Monday, July 30, 2012

Favorites for Infant Days

Eowyn knows how to stuff a bag!
My second time around with infancy and my first time as a mom of multiple children I've either discovered or affirmed my appreciation for certain baby items.  Of course, all you REALLY need is diapers, clothes, a car seat and some place to lay the baby (eventually)... but there are plenty of things that can make my life easier.  I'll list a few of them, and please add your own recommendations in the comments!  It's fun with the second baby because most of the big needs are already out of the way, especially if you cloth diaper, so you can splurge on a few cool items.

-- tote-style diaper bag that can accommodate your toddler's needs as well as yours.  Who needs to try and juggle multiple bags?  We're teaching Eowyn to carry her own things (though her idea of doing that was putting it all in Liam's car seat next to him when we weren't looking yesterday, hah), but there's always a snack, a bib, a spare shirt, etc.  I got my sturdy canvas "Large Utility Tote" from 31, and it has plenty of pockets for easy access!  My only improvement will be making some big zippered bags to separate out my stuff and Eowyn's.  Graco makes a pretty cool similar one, with an internal bag that snaps out.  I like giving it as a gift.

-- swaddle blankets-- especially since reading The Happiest Baby on the Block, I'm a fan of swaddling in the early days, and blankets come undone so easily.  William really likes it-- possibly because he must have been VERY tightly swaddled in the womb those last weeks.... still not sure how he fit all 10 lb-22" of himself in my uterus...  The BEST brand for us has been the Kiddopotamus/Summer Infant Swaddleme, in fleece because all the AC around here means it's cold inside even in the summer!  The velcro's more logically placed than it is in some other brands. I also like this Carter's sweater-knit 100% cotton blanket I received as a gift, because the weave and size are perfect for a tight swaddle.  You can easily find these at consignment sales or new at discount stores like TJ Maxx or Ross.
E rocking the Ergo on the Paris Metro at 5 mos. old

-- Ergo Baby Carrier-- oh the beauty and simplicity.  I still use my moby-like wrap too, but I LOVE the ease and simplicity of just doing two buckles and ocassionaly tightening a strap here or there.  I don't even have to bother with rolling up blankets under him because he came out so big. :)  He loves being held and this keeps my hands free, and is super-helpful in keeping his acid reflux from bothering him after a feeding. It also works for toddlers up to 30 lbs.  GREAT in airplanes or airports!  Don't even bother with a Bjorn or a Snugli, especially past 3 months-- they're way harder on your back and not good for baby's spine.

-- infant probiotics-- we started off with Biogaia Protectis drops, which in one study essentially eliminated colic.  Apparently this strain of probiotic is especially potent against an overgrowth of yeast, which causes lots of gas and digestive pain.  I think this has been key in helping Liam's reflux be waaaaay less severe than Eowyn's.  At the first sign I bought these and saw a difference within the week.  My one complaint is the serving mechanism-- it drops out very s-l-o-w-l-y, and when you're trying to dispense 5 drops into a newborn's mouth that is no bueno.  A dropper would be FAR better!  So either drip it into a bottle of milk or use a syringe or dropper of your own.  This is a must-have for moms who have used any antibiotics in pregnancy & delivery, who have a history of yeast infections or who had yeast infections during pregnancy.  We've now begun trying a powdered form (Udo's Choice Infant's Blend), and the jury's still out on it-- but by all means try SOME form!  (using bottles of pumped milk to give him the powder has convinced me that I am FAR TOO LAZY to ever bottle-feed by choice!)

 -- nursing cover-- super helpful in descreetly nursing in public.  Get one with boning in it (to better see baby), and if you find one, weighted corners (in case you have a flailer). My friend made mine, and lots of WAHMs do, so go support one of them!

-- Snuggin Go Infant Positioner-- if you have a baby with acid reflux, prematurity, torticollis or colic, buy this.  Now.  I have been SO impressed at how much more comfortable Liam is in his carseat now.  Car seats are perfectly HORRIBLE for kids with GERD (acid reflux):  the slump it forces on them puts pressure on their stomachs, with the result being screams every time we so much as placed both our babies in their car seats.  This insert (invented by a NICU nurse and crash-tested for safety) has made a big difference for Liam.  I wish I'd had it for poor Eowyn.

-- Milkies Milk-Saver-- this ingenius little gizmo catches the milk that lets down on one side as you nurse on the other side.  For me, that's a lot of milk.  The design makes it easy to attach storage bags that can go straight into the freezer!  Waste not, want not.  :)

Liam at 3 days old, swaddled and happy
-- Sticky Bellies Monthly Milestone Stickers -- this is just fun, totally non-essential:  a set of 12 stickers, one for each month of your baby's first year.  Stick it on a plain onesie or t-shirt and voila!  You have a perfect new "outfit" for taking your baby's picture.  If you like chronicling and/or photography, this is super!  Available in Boy, Girl & Neutral patterns.  You can get them at Hobby Lobby too (use those "40% off one item" coupons for a great deal!).

--Serendipity Mattress Cover-- the package info reads:  "Our product was developed based on a 15-yr study in New Zealand that found that covering mattresses with a Toxic Gas Barrier is 100% effective in preventing SIDS. Of the 210,000 covered mattresses with this specially designed barrier film, not a single SIDS/SUID death was reported."  As the risk of SIDS increases with each child that sleeps on a mattress, I viewed this as a must-have for our second baby (even though we were super-careful with our mattress first time around-- no fluid of any kind has ever touched it).

-- bouncy seat-- one of the few baby paraphernalia the stores tell you you "need" that you actually should buy.  It's especially useful at the dinner table, one of the few places I really can't hold a baby (either I don't eat or he becomes a dropped-food mat).  I have a very no-frills version that quite suffices. Vibration options are nice, but really, I usually just use my foot to keep up a steady bounce.

-- infant car seat cover-- not so useful yet in the SC July heat, but as I mess with blankets and light jackets while inside I remember how much easier this is!  Hint:  get this used at a consignment sale.

-- the books The Happiest Baby on the BlockSecrets of the Baby Whisperer and Real Food for Mother and Baby--  if I were to give a new mom or dad a starter library, this would be it.  Of course, they all need to be taken with grains of salt, but read together they all kind of balance each other out.  Happiest Baby provides great insight into soothing babies and remembering that the first 3 months are special-- you treat infants differently than older babies, and it's ok.  While you can't spoil a newborn, you can train older babies into bad habits, which is where the second book comes in.  Baby Whisperer is all about establishing a flexible routine (EASY- Eat, Activity, Sleep, Yourself) that helps you "read" your baby's needs at any given time.  If you liked aspects of Babywise but found it easy to take too far or misapply, this book finds a great balance, despite my disagreement with her view of formula feeding (that desire to keep one's looks is a valid reason to choose it, or that there might be medical benefit to it).  Real Food is just great when it comes to any question about how to raise a healthy eater, and it's right on as far as explaining why cereal isn't such a great first food, why fats are essential, and how feeding a baby can be very very low-stress.  It also has wonderful charts for eating in pregnancy-- "if you eat anything, eat this" type minimalist stuff.  Get this one before you get pregnant or ASAP thereafter!!

Two things I would love to try (baby #3?) are the folding Puj Tub, and an organic cradle mattress pad.  Anybody know of a foolproof car mirror for rear-facing car seats?  We got an Eddie Bauer one that works fairly well, but it was quite difficult to install in a way that actually let us see Liam's face... not the best design at all.

Two closing tips for new parents:

1. Go gender-neutral whenever possible.  Let your nursery decor, high chair, car seat, even onesies, diaper covers & pants do double duty.  (It's easy to "girlify" green and yellow, and even blue, with bows and eyelet accents.)  Think outside the pink-or-blue nursery boxes.  Pictures of our nautical-themed nursery to follow later (both kids will share it).

2. Invest in quality furniture the first time.  Wooden high chairs, sturdy cribs & cradles and a dresser-changing pad will pay for themselves by weathering multiple children.  Same goes for toys-- better fewer sturdy non-toxic wooden ones than scads of cheaper plastic ones.  (I have my favorite clothing brands for the same reasons.)

Monday, July 09, 2012

Vitamin D and the Breastfeeding (or soon-to-be-breastfeeding) Mom

If you're a breast-feeding mom, you've probably heard-- from either your baby's pediatrician/your family doctor or all the formula companies that send you samples-- that your milk is likely deficient in Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that we need for calcium absorption (i.e. healthy strong bones & teeth).  It's present in raw milk from grass-fed cows, especially in the spring when grass is growing and very green, as well as in milk products made with raw milk (butter, cream, etc.).  It's also naturally found in cod liver oil & fatty fish, some in beef liver & egg yolks, and our bodies are able to make it when our skin comes in contact with the sun's UV rays.  Between drinking only pasteurized milk, staying indoors in the AC throughout most of the summer, and wearing gobs of sunscreen, it's not really surprising that most of us are vitamin D deficient.  The vitamin D that's added artificially back into pasteurized milk and filtered fish oils isn't absorbed nearly so well, because it's a different form of the vitamin and also because Vit D is best absorbed when vitamins A & K are also taken with it
It stands to reason that if a breast-feeding mom is vitamin D deficient, her milk will also be vitamin D deficient, which explains why rickets and Vit D deficiency are so common in the US.  However, if you don't want to supplement your baby with vitamin D (looking at the ingredients on the label made me shudder-- artificial flavoring and sweeteners among them), the best way to make sure he's getting vitamin D (in the form his body can best use, too!) is by making sure YOU have enough Vit D!  Yep-- you elevate your vitamin D levels enough, and your breast milk will become a perfect source of all the vitamin D your baby needs.  (Ideally, you'd be making sure your vit D levels were adequate throughout pregnancy so when baby comes you aren't starting from square 1.)

How much does a nursing mom need to have daily?  According to this article from the Council on Vitamin D, about 6000 IU (50 ng/mL).  That's a lot-- far higher than the recommended "400 IU."  How can you get that?  Well, you can partly get it from the sun:  if you are light-skinned, at least 3 20-minute sessions of full sunlight on most of your body (ie in a swimsuit or sleeveless top & shorts)-- just enough to get your skin to the slightest flush of pink. The goal is NOT to burn.  This article includes a fun little calculator, as well as an interesting connection between preterm birth and vitamin D (could be why minorities in the US have such alarmingly higher rates of preterm birth?  They have darker skin, and so need more time in the sun to get the same amount of vitamin D?) Quote from that article:
 "If you want to get out in the sun to maximize your vitamin D production, and minimize your risk of malignant melanoma, the middle of the day is the best and safest time to go. You just need to be very careful about the length of your exposure. Remember you only need enough exposure to have your skin turn the lightest shade of pink. This may only be a few minutes for some. Once you reach this point your body will not make any additional vitamin D and any additional exposure will only cause harm and damage to your skin."
The best source of whole-food vitamin D is fermented cod liver oil, best taken along with butter oil.  When taken together, far fewer IUs are needed to maintain adequate vitamin D blood levels.  Taken alone, 1 teaspoon of fermented cod liver oil gives ~1950 IU of vit D.  I personally can't stand the taste of cod liver oil, so I recommend capsules or the gels, which Eowyn thinks are a treat.  Read up on CLO & recommended brands here.

If you are a pregnant or nursing mother, please read the linked-to articles and spend some time trying to decide how to ensure that your milk contains adequate levels of vitamin D!  Again, this article from the Council on Vitamin D recommends: 
  1. Take a loading dose of 10,000 IU/day for a month.
  2. After one month on 10,000 IU/day, stop supplementing your infant with vitamin D as your breast milk should now be filled with vitamin D.
  3. Take 6,000 IU/day maintenance dose thereafter, except on days you get full body sun exposure.
If you're worried about toxicity, read this article-- getting vitamin D from natural (whole food or sunshine) sources means far FAR less possibility of getting toxic levels of vitamin A or D.  At the very least, head over to the health food store and get some 1000 IU vitamin D3 softgel capsules-- they are made from radiated wool oil, but it's still better than nothing-- you'd need to take 6 per day to get the 6000 IU maintenance dose, or 10/day to start out from nothing.

My strategy?   It's hard to know how much I'm getting without doing some calculations my new-mom-brain can't handle, so here's my "hoping 'tis enough strateg." :)  I didn't arrive at it by any precise science by any means, hah.  Since it's summer, daily I take:  2 capsules each of fermented CLO & butter oil (in winter I'd take 5-10 of each),  4 each JuicePlus fruit chews & veggie chews (these are basically dehydrated fruits & veggies) and 2 softgels of 1000 IU D3.  Once my babies are 4 months old (so still breastfeeding), we also start giving them 1/4 teaspoon of unflavored fermented CLO (it's super-good for their eye & brain development, especially linked to high verbal abilities, as well as stronger immune systems).  I drink raw milk, eat raw milk cheese and plenty of fatty fish, and stock up on spring butter when it's sold.  I'm very big on lots of time outside, building up a base tan by going out daily in the spring, yes, without sunscreen (I know I'm going majorly against the flow there... but that's another blogpost =D), and clothing on my babies while outside is pretty minimal.