from the shield. BUT we're not out of the woods, yet. Now, we're working on her latch, which I suspect is shallow sometimes. I'm reading a great book that I borrowed from the LLL library Breastfeeding Made Simple, which has helpful techniques for getting the baby to latch in the "comfort zone."

Needless to say, I've spent countless hours breastfeeding now all over the place (check out my 6-week post), reading books, learning from lactation consultants and moms at breastfeeding support groups by now. One mom told me that if someone says breastfeeding is easy the first time is LYING! Just look at the numbers. The current stats from the CDC are staggering! By 3-months of age, when mom's are most likely back to work, only 33% of US babies are exclusively breastfed, not to mention only 13% by 6-months! It's so heartbreaking.

Now, I know why it's so hard to get right! Our culture has evolved to enable the $13B formula industry and take power from mothers. (A must read article Huffington Post) Before formula was invented, women had no choice but to breastfeed their babies, unless they were in the elite classes and they had wet nurses, which was obviously a handful of women. We give birth in hospitals that may not support breastfeeding. My disclaimer is that my hospital, OBGYN, pediatrician, and nurses were extremely supportive and pro-breastfeeding. But, women are giving birth in hospitals and coming home with the baby without their mothers, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers there to support her not just after a couple days, but for weeks and months. We lack experiential knowledge, needed for breastfeeding. My mom fed me formula because it was too hard for her. No one jumped in to support her and she didn't seek it. But lets face it, that was 1976 the height of the "formula is more scientific movement."

The negative side of American culture is obsessed with quick fixes and letting corporations cook for you - look at the grocery store aisles. It's a vicious cycle. Moms that don't get the support and work hard at this careful dance, lose their confidence and their milk supply goes with it. There many moms are frustrated, embarrassed, and feeling down-right guilty. It makes me angry. I'm angry enough to fight for me and little Ava to continue as long as she needs it, which yep, folks, that means I may be nursing a toddler. But she'll be getting her nutrition from human milk until at least 1-year. Ava is worth fighting for. And now, I can't imagine not breastfeeding her. It's a constant bonding routine that gives her comfort, security, and mother's love.

I'm returning to work next week and I've already scheduled times in the Mother's Room to pump for daycare and to keep my supply strong. My first 4-weeks are really flexible, working 1 day in the office and 4 days at home. I'll have Ava in 1/2 day daycare so I can be productive and have time with her to continue to establish our nursing relationship. Then in June, I'll go back to the office 3 days a day and 2 days at home with the 1/2 day daycare to support me.

I struggle emotionally with going back to work, although I'm blessed with a flexible and supportive work culture that provides me a good transition schedule to keep me with Ava longer. I believe my emotions as a mother are hard wired. Mothers and babies are not meant to be separated. I'm reminded of that every time it's about 3-4 hours between feedings! Ouch! Working mothers need technology, AKA breastpump, to be apart from the baby. See, it's hardwired in our biology to stay together. Our household, at this point, is a two-income household to accommodate our financial needs and goals like providing shelter and still saving for the future like Ava's college and our retirement. Working mothers do it every day. I've admired many of my friends who have maintained their breastfeeding relationships with their babies by being diligent with their schedules. On Monday, I'll be one of those mothers with her mysterious "bag" who goes into a room to pump. But in my thoughts will be Ava and her smiles and cuddles. This picture above is from her first week of live when breastfeeding was a battle with the flailing arms and legs, but it's the image in my mind all the time. I love her to pieces, my little Ava!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Berkey Family Tradition: Beef and Homemade Egg Noodles

On my first Christmas with Aaron, his mom made a Berkey traditional meal instead of turkey, Beef and Noodles. Making the meal is a labor of love! The beef is made simply in the slow cooker and the egg noodles are dressed with a beef broth-based gravy and get this, they serve it over mashed potatoes (I'm not a fan of that part). My mother-in-law rolled out the dough for the noodles from scratch and all by hand. This prep was all done the day before and the noodles dried overnight. Aaron's Grandma Berkey made this for her family so my father-in-law grew up having this meal and of course so did Aaron.

Last night, I was channeling this Berkey tradition for a meal that we served to good friends of ours, the Pierce's. Shawn has been taking our family photos so we wanted to repay him for his generosity. I made the noodles with my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and the pasta attachment and with the recipe below you don't have to wait for it to dry. I haven't made homemade pasta since we lived in our Chicago condo and I had more space to spread out. I didn't do much involved cooking in our tiny apartment kitchen before we moved to our new house. Aaron's parents gave me the pasta attachment a couple years ago for Christmas and I love it!

BONUS: Baby Ava loved the lull of the sound of the stand mixer going so she fell asleep the entire time. Of course, cooking with a newborn is interesting. I have to do things in stages and get help to finish things sometimes. :)

For last night's dinner, I served the beef on top of the homemade noodles (no gravy or mashed potatoes - don't tell my father-in-law!), roasted asparagus, and baked beans for Jill who doesn't eat meat. When I was rolling out the noodles, Aaron tasted them and said it tasted like "Thanksgiving." Believe me, that's a compliment! Anyway, we all loved the meal, including our friend's 2-yr old who had fun trying the uncooked noodles from the cutter!

Slow Cooked Beef: I put the 2 lb beef roast in the crockpot early in the afternoon with just a few ingredients: Worcestershire sauce, Bragg Liquid Aminos, crushed garlic, Penzey's seasoned pepper, and about 1/2 cup of water. I cooked it on high for about 6 hours. You can buy whatever beef roast at the store that looks good. I like boneless, but the bones will add more flavor. When the meat was in the crockpot, I measured the dry ingredients for the pasta to save time.

Semolina Egg Noodles - serves a crowd
  • 3 1/3 cups semolina flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup water (don't put too much)
Stand Mixer-Assisted Preparation - with my personal tips:
  • MIX: Start with paddle and all ingredients in the bowl. Try 1/4 cup of water to start and add more at the end if needed to get the dough to stick in one ball. Run the mixer at 2 for about 1 minute. Then switch to the dough hook. Run mixer at 2 and knead for at least 2 minutes. Watch the mixer because the kneading is forceful and sometimes the bowl will come out of the arms of the mixer. Make sure you form a ball and you may have to use your hands to form the first clump for the dough hook to knead.
  • ROLL: Lay out 4 long strips of wax paper on the working area. Cut the dough in 8 sections. Remove the bowl and attach the pasta roller and ensure that it's on tight. Hand-flatten the first dough segment and start with the roller on 1. Fold in half and run again on 1, then repeat but only ONCE until you get to 5. Lay the long noodle dough on the wax paper. You will have room for 2 noodle dough strips on each sheet of wax paper layered on top of each other.
  • CUT: Replace the pasta roller attachment with the wide noodle pasta cutter attachment. Ensure that it's on tight and secure before you start. Place the mixer bowl under the cutter. Cut the dough in 3 sections or preferred length of your noodles. Run each section through the cutter. Every so often lightly coat the noodles with cooking spray to prevent sticking.
  • COOK: While you're cutting the pasta, fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. You will need about 4-5 quarts of hot water. By the time you're finished cutting the pasta, your water should be ready! Cook the pasta in 2 batches so it helps prevent sticking. Fresh pasta cooks in about 2-5 minutes. Place a colander over a dry pot or serving dish. Using a pasta utensil pull out the first batch of pasta from the cooking water. Drain (do not rinse), the pasta and make sure there is no water at the bottom. Add second batch of pasta and cook. Serve the pasta hot!

Serve it up! The beef roast will fall apart. It's best if you break up the meat into chucks so people can serve it over the noodles. I had butter on the table to put on the noodles since I didn't make the gravy. It's really simple, but you can use the beef juices to flavor the noodles, too. I like to keep the noodles separate since the recipe makes so much and you can use it for other meals. We served Cake Bread Zinfandel and it was a good compliment to the meal.

It was a great meal and I was thankful to share it with our friends. If you don't have a stand mixer, I highly recommend it! It's well worth the $300 to have a mixer for decades! I use my mixer ALL the time and it's pretty enough to keep on the counter, which makes me want to use it more!