Toddlers, Breastfeeding, and Boundaries

by Adina Henry

When our babies are first born and trying to get the hang of breastfeeding and regulating Mommy’s supply, we may feel like they are attached to our breasts 23 hours a day. Every time the baby fusses we stick a boob in their mouth, because it works and please child, stop screaming at me! And then we keep nursing, because everyone is happy and it’s working!

Then one day you look at your tiny baby and she’s a tornado of a toddler, “sharing” your whole plate of lasagna before you can get a bite for yourself and talking in sentences, most of which have the word “mine!” figuring prominently. And you’re still nursing, because everyone is still happy and it’s still working, except maybe Momma isn’t always so happy anymore. (Because the nipple twiddling, for example! Gah!)

(Related: The breastfeeding toddler explains when it is an appropriate time for a toddler to breastfeed.)

It looks like it’s time for some boundaries. My training and years as a preschool teacher/director have helped me when I need to set boundaries with my own daughter, and I can tell you first-hand that boundaries can save you.

When establishing breastfeeding boundaries for your toddler, it’s good to keep in mind that it’s healthy and helpful for both Mom and toddler to have limits. You are a person and a full half of the breastfeeding dyad and your feelings and needs matter. Your child is not being punished for growing up. It’s ok to set limits as both of your needs change. Boundaries are your personal choice. The boundaries for one mom at a certain time in their breastfeeding relationship may be entirely different from those of another mom’s. Even from child to child boundaries don’t have to be the same. Maybe it’s time to only nurse before sleep. Maybe you just want to start using the bathroom alone (Crazy talk! I know!). Maybe nursing sessions need to last 10 minutes, not 45 minutes. Whatever your needs are, the approach can be the same: The key is communication, and with good communication we can set ourselves and our children up for success.

Breastfeeding boundaries for toddlers

Here’s the most important part: Talk with your child about the change that will be happening. We are so used to doing things for our babies that it’s easy to forget to fill them in on the plans. Think about how you like requests to be made of you and go from there. From a very young age, younger than most of us expect, our children can understand more of our communication than we realize.

If you think of yourself attending to your child the way we would hope a nurse would attend to us in a hospital, a new, helpful perspective may be found. Picture yourself in the hospital for whatever reason. It’s the middle of the night and you’re thirsty and so you press your call button and wait for someone to come help, but she never shows up. Or she does come, but when she arrives and you ask for a drink she announces that the new hospital policy, as of now, is that no liquids are given at night anymore. You probably wouldn’t be happy about either of these scenarios hitting you without warning. But what if you were warned ahead of time? What if, earlier in the day, when you weren’t tired and upset, but just reading a magazine and doing your thing, a nurse let you know that there was gong to be a change in the night staffing routine and let you know what was coming. And even better, if she then reminded you again later, just to make sure you heard the message. You might prepare for the night by making sure you have a little bottle of water next to your bed. Or, at least, you might not be so confused when you wake up looking for assistance, but then remember the new policy.

Giving your child a “heads up” about what’s coming is a great way to help them transition to whatever’s next. Babies and toddlers can be more receptive than you might think about being talked to about what’s happening around them. Their brains are little sponges. Remember that children are paying attention to how we talk to them and will later talk to others in the same way.

How to bring up the change in routine? Make your request positive. We all generally respond to positive ideas and solutions better than roadblocks and problems.

Think back to the nurse in the hospital scene. You’ve just had your super delicious tray of hospital food and your blood pressure and temperature have been checked for the 1200th time that day. The nurse comes in to tell you about the new “no drink refills at night” rule. She can say, “I want to let you know that we’re cutting you off for snacks at night and no matter how much you want it, you can’t have any drinks after 11pm.” Or, instead, she might say, “We’re having a change in policy later this evening and we won’t be delivering snacks and drinks throughout the night anymore. I want to make sure you’re comfortable though, so I’ve brought you an extra bottle of water you can keep by your bed in case you get thirsty. And even though the kitchen will be closed during the night, if you find yourself in pain or with a problem, I’m still here.” Personally, I would respond much better to the second option.

Now that you’ve begun to set yourself up for success, talk about it more. When it’s happening, talk about it. “Remember how we talked about how when we’re having milkies, your hands can pet me gently, but aren’t going to pinch? This is what we were talking about. I’m going to help you touch me gently by showing you that gentle touch again. Remember this? Ah, this is nice. Thank you.”

And then talk about it after, and acknowledge any efforts on the part of your child to cooperate with this new boundary. “You did better with touching me gently during nursies. Thank you! It felt better to have cuddles like that!” Or, “I know it was really hard to not have milkies right when you wanted, but you got through that frustration and are ok now. I feel much better now that I actually got to eat dinner using both of my hands and while able to reach my plate. Thank you. Next time, it will be easier, I think.”

Here’s the kicker though; toddlers will hear a really good swear word once and use it correctly everyday thereafter, but it takes 5 million repetitions of “Please wash your hands after you use the toilet” for it to become second nature. You may need to repeat this process many times before you are successful.

But it will be worth it and setting you and your child up for a beautiful future together supported by healthy, respectful boundaries.

You can do this, Mommas!

____________________

Adina Henry
Adina Henry is a preschool/daycare director and teacher, as well as a mother. She has been teaching young children in schools, homes and playgroups since 2003. Incorporating play, music, movement and imagination into each day, Adina believes that children learn best through play and exploration. In addition to being an admin in The Leaky Boob Community of Facebook, Adina bellydances when she gets the chance, and encourages you to dance too.
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Understanding, Treatment, Prevention, and the Emotional Toll of Mastitis: The Red-Eyed Steaming Pooh Pile Jerk-Monster of Breastfeeding

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of Ergobaby and their Natural Curve Nursing Pillow.

Ergobaby

 

Not going to sugarcoat it: Mastitis is a jerk. A real jerk. It hurts.

Other than being a jerk though, what is mastitis?

mastitis definition

Inflammation of a boob. A boob infection. A boob infection that may turn into a boob abscess. And it can spread from there.

This jerk is no joke.

Mastitis can present as a range of severity from engorgement when milk comes in to a blocked duct, redness, swelling, pain, and a fever. Sometimes bacteria or infection isn’t always actually present.

The symptoms of mastitis can include:

  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Heat radiating from the area
  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Body aches
  • Hard area under skin indicating a blocked duct
  • Abscess
  • Feeling like someone electrified your joints when you already had the flue, punched you in the boob, and then handed you a baby and told you to feed it with the boob that was punched.
  • The desire to punch someone in retaliation.

Pretty much, you feel like a steaming hot pile of aching pooh with an infant to care for and dinner to make.

the emotional impact of mastitis

It is officially miserable. Women with mastitis have been known to compare the experience to torture and generally agree that it is worse than childbirth and dental work combined.

Oh yeah, this steaming pile of pooh just got real.

There are a range of treatment options including but not limited to:
(This is not intended to be health care advice, just information. Your health care provider can address your specific needs in care.)

  • Milk removal– get it all out! Repeatedly. (This milk is safe for baby to consume unless otherwise instructed by your health care provider)
  • Heat– this may provide relief and help with let down to empty the breast. Wet heat, such as a warm compress or soaking in a tub or shower (if you can stand it) or even a bowl of warm water is effective and provides a lubricant for massaging the effected area as well.
  • Massage– Nothing like massaging the area that hurts when you touch it but some breast massage can go a long way in relieving mastitis. This method is one to try very gently.
  • Rest– you’ll want to after that massage anyway but rest has a big role in helping the body heal itself.
  • Pain relief– such as Ibuprofen. Reducing inflammation won’t just help you tolerate the pain, it can help you heal.
  • Natural remedies– from cabbage to lecithin to arnica to garlic, there are tried and true natural options worth trying if you catch it early. If you experience recurring mastitis, lecithin supplements on a regular basis may help you avoid it again in the future if mechanical issues regarding milk removal do not appear to be the cause.
  • Pharmaceuticals– If caught early, you may be able to beat this monster on your own but it can rapidly progress to a much more serious condition if left untreated. The most effective known treatment is antibiotics.

Hopefully you’ll catch it soon enough to not have to pack up your children and monster boob to see the doctor but if you end up there most women respond quickly to antibiotics.

So how do you avoid this jerk in the first place?

There are some solid steps you can take to protect your boobs but as powerful and wonderful as they are, they’re not invincible. Still, here’s what we do know.

  • Treat damaged breast tissue ASAP. Nipple damage is pretty much an invitation for mastitis. Get that taken care of and address the underlying issue with a qualified health care professional (see an IBCLC) to prevent it from reoccurring. (Could it be tongue tie?)
  • Effective milk removal. This can be more difficult to tell but if your baby or pump isn’t removing milk well from your breast you could be set up to do the tango with Jerk-face here. Reoccurring mastitis could be a sign that your breasts aren’t getting emptied. This would be the time to see an IBCLC for some answers and hands-on support.
  • Frequent milk removal. Responding to baby’s cues for feeding rather than the clock not only helps ensure you have a consistent milk supply it also helps you frequently empty the breast (which tells your body to make more milk) which in turn helps you avoid mastitis. Feel like you’re feeding baby all the time? Yay! Hopefully baby’s helping you avoid mastitis! Listen not only to your baby but also to your boobs. When they feel full and particularly if they start to become painful when you’ve missed a feeding, be sure to empty them. This goes for pumping too!
  • Different positions for milk removal. It’s normal to have your favorite position or two but changing it up a couple of times a day will help ensure that the milk removal happening is more complete. If you’re pumping, try using breast compressions to full empty the breast. If you think you may have a plugged duct or the beginning of mastitis, try a dangle feeding position. It’s not cute or fun but it can be incredibly effective.
  • Free of restrictions. Make sure your bra, nursing tanks, and anything else that comes in contact with your breast isn’t constricting (check your seat belt placement). Red lines would be an indicator that there is pressure on your breasts that could block the flow of milk and increase your chances of infection.
  • Take care of you. Rest, eat well, hydrate even better. Giving your body the resources it needs to be healthy is the best preventative measure we can take.
  • Respond. If something is up with your breast and you notice tenderness, a hard area, a white bump (called a milk bleb) on the tip of your nipple, or anything that just seems off, take care of it by resting, massaging, and calling your health care provider.

ErgoBaby breastfeeding nursing pillow mastitis prevention tip

It is important to note that sometimes mastitis is resistant to treatment. If this happens to you, you can request your health care provider to do a culture to determine if a more targeted treatment protocol is in order and to detect possible other causes for mastitis-like symptoms that don’t respond to conventional treatment measures.

The emotional and psychological impact of mastitis can’t be ignored. It’s far more than a pathology, more than a clinical diagnosis. Anyone that has experienced mastitis can tell you that it is a soul crushing, mind altering invasive monster-jerk. Women have been known to question everything about their lives in the midst of battling mastitis.

I shared my emotional unraveling and how I ended up beating the Red-Eyed Monster of Breastfeeding here, including my detailed home treatments and a “flattering” photo demonstrating dangle feeding here. It’s not pretty. It’s war.

What is mastitis and how to care for it The Leaky Boob

If you find yourself entrenched in such a battle for your soul boobs, ask for help. Virtual help (head over to our FB pageFB group, and Instagram for a real dose of virtual help that’s chicken soup for your mom soul) and in person real life help. Trying to be super mom and super boob monster-jerk fighter isn’t going to position you well to win. Beg a friend to bring dinner, reach out to a family member to do a load of laundry, be cool with Netflix babysitting so you can get down to booty kicking the jerk and getting well.

Just turn on My Little Pony, give your kids the peanut butter jar and a spoon (as long as they aren’t allergic), and sit on the floor with a warm wet wash cloth massaging your boob and cry.

There’s no sugarcoating mastitis.

Mastitis is a jerk (I’m writing “jerk” but I’m thinking a different word) but with information, help, and some mom-moxie, most moms can kick it to the curb. Demand help from your health care provider when you need it, nobody will blame you for being a bit on edge with your breast invaded by the Red-Eyed Monster of Breastfeeding, Jerk Mastitis. Do what you need to do.

This a-hole jerk is no joke.

Sources: Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine mastitis protocol,  LLLI Mastitis Tear-off sheetThe Nursing Mother’s Companion,  The American Academy of Family Physicians Management of Mastitis in Breastfeeding Women, the CDC

 

_______________________

Have you survived mastitis? How did you get through?

_______________________

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 co-creator of OurStableTable.com, 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 and a children’s book.
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My Journey As A First Time Mom; a #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

by Kelly Warner

guest post, leaky to leaky

Meet Samuel. This is my rainbow baby, who we welcomed with joy in January, 2014. After struggling with infertility for 5 years, my doctor in Houston told me it was unlikely that we would ever conceive. When we moved to St. Louis we started seeing a fertility specialist, who discovered a few factors that were either keeping us from getting pregnant or not allowing us to sustain pregnancy (an underactive thyroid, being a carrier for MTHFR and either not absorbing folic acid well or clotting after conceiving, and low progesterone). Once we addressed those issues we got pregnant right away, which was so encouraging after having our arms ache to hold a child for years. Unfortunately, we miscarried at 9 weeks and would later miscarry a second time at 6 weeks.   We were in a very dark place but continued to trust God with our fertility. A few months after our second miscarriage we found out we were pregnant again. 40 weeks later, after a snowstorm and before another one shut down the city for a week, our sweet Samuel Bennett was born!

I was so focused on maintaining a healthy pregnancy and having a natural birth that, admittedly, I didn’t educate myself on breastfeeding. Our Bradley Method instructor encouraged me to attend LLL meetings while pregnant to meet other like-minded moms, but I didn’t make it a priority to go. I knew that I wanted to breastfeed for a minimum of 12 months and had hoped that I would be able to make it for 2 years, but I figured I would have the baby first and then it would just naturally come to me. You know, because so far my story has been so natural and easy that it makes sense that I would just figure it out.

We had a beautiful natural birth and our nurses were great about immediately putting Samuel on my breast and delaying all newborn procedures until we had time to bond. He didn’t latch right away but found comfort sleeping on my chest. (In his defense, he did have a pretty long and intense birth that included 4 hours of pushing, his cord wrapped around his neck twice, and the threat of a C-section before I pushed so hard I broke my tailbone and his head came out before the doctor was even suited up to catch him). I kept trying to get him to latch and had just about every lactation consultant and nurse helping too. We were adamant about not using bottles, sugar water, or formula, so when he started showing signs of dehydration, we all panicked. The LC informed me that the combination of my flat nipples and large breasts were making it difficult for Samuel to latch and she recommended we use a breast shield. I was a nervous first time mom, who just wanted her baby to eat, so I took her at her word and began using the shield. I have since come to learn that there are absolutely medical situations that warrant the use of a shield . . . but mine was not one of them. Samuel began “latching” and getting colostrum, but it was so frustrating, painful, and messy for me. Worried that I would give up with breastfeeding, the LC convinced me to rent a breast pump to take home, pump my colostrum, and feed with bottles until my milk came in. Although she unnecessarily encouraged me to use a shield, I have to give her credit for pushing breastfeeding. She showed me how to use the pump and was shocked when I pumped 2 ounces of colostrum in a few minutes. At the time I was super confused why she was all giddy (and felt the need to show my liquid gold to everyone working in the maternity ward) but have come to learn that colostrum is not typically measured in ounces. That gave me hope that I was going to be able to feed my baby – it was just a matter of figuring out how.

My milk came in a few days after we got home from the hospital and my already large breasts became so engorged I didn’t know what to do with them! Seriously, they practically had their own zip code (38-K)! I had a serious oversupply problem and a fast letdown that Samuel did not find nearly as amusing as my husband and I. He’d pull off the breast and get super-soaked in the face or just grimace as a stream of milk shot halfway across the room. I guess when you’re an exhausted new mom you find the humor in anything, because everything else is just so, so hard!

We continued to use the nipple shield but struggled. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to quit. Thankfully, my husband knew, deep down, I didn’t really want to quit and I just needed to be encouraged to continue. He was up at every diaper change and night feeding with me, sitting at my feet, praying for me. I remember one time in particular: It was 2am and I was exhausted from nursing Samuel around the clock during a growth spurt. My husband and I got up to feed him and I burst into tears when Samuel latched and I felt the “60-second sizzle.” I said I didn’t want to mess with the shield anymore and that I just wanted to feed my baby. He comforted me in that moment and said he had read that night feeding was a good time to try to wean off the shield. So, figuring it couldn’t get any worse, we took off the shield, and together, we re-latched Samuel. I’m talking, all 4 of our hands were trying to hamburger my nipple so Samuel could latch! There were more tears (by me) and more words of encouragement (from the hubs), and finally Samuel latched! This was such a small thing but felt like such a big breastfeeding victory!

I continued to pump out a few ounces before EVERY feeding to soften my breast tissue so he could latch better. It was really annoying to be tethered to my pump and time-consuming to have to constantly be cleaning out pump parts (and during the winter, which made my hands crack and bleed), but it was worth it to be off the shield and begin having a successful nursing relationship with my son. Plus, it allowed me to build up a good stash of breast milk that I donated to my friend to give to her adopted newborn.

By the time Samuel was 6 months old my supply had finally regulated. It was so freeing to be able to feed on demand and not have to pump first. Samuel was healthy and happy and in the 50th percentile for his weight, and an added bonus was that he was a really good sleeper! Shortly after he turned 7 months old, however, he started waking up multiple times at night to nurse. We brushed it off and assumed he was just teething or going through a growth spurt, but it continued for weeks. I called my pediatrician and asked her why she thought his sleeping pattern changed suddenly. We ruled out ear infections, viruses, the Bubonic Plague, and continued to be dumbfounded . . . until my ped asked if it was possible that I was pregnant. I probably offended her for laughing so loud on the phone, but, come on! Me? Pregnant? I mean, sure, it was a possibility I could be pregnant, but I was exclusively breastfeeding, had not introduced solids, and remember how it took the stars aligning for me to have a healthy pregnancy with Samuel? I hung up the phone, dug out an expired pregnancy test from the Dollar Store, and took the test . . . and then proceeded to take another 3 before I believed my eyes! I told my husband and he didn’t believe me, so he went to the pharmacy and bought the most expensive digital pregnancy test . . . which told us the same thing the 4 tests prior did, only in words instead of hieroglyphics. I. Was. Pregnant!

guest post, leaky to leaky, pregnant photo

Once the initial shock settled we were thrilled for our news, but clearly my milk supply had already begun to decrease. Ahhhh the irony! My ped suggested starting a supply-boosting supplement that was safe while pregnant, but cautioned that it was likely we would need to supplement with donor milk or formula. Having just donated all of my pumped milk to my friend for her adopted baby, we were forced to supplement with formula. We chose the only organic formula that we can buy locally and hoped that it would be palatable. Only, Samuel wouldn’t take it. Clueless about what to do, I emailed Jessica from The Leaky Boob for advice and was so humbled that she took the time to answer me. She encouraged me to get a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) to keep stimulating my breasts to produce milk while getting Samuel the supplementation he needed. He had lost so much weight he dropped to the 5th percentile, so we were ready to try just about anything. All I can say is using an SNS is like trying to juggle flaming arrows while blindfolded! I feel it apropos to high five any mom that has successfully nursed with an SNS. First off, that thing is impossible to set up alone (thankfully my husband is really supportive of me breastfeeding). Secondly, the tape that is supposed to keep the tube in place is worthless! Thirdly, my son was so offended that I was trying to sneak that tiny plastic tube in with his latch. Needless to say, we gave up.

After giving up on the SNS we tried to introduce a bottle. By this time Samuel was close to 9 months and had only had a bottle when I pumped my colostrum the first few days of his life. If he was offended about the SNS tube, he was not having the bottle either. We must’ve bought one of every brand of bottle on the market only to find out he would rather starve. We tried syringes, medicine droppers, spoon-feeding, sippy cups, open cups and this kid was not impressed. The only thing that he took a liking to was a straw – and not a sippy cup with a straw because that’s far too juvenile for a 9 month old – a straw that you, a grown adult, would get at a restaurant. He’d sip on the formula throughout the day but never really had a “feeding” like he would with breastmilk. We sneaked it in smoothies, made popsicles, and just about anything to get that kid to drink milk.

Keep in mind I’m still pregnant through this . . . I’m tired, hormonal, my nipples are sore, and I’m nauseous! I lost 10 pounds from throwing up and not being able to eat food while pregnant and still nursing Samuel. Those days were ROUGH! I kept telling myself that, “This, too, shall pass.”

We found our rhythm and made the most of our cuddles and nursing sessions until Samuel started throwing fits when I offered him the breast at nap-time or bed when he was 13 months. After a few days of us both crying at every feeding, I assumed he was no longer interested in nursing and wanting to wean. I stopped offering it and we just, kinda moved on. Looking back, I honestly believe he was having a nursing strike from being frustrated from having to work so hard to get any breastmilk.

In May we welcomed our daughter, Felicity Claire, into the world. Once his sister was born he started showing interest in nursing but it was as if he had forgotten how it all worked. He constantly talked about my “ba-ba’s” and wanted to touch them for his sister’s first month of life. 4 months later, he asks for milk at bedtime and smells and touches my breasts asking for more. It breaks my heart that I likely cut our nursing relationship short, but I am glad we were able to overcome so much and still make it 13 months.

guest post, leaky to leaky

So far, Felicity nurses like a champ and I feel so much better prepared this time around. While I wouldn’t wish my struggles with breastfeeding on anyone, I am glad I had to persevere through them. Not only did it show me how much support I have, but it highlighted how important a good support system is for breastfeeding. I hope that other moms find support to help them reach their breastfeeding goals and that my story encourages them in their journey.

____________________

guest post, leaky to leakyKelly is a mother of two from St. Louis, Missouri, who lived a good chunk of her adult life in Houston, Texas.  She and her hunk of a husband struggled with infertility for 5 years and had multiple miscarriages before having their first child in 2014.  Prior to starting a family, she taught 7th grade life science at a college preparatory charter school for low-income, minority students in Houston.  When she’s not nursing her 5 month old or telling her 21 month old to stop throwing balls at his sissy’s head, Kelly enjoys hanging out with her husband, binge-watching Gilmore Girls, and writing music.  Despite many struggles with breastfeeding, Kelly nursed her son for 13 months; 6 of those while pregnant with her daughter.  In addition to being passionate about breastfeeding, Kelly loves baby wearing, cloth diapering, staying up to date on car seat safety, and having grandiose dreams of being a midwife someday. In the meantime she’ll stick to chasing her sports-nut toddler around the neighborhood and hoping that she remembers to put her boob away before answering the front door.  

 

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Mean Green Lactation Sipping Soup

MeanGreenSippingSoup

Hello, Autumn, you beautiful season.

Your vibrant colors and warm days and crisp evenings with a promise of cooler temperatures to come hang heavy in the air.

And so does the promise of seasonal sickness.

As soon as the first fall snap whips us in the bums, the first sickness of the season starts seeping into our schools and homes. It’s suddenly everywhere.  There are a multitude of ways we can boost our immune systems, but one time-tested method to supporting our bodies before, during, and after illness is with FOOD.  Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, nothing you have to special order or sign up for.

Just food.

My favorite way to keep my body in good health during the colder months is with warm smoothies.  Yes, you can call it “soup”.  But I like the savory warmth of this first thing in the morning, and calling it a smoothie helps me accept it as a breakfast food, even though it is not a traditional way to start the day.

When I was responsible for producing milk and feeding my son exclusively, green vegetables and healthy fat gave me a great boost, especially on days when I was away from him.  I also noticed my body was more resistant to colds and sickness when I consistently gave it good fuel.  I’m not saying this is a cure, but when I cut out sugar and start my day with a blast of healthy, real, whole foods, sickness skips me.  Or at the very least, it doesn’t stick around for long.  Considering I can make it quickly and I don’t have to use any real precision with measuring ingredients, this is ideal for my morning routine.

Adding a few leaves of fresh basil not only adds flavor, but can contribute to increased supply if that’s something you need.

Ingredients:

One small handful of the following:

  • sliced, frozen carrots
  • frozen green beans
  • frozen peas
  • chopped zucchini (I use frozen for the sake of convenience, but fresh is also okay.)
  • spinach
  • 1 cup water or broth
  • 1-2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil or other fat
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3-4 leaves of basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1.  In a small sauce pan, combine water or broth, and all the veggies except the spinach and basil. Cook on high until veggies are bright green and tender (about 7 minutes).
  2. Transfer cooked veggies and broth to blender.  Remove center circular piece on the blender lid.  (*This is VERY IMPORTANT.).  Cover the blender pitcher with the lid, and cover hole with a kitchen wash cloth to prevent splattering and burns from hot liquid.
  3. Blend on high, adding basil, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar as it blends.
  4. As soon as the soup is smooth and well blended, pour into your favorite mug and sip away!

This stays good for a day or two in the refrigerator.  You can also add other veggies like broccoli or swiss chard.  You can get creative.  But this is a great base with a ton of flavor, great vegetable based protein and fat, and gives your body the fuel you need to keep going.

Stay Healthy,
Carrie

*Blending hot liquid with a tight-fitting lid can cause heat and pressure to build up and blow the lid off the blender.  You have to leave a way for heat to escape safely, otherwise you risk burning yourself.  I fold up the kitchen cloth and hold it lightly but securely over the small opening in the lid when I start the blender.  I remove the cloth when the liquid stops splashing up the sides (usually within the first 5 seconds).  BE SAFE.

***************************

*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.

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If you love this smoothie recipe, you might like this recipe for Feel Better Broth or these Creamy Polenta Ragu on Our Stable Table

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CarrieHeadshot

Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
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Lactation Snack Station Biscuits

by Carrie Saum

Shortcake

When I pumped exclusively for eternity 21 months, I felt hungry pretty much all the time.  Rarely would a two hour window window pass without food needing to make it’s way into my mouth.   I often forgot to grab a snack before I sat down to pump because pumping and babies/toddlers just don’t mix.  Add the lactation fog that overtakes the mommy brain, and you have a recipe for a one hangry lactating lady.

I tried to get in the routine of filling my water and grabbing a snack. But I was forgetful and typically remembered exactly 30 seconds after hooking myself up to a pump for the next lifetime 20 minutes.  After only 8 months, I realized I could do something about this particular problem.  All I had to do was think ahead for a few days at a time and put some snacks at my pump spot and in my pump bag.

But that also meant I had to actually prepare a snack.  Because as much as I love trailmix and coffee, I needed a little more sustenance.  And to be honest, I needed something to look forward to because pumping exclusively is EFFING HARD.  That’s another post, though.

I tried a few different options to get a decent ratio of carbs:protein.  I also needed every single milk booster I could get because my body wanted to quit making milk right around month eight, but my son’s unique health required me to keep going.

I started tinkering with foods that would fit the bill, and could also be stored at my Lactation Station. (Yep, I named the place where I stored my extra water, snacks, nipple cream, coconut oil, homeopathic stress relief remedy, and positive thoughts.) The snack also had to be allergen-friendly because TED was my constant companion for over a year.  It wasn’t ideal. It was pretty awful actually.  But it helped my baby begin his long healing process to severe food allergies, and I discovered I’m gluten-intolerant in the process. (Damnit.)

One of my favorite foods to munch while pumping were these tasty biscuits.  One was totally satisfying and helped me lose the pumping hanger I fell prey to all too often. They were easy to transport, share, and eat on the go.  Plus, they tasted phenomenal with some strawberries and whipped cream.  I’M JUST SAYING.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 2 cups blanched almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 eggs*
  • 3/4 cup butter, cold and cubed, or melted coconut or avocado oil
  • 1 scant cup tapioca or cassava flour (wheat flour can be substituted)
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey, or other sweetener
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar (omit if using egg replacer)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

*If you want to make this egg-free, go for it!  This can also boost your milk supply. To replace two eggs, I used 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds, 3 Tbsp water, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar.

Directions:

  1. Combine the almond flour, tapioca flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl.
  2. Add butter to the flour mixture and cut into flour until the butter is in tiny pieces. Or go easy on yourself and whisk in oil.
  3. In a small bowl, combine eggs (or egg replacement), vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar, and honey.  Whisk until fully incorporated.
  4. Add egg mixture to flour mixture and stir until barely combined.
  5. Spoon mixture onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and smush with your hand, or bake in lined muffin tins.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and dust with a *tiny* bit of raw cane sugar. (optional)
  8. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before eating, and cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

ShortcakeBiscuits

Pile with strawberries and whipped topping of your choice for an extra special treat.  Dip them in chocolate or your hopes and dreams.  Or you can just eat them and keep the lactation hangries at bay. Your choice.  Either way, you lactating mamas are my heroes.  Keep on pumping!

Happy Milk Making,
Carrie

*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.

_________________________

If you love this smoothie recipe, you might like this recipe for Paleo Chocolate Chip Granola or these Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake on Our Stable Table. 

_________________________

CarrieHeadshot

Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
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Fennel and Sausage Breakfast Casserole for the Milky Mom

by Carrie Saum

Mornings are nightmares in my house.

Even before having a baby with some extra needs, I struggled to feel like a human before 10:00am. I know now that I need thyroid support. I need extra vitamins B and D. I need sleep. I need no talking until coffee has kicked in. I need to wake up slow with a silent, sweet cuddle from my toddler.

LOL. I know. These things will never happen.

But I do know what I absolutely need to be a good person during the rest of the day: Breakfast.

I also know I need extra protein and veggies in the morning. I have a hard time taking care of myself. This is NOT NEWS. But I have a specific behavior that pops up when I start to feel overwhelmed and stop taking care of myself.

What is it, you ask? Well, I eat trail mix. For every meal. With a side of coffee. (Or maybe coffee is my main meal and trail mix is a side?)

I started the trail mix/coffee routine when I was exclusively pumping. I ate a limited diet in order to help my son thrive. Nuts, beans, and seeds, thankfully, were never an issue for either of us, so I kept a bag of homemade trail mix next to my pump and snacked while I pumped. I also ate other things, like gluten-free toast and quinoa and oats with a side of salad for breakfast. I ate bags of frozen veggies sautéed in olive oil and topped with an over-easy egg, (until my son reacted to the egg through my breastmilk).

When the challenges I faced far outweighed my capacity to cope, the first thing to go was breakfast. Those simple, warm, fueling meals turned to snack and convenience foods. Which was TOTALLY OKAY for that season in life. I was in full survival mode and I give myself a total pass.

But the reality is this: I need a hot breakfast to be at my peak, and really to even start climbing that mountain. I can handle prepping and eating a hot breakfast every morning, now. I have the capacity.

So, last week when I started eating trail mix, a tiny warning bell went off in my head. Taking care of myself often gets filed to the bottom of the pile when work, family, and community are all scrambling for my attention. Which is crazy because food is kind of My Thing.

I have compiled a list of ways I can restart and ensure my path to self-care. Yours might look different, or there might be more steps, or there might be fewer.

  1. Eat a hot breakfast.
  2. The end.

The easiest way to I’ve found to consistently care for myself is to eat a hot breakfast. I prep a breakfast cassarole on Sunday and portion it out for the rest of the week. Then I reheat it in the toaster oven and eat it while it’s piping hot not ice cold.

FrittataCloseUp

Ingredients:

  • 12 eggs
  • 1 cup cheese (I prefer parmesan or asiago, but any cheese will do)
  • 1/2 cup half and half, or milk of your choice
  • 1 lb of browned sausage or cooked bacon, crumbled (I prefer mild Italian sausage, but you can skip meat altogether to make this vegetarian.)
  • 1 medium onion, diced and sauteed
  • 1 large fennel bulb, sliced and sauteed
  • 12 oz chopped broccoli
  • 2 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes or 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 bunch of swiss chard or spinach, roughly chopped
  • 3 Tbsp of fresh herbs of your choice, or 1 Tbsp dried herbs. (I use rosemary, basil, from my garden, and fennel fronds from the bulb if available.)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Directions:

  1. Whisk together eggs, milk, herbs, salt, and pepper.  Mix in shredded cheese.
  2. Add protein and veggies, and mix thoroughly.
  3. In a large, greased baking dish, bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until the middle is cooked all the way through.
  4. Remove from oven and serve immediately.  Cut into individual portions and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  5. To reheat: Place in the oven or toaster oven for 12 minutes at 350 degrees and eat.

I am a better person with this method.  I am a nicer mom and functional human for at least three hours of the day. Until it’s lunchtime, but that’s another post for another day.

Take Good Care,
Carrie

*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.

______________

If you like this recipe, check out this  recipe for Garden Vegetable Frittata or Brown Butter Apple Crumble Cake  over on Our Stable Table.

______________

CarrieHeadshotCarrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
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Pump Like a Pro – Closed System or Bust

by Wendy Bell, CLE
Editor’s note: A big thanks to Snugabell for their support of TLB and all breastfeeding women; please be sure to take a moment to thank Snugabell on their Facebook page  for their show of support! You can also follow Snugabell on Twitter and Instagram: username @snugabell. Be sure to check out their special at the end of this article.

 

Breast pumping tips Snugabell PumpEase

 

One thing we know about pumpin’ mamas is that they love to share. They share their experiences. They share their wisdom. Heck…sometimes they even share their milk.

Pumps themselves can be safely shared, provided they’re the right kind. Be sure to know the difference before giving or receiving a previously-loved pump!

The two types of pump are open system and closed system.

Open system allows the milk to come into contact with the internal workings of the pump. This makes the pump impossible to sterilize, and thus not an option when it comes to sharing. Closed systems, on the other hand, can be shared safely, provided that each mom has their own set of tubes, flanges, and collection bottles.

As an added benefit to closed system pumps, they will also prevent expressed milk from coming into contact with impurities drawn in from the surrounding air.

So feel free to accept or pass down that closed system pumps though it is important to note that not all closed system pumps are FDA approved for multiple users. It’s a great way to save money on one of the pricier items on the average registry and each mom can make it her own with a personal set of accessories (maybe including a PumpEase and stylish wet bag or two to keep it all together!) and though most insurance companies now days are required to cover a breast pump with each pregnancy, the loopholes and red tape can make that challenging. So for those that need a pump and can use a friend’s closed system or even for those that would benefit from having two pumps (full time work out of the home moms, like having double the parts, having double the pumps can really simplify things and reduce the chance of being stuck should one break or even of causing damage by regularly transporting it) can be a huge help.

PumpEase, Snuggabelle, Closed System to Bust

To celebrate their SUPER exciting collaboration with Destination Maternity and A Pea in the Pod, Snugabell is sending PumpEase customers one of their fabulous Wet Bag absolutely FREE.  Details hereThe PumpEase design will securely hold your pump in place and is guaranteed to accommodate any breast pump on the market. The PumpEase bra like the one shown above makes multi-tasking a breeze for busy moms. Visit www.snugabell.com for more information about PumpEase.

 

Breast pump
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Oatmeal Stout Crockpot Coffee Cake- Lactation Booster!

by Carrie Saum

Summer is here.  And maybe your new little baby is here, too.  Snuggly and warm.

Oh, so warm.

Almost suffocatingly hot.

Dear God, is that a baby or a furnace you’re holding?  The temperature outside is a stifiling 100+ degrees and holding that little fireball while also living on the approximate surface of the sun might be a bit much for you.

But you want cake.

Except it’s summer and who has the time or energy or heat capacity to use an oven?

But you still want cake.

Enter your new BFF – The CrockPot.

Yep.  Make your cake IN THE SLOWCOOKER.

CrockPotOatmealStoutCake1

There is no need to turn your house into an incinerator while taking care of  your miniature lava ball on top of the erupting volcano we call Earth just to have a tasty and relatively healthy treat.

This recipe utilizes the amazing benefits of oats (with milk-boosting powers!), lowers the glycemic index with the use of coconut palm sugar, and gives you the fun milk-boosting benefit of stout beer without actually consuming it.  Plus, after baking it for several hours in a large pot, a majority of the alcohol dissipates so you don’t have to worry about you (or your other kiddos) getting a buzz when eating it.  All of this, just by using your crockpot.

Now, to be clear, this is a dense cake.  It’s almost more of a bread. Should we call it a cake bread?  Either way, it’s satisfying and just perfectly sweet.  You can add chopped up apples or nuts if you want to give it more texture.  I prefer to top my crockpot cake with a bit of homemade whipped cream, sweetened slightly with honey.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups oat flour (You can make your own using old fashioned oats and your food processor or blender, which is the easiest and cheapest, IMO.)
  • 1.5 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 2 Tbsp tapioca flour or arrow root powder (or wheat flour but it won’t be as milk boosting)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups stout beer (like Guiness)
  • 1/3 cup oil or melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp honey (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
  2. In a smaller bowl, combine all wet ingredients and blend thoroughly.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until it begins to thicken.
  4. Pour batter into very well-greased or parchment paper lined crockpot. (I recommend parchment paper if you have a dark-colored crock.)
  5. Place kitchen towel over the top of the crockpot, and pull tight and flat.  Secure towel with the lid. (This will keep moisture from gathering and dripping onto your cake!)
  6. Cook on low for 3.5 hours.
  7. Once you can stick a knife into the cake and it comes out clean, it’s done!  Remove pot from heat source, and allow to cool for 30 minutes before eating.

CrockpotOatmealStoutCake2

The best way to store this is pre-cut in storage containers.  Once completely cool, you can slice it and use parchment or wax paper to separate the layers inside the container.  It’s easy to grab on the go, and you aren’t using up that valuable crockpot or counter space to store.  It refrigerates well, and also freezes well.  You can eat it in the morning with your yummy lactation tea, or as a late-night nursing snack while you cuddle your tiny newborn/thermal nuclear reactor.

What’s in your CrockPot?

Carrie

*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.

_________________________________

If you like this recipe, check out this Kale Waldorf Salad or Roasted Cauliflower Soup over on Our Stable Table.

_________________________________

IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields. With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
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Pump Like a Pro – The 300 Hour Rule

by Wendy Bell, CLE
Editor’s note: A big thanks to Snugabell for their support of TLB and all breastfeeding women; please be sure to take a moment to thank Snugabell on their Facebook page  for their show of support! You can also follow Snugabell on Twitter and Instagram: username @snugabell. Be sure to check out their special at the end of this article.

 

Breast pumping tips Snugabell PumpEase

 

Just like any of the other mechanical doodads that we rely on day-to-day, a breast pump is not built to last forever. As a general rule, you should be able to expect about 300 hours of active use out of a good, high-quality pump. Now before you worry too much, keep in mind that if you’re pumping for around 15 minutes each sitting, your 300 hours should still get you well past the 1,000 session mark.  Think of all that milk!

If you’re an especially active pumper, are using the same pump through multiple babies, or have inherited a pump that already had some mileage on it, keep alert for warning signs like poor suction, a straining motor, or what seems like an unexpected dip in supply. These could all be indicators that your pump is reaching the end of its life and could stand to be tested by a pro (a local lactation consultant might be able to take a look for you).

Regardless, wherever your pump is in its lifespan, make sure it’s working properly and take steps to resolve any issues right away.  Your milk is too precious not to!

 

pumping-pro-tip9 (2)

To celebrate their SUPER exciting collaboration with Destination Maternity and A Pea in the Pod, Snugabell is sending PumpEase customers one of their fabulous Wet Bag absolutely FREE.  Details hereThe PumpEase design will securely hold your pump in place and is guaranteed to accommodate any breast pump on the market. The PumpEase bra like the one shown above makes multi-tasking a breeze for busy moms. Visit www.snugabell.com for more information about PumpEase.

 

Breast pump
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You Are Gold — A Letter To My Son’s Milk Donor

Dear Allison,

Thank you for giving my son life.

ThrivingOnDonorMilk

My unlikely squishy baby.

I don’t want to get crazy on you here, but let me be totally transparent: I can’t imagine what my family would look like without that liquid gold.  Your gold.  Your life-force alchemy.

Thank you.

I know what it’s like to hook yourself up to a pump every day, mulitple times a day, for months on end.  Extracting that milk, creating extra steps, extra dishes, extra work while engaging in the most extra energy exerting time of your life with a newborn clutched to one breast as the pump cranks on the other.  You never even hinted at the burden I knew it was for you. You handled it with an elegant grace I unreservedly admire.

Last year, I found myself stuck in a nightmare with my eight month old son. My sweet baby had severe food allergies (here’s what I want you to know about FPIES), and needed more milk than I could produce.  My breasts, the ones that were meant to feed him, began to fail us both.  Even after all of the nutrition and support and finally pharmaceutical medication, I could not raise my milk supply to keep up with his demand.  Exclusive pumping, unimaginable stress, sick baby, hormone shifts, whatever.  You name it, it contributed to the decrease in my milk.

Formula was a risky option for my son, even the expensive elemental ones that work for 99.9% of infants with food allergies.  We had no guarantee my son’s compromised system could tolerate the pre-digested proteins, as many other babies with his syndrome are unable to. I prayed. I researched. I lit candles and called formula companies and looked into every conceivable way to feed my son that did not require actual food.

LastDonorBottle

My son’s last bottle of Allison’s donor milk from Texas.

And then my phone rang and you were on the line, understanding with your medical knowledge and feeling it all with your tender heart, and asked if you could give my son your milk.

I cried.  With my back literally against the wall, sitting on the floor of my bedroom, muffling my relieved sobs, I accepted your gift with the undeniable knowledge there was no way I could ever pay this gift forward, much less pay you back. With a newborn baby who needed your milk and a toddler who needed your attention, a full-time job and active community involvement, you offered to close the gap for us.  You added one more thing to your very full plate and you did it with grace and strength and love.

Every few weeks, a box would arrive, overnighted from Texas to Oregon, dry ice all but disintegrated in a custom styrofoam cooler. (One of many coolers you recruited your friends to save for you to ship your milk to us.)  You pumped your milk, froze it, picked up the cooler from your friend, loaded it all into your car, bought dry ice, carefully constructed the layers of dry ice and newspaper and milk inside the cooler, put that cooler in a box and took it to the shipping place with a hope and a prayer that all your hard work and irreplaceable milk would travel 2,000 miles and still be frozen when it arrived.  You, who had a million and one things to do, found time and capacity to do one more (hard) thing.  And you never complained.

I followed a strict elimination diet, and at one point I could only safely eat 11 foods without causing my son’s gut to bleed and his weight to drop.  You altered your diet, too.  You ate the same tiny list of foods because you loved my son that much.  You restricted your menu and dilligently read every label and questioned every ingredient before eating a single bite in order to keep my son safe. You were full of encouraging words and creatively figured out what to eat when you couldn’t really eat anything and shared your food hacks with me.

Last summer, after seven months of pumping and freezing and shipping, you called me in tears.  Your milk was almost gone, drying up to barely a trickle.  I cried, too. I offered to send back what milk I had left in my freezer for your daughter.  The milk belonged to her. YOU are HER mama.  That milk was made for her. I was adamant.

You said no.

Unbeknownst to me, you had already tried other supplemental options and she responded well. “My baby is healthy. We can still nurse. And two more weeks of freezer milk will buy you time to find another way.”  And you were right.  We found another way.  Another donor, (your sister). And another donor after that, (my best friend). And eventually, another supplementation my son’s body accepted.

You gave my son seven months of milk.  Seven months to heal and thrive without taxing his little body even more.  Seven months of weight gain. Seven months of knowing he had all the milk he needed and more.  You gave me seven months of relief knowing my son would not just live, but he would thrive. Seven months of a little more sleep, a little less stress. Seven months of hope.
Donors

Three of my closest friends, years before we had babies, on the night before my wedding. Each of them gave their milk to my son. Allison, the woman in green, was our main donor.

I know our friendship is life-long and this donor bond goes deeper than words can express.  But I also know you.  You with your elegant grace, generous heart, deep well of love, creative time and resource management, and desire to change the world in your strong, quietly fierce way.  I know you.
And I know you would have done this for anyone.
You, my alchemist soul sister, are pure gold.
With love and gratitude,
C
P.S. ~ My son received milk from a total of six different women over the course of 14 months, all of whom I want to acknowledge and thank from the depths of my mama soul:
  • Two friends in Texas (including his main donor, Allison)
  • One visiting friend from England (and sister to Allison)
  • My BFF who supplied milk for several months after our main donor could not continue.
  • My midwife who learned she was pregnant about an hour before my son was born and donated her baby’s colostrum.
  • A friend of a friend I met only once, but for whom I feel much gratitude.
 _________________________________________________________________________If you like this post, check out How Jimmy Fallon Saved My Morning Milk and I Am A Sh*tty Friend over on our sister site, Our Stable Table.


IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
 
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