2016 Infant Feeding Guide with Product Reviews + Giveaway

by The Leaky Boob Community

The CDC says that the number one reason for women who intend to breastfeed but don’t end up reaching their breastfeeding goals is lack of support. Support goes a long way in making a difference in our feeding journeys. From familial, social, medical, and employment structures, there are many ways we can find and experience support. With story sharing, information sharing, and resource sharing, The Leaky Boob is dedicated to making support for the infant feeding journey easier to find. It may be breastfeeding that brings us all together but through support and finding community we stick around for the connection and rally behind the boob, bottle, formula, and solids. Our infant feeding guide pulls together information, resources, product reviews, and tips from our community to offer that support we’re committed to.

Not much is really needed for feeding a baby in those early days, provided everything goes smoothly. But since it doesn’t always go smoothly, sometimes we need some products to support the journey. Plus, even when it does go smoothly, there are some things that help make it easier and more fun.

After flipping through our guide, be sure to enter to win every product featured in our guide this year!

And we’re giving it ALL away! Every single item included in our 31 page guide is being given away. Divided into 2 separate bundles, we’re excited to be able to give 2 different Leakies each one of these bundles from our guide. Use the widget below to enter and tell us which bundle you’d want to win in the comments.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and a huge thanks to all the brands that wanted to make this possible!

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Bump, Baby, and Beyond Product Guide 2016 + Giveaway

by The Leaky Boob Community

We asked around from our favorite parents (you!) and put together a guide of the products we love for pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and newborn care. Introducing our Bump, Baby, and Beyond 2016 Product Guide! But that’s not all, our readers gave us their best tips and advice they wish they had received about pregnancy, birth, and having a new baby. There’s a lot of wisdom here! Take some time, browse through this issue, and comment letting us know what you love, what you’re interested in, and what you think we left out, there are so many great products and advice, we’re bound to miss some.

And we’re giving it ALL away! Every single item included in our guide (over 50!) is being given away. Divided into 3 separate bundles, we’re excited to be able to give 3 different leakies different bundles from our guide. Use the widget below to enter and tell us what 2 friends you have that you’d like to win the other two bundles in the comments.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck and a huge thanks to all the brands that wanted to make this possible!

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12 Surprising Possible Realities Of Your First Postpartum Periods

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Sorry for the Buzzfeed style title. It’s that time of the month and there wasn’t enough chocolate to get me through writing this and coming up with a clear yet titillating title too.

The last 5 days we’ve been bleeding our hearts out on The Leaky Boob, Beyond Moi, A Girl With A View, and a little bit with What Love Tastes Like, opening up and sharing all about periods. Free bleeding information and experiences, debunking myths and being honest. In that time we’ve learned a lot. Like a girl having her first period (called menarche), there were a few things that surprised us and at times we found ourselves overly-grumpy. But mostly we felt like we were in good company and that commiserating was cathartic.

Also chocolate. Or bacon. Sometimes chips. And wine.

As we all shared the activities of our uteruses together, we started noticing a pattern. Not completely regular but consistent enough to chart and make a prediction:

Most women will be surprised by their first postpartum periods.

Not all and the surprises weren’t always unpleasant in nature but many women had no idea what they experienced was possible. Like, at all. And they thought they were the only one in the world to experience it.

Since we’ve already aired all our period panties to the world, it’s time to shed some of the mystery like a uterine lining. Here it is, our list of surprising possible realities of your first postpartum periods.

  1. No matter how long your postpartum bleeding lasts (lochia, which is not a period and you can read more about here), it isn’t an indicator of what your postpartum periods will be like.period week is coming
  2. It could take months for Aunt Flo to visit after you have had a baby, even over a year and for some it could be two years. Breastfeeding exclusively makes it more likely your favorite auntie won’t be around for a while.
  3. But it is no guarantee. Because we’re talking hormones and Aunt Flo, there’s only so much you can predict. Don’t be unprepared because you could be one of those that gets it back at 6 weeks postpartum and is like clockwork every month after. Even if you’re breastfeeding and your child never sees another nipple but yours. Yes, even if you’re breastfeeding twins.postpartum period surprise meme
  4. It could take a while to really get going, there could be brown spotting for a few days a month for several months while your body is indecisive. Get your period undies ready.
  5. OR it could come back with a vengeance with a gush that will feel like a scene from Game Of Thrones playing at the most inopportune moment. You may want to have supplies with you at all times just in case.brace-yourselves-cramps
  6. Essentially, there’s no guarantee when you’re going to start riding the crimson tide again after you have a baby.
  7. There’s also no guarantee that it will be the same as what you had before you had your baby. It could be lighter, shorter, and less uncomfortable. It could be heavier, longer and more painful.* Or any combination. Or different every time.
  8. The products you used before may still be your favorites. But you may suddenly hate them. Many women find they want to try something new and don’t be surprised if you see disposables as stinky, uncomfortable, and gradually building a mountain of waste that will be around when your children are having children. Which is a disgusting thought, your period supplies slowly rotting in a landfill when your grandkids are being born. And since you’re more comfortable with the weird things your body does (childbirth can do that to a person), the idea of washing cloth pads or to put a cup in it doesn’t seem so crazy any more. Diva-Cup-Evangelist
  9. If you’re breastfeeding, shark week may mean that your nipples protest someone latching on. Nipple sensitivity AND cramps? So not fair but often so real. Thankfully it usually doesn’t last long and chocolate can help.
  10. Even more annoying, periods and/or ovulation can cause a dip in milk supply if you are breastfeeding. So not only are you annoyed, your hungry baby is too. Most of the time this indicates a magnesium deficiency and supplements may fix this problem (see more here) but only after the most emotional and sensitive time when you have a hungry kid frustrated at your boob. You know what has magnesium? Chocolate. period week chocolate
  11. Just like a girl may experience irregular periods for about a year, postpartum women may find that it takes their cycles a good year to establish a regular pattern. The upside to this is that it is completely reasonable to always eat chocolate since you never really know.
  12. Health care providers may not have a clue what’s going on either. They should and many will but some don’t. You may have to educate them.

Be prepared for anything. Postpartum menses seem to like surprises.

Keep calm and menstruate on

*It is important to note that severe or debilitating pain or extremely heavy bleeding is a sign that something is wrong and may need more than chocolate and wine to address. It is well documented that women are more easily dismissed by health care providers about their pain and discomfort when it comes to health concerns. If your concerns are repeatedly brushed off as being normal but you feel something is wrong or your normal life is disrupted, please speak to your health care provider or find another one. Be persistent until you find one that will take your concern seriously. Menstruation is a normal biological part of life for most healthy child-bearing age women, it isn’t a pathology that women just have to deal with on a monthly basis and if it is interrupting your normal activity and lowering your quality of life, something more serious may be going on.

 

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Have you survived mastitis? How did you get through?

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Jessica Martin-Weber Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
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Our Nourishment Journey

by Angela Parish

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

I am a proud “lactivist” and breastfeeding Mama of almost 17 month old twins. There was a time when I thought I would never get here. Not because motherhood and nourishing my babies isn’t something I desperately wanted, but because I struggled (and still struggle) with infertility. Infertility isn’t really part of my breastfeeding (and bottle feeding) journey but it is part of a more complete picture of me as a mother and as a person. My husband and I struggled the dark years of infertility from November 2009 until the conception of our first successful (In Vitro) pregnancy in August of 2011. It was a long and painful year and ten months.

Our first son, Elijah was born in April 2012. It had been my dream to nurse Elijah, exclusively. I did so for about five and a half months before introducing solids. He was developmentally advanced…sitting up unassisted at 4 1⁄2 months. We practiced babyled weaning with him and because he showed all signs of readiness, we allowed Elijah to experiment and ingest a slowly increasing variety of whole foods.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

Nursing Elijah, my first born.

I produced A LOT of milk and so I had bloodwork done so Elijah and I could donate milk through Mothers Milk Bank. We also made several donations to private individuals struggling with supply. It was a very fulfilling time in my life as I not only fed my baby but also helped feed others in need. As we neared Elijah’s first birthday, I began to stash my milk again. We knew we wanted to pursue more children and had decided that after Elijah’s first birthday we would have another fresh in vitro cycle. This would require weaning my baby. And so by Elijah’s first birthday, he was no longer breastfeeding but did continue to get Mama’s previously pumped milk every day until he was almost 16 months old. Although I think Elijah would have been an excellent candidate for full term (extended) nursing, the choice to wean was the right one for our family and it resulted in our beautiful fraternal twin boys born in February 2014.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

We had planned an HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean) for our twin boys, Patrick and Rory. But God had other plans for our family. After about a week of prodromal labor, and what felt like an eternity of some very difficult and painful labor at home with no progress, we transferred to the hospital. I continued to make no progress for several hours until the Pitocin and epidural had been in place. When we arrived we had been turned away at Texas Children’s Hospital by the OB on call because we were a home birth transfer. However a Fellow on duty not only agreed to take me as a patient but allowed me a trial of a vaginal birth….and actually seemed excited about it. Still, I was heartbroken. I found out that I had to push in the operating room and my midwife, doula and birth photographer would not be allowed in. This was not the birth I had planned.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

I was put on an operating table, forced to lay on my back on a table that was broken and push. I got my first VBAC. Rory Mark was born and immediately taken away so that I could start working on Baby B. This was not the plan. At home, I was supposed to nurse Rory to keep contractions going, and get on hands and knees if necessary because Baby B often needs encouragement. I don’t think they even showed me Rory, let alone allowed me to nurse him. One thing that I was not expecting was not being able to feel my tummy tighten from contractions once one baby was out. My stomach was so tight and stretched from pregnancy that once I gave birth to the first baby, I could no longer feel when I was supposed to push. And the nurse that was supposed to be helping me with that was not telling me when to push.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

In the end, little Patrick was in distress and I ended up having an emergency cesarean. (So much that they started cutting me before the anesthesiologist was in the room and I felt EVERYTHING for the first few minutes.) Patrick was not breathing nor did he have a heartbeat when he was first born. His vitals started shortly after birth, but he was whisked away to the NICU before I could see him. He was placed on a cooling blanket treatment for four days and not allowed to nurse (or get anything other than an IV) or be picked up. I got to see the him next morning, but had to leave Rory in our hospital room because he was not allowed in the NICU. My twins, who had been together for 38 weeks 2 days, were separated for the first time.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

Rory and I seeing Patrick from our hospital room. 

When day four arrived and Patrick was taken off his cooling treatment, the first thing I wanted to do was nurse him. He had a lot of catching up to do! And to my surprise, my tiny boy latched on right away! It was a weak latch but a latch nonetheless. It was my intention for this baby and his twin to be exclusively breastfed. But plans change. And in order for him to come home more quickly, he needed to be given bottles of Mama’s pumped (and some donated) milk. There would have been no way for me to exclusively breast feed both babies when they were not allowed to be in the same room. And even if I could have exclusively breast fed Patrick, the NICU doctors liked to keep track of intake and I knew the bottle would get my baby home faster. I went down at every feeding I could and administered his bottles myself, also offering the breast so he could practice. I called his nurse after every feeding I was unable to make it to in order to find out how many cc’s he had consumed. It was two steps forward, one step back for twelve days. During that time I consulted with the hospital lactation consultant who basically told me I was doing everything right and while that was flattering, it was not at all helpful. I knew that once I got him home, I would need to call BABES, a very reputable and supportive lactation consultant organization here in Houston.

Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post

Patrick came home on Valentine’s Day, 2014 which was my original due date. I always nursed him first. And then I would offer the bottle. He came home on a Friday. By Wednesday, my lactation consultant, Leah, came to our home and gave me some amazing advice on how to hold him so he had a better angle. By the following Friday, he was OFF THE BOTTLE! We were so blessed! I know it would not be that easy for everyone. I was and am so grateful that we had bottles when we needed them. And I am also grateful that we no longer did. Both parts of our journey are precious and special. Both provided needed nourishment to my baby. And even when I was bottle feeding him my pumped milk, I felt this incredible connection and bond as I nourished his little body.

Patrick has now been nursing for one year, four months and three weeks. Rory has been nursing for one year, four months, three weeks and four days. Neither shows any sign of stopping any time soon and while nursing toddlers (especially TWIN toddlers) presents its own challenges, I love this season of life. They both had Mama’s milk exclusively until their first birthday as planned, consisting of mainly nursing with occasional bottles so Mama could get out for a bit. Mamas needs breaks in order to be good mamas! It has been an amazing journey providing nourishment to all three of my children and I look forward to doing it again one day.

Angela Parish, guest post, Our Nourishment Journey

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Angela Parish, Our Nourishment Journey, guest post
 Angela, who is a photo-junkie, lives with her husband and three beautiful boys in Houston. 
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Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: When No One Knows

by Kileah McIlvain

TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains experiences of depression and anxiety and loss and may be triggering to certain individuals. Please read with care.

postpartum depression postpartum anxiety, monster within.

photo: urban bay photography

I sat there. On the park bench in the middle of Laurelhurst a year ago today. He sat on the other end. I felt like a NOTHING. A Void. A Black hole from which and out of which nothing good could come. I wanted to hurl myself into the quiet duckpond while the local shakespeare players were acting out a scene from Macbeth on the other side of the trees. The feelings of exploding, of darkness, of drowning, of feeling like nothing but a walking corpse never felt more present. What was the point? Why the hell was I put on this earth if God was going to play russian roulette with my life? What the hell was I supposed to do with this gnawing grief of  a past miscarriage and the overwhelming demands of  trying to meet my family’s needs? Why couldn’t I just be kind? Why couldn’t I be strong and be good and just BE who my kids and my husband needed me to be? The questions that had taken root in the dark and walled-up places of my heart began to erupt. The rotten rags that I’d used to stuff up all of the leaks and holes riddling my soul began to surface from these murky depths. I was thrashing around in the gaping maw of my own personal monster. I couldn’t move anymore. I was going to sink. I wanted to sink…and be nothing. It was terrifying.

I. Wanted. To. Die. 

The strange thing is. No one tells you. Either because they don’t know what to say or they don’t even KNOW. It’s easy to smile and nod, and pretend you’ve got it together. Because that’s what you do. It’s invisible, this monster. It chews at your mind and sucks your soul until you feel hulled out…like a painted eggshell that looks great to everyone around you…but you’re hollow and fragile. And no one has a clue. They don’t know that you want to run away. They don’t know that it terrifies you to say anything because you’re sure that if you do, someone will call CPS or SPCC and take your children away. You’re convinced you’re a bad mom. That you aren’t capable of caring for these little humans you gave birth to. The yelling, the blackouts where 15 minutes later you don’t know what was done or what was said. The deeply-ridden shame and anxiety and the panic attacks triggered by the hot water in the shower. I remember the earliest days of my darkness when I laid my son down two weeks after becoming a new mother and cringing because the thought of touching him repulsed me. Because I didn’t want him to touch me. His crying and my exhaustion and me feeling like I couldn’t do anything right (including breastfeeding challenges)…it was overwhelming. And it didn’t stop. With each new life I birthed into this world, my darkness found new depths and more desolate places to dwell. This happened to me. This silent inner monster had blackened everything…and it didn’t go away.

I reached that breaking point a year ago today. I realized that I was unwell. That it wasn’t normal to want to die. That it wasn’t normal to be experiencing panic attacks and blackouts and physical pain because you didn’t want to move or deal or face anyone or anything. That running away from bonding emotionally through touch wasn’t normal.

I’ll tell you what didn’t help.

  • The very cautious ventures into the world of mental health and community before my breaking point had so far amounted to bible verses being shoved down my raw throat (If you just do ABC, God will make it all better!) and people frustrated with my questions because “How could you think this about God? It just isn’t true, and you have to figure that out!”
  • I was told “You’re breastfeeding! There should be tons of lovey warm hormones flowing through you. That isn’t possible!”
  • I was told “Well I got over it, I just had to make up my mind to pull myself up out of this funk.” To which I said “Really? Because I’ve been trying for 5 years and 3 more kids now…and it isn’t working.”
  • I was told “It’s just the baby blues. You just need  YOU-time.” And while that may be the healing ticket someone needs to start getting better…it wasn’t mine. It was only a small number in the equation that was my situation.

What did I do? Well, nothing huge to start with. But talking to someone about it helped. (for me, that was my partner.) No, he wasn’t perfect, but he sat there. And listened. I told him that I was terrified. All the time. I was angry. Angry that God allowed my life to experience what I have. That it wasn’t necessary. That everyone’s life would be better off without me in it. That I wasn’t what anyone needed and I wasn’t healthy for anyone to deal with. I was scared of repeating the harm and emotional and relational damage that was done to me in my own childhood. That started my own journey to health. Reaching out, finding resources, wanting better.

I found a few resources online to point me in the right direction. I was currently breastfeeding my 4th little one and didn’t even know if there were medication options available for me. I didn’t know WHAT I needed, exactly. I just knew that up to that point? Nothing was working. And it needed to change. This had been going on for 5 years. FIVE. YEARS. I didn’t even know what normal meant for me anymore…I only knew THIS. I found a therapist through my state’s mental health resources. I was connected with people that didn’t look down on me like I was some unfit mother…but as a valuable human being who had a condition and in need of help navigating through my depression and anxiety so that I could be healthy again.

Postpartum depression and anxiety isn’t just in your head. It isn’t imagined or something you can just will away or pretend it doesn’t exist.

Postpartum depression and anxiety IS real.

Postpartum depression and anxiety IS a monster.

But it’s a monster you DON’T have to try slaying on your own.

photo: urban bay photography

photo: urban bay photography

Am I there yet? No. But some days I am better.

Sometimes I can look up now and notice that the way the wind moves through the trees is beautiful. I can catch glimpses of hope in my eyes when I look in the mirror. Some days are dark. Really dark. But they are not ALL dark, now. I am not alone. I know now that it’s ok to reach out to the people in my life who are helping me through this. My husband. My therapist. My councilor.  My mind…is better. Medication,therapy, counseling, therapeutic touch, acupuncture, babywearing, herbal supplements, meals…those are a few things that are helping me.  The biggest catalyst for me? Speaking up. Spreading awareness of just what postpartum depression and anxiety feels like and what it can do and resources that are out there to help mothers struggling. Because I am there. WE are there. And things CAN get better. WE are not alone.

Photo: Urban Bay Photography

Photo: Urban Bay Photography

Speak. Don’t stay silent.

Your voice may shake. Your knees may buckle. The monster inside may scream at you. But know you are enough. There IS help. The world IS more beautiful because you are in it. Courage, dear heart. You are enough. And this heart of yours is being forged into a masterpiece. You. Are. LOVED.

Some resources that helped me understand my postpartum depression and anxiety:

Artistic infographics on what it feels like to live with depression and anxiety. Good for people who want to help but don’t know what to do.

A helpful collection of comic strips because a different perspective and sense of humor can help.

A great checklist and resource page that helped me in recognizing PPD and PPA.

 

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#MyStoryMatters

“I always feel bad sharing my story because I don’t want to make others feel bad, breastfeeding my baby was so easy for me, it was just perfect. I almost feel like my story doesn’t count.”

The woman standing in front of me had a sleeping little one strapped on her back and a worried expression pressed on her face. She shared briefly in this rushed moment with hundreds of people around us that she rarely talked about her breastfeeding experience when she knows so many women struggle in their own journeys. Concern that sharing her own story may cause them pain, she keeps it to herself.

Another woman before her told me she didn’t talk about her breastfeeding journey except around a few key friends because it was so discouraging and difficult she didn’t want anyone else to feel sorry for her or not try breastfeeding out of fear that they would have a similar experience.

And before that a mother told me that she never talked about her experience feeding her baby for fear of judgment because she switched to formula just a few weeks in due to difficulties and postpartum depression compounded by needing to return to work. She just couldn’t take hearing more of the inevitable questions that would follow if she shared, asking if she tried any number of herbs and medications for her supply, if she saw the right kind of breastfeeding support, or how she felt about poisoning her baby with formula, or that if she truly loved her son she would have tried harder to give him breastmilk.

Following all of them was the mother that loved breastfeeding, had overcome a few difficulties, and went one to breastfeed for 3 years before weaning and starting all over again with a new little one. But she was a quiet person and not comfortable with breastfeeding in public, it was even challenging for her to do so with a cover and she preferred a private location away from other people. Awkward and very self-aware, she hated breastfeeding in public and she never posted breastfeeding pictures online (does that mean she even really breastfed if she didn’t take and share a #brelfie? Would people think she was lying?). So she didn’t talk about breastfeeding much because she felt like a fraud. There were some points she would love to tell but not all of it and not to just anyone. Her past history of sexual abuse made it even more difficult for her and she didn’t want to share more about her infant feeding path than she was comfortable with but that seemed inadequate and wouldn’t really help anyone.

All of these women and thousands of others I have heard from felt that their story didn’t matter. They felt their stories weren’t happy enough, dramatic enough, perfect enough, difficult enough, strong enough, smart enough, right enough, important enough, painful enough, humble enough, promising enough, advocate enough, bold enough.

Enough.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

You aren’t perfect and you never will be, whatever perfect means.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your highs, your lows.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The good, the bad, and the ugly.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The flab, the stretch marks, the skin and bones, or the extra padding.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

The moments of pride, the moments of shame.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your hurt and your joy.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Your vagina, your scars, your breasts, and your bottles.

YOU ARE ENOUGH.

And #YourStoryMatters.

#MyStoryMatters too.

Our children are watching, long before you will realize they are aware, they are watching. Every criticism you bestow upon yourself eats away at your confidence and how you view yourself. Which eats away at your child. How they will grow to see you, how they will grow to believe you see them, and how they will grow to see themselves. Are you treating yourself as well as you want your child to be treated by themselves and others some day? We are their models, is this what we want for them? And are we treating others, our friends and peers, how we want our children to treat others and how we want others to treat our children?

Will your child look at you and see that you are enough?

Will your child look at themselves and see that they are enough?

Perfection is far too high to aim for and since it is unattainable we are setting ourselves and our children up for failure if we tell them they are perfect and berate ourselves when we’re not. Someday they will know the truth that they aren’t perfect and we will have been the ones that lied to them.

But enough is enough. Within enough, there’s room for growth but still acceptance of where you are. When we are enough we can see how our stories matter. All of ours.

#IAmEnough

 

TLB is celebrating its 5th birthday this month. A month long celebration of our community and the thousands upon thousands of stories shared there. For 5 years families have been finding support in their journeys, receiving support and giving support. After finding the support they needed, many stay to pay it forward. Support forward. #TLBSupportForward. There is no better way to celebrate this milestone than going back to our roots, sharing our stories of feeding our children, our babies. To share your story with our community, email it to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces). All stories are welcome, we will have to be selective in what we publish to be sure it is a good fit and due to the volume of submissions it is possible we won’t be able to publish them all, but your story matters; so whether it is published on TLB or shared in the comments and interactions of our community, we hope you share your story. You can help encourage others with your story by making your own sign like above and taking a picture of you holding it to share on social media with these hashtags. Whatever it may be, from pure bliss of rainbows and sunshine to heartache and pain, your story matters. In sharing it you testify that you are enough and encourage others that they are enough too.

And together we all can say #IAmEnough #MyStoryMatters #TLBSupportForward.

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Leaving the parenting island and asking for help

by Jessica Martin-Weber
Parenting Island and asking for help

Parenting Island AKA Poop Rock.

 

I was struck by the beauty of that island looking rock from afar on the shore in San Francisco.  Then my friend told me it was so pretty because it was covered in bird poop.  Poop Rock.  Reminded me a lot of parenting, pretty from afar but sometimes lonely and covered in poop when you get up close.

Don’t lecture me, I know parenting is wonderful, I love it but that doesn’t mean it’s not sometimes really hard and stinky like a rock covered in poop.

Last week, my good friend Cindy was battling pneumonia.  It was horrible and scary.  Her husband is in the military and away at the moment so she and her 4 children are on their own as she struggles to get well.  I couldn’t get to her, we’re over 8 hours from each other in different countries, but I wish I could.  Every time I saw her share something of her struggle I was moved, inspired, and ready to jump in the van (that broke down 4 days after I wrote this).  Through Facebook, I feel like I get to keep up with my friend and in some small way offer support.  I wish I could do more.  Yet even so sick and all the way in Canada, my friend reminded me of something incredibly important: we all need help from time to time.

Asking for help is one of the hardest needs to voice sometimes.  Or all the time.  People judge and are judged for even needing help and we all feel it.  There is such shame attached to needing help or even encouragement.  We’re all supposed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and in made for TV moments, triumph over whatever challenges we face.  Alone.  Without resources.  Without bragging. Without getting anything we don’t deserve because by our own blood, sweat, and tears we paid for it or worked for it or fought for it all on our own.  We talk about the strength of the human spirit and applaud those that figure out how to go it without help.  And anyone that is worn out, broken down, or overwhelmed must be less of a person.  Even in a safe place, like The Leaky Boob Facebook, mothers (and sometimes dads too) may take the bold step to admit they are struggling but do so with trepidation, beating themselves up for being a “horrible parent, feeling like a failure” before someone else does, all because they find parenting hard sometimes.

This cultural attitude of glorifying individualism and self-sufficiency is hard enough when children aren’t involved, but when we become parents it’s not just us any more.  Our pride can get in the way of seeking out desperately needed help.  Pregnancy and childbirth set the precedent in parenting without help and while I love doulas and highly recommend having doula support for birthing women (I have for mine), traditionally the role wasn’t a paid position but one filled by a family member, friend, or a member of the community.  There seems to be a growing sense of shame in needing help from someone who isn’t designated as a paid professional.  We see it in infant nutrition all the time, mothers struggling but too embarrassed to admit breastfeeding isn’t working as well as it “naturally” should as she struggles with pain and a frustrated baby or families not knowing where to turn when they need an alternative.  In fact, the number one reason mother’s don’t reach their personal breastfeeding goals is lack of support.  Support = help.  But it certainly isn’t isolated to the area of infant nutrition, pregnancy, and child birth.  Parenting dilemmas such as health care, child care, discipline, education, financial stress, housing, safety, you name it, are often hindered by our own pride in asking for help.  As though needing a helping hand occasionally, let alone for a long season, is an indication of inadequacies or failure.  Afraid it reflects badly on us and our abilities, many parents forgo voicing their need for support and actual help because we know people will say things like “you shouldn’t have had children if you couldn’t handle it” (what are parents supposed to do, put the kids back from where they got them?), we suffer quietly and so do our children.  Sometimes it’s major roadblocks that threaten the health and safety of the family, particularly the children, others deplete personal internal resources and reinforce feelings of failing over every day aspects of parenting that may wear us down.  Either way, while learning to deal with hardships and having the experience of overcoming them on our own once in a while can be empowering, is this isolation really what we want to be the norm?

But the truth is we all benefit when we help each other, yes, even when we admit we need help and ask for it.  Not only individually are we strengthened, our communities are too.  It can be risky though, by admitting our struggles, we’re opening ourselves up for criticizing judgment or worse, being ignored and that is more than hard, it’s down right terrifyingly heart breaking.  Most parents would do anything including swallowing their pride to care for their children, there’s not a job we wouldn’t work or begging we are above when it comes to the safety and provision of our children.  That fear though, the fear of judgment or of not mattering enough for someone to even notice, can be paralyzing and parents may, unintentionally, cause suffering for their children simply because the cultural attitudes about asking for help have effectively silenced them for issuing the call when most needed.  Yet almost no parent would say their child deserved less.

Asking for help is something I continue to grow in along with knowing how to offer help, carefully avoiding judgment.  Including learning how to have grace without judgment for myself.  The journey hasn’t been easy and I’m still learning.  How does one master admitting you can’t do something on your own?  That you don’t have it all together and need others?  I’m not sure yet but I know it has gotten easier for me simply by looking at my children, I never want them to be afraid to ask for my help when they encounter difficulties.  They have not only been my inspiration in seeking out help when I need it, but sometimes my teachers.  They have shown me the joy that comes from helping and being helped, the agony that comes from pride getting in the way.  From communicating my need for help during difficult pregnancies to admitting I don’t know how to handle certain parenting situations, to finding a mentor in understanding child development when my children were driving me crazy to even asking for financial support because we lack the funds required to help our daughter reacher her dreams, though Jeremy and I work hard for our family, admitting we can’t always do it on our own and that we’re not an island but in fact need the village, our children are the ones that have benefited the most from us humbling ourselves to say three little words: “help me please.”  Accepting our limitations is the first step in being able to strengthen each other.  I firmly believe that in strengthening, supporting, and yes helping, parents makes for a healthier community that is stronger, more creative, and more skilled.  What a gift we can give our children.

My friend Cindy, has posted on Facebook a few pleas for help with her children so she can rest.  Yes, she could keep trying to go it on her own, likely prolonging her illness and a lower level of care for her children while she tries to recover.  There are risks to her not recovering, potentially problematic for those around her.  Worse, she could end up in the hospital and her children in the custody of someone else for an indeterminate amount of time.  It is to her health benefit, the benefit of the health care system, the benefit of her children, and the benefit of her friends for her to ask for help.  Her recovery will be aided and the community circles around her will be stronger as a result.  Relationships are being fortified as her friends respond to her pleas and offer their support not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well.  I am so incredibly proud of her asking for help.  Knowing her personally I know that she is a capable, strong, and hard working woman, talented as a journalist and an attentive and loving mother.  This moment of needing help (and the next one that comes her way) are not a reflection of her capabilities, simply a moment where her humanity is evident.  And she has already paid it forward and will do so again.  Because she gets that we need each other.  We all do.

 

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Traumatic Birth: Resources for Healing and Protecting Breastfeeding

by Tanya Lieberman
This post was made possible by the generous support of MotherLove Herbal Company.

Young Woman Biting Her Finger Nail

Having intrusive thoughts about your birth?  Flashbacks?  Feeling disconnected from your baby?  Do you steer clear of hospitals, or try to avoid talking about your birth?

Many women experience trauma related to childbirth, and estimates range from 18% to as high as 34%.  One third of women who experience traumatic births go on to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Yet despite its widespread nature, the experience of birth-related trauma can be an isolating one, as mothers are encouraged to focus on their babies and quickly “get over” their birth experience.  Trauma can affect a mother – and a partner’s – ability to connect with their baby, carry out normal activities, and can also impair breastfeeding.

In this post we’ll discuss traumatic birth – what it looks like, how it impacts breastfeeding, and where you can turn for help.

 

What’s a traumatic birth?

 

According to PATTCh, a birth trauma organization co-founded by noted childbirth author Penny Simkin, a traumatic birth is defined as one in which a woman experiences or perceives that she and/or her baby were in danger of injury or death to during childbirth.

It’s important to note that it is the mother’s experience of the events, regardless of what happened or the perceptions of other people, that determines whether she experiences trauma.

Here are some characteristic features of births that may lead to an experience of trauma, according to the Birth Trauma Association:

  • An experience involving the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby).  [Note that it’s the mother’s perception that is important, whether or not others agree.]
  • A response of intense fear, helplessness or horror to that experience.
  • The persistent re-experiencing of the event by way of recurrent intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. The individual will usually feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event.
  • Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the trauma. This can include talking about it, although sometimes women may go through a stage of talking of their traumatic experience a lot so that it obsesses them at times.
  • Bad memories and the need to avoid any reminders of the trauma will often result in difficulties with sleeping and concentrating. Sufferers may also feel angry, irritable and be hyper vigilant (feel jumpy or on guard all the time).

Some common triggers, according to the Birth Trauma Association, are: lengthy labor or short and very painful labor, induction, poor pain relief, feelings of loss of control, high levels of medical intervention, traumatic or emergency deliveries (e.g. emergency cesarean section), impersonal treatment or problems with staff attitudes, not being listened to, lack of information or explanation, lack of privacy and dignity, fear for baby’s safety, stillbirth, birth injuries to the baby, NICU stay, poor postpartum care, previous trauma (such as sexual abuse, domestic violence, trauma with a previous birth).

How can traumatic birth affect breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding can be healing for many mothers after a traumatic birth, and may also repair the relationship between a mother who feels estranged from her baby.  But a traumatic birth may also cause breastfeeding problems.

A traumatic birth can delay on the onset of a mother’s mature milk (“milk coming in”), known as lactogenesis II, sometimes by several days.  This effect is well documented, and often leads to a cascade of breastfeeding problems including jaundice, poor feeding due to sleepiness, poor milk removal, and low supply.

While research on the independent effect of Pitocin on breastfeeding is not sufficient to draw direct conclusions, according to Linda Smith, author of The Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding, its effects on factors related to breastfeeding are more clear.  Pitocin increases the risk of other interventions, such as IV fluids and cesarean section, which are associated with breastfeeding problems.  Linda Smith also notes that induction of labor often causes babies to be born earlier, and “early term” babies are known to be at higher risk of breastfeeding difficulty.

 

What are some steps you can take after a traumatic birth to minimize the effects on breastfeeding?

There are many steps a mother and her provider can take to minimize the effects of a traumatic birth on breastfeeding:

Skin-to-skin.  Skin-to-skin contact lowers stress hormones, promotes the release of hormones important to lactation, and helps establish a bond between mother and baby.  Some mothers are too overwhelmed by their traumatic experience to practice skin-to-skin, but for those who can it should be encouraged.

Frequent feeding and in some cases pumping.  Frequent feeding and in some cases pumping, may help to speed the onset of mature milk.  If a baby is not feeding well, pumping can protect a mother’s milk supply and prevent or lessen the downward spiral noted above.

Find support to ensure that breastfeeding is not painful.  In research on the relationship between traumatic birth and breastfeeding, authors Beck and Watson found that mothers who had traumatic births and who didn’t have the emotional reserves to work through breastfeeding pain were less likely to meet their breastfeeding goals.  So finding someone who can help you feed without pain is important.

Focus on your motivation.  Beck and Watson also found that the mothers who were very determined, and those who were motivated by a desire to “make up” for a baby’s less than optimal arrival, were more likely to meet their breastfeeding goals.  They suggest setting short term goals and finding respectful support.

Supplementation when medically necessary.  A brief period of supplementation is sometimes necessary in order to bridge the time before your mature milk arrives.  Ideally this would be donor breastmilk, but it is not often available for these situations.  See the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine protocol for supplementation.

Know where to get good help once home.  Since mothers are generally sent home from the hospital before their milk comes in, they should plan to seek help if their milk is not in by 72 hours (the period defined as normal for the onset of lactogenesis II).  This may head off further difficulty.

If breastfeeding doesn’t work out, connect with your baby in other ways.  As noted above, breastfeeding can be healing to many mothers after a traumatic birth.  But some mothers are truly too overwhelmed to initiate or continue breastfeeding.  In these cases, consider other ways to connect with your baby, such as infant massage, skin to skin, and babywearing.

 

What are some resources for recovery for mothers and partners experiencing birth-related PTSD?

Connecting with other moms.  Connecting with other moms helps you see that you’re not alone.  There are a number of online communities for mothers experiencing birth-related trauma, including Solace for Mothers, Birth Trauma Association’s Facebook page, and Baby Center.

Self care.  A number of forms of self care can aid in healing, including: getting adequate sleep, exercise, yoga, bodywork and massage.  Getting help with cooking, cleaning, and baby care from family, friends, or a postpartum doula may also help you heal.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is considered by trauma experts, including the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense and the American Psychological Association, to be a front line treatment for PTSD.  EMDR involves thinking about the traumatic experience while experiencing a stimulus engaging both sides of your perception.  This might mean moving your eyes back and forth, listening to a tapping sound in alternating ears, or feeling a tapping on alternating knees.  EMDR typically reduces symptoms after just a few sessions. To find a certified EMDR professional, see the EMDR Institute or the EMDR International Association.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy which addresses beliefs caused by trauma and helps to counter conditioned-fear responses related to the traumatic experience.  To find a CBT therapist, search the websites of the National Association of Cognitive Behavioral Therapist’s or the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies.

Medications.  You may want to discuss medication options with your healthcare provider.  A summary of medication options is provided here.

Care for partners.  Partners can experience trauma related to childbirth as well.  Encourage partners to seek help if they are experiencing trauma

For more information, listen to Motherlove Herbal Company’s podcast interview.  You may also be interested in this podcast interview on traumatic birth with Dr. Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, president-elect of the Trauma Division of the American Psychological Association.

 Tanya Lieberman is a lactation consultant (IBCLC) who has helped nursing moms  in hospital and pediatric settings.  She writes and produces podcasts for several  breastfeeding websites, including  Motherwear,  Motherlove Herbal Company, and  the Best for Babes Foundation.  Tanya recently authored Spanish for Breastfeeding Support, a guide to help lactation consultants support Spanish-  speaking moms.  Prior to becoming a lactation consultant she was senior  education policy staff to the California legislature and Governor, and served as a  UN civilian peacekeeper.  Tanya is passionate about supporting nursing moms, and especially to eliminating the barriers so many moms face in meeting their breastfeeding goals. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, her 8 year old son and her 1 year old daughter.
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Breastfeeding after a C-Section

by Star Rodriguez, IBCLC- this post made possible by the generous support of Rumina Nursingwear.

 

During my pregnancies, I planned for a natural childbirth.  No medications, vaginal, et cetera.  It was going to be awesome.

Except that then I wound up with two c-sections.  So that was unexpected.  And scary.  And threw a big wrench in the whole breastfeeding thing.  I’d planned to have my baby skin to skin minutes after birth and after a natural delivery where I’d have a vigorous, hungry baby.  Now I was exhausted and itchy and pukey and I could barely move.  I had no game plan for this scenario.

My first c-section led to a lot of problems with breastfeeding.  The lovely IBCLCs who helped me fix my breastfeeding relationship actually inspired me to begin this career path.  In this article, I will pass along information that will (hopefully) help you if you are going to be having a c-section and plan to breastfeed.

With most c-sections, mom will get a lot of fluids.  This often translate into an inflated birth weight for baby.  Subsequently, your baby may pee a lot and appear to lose a lot of weight as it gets rids of the fluid (this can also happen if a mom has a lot of IV fluids and delivers vaginally; it’s just even more common in c-sections, though.)  Most doctors and nurses are aware of this, but some are a little less familiar.  Most hospitals have a cut off on weight loss for babies but not all hospitals take the inflation into account, some don’t.  If your hospital does not, and you are asked to supplement, bottles are not always your friend.  Nipple confusion and flow preference are real things.  Not all babies will have an issue, but we don’t know which ones will.  So instead of a bottle, try finger feeding, cup feeding, spoon feeding, supplemented at the breast with an SNS, or something of the like.  You can also ask if your baby can be supplemented with your milk.

Some c-section moms experience a delay in their mature milk coming in.  C-sections are not linked with delayed copious milk production, but traumatic births are.  Some c-sections can be very traumatic.  Also, c-sections are more likely to offer longer separations between mom and baby; some theorize that the less stimulation in the early hours can delay things slightly, too.  The moral of this story is to try to get your baby to the breast as soon as possible.  More and more hospitals are having skin to skin in the operating room for non-emergency c-sections.  If not, ask that your baby be brought to you right away when you are in recovery.  If your hospital has a lactation consultant or breastfeeding expert, see if they can come see you as soon as possible, too, to assist in that latch, especially since you might be tired or not feeling well.  If you still have issues with delayed milk, pumping can help.  Sometimes a 24 hour burst of pumping after most feedings can ramp up milk production and make your body get its act together.

C-section moms can have a lot of soreness.  First of all, don’t ignore the medications that they offer if you’re in pain.  The normal pain relievers prescribed in hospitals are fine for breastfeeding moms to take.  If you’re worried, ask your doctor or nurse.  They will be happy to check for you.  If you are sore and tired, it is often tempting to have someone else feed the baby while you sleep.  No one but you can make that decision, but in those early weeks, skipping feedings can be a problem.  If you do need someone else to feed your baby, again, I highly suggest not using a bottle.  When soreness is a factor, trying an alternate position can also help moms more comfortable in those early days.  C-section moms are often told to use the football hold, and while it is a hold that I love, every mom is different.  If you nurse in a different hold or position that works for you and your baby, great!  In my experience, about 50% of moms that love the football hold post c-section.  The side lying hold is also a great one (where you lie down and pull your baby in to your breast – Miranda Kerr famously released a Tweet of her nursing her newborn this way) but is not always possible right away, since you are probably going to find it hard to impossible to move.

Miranda Kerr breastfeeding

Support for a c-section mom is key.  You just had surgery, and recovery can be hard.  Breastfeeding naturally has a learning curve, and those two things together can feel so overwhelming.  Make sure people are around to help you out the first week or so.  My mother, for instance, made us dinner every single night for a week with my second baby.  It was the greatest thing ever.  I was so not up to cooking yet; I was still trying to figure out how to recover from surgery and handle two kids.  Just make sure that you are getting supportive support, and not unsupportive support and be willing to protect your boundaries, it can make a difference in your breastfeeding journey. 

Finally, many of the moms I see that are up and moving around regularly after surgery do better at breastfeeding.  This is totally anecdotal, and it could just be that those moms didn’t have it as hard as others for whatever reason.  But I do encourage moms to do what they can to feel like a normal human being again.  Walk if you can.  Those fluids that I talked about earlier?  They are still in your body, too, and some can hang out in your breasts, making it harder for the baby to latch well.  Moving can help your body to eliminate those  fluids.  Although I tell you to try to return to some semblance of normal as soon as you can, I am not telling you to overdo it.  Go with your body and how it reacts.  With my second baby, I was ready right away to walk after my c-section.  I felt great.  The second they allowed me, I had a nurse in there helping me up.  Anddddddd then I projectile vomited and almost passed out.  When I thought about it later, I was so gung ho to move nownownow that I ignored a lot of signs that I wasn’t ready yet (sporadic dizziness, nausea, and just a general unwell feeling.)  Don’t force yourself to do things too early and don’t make yourself sick or hurt.  Also, remember to eat and drink to hunger and thirst.  This will help your body to heal and produce the milk that you need.  You don’t have to force yourself to eat extra, just eat what you need.

And if possible, relax.  Be gentle with yourself and your new baby.  Having a newborn is challenging.  Having a newborn and recovering from surgery is that geography between rock and hard place.  Postpartum recovery is important not only to your health but in reality to your entire family, read this on how important taking time to heal birth is for your whole family.  To take care of your baby well you must take care of you.  Your recovery matters and your healing is a key piece in the continuation of your breastfeeding journey.

________________________ 

Did you have a c-section?  Did it impact breastfeeding?  If you had a c-section and breastfed, what helped you and how would you encourage other c-section moms?

________________________ 

 

 

StarbabyStar Rodriguez, IBCLC, RLC is a provider in the Central Lakes, MN area.  She provides services online at Lactastic Services and in person.  She also blogs for The Leaky B@@b and volunteers her services to loss mothers at Stillbirthday.

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What is Skin to Skin Care?

by Kim Walls, mom and creator/owner of BabyTime by Episencial.  This post made possible by the generous support of BabyTime Episencials.

Kangaroo Care
The most classic definition of ‘Skin-to-Skin Care’ (which is the same as ‘Kangaroo Care’) refers specifically to sessions of 60 minutes of continuous touch between baby and mom in the first moments, hours and days after baby is born. First, baby is placed on mother’s chest immediately after birth, where the cascade of normal hormonal physiological benefits will occur. Baby will show nine distinct stages of bonding including relaxation, crawling (Yes! A newborn will actually wiggle towards the breast!) and rooting to suckle.
The latest research shows that while the 60 minute time frame recommended for classic Kangaroo Care is important, it touches on just a fraction of the benefits available to baby and mom from a more comprehensive understanding of skin to skin care. Even six seconds of skin to skin touch is often enough to raise the ‘love’ and ‘bonding’ hormone oxytocin, which could make breastfeeding easier and reduce the symptoms of postpartum depression. Additionally, it is within the first 48 hours after birth that baby’s skin is first colonized with the beneficial bacteria that will help keep her dermal microflora (skin surface bacteria) in protective balance.
The immediate separation that’s typical in most U.S. hospitals may not be as ideal as time spent snuggling together – skin to skin – for at least 60 minutes immediately after birth, and as much as possible for the first 48 hours. Studies have shown that even brain development is enhanced in babies who had ample skin to skin contact in those early hours and weeks after being born. Your baby instinctively knows that nestling into your chest is the best place she could be.
The natural colonization of baby’s skin with the same bacteria as found on mom’s skin, plus breastfeeding, are thought to help prevent allergic reactions in baby as she ages. Skin to skin closeness with Mom, immediately after birth and beyond, are critical to support breastfeeding and the proper microflora colonization. It also helps bring baby’s heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and breathing rates back to normal after the stimulation of being born. Babies experience stress as they go through the birthing process. After birth and for a long time after, the healthiest place to be is on mom’s chest.

As baby gets older, there are plenty of opportunities for parents to share increased skin to skin contact time, through baby massage, giving baby a bath, taking a nap together, or just playing simple games together (Peek a boo with baby in your lap and a board book!)

_______________________

Did you use Kangaroo Care with your little ones?

How do you enjoy skin-to-skin time with your little ones still?

_______________________

References:

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Lozoff B, Brittenham G. Infant care: cache or carry. J Pediatr 1979 September;95(3):478-83.

Morton D, Thierry B, Peretta G, Lankeit M, Ljungberg T, van Hooff J A R A M, and Scott L. The welfare of non-human primates used in research. Report of the Scientific Committee on Animal health and Animal Welfare.  European Commission Health and Consumer Prtoection Directorate-general; 2002 Dec 17.

McKenna JJ, Mosko S. Evolution and infant sleep: an experimental study of infant-parent co-sleeping and its implications for SIDS. Acta Paediatr Suppl 1993 June;82 Suppl 389:31-6.

McKenna JJ, Thoman EB, Anders TF, Sadeh A, Schechtman VL, Glotzbach SF. Infant-parent co-sleeping in an evolutionary perspective: implications for understanding infant sleep development and the sudden infant death syndrome. Sleep 1993 April;16(3):263-82.

Laughlin CD. Pre- and Perinatal brain Development and enculturation: a biogenetic structural approach.  1991.

Schore AN. Effects of a secure attachment relationship on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal 2001;22(1-2):7-66.

Bates E, Thal D, Finlay B, Clancy B. Early language development and its neural correlates. In: Rapin I, Segalowitz S, editors. Handbook of Neuropsychology. 2nd edition ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier; 2005.

Doussard-Rossevelt J, Porges SW, McClenny BD. Behavioral sleep states in very low birth weight preterm neonates: relation to neonatal health and vagal maturation. J Pediatr Psychol 1996 December;21(6):785-802.

J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2001 Dec;6(3):170-4.

Skin microflora and bacterial infections of the skin.

Chiller K, Selkin BA, Murakawa GJ.

J Appl Microbiol. 2013 May;114(5):1241-53. doi: 10.1111/jam.12137. Epub 2013 Feb 1.

Bioactives from probiotics for dermal health: functions and benefits.

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PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53867. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053867. Epub 2013 Jan 16.

Probiotic bacteria induce a ‘glow of health’.

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Clin Microbiol Rev. 2003 October; 16(4): 658–672.

Potential Uses of Probiotics in Clinical Practice

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Clin Microbiol Infect. 2005 Dec;11(12):958-66.

Probiotics: facts and myths.

Senok AC, Ismaeel AY, Botta GA.

Garcia Bartels N, Mleczko A, Schink T, Proquitte H, Wauer RR, Blume-Peytavi U. Influence of bathing or washing on skin barrier function in newborns during the first four weeks of life. Skin Pharmacology. 2009;22:248–257.

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