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Forbidden Fruit Tastes the Sweetest: Which Fruits to Avoid during Breastfeeding

I’ve written about breastfeeding and diet before, but it remains a hot topic. Most of the questions and search terms on my breastfeeding blogs concern ‘forbidden’ foods, and fruit seems to be one of the most maligned ones. So, which fruits should you avoid during breastfeeding? The not-so-guilty secret is that there are NO fruits that should be avoided while you’re nursing. Great news, isn’t it? La Leche League International says it best in their maxim about diet: Eat a wide variety of foods, as close to their natural state as possible – everything in moderation. Sure, some babies will be sensitive to some foods, but there is no universal list of culprits that all nursing moms should avoid. No food (or fruit) causes cramps in all (or even most) babies. It’s sad, but it is nevertheless true: breastfeeding tends to get a bad rap in our society. Even common newborn niggles (in Mom and Baby) are blamed on breastfeeding. “Shame, are you exhausted? Blue? Must be the breastfeeding. Why don’t you put Baby on the bottle so you can rest and someone else can feed him?” Or: “Oh, that rash on Baby’s cheeks? It’s caused by acidic foods, you know. What did you have? Tomatoes? Oranges?” And the most common one: “Is your baby crampy? Gassy? It’s something you ate, Mom. Did you have any gas-forming veggies like broccoli or cabbage? Fruit also causes cramps, you know …” Well-meant as this advice is, it is not based on scientific evidence. ALL babies get cramps sometimes. Their digestive systems are still immature and very seldom your diet is to blame. Think about it: for the largest chunk of human history, our ancestors were hunter gatherers. What did breastfeeding moms eat? Exactly the same food as everyone else in the tribe; most of the time they didn’t have the luxury of choice. During lean times the only available food might have been a certain root or fruit, and they had loads of that, simply because it was the only option. They certainly didn’t have specially formulated breastfeeding shakes produced by the manufacturers of artificial baby milk ;). Nope, human babies have survived (and even thrived) on breastmilk, despite what their moms ate or did not eat. karoo (7)_edited-2Honestly, you can eat ANY fruits, as long as you do so in moderation. Limit your intake of fruit juice, as you can drink the juice of many more oranges than you’d be able to eat. This excessive intake might bother Baby. Don’t worry about ‘acidic’ fruits. The body’s pH level is kept within tight limits, and this applies to your milk too. A tomato or orange isn’t very likely to upset this system. Most babies give you a little preview of coming attractions (read ‘teenage acne’) around two weeks of age. This is due to the sudden withdrawal of your hormones, not to ‘acidic’ fruits. Enjoy your fruits and veggies – it’s good for you! Please don’t confine yourself to a diet of rice, meat and potatoes. We’re lucky to have access to a more varied diet than our hunting-gathering ancestors. Be grateful for this privilege and try not to see breastfeeding as a sacrifice you have to make. Mother Nature intended it to be fun and relaxing – as the mood-enhancing qualities of the breastfeeding hormones (prolactin and oxytocin) attest. Enjoy every moment of breastfeeding and don’t let uninformed advisors use it as a scapegoat for perfectly normal niggles. Your breastmilk remains the single biggest gift you will ever give your child.

 

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Exciting news!

I am thrilled to announce that my new ‘baby’, Breastfeed your Baby, will be on the shelves soon. My publisher, Metz Press has given me a due date for middle April. This is the fulfillment of a dream that was born right along with my first child, around 16 years ago. I can’t wait to hold my ‘baby’ and see her on the South African shelves! By the way, for my Afrikaans readers, there is an edition in their mother tongue. Borsvoed jou Baba is the first Afrikaans book on the topic in more than 2 decades. Soooo excited! Please go like the book’s FB page and follow updates on http://www.facebook.com/index.php?stype=lo&lh=Ac8sX-WfHvbW2SoW#!/pages/Breastfeed-your-Baby/314096398693068breastfeed your baby

 

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Help! My Breastfed Baby Refuses to Take a Bottle!

• It is best not to give your baby any artificial nipples (bottles/dummies) in the first 6 weeks. This period is aptly named the ‘calibration period’ – your body is still establishing your milk supply. During this critical period, you want Baby to do all his sucking at your breast. Breastfeeding requires a completely different sucking action than bottle feeding – it is much harder work! If you introduce Baby to bottles too soon, he could develop nipple confusion and flow preference and refuse the breast.

• If you are going back to work, or if you would like to leave your baby with a bottle sometimes, it is best to introduce him to it at six weeks. Don’t wait longer than 3 months. It is extremely stressful to go back to work if your baby refuses to drink from a bottle, so try your best to avoid this anxiety-provoking situation.

• Feed your baby only expressed breastmilk. Ideally he should be exclusively breastfed for about six months. Not only does he not NEED extra fluids like water or tea, these are actually harmful.

• Let someone else give Baby the bottle. This is a great time for Dad or Granny to get involved. Preferably you shouldn’t even be around. Take yourself out of the house, ideally for a special treat. Come on, think of all the money you’ve saved by breastfeeding!

• Baby doesn’t need a daily bottle. He only needs one or two a week in order to stay comfortable with them. Try not to skip a week, though.

• Don’t panic if Baby refuses the bottle. It can take a lot of patience, creative problem solving and just plain time to get him used to it.

• Experiment with different artificial nipples. Perhaps your baby prefers a different shape, or a rubber teat to a silicone one. Just remember to stick to a # 1 (0-3 months) nipple hole, no matter how old your baby. You don’t want the milk to flow too fast, you want him to work for it. Breastmilk is much thinner than formula, so if you use a bigger sized hole, it flows too fast.

• Try warming the bottle teat before feeds under warm, running water. Alternatively a teething baby might find an ice cold teat soothing to his sore gums.

• The person feeding Baby should try different positions. Let Dad hold Baby in a different position than the one in which you breastfeed. He could hold Baby upright, facing out, or even sitting in a car seat. He could also try walking around with him and rocking him rhythmically.

• Give Baby a bottle before his usual feeding time and before he is too hungry. This will make him more patient and willing to try new things.

• Feed Baby when he is sleepy. • Wrap him in Mom’s dressing gown or in something that smells of her.

• If Baby still refuses to take a bottle, don’t panic! Don’t feel guilty – you didn’t do anything wrong. Remember that even some bottle fed babies refuse to take their bottle from anyone else than their moms.

Alternatives to Bottles

• Babies can drink from a cup right from birth. Cup feeding is even used for premature babies! If your little one wants nothing to do with a bottle, he can drink enough milk from a cup while you are at work to stay healthy and happy.

• You can use any type of cup. Some moms prefer a flexible one. Others find that a small glass (like one used for shooters or sherry) works well, while others prefer a cup with a spout (a sippy cup).

• Let Baby sit upright. If he enjoys being swaddled, you can do so to prevent those little hands ‘helping’.

• Fill the cup halfway with expressed breastmilk. Tilt it so that a few drops of milk touch Baby’s lips. Keep the cup there, don’t tilt it further, so that Baby can pace his swallowing.

• Don’t underestimate your baby. Not one of my five babies ever drank from a bottle, but they happily drank from a cup – and even from a straw – from four months. In an emergency, the caregiver can even feed your Baby with a syringe.

• Babies often reverse their days and nights when their moms go back to work, sleeping more during the day and feeding very little while away from Mom. They make up for it at night, drinking more than 80% of their daily intake. This pattern might work well if you can manage to sleep while Baby feeds.

• Choose a caregiver who lives close to your workplace (instead of your home) and feed Baby at her place before going to work in the mornings and before returning home in the evenings. If it is practical, you might even slip away to feed Baby during your lunch hour. Another alternative is getting a caregiver who can look after Baby at your workplace in the first few months, so you can feed him at work. Think creatively about possible solutions.

If I can leave you with just ONE piece of advice, it is to keep calm and keep trying. Your baby won’t starve, he will get used to drinking his milk from a different container.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2012 in Breastfeeding

 

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Top 10 Reasons Why Breastfeeding Rocks!

  1. Breastmilk is the perfect all-in-one food for the first six months of Baby’s life. He doesn’t need anything else – not even water on a hot summer’s day in Africa.
  2. Breastfed babies are healthier. Breastfeeding protects against illness and allergies. Breastfed babies visit the doctor and hospital 12 to 14 times less than bottlefed babies.
  3. Breastfeeding offers long term protection against obesity, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
  4. Breastmilk is brain food! Breastfed babies have an advantage of 7 – 10 IQ points.
  5. Breastfeeding helps moms lose weight.
  6. Breastfeeding is SO convenient: the milk is always available, always fresh and always the right temperature.
  7. It saves money – hundreds of rands per month and thousands per year.
  8. Breastfeeding saves time. There are no bottles to prepare, wash or sterilise. Furthermore, nursing time is time to relax, too. Mom can read, sleep, listen to music or watch her favourite movies, while simultaneously giving Baby the best start in life. Talk about multitasking!
  9. Breastfeeding gives mothers a biochemical advantage when it comes to coping with mothering and reading their babies. Remember, prolactin is called ‘the mothering hormone’ and oxytocin ‘the bonding hormone’.
  10. Breastfeeding is eco-friendly.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Breastfeeding

 

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Preparing your Child for a New Baby

Some of the most helpful books on parenting I’ve ever read are those by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I felt so much more equipped to deal with my children’s negative emotions and behaviour after reading books like How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk and How to Talk so Kids will Learn. When I found out that I was expecting my second child, I bought their Siblings Without Rivalry. I wasn’t disappointed.

In the second chapter, the authors have an exercise in which you need to rate your emotional response to the following scenario:

Imagine that your spouse puts an arm around you and  says, “Honey, I love you so much, and you’re so wonderful that I’ve decided to have another wife just like you.

Ugh, puts a different spin on it, doesn’t it?

When the new wife finally arrives, you see that she’s very young and kind of cute. When the three of you are out together, people say hello to you politely, but exclaim ecstatically over the newcomer. “Isn’t she adorable? Hello, sweetheart … You are precious!” Then they turn to you and ask, “How do you like the new wife?”

Ouch!

The new wife needs clothing. Your husband goes into your closet, takes some of your sweaters and pants and gives them to her. When you protest, he points out that since you’ve put on a little weight, your clothes are too tight on you and they’ll fit her perfectly.

Don’t you just hate her sometimes?

The new wife is maturing rapidly. Every day she seems smarter and more competent. One afternoon as you’re struggling to figure out the directions on the new computer your husband bought you, she bursts into the room and says, “Ooh, can I use it? I know how?

One just feels your fists clench right along with your teeth, don’t you?

When you tell her she can’t use it, she runs crying to your husband. Moments later she returns with him. Her face is tear-stained and he has his arm around her. He says to you, “What would be the harm in letting her have a turn? Why can’t you share?”

I think you get the picture. Of course I’m not suggesting that you should have only one child (not at all, I have five!). Please don’t feel guilty about wanting more children – or about either your older child or the new baby. As I said to a newly delivered second-time mom just this morning, motherhood is a guilt-ridden occupation. We feel sad for the older child that he’ll no longer have our undivided attention and we feel equally guilty about not devoting enough attention to the little one either. Siblings truly are gifts to one another if the relationships are handled lovingly and there are many benefits as well as drawbacks to each and every position in the family, whether you’re the oldest, the youngest or the middle child. Guilt doesn’t help you or your kids. It doesn’t improve the quality of your lives at all. It’s such an unproductive emotion – such a waste of valuable energy. Don’t indulge in it. Every time you feel guilty, see if the guilt has something to teach you – if it comes with a lesson, with a way in which you can improve what you are doing. If it does, change your behaviour or attitude. If it doesn’t, don’t allow the guilt another second of rent-free space in your already overburdened mind. Your kids will cope, as long as you love them and show it to them as often as possible. They’ll probably even like each other – at least some of the time!

So, what can you do to make the birth of a new baby less traumatic for your older child? Here are some tips:

  1. Many parents ask what the ideal age gap is. Experts have different opinions about this, but I generally just tell the parents that the age gap between their kids is the perfect one. After all, that’s their reality. In my opinion, there are pros and cons to all age gaps. If you have your kids close together, it might be tough on you in the beginning and the older child may not have as much time to be a baby and the sole focus of your attention. On the other hand, you’ll have kids so close in age that they’ll be interested in the same games and you’ll be able to read them the same book at bedtime. Having them further apart may make that first year easier on all of you, but your kids might not have as much in common at first.
  2. Expect your older child to be excited about the baby and adapt to the changes well. If you expect a smooth transition, that’s what you’ll get. If you expect jealousy and tantrums, ditto. This is what psychologists call a self-fulfilling prophesy, and I promise you it’s very real. Your child picks up on your fears and expectations, and act accordingly.
  3. Prepare your child during pregnancy. Read books together with stories about new babies, show your child pictures of babies, take him along to your scans and let him feel the baby kick. Look through his own baby pictures and tell him stories about when he was little. Make a big song and dance about how much your older child can do that baby isn’t able to. Take breastfeeding: talk to your older child about everything he can eat and drink, while Baby is so small that he can only have breastmilk.
  4. Get your child a gift from the baby. A great idea is a doll of his/her own that to take care of while Mom is busy with Baby. Place this gift next to Baby when he sees her for the first time. You might also want to make sure that the new baby is lying somewhere else than in Mom/Dad’s arms for that first meeting. Of course this isn’t possible at a home birth – especially when the older child is very involved in the birth – but in hospital (which is already a strange, somewhat scary environment) putting Baby in a bassinet for the first meeting might be wise.
  5. Let your child be Mommy’s little helper as often as he likes. This makes him feel important, like he is making a contribution. But don’t burden him with so much childcare responsibilities that he feels resentful.
  6. Have a special stash of new toys and books that are only taken out when the baby is breastfeeding. This way, your child will look forward to feeding times and you can even give him special attention by reading to him while Baby is drinking.
  7. Spend special alone-time with your older child when Baby is asleep.
  8. Accept the fact that your older child will have more of Dad for a while. Don’t fall into the trap of always caring for the baby while Dad looks after the older one, but don’t feel guilty about the fact that they will bond on a deeper level than before either.
  9. Accept that your older child may very well regress a bit in certain areas. Take it in your stride and don’t make a big deal out of it. Also try not to attribute all challenging behaviour to the new baby. With my youngest child, Dominic, I realised that 3-year olds often pretend to be babies, for instance. Had he just gained a new brother or sister, I’d assume that he was having trouble coping. Because he was my last, though, I realised that his ‘regression’ was simply make-believe. It wasn’t an indication of sibling rivalry. Even Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!
  10. No matter how young your child is, reflect his feelings and teach him feeling words. If he says he wishes the baby would go away, don’t deny his feelings and tell him he doesn’t really mean that. Of course he does. Instead, teach him to put his feelings into words. “You feel sad that the baby is taking up a lot of Mommy’s time.” Then give him a way to cope with his feelings, for instance, “Would you like to draw a sad picture?” Or, “Would you like to jump on the trampoline until you feel better?”

The first weeks with a new baby in the house can be hard – on you and on your older child. Do you have any other tips you’d like to share on making the transition smooter? Please post a comment so other parents can benefit from your wisdom.

 

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A Common Cause of Breast Refusal and Fussiness at the Breast

Did you know that it is better not to touch the back of your baby’s head at all while breastfeeding? Your baby has a reflex that is activated by pressure on the back of his head. This reflex is particularly strong in the first few weeks. It exists for Baby’s survival – to protect him against suffocation – and he cannot override it. In sensitive babies, this reflex is so strong that they’d rather go hungry than act against it.

When the mother or her helper touches Baby’s head during latching, Baby automatically pushes his head back into the supporting hand. This causes problems like poor attachment, fussiness at the breast and even breast refusal. Some babies are so traumatised that they yell whenever they are brought to the breast. It is often a long, slow process to get them back onto the breast. We literally coax them back inch by patient inch, continually rewarding their progress with sips of expressed breastmilk from a syringe.

Pressure on the back of Baby’s head can also cause nipple pain. Research shows that babies whose heads are supported latch onto the breast nose first. The optimal latch, in contrast, is achieved when Baby leads with his chin and goes onto the breast bottom jaw first. Most moms find the nose-first latch uncomfortable or even painful.

Ensure that you support Baby’s upper back and neck instead of his head. This kind of support is completely adequate, even in the first days when a baby’s neck is still very wobbly. Your hand should be placed no higher than the base of your baby’s skull. Even the light pressure of one finger on Baby’s head can cause sub-optimal feeding. To read more, go to http://www.health-e-learning.com/resources/articles/37-when-the-back-of-the-babys-head-is-held-to-attach-the-baby-to-the-breast

To read this post in Afrikaans, go to http://borsvoedjoubaba.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/n-algemene-oorsaak-van-probleme/

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2012 in Breastfeeding

 

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When the Flame Flickers

Burnout. Those dark days when the flame of your passion is assaulted so repeatedly by opposing winds that you doubt whether you’ll be able to keep it burning any longer. Those days when The System seems omnipotent – omnipresent – when you feel like an insect crushed beneath its ever-rolling wheel. Does anything I do make a difference, you wonder. Am I a fool to even try helping moms and babies achieve better births? An idiot to keep advocating breastfeeding when artificial feeding has become the norm worldwide? When that practice is driven by multinational companies who have billions of dollars at their disposal to find new ways to bombard parents with their products, new ways to evade the Code for the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes?

Anyone who works in some kind of activism will know what I’m talking about. Some days you wonder why you keep trying. Why you keep getting up in morning with the idea that you might make a difference. Why you don’t just throw in the towel and let things take their course …

This week I reached an all time low. I felt like I just didn’t have the energy to be a doula and a lactation consultant and an antenatal educator who advocates choice and informed consent anymore. I felt like I kept banging my head against a brick wall. Sometimes it seems like all I get for my passion and hard work is trouble. Criticism and anger from those who’d like to preserve the status quo. Why should it bother me that two-thirds of women are giving birth with major abdominal surgery in South Africa? Why should I care that many of the rest are having routine episiotomies – a practice that is painful and just not evidence-based? Why should I lie awake at night because most women initiate breastfeeding but then wean their babies in the first six weeks? It’s not like one doula can do anything about these sad facts, is it?

I was ready to fling myself 100 percent into my writing. I actually offered to resign as antenatal teacher. (Luckily, my boss refused to accept that resignation). When I went to bed last night, I was planning to attend only those births I’d committed to and then gently ease out of the birth world. I honestly didn’t have the heart for it anymore.

I know, I know, I was feeling really sorry for myself. But cut me some slack. You have to be on fire in order to burn out, remember? It’s those of us who care deeply who end up hurting really deeply, too.

This morning I woke up and read the comment from thebirthmuse. She described natural birth as ‘magical’. Yip, I thought, that word rings a bell. It is magical to witness empowered birth. It is magical to see a mom put her newborn to the breast the first time – the way her eyes grow wide the moment he starts sucking. “Wow,” she’ll say, “he’s drinking! He knows what to do!”

Magic is certainly part of why I do it. The memory of magic gives me the energy to get up after each knock and keep trying to assist women who want a choice in birth and in how they feed their babies. But I also do it because of the moms. And I especially do it because of the babies. Because I believe they have the right to the gentlest, safest, most loving births possible. I believe they have a right to the incredible emotional and physical benefits of breastfeeding. I believe they are the ones who will make this world a better place if only we empower them to do so. I do it for Annabelle and Nathan and Sadie and Sanmarie and all the babies that have come before them and will come after them. I do it for them, because deep down, beneath the burnt-out part of me, the embers of passion are still glowing. Deep down, I still believe we can make a difference … one tiny little baby at a time.

 
 

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