Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New (to me) information

Even though I have had overabundant supply for a long time, I still check any resources I come across about breastfeeding and postpartum to check and see if I might learn something new, and have been rewarded for this habit.  So when I pulled out a book on herbal treatments for women’s health, I flipped through to see if there was any information I hadn’t seen.

Apparently, parsley (ingested) can decrease milk supply.  I had no idea.  Sage can as well, which I had heard, but there’s really only so much sage one can eat, right?  Parsley is a bit easier to sneak into daily meals, though.  The woman who had originally had an issue with milk supply because of eating parsley had been working on eating lots of leafy greens, so I imagine she was working it into salads and maybe putting it on sandwiches.  There are also recipes for parsley soup, and

There was no recommendation for how much to use, and I would of course recommend talking it over with a healthcare practitioner, but it might be something to try to cut back a bit on overabundant supply.  Starting small and slowly working more in – if needed – seems like a good approach. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Five Favorites – Pregnancy Fitness Edition

Five Favorites, hosted at MoxieWife.com

Pregnancy fitness on a breastfeeding blog?  Fitness in pregnancy can shorten recovery time and help our bodies to prepare for the rigors of life with a baby on the outside, so pregnancy fitness is a great preparation for a good start in breastfeeding.

I really enjoy things like walking and getting out into nature, and I have a recumbent tricycle that I use during pregnancy, too.  However, with winter and rain here for a while, I’ve mostly been doing my exercise in the warm and dry interior of my own home.

In addition to the things below, there’s a third trimester fitness thing that I love:  getting in the pool.  The buoyancy is a thing of beauty when dealing with the pregnant belly, and movement in the water is so much easier.


I really like this one – it’s a great workout.  It’s tough but do-able, at least for me, and I feel like it hits the whole body.  I love, love, LOVE the stretching portion.  She seems to find the best stretches, even for the growing bellies.  If I do other workouts, I’ll sometimes ditch their stretching portions and do this one.


This one is a close second.  I find it slightly less tough than the first one, but it definitely works things out.  The whole body gets covered, and she has you do kegel exercises during the workout – a good reminder for me.  The setting is a bit dark and weird, but that doesn’t affect the workout, really.


                                          Product Details

The Perfect Pregnancy Workout, Volume 3:  The Ancient Art of Belly Dance for Labor

I approached this one with skepticism.  In fact, looking back, I’m actually surprised that I bought it.  I’m so glad I did, though, because if my back started hurting in the third trimester and I did this video, the pain went away.  I’m not promising similar results for everyone, but I was SOLD!  This was a workout for after the kids were in bed and when my husband wouldn’t accidentally happen into the room, though, because I felt EXTREMELY self-conscious doing it.  Belly dance apparently developed originally for labor preparation, but it has other connotations as well, and I was not interested in observation for this particular workout.


I used this one for days when I wanted cardio but not lots of bells and whistles, days when I had 20 minutes for a quick workout, days when I wanted to do cardio combined with some of the Pilates in number 5 for a shorter or just different workout, or days when I felt too tired to do workouts 1 and 2, but wanted a little something to warm me up and get me moving.  There’s a warmup and five different miles to choose from, including a quick 12-minute mile (which means that warmup, workout, and cool down take about 20 minutes total), so it makes for an easy way to customize a workout that fits the situation for the day.  As a bonus, it’s so funny to see one’s toddler try to workout along with Lesley.


This DVD include 5 different 10-minute segments that focus on different areas of the body with Pilates exercises.  I found that this provided a good mixer for days that I wasn’t quite up to 1 and 2 but wanted something.  One day in early second trimester I managed to pull something in my back while doing the abdominal segment, so I don’t do that one any more, since back injury during pregnancy sounds like something I want to avoid.  But I do enjoy the other segments a lot.  BONUS:  You can select which segments you want to do in which order, and the DVD will play them for you, so you don’t have to return to the menu in between to decide. 

For other favorites, join Hallie’s usual crew at Fountains of Home

Friday, February 14, 2014

Exercise for the overabundant – or for the plugged duct/mastitis sufferer

If my experience is any guide, probably those who have overabundant milk supply also get more plugged ducts and mastitis than other nursing moms.  And it seems true that women who get plugged ducts are more prone to get them again, sad to say. 
It’s also true that exercise is excellent for human beings – our bodies are made to move, and we get many benefits from moving them.  The thing we must be careful of, if we’re prone to plugged ducts and mastitis, is overdoing it.  Nursing women can overdo things with astonishingly ease and swiftness.  I think we forget to take into account the fact that producing milk and caring for a baby 24 hours a day takes huge amounts of energy – huge amounts!  So we sign up for more activities than we can actually handle in a day and then we pay the price.
Our culture, unfortunately, suffers under the impression that once pregnancy ends and the baby’s safely out, the hard part ends, too.  We take all kinds of care of pregnant women and then expect new moms to be back on their A game within days of the birth of the baby.  This means that new moms feel the pressure to get to pre-baby fitness levels quickly once the baby arrives.  My first piece of advice for moms who want to exercise:  DO NOT BE IN A BIG HURRY. 
I recently read someone who recommended taking the “9 months to put it on, 9 months to take it off” approach.  This especially applies to moms who get plugged ducts or mastitis, because over exercising is a very easy way to start a plug.  We’re not in need of easy ways to start plugs!  Incidentally, those who have low milk supply should also approach exercise with caution, because over exercise can take the energy our bodies should use to make milk. 
That said, exercise increases endurance, which means that, as our bodies grow accustomed to exercise, we’re able to handle more of what life throws at us.  This endurance helps moms – any moms – because life often throws lots of things at us!  The answer, in my opinion, lies in taking things slowly, working our way into an exercise program that gets results without overtiring us, and paying scrupulous attention to what our bodies tell us. 
Personally, I don’t do much at all for the first 6 weeks after birth.  I don’t mean I don’t do much exercise, I mean I don’t do much at all.  I mean I spend most of my time in my pajamas in order to signal to myself and others that I am not up to speed.  I take daily naps, I lie down on the couch, I sit and nurse the baby whenever necessary – which, of course, is a lot!  I rely on meals that others bring me, or that family members make, or that I stored in the freezer before the baby made his or her debut on the outside.  (Goodness knows it’s much easier to cook then, even with an 8-months-pregnant belly, than it is once the baby is born!) 
I also don’t do a lot of formal exercise for a few months after the baby’s birth.  Once I’m feeling up to it, I’ll walk or garden, but I don’t go in for the more formal workouts for a while.  Mastitis is far too big a price to pay for a vigorous workout.  With 4 kids, too, I have the experience behind me to know that after a few months postpartum, there will come a time when the pounds will melt off more quickly and exercise will seem right and good – although not necessarily easy. 
For some reason, it took me until my fourth pregnancy to realize that I should really focus on fitness during pregnancy in order to help with recovery afterwards.  Now that I’ve figured that out, I don’t know why it took me so long – slow learner?  But I exercised religiously during my fourth pregnancy, and it made a huge difference in my recovery.  I still didn’t start formal exercise until many months postpartum, but my recovery happened more quickly and I got fewer plugged ducts.
This pregnancy (number 5 is on the way!) I managed to remember this hard-earned knowledge and have been exercising in order to gain and maintain a good level of fitness because I know it will help once the baby’s here. 
In short, my points of advice on exercise:
-- Rest postpartum.  Recovery takes time, and exercising too soon after birth doesn’t gain us much if it means we get plugged ducts. 
-- Start slowly when you start. 
-- Pay attention to how your body feels before, during, and after your workout.  See if patterns develop, like getting a plug the day after – or even two days after – a harder workout. 
-- Remember to eat enough and drink enough to take care of your body’s needs.  Start with the goal of strength and fitness, not the goal of getting skinny at any cost – the cost will be too high.
-- Exercise during pregnancy to help with recovery from birth and to give yourself a good baseline of fitness to return to once the baby arrives.
-- Comparisons are odious.  Do what works well for you, your body, your baby, your family. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

5 Favorites – Breastfeeding Gear Edition

Five Favorites, hosted at MoxieWife.com
I wrote about this little baby already.  But it’s so awesome it deserves another mention.  If one has double let-down, this thing saves laundry AND milk.  SO helpful.  And given to my by someone who selflessly thought of me when she saw it – she has low supply issues when breastfeeding, but she thought of me and sent it when my fourth was a couple weeks old.  Friends are the best!
2.  Athleta Shelf Bra Tank
I can’t seem to find the exact ones I have on the website, but they are completely indispensible, as far as I’m concerned.  I have some serious issues with the usual supportive undergarments worn by breastfeeding moms – and I don’t mean I want to burn them.  I mean that any time I wear even so much as a sleep bra, I end up with a plugged duct, especially in the first 18 months of nursing a baby.  One day I went to the Athleta store and tried on every single one of their shelf-bra-type tanks, barring the ones that I could tell would be too tight without even taking them off the hangers.  I found one that works, and got it in several colors.  Now I wish I’d gotten more, because they’re not making just that one any more, so I’m going to have to repeat my odyssey.  But it is worth it.  Nursing is easy with these, too, because they’re stretchy, so one just pulls down the top.  Plus, Athleta has some super-cute skorts.  (Not a must for breastfeeding, but handy for an active mom!)
3.  Evening Primrose Oil
This stuff is like magic!  When my fourth was 18 months, I was still getting 1-2 plugged ducts per month, and they were laying me up for a day or two each so that I wouldn’t get mastitis.  I was afraid to exercise because I didn’t want to wear myself out and get a plugged duct.  Dr. Jack Newman, a breastfeeding expert from Canada, had a short paragraph on the fact that EPO might be helpful for preventing plugs and mastitis, so I gave it a try.  NO PLUGGED DUCTS SINCE!  That was in May, I believe.  And I had a crazy-active summer, and started working out 5 days a week.  EPO is a daily supplement for me now!
4.  Dr. Jack Newman, breastfeeding expert from Canada
I already have a fangirl post about Dr. Newman.  (So he's not technically gear, but he's definitely a breastfeeding favorite.) He’s been helping breastfeeding moms and babies for a long time, and he’s good at it.  His recipe for all-purpose nipple ointment is what healed my cracked nipple that had been cracked for 3 months.  If that wasn’t enough to make me a fan, Favorite #3 cinched the deal.

5.  Cabbage
Cabbage apparently doesn’t work for everyone.  This does not surprise me – we are all so different, different bodies do different things.  But for me, cabbage (topically applied, by which I mean, I put a leaf directly on the areas that are having problems) helps stave off engorgement when my milk first comes in.  And then, it helps stave off engorgement for the (sometimes) longer times between nursing that happen at night.  With my last two nurslings, I put a cabbage leaf in each side of my nursing nightwear every night for the first 6 months, maybe more.  It helped.  Of course, cabbage is for the person who has more than enough milk.  Those who don’t have enough should stay away from cabbage, topically applied.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Update on evening primrose oil

I’m pretty excited about the evening primrose oil!  I’ve been taking it for about 6 weeks, and haven’t had a serious plug since, and only one mild one that required a small amount of attention and about 4 hours of rest.  This is completely different than the past 6 months (and maybe more, but I can’t seem to remember back that far), when I had at least one and usually 2 serious plugs a month, sometimes requiring more than one day in bed. 

This is a huge victory!  DSCN3733

I can’t promise that this stuff will help everyone, and I’m still doing daily maintenance things, like clearing the usual suspects in the shower and not eating too much sugar and dairy, but it’s definitely worth a try for plug sufferers!IMG_6057

During the past 6 weeks, too, I’ve taken a long road trip involving lots of driving and not as much downtime as usual, as well as lots of outdoor activity and unusual hours (late nights, early mornings).  Since returning from that trip, I’ve been hiking, gardening, walking, and generally throwing myself into great summer activities.  I’ve also been working through Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred video, doing a workout about 5 days per week.  So I haven’t been sitting idle in an attempt to avoid plugged ducts – I’ve been giving this oil a good tryout, and it’s working well!  IMG_6131

I can’t tell you how exciting this is for me!  The exercise component is so key, because the stronger I am, the less likely it is that extra exertion will push me over the edge to a plug, and I’d been struggling with working the exercise in, trying to get stronger without working too hard and plugging a duct as a result of trying to get stronger to avoid ducts.  Now I’m really starting to feel strong and fit, and feeling like I’ve got a good start on staying that way. 

I’m not a physician, so I’ll just suggest finding out if evening primrose oil is okay for you and then giving it a try?  And then let me know how it works for you!   IMG_6147

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Something new

I make it a practice to scan breastfeeding books every so often for new information on overabundant supply, plugged ducts, or mastitis.  Usually there’s not a lot of new information, but small helps here and there are worth finding, so I still do it.
Recently, while scanning one of Dr. Jack Newman’s breastfeeding books (I love that guy!), I came across a short paragraph on Evening Primrose Oil.  Basically, he’d heard that it helps protect against plugs, he’d tried it on a few people, he had no studies, but the anecdotal evidence looks good so far, so he thought he’d mention it.
Evening primrose oil is easy to obtain at a grocery store, so I got some that day and started using it.  Since then, I’ve had one small plug that had me resting for about half of a day, and nothing else.  I’m excited about this because I’ve been having two or three a month since February – or was it March?  In any case, the incidence of plugs has dropped dramatically, and that was with a road trip to Yellowstone that included late nights, early mornings, and some missed naps (on my part!).  I plan on continuing to take it, and will start recommending it to others based on my anecdotal evidence.  Of course, we all know that I’m not a medical professional, so check up on this yourself to make sure it’s safe for you.
As a bonus, it has helped my nursling, who sometimes suffers from constipation.  TMI, perhaps?  I guess I figure that if we’re talking about all the stuff we talk about here, I can just go ahead and say that evening primrose oil is supposed to help with constipation, too, and whatever it is that helps passes through the milk enough that Tess is benefitting from it. 
I love that Dr. Newman mentioned it as a possibility, because if he’d waited until there were large-scale studies, it probably wouldn’t be helping me now. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Breastfeeding reads: Nursing Your Baby

Well, that sounds like a fairly straightforward breastfeeding book, right?  Nursing Your Baby, by Karen Pryor and Gale Pryor was one I really liked.  And continue to like.  It doesn’t have a ton of help for overactive letdown or overabundant supply (although they’re mentioned), but it has a lot of other important information.
The first segment of the book is about how breastfeeding works, and covers both science and history.  It’s fascinating – at least, I found it fascinating.  There was a ton of research covered, too, including all about antibodies and breastmilk, how the breast works, and on and on. 
The second half of the book covers the art of breastfeeding, and has lots of helpful information.  Reading this section helped my sister figure out that her son had a short frenulum.  There’s a chapter about preparation before the baby’s birth, a chapter about getting started, about one to six weeks, and then a chapter called “The Reward Period Begins.”  This was something of a revelation to me, as I read this book before my first baby was born:  prepare to have the first six weeks be tough!  The breastfeeding classes all seemed to indicate that, if you were doing it right, there wouldn’t be pain or bother once you got started.  What a myth!  Planning for six weeks – at least – of a steep learning curve is a good idea.  There are also chapters on working mothers and nursing older babies. 
I recommend this book – it’s got loads of great information on breastfeeding.  The paperback edition is also about the size of a largish novel, which means that it’s easy to hold while breastfeeding, which – let’s face it – is when nursing moms get most of their reading time.