Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tasty, Sweet Summer Treat

This summer Trader Joe's (you know it's my favorite store!) came out with a new product that I love! It's Pomegranate Blueberry Sherbet and it comes in a small container, which is perfect for small servings just to have a taste of something sweet. The sherbet has a perfect blend and very flavorful. Sometimes I mix a scoop of this sherbet with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, too.

One serving is a 1/2 cup for 140 calories. You can see by the little scoop in this bowl, it's something that I savor!

If you don't have a Trader Joe's by you, I don't mean to rub it in! :) Ava likes to shop there and she's been there since she was just 3 weeks old.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Caregiver Tips from a Working and Breastfeeding Mom

I've been back to work for 10 weeks and I've learned some things along the way. If you are a breastfeeding mom going back to work, you've probably heard all the tips about how to continue breastfeeding by pumping at work. Unfortunately, lots of moms feel they have to wean their babies when they go back to work because they may feel like it's overwhelming to pump while at work. Most of the advice for working and pumping moms is around literally working and pumping while at work and not about how to educate your caregivers who watch your baby while you're at work. Ava is been exclusively breastfeed since she was born and at 4 1/2 months, many of her peers nationally are not (only 33% of babies in the US are exclusively breastfed by age 3-months according to the CDC). This means that most daycares have limited knowledge of caring for a breastfed baby. I have some tips that I hope will help you as you're navigating through this with your baby. Feel free to share yours!

Tips for Educating Your Baby's Caregivers:
  • Handling breast milk: Warm breastmilk in warm water and gently swirl the milk to mix the layers of cream. It's important to gently swirl, NOT SHAKE the milk. Daycare caregivers are used to formula bottle preparation, which they shake to mix. I found some air bubbles in Ava's bottles and realized they didn't know not to shake the milk. There are living cells in breastmilk so the milk should be handled gently. My caregivers do a really good job about taking note of Ava's care needs and they have it printed on the board so anyone in the room that's filling in will see my care notes.
  • Breastfeed your baby when you arrive at daycare or during lunch: I read this tip in the book Working Without Weaning (which I highly recommend for the practical tips), and she typically wants to nurse when I arrive. Breastfeeding when you arrive helps you reconnect with your baby after the separation and allows you to talk to your caregivers and ask them how the baby was that day. And the bonus is that you can add another breastfeeding to help you stay in sync with your baby's demand and pump less for daycare. My daycare is 30 minutes away from work so I couldn't swing the lunch feeding, but many working moms can do this and it works really well for mom and baby.
  • Preferring to breastfeed and eating just enough at daycare: There are days when Ava is at daycare for 10 hours and only drink 2 bottles and a total of 6-7 oz. She holds out until I arrive and we breastfeed many days. Other days, she'll have about 11oz of milk from 4-5 bottles. When she's holding out at daycare, I've asked the caregivers to hold her while feeding (sometimes, they feed babies in the swing!) and I've brought in my shirt so she can have my smell nearby. That seems to work.
  • Baby's "on-demand" feeding schedule: Ava's caregivers ask me a lot about how often she likes to eat. And truthfully, you can't compare bottle feeding to nursing because babies nurse for comfort in addition to thirst and hunger. I have no way of knowing how much she eats (in ounces) because without a scale, there's no way of measuring. And breastfeeding mothers find that feeding on-demand is the best for baby. I know her hunger cues and that how I know she's ready. It's like a 6th sense for breastfeeding moms. They just know and our bodies help us out because we feel full. I just ask the caregivers to feed her when she's sucking on her hands. They write down her feeding schedule and they're doing a great job of feeding on-demand. Ava eats some bottles at 3oz and another times only 1 oz. Even from a bottle, Ava does a good job at regulating her intake. Every day is different so it's unrealistic to day, feed her at 2pm, 4pm, etc.
  • Keep extra frozen milk at daycare: The first week that I brought Ava to daycare a mom walked in and said "oh no, I forgot the baby's milk today. You'll have to use formula." I decided it would be a good idea to bring frozen bags of milk for the daycare freezer in case they run short on fresh milk for any reason. They've only used 2 bags in their stash, but it's a peace of mind to know that they always have it on-hand. Defrosted frozen milk has to be used within 24-hrs so it's good to keep smaller increments that you know your baby will eat.
My working and pumping schedule: I'm a very organized and efficient person so I integrate my pumping schedule with my work calendar and it's been working very well. I've been able to keep my milk supply healthy and strong in the past 10 weeks. I pump at work at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm, and often times bring my laptop and read work articles, do conference calls, or respond to emails on my iPhone. My coworkers are really supportive when we go to offsite meetings and help me by providing private places for me to pump.

Resources for Breastfeeding and Working Moms:

Friday, July 23, 2010

More Summer Fun with Ava

Ava is a vibrant 4-month old. It's so fun to watch her enjoy every day life. Tonight before dinner, Aaron threw the ball for Bena in the backyard, which she can do for HOURS, by the way. Ava has started to laugh when she sees Bena, which is really cute. The kind of laughing where her whole body moves! Aaron was holding Ava when he was throwing the ball and she was straining to see her chase the ball and bring it back. She likes to see the action!

So Aaron brought out her Bumbo chair so she could sit and watch the whole thing. The Bumbo chair is fun for playtime (check out my post when Ava's cousin, Colin, came to visit). Aaron thinks her thighs are getting so big that the Bumbo might be getting too small. Hilarious!

You can see her smiling and laughing in this picture on the left. It's so fun to see the dog and baby play together. Most times, Bena is too absorbed in her activities, but she likes to check in on Ava and give her a sniff and maybe a lick.

It's been quite a week! Ava got a stomach bug on Sunday on the way home from the family reunion. Then I got sick Monday and stayed home from work. Since she wasn't feeling well either, Ava and I napped a lot together and I kept her with me instead of daycare. Then on Wed, Aaron felt sick. He took a nap and went to bed early and seemed fine. But then last night, Bena got sick in the bedroom. I couldn't believe how we all got sick, including the dog! I did more laundry this week than in my life! And because Ava was throwing up on me, I had to clean up myself and her. It was a mess, but she sure was happy even though you could tell she wasn't herself.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reminder: Public Breastfeeding is Legally Protected

At daycare yesterday, they asked me to use a more "private area" in the infant's nursery room because of "all the people" walking in and out. She said later that it was not to "offend" anyone or since the "men" (dads) are there to pick up their children, that I should nurse Ava in a different area. And when the Mother's Room is complete, I need to breastfeed her in that room and not in the nursery. She told me it that she was concerned about the "thoughts" that the men would have to see my feeding my baby. She went on to talk about premarital sex being against Christianity. How do you go from a mother breastfeeding her baby to talking about premarital sex in the next thought? It's because she needs an education about breastfeeding because it's NOT sexual.

Not only is it out of line, but there are laws protecting my rights as a nursing mother. The US culture has become a formula/bottle-feeding culture since the 60's and we've failed to see that babies are BORN to breastfeed, not drink processed milk from cows. Babies taking the milk directly from the breast is ideal, especially for a mom and baby that are separated to ensure her milk supply. Moms, especially working moms work so hard to establish breastfeeding so supporting their relationships, especially at a daycare, would make the most, practical sense!

Check out this quote from the Indiana Dept of Health web page about Breastfeeding:
Not withstanding any other law, a woman may breastfeed her child anywhere the woman has a right to be. Source: Indiana Code 16-35-6-1 Chapter 6, Sec. 7

Notice it does not mention any qualifier such as the amount in which her body should be covered. That's it. Women are legally allowed to breastfeed ANYWHERE.

I'm discreet when I'm nursing Ava (check out the picture above). I'm completely comfortable when she's not distracted, then I use a more private area. It's the mother's choice whether to cover her body during breastfeeding or do so in a private.

I'm speaking with the Director to resolve this situation tonight. I plan to recommend that the staff gets a workshop on Human Lactation (thank you, Jill for the suggestion) in order to educate them on the topic and make them more comfortable. I'm going to work it out there because I see a lot of potential for Ava thriving there. She really likes the caregivers and the babies.

Pregnant women and moms are told to breastfeed their babies until at least the first year of life by healthcare organizations (World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, etc), but then the public outcries or is even offended when a mother does it public. Do you see the breakdown as I do?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ava's 4-month Update

Ava is 4-months old and growing like crazy!

4-month check-up 15 lbs 9 oz and 26 inches:
We went to Ava's well baby visit and she's grown 5 inches since she was born (in the 97th percentile) and gained 7 lbs 7 oz (in the 87th percentile). We have a big baby on our hands and GREAT for working on mom's biceps! She got another round of shots. Honestly, we have it down. I nurse her right after the shots and I gave her Tylenol, which seemed to help. She's been a bit fussier than normal, but not all that bad.

Sleeping well and most nights 8 hours. Ava has always been a good sleeper. I put her to sleep drowsy most night and she puts herself to sleep. We have a cosleeper on the side of our bed where Ava sleeps so when she's hungry she wakes me by kicking her legs on her mattress, which is only a few inches from my head. She's great about going right back to sleep. I couldn't believe it the first time she slept 8 hours in a row at 12 weeks old. Now it's really consistent unless she doesn't eat enough before she goes to sleep. Because I'm a nursing mom, I know if I'm still full before she sleeps, she hasn't eaten her normal amount an, she'll wake up in the middle of the night. My night supply is in sync with her needs, which is a beautiful thing. We plan on cosleeping until we see signs that we're ready. Her crib arrived last week and Aaron put it together, but we don't have a mattress or crib sheets yet. That's the next thing on the list.

Baby Party! This month has been very busy. We've been to a family reunion, Aaron's sister's wedding, and hosted family and friends on 4th of July weekend. Ava has one first cousin, Colin, and two baby girl second cousins (on the left baby McKenzie "Mac" with her mommy, Tate, and on the right baby Eleanor "Nora" and her mommy, Arzu, is a out of the picture). The Parmenter Family Reunion was fun with the four new babies! Ava took her first swim in the lake with her daddy.

NOT doing solid food until 6-months:
Now that Ava is 4-months old everyone is asking me when I'm going to start her on solid foods. I wonder why it's a rush! Ava is barely able to stay in her Bumbo chair for a few minutes. No, she's not ready for solids! There are benefits for delaying solid foods for breastfed babies. I'm enjoying our breastfeeding relationship so much and I have several goals. First, I want to feed her solids at around 6-months after she's sitting up on her own, interested in our food, and doing a chewing motion with her mouth.

My other goal is to nurse her until she's 18 months old when her body will start to develop her own antibodies. My milk supply is not at risk because she nurses frequently and I'm diligent about pumping when we're apart. My sources for information besides my pediatrician and lactation consultants are Le Leche League, - a fabulous breastfeeding resource, and books (Breastfeeding Made Simple and Feeding the Whole Family). Aaron and I are not starting Ava on rice cereal because it's not nutritious or necessary. I'd rather start her on nutritious whole foods. And I also plan on giving her fresh homemade food instead of processed baby food.
Traveling like a Pro: We got a small SUV just in time for all of our road trips this summer. It has been great to have more space. Bena rides in the back of the truck and right now, Ava and I sit in the back together so I can soothe and play with her. Aaron and I talk by looking at each other in the rear view mirror, which is funny. Ava is doing great in the car. We stop to feed her and keep going. One time, she had a diaper blow out while I was nursing her in the back of the car. We were at a gas station with lots of grass and we laid her on it and cleaned her up and changed her clothes. It was like a movie scene! It's easy for us to pack her up to go to Aaron's parents house at the lake because they have a crib for her to sleep in and we have stuff there already so there's less to pack.

Still Battling Gas...Our pediatrician told me that some babies have gas problems longer than others. She gets really worked up from gas discomfort. One night, she was hysterical at the reunion, but her Grandpa calmed her down. Last night, I calmed her by singing to her, bouncing her, taking her outside, and stroking her back. She feel asleep from exhaustion. We can feel the gas gurgling in her tummy. Luckily the gas drop seem to work, but she gets so upset.

I've learned I'm not a cry-it-out Mom. When I hear Ava cry, it makes me drop everything and go to her. I want to soothe her pain or discomfort. I see how the changes physically when she cries. I can't understand the cry-it-out parenting style. When babies are distressed it's like a trauma to them. Their blood pressure rises, they don't know when their parents will come to them. My baby is very sensitive to her surroundings. I want to build trust with her. I think the cry-it-out theory is flawed because it's rooted in the American obsession with putting babies on a schedule and "scientific" parenting. I chose to be an intuitive parent and respond to my baby. The work we did in the beginning to establish a night time ritual and her ability to soothe herself back to sleep with her wake cycles is foundational in her development and for the the future.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Easy Weeknight Turkey Cheese Burger

I went to Yoder's, my favorite meat shop, this weekend while we were up in Northern Indiana and stocked up on local, hormone free meat. We brought the frozen meat home in the cooler and one of my ground turkey packages partially defrosted so I had to think of something really easy to cook for dinner with the ground turkey. So I decided to make turkey burgers since I already had buns. We don't have a grill yet for the house (we needed too many other things first) so I just made these burgers on a cast iron skillet. But, try my recipe on the grill.

Is that a carrot in my burger? Yoder's is a family business with high quality meat. Their ground turkey is very moist, but I still wanted to add something to keep it moist since I was cooking it on the stove. I used shredded carrot and it added a slightly sweet dimension. Aaron doesn't like onions too much so I thought the carrot would work perfectly. I took two bites before I decided it was good enough to blog about! I served it up with frozen sweet potato fries from Trader Joe's. My favorite hamburger buns are from Trader Joe's, too. They're very hearty, whole wheat buns that have a slightly sweet flavor. We added a slice of American cheese (from Yoder's! - love that place...) and a little mayo and ketchup and we were good to go.

Amanda's Easy Weeknight Turkey Cheese Burger
Make 4 burgers
  • 1 pound high quality ground turkey (maybe get a mix ground thigh with ground breast)
  • 1 tbs crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • 1 large shredded carrot
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 whole wheat buns
  • 4 slices cheese
  • Favorite condiments, such as - mayo, ketchup, bbq sauce, mustard, lettuce, tomato, sliced onion, avocado, sweet relish, sauteed mushrooms, etc
Preheat cast iron skillet or grill on medium heat.

Mix ingredients in a bowl with your hands. Score the meat mixture in 4 even sections. With your hands form a patty, flattening evenly.

Cook burgers about 5 minutes on each side. Make sure to use a meat thermometer if you have any doubts to ensure that the turkey is cooked.

Assemble the burger and enjoy!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Freezing Time

This morning I was getting ready for work and looking down at Ava while she was snoozing and I thought to myself (1) take a picture of that and (2) how can I freeze time? I've been back at work already 8 weeks and it's amazing that now that Ava is turning 4 months old on Monday, I'm getting a little panicked that time is going to move faster than it already is with all the activities and I've been in a baby bliss. I called it my baby moon when we first got home from the hospital and we had our first weekend together with our new little family.

Now that I'm back at work at separated from our little snuggler, I always try to cherish every moment that we're all together. Nothing makes me happier that to be together with Aaron, Ava, and Bena. I guess because all my adult life, I knew that I'd become a mom one day when it was at the right time with the right person. And now that it's all here happening, I'm so overwhelmed by how absolutely blessed I feel and completely in love with being a wife and mother.

Here's Ava at 4 days old on the left and the picture on the right is the one that I was urged to take this morning before I left for work. She's grown leaps and bounds. You can see her chub on her legs and tummy. She was born with full cheeks, but now her face is a little round and she's developed the "Volarvich cheeks."

We are having a blast together and I know it will get better all the time.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Something New: Sitting in the Bumbo Chair

We love the Bumbo chair. Ava just started sitting in it at the house and at daycare. She doesn't do it too long, but it does help her build her strength for when she learns to sit unassisted. We think is so cute because it makes her seem really small when she's on the ground. We ate dinner the other night and Bena at our feet and Ava in the chair.

Last Thursday, Aaron's sister and her family stayed with us overnight on their way from Chicago to Memphis for their family reunion. Our nephew, Colin, 8-months, had a fun time hanging out with Ava. Although, you can really see how strong he is because he was raising himself up and only held on with one hand on Ava's chair. We had to really watch them closely because Colin doesn't know not to put his weight on Ava when he was climbing up on the chair! It was really cute! These two are going to have lots of fun in the future!

Friday, July 2, 2010

I Did it! I Donated Ava's Milk to Help Babies and Moms

Remember my post when I decided to donate to the milk bank? I did something today that will help babies and moms. I donated 101 ounces of Ava's milk! It's milk that she'll never eat. I'm blessed with an insanely strong supply and when I'm working all day in the office and we're apart, I pump 2x more than what she drinks while she's at daycare. So after 7 weeks back at work, I have an insane freezer storage issue! I take the frozen milk to the daycare, but after 7 weeks, they've only used 2 bags because I always have enough fresh. I keep it there for a backup.

So this afternoon, I packed up the cooler with the frozen milk and drove to the Indiana Mothers' Milk Bank, located here in Indianapolis. In the past couple weeks, I went through the screening process that included a blood sample, medical history, and release forms for my doctor and Ava's doctor. This was my first donation. I still have about 50 ounces of fresh milk in bottles in the fridge that I'll have to freeze most of it over the weekend. It's a little crazy! This is all when I'm feeding her and she's gaining weight! In fact, at 16 weeks, she's at 15 lbs and 6 oz and her birth weight was 8 lbs 2 oz! Luckily the baby weight is coming off of me slowly, but surely and then going onto her! With Ava's healthy growth and my supply, I'm honored to share her milk since she will never go through all of it before it spoils.

I got a tour of the facility where they defrost donated milk, combine it to normalize the nutritional content, pasteurize, and then repackage for distribution. I learned that the pasteurization kills the bacteria in the milk, but retains the healthy antibodies and most of the living cells precious to these babies in need. I saw the massive amounts of frozen mother's milk and the bottles that will be sent to hospitals throughout the Midwest for premature or sick infants that need immunity and nutrition. I was pleased to see Trader Joe's has donated cooler bags and paper bags for their shipping materials. You know how I love Trader Joe's!

I'm going to volunteer at the milk bank's sponsored Lactation Stations at the Indiana State Fair in Aug. They have stations setup that give breastfeeding moms a place to sit and relax with fans, shade, and cold water in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Fair. Their goals of having the presence at the Fair are to raise awareness that Mother's Milk is available at the hospital, recruit donor moms, and in general to advocate breastfeeding! Sign me up for that! I'm so excited to help out moms with a place to breastfeed their babies and relax. Anyone else want to join me?

I left the milk bank full of hope and a stash of Medela Pump and Save Bags! Thanks, Dane! What a great way to start the weekend!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Breast Pumps for Working Moms...Come On Insurance Companies!

I've been very fortunate to have generous friend (thank you, Jill!) who has lent me her hospital grade breast pump that she used when she first had her daughter. When I was pregnant, Jill, offered to lend me her pump and I took it with me to the hospital when I gave birth so that the lactation consultants could show me how to use it. Hospital-grade pumps are multi-user pumps and are designed for long-term and frequent use. It's especially helpful to have a strong, reliable pump for establishing supply in the beginning. While they are larger than the smaller sizes built into a easy carrying back, they are a workhorse. I compare it to having a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer that you can use for decades or having a small hand held electric mixer. In the past few months I've been spoiled by this trusty pump. As a working mom, it's recommended to pump every 3 hrs to maintain your supply while you are separated from your baby.

I've decided that it's time to buy my own pump for nursing Ava and for the future. I've heard from lactation consultants that smaller pumps like the Medela Pump in Style are great for nursing 1 child, but then they are not as effective for future kids simply because of the wear and tear on the pump. Since this pump is already over $300, I've decided to spend more and get the big mama pump, the Lactina, which is about $1,000. My reason is that it's so reliable and great for heavy-duty use long-term. Because it's a hospital-grade, it's built to last. I plan on nursing Ava until she's at least 18 months, which means that I'll go longer if she wants. The main reason is that I just learned that babies don't produce their own antibodies until their about 18 months old and breast milk over time with the baby nursing less because they're also eating table foods, becomes richer in antibodies. It's nature's way of protecting the young baby from illness. Amazing!

I did some research with my medical insurance provider to find out about my benefits for breast pumps. I was appalled to learn that they only cover a MANUAL breast pump, which is a mere $30! I was completely blown away! A manual pump is for occasional use (think stay-at-home mom), NOT a working mom. If I were to use a manual pump while at work, it would take me hours! Manual pumps are operated by hand and you can only pump one breast at a time. Electric are pumped at the same time, using a motor and you can get bras to make it even hands-free for working while pumping!

To me, this is completely inexcusable! It's another MAJOR hole in our system that fail to give mothers and babies a strong foundation to establish and maintain breastfeeding. Remember, my post on current stats that I shared about the dismal number of exclusively breastfed babies in the US (only 33% by age 3-months). By that time, the mother is likely to return to work and without support systems in place (employer-supported lactation policies/facilities, benefits for breast pumps, etc), women who don't want to wean their babies, start falling off. Insurance providers would have fewer claims because breastfed babies are generally sick less than formula babies. Sadly, at Ava's daycare, the babies there are starting to have more formula. When she started at 8 weeks old, 1 out of 7 were on formula and now, Ava is one of 2 babies getting exclusive breastmilk. She has a cold now from daycare, but she's doing ok. We took her to the doctor and she doesn't have an ear infection and her cough is getting better and she isn't as sick as the other babies in the nursery. The antibodies from my milk are helping her for sure.

So why would the insurance companies only provide manual pumps to working or any mom that is breastfeeding, because our culture is formula company lobbied. The are setting moms back from the advice from the World Health Organization, Le Leche League, and the American Academy of Pediatrics that babies should be exclusively breastfed for a minimum (key word) of 1 year. I'm planning on writing to my medical insurance provider and alerting my HR admin. I wonder if our HR team even knows about this major gap? It's unbelievable to me. What are lower income working moms doing? My hope is that they are investing the $300 in a good pump, which is far less than buying formula.

The saddest part for me is that babies are not only missing out on the ultimate nutrition, but the physical comfort and bonding that happens when a mother and baby are back together. I can tell the difference on days when I'm in the office all day. Ava and I are separated for 10 hours. When I'm working at home she's at daycare for 4 1/2 hours. But the day full days apart, she and are rarely apart at night. I can barely cook a meal because she wants to be with me and nurse all night. Yesterday, for example, Ava ate 6oz in 10 hrs and when I arrived at daycare she nursed longer than normal. Babies miss their mommies and nursing is an amazing way to reconnect for working moms, especially! I just love it.

I encourage you to find out what your benefits are and be assertive. Make our voices heard to help bring change.