Decorating pumpkins with a toddler (plus home made glue recipe)

18 10 2013

I love Halloween, of all the American holidays it is my favourite… I feel like I should say Thanksgiving, or 4th of July, but Halloween is just awesome. And I like it a lot.

I’ve always wanted to decorate the house, but being busy with work and on a student budget made me put it low in th priority list. But this year, Ignacio will be almost two and a half years and I want him to learn to appreciate the seasons and enjoy the holidays, so I am making an effort for getting into the spirit before the 30th.

Last week we made some plaster decorations, you can see the how to in my art blog. Be warned, anything I post that I do with my toddler looks like something that you do with a toddler, do not expect something beautifully airbrushed with a soft light background. It will not be Pinterest worthy. This week I decided it was time to decorate the pumpkin Ignacio and Greg bought, yesterday was rainy and I wanted to try the glue I had made a couple of days before, so I cut some leaf shapes in construction paper and we sat down to enjoy a laid back activity.


For the home made glue you will need:

Wheat flour 1 cup

Water 1 1/2 cup

Vinegar 1 teaspoon

In a saucepan mix the flour with a bit of water until it’s smooth, then add the rest of the water. Boil and when it starts thickening remove from the fire and add the vinegar as preservative. You can keep this in the fridge. It is great for toddlers because there is nothing that could harm them if they decide to start eating it, it is good for the environment because it implies no toxic processing nor packaging, and it is good for your pocket because you get a load of glue for pennies.


You will also need colored paper, we chose yellow, orange, red, purple and a bit of green to cut fall leaves, you could use anything you want. Some ideas: bats and cats in black paper, a moon and ghosts in white, cut shapes from magazines. Besides that you will need some brushes to spread the glue. I like to put the glue on the paper, but I found that for Ignacio it worked better if we applied it on the pumpkin and pressed the leaves to it.


The glue might show through at the beginning, but as it dries your work will look tidier. That is it! Have fun with your kids with this simple activity!


Nursing Ignacio: My battle with breastfeeding III

4 02 2013

This is the third part of my breast feeding story. You can find the first and second part here and here.



I am a scientist, and as my friend Julia would put it “You can take the scientist out of the lab, but you cannot take the lab out of the scientist”, so it was a given for me that I needed to keep track of my progress one way or another to see if what I was doing was working at all. I did record painstakingly how much formula Ignacio was taking, how much breast milk I was expressing and giving him, and how many minutes he was staying at the breast. Each time he fed I recorded everything I could. I then graphed all those variables, made tables, analyzed them statistically, but the data seemed confusing and chaotic. Babies do not feed exactly the same amount at each feeding and the bars were going up and down with no much visible reason. I tried to find a pattern, so I logged each feeding, then grouped the data in days and graphed each day, and finally I did the same per week, averaging the data for seven days, so I would get an idea of how much supplement (breast milk plus formula) he was taking per day for each week. That was the grouping I needed to see a trend. Having a daily average of formula consumption per week gave me a clear look at how things were evolving. Once I saw that the trend was that we were using less and less formula, some very heavy weight disappeared from my heart, I was joyful for the time being, my efforts were working! The most encouraging thing for me was to read about how it gets to a point in which babies arrest their increase in milk consumption, so if I could work things out little by little, I might be able to exclusively breast feed (EBF) my baby at last.

I kept working in this fashion. I was a little more relaxed about going out, but not much, I was reluctant about using the NSS out of the house because Ignacio did not like it and he would fight me a bit and disrobe me, and I felt terrible each time I’d give him a bottle, because I felt I was sabotaging myself. As time progressed things seemed to be going on better, but there was always that need for supplementing with formula, which was driving me crazy. My husband would tell me “It’s OK if you don’t get 100% production, we are using just a small amount of formula, you are doing a great job!”. But I just kept thinking of all those adoptive moms, and how many did reach full production.

Accidentally I found the right position for my child to latch and nurse happily.

Accidentally I found the right position for my child to latch and nurse happily.

I remember one particular night, it was so crazy hot that the AC just would not keep the house cool, so we moved the bassinet to the living room for Ignacio to be more comfortable. We also went to the living room because our bedroom was an oven, and at about 5 AM Ignacio woke (once more!) to feed. Greg went to the kitchen to prepare a bottle and I snuggled Ignacio against me to keep him happier in the meanwhile, and to my surprise, as I was laying on my side he started to nurse from my breast! Alone! No NSS. He nursed, and nursed, and nursed, and I could have cried of joy. When he was done I offered the other breast and he took it, and he was happy and needed no more milk! I was ecstatic.

The next day I emailed Nancy and she called me to ask questions, she suggested that I use the same position during the day for some time, and then we could work on getting him to nurse in more comfortable ways. So I did. Each time I would pick him up and lay in bed on my side and bring him to my breast. He actually did nurse like that, sometimes from one breast, sometimes from two, and when he needed I would go and bring a Lact-Aid bag for him and keep nursing with expressed milk. Nursing in this position was challenging, I was laying a lot of total hours by the end of the day and my hips and shoulders were sore, but it was working. A week or week and a half later I tried to nurse him sitting up and it worked! I was so happy!

Sometime there I did hit the three months mark, but I felt I was so close, and Nancy had so much faith in me, that it felt wrong to give up just then. In between all this progress, I remember one particular terrible day, I could not express *any* milk, I thought I was doomed again and that was the end of it. Ignacio was terribly fussy and I needed to give him a lot of formula… and the next day I got my period. I learned from experience that the day before and the first day of your period, your milk supply dips, but it goes up again… and your child gets crabby! He actually was PMSing!
From then on everything went smoother, Ignacio was happier without all the tubing and me too, and I found that I needed to supplement so little that I didn’t worry before hand to prepare anything for the day, just the few days he would need something I would go ahead and prepare some formula. Until one day I noticed that I had not prepared anything for a week. And then two weeks, and that was it! Going a bit into the fifth month, I was EBF my baby!

Yay mom, we made it!!!

Yay mom, we made it!!!

You have no idea the sentiment of achievement this brought to me, and it still does. It was a lot of work and it was a lot of sorrow, it was tiring, challenging and more than once I just wanted to give up. But I didn’t, and it is till the day of today that I feel proud of myself because of that as I’ve never felt before. It would have been so easy to give up, a lot of people justified it for me saying that I had given it a honest good try and that it was OK not to nurse, but I just couldn’t be in peace with that.

Ignacio nursed for 15 months,  I am satisfied about how things turned out for us. It was not all rosy, some days I was rolling my eyes at having to sit with him for an hour while he nursed, some days I just was tired of waking up through the night to nurse him (believe me, he was a challenge for a long time at night!) and some days I just was not too happy of having to nurse him every hour and a half. But those days I reminded myself of how much I actually had fought for it, and I was happy because when everything seemed lost I could prevail over self doubt and hardship and I could give my son the best I had, my own milk.



Breastfeeding can be very hard. There is a lot I did wrong:

I did not educate myself enough about breastfeeding before having a baby. I trusted “I would know what to do”.
I did not wait a little longer before introducing formula.
I stopped pumping following advice that was not valid. If I would have been more educated I would have taken the option of not listening.
I did not use a NSS, instead I used a bottle, which was a very bad idea.
I waited too long to get help. I should have called a LC before Ignacio stopped nursing all together.

This is what helped me succeed:

Excellent support system. Without my husband, my mom, mother in law and sister, who took over tasks for me to pump, I could not have done it.
I read a great book full of practical advice.
I had an excellent lactation consultant that cared and worried about me and my baby.
I pumped 8-10 times a day.
I went to the Pittsburgh Breastfeeding Center
I used a NSS, which kept the baby at my breast for longer.
I did not give up.

Supplementation graphic starting at two months of life, when I introduced the NSS. I lied to myself, I kept pushing for EBF after the third month.

Supplementation graphic starting at two months of life, when I introduced the NSS. I lied to myself, I couldn’t give up at month three.

I am expecting my second child now, and of course I am a little anxious about breastfeeding, given that it was so hard with Ignacio. However, this time I have experience and resources, and I know where to go for help as soon as I see things are not improving.

I hope this very long story helps someone out there, I hope you do not feel judged if you decided to go for formula, if you found it too challenging, did not have the support you needed, or if you just did not want to deal with it. But if you do want to nurse and are facing trouble, I hope this will help a little bit. And if you feel like, you can drop me a line, I will be more than happy to explain further and to go deeper on anything you want.

Nursing Ignacio: My battle with breastfeeding II

1 02 2013

This is the second part of my breast feeding story. You can find the first part here. Third part here.


The darkest days

I could see that my efforts were not good enough, I was trying what was advised, but it was not working. I realized this, but an insane voice in me kept saying “You just keep trying, you can’t give up, it will work”. When Ignacio was four weeks old he stopped nursing all together. He would open his mouth and cry batting at my chest. I cried too. My husband hugged me and told me it was going to be all right, he was healthy after all. But I just couldn’t give up hope thinking that it was not going to work, at the same time that I could see it was just not working anymore.

I decided to call the breast feeding helpline, where a nice woman told me it was going to be hard, and to keep trying. It didn’t really help. I called again the next day, talked to another woman, not nice at all, who told me that if it was up to her, she would just ban all bottles and burn them, and that my baby was just too old to do anything about it, he was never going to nurse again. I hung up and cried. I am not the crying type, so me crying two days in a row for the same problem was a bad sign. By then my mom was not with us anymore and my mother in law was taking her place, helping as much as she could and trying to comfort me too. I remember her telling me “I would have already given up”, not in a “you should give up, it is useless” way but more in a “you go girl!” way.

At one month, his formula intake was more than breastmilk. So disheartening!

At one month, his formula intake was more than breast milk. So disheartening!

I remember complaining about my problems in DeviantArt, where I have an art account, and one of the artists, Ania, now one of my dearest friends, suggested me to call her mother in law, Nancy Mohrbacher, who is a great Lactation Consultant (LC). Little I knew back then that this woman is THE LC, and she not only has a lot of experience, but she is the woman to whom LC go to for advice and learning. Ania also suggested me to buy Nancy’s book: Breastfeeding made Simple. I do not think I can recommend that book enough, but I’ll talk about it another time. I called her, we started email communication and she suggested to pump in a different way: instead of doing it every so many hours, do it whenever you can, even if it means every 30-45 minutes, at least eight to ten times a day, because that is how babies nurse. Eight to ten times a day!!! Holy tasks, Batman! But I set to do it, and this is where my mother in law’s help was invaluable, she took care of Ignacio, feeding him, diapering him, while I would sit at the pump. I started reading Breastfeeding Made Simple while pumping, to maximize the amount of things I was doing.

I remember going to Ignacio’s regular pediatrician check ups and the doctor asking me if he was BF or formula fed. I explained her about how I was struggling and I was trying to get breastfeeding to work, how much I was working to get things straight and how I was determined to get it done. As we were leaving she suggested “It is OK to pump, just don’t do it too much, don’t exhaust yourself”. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I walked out of her office seriously considering changing practices. I know she probably was thinking of my well being, and in theory she is very pro-breast feeding, but I about had it by then with her mal-advice and wanted someone who not necessarily would cheer for me, but that would not nicely giving her opinion against of what I was working so hard to achieve. I now have a terrific pediatrician whom I just ignore when he suggests something I am not willing to do.

I gave myself three months to fix all this mess. I felt horrible giving myself a time limit, I felt I was putting a time frame to give up on my baby, but from a child development standpoint three months was the most I wanted to keep my baby inside, not enjoying the outdoors as much as I really wanted him to. My whole life revolved around pumping to increase my milk supply, so going out was not much of an option.

I tried everything they suggested me to try, except domperidone because it is illegal in US. I tried fenugreek, which I think might have helped a bit, except Ignacio’s bum became covered in bleeding sores almost immediately each time I started taking it. I ate oatmeal several times a day, I drank malt every day twice a day and I drank 3L+ of water. Nothing worked for me. Being honest, if someone would have told me that I needed to dance naked under the full moon at midnight, I would have done it gladly.


A new hope

As I started pumping, Nancy, who is extremely passionate about breast feeding and she really gets into helping moms, did a great job at giving me hope. She told me of babies that are given in adoption at 12 weeks that do nurse from their new mothers; she told me of babies being hardwired to nurse, and she told me that Ignacio was not too old to nurse again, it was going to be a lot of work, but I was willing to do it. Hope, my readers, changed everything for me. It was crucial in my wanting to put more effort into all this. She also found out we had a Breast feeding center in Pittsburgh, I needed to go see them and get hands on help. In the meanwhile tragedy hit the family, my sister in law’s fiance died unexpectedly, and my in laws had to return earlier than thought to Louisiana. My husband was not willing to leave me, but he needed to go too. Thankfully, my sister was arriving at the same time and he felt at ease so he left the day after she arrived. It was week five after delivery and I still couldn’t drive or do much because I was recovering from the C-section.

Somewhere in Breast Feeding Made Simple I read that never pregnant moms that adopt children can nurse and that gave me more hope, if they could do it, I could do it too, after all, I had all the hormones that they did not because I actually had been pregnant. Also I read about the laid back position and I decided to give it a try. Guess what… it worked! Babies are hardwired to nurse, and five weeks was not too old for bringing my baby back to the breast! Just as Nancy had said! Granted, he didn’t really nurse much, but he did nurse a bit, he took the nipple, did not fuss, did not cry of batted at me, and he just used the nipple as comfort, which I was totally fine with!

Lact-Aid nursing supplementing system, this one thing turned the tables.

Lact-Aid nursing supplementing system, this one thing turned the tables.

When my husband came back, at about week six, we went to the Breast Feeding Center, a great resource in Pittsburgh. In retrospect, I wish the LCs that I talked to before Nancy (all four of them) would have told me about it, since it would have saved us much pain, but maybe there was a conflict of interests there, who knows… The thing is that the Breastfeeding Center people did offer a lot of help. They gave me a Lact-Aid nursing supplementing system (NSS) and taught me how to use it, they showed me how to make breast feeding work better. By then Ignacio’s mouth was much bigger and his latch better, so things went smoother than before. I still had some pain, but nothing compared to how it was at birth. The wonderful thing about the NSS is that if you can keep the baby at your breast for 15 minutes, you can drop one pumping! So instead of pumping 10 times a day, I would avoid some sessions, which gave me and my husband much needed rest; we were literally obsessed, our lives turning around how many times I had pumped and when I was going to pump next. Ignacio was not crazy about the NSS, and he moved and unlatched a lot, but overall, it was working, he was actually taking milk from me and the tube, and for the most part he was not being bottle fed through the day. I did follow the advice of the LC at the Breast Feeding Center and I did bottle feed at night, to avoid all the frustration and fuss. I don’t think Nancy though it was a good idea, given that your prolactin spikes at night, but being a very professional lady, she did not say anything and respected the LC’s opinion. I did not think of all this at the beginning, I was happy to have full breasts in the morning to get a lot of milk to supplement during the day.

I had some sad and discouraging days, especially each time Ignacio would hit a growth spurt, I would see my effort being dwarfed by  his new intake requirements. Each time I would seem discouraged, Ania would contact Nancy, who would contact me to give me a pep talk, ask for precise information and give me advice. Those two women were key in those days of my life, their dedication and support were fantastic.

Nursing Ignacio: My battle with breastfeeding I

30 01 2013

I have been thinking a lot whether I should write this post, mainly because breastfeeding can be a sensitive issue and some people take it as a crusade to take sides on nursing vs. formula feeding, and some people will take it wrong no matter what I say. For months I evaded the topic, but the truth is that what I have to say might actually be helpful to some mom out there that is in a situation similar to mine, and if one woman out there finds help in my story, then I will be happy.

Let me first say though, that while I am a strong supporter of breast feeding, I do not think a mom is not a good mom for choosing formula over breast milk, we all have our own reasons to do certain things (past sexual abuse, going back to work, cultural stigma, etc.) and I am not familiar with every woman out there. And this is my story, this is what happened to me, it is not judging, it is not bashing, it is just my own private struggle.

I also decided to break this post in more than one post because it was looooong! The second part can be found here, the third part here.


Before baby:

Breastfeeding is easy, right? I mean, we are mammals, we evolved to breast feed, it has to be simple, otherwise we’d all be dead. That is why I did not worry much. I took care of informing myself about the benefits of nursing, how it would be much better for me and my baby, but when it came down to the mechanics of it… meh, it has to come as natural as eating. My OB discouraged me from taking the BF class at the hospital saying that it was rather dumb (He was right, by the way, according to what I heard from other moms) and explaining me that they had excellent consultants on site to help me through. My mom told me it was a very easy and simple thing to do and that I needed to learn nothing, it was going to come naturally to me.

I did order a book through Amazon, though, but for some odd reason the shipping got delayed over and over, and since I was really busy with all the other stuff that pregnancy brings, worrying about my baby because of a risk pregnancy, and trying to finish all the work I needed to finish before having my C-section, I rather put it off of my head deciding that “I was going to take care of buying a book later”. Later never came and I found myself not really having prepared at all before my baby’s birth.

Trying to make the football hold work. Still at the hospital. Nighty courtesy of Photoshop.

Trying to make the football hold work. Still at the hospital.
Nighty courtesy of Photoshop.


The beginning of the end.

If you follow this blog you know that Ignacio was born via C-section at week 37. While there are a lot of books and blogs saying that the fact that a baby is “small” or slightly premature does not affect breast feeding, I think that Ignacio was not ready to nurse because he was not fully ready to be born. Don’t get me wrong, his lungs, brain and circulatory system were just fine, but the fact is that his tiny little mouth could have done a lot better if he could have stayed in a little longer, plus we know that the baby triggers labor and the mom’s body gets ready to receive the baby.  His latch was not good, I called the hospital lactation consultant and we worked on the latch, but despite working on it and finally being told that it looked good, I now think his latch was still not good given the excruciating pain I felt while trying to nurse him.

Furthermore, Ignacio lost a lot of weight, within less than three days he lost 10%, now I know that C-section babies are born waterlogged, but I didn’t at the moment, and when this wonderful nurse that had done a great job so far told me that she was really worried that Ignacio was just not getting enough food, of course I worried. Now, please, do not get me wrong, this girl was just fantastic. She put in a call for the breastfeeding specialist to come back as soon as she could and in the meanwhile tried to work on Ignacio’s latch, she brought a hand pump and helped me express milk to give to Ignacio, and gave me a bottle to give him my own breast milk. She suggested to use a nursing supplementing system, but did not really demonstrate how to use it, and I was just too tired to understand much about anything. We took the easy and familiar way: bottles.

By five o’clock in the morning my then pediatrician blasted into the room telling me “Constanza, wake up! Your baby is starving!! you have to feed him!” which sent my husband and I into this adrenaline rush, she got me to sit up and try to nurse my newborn in the football hold (a preferred position for C-sections moms in the hospital) which me and my baby did not like, I tried to nurse him semi-reclining but she kept saying “Sweetheart, you need to sit up! sit up straight!”, it was just not working. I was exhausted after two nights of no sleep at all and I just wanted to go home and make all the breastfeeding work, I never imagined it was going to be so difficult!

Later the lactation consultant came and asked me what I have been doing to feed Ignacio. I told her I was expressing milk, I was first putting him to the breast, but as he kept falling asleep and doing the fluttering nursing, I would give him expressed milk in a bottle, and then, if needed, formula. She nodded approvingly and asked to keep doing that. She placed a call to my OB so he could fill a prescription for an electric pump. Since the pump was not ready for when I was released, our insurance sent us the pump home. I have to say everybody was doing their best to help me and my baby succeed, I felt taken care of at every moment, I have no complaints about that at all! So, after I arrived home I set up to feed our baby as much as possible from the breast, I would pump while my mom was bottle feeding him, I would store the milk in the fridge, I would nurse him as much as he would take, but he was just simply not much into it, he’d either fall asleep or start fussing at the breast, so I would end up giving him a bottle again. We were supplementing with breast milk and formula.

Ignacio was about a week here, so tiny! In this photo he is being fed expressed breast milk.

Ignacio was about a week here, so tiny! In this photo he is being fed expressed breast milk.

Because he lost so much weight at the hospital, the pediatrician wanted to see him the next day. Since I was just off of the C-section and I live in a 3rd storey up the stairs with no elevator, we decided that my husband was going to bring the baby to the pediatrician while I stayed put, so I did not have to move too much up and down the stairs. Ignacio showed great progress, he actually not only recouped the weight he lost but also he gained some more! My husband explained the pediatrician that I was pumping a lot and trying to get my milk production going. She answered that if I was serious about nursing long term I would do good in not pumping so much, maybe once or twice a day. I should try to just put the baby to the breast, else I might end up dealing with blackened nipples and not having enough milk in the long run. Of course this freaked me out! I wanted to nurse my dear baby so bad! So I dropped the pumping to about three or four times a day, which now I know it was a terrible mistake, but back then I was very naive about all this.

It soon became evident that my milk production was not enough, Ignacio hit a growth spurt and I saw all my improvement being nothing compared to what he now needed, so we started buying more and more formula and he started to consume more formula than breast milk. I was completely heart broken, I found that I was thinking of myself as a failing mom, while my mother was telling me it was not such a big deal and my husband kept telling me our baby was going to be OK and healthy no matter what. Intellectually I knew that, after all I was always supplemented with formula and I was passed to cow milk very early in infancy, and my husband was completely soy formula fed, we are both healthy and fit adults with PhD’s in science, so we are proof that people who are formula fed can be healthy; but I wanted to breast feed my baby so bad! I knew it was the best option for our family.

When I do use disposable diapers.

11 10 2012

I have blogged several times about cloth diapers and how much I like them. The other day I was on my Facebook account, and this CD company’s mom posted that she hates toddler poop so much that she does use disposables in the time frame that her toddler is going to poop. That was rather disappointing in a way, because you expect that the company owner, or CEO, or what have you will stick to the principle of her company. I thought to myself “hey, I am more hard core than she is!”, but the truth is that there are times when I do use disposables (unscented), just not because of toddler poop.

Ignacio has been using cloth since his umbilical stump fell, at 11 days old. Before that we used disposables, Seventh Generation, to be precise. After that he has been very much in cloth constantly, and his butt lovely and healthy. That is until we started adding solids. There are some foods that will make his bum raw, and you don’t really know until you try them, and then you need to find out how much is too much (an orange a day? after a week he developed sores!). When his butt gets raw I need to use diaper ointment. Lots of it. And if you are familiar with cloth diapers you will know by now that diaper ointment will ruin the cloth and then you will have to strip or otherwise treat your diapers.
I did try for a while to use liners I made myself, but as he kept growing and the rash required *a lot* of ointment this became non practical. Plus the liners ended up in the same pail with the diapers and then the ointment was transferring to the microfleece.  I ended up opting for using disposables at night, when he is going to be in contact with the ointment for about 12 hours, those days that he gets rashes. Now that he is older and his diet is rather well established, he does not get rashes so much because of food, but he gets rabid rashes when he is teething. There is some kind of argument from the doctors’ side that teething should not cause a rash, but many moms will tell you that when the baby is teething, the bum gets red and raw. And my baby does go through that. So those nights, he gets a lot of ointment and a disposable. If his bum looks good in the morning, he goes back to cloth for the day, and then I reevaluate at night if he should sleep in cloth or not.

Add a disposable and remove three levels of cuteness instantly!

Another instance is traveling, especially now that he is older. If I am going to be out of the house for a couple of hours, he uses cloth. If I am going to be out for the day he uses hybrids with disposable inserts. However, because I do not have many shells to use with the hybrid inserts I go to disposables when I am going to be traveling. There is a certain inconvenience about being in a hotel room and having no washer, and I do not look forward to have a wet bag full of poopy diapers in a small room. I know some families stick with the cloth during trips, and I think they are awesome. I have toyed with the idea myself, but here comes the second problem…
My baby is absolutely terrified of changing tables in public restrooms. I think this is because he associates the counter, or the table with the doctor’s office’s bed or table where they measure him and gets shots. He reacts with such a fear that I cannot change his diapers. I have tried doing it in a million different ways, but if his daddy is not there to help me I just cannot control a terrified 22 pounds toddler, and I also do not want to put him through the stress! So I cannot have him in cloth during the many hours that he has sometimes been without a diaper change. Disposable diapers are more absorbent in general and will keep him dry for longer. If I can have an extra hour or two of dry baby, I’ll take it!

So those are the instances in which I do use disposables. It is not often, it is not every day nor every week, but I do from time to time reach for a bunch of diapers that I know will end up in the landfill. The thought of it makes me very uncomfortable, but I think that if we only use disposables seldomly we are doing our part, after all, 17 months down the road we have used cloth almost every day.

And you, do you ever use disposables? If so, when?

A comment on breast milk.

20 02 2012

The original plan was this post to be about what factors to consider when using formula to feed your baby, but I feel that my last post was misunderstood by some and I would like to clarify some things.

I am sorry if my post about breastfeeding made you uncomfortable, it was never my intention to glorify breastfeeding, to make mothers that formula feed be uncomfortable of to imply that they are not good mothers. Each of the posts I write is more about data based on scientific studies than anything else, it is not about feelings, it is not about moral goodness, and I do my best for this to show through the blog. This is a blog about health and environment, and each post is aimed to those two topics.

I know how it goes when you have a new baby: your breasts are too big, the baby’s mouth too small, the nurse tells you it should not hurt, so you must be doing something wrong, which makes you feel terrible. Your baby is too sleepy and does not want to nurse, starts loosing weight (most likely because you had an IV, but most of the medical field still refuses to acknowledge this fact) and the nurse tells you to supplement.  You are sent home with some free formula “for you to supplement if you need to”, which you use because the nurses told you to, and then you have a very hard time reaching your full supply. Plus soon you hit the first growth spurt, your baby wants to feed all day, you are afraid you do not have enough milk, your nipples are in pain, you send your husband to pick up some more formula and then you really never achieve full production. Soon you have to go back to work and are so tired and still trying to breast feed the baby, but it is not working, so you just decide that bottle feeding is not that bad after all and that your baby will be fine.

And your baby will. This does not make you a bad mother at all! You do what you need to do to make things work for you and your family. Also, this does not mean that breast milk is not the best when it comes to nutrition, antibodies, osteoporosis, breast cancer, diabetes type 1 and environment. Those are just facts which have been published in scientific and medical journals. Those facts have nothing to do with feelings, with emotions and with making life work. And listing those facts so a future mother can decide what she wants to go for was my only intention when I wrote about breast milk being the best.

I had a very hard time when breast feeding my baby, and I might write about that some day so other struggling mothers realize that they are not alone and maybe I can share what I did to make it work. I know it is hard, and I know that had I chosen to bottle feed my baby when it seemed the only option I would not be a bad mother, just a mother making things work for the three of us.

Breastmilk: what could be more natural than that?

13 02 2012

One of the many choices you are faced to when you are pregnant is what to feed your infant: formula of breast milk? And being informed to make that decision is fundamental. After reading some about it, you will probably come to the conclusion that breast milk is really the better choice under any category you want to analyze it.

Breast milk is the best for your baby’s health.

Breast milk has everything your baby needs, it contains the right proportion of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. In the same way that cow’s milk is just perfect for her calf, a mother’s milk is perfect for her baby. Formula companies have refined the recipe to a point that a formula fed baby is healthy enough, but formula is derived from cow’s milk or soy and does not have everything a baby needs, most importantly it does not have the antibodies that the mother transfers through her milk. Unlike formula, breast milk is never contaminated (except if the mother has a disease such as AIDS, but in most other diseases a mother can still breast feed) and it is not dangerous for the child. If the mother is sick, it is unlikely that the virus of bacteria will be transmitted through the milk, but the antibodies that she has generated will, protecting her child from becoming sick.

Research shows that breastfed babies have less chances of developing diabetes type 1, which is unrelated to diet and lifestyle (so detractors cannot attribute this to healthy habits that the mother teaches), also a reduced risk of SIDS, lower chances of orthodontics problems which are related to bottle feeding, a correct development of tongue and jaw muscles that leads to less speech problems as the child grows, and less chances of stomach ulcers as adults. And these are just some of the benefits!

Breast milk is the best for the mother’s health.

The longer a woman breast feeds along her life (for her different children) the less chances she has of developing breast cancer. A breast feeding mother will, contrary to what might be thought, have a higher bone density and be protected against osteoporosis, compared to a non breast feeding mother. Besides this, breast feeding and skin to skin contact both release “feel good” hormones which can help fight or avoid postpartum depression. Additionally, some hormones released while breast feeding fight stress, helping the mother to relax… and let’s face it, any new mother needs some relaxing times!

Breast milk is the best for the environment.

There is no manufacturing, no polluting techniques, no packaging to dispose of in the landfill. Need I say more?

Breast milk is the cheapest.

It’s free!! 😀 You do not have to go buy it, your body makes it. Yes, you need to eat to produce it, but you would be eating anyway. While breast milk takes about an extra 500 Kcal. to be made, there is no evidence supporting that you need to eat more to make it. Research shows that for milk production to be compromised, a woman has to be in starving conditions, so while I personally would not diet while breast feeding I see no problem with limiting your calorie intake. Plus think of all those calories being burned to produce milk as a way to manage your post pregnancy weight!

Breast milk is the most convenient.

Yes, I know, we’ve all heard about how awesome is that dad gives baby a bottle in the middle of the night. I call shenanigans on that! Let me tell you what: been there, done that… and I would breast feed for convenience any day! Breast milk is already made in you, it is at the right temperature and requires no cleaning. When Ignacio was bottle fed I remember having to get up in the middle of the night, get the formula out of the fridge, which I had prepared before going to bed, warm it up making sure it was not too hot for him, then in the morning clean all the bottles and nipples… added to everything else I was going through as a new mom, it was exhausting!

Also, need to go out? Your diaper bag is so simple to pack! No need to prepare bottles, nor put them in heat isolating bags, no need to clean afterwards. Your breast milk will be there for your baby at any time, as many times as you need! My diaper bag is one pocket in my purse in which I put the diapers and wipes. That’s about it, and I love it that way!

So, while ultimately it will be each mother’s decision what to feed her baby, and that will greatly depend on what works for her family (breast feeding long term can be challenging if you need to go back to work too soon!) it is important that every woman and her partner knows the facts about breast milk. There is heavy advertising by formula companies that aims to make people believe that it is the same (or even better! *shudders*) to give formula or breast milk to a baby. It is not. It is important that a mother is informed so she can make the right choice based on facts.

Do you have any insight you would like to share? Please, leave a comment, I would love to read!


La Leche League International.

Breastfeeding Made Simple. 2010. Kendall-Tacket and Morbacher

Mayo Clinic.

American Academy of Pediatricians.