Tag Archives: parenting

Adventures in Breastfeeding: Resources for Nursing Mamas

I nursed my daughter for 13 months, and it was both one of the most amazing and one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Breastfeeding was really hard for me in the beginning; so hard that I would cry over the phone to my dad (yes, it was so bad that I cried about breastfeeding to my father). For the first four months, my nursing experience read like a “troubles in breastfeeding” book. I had oversupply issues, near constant plugged ducts, severe pain, thrush, you name it. The lactation consultants at my daughter’s pediatrician were at a complete loss. The positioning was good, her suck reflex was fine, everything should have been textbook. But instead, I was reduced to tears nearly every time I nursed.

I tried everything that was suggested to me (hot compresses, cold compresses, Soothies, special supplements), and I spent what felt like endless hours at the computer searching for some thread of hope and direction. My daughter even ended up having a frenotomy (a procedure where they clip the little bit of connective tissue under the tongue) to correct her mild tongue tie in the hopes that that would alleviate some of our troubles, but it didn’t help. And then around month four, it just started getting better. I can’t even really say what it was that did the trick (I was trying so many things at once), but the point is it got better.

I am so thankful that I hung in there because, when it was no longer making me cringe in pain, nursing was great! I finally got it. I looked forward to those times with my daughter, and I will never forget the feeling of looking down at her and having her smile back up at me. When I finished weaning, it was bittersweet—I was glad to have some freedom back, but I still miss those quiet times with just the two of us. Now, I’m not saying what anyone else should or should not do—I think every mama needs to make the choice that is best for her and her baby—but if you are committed to breastfeeding, here are some resources and tips I’ve gathered along the way:

  • Join a breastfeeding support group if you can (your hospital should have a list of groups for you). I think the encouragement and support I received there were, on some days, the difference between quitting and sticking with it.
  • Find a pediatrician with lactation consultants on staff. Who knows if you will even need to use them but better to have easy access to the help if you need it.
  • If you are experiencing plugged ducts, I feel your pain, quite literally. Try soaking in warm water and massaging in a firm, circular motion. Also, get the NUK Breast Therapy Warm or Cool Relief Packs. You can microwave them for warmth before nursing to help with the plug, and then you can use the cool function for pain relief afterward. Finally, talk to your doctor about taking lecithin supplements. I took lecithin three times a day, and it really, really helped. But again, talk to your doctor first.
  • Try lots of different nursing positions to see what works best for you, and keep trying them. Doing this can also help relieve nipple pain because different positions apply pressure differently. Nursing seemed to get better for me when my daughter was old enough to nurse sitting up rather than in the cross-cradle position on the Boppy.
  • Check out these online resources:  kellymom, Breastfeeding.com, Ask Dr. Sears, La Leche League, and Dr. Jack Newman’s Breastfeeding Inc. I used kellymom ALL the time—there is so much helpful information there.
  • In addition to Breastfeeding Inc., Dr. Newman also created an All Purpose Nipple Ointment that is amazing!! You have to get a prescription from your OB or your lactation consultant, and you have to have it filled at a compounding pharmacy, but it is worth it!


Note: I am neither a physician nor a certified lactation consultant, just a mom with 13 months of hard-earned breastfeeding under my belt. These tips and suggestions are based on my own experiences, but you should always consult your doctor and/or your child’s pediatrician before starting anything new.

Kid-Proof Your iPad

Hope everyone had a lovely holiday and spent loads of time with family and friends. My little family traveled all over the state of Virginia visiting our nearest and dearest and even managed to squeeze in a night at Busch Gardens’ Christmas Town (totally worth it, if you’ve never been—we had a great time!).

This year, my husband and I decided to buy an iPad 2 as our gift to each other, which we did back before Thanksgiving. Our daughter has quickly taken to it and waits expectantly for us to pull it out when we plop her into the grocery cart so she can play with Grover. So when we opened this next Christmas present, I knew immediately that it was going on the blog for sheer brilliance alone.

The Gripcase for iPad 2 is designed to withstand even the most rambunctious toddler. Made of shock absorbent EVA foam (think the soles of your running shoes), the shape of the Gripcase protects your precious iPad no matter how it’s dropped (trust me, I already speak from experience). The handles on all four sides are easy for small little hands to hold onto and carry, which will no longer make you cringe or hold your breath. And at only $39.99, it’s definitely worth the investment!



Teach Compassion This Holiday Season

For as far back as I can remember, my family has made giving back part of our holiday tradition, even if all we could afford to give some years was our time. My parents didn’t just tell me that it was important to give to those less fortunate, they showed me. My entire family volunteered to ring the bell for the Salvation Army each Christmas; we painted our elderly neighbor’s house; I helped deliver Meals on Wheels with my grandma; I served meals at the soup kitchen downtown and visited the nursing home to sing (yes, sing, this probably wasn’t so charitable) Christmas carols to the residents.

Having a daughter of my own now, I  want to provide for her in every way that I can so that she never wants for anything. But I also want her to learn compassion for others and the importance of giving back. I want her to understand just how fortunate she is and fully appreciate everything that she has. The holidays are a perfect time to teach our children about empathy and charity. Here are some great organizations that can help you get started:

Toys for Tots  The Marine Corps Toys for Tots Foundation has been collecting and delivering toys to needy children since 1947. Take your little one shopping so he can pick out a toy for another child who isn’t as fortunate, and take the opportunity to explain why it’s important and what that toy might mean to that other little boy or girl. Visit www.toysfortots.org to find a drop-off location near you.

Share Our Strength®  Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is working to end childhood hunger in America. Each dollar you donate provides up to 10 meals for a hungry child, and your donation will be matched dollar for dollar through December 31st! Visit www.shareourstrength.org to learn how you can double your gift.

SHARE (Self-Help and Resource Exchange)  The SHARE Food Network helps families make the most of their food budget by putting together nutritious groceries at an affordable price. You can get involved by donating your time as a volunteer or purchasing healthy food for a family in need. My neighborhood actually has a SHARE program where we can purchase a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal for a family in need in our area. It’s great to know that our donation is going to help another Burke Centre family. If you’re in the Washington, D.C. area, visit www.sharedc.org for details. Otherwise, you can Google SHARE in your area to find a network near you.

Photo courtesy The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army  Donating to The Salvation Army can be as simple as dropping your change into one of the thousands of red kettles nationwide, volunteering your time as a bell ringer, or selecting a child in need from the Angel Giving Tree. I always loved selecting angels from the tree, shopping for the things on their wish list, and imagining the looks on their faces when they opened their gifts! Allowing your child to select an angel their same age and gender can help them learn empathy, since they can more closely relate to their angel. Visit www.salvationarmyusa.org for more information.

If you’re still looking for some other way to give back, try www.volunteermatch.org. This web site provides resources to help match volunteers with civic opportunities in their area.

FOMO Like a Mo Fo

Until I picked up my December issue of Self magazine, I had never heard of the term FOMO (or “Fear of Missing Out”).  I decided to do a little research and came across this article from The NY Times. The author describes FOMO as the “blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media.” I don’t know about you, but I suffer from FOMO like a Mo Fo.

It’s what causes me to launch myself cat-like across a room when I see the red light start blinking on my BlackBerry. I’m afraid it’s a work-related e-mail and that someone else might respond a nanosecond faster than I can and they’ll look super smart while I’ll look like a slacker, and my boss will never give me a raise again because I didn’t hit send fast enough. (I have a very love/hate relationship with my BlackBerry.)

But it’s not just with work. When I see my SAHM friends doing adorable things with their kiddos during the day while I’m stuck in the office, it not only makes me feel left out, it makes me feel like a terrible mother. It’s the feeling of inadequacy that often accompanies FOMO that I think is the hardest part for me. I am always wondering if we’re doing okay financially, if I’m doing a good job raising my daughter, if we are making all of the right decisions for our family. The worrying is endless—and I’m a worrier by nature. And with a steady stream of pictures and status updates coming from Facebook, it’s even easier to compare your life with the lives of others.

During my research, I also came across this article about FOMO by John M. Grohol, PSYD, CEO and founder of Psych Central. He says,

“Connected to this fear of missing out on something better that’s going on without you are these fake personas we promote on websites like Facebook. . . instead of us being completely real, many (most?) of us censor what we post to our social media profile these days. The people on Facebook are often simply their idealized selves. . .”

So the next time you log onto Facebook and start feeling sorry for yourself, try to remember this fact: that you’re never seeing the whole picture. Someone is probably reading your status updates and looking at your pictures and thinking what a perfect life you must have.

And I’ll try to start taking my own advice.

Am I alone in this, or are there other people out there just as nutty as me? If so, how do you get past it and focus on the positive?


New Mama Must-Haves

My sister-in-law is due with her first baby in February, and shopping for her baby shower brings back so many memories of when I had little O. That first month after she was born is kind of a happy blur at this point. I was floating around the house on a cloud, or maybe that’s just what it seemed like since I was walking around like a cowboy off a three-day ride and my boobs were so huge I thought I might float away.

Anyway, I don’t know how I would have gotten through those first weeks if it hadn’t been for my friend Dori. She had just had a baby 7 weeks prior and she brought me into the fold, so to speak, with all of her been there, done that mommy info. So I’ve decided to do the same for my sister-in-law by putting together some new mama must-haves for her. . . because mama deserves some love after all her hard work!

1. Happiest Baby on the Block DVD  G-E-N-I-U-S. I will be the first to admit that I was skeptical any of this stuff would actually work. But my husband paid very close attention when we watched that DVD before the baby was born, and within hours of her birth, he was a shushing, swinging, swaddling expert—and I could rest.

2. Moby Wrap  The best thing I can say about the Moby Wrap is that you get your hands back. And THAT is priceless. Plus, it’s a lot more comfortable to wear around the house than the Baby Bjorn.

3. Soothies by Lansinoh  Breastfeeding mamas should definitely have a set or two of these little miracles on hand for some soothing relief.

4. Boppy In the beginning, breastfeeding can be tricky, and you’ll probably need more than just your two hands to help you position the baby. My Boppy was a lifesaver and made the entire experience so much easier for me.

5. Kindle Perfect for some late night reading— and the screen isn’t so bright that it will disturb baby.

6. Earth Mama Angel Baby New Mama Bottom Spray If you haven’t had your baby yet, you probably don’t want to hear all the gory details. Just do yourself a favor and get some of this.

7. Erase Paste  This concealer will help mask even the darkest undereye circles. And yes, you will have them.

8. BellaBand I probably wore this more AFTER I had my baby than I did in the beginning of my pregnancy. Not only did it allow me to get back into my pre-pregnancy jeans sooner (which is a HUGE morale boost), but the elastic helped flatten my tummy as well.

9. NUK Warm or Cool Breast Relief Packs  Whether or not you are breastfeeding, these are great to have around that first week or so to help with the discomfort and swelling as your milk comes in. And if you’re “lucky” like me, you’ll be able to use them to relieve plugged ducts and all other manner of fun things.

10. Stila Convertible Color in Petunia  This lipstick/blush all-in-one is super sheer and easy to put on and it can make you look and feel like a human being again in 10 seconds flat.


What are your favorite new mama essentials?

Best (Free!) Apps for Moms

Smartphones and tablets were made for busy moms. There are apps to help you streamline, organize, entertain and inform nearly every aspect of your life. Here are some of my favorite free apps for the iPhone and iPad (most are available for the BlackBerry and Android as well):

Mom Maps via iTunes

Shop Savvy—You want to get a good deal, but you don’t have all the time in the world to comparison shop and hunt down the best bargain. Use this app to scan bar codes while you’re out shopping to see where you can find the best deal. (iPhone)

Coupon Sherpa Mobile—Download coupons instantly to many of your favorite stores, including Target, Gap and Babies R Us, no printing necessary! (iPhone/iPad)

Pageonce Money & Bills— Track all of your bank accounts, pay your bills and set up payment notifications and alerts, all in one place. This app will help you keep up with your family’s finances and avoid unnecessary late fees. (iPhone/iPad)

SitorSquat Bathroom Finder— Whether you’re in the midst of potty training your little one or just had one too many cups of coffee, when you gotta go, you gotta go. This app will not only locate the nearest bathrooms but will also rate them on cleanliness. (iPhone)

Mom Maps— If you live in or near a major metro area, you can use this app to find indoor play areas, parks, playgrounds and other kid-friendly spots near you. There’s even a mapping feature to help you get there. (iPhone/iPad)

My Baby Today— Keep track of your baby’s development with this app created by BabyCenter (if you’ve ever received their weekly “My Baby This Week” e-mails, it’s pretty much that on steroids). You’ll get suggested activities for your baby each week, health and safety information, advice, a personalized calendar for your baby and more. (iPhone)

ICE iEmergency LITE— ICE stands for In Case of Emergency, and this app will help you keep all of your emergency contact information in one place. (iPhone)

Allrecipes-Your Kitchen Inspiration— Coming up with new dinner ideas is a snap with this app. Search by ingredient, occasion, dish type, etc. You can sort the recipes based on popularity and rating, prop your iPad up on the kitchen counter, and get cooking! (iPad)

Evernote— Record voice memos, type notes and take snapshots to help you remember everything you (and your kids!) have going on, and then synch up with your desktop to keep everything up-to-date and in one place. (iPhone/iPad)

Sleep Pillow Ambiance— This white noise app will help you, or more likely your little one, get to sleep in minutes, no matter where you are. Just choose your sound, set the timer and let the snoring commence! (iPhone/iPad)

Kids’ Meal Deals— Search restaurants in your area that offer meal deals for kids or have “kids eat free” specials. You’ll see a list of restaurants running specials that day, and you can also use the meal planner option to see specials for upcoming days. (iPhone)


Snug as a Bug!

My daughter tends to flop around her crib all night like a fish out of water. So what to do when the temperature dips but blankets aren’t an option? Last winter, when she was just a wee one, we used the Cloud B Lullabag, which I highly recommend- it’s like a wearable, fluffy comforter. But now that she’s mobile and standing up, the Lullabag won’t work.

So my husband set out to find something that would keep her toasty warm while still allowing her to move around easily. Enter the Halo SleepSack Early Walker. Just like the original SleepSack for infants, it comes in cozy fleece, but this version has openings for little feet. I’m not going to lie,  my daughter looks a bit ridiculous in hers—they are like wearable Hammer pants—but hey, if it keeps her warm (i.e. asleep), it’s too legit (sorry, couldn’t resist!).

Toddler Music Even Adults Will Love

Okay, “love” may be a bit of an overstatement, but “like way better than that high-pitched, grating, annoying kiddie music” is pretty close. I don’t hate the annoying kiddie music, per se, I just hate listening to it for 3 hours straight on a road trip. If any of this is resonating, do yourself a favor and check out some of the CDs below.


Elizabeth Mitchell: you are my sunshine

Barenaked Ladies: Snack Time

They Might Be Giants: Here Come the ABCs

Various Artists: for the kids

Jack Johnson and friends: Sing-a-longs and Lullabies for the film Curious George

Ziggy Marley: family time

Jewel: the merry goes 'round

The Verve Pipe: A Family Album

“The Sniffles Are Coming!” Cold and Flu Remedies

Ugh, it is officially cold and flu season in our house, as both my daughter and I are snuffly, sneezing, mouth-breathing messes. I swear we can’t even look in the direction of our pediatrician’s office without all getting sick- that waiting room is a petri dish! But as much as I hate having a cold, I hate my daughter having one even more because there isn’t a whole lot I can do to make it better. Unfortunately, there is no cure for the common cold, and it just has to run its course (which can take anywhere from 4 days to 2 weeks). Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warn against giving any over-the-counter cold or cough medicine to children under the age of 2- and there are even studies that suggest that OTC meds are ineffective for children under the age of 6. So what’s a parent to do?? Here are some good, old fashioned home remedies that are safe for tots and will help bring some relief to your snot-bubble-blowing little one (no one else? just my kid? well ok.):

1. Honey (for children 12 months and older ONLY) Honey helps to soothe sore throats and gets coughs under control. You can mix a teaspoonful in warm water with a bit of lemon, or try it in warm (but not hot) decaf chamomile tea if your baby is over 6 months old.

2. Chicken Noodle Soup I know, you thought this was just a old wives’ tale, right? Researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center discovered that the nutrients in chicken noodle soup have anti-inflammatory properties that make it the perfect food to help fight upper respiratory congestion. Plus, it helps keep your little one hydrated, which leads me to. . .

3. Plenty of Fluids Not only do you need to keep your child hydrated, but extra fluids (whatever they may be- water, juice, Pedialyte, Gatorade, milk, etc.) can help to thin out and flush nasal mucus.

4. Humidifier Run a cool-mist vaporizer or a steamy shower to help break up congestion and ease a cough. Steer clear of warm-mist humidifiers- they pose a burn risk if your little one gets too close and knocks it over).

5. REST Children need lots of rest to help fight off infections. And unfortunately, sleep isn’t the easiest thing to come by when your baby is stuffy and hacking up a lung- for you or him. I know the AAP recommends no TV for children under the age of 2, but if there’s any time to whip out the Elmo videos, now would be the time. Do whatever it takes to help your baby get the rest he needs to heal.

6. Saline and Aspirator Ahhh my two best friends these days. Having cold liquid squirted up their noses and then having their snot noisily sucked out by a large, usually colorful, object doesn’t always go over well with little ones. But if you can manage it, using saline drops and an aspirator is the quickest way to clear out a stuffy nose. Just make sure you have tissue on hand. The aspirator the hospital gave us is still to this day the best one we’ve found.


Iron-Deficiency and Anemia in Toddlers

Iron deficiency can make your little one irritable, pale, fatigued, dizzy and weak- and it is believed to affect neurodevelopment and behavioral development for years to come (i.e. difficulty concentrating in school, higher risk of ADHD, etc.). Although the prevalence of iron deficiency and iron-deficiency anemia in children ages 1 to 3 has been on the decline since the 1970s, approximately 9.2% of all toddlers (ages 1-3) are iron deficient and 2.1% suffer from iron-deficiency anemia, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data collected between 1999 and 2002. The introduction of iron-fortified formula and infant foods, such as rice cereal, are attributed to the declining rates of iron deficiency over the years, as is the American Academy of Pediatrics’ stance on screening at one year.

If you think your child may be iron deficient, it is important to talk to your pediatrician right away to determine if you should be giving your little one iron supplements. However, all toddlers, even those with normal iron stores, can benefit from an iron-rich diet. Also, Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron, so try to offer fruits and vegetables with iron-rich foods for maximum impact. Here are some foods you can start offering to your little one to help prevent iron deficiency:


Cream of Wheat

Sweet Potatoes


White Beans


Blackstrap Molasses











Lima Beans

Iron-fortified Pasta