Thursday, March 21, 2013

Second Anniversary Giveaway Coming Soon!

In honor of my blog's second anniversary, I'm running a giveaway!

My friend Rachel "The Yellow Hobbit" hand spins and dyes her own wool, then knits interesting and unique items. See her Etsy shop for some of her dying and spinning work. Also, see her Ravelry profile for more about her store. Rachel has generously volunteered to dye, spin, and knit a one-of-a-kind baby hat and wool diaper cover for one lucky Jessica on Babies reader.

In addition to this special package, I will include a paperback copy of my book, The "Yes, It's Normal!" Guide to Breastfeeding

The giveaway will run for two weeks in April, from April 3, 2013 until April 17, 2013 (starting after Passover, for those who are wondering about the odd dates). While my blog's birthday was actually March 3, March has been busy and I realized it's more than half over already! So in the interests of getting the news out in advance, stay tuned for photos of the hat and diaper cover, check out Rachel's store, and spread the word!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sleep: 18-Month Edition

Well folks, it's happened: The 18-month sleep regression. Or should I say, The Eighteen-Month Sleep Regression.

At least, I assume that's what it is. G is 18 months, and his sleep is worse than a newborn's. For that matter, he's nursing more than a newborn, he's crankier than a newborn, he's crying more than a newborn! I'm very frustrated. I'm stressed out and tired and exhausted and sometimes resentful of him for taking up so much of my time either nursing or crying because he wants to nurse. No exaggeration, he basically nursed from 3:00 to 5:30 this afternoon. Arrrgh!

He's also getting the two bicuspids on the bottom. He has the top two, as well as all eight incisors. None of the other 10 teeth caused nearly this much upset. Since Sunday night, he will wake up crying and literally just scream and cry for an hour. He insists on being held, wants to walk all over the house (at un-G-dly hours, incidentally), and will then suddenly fall asleep against my chest as I sit on the couch. I can then wait a bit for him to fall into a deeper sleep and then lay him in his bed. He'll sleep on his own for a while, maybe two to three hours, and then wake again crying. I've been trying to stay on top of giving him pain medication, but it doesn't seem to help completely. I've never seen anything like it. I'm not comfortable using Orajel or other mouth-numbing products, and while I have two amber teething necklaces, I can't find either one! I don't know if the amber necklaces actually help or not, but I'm willing to try anything to help this kid.

I would ordinarily suspect an ear infection, but he has no other symptoms: he's not congested or coughing, no runny nose, he wasn't sick or congested within the past week or two, and he has no fever, vomiting, or any other obvious distress. Also, he's pretty much fine during the day and this only hits at night.

Crossing fingers, though, tonight seems a bit better so far. Here's hoping!

In any case, here are my plans for the next few months, sleep-wise.

First off, I want to night-wean. Night-weaning is when you no longer allow the baby/child to nurse during sleeping hours. The idea is that if they don't wake to nurse, they won't need to wake at all, and everyone will get more sleep. I also want to encourage him to be eating more during the day, and as long as he's getting a significant amount of his daily calories during the night, he just isn't going to be as hungry during the day. At some point, this nocturnal snacking has to end!

My nightweaning plan is to basically pick three or four nights where I assume I won't sleep (not that I've been getting much sleep anyway!), and just try to soothe him and talk him back to sleep as best I can but not allow him to nurse during defined hours, say 8:00pm to 6:00am or something. There's no reason an 18-month-old can't go 10 hours without eating at night. I don't know how difficult it will be to get him to go back to sleep. I don't know how much he'll cry/whine/insist/yell/scream. Probably a lot. I'm warming up to it, maybe when he gets over this bout of teething. My hope is that once he's night-weaned, he simply won't need to wake as often, or if he does wake, he'll be able to get back to sleep on his own.

Then, after he's night-weaned, the goal will be, of course, to eliminate night-wakings completely. The only way I know to do this is to force him to learn to put himself to sleep. I figure this will require graduated steps beginning with me helping him fall asleep by rocking, patting, or whatever works, and eventually doing that less and less until he's falling asleep without my help.

I do think I need to wait another few weeks, both to make sure those teeth have come in and aren't a factor in his wakings, and also to get through the brunt of this crazy time when his brain is making leaps and bounds and his language ability is exploding and his understanding of the world and his place in it are developing. Perhaps at 19 or 20 months, he'll stabilize enough that I won't need to take drastic measures. But, if I do need to push him a little, I'll feel comfortable knowing that he's at a good age to give it a try.

At least he likes sleeping in his own bed! That change went very smoothly.

Let's share teething stories in the comments here or on the Facebook page. What was your worst teething experience with your kid(s)? How did you handle it? What recommendations do you have for other parents to help soothe the teething pain and help your baby sleep during those few days and nights when a tooth is erupting?


P.S. Unrelated to the above, but you need to go read Magda Pecsenye's (AskMoxie) letter to her sons about preventing rape.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nursing through Stomach Flu

We were struck with a stomach bug this past weekend. It started with 18-month-old G suddenly throwing up on the kitchen floor on Friday evening while I was in the middle of cooking dinner, hands covered in bread dough (I was attempting to make naan to go with my attempt at tofu vindaloo). I didn't think anything of it at first: G sometimes throws up for no apparent reason, often if he's eaten too much too quickly, or if he gags on food because he has too much in his mouth. It's usually nothing, he recovers quickly, and a little cleanup removes all evidence. Fortunately, my mom was there, and she helped get the mess and the baby cleaned up while I finished kneading the naan dough.

Unfortunately, 10 minutes later, G threw up again. And again 10 minutes after that. And again. And again. He threw up in the bath. He threw up in his bed. And again, and again. He fell asleep and was throwing up in his sleep, waking slightly to turn his head, bring up whatever little bit was still in his stomach, then falling back asleep. It was scary. Very scary.

After about two hours of this, I called the advice nurse for help. She asked a bunch of questions to make sure I didn't need an ambulance, then read off her script that we should be concerned if the vomiting persists for over 24 hours. A whole DAY of vomiting every 10 minutes?! Surely not. A few minutes after I hung with her, she called back to say that she'd spoken with her supervisor, and she felt now that, given the frequency of the vomiting, we might consider going to the ER. She said it was, of course, up to me, but that was her new advice.

This was hardly my first stomach flu, just the first time I'd seen a kid throw up so often. We decided to wait and see if the vomiting slowed down on its own. Armed with a pile of towels, the washing machine running almost nonstop, I slept in G's bed, offering to nurse him in between bouts of vomiting, hoping to keep him hydrated and calm, hoping the milk would somehow help wash out whatever had gotten into his system. He slept on a towel, and whenever he threw up, I'd wipe his mouth, change out the towel, and lie down with him again.

The vomiting slowed to once an hour, then longer, thankfully. I called to make an appointment with his doctor in the morning, and they suggested I first speak with the pediatric advice nurse, so I did that. She said it sounded like a classic case of stomach virus, that I should go ahead and keep nursing him, and offer PediaLyte and other fluids, then graduate to bland foods. She promised that it would probably turn into diarrhea after about 24 hours. She also told me that it was probably highly contagious, and I should be prepared for the rest of the family to get it, too. I should stock up on Gatorade and Popsicles for hydrating the kids, and when the diarrhea struck, be ready with BRAT (bananas, applesauce, white rice, toast, crackers, chicken broth) foods. She said a doctor's visit wasn't necessary, that there wasn't much they could do except give IV fluids if he became dehydrated.

The two older boys seemed fine through Sunday, but on Sunday morning, I threw up. I didn't see how I could possibly avoid it, having slept with my face practically in G's vomit all night on Friday. My husband took the boys out so that I and the baby could rest, and in the hope of keeping their exposure down. I nursed the baby and tried to stay hydrated myself. By Sunday evening, he seemed better and had indeed moved on to some pretty gnarly diapers. I was trying to stick to bland foods and Gatorade, hoping not to vomit again myself, and not even certain I was producing milk with how little I was eating and drinking. I didn't vomit the rest of the day, but I didn't feel too hot, either.

The two older boys still seemed miraculously fine until Sunday evening, when S, who's four, and no stranger to vomiting, declared that he had a tummy ache. Uh-oh. Around midnight, he came to our bed, asking to sleep with us because he couldn't sleep in his bed because his tummy hurt. We both knew - we knew - he was going to throw up in our bed, but we felt bad that he was so miserable. Sure enough, around 3:00 a.m., up his Sunday dinner came. Sigh.

I kept N and S home with me on Monday, though N still wasn't exhibiting any symptoms, to keep this thing from spreading beyond our house. I threw up again on Monday morning and felt fairly crummy all day, but by Tuesday evening, everyone seemed on the mend. N went to school on Tuesday, and S would have except he suddenly threw up in the morning. He was fine the rest of the day and went back to school on Wednesday. N, however, finally succumbed and was complaining of a stomach ache Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, so I let him stay home again on Wednesday. Hopefully that'll be the end of it!

The stomach flu seems interminable and unsurvivable when it's making its way through your family, but the good news is that it typically only lasts a day or two, and if you keep up the fluids, everyone should recover quickly.

Information on Nursing with Stomach Flu

If your breastfed baby is vomiting or has diarrhea due to a stomach virus, you may continue breastfeeding him normally. Breastmilk is soothing to the throat and stomach and will not upset the stomach further. It will help to replace vital nutrients and fluids lost through vomiting and diarrhea and can be his only source of food as long as he is ill, even if he is older and usually takes solids. Breastmilk is processed quickly by the body, so even if he vomits up some of the milk, if as little as 10 minutes have gone by, he's likely absorbed at least some of the fluids and nutrients from that feeding. You may want to wait 30 to 60 minutes after vomiting to offer the breast, if the baby can wait, to ensure that the stomach has settled and to maximize absorption of fluids.

If you are vomiting or have diarrhea and are nursing a baby, it is very important that you stay hydrated. Drink small amounts of Gatorade or other hydrating fluids frequently. Even if you are not able to keep solid foods down, you can still produce milk to nourish your baby. Breastfeeding requires additional fluids, so be extra sure to drink as much as you can. You may experience a temporary dip in your supply if you do become dehydrated. When you recover, simply continuing to nurse your baby on demand should quickly bring your supply back up. If you continue to experience low supply after recovering from a bout of vomiting and/or diarrhea, you may want to try increasing your fluid intake and eating foods that encourage milk production such as whole oatmeal. If the supply dip is severe, pumping immediately after a feeding can help stimulate additional milk production as well. If you are concerned about your milk supply after an illness, you can also contact a lactation consultant for advice on regaining your supply.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cold after Cold after Cold after Cold

My youngest, G, now 18 months, has, it seems, been sick for the last two months. He has waxed and waned in his symptoms, from, "I think he's finally getting better!" to, "He was up all night coughing," to being so congested he couldn't nurse, to just a little stuffy, to a double ear infection.

He had his 18-month "well" baby visit today, and I brought up with the doctor my concerns over his being sick so much this season. I asked if there was anything more I could do to prevent his getting sick so often. "I just feel so bad for him!" I said.

The doctor said something very interesting, and not quite what I expected. I expected him to say, "Wash your hands a lot, don't share food and utensils, make your other kids wash their hands a lot," and yadda yadda, all the usual disease prevention stuff that's nearly impossible in a house full of young boys who like to put their fingers in their mouths and wipe their noses on the backs of their hands. (Seriously - what is it with boys? I can say over and over and over, "USE A TISSUE" and "Don't wipe your nose with your sleeve," and two seconds later, I have yet another snot-covered shirt to wash. Ick.)

But he didn't give me the illness-avoiding lecture.

Quite the opposite.

He said there's really nothing I can do to stop it, and that I shouldn't feel bad. He said if you look at kids by age eight, they've all had the same number of colds. He said it's good that he's building his immune system, that kids who live in a very sterile environment tend to have higher rates of autoimmune disorders.

In other words, if he's just getting colds, let him get the colds now. Get it over with, so that when he gets older, he'll have a nice, robust immune system that can handle everything snot-covered boys' sleeves can throw at him.

I've always believed (and am backed up, I understand it, by immunology studies) that we do need to be exposed to germs, that kids get sick for a reason, and that as long as they're not getting secondary infections or life-threatening complications (G-d forbid!), it's a-okay for kids to get colds, get sick, and pass around all sorts of diseases. (I'm talking about colds and other minor illnesses, not pneumonia or whooping cough or norovirus or measles or anything.) Kids should get dirty, they should put things in their mouths, and they should - did I mention it? - get sick.

On the other hand, it's hard to watch your baby suffer through one cold after another, be up with him night after night as he struggles to nurse through a snot-filled nose, take him to the doctor time after time for an ear infection, wheezing, or follow-up, to force bitter-tasting medicine on him or put a mask over his face every day to give him the steroid that will keep his airways open, especially when he's too young to understand that I'm only trying to help him. It's hard to continue day after day, night after night, on little sleep, hard to keep postponing any hope of a better night's sleep, because the baby, once again, has a cough or a stuffy nose and needs comforting all night long. It's hard to suck snot with the NoseFrida or bulb syringe, hard to keep ahead of the constant drip-drip-dripping of the toddler nose, hard to take having mucus vomited in my lap periodically because he swallows so much of it.

It's hard to have a sick baby.

I do take comfort in the knowledge that he'll grow out of it. My two older boys, while they do get colds, aren't affected nearly so badly when they do. They don't need me to sit with them all night. They don't end up with a wheezy cough after every bout of stuffy nose. They don't get ear infections anymore. They don't need inhalers or nebulizers or control medications. They get a cold, and they get better, and it's not such a torturous few days as it is with the baby. He will grow out of it, and I'll forget this winter of constant illness, constant snot, constant coughs, and constant doctor's visits.

Spring will be here soon, and then summer, and by next winter, this will all be a distant memory.

Until the colds start up again.

Maybe I should go wash my hands.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Happy Blogiversary!

March 3rd marked Jessica on Babies' second birthday. I'm so thrilled to have kept this blog active for this long, and I look forward to many more years of blogging to come.

Some news to mark the occasion:
1. I recently registered to take a course to receive a Certificate in Lactation Education and Counseling. I'm very excited to have the opportunity to learn more about breastfeeding support and education, and I will soon have a credential to back up the advice I give.

2. Stay tuned for news about a special giveaway to celebrate my blog's birthday!

3. I'm in the planning stages for a second volume for my book that will cover infant and toddler nursing. Stay tuned for more news on that, as well.

4. Finally, my book is now available through the Kindle Lending Library, meaning if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow the book for free! Check it out!