Bear’s Birth Story

Continuing with the theme from my last post of Bear being a stubborn child, of course his birth was no different. The very fast, water-suddenly-breaking-and-barely-making-it-to-any-medical-facility-birth I expected did not happen. He had his own agenda.

I felt pretty good two days after my hospital stay. No bad nausea, my acid reflux was tolerable, and I was pretty well-rested. Sunday night, I stayed up a bit and monitored my contractions. Still no change from the what they were at the hospital. I was slightly afraid of my water breaking at 1 AM like Jack’s did, but really thought I had several more days before real labor would start. So I went to sleep like normal.

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Last bump pic!
Around 6 AM I woke up to more contractions. They didn’t hurt, I was more annoyed. I was sleeping very well and did not want to get up. Plus, Jack was all snuggled with me. I wanted to stay in bed with my sleeping angel face. Then I felt a weird gush. I was even more annoyed, but knew I had to get up. I went to the bathroom and was very surprised to see a tinge of pink when I wiped. I had another contractions and more pink stuff. I put a pad on and went to tell Michael. He didn’t seem too concerned, but told me to call midwife. I felt more stuff gush out so I checked my pad again. It wasn’t wet like when my water broke with Jack, but stuff was definitely coming out. I called my midwife and told her my water may have broke. She told me to come to the birth center just in case since I was already dilated to 4cm and have a history of fast labor.

The receptionist saw us pull-up and another midwife took us straight back to the birthing room we wanted. Shortly after, my midwife and her assistant came in. They took all my vitals and checked me. I hadn’t progressed more yet. And my water had not broke yet, but my bag was bulging and my contractions were closer together and hurting more.

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Contractions are annoying when you trying to enjoy 90s pop radio on Pandora.
I spent the next 3 hours progressing steadily in the birthing suite. I started out walking around, then moved to sitting on the couch. Then, once my contractions really started to pick up,  I laid down on the bed with some music on to try to rest between them.

DSCN3751Then it started to really get intense, so I decided to get in tub. Oh man, I can’t even begin to explain how awesome it felt. The water takes all the pressure off your body and soothes your pain. I stayed in there nearly two hours.

But as I was getting close to pushing, I needed a little relief to help me stay calm and focused. I originally told Michael I didn’t want to do the Nitrous Oxide, but at that moment I wanted it. The man did not hesitate and got my midwife quickly.  It doesn’t stop the pain like other pain relief methods, but just takes the edge off. It was too hard for me to hold the mask out of the water and have a contraction at the same time. So my body said get out of the tub.

As soon as I stood up, gravity kicked in and I could feel his head. I laid down on the bed and clung to the gas mask for dear life. A few more contractions later and my water a finally broke, just a trickle at first. Then my body went on autopilot. It started to push. My midwife asked me to spread my legs because I was baring down and I thought, “I am? Huh..I am…”

Suddenly, I felt the ring of fire. I had heard about it in many other birth stories, but oh man. It’s more than you can imagine. Literally feels like your labia are set on fire as baby crowns. Next my water came GUSHING out, followed by his head. Little stubborn guy got his shoulder stuck on my pelvis and decided that was the best time to try to take his first breath. My midwife quickly jumped in and rotated his shoulder to get him out. Then he slid out just fine and she placed him in my arms.

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Moment of disbelief.
I pulled him on to my chest and waves of love just hit me. He is here! He’s out. I’m done. The hardest thing I’ve ever worked for in my life. My beautiful rainbow baby. He made little peeps but didn’t scream like Jack. I knew right then this was indeed my quiet, stubborn child.

Then they had me push out my placenta. It came out whole but had long tails from where it burst
open from my water breaking. Took my midwife a bit to pull them out. After it was out, my uterus was “boggy”, meaning it was retaining all the fluids. My midwife tried a uterine massage to help it along, but it hurt way too much. She offered a pitocin shot instead and I agreed.
DSCN3767Bear started rooting so I started to position him to nurse…then I realized no one actually checked if he’s a boy! I was more concerned he came out safely and my midwife was more concerned he was okay for 36 weeker—no one looked right away! But we all looked, he was indeed a boy.  He latched on like a champ and I was so happy that it didn’t hurt like Jack’s first latch did. He nursed both sides then fell asleep. The nursing also helped my uterus to contract better and it started to “unbog”.

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We had a glorious two and half hours of truly uninterrupted skin-to-skin bonding time. They check our vitals quietly in the bed when needed, but no one really disturbed us. It was truly magically.

IMG_6303This is when my midwife suggested I go to the bathroom. So I handed Bear to Michael, and he smiled ear to ear to hold his second son. My midwife helped me to the bathroom. I walked pretty well on my own, much easier than after my epidural with Jack. However, unlike Jack’s birth, I was not numb down there this time. Sitting on the toilet hurt, everything was so swollen I couldn’t pee, and even the water from the peri bottle hurt.

Then I went back to the bed and my midwife did the newborn procedures. Checked him over, tested his oxygen levels and weighed him. I expected to hear 6 lbs or under, considering he was technically a preemie. But nope! He was 7 lbs 9 oz, only a pound smaller than Jack! My midwife concluded my due date had to be off, he was absolutely not a 36 weeker. She thinks he is closer to a 38.5 weeker.

IMG_6305Then my midwife handed us off to the postpartum midwife. The birthing center includes food delivery service, so we ordered from my favorite restaurant, Veggie Grill. One of the biggest acid reflux and nausea triggers this pregnancy was leafy greens. Do you know how much that sucks for a vegan? So when my Crispy Chickin’ Plate came, I dove into my steamed kale. It was amazing to eat without pain. I devoured everything and had no regrets. Best postpartum meal ever.

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He was so excited mommy had milkies again!
My parents and Jack came that evening. Jack looked at his little brother, but kinda didn’t care. He just wanted me. It had been a rough week without me and he needed me. I let him nurse while my parents held Bear. He was very happy to discover there was milk once again. He was upset to leave, he begged to stay the night with us. I hugged him, then told him tomorrow we will be home and all be a family.

Best sitz bath ever.
Best sitz bath ever.
We rested some more, had a very yummy ThaI food for dinner, and Bear had his first cluster feeding (followed by his first milk coma).  I had a very lovely herbal sitz bath that took down a lot of the swelling almost instantly.

Just sleeping like a baby while my uterus is trying to kill me.
Just sleeping like a baby while my uterus is trying to kill me.
I tried to take a big nap while Michael held Bear, but my uterus had other plans. I had started to have contractions so intense that I had to breath through them. The midwife gave me Motrin, Tylenol and Cramp Bark to ease the pain. I don’t recall any uterine pain like this after Jack was born. The midwife said your uterus has to work harder to go back to normal after each baby, so the pain tends to be worse. And of course Bear kept waking up to to nurse, making the my uterus contract more. I eventually got a couple hours of sleep towards the morning.

IMG_6316In the morning the midwife made us a very yummy breakfast, then I took the best shower of my life. I just stood under the hot water and let all the stress from this pregnancy just wash away. Then we asked about being discharged. I could have stayed a second night, but I was ready to go home to Jack. We were both healthy and doing great, no reason to stay. My normal midwife came to check on us and agreed we could go home. After some final checks and procedures,  I got to wrap Bear up to take him to the car. I had been dreaming of wearing my rainbow baby in the rainbow wrap I helped design for months. I teared up once I got him in. I will never forget that moment of relief for my heart.

Bear’s birth was as close to perfect as it could have been. I was respected, pampered, and truly cared for. No one argued me and no one did things without my consent. Because of this I never felt stressed or worried—no crying at 2 AM from exhaustion this time. This is what birth should always be, regardless of where you deliver.

Hyperemesis and Preterm Labor

This stubborn little child. He had his own agenda from the day he was conceived. I dreamed a pretty easy pregnancy like with Jack. Some nausea, acid reflux, and low blood pressure issues again. But nothing too crazy. I also wanted a very active pregnancy this time. I wanted to hike everyday with Jack and get my body as strong as possible. I envisioned going into labor on a trail somewhere….

…but nope. It started with bad hyperemesis right away. Followed by a stomach bug. Then migraines. Then worse hyperemesis. Then a UTI. Then even worse hyperemesis. Then vaginosis. Then the irritable uterus started up. Even worse hyperemesis. Horrible allergic reaction. Pulled a groin muscle and couldn’t walk. And then the throwing up acid at night from the worst acid reflux in my life.

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35 weeks
By the time I went to my 35 week midwife appointment, my body was exhausted. I was happy to have made it so far with a very healthy baby—my rainbow baby.  My midwife asked how I was doing, I answered “I am coughing up acid at night, I’m having a TON of Braxton-Hicks, I can’t eat much food because everything is so squished, I feel faint because I can’t eat or drink enough, and I can’t sleep at night. But overall, good.” She nodded, she knew I was exhausted. Then she said the good news—she did not believe I would go to my due date and I just had to deal with a few more weeks. This was Monday. After that Saturday, I would be 36 weeks, the legal gestational age to give birth in a birthing center in Oregon. I went home and planned on just sitting around relaxing until my appointment next week.

That Thursday, Jack had a playdate at a nearby park. Towards the end I got really tired. So we said goodbye a few minutes early and left. A few minutes later, it happened…

The worst thing that happened my whole pregnancy so far. I puked ALL over my car. Projectile vomited without warning when I stopped at a stop sign. And continued for 30 seconds. I couldn’t open the door or window, it just kept coming. When I finally stopped, a car had pulled up behind me so I had to go. Jack started laughing hysterically, “Mommy threw up! Mommy you are so silly!” I started crying and called my mom over the car speaker. I told her I was pulling up right now and I needed her help. I puked all over my car.

She sent me inside and told me to get cleaned up. She put Jack inside and cleaned my car.  I showered and laid down in bed. I kept throwing up every 30 minutes or so. I couldn’t keep anything down. A few hours later, I called my midwife. She told me to come up to be rehydrated. Michael picked me up and my mom watched Jack.

I threw up again when we got there. I was so dehydrated they once again couldn’t get a vein on me. The midwives are trained medical professionals, they knew what to do. But I am a hard stick even hydrated. So they started a rectal IV. But it started to kick up my Braxton-Hicks into real contractions so they quickly stopped it. I threw up several more times and was started to get very upset.

At the birth center, starting to get very worried.
At the birth center, starting to get very worried.
My midwife talked with the other midwives, and they decided it was time to transfer me to a hospital. I was still 35 weeks so I could not give birth there if it was the real deal. And if it was just dehydration, I needed IV fluids quickly to stop preterm labor. I was scared, but I understood.

A little while later I was in a wheelchair in Labor and Delivery at OHSU. As they took me to triage, I looked into all the delivery rooms and started to panic a little. This was not what I wanted. Why are you doing this to us, Bear? We could be at a wonderful birthing center of you could just wait a week or so!

Then I threw-up again and I knew this where we needed to be. My body needed helped. The nurse saw all needle pokes on my arms from the birth center and knew right away she needed to get the most experienced nurse possible. She brought in a 20+ year NICU/OB nurse who can get veins on 1 lbs premature babies. It still took her 3 tries. I really am that hard of a stick.

Stay in!!
Stay in!!
I was so happy once I could feel the fluid in my veins. They quickly gave me a Zofran shot and a Reglan shot for nausea. Then the OB came in. She checked my cervix , I was 3 cm. I was 1 at the birthing center three hours ago so this worried me. She also did a quick ultrasound, she said baby looked great, but was totally head down and engaged. She said they would not stop my labor if I continued to progress, but she hoped it would stop on its own once in hydrated. For that reason, the doctor suggested a Betamethasone shot. It is a steroid that helps develop baby’s lungs quickly. She explained all her reasons and the possible side effects, which I greatly appreciated. I felt very very respected and greatly appreciated her taking the time to inform me. As a result, I was not upset when they admitted me for the night for monitoring and continued fluids.

I threw up a few more times, so they gave me more medicine. Also, she added some acid reflux medicine because all that puking was triggering a major reflux attack. And this whole time I was having consistent, steady contractions. But they didn’t hurt, felt slightly stronger than the Braxton-Hicks/cramps I’ve had since 20 weeks. Then they gave me some medicine to help me sleep and I was out! Like didn’t even notice the nurse coming in a few hours later to change my IV bag and take my vitals kind of out.

IMG_6274The doctor woke me up at 6 AM before her shift ended to check me again. I hoped it was all good and I could leave in a few hours…but nope. My stubborn, stubborn child had other plans. I lost a huge chunk of my mucus plug overnight. And I dilated another centimeter and thinned out a tiny bit more. So I needed to stay for at least a few more hours and probably the night again. Good news was the doctor decided this was probably not a stomach virus or true labor. It was probably just my hyperemesis causing dehydration contractions (if you can call that good news). Actual good news was I hadn’t thrown up for several hours and I wanted breakfast! And I eat my entire breakfast and kept it down! Same with my lunch and dinner. I had horrible acid reflux and it took several medications to keep the acid from creeping up though. But I will take that over projectile vomiting any day.

A new OB checked me shortly before dinner and had more good news. I had not progressed, and my contractions had slowed and spaced out. They took me off the monitor and gave me instructions to let them know immediately if my contractions got worse. And they stopped my IV and told me to drink all that I could to stay hydrated. But, they wanted to keep me one more night just to be safe and give me the second dose of steroid shot for his lungs. My body was still exhausted so I didn’t argue. Everyone had treated me with such respect and honesty that I would not be upset if I had to deliver there. A much different hospital experience than with Jack.

Happy to be released!
Happy to be released!
They gave me more medicine to sleep and I was knocked out again. In the morning I got the best news, no more progression or change in contractions, so I was going home! She said I was really not likely to make it to my due date, but I would be more comfortable waiting for labor at home if I am not actively progressing. It was Saturday now, I was 36 weeks. So I asked if I could still deliver at my birth center birth like I planned. Without hesitation she said yes! As long as I listen to my midwife and no other complications arise, there was no reason why I couldn’t. I was so happy!

They released me quickly and we stopped for lunch on the way home (which I ate and kept down!). Jack was so happy to see us. He jumped on my lap and snuggled with me on the couch watching TV for a long time. This whole pregnancy was hard on him, too.

I planned on laying around for the next week or so, giving Bear a bit more time to cook. But he had other plans. Check out my next post for his birth story.

Baby-Led Weaning Menu

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Enough people have asked me for it, so here it finally is! A detailed sample menu on what I usually feed my son with baby-led weaning. Before I start, I need to make several things very clear. I am not a nutritionist. I am not a dietitian. I am not a pediatrician. And I am not a doctor.  I am a mom sharing what worked for her child. I based my decisions on the advice of my son’s pediatrician, a nutritionist we saw briefly, the book “Baby-Led Weaning”, the book ” My Child Won’t Eat” , advice various moms shared with me during La Leche League meetings, and my own instincts. Please talk to your doctor, do your own research, and listen to your own heart first.

So, say now you decide baby-led weaning is right for your family and your baby is ready to start (see this post on the signs of readiness). Where do you start? I had no idea! So I just started offering Jack foods that made sense to me and eventually figure out what worked for us. As he got bigger, things changed so I just went with his cues. Overall I never made him eat anything he didn’t want to. Likewise, I let him try almost anything he asked for, within reason.

I have divided things up into two menus, one for no-teeth and one for teeth. When Jack was ready for solids, he had no teeth so he didn’t like things that required a lot of hard chewing (and babies can absolutely chew with no teeth, just takes awhile). Once he got teeth, he was happier to have a bigger variety. And as he got older, he also wanted more options. I tried to keep things simple when he was first starting out so he didn’t get overwhelmed.

Both menus are not vegan, since Jack is not all vegan. But you can easily change the menu to any dietary need. Replace milk yogurt with any non-dairy yogurt. Do scrambled tofu instead of eggs. Do more beans and lentils instead of beef or ham. Vegetable soup instead of chicken soup.

image-0001No-Teeth Menu: I offered Jack three meals a day, but it was hit or miss if he would play with the food or eat it for the longest time. Overtime he started to eat more.

Breakfast:

  • Mango Slices: cut them into big wedges and you can even leave some skin on to make them easier to hold. No, they will not eat the skin. And if they try, tell your baby nicely no no no.
  • Avocado Toast: Cut a strip of toast that baby can easily hold.  You can also do just toast or just avocado as well.
  • Oatmeal and Fruit: I’m not talking that gross runny baby cereal. I mean real, stove top old fashioned oats. Add some mashed or puréed fruit instead of sugar. No need for a spoon or bowl either, just place some on tray in front of baby. They will scoop it up and eat what they want.
  • Plums: Soft, easy to chew and tasty. Just cut into smaller pieces.
  • Strawberries: Cut them up or mash them a little.
  • Bananas: Leave the peel on one side so baby can pick it up easier.
  • Scrambled Eggs: Cook them hard and don’t add salt. This is still Jack’s favorite breakfast.
  • Yogurt and fruit: Go for full fat, unsweetened Greek yogurt if you can. Add some fruit for sweetness. Then just place it front of them, let their little fingers scoop and dip to their delight.

Lunch:

  • Cucumber and hummus: Cut the cucumbers into match sticks and remove the seeds. Put some no-salt added hummus on the tray for them to dip. It may take awhile before your baby gets the dipping motion, but no worries. They will probably just eat them separately for awhile.
  • Roasted Veggies: Roast up some fresh seasonal veggies in a bit olive oil and other spices. Get them soft but firm enough to be picked up. Then let our baby gnaw and suck away.
  • Soba Noodles and Bell Pepper Sticks: Cook up some soba noodles or other whole grain pasta, coat lightly with a little sesame oil or coconut oil. Add bell pepper sticks to gnaw on too. Baby can play and slurp up the noodles and feel the contrast with the crunchy peppers. Check out my recipes here.
  • Bone Broth and Rice/Quinoa/Barley: Make your own homemade bone broth and serve it with a tasty whole grain. Sometimes I do spoon feed Jack soup if he asks me to. But no reason why you can’t put the bowl in front of them and let them scoop it out with their hands. Or place some rice soaked in the broth on the try in front of them to pick up.
  • Smashed Sweet Potatoes: Boil or roast some sweet potatoes until they are tender. Then take a fork and lightly smash them. Not mashed into a puree, leave some chunks to grab. Add some butter, oil, or bone broth for flavor, too.
  • Beans: Cook your favorite kind of beans (we like Pinto and Kidney beans in this house). They are perfect size to pick up and and chew with no teeth

I also use some breakfast options for lunch too.

Dinner:

  • Chicken and Brown Rice: Make your favorite chicken recipe for dinner and cut off some small chunks with no skin or bones for baby. And make a flavorful rice dish on the side, or just serve some plain rice.  Just go easy on the salt and hot spices.  Your baby might not be able to chew the chicken all the way at first, but they can suck the juices out of the meat easily.
  • Ham and Green Beans: Make a nice ham steak and some tasty pan-fried green beans (easy on the salt). Just like the chicken, baby can either chew or suck on the meat. And green beans are already the perfect sized stick for baby to pick up!
  • Lentil Soup: I either make classic lentil soup and veggies in a tomato broth, or Indian dhal. Jack loves both! Sometimes I do spoon feed Jack soup if he asks me to. But no reason why you can’t put the bowl in front of them and let them scoop it out with their hands.
  • Beef Stew: I make my a nice pot of beef stew (seitan stew for me) with carrots, potatoes, celery, and peas. Throw it in the slow-cookers in the morning and it’s ready for dinner. The meat is tender enough for baby to chew or suck on. The veggies are soft enough to eat but still be picked up.

I also use some lunch options for diner.

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Teeth Menu: Once Jack got some teeth, I noticed a big difference in what he wanted to eat. He started to eat close to three meals a day and wanted more complex foods. I could also serve foods on plates and bowls without him flipping them over. He also slowly developed more dexterity and could use a spoon or fork. He still liked some of the simper foods from the no-teeth list, too.

Breakfast

  • Nut Butter Toast: My nutritionist said unless you have a family history of nut allergies, then you are okay to give a younger child nuts. That being said, please ask your pediatrician first. I waited until Jack could communicate better  (a few words and signs) to me before I offered any to him. I tried peanut butter, cashew, and almond. He loved them all. I cut the toast into strips like with the avocado toast.
  • Mango and Strawberries: No need to mash up the berries anymore. And I started to cut bigger wedges of mango since he could actually bite into them now.
  • Pancakes and Bacon: I make whole wheat silver dollar pancakes. Sometimes I use fruit puree or jam as syrup. And he loves sharing bacon with daddy. Already comes in a strip form too! At first he just sucked it, now he can eat a whole piece on his own. I buy organic and nitrate-free.
  • Waffles Dippers: Make normal waffles and cut them into strips. Offer some yogurt, jams, or nut butter to dip.
  • Cereal and Milk:  Buy some no-sugar, whole grain organic cereal and non-dairy milk.  At firs they may just scoop the cereal out with their hands, but eventually they will get how to do the spoon.

Lunch:

  • Mac N Cheese with veggies: Make your favorite mac and cheese (try mine), then add some frozen veggies. We like Amy’s Cheddar and Shells with frozen peas and carrots.
  • Fried Rice: Take left over rice, add some veggies and chicken or tofu. Lightly season with soy sauce. For fun, add some pineapple.
  • Fish Cakes: We were on WIC for awhile and got a crazy amount of canned fish each month. So I made from salmon or tuna cakes with grated carrots, panko, and eggs. I popped them in the freezer for an easy lunch whenever we were busy. I made them small so Jack could pick them up easily and bite them.
  • Sandwich: Turkey and Swiss, Ham and cheddar, grill cheese, avocado and tomato, PB&J… you get the idea. I made little fingers sandwiches so he didn’t get overwhelmed. He still usually deconstructs them though, but gets the general idea.
  • Veggies Pancakes: Similar to Fish cakes. I grated up carrots, radishes, parsnips.  I added cornmeal and eggs to make little pancakes. I froze them and used them when we were too busy to cook.
  • Pasta Salad: I like to use spiral pasta since it’s easy for them to grab. Add some black olive slices, cut up artichoke hearts, grated carrots, haled cherry tomatoes, and dress with some olive oil and spices. Easy to make and tasty for everyone.
  • Chicken Nuggets: I buy organic, all white meat nuggets (sometimes I make my own if I have time). I give him either no-sugar added ketchup or hummus to dip them in. Easy and already bite-sized.
  • Hot Dogs and Celery: I get nitrate-free organic hot dogs and cut them into pieces and cut the pieces in half (so they aren’t circular to choke on). I cut the celery into short sticks for him to munch on (great for teething!).
  • String Cheese, Crackers, and Turkey slices: Easy lunch on the go. String cheese is easy to hold and eat. Get some whole-grain, no salt crackers that are easy for baby to pick up. And cut up some turkey or other meat slices.
  • Quesadillas:  Cheese and whole wheat tortilla, and some mild salsa to dip. Cut into wedges to make it easier to pick up.
  • Chicken Soup: Add some bone broth, veggies, and chicken to a pot. Cook until veggies are tender and season lightly. Make some noodles or rice. Either let baby scoop the soup out by hand or try a spoon. Messy but usually a hit with every baby! This is our fall back when Jack is cranky and refuses other foods.
  • Curry Noodles: Check out my recipe. Easy and a great way to introduce spices to your baby.

Dinner:

  • Rice Pilaf, Veggies, and Chicken: A step-up from plain chicken and rice. Make your favorite pilaf recipe, chicken recipe, and roasted veggies. Just go easy on the salt. Cut the chicken into reasonable-sized pieces. If they are going to use a fork, make them smaller. Pick them up, a little bigger.
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs: Get your favorite space pasta, sauce, and meatball recipe. Cut the meatballs into half or quarters. You may want to noodles in half if they long, but usually they figure out how to slurp it up anyways. No fork needed, let them have fun!
  • Tacos: Meat, beans, tortilla, cheese and some mild salsa. At first I made deconstructed ones, now he gets built ones (that he deconstructs on his own). Who doesn’t love tacos?
  • Pizza: We usually have pizza every Friday, so check out one of my recipes here. Mostly homemade, sometimes who buy it. At first I took the toppings off,  pulled the cheese into pieces, and  cut the crust into pieces. Then let Jack pick what he wanted. Now he likes his own small slice to pick up. He likes Hawaiian pizza, but try whatever pizza you like.
  • Lentil Burgers and Sweet Potato Fries: Check out my recipe here. I usually just offer him a mini patty, sugar-free ketchup, and a few fries. Easy to pick up and packed with nutrients.
  • Enchiladas: Make a low-salt version of your favorite recipe. I like either white enchiladas with white beans or smokey red sauce with sweet potatoes. Again messy, but a usually a big hit.
  • Stir Fry with Brown Rice: Clear out all the veggies in your fridge and freezer. Add some soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. Throw some tofu or chicken in, too. Make some brown rice and enjoy an easy dinner. Just make sure everything is bite-sized and no round so baby can choke.
  • Ravioli: Make your favorite frozen ravioli (or make your own if you can) and your favorite sauce. You may want to cut the noodles in half if they are big, but another easy but big hit dinner.
  • Barley Vegetable Soup: Check out my recipes here. Like I said, soup is usually a big hit and easy to make.
  • Lasagna: Easy to make and very versatile. Meat or all veggies. Cheese or no cheese. Red or white sauce. And fun for baby to take apart and eat.
  • Chili and Corn Bread: Throw beans, spices, tomato paste and water into a slow-cooker in the morning. Make some corn bread in the afternoon. Easy and fun to eat.
  • Tamales: I suck at making tamales (see here), I opt to buy them fresh if I can. But they are small enough to pick up, but big enough to bite into easily. And a variety of filings for a fun surprise for baby.

I hope this helps you and your baby on your own baby-led weaning journey! Feel free to comment with your own suggestions as well, I’m always looking for new toddler food ideas!

Here are a few more suggestions as well:

So That’s Why My Nipples Are On Fire….

In my Night Weaning post, I said I would explain why I had so much nipple pain in a later post. First of all, no, I’m not pregnant (sorry family and friends who thought that). Nipple pain and even nursing aversion is very common during pregnancy though, but not my issue. My issue is one I’ve had my whole life and is only getting worse as I get older: Raynaud’s Phenomenon. In a nutshell, I have frequent poor circulation in my extremities. It causes my fingers, hands, feet and toes to get very cold and change color. People touch my hands all the time and go, “AH! YOU’RE FREEZING!” and I just shrug. I am so used to it that I don’t notice it that much anymore.  It can be painful as times, but mostly it’s just freaks out other people when I have blue fingers. It never dawned on me that it could effect breastfeeding.

Jack latched himself on my breast for the first time with no trouble at all, but he latched incorrectly. It was pretty painful, but I was so overwhelmed with everything I just let him suck away. The next day (and two very badly lacerated nipples) later, a lactation consultant came to my postpartum room and corrected it all. It was so much better, but at the point he injured me so bad it was still pretty painful. But I pushed on. Pumped if I needed a break but never gave up on latching him, no matter how much it hurt. My nipples healed very slowly, slow enough that my doctor was getting concerned. But they did heal and I didn’t think too much of it. My mom told me breastfeeding hurt for her and other women in my family, so I just accepted that it was my genetics.

Every once and awhile it would still hurt when Jack nursed.  I get this weird tingling/burning sensation in my breasts and my nipples turn white. But it wasn’t that bad, so I just kept ignoring it. I assumed he had a shallow latch or maybe a minor tongue tie. I joined La Leche League and got to meet other moms with nipple pain problems. Most of babies did have a tongue or lip tie, but what the moms described didn’t sound like my pain. They said it felt like a tiny clamp on their nipple. Never felt like that for me. And we had no other signs of tongue or lip tie.

As time went on, the pain would come and go. Some days it would be unbearable and then nothing for days. Still didn’t think too much of it. Then one day my friend post a link on Facebook called “That Latch Looks Great! Really?!?! Tell That To My Burning Nipples!”  from the Milk Meg. And there it was, number seven on the list of causes common nipple pain:

“Raynaud’s Syndrome! This is when a woman will experience vasospasm in her nipple. Women will actually notice their nipples turning from white to blue or red. This will happen immediately after a breastfeed and is not helped with correcting the latch. It is related to temperature changes on the nipple after the feed and can be exacerbated when a woman has nipple damage.”

Mind blown. My nipple pain is from stupid Raynaud’s! So I did more research and my mind was blown even more. This is why it took so long for my nipples to heal when Jack first bruised them. This is why it hurt even though Jack had a wonderful latch. This why it felt like my boobs were on fire  sometimes after Jack nursed. When I was having a bad Raynaud’s day, my pain would be worse. It all made sense now. This is just a minor disorder and I wasn’t in that much pain, so I didn’t did do too much to change it. Now I try to keep warm, stay relaxed, and apply nipple ointment after nursing if possible. It was just nice to know the reason why it hurts.

Then we moved to Oregon, which was very stressful. We had to help Jack settled in to his new routine, which was stressful. And the temperature kept going from cold to hot when we first arrived, making it hard for me to figure how to stay the right temperate. Also, Jack went through a big mental leap and growth spurt during this time. He needed lots of milk and wasn’t sleeping well. No sleep+too cold+stress+constant nursing= nipple pain city! It’s worse at night because of not sleeping well. No problems during the day, he could be latched all day and I wouldn’t mind. But at night my hands are like icicles and I want to cry when Jack is done nursing.  Things are settling down so it’s getting better. And the night weaning is also going well and hasn’t been too stressful on anyone. Overall, I am glad I know what’s causing my pain and what I can do it make it better.

I want to share this story to encourage other moms to not just ignore nipple pain. Of course check your baby’s latch first, it’s fairly common culprit. If that isn’t the issue, then consider an underlying condition. Breastfeeding should be comfortable for both you and the baby. Just because you heard that magic phrase, “That latch is perfect!” doesn’t mean you should ignore pain. I am lucky that my condition is minor and I can get through it. If you are in a lot of pain and struggling, don’t just brush it off. Talk to Le Leche League, talk to a lactation consultant,  or even talk to a doctor. You can figure it out and get through it! You just need some help and understanding.

Resources:

Vasospasm and Raynaud’s Phenomenon, BreastFeeding Inc.

Raynaud’s Phenomenon Of The Nipple: A Treatable Cause of Painful Breastfeeding, American Academy Of Pediatrics

Seeking Relief, La Leche League

Why I’m Night Weaning My Toddler

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I’ve already posted about all the initial struggles with breastfeeding. How I just set in my mind I was going to breastfeed and pushed through all the it all. As of this post, we have made it 14 months of nursing on demand. Whenever and wherever, I tried my hardest to give my baby milk whenever he asked. This meant learning to walk while nursing a carrier, waking up several times a night and  pumping when I was away. It was not easy, it was a seriously commit it. But I wouldn’t change it for the word. It’s created a strong and secure bond between my son and me.  He looks at me with such love and joy when he nurses—even when he was newborn. One day he will grow up and leave me, but I will always have those memories.

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Wouldn’t go back and change this for the world!

No regrets about my sleepless nights (and if you read my sleep regression posts, there were A LOT of them). I understood that having a baby meant his need come before mine most of the time. I knew it was only temporary. One day he would no longer want to suckle all night in my arms. One day he will have his own bed and I could sleep a solid 8 hours again. I just needed to get through it with love and understanding. There were nights were I cried out of frustration. There were nights my husband had to take over because I was reaching a breaking point. There were many days I just had to power through and smile despite exhaustion.  But I did it, I survived. I did everything I could to help my son sleep the best and get the best nutrition for the first 14 months of his life.

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This is a tired, unhappy mama.

However, the reason I am writing this post is because I came to a realization. In La Leche League, breastfeeding is described as a mutual relationship between a mother and baby. Mutual as in your are both agree to the terms and are happy with the process. I am no longer happy with the sleepless nights. I am ready to night wean him. This was not an easy decision. I have been talking about the idea for several months now and asking for advice. I was trying to push it off because I didn’t think Jack was ready. I follow gentle parenting, and I didn’t want to force Jack to do something he truly wasn’t ready for (physically or mentally). I talked to my husband about it, who pointed out that Jack can sleep through the most of the night—he does so about once a week on a good week. Then I realized the days after he does, I am so much happier. I take him places to have fun. I have more patience for his almost daily toddler meltdowns over nothing. I even take time to do things for myself like work on my blog or take relaxing bath.

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This is mom I like to be. The mom Jack deserves.

Then I began to think about the phrase “Ain’t no body’s happy if mama ain’t happy.” And realized I needed to think about my self this time.  So I talked to myself about what I needed to be happy. It was simple, sleep. I was exhausted from not getting consistent sleep first of all. But I also confessed something else to myself, I was in pain. Night nursing was becoming very painful (I will address why in a later post). I had just been ignoring it, but it was starting to make me resentful of son at night. My nipples would be on fire after he nursed, so much that I was automatically not offering him my breast when he first stirred from sleep. I will think, “Please don’t want milk, please don’t want milk, anything but milk!” But then he nurses, it hurts, and I lay there for at least a half an hour waiting for the pain to go away. Then I fall back asleep for a a few hours at the most, and it starts all over again. I wake up in the morning very resentful. The last part is a fairly recent development, I never used to be resentful over it. I have no idea why the past month or so this has come up, but it has. And ignoring it is not helping anyone. I deserve to be happy. Jack deserves a happy mom who doesn’t resent him. And Michael deserves a happy wife.  It’s time for mama and everyone to be happy.

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He loves his milkies, he is not giving them up easily (and I don’t want him fully to either!)

So I Googled and looked up on Pinterest “Night Weaning”. I found stuff like “How to night wean in 3 nights!” and “Night Weaning Made Easy!”. They all seemed too good to be true. And most were. One mom seriously advocated for shutting the bedroom door and letting them cry-it-out no matter what (including if they vomit out of stress). Not this family’s style. One said she just told her toddler no more milk at night and that was that! Yeah, Jack would never go for that (I even asked him if he could be a big boy and not have milk at night, he gave me a dirty look). One said just drop a feeding each night for a week and that’s it!  Others did things like don’t readily offer your breast, drop feedings one-by-one every two weeks, and have dad do all the comforting until the baby no longer wakes up. All those sound good, but I know my son, he won’t take to that much change so quickly.

I also talked to my previous La Leche League group from the Bay Area online and attending my local group’s meetings They offered various anecdotal advice like trying a pacifier or a bottle of water instead. The leaders suggested I try to figure out why he is waking up—like he is hungry, thirsty, having bad dreams, teething, or too cold/hot. If I solved that issue, then maybe he would sleep through the night. They also said I should ask myself if I truly think it’s the best decision for my family and to make sure I am not giving into societal pressure. I thought long a hard about that—like a whole month long. After one night where Jack woke up 10 times (yes, 10!) and he was a major grouch the next day, I knew we all needed better quality sleep.

"This was taken at 3 AM, the 7th wake-up of the night"
“This was taken at 3 AM, the 7th wake-up of the night”

Once I established that we needed more quality sleep, I came up with a reasonable and gentle way to get it. I do not want to fully wean him, like I said I have no problems with nursing during the day. Jack needs to learn how to put himself back to sleep without nursing. I decided to put all the advice I received into a plan according to what made sense to me. I knew he would not tolerate being cut off cold turkey. But I could start by nursing him to sleepy, then unlatching him and rubbing his back until he falls asleep. Once he okay with that, I could try dropping one feeding. So the first time he wakes up at night, rubbing his back to sleep again. Next dropping another feeding in the same way. Then another feeding. And so on. Eventually we get to no milk until the sun rises the next morning. He understands what I said for the most part now, so I will say phrases like “Night night time” and “the sleepies soon”. I will give him clear instructions so he knows what will happen, “You can have some milk, then it we will lay down together and relax. I will rub your back until you go to sleep.” Most importantly, I will explain everything to him. This is a big change, he deserves to know what is going on and why we are doing it. I will also try to ask him what he needs if he can’t go back to sleep easily. Like are you hungry or thirsty? Maybe he needs milk for another reason like the Le Leche League leaders suggested.

Michael giving Jack kisses to  and snuggles before bed.
Michael giving Jack kisses to and snuggles before bed.

We are on night five of this plan. It’s too early to give a fair assessment, I will update more later. However, I will offer some resources we are using to help the whole family adjust through this process.

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  • Nursies When the Sun Shines— A children’s book that explains how they get to nurse when the sun is shining, but get snuggles and love at night. That way they learn with visuals in a calm, happy setting. I read it to Jack before we go to bed.
  • Sweet Sleep— An awesome book from La Leche League that explains the science behind baby sleep, as well as how to work with your family’s natural tendencies to help everyone sleep well.
  • Nighttime Parenting: How To Get Your Baby and Child To Sleep— Dr. Sear’s in-depth explanation of how attachment parenting helps create a secure, loving environment that encourages good sleep.
  • No-Cry Sleep Solution— I talked about this book more in my 9 Month Sleep Regression post, and it’s still helping now. I got the idea of making a concrete plan from this book. It also has many suggestions on how to end the suck-to-sleep association. And when it is reasonable to night wean.
  • Essential Oils—I have been using some calming oils to help Jack relax when he gets overtired and to help me calm when I get frustrated. Do some research, they work!

 

Lactation Cookies For Everybody

Check out my other blog Vegan Babymama for the story behind why I made those cookies. And two things before I get to the recipe. First, I know it says cookies but I made bars. When you have a 4 month old baby, you don’t have time to be scooping out dough and baking one batch at a time. So I spread all the dough out into a pan quickly and pop it in the oven on a cooking timer so the oven would shut off when it’s done. That way I could nurse Jack and not worry about anything burning. But if you have the time, these do make wonderful cookies, so by all means scoop away. Second, these cookies are not just for nursing moms. They will not make you lactate if you aren’t already. I’m referring the men who reading this, seriously? You don’t have functioning mammary glands! They are normal ingredients and the cookies taste great. My husband as stolen a few cookies and loves them. But if you lactating, some of these ingredients are lactrogenic, meaning they have been known to increase your milk supply. The oatmeal, flax seed, brewer’s yeast, walnuts, and whole wheat flour in this recipe are all lactrogenic.

This recipe is based on these two recipes I found on Pinterest: Lactation Cookie Bars and Lactation Cookies for Nursing Moms.
Lactation Cookies
1 cup vegan butter (I used Earth Balance)
1.5 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup ground flax seed
1 cup hot water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups rolled oats
2 heaping tbs brewer’s yeast
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (make sure they are dairy-free)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
Pre-heat the oven to 350 and spray a baking pan with cooking spray. I used a 9 x 9 ceramic.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
In a small bowl, add the ground flax seed and hot water. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
Add the flax seed mixture to the butter mixture. Mix well (though it will be very sloppy).
Add the flour, rolled oats, brewer’s yeast and baking soda the bowl. Mix well.
Stir in the chocolate chips and salt.
Stir in the coconut and walnuts, if using.

Spread evenly into the baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Note to self: Take pic before you take a piece,
despite how amazing it smells.
These cookies really are for everyone. Don’t let the title scare you away. They are high in fiber and contains good fats. Plus they are very tasty. I really suggest either the coconut or walnuts, or both! And this is a wonderful treat for nursing momma. You earned it, taking care of a baby is hard!

Tofu and Broccoli

I need to say a giant apology for not posting for over a month. I promise I have very good excuse. At the beginning of August I found out I am pregnant! And then a few days later Michael proposed! And we are getting married next weekend in Las Vegas! Told you I had a good excuse.

I am so happy and excited to marry the man I love and start a family with him. But this past month has not been easy. I lost my job, which is probably for the best. It was not a good fit for me and I am not sure how much longer I could have worked due to horrible morning sickness. And do you know how much fun planning a wedding is when you are beyond exhausted all the time? Not at all.  I am so grateful for all love and support from my family and friends. Especially my mom, I could not do this all without you!

I will talk more wedding and baby stuff in later posts…

So, remember that morning sickness I mentioned? Yeah, that phrase is a total misnomer. I have felt nauseous all day and night. Not fun.  Even when I am hungry, my stomach magically cannot hold much food at once. And foods I once loved, I cannot even stand the thought of now. So, as you can imagine I have not done too much cooking lately. However, yesterday I was actually hungry for lunch. So I made up this tasty dish.

I used broccolini, but feel free to us broccoli if you cannot find it. Broccolini is hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli, giving it longer stalks and slightly sweeter flavor. It is high in vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, folate and iron. I love broccolini because the stalks get tender and have an almost asparagus-like flavor.

This recipe makes two servings.

Tofu and Broccoli 
1 block of extra firm tofu, frozen and drained, then cubed
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
1 tps red pepper flakes
1 tps grated ginger
Olive oil
1/2 small white onion, cut into thin strips
1 clove of garlic
1 small head of broccolini (broccoli is fine too), cut into bit-sized pieces
Teriyaki sauce

Check out my previous post about how to freeze and drain tofu.

Cube the tofu and add to small bowl.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, red pepper flakes, and ginger. Toss together to coat the tofu and let it marinade for at least one hour.

Once the tofu is ready,  heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.

Add the chopped onions and cook until soften.

Add the garlic, broccolini pieces, and the tofu with the marinade. Cook until the broccolini is softened and the tofu is slightly golden.

Top with some teriyaki sauce before serving.

I had this over brown rice, but noodles would be delicious too. Simple and high in vitamin C, folate, and iron—all the things a growing baby (and mommy) need.