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How to Make a Silky Blanket

How to Make a Silky Blanket

Growing up, I loved the special little blanket that my mother sewed for me by hand. I carried it everywhere until it wore away to shreds. When she made me a new one as an adult, I was thrilled beyond words and slept with it every night…until I had children of my own, one of whom laid claim over my silky blanket. I keep vowing to make myself another one, but with all of the blankets I’ve made for my children, I just haven’t had the time! Plus, I’m always cuddling one child or nursing another, so I always seem to have a silky at hand anyways.

Making a silky blanket is a simple process, and without hardly any sewing experience, I was able to throw my first one together. Now, over the years, my process has become much more refined, and even though my blankets aren’t riddled with mistakes (that children don’t notice anyways) like they used to be, I still can’t make the intricate patterns and designs that my mother does.

A Silky Blanket My Mom Made

A Silky Blanket My Mom Made

Another Silky Blanket My Mom Made

Another Silky Blanket My Mom Made

Yet, my simple blankets have pleased not only my children, but they have made great baby shower gifts for my closest friends and loved ones.

Four Homemade Silky Blankets

Four Finished Silky Blankets That I Made

I think that having a good sewing machine (I have one like this), is a very good investment. Even though I’m not making clothes from scratch, I really appreciate being able to hem pants, sew holes, modify clothes that are too big, patch anything that needs it (including our tent once), and make blankets and any other sewing project I feel like tackling.

Why Should You Make a Silky Blanket?

  1. Why Silk? I personally have always LOVED silk! I remember stealing my mother’s slips just so that I could rub the silky fabric between my fingers, and to this day, I love running my hands through racks of silky clothes on hangers. I think that if you’re going to be holding a baby and nursing them all the time, you deserve to be in contact with your favorite kind of fabric. So if silk really isn’t your thing, feel free to swap it with something that is.
  2. Nursing: My favorite part of having a silky is to use it while nursing.
    • I love being able to cradle it under my baby’s head so that it doesn’t get all sweaty against my arm.
    • I love using it as a nursing shawl when I’m breastfeeding in public. (By the way, I’m all for “breastfeeding rights”, I just prefer my privacy when it comes to my boobies.)
    • I love using it to cover up his eyes to shield them from the light he drifts off to sleep.
    • I love wrapping his whole body in it to keep him warm and snug.

      Nursing Julian Wrapped in Silky Blanket

      Nursing Julian

  3. Sense of Touch: Our sense of touch is a more important sense than we give it credit for. The emotional context of touch has a huge effect on the physical sensation, and so by linking the tactile contact we have with our children to a physical object that they can take and carry with them everywhere, it essentially magnifies our love!
  4. Sense of Smell: Smell can bring up memories almost instantaneously because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system, which controls memory and feeling. If you always carry your baby in his silky blanket, it will smell like you and provide an ongoing sense of security all the time.

    Julian Wrapped in His Silky Blanket and Sucking His Thumb

    Julian Soothing Himself

  5. For Years to Come: You’re not just making this blanket for your newborn, but for your toddler, young child, and beyond! My five year old still sleeps with her special silky every night. She also cuddles with it on the couch while reading or watching movies, takes it with her on long road trips, uses it to comfort her when she needs it, and of course brings it along on overnights at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Her Grandma Di actually made her favorite silky, and she loves knowing that.

Supplies Needed

  • Batting: You’ll want the 45″ x 60″ crib batting. I usually go with a heavier cotton batting like this for a winter baby and a lighter polyester batting like this for a summer baby. You can also find organic cotton batting like this.
  • Fabric: I usually go to the fabric store and pick out the silkiest feeling fabrics they have. (I value the feel over the color.) I typically get 1 ½ yards each of two main colors (for the front and back) and a ½ yard of a third color (for the edging).
  • Thread: I like to keep my eye out at thrift stores for thread to fill my sewing box, but when I’m at the fabric store getting my material, I’ll make sure I have thread to match the colors of my fabric.
  • Good Scissors: Cutting silky fabric is tough because it’s so slippery, so you’ll appreciate a good pair of sewing scissors like these.
  • Pins: Pinning the silky fabric is absolutely essential to getting straight (or somewhat straight) lines, so you’ll definitely want some pins. You’ll also appreciate a good pin holder like this.
  • Erasable Marker: This marvelous little invention allows you to draw on your sewing lines and then have them easily wash away. (Just a note: Children’s markers won’t wash away.)
  • Seam Ripper: You might not need one of these, but if you make a mistake, having one is absolutely essential!

Directions

  1. Prepare Materials: Before you begin, take stock of all your materials to make sure you have everything you need.
    Materials to Make Elliot's Bones Silky

    Elliot’s “Bones” Silky

    Make sure you have a nice, big, flat spot where you can spread out the fabric. (The floor is great, but the top of a bed works too and can be a little easier on your back.) If you have cats, get a spray bottle with water to keep them away. If you have kids, either enlist their help or get them busy doing something else.

    Materials to Make All of the Kids a Silky

    Materials to Make All of the Kids a Silky

  2. Lay Out the Fabric: Sometimes one side of the material looks better than the other. If so, make sure the best side is facing out when you spread out your first piece of fabric. Then, unfold the batting and put it on top of the first piece of fabric, and finally spread the second piece of fabric on top.

    laying out silky fabric to make a silky blanket

    Spreading Out the Fabric

  3. Pin Together: After you smooth out the material as much as possible, you’ll need to pin it together.
    cat and child help pinning sewing a silky blanket

    Peeka and Elliot Help Me Pin

    Start by making a horizontal line of pins spaced about 4-6 inches apart. Then, fold/roll the material to make about a 4-6 inch fold and pin another horizontal line. Continue doing this along the length of the entire blanket.

    Pinning Julian's Silky

    Pinning Julian’s Silky

  4. Draw Lines: Fold the pinned blanket in half length-ways and draw a dashed line along the middle. Fold the edge of the blanket to the middle line and draw another dashed line. Repeat on the other side. Then, fold the blanket in half going in the other direction, and draw dashed lines in the middle and on either side of the middle. This will make sewing straight lines much easier!

    sewed lines on a homemade silky blanket

    The Sewed Lines Will Look Like This

  5. Sew the Lines: Start by sewing the middle lines. I usually like to match my thread to the fabric color, so I’ll load the top color in the top of the sewing machine and the bottom color in the bobbin.
    sewing the lines on my homemade silky blanket

    Sewing the Lines

    If you really want to avoid getting ripples and bumps as much as possible, you could start sewing in the middle of your middle line, but I don’t usually do this. I just sew from one side to the other, removing any pins that get in my way in the process. After you sew the middle lines, you can sew the rest of the dashed lines. When you’re done, you should have taken out all of the pins, but you can save some for a child to take out too. 🙂

    child helping with sewing taking out the pins

    Elliot Helps Me Take Out the Pins

  6. Trim: Even though you may be tempted to trim your fabric beforehand, don’t do it until now. The silky fabric moves around a lot, and it will get bunched up in ways you can’t predict. By saving the trimming until now, you give yourself a bit more leeway.
  7. Prepare the Edging: Cut the fabric you’ll be using for the edging into about 4 inch strips. I usually just eyeball this because it doesn’t need to be exact. Sew the strips together, and make sure it will be long enough to fit around all of the edges.
  8. Sew On the Edging: Take one of the corners and line it up with the edging. Sew as straight of a line as you can, and make sure that all four layers are going under the thread. When you get to the corners, leave about an extra ½ inch or so (you really don’t need much), lift up the needle, and start sewing the next edge.
  9. Sew the Other Side of the Edging: This is probably the trickiest part of the whole blanket, and the part that I’m still trying to perfect to this day. Basically, you want to fold the edging around to the other side, tuck the edge underneath, and sew so that your line goes over the line you made on the other side. I’ve tried ironing the folded under edge to make it easier, but I don’t really think it’s worth the effort. When you’re done, flip the blanket over and sew any spots you’ve missed. *The corners have given me the most trouble over the years, and I still don’t think I have the perfect method for doing them. Sometimes, I just skip them, sew the other side, and come back to them at the end. Basically, you want to keep sewing into the corner as far as you can, lift your needle, arrange the fabric so it all comes together, turn, lower the needle, and sew into the next side. If all else fails, just sew over it a bunch of times until you can’t see any batting or loose edges. 🙂
  10. Final Touches: If you have the option on your sewing machine, you might want to sew a little message on one of the edges. Then, clip any loose strings and give the blanket a good once over to fix any weird spots. Finally, wash the blanket to get rid of the markings and to make it super duper soft.
Four Homemade Silky Blankets

Four Finished Silky Blankets

Pictures of Julian with His Silky

I love how in just about every picture I have of Julian, his silky is tucked lovingly around him. I’m sure he will love this blanket for years to come!

Ruby Holding Newborn Julian

Ruby Holding Newborn Julian

Elliot Holding Newborn Julian

Elliot Holding Newborn Julian

Andrea Holding Newborn Julian

Andrea Holding Newborn Julian

Grandma Jan Holding Newborn Julian

Grandma Jan Holding Newborn Julian

Grandpa Karl Holding Newborn Julian

Grandpa Karl Holding Newborn Julian

If You Don’t Want to Make One

You can buy a silky online like this or this, but there’s just nothing like a handmade silky. If I know you and I’m invited to your baby shower, be warned, I WILL make you one of these! If I don’t know you, and you’d like me to make you one, message me, and we can work something out!

17 Tips for Calming a Fussy Baby (0-3 Months)

Being up in the night with a fussy baby is quite possibly one of the most emotional times of a new mother’s life. As a parent, you want to figure out why your baby is fussy, or inconsolable, or screaming at the top of her lungs, and no, there is no such thing as colic. After raising four children, I most certainly do not have all of the answers. All that I know is what worked for me, what didn’t work for me, and what I learned along the way. Here are the things that have helped us to calm our fussy (or inconsolable or screaming) newborns. I hope that some of them are helpful to you!

1. Nursing

This one is so basic and so obvious, but I just had to put it first because breastfeeding has always been my number one go-to method for soothing a fussy newborn. As my babies have gotten older, some have liked to be nursed to sleep and some have not, but they would all nurse to sleep when they were newborns, and I think that this is a pretty universal thing. I have always nursed my babies on demand, so I totally feel like a human pacifier, but this way, not only are their bellies full, they are soothed as well.

2. Comfortable Baby

When my babies are fussy, the first thing I do is make sure they are not too warm or too cold. Babies typically need to dress in one more layer than we do to keep warm. So if you’re hanging out in a t-shirt, your baby will probably want something long sleeved. I typically like to keep my babies a little under-dressed, however, so that I can wrap them up in one of my homemade silky blankets!

Next, there are all kinds of little things that might be bothering your baby like: a little hair wrapped tightly around a finger, a tag rubbing the wrong way, or a diaper accidentally put on too tight. When my babies have been fussy, I always give them a physical once over to make sure their discomfort isn’t coming from some quick physical fix.

3. Water Drop Trick

I learned this little trick from my most recent midwife, Laurie Zoyiopoulos, who learned it from some of her Amish clients. When the Amish are dealing with a fussy newborn, they simply give him a little bit of water, and it calms him down right away. Maybe it’s because the colostrum just isn’t satisfying enough, or maybe it helps to soothe an upset tummy, but for whatever reason, this trick really really works! When Julian would get really fussy and nothing else would soothe him, I would give him a little dropper of water, and he would calm right down. My husband really appreciated knowing this trick as well!

4. Gassy Baby

Many times, babies 0-3 months cry because of gas pains. In addition to having to use their entire digestive system for the first time, they might have gas and not be able to get rid of it. This can make for a very fussy and inconsolable baby! If your baby is gassy, it might help to gently rub her tummy, pump her legs (from a straight position to pushed right into his stomach), or do bicycle legs to get the gas out. You might like to try the Windi if you’re really desperate, although I tried it, it was weird, and it didn’t really work, but hey, you might get lucky! And although burping gas is different from intestinal gas, I’m going to go ahead give a little reminder about burping after every feeding. (Something I only remember as I am being puked on!)

5. Colic Calm

Colic Calm is a homeopathic oral remedy designed to help with colic, stomach pains, reflux, and gas. It is made with charcoal, so don’t be surprised by the black color (or your baby’s black poop). I wouldn’t say that this was a miracle worker or anything, but when I was overtired and up in the night with a fussy newborn and out of ideas for how to calm him down, it really helped me out. The sweet taste seemed to shock him out of crying for a bit anyways which gave me time to try another strategy to calm him down, and it did seem to settle his tummy a bit. Hyland’s Colic tablets work pretty well too.

6. Overtired Baby

I totally had the misconception with our firstborn Ruby that if I kept her up more during the day, she would sleep better at night, but that was absolutely not the case! Babies don’t develop their circadian rhythms (when they can differentiate between day and night) until 4-6 weeks, so until that happens, you just have to be prepared for them to be awake in the night. The best rule of thumb to remember with babies and sleep is that the more they sleep, the better they’ll sleep. Don’t try to put them on any schedule. Just feed them on demand and let them sleep when they want to sleep. Look for signs of them being tired and help them to fall asleep before they get overtired. Also, know that little babies will probably not be able to stay awake for more than an hour and a half at a time, and never ever wake a sleeping baby!

7. Harvey Karp’s “Happiest Baby

In his book and videoThe Happiest Baby on the Block: The New Way to Calm Crying and Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, Harvey Karp explains how the best way to calm your newborn and get her to sleep is by re-creating the noises, movement, and snug environment of the womb. (Check out this old grainy video to see the basic ideas.)

  • Swaddle: These cloths are great for swaddling, but really any receiving blanket will do. (Just make sure that you are following the guidelines for the new swaddle that keep the legs more free so that your baby doesn’t get hip dysplasia. Watch this video to see the proper way to swaddle.)
  • Side or Stomach Position: Because of the newer recommendations to have babies sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS, stomach sleeping isn’t really done as much as it used to be. I agree that newborns can’t move their heads and so if they fall asleep on their stomachs and their airways are restricted, it could be fatal, but another reason the stomach sleeping isn’t recommended is because they sleep soooooooo deeply this way and a lighter sleeping baby has less chance of SIDS. Harvey Karp advises that you use this strategy while holding the baby to help her fall asleep, but then place her on her back to lie her down. The side lying position is perfect for nursing.
  • Shushing: A harsh shushing sound mimics the sound of your blood flow that your baby heard in the womb. This is why using a box fan for white noise is so great, but if you need to take things to the next level, this shushing technique is really cool and my favorite one of the bunch. Basically, you get really close to the baby’s ear and make a shushing sound as loud as you can and for as long as you can. Because doing this repeatedly will make a person pass out, it’s nice to have some back up and take turns. My husband and I used this all the time with our firstborn and intermittently with the others.
  • Swinging: When you were pregnant, did you notice how your baby would always sleep when you were out and about and moving around, but then would wake up as soon as you settled down for the night? If you can recreate the swaying, swinging motion that your baby got used to in the womb, he will feel right at home and hopefully settle down. I find it’s best to get really creative with this until you find a swinging motion that your baby really likes. I got the best workout with my third child, Ophelia, because she really liked this crazy swinging, dipping, slow-slow-quick-quick, small step-large step, swing high-swing low movement.
  • Sucking: Sucking releases oxytocin (the bonding hormone) in both the mother and the baby, which is nature’s way of rewarding them for breastfeeding. In between feedings, newborns might also enjoy sucking on your pinkie (nail side down). I would avoid using a pacifier for the first few weeks because it can create nipple confusion and make breastfeeding more difficult (trust me!), but once breastfeeding is established, pacifiers are just fine. There is no evidence that pacifiers affect baby teeth and they have actually been proven to reduce SIDS. Just look for some that are BPA free.

8. Keep Moving

Each of our babies has had a different method of movement that they have enjoyed, and I think it had to do not only with their personalities, but our home size (we’ve moved a lot), my energy level, who else was around, etc. With Ruby being our first, we were able to put her in a wrap or in the stroller and go for long walks. With Elliot, we took turns bouncing him on our exercise ball. Ophelia liked to be upright and perched on my shoulder as I would walk laps around the house, or she liked it when I danced. And then with Julian, it was back to the exercise ball. Basically, you’ll have to experiment with a lot of different methods of movement to get things just right, but when you find that “sweet spot”, you’ll know it! (If you get too tired holding them, a nice swing like this or this or a vibrating bassinet like this can be really helpful too.)

9. Soothing Atmosphere

It helps to have an environment that exudes calm with soft lighting, soft music, and soft voices. I like playing my Pandora station on shuffle with the Enya, Sigur Ros, Ambient Music, and Joshua Radin. It is definitely worth the $30/year subscription to have this be ad free. Then, I like to turn the volume off and play any kind of music on itunes with the visualizer turned on. The visuals are very mesmerizing and every one of our kids have enjoyed watching them as they fell asleep. I also really like all of the Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions. In addition, I always have the white noise of a box fan in every room that the baby could be sleeping in. It sounds very “womb-like”.

As for lighting, red lights are the best because they keep the pupils from dilating which allows your baby to remain in a sleepy state while allowing you to see. Something like this salt lamp or this tree lamp (we unscrew the other bulbs so only the reddish lights are on) would be perfect. The soft glow of a fireplace in the winter is great too!

10. The Power of Touch

Every one of our babies has seemed to have different preferences for touch, but they have all loved head and face rubs. When they start to get sleepy, I’ll gently run my fingers along the bridge of their nose and gently over their eyes as I tenderly encourage them to close. Kind of like in this video, although it’s never worked this perfectly for me! They have all also loved it when I’ve rubbed their heads. Some babies have enjoyed infant massages too.

We took Julian to get some cranial sacral therapy (which is a light touch method of massage that helps to align the body, specifically the central nervous system) when he was a few weeks old to see if it would help with his tongue tie (it didn’t), but it made him the the super chillest baby afterwards. Going through the birth canal or being delivered by cesarean can misalign a baby’s delicate structure and cranial sacral therapy helps to realign everything. I highly recommend this procedure for every baby after birth! Just ask a local chiropractor for a referral.

11. Check Your Diet

Whatever you eat, your baby eats too. Whenever she was in your womb, your baby had the placenta to filter your food. Now things are entering her little body with it’s immature digestive system, and she can’t process things like you can. I mean, for the most part, she got used to whatever diet you consumed while pregnant, so most of the foods you ate then should be okay now. But there are two things you really need to watch out for during the first three months and that’s coffee and alcohol. Your baby can’t really process either of these. If you comb the Internet, you’ll find articles saying that they do affect babies or they don’t, and most say that they are okay in moderation, but I’ll tell you that in my experience, I have found it is best to avoid them completely for the first 5-6 months.

When we had our 6 week check up for Ophelia with our midwife, Sarah Badger, and I told her that I was going through a “witching hour” with her every night at the same time, she started asking me about my diet. Then, she told me about coffee’s half life and how babies weren’t good at processing caffeine. So I cut the coffee and switched to teccino, and it was like a miracle. After a few days, her nightly fussiness completely stopped. I was able to pick up the coffee again (in moderation) when she was about 4-5 months old.

12. What Babies’ Cries Mean

With her photographic memory, years as an opera singer, and experience as a mother, Priscilla Dunstan has figured out how to decipher the meaning of babies’ cries from 0-3 months. Now, keep in mind that by the time a baby is crying, you’ve already missed the other cues showing you what the baby needed, but this is great as a kind of “last resort”. Watch her entire video with examples on Oprah here.

The five sounds in the Dunstan Baby Language are:

• “Neh” – meaning, “I’m hungry”
• “Owh” – meaning, “I’m tired”
• “Heh” – meaning, “I’m uncomfortable”
• “Eairh” – meaning, “I have lower gas”
• “Eh” – meaning, “I need to burp”

13. Keep Calm

When you’re super duper tired and more than anything in the world, you just want to lay your head down on your soft pillow and drift off to sleep, that is of course the time when your little one is going to want to be awake for a couple of hours. So, rather than let yourself get mad or frustrated about it, just know that it’s going to happen, and give your self something exciting to look forward to (besides of course being up with your most precious angel).

After every baby, I’ve been able to indulge in my “guilty pleasure” shows that my husband would never in a million years want to watch with me (although if he’s up in the night with me, he will). After Ruby was born, I watched just about all ten seasons of America’s Next Top Model and quite a few seasons of Gossip Girl. After Elliot was born, it was Jersey Shore. After Ophelia was born, I watched a lot of documentaries and made posters about health and nutrition to display my learning around the house. (What can I say? I got really ambitious!) And after Julian was born, I totally got into Reign and, of course, some late night blogging.

I would also make sure to always have some Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips on hand to snack on and a kombucha, or maybe I would grab a few freshly baked cookies and a big glass or milk, or maybe even some yummy tea or teccino with heavy cream…any little treat that would make me happy! When I do these things, I actually start to look forward to this special and sacred time. The house is quiet, everyone else is asleep, there is no work to be done, and I get to bond with my precious little baby while doing something that I love, what could be better?

14. Rotate Strategies

I think one of the most important things to remember when dealing with a fussy baby is to keep trying something new. Not right away, of course, you want to give each technique a chance to work, but if after a bit of time, your baby is still fussy, then try something else. The worst thing to do is to get in a rut where you keep doing the same things over and over even though they’re not working. Even if it’s as simple as switching from one side to the other during breastfeeding or going from bouncing on the exercise ball to dancing. Just keep trying something new until you find one or two things that you can rotate back and forth with creating sort of a predictable pattern. You kind of need to let your mind zone out a bit and follow through with these strategies even after your baby has calmed down. Keep moving, or rocking, or bouncing until you KNOW that your little one is asleep or at least really calmed down.

15. Know When to Take a Break

There WILL come a time, at some point, that you feel like you have reached your wit’s end. It will be after you are so tired that you just can’t keep your eyes open anymore, and before you know it you’ll be bawling like a little baby yourself (or about to and holding it in like a champ), and then you’ll just start asking your baby, “Why? Why won’t you sleep???” And when you feel yourself getting frustrated and angry, you need to know that it’s okay to take a minute to collect yourself. Set the baby down somewhere safe (crib, changing table, floor), and just walk away for a minute. Maybe your loving spouse is there and can hold the baby for you while you get some fresh air and take a few big breaths. It’s okay if he cries for a minute. You’re going to be right back.

There, now that you’ve had just a minute away, you can come back and look at your poor sweet babe, who in all honesty is suffering way more than you are. He needs you and yes, it’s overwhelming, and frustrating, and scary, and all of those things wrapped into one, but you can do this. You were made to do this.

16. Make a Plan

If things are just not working, it’s very helpful to be able to talk to someone about exactly what you are going through. Sometimes it just feels good to vent a little, and sometimes when you hear yourself talk, it helps you to figure out a solution. If you can identify one little thing that you can change or do differently, it will give you hope that you won’t have to go through a tough night like that again. I mean, chances are that you will, but if you keep making a plan, at least you won’t fall into the rut where you, “keep doing things exactly the same and expect different results”.

Even if your budget is tight, if buying something on Amazon like this baby swingMoby wrapNose Frida, or Colic Calm, will make you feel better, do it. It’s worth it. Having hope is an amazing thing. It keeps you from slipping into depression, and a happy momma is a good momma.

17. Is There Another Problem?

Sometimes a tongue tie or a lip tie can be causing breastfeeding problems. Check out my blog: How to Identify and Deal with Lip Tie and Tongue Tie to see how this dealing with this helped us. You also could be dealing with thrush. Check out my blog: How to Identify and Treat Oral Thrush in Babies. There can also be a myriad of other problems, and I know that you won’t rest (literally) until you find the answer! Feel free to message me, and maybe I can be a good sounding board for you while you try to get to the bottom of this.

In Conclusion

With our firstborn, Ruby, we actually called 911 once when she wouldn’t stop crying for four hours straight. We tried calling our pediatrician whose answering machine said to call 911 if we couldn’t get through to him and there was an urgent concern, which there was, and so we did. So, then came the sirens, the fire truck, and four fully clad firefighters barging into our little one bedroom condo on the third floor. Of course, from the complete shock of it all, Ruby stopped crying as soon as they approached her. I could tell one of the firefighters was holding back a laugh when he questioned, “First time parents?” Oh boy!

We’ve come a long way since then in the last five years, and if we had known then what we know now, I’ll bet we could have eliminated a lot of tears…on both ends! Some might say that the right of passage for new parents is to forge through it alone and figure things out for themselves, but if I had known someone who had raised four happy healthy babies that were all alive and well when I was figuring things out with Ruby, I would have loved to have heard her tips and tricks! There is a big difference between “I know best.” and “This is what has worked for me.” I hope that as mothers (and fathers), we can share the things that work best for us and create a community of support that transcends all other differences as we embark on this wonderful journey of parenthood…together.

How to Identify and Treat Oral Thrush in Babies

How to Identify and Treat Oral Thrush in Babies

I remember nursing my six week old baby Ophelia, when I noticed some white spots in her mouth that didn’t seem to go away. After a bit of research, I learned that the shooting pains I had while nursing and the white spots in her mouth were both signs of thrush. I had been battling a yeast infection throughout the last half of my pregnancy with her, and I thought I had gotten rid of it…but apparently not. It was quite an ordeal to identify and heal from this fungus, and I just wanted to share my journey of what I did and what I learned along the way that helped us to finally get rid of Ophelia’s oral thrush and my nipple thrush, which essentially saved our breastfeeding relationship.

Oral Thrush in Babies

Oral thrush occurs when there is an overgrowth of the fungus Candida Albicans in the mouth.

Oral Thrush in a Baby

Oral Thrush in a Baby

Candida Albicans lives in the gastrointestinal tract of most adults and children as one of the microbes that helps to break down undigested food. It is only a problem when it grows out of control.

Human_tongue_infected_with_oral_candidiasis

Even though this is a child with oral candidiasis (after taking antibiotics), it gives a really good image of what thrush looks like.

Oral thrush typically presents itself in the fourth week of a baby’s life. It is very rare in the first week of life and after 6-9 months of age. As many as 39% of infants will develop thrush in the first few months of life.

Nipple Thrush in Mommas

Because breastfeeding provides a warm, moist, sugary environment, which is precisely where Candida thrives, babies can easily pass their oral thrush to the mother’s nipples, especially if they are already cracked or sore because of a bad latch. If the thrush isn’t treated, it can pass back and forth between mother and baby.

Causes of Oral Thrush

  1. Yeast Infection During Vaginal Birth: New babies are born with a clean gastrointestinal tract void of any microbes whatsoever. Within hours of birth, however, they start to build their own gut flora through exposure to the mother’s vaginal and fecal flora during a vaginal birth, breastfeeding, and exposure to the environment. If the mother has a yeast infection during a vaginal birth, however, the yeast will be one of the first microbes entering a baby’s clean and pristine gastrointestinal tract.
  2. C-Section Birth: If a mother delivers her baby by c-section (as one-third of mothers in the U.S. do), the baby will not getting any of her vaginal or fecal flora, which helps to populate the baby’s gut with healthy microbes. This new study shows how the baby’s gut flora can be disturbed for up to 6 months after a c-section birth, and this study shows how a c-section delivery leads to more pathogenic microbes (including Escherichia coli and Clostridium difficile) populating the baby’s gut. When the good microbes aren’t there first, it makes it very easy for the bad ones to take over.
  3. Antibiotics: If a mother tests positive for group B strep (which affects 25% of women), she will be given antibiotics during labor that will cross the placenta and reach the baby. Routine antibiotics are also given after a c-section (and sometimes before) to ward off infection. Antibiotics wipe out all bacteria good and bad, and when a newborn baby is having something introduced to its system that wipes out all of the bacteria before there is any, it makes it easier for something like Candida to take hold and grow out of control.
  4. Steroid Use: When Elliot was about 8 months old, he got a really bad case of croup and we took him to the doctor where they gave him a nebulizer and inhaled corticosteroids. Fortunately, it helped him to breathe again, unfortunately, inhaled steroids that get in the mouth can lead to thrush.

Signs of Oral Thrush

  1. White Patches in Baby’s Mouth: It might look like little milk spots in your baby’s mouth, but unlike milk spots, they won’t go away on their own. If you tried to scrape them off, you’ll notice that it’s actually an inflamed lesion that may bleed.
  2. Refusing to Nurse: Your baby may refuse nursing or be reluctant to nurse because its painful.
  3. Fussy Baby: Your baby may seem particularly fussy or up a lot in the night.
  4. Yeasty Diaper Rash: Sometimes a yeasty diaper rash will accompany oral thrush. Look for a diaper rash that’s red and inflamed with small blistery lesions that won’t go away with typical diaper rash treatments. I battled this with my son on and off for months. We tried the pharmacist’s recommended “magic butt paste” (which is just regular diaper rash cream mixed with Monistat) which kind of worked, but once we gave him some probiotics, the rash immediately went away and never came back again.

Signs of Thrush in Momma

  1. Painful Nursing: Nursing should not be painful. If it is, it might be a sign of thrush, especially if you’ve ruled out a bad latch. I remember Nursing Ophelia (who was two weeks old at the time) in front of my sister (who was pregnant for the first time) and she looked at me in shock and horror as I all but howled in pain as Ophelia latched on. The intense pain subsided after a bit and I just thought, well, this is part of nursing. But after I treated the thrush, the intense pain went away. (With her being my third baby, you’d think I would have known better, but I have had some sort of breastfeeding problems with all of my four children!)
  2. Shooting Pains: You may feel a deep shooting pain that occurs during or after feedings because the thrush can embed itself deep within your breast tissue.
  3. Cracked Nipples: Your nipples may also be pink or red, shiny, flaky, and/or have a rash with tiny blisters.
  4. Yeast Infection: If you have thrush, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got a yeast infection too.

How to Cure Momma’s Thrush

  1. Eliminate Sugar: Thrush is caused by Candida and Candida feeds on sugar. You don’t have to give up sugar forever, but if you can get rid of Candida’s food source while treating thrush, it will be much easier to get rid of.
  2. Probiotics: Probiotics, such as lactobacillus, feed on sugar too, and unless they are wiped out by antibiotics or a poor diet, they will keep the Candida in check. You can get them from fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, sourdough, kimchi, keifer, and yogurt. When battling thrush, however, I suggest getting them in a stronger format as well. My favorite probiotics for treating Candida are Bio Kult Candea and Custom Probiotics.
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral miracle worker. I tried every remedy under the sun, but when I used apple cider vinegar, I was finally able to eliminate the thrush. This is what I did.
    • First, mix a solution in a peri bottle with about 2 T. of apple cider vinegar and the rest filtered water (chlorine free).
    • Then, after every breastfeeding session, squirt some onto some cotton balls and wipe your nipples, then throw those cotton balls away!
    • *If you’re pumping and/or using bottles, you have to really sterilize these components after every use. You can use apple cider vinegar, but really hot water will do the trick too.
    • In addition, wash all of your bras and anything your nipples come in contact with hot water and with apple cider vinegar added to the rinse cycle.
    • You can also mix 6 T. per gallon of water (or about 1 t. per 8 ounces) and drink throughout the day to heal from the inside out.
  4. Coconut Oil: Coconut oil is a soothing anti-fungal topical treatment. After I cleaned my nipples with apple cider vinegar, it felt really soothing and healing to dab a little coconut oil on them. You can also heal yourself from Candida from the inside out by eating it.
  5. Fresh Air: Candida can survive in oxygen, but it really thrives in dark, oxygen free areas. Going shirtless will not only feel good, but your husband/partner might get a kick out of it too! Get some sunlight on those nipples for extra measure because that also kills the fungus.
  6. *Gentian Violet: They say you can paint your nipples with this to get rid of thrush, but when I tried it, it caused Ophelia to go on a complete nursing strike. It was awful. I do not recommend using this on your nipples unless perhaps you plan to pump and bottle feed.
  7. *Grapefruit Seed Extract: I’ve heard that you can mix this with equal parts water and clean your nipples with it, much the same way that I did with the apple cider vinegar. I did not try this method, but it seems like it might work.

How to Cure Baby’s Thrush

  1. Coconut Oil: If you leave some coconut oil on your nipples, your baby can get some that way. You can also dab a little coconut oil on the thrush spots.
  2. Infant Probiotic: I really like this infant probiotic. If you had to have antibiotics for any reason or delivered by c-section so your baby didn’t get any good bacteria from your vaginal tract, I would highly recommend a good probiotic supplement regardless of whether or not your baby has thrush. But if your baby does have thrush (obviously, because that’s why you’re probably reading this) this will really help your baby to populate his or her gut with beneficial bacteria that can crowd out the yeast and help to get rid of the oral thrush. You can mix a little bit with your breast milk and feed it to your baby with a dropper, and/or you can make a little mixture and paint it on the thrush spots with your finger or a q-tip.
  3. Gentian Violet: Gentian violet is an anti-fungal that can be used topically to help get rid of thrush. When Ophelia’s thrush progressed from a few white spots to her entire tongue being coated white (after I misused Grapefruit Seed Extract), I turned to Gentian Violet as a last resort. It tastes awful, it can cause your baby to have an upset tummy, and it shouldn’t be used excessively because there are claims that it can be a carcinogen (when used regularly for two years at 600 times the recommended dose, sorry mice) and lead to mouth ulcers (when not diluted), but after three days of meticulous treatment, Ophelia’s thrush was totally and completely healed. I highly recommend this as a cure for baby’s oral thrush. Here’s are a few tips for using it so that it will be effective:
    Treating Ophelia's Thrush with Gentian Violet

    Treating Ophelia’s Thrush with Gentian Violet

    • Gentian violet will stain everything purple, so put some Vaseline or Bag Balm on your baby’s lips and around her or his mouth before applying it. This will make it easier to clean up the purple drool.
    • Dress your baby in clothes that you don’t mind ruining. (This goes for you too.) I found it helpful to put a bib on Ophelia as well.
    • Get the 1% solution, and mix with equal parts water. (It is too strong if left undiluted. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it will be more effective if you don’t dilute it.)
    • Using a q-tip, paint every part of your baby’s mouth, especially the tongue. This stuff tastes awful and your baby will hate it. I found it best to paint once in the morning, maybe once in the afternoon if it wore off, and once at night. (Don’t exceed three dosages in a day.)
    • Do your best to make sure your baby doesn’t swallow any. It can lead to an upset tummy.
    • You need to do this for three full days/nights. If you miss a dosage and don’t complete the cycle, the fungus will come back stronger and be even harder to treat.
  4. *Grapefruit Seed Extract: I read a lot of articles, reviews, and blogs about Gentian Violet and grapefruit seed extract when Ophelia had thrush, and I decided to go with the grapefruit seed extract first, but it did not go so well. First of all, I made the mistake of not diluting it, so maybe it would actually work if you didn’t do this. (It should be more effective if it’s stronger, right? Not.) I painted it on the thrush spots in her mouth, and they seemed to completely go away in a day, but then the next day, there were more and more and more spots until her entire tongue was coated white. It was like in the absence of the Grapefruit Seed Extract, the fungus grew even stronger and completely took over. It was at this point that I turned to the Gentian Violet which totally worked.
  5. Nystatin: Nystatin is what your doctor will probably prescribe if you take your baby to the doctor to treat the oral thrush (which I don’t recommend unless this is your last resort). Nystatin is an oral medication that is meant to be used topically on the areas where thrush is appearing. There are claims that it’s 80% effective, but that seems a bit high to me. When Ophelia got thrush, I combed threads on the Internet (not always the most reliable sources, I know, but I like reading about personal accounts) and read time and time and time again about how mothers would go to the doctor, get Nystatin for their babies, deal with the side effects of: mouth irritation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, rash, skin irritation, and/or allergic reactions, have the first dose not work, try another dose, still not have it work, and eventually give up on breastfeeding. I actually knew someone who got thrush at the same time as I did with her new baby and she used Nystatin as a remedy. It did not work, and she ended up not being able to breastfeed anymore. Personally, I would try all of these other remedies before turning to Nystatin as an absolute last resort.

In Conclusion

Dealing with oral thrush was probably one of the toughest postpartum things I’ve ever had to deal with, and through much trial and error, I’m glad we were able to finally beat it. With baby number four, I made darn sure to get rid of my yeast infection during pregnancy so that we would not have to deal with this again, and let me tell you, prevention is a much easier path! I also enjoyed researching and learning about why pregnant women are more prone to yeast infections, and I learned some fascinating information along the way. The bottom line is that thrush is nasty nasty business and it is worth all of the effort to prevent it and get rid of not just the symptoms, but the root cause as well.

How to Identify and Deal with Lip Tie and Tongue Tie

After having problems establishing a breastfeeding relationship with our first three children, I discovered what a lip tie was. After having our fourth child, I finally learned what a tongue tie was. Had I known about these two conditions from the very beginning, it would have made things a heck of a lot easier! This is the information I have gathered doing extensive research, talking to experts, and through my own experience. This is the information I wish I would have had with my first child from day one and what I would like to tell anyone else who is going through the same thing.

First of All, Let’s Talk About Frenula

Frenula is the plural form of frenulum. A frenulum (also called frenum when in relation to the upper lip) is a small fold of tissue that secures a mobile organ in the body. The maxillary labial frenum is the membrane  that attaches the gums to the upper lip and the lingual frenulum is the membrane that attaches the base of the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

When a baby is growing in utero, the tongue starts to develop at about 4 weeks. By 6 weeks, the frenulum cells attaching the tongue to the floor of the mouth begin retracting from the tip of the tongue increasing the tongue’s mobility. Disturbances during this stage cause ankyloglossia, or tongue tie. The tip of the tongue will continue to elongate after birth which is why some people believe that the tongue will “stretch” with age and growth, although that is not the case.

Look at Your Frenula

Before going any further, I suggest that you look in a mirror and lift up your upper lip. You may notice a stretchy piece of tissue hanging out up there, and you might even be able to feel it with the tip of your tongue. You may also feel nothing. Next, lift up your tongue and look for the stretchy piece of tissue lying underneath. Move your tongue around and notice the range of motion you have. Then try sticking your tongue out. Notice how far you can stick it out. Can it go down the length of your chin or up to the tip of your nose or does it barely leave the confines of your teeth? After you explore your own frenulums, examine your spouses. The two of you will probably be much more willing participants than your children and will give you a good insight as to what to look for as genetics will probably play a role in the type of frenulums your children have.

Are the Frenula Causing Problems?

The mere existence of frenula does not constitute a problem, it is when they are so restrictive that they lead to a host of other problems that are diagnosed by the specific symptoms that both you and the child are having that there is a problem. When the frenum of the upper lip or the frenulum of the tongue start to cause problems, they are referred to as lip ties and tongue ties. If there is a lip tie, there is probably a tongue tie also, but a tongue tie does not necessarily indicate that there will be a lip tie.

What is a Tongue Tie?

Being tongue tied is medically defined as having ankyloglossia, which is caused by having an unusually short or thick membrane under the tongue that is attached abnormally close to the tip of the tongue and causes restricted movement of the tongue. People with more severe cases of tongue tie cannot stick their tongues out very far beyond their teeth.

Tongue Tie, Photo Credit: Kate via Flickr, 2008

Tongue Tie, Photo Credit: Kate via Flickr, 2008

This can cause breatfeeding problems with babies and speech problems as they get older. As an adult, the worst of the lingering effects are typically the inability to french kiss properly and the inability to lick an ice cream cone. Here’s a great 2 minute video describing what tongue tie is, the symptoms associated with it, and what it looks like to get it removed using the scissor method.

What is a Lip Tie?

Having a lip tie occurs when the membrane under the lip is unusually thick and attaches under the gum line. It is not as common or severe of a diagnosis as being tongue tied, although it does have its own host of problems. I’ve read that severe lip ties will usually correct themselves by the time a child reaches adulthood due to tripping and falling or any other number of accidents that can lead to the lip tie being torn, but Dr. Kotlow, a leading expert in tongue and lip ties, believes this is not the case. He explains how if a severe lip tie is not corrected, “it can lead to dental decay on the upper front teeth, gaps (diastemas) between the two front teeth, orthodontic or periodontal problems later in the child’s oral development, and poor lip mobility or function, especially during smiling and speaking.”

Lip Tie

Lip Tie

Other resources that I’ve looked at say that once all of the permanent teeth come in, the gap may just fix itself. explains that lip ties will not go away on their own. Here’s a great 2 minute video describing what a lip tie is, the symptoms associated with it, and what it looks like to get it removed using the scissor method.

Different Classifications of Tongue and Lip Ties

Although you cannot diagnose tongue and lip ties by looks alone, it’s a good place to start. One of the first things to look for to see if your baby is tongue tied is to see if your baby’s tongue makes a heart shape when he or she cries. This is a tell tale sign that it is being tethered too tightly to the floor of his or her mouth.

One of the best ways to look for a tongue tie is to lie the baby on his or her back on your knees with his or her head facing towards you and his or her feet facing towards your knees. Then, tilt the baby’s head back and stick your fingers underneath the tongue to elevate it. You can also get a pretty good look when he or she is crying. To look for a lip tie, look to see if the top lip flanges out while nursing. You can also simply lift up the top lip and look.

These pictures below have been compiled by Dr. Kotlow, one of the most renowned pediatric dentists, known for his skill at correcting tongue and lip ties. He comes highly recommend by Mommypotomus who also has a great blog about tongue ties. You’ll notice that there are many different classifications.

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Symptoms of Tongue and Lip Ties

Looking at the symptoms related to tongue and lip ties is actually the best way to diagnose them. So here are a list of symptoms to look for in both mom and baby that could be the result of tongue and/or lip tie.

  • Symptoms to Look for with Mom
    • Nipple pain and/or erosions
    • Nipple looks pinched, creased, bruised, or abraded after feeds
    • White stripe at the end of the nipple
    • Painful breasts/vasospasm
    • Low milk supply
    • Plugged ducts
    • Mastitis
    • Recurring thrush
    • Frustration, disappointment, and discouragement with breastfeeding
    • Weaning before mom is ready
    • Tired momma, from being up in the night every hour for feeding night after night after night
  • Symptoms to Look for with Baby
    • Poor latch and suck
    • Unusually strong suck due to baby using excess vacuum to remove milk
    • Clicking sound while nursing (poor suction)
    • Ineffective milk transfer
    • Infrequent swallowing after initial let-down
    • Inadequate weight gain or weight loss
    • Irritability or colic
    • Gas and reflux
    • Fussiness and frequent arching away from the breast
    • Fatigue within one to two minutes of beginning to nurse
    • Difficulty establishing suction to maintain a deep grasp on the breast
    • Breast tissue sliding in and out of baby’s mouth while feeding
    • Gradual sliding off the breast
    • Chewing or biting on the nipple
    • Falling asleep at the breast without taking in a full feed
    • Coughing, choking, gulping, or squeaking when feeding
    • Spilling milk during feeds
    • Jaw quivering after or between feeds
  • Symptoms I Had: With our fourth baby, Julian, I was not getting very much sleep because he was up every hour or two (or sometimes every 30-45 minutes) to nurse. And when I would nurse him, I wasn’t able to just lay down and nurse, I had to either sit up on the edge of the bed or in the rocking chair to help him latch on. My nipples weren’t really sore (after four babies, they are pretty tough), but he was rolling the nipple around in his mouth and falling off the nipple repeatedly. When he would nurse, there was a noticeable clicking sound from his inability to form a secure latch. He especially had trouble maintaining a latch during my letdown and he would sputter, choke, and pop off the breast. He would also fall asleep mid feed and as a result he didn’t fully drain the breast. This led to me getting plugged milk ducts (which I massaged away after applying a hot compress and drained completely using a breast pump) and I believe that this is what led him to have a lot of green poops. He was also taking in a lot of air during feedings which resulted in him being gassy, needing to burp and fart a lot, and getting the hiccups. When he had gas (which was often), he would get really fussy and squirm, wiggle, and grunt…even in his sleep. He would also puke a lot, but he also would nurse a lot, so weight gain was not as issue. Finally, at his six week checkup, the midwife noticed that he was tongue tied. Once I started researching the symptoms, it all made sense.

Temporary Relief

If you are waiting for a corrective procedure or trying to decide if you will get one, the following strategies can help to provide some temporary relief.

  • Stretch the Lip Tie – To help with stretching out both Ophelia and Julian’s lip ties, I would put my finger under their upper lips and roll up. I tried to remember to do this before every feeding. To help them latch on, I would have to grab my breast and angle the nipple down, wait until they opened their mouth, and then torpeedo my nipple in there! Once they latched on, I would sneak my finger under their lips to flange it out. By the time they were three months old, I didn’t have any problems with their lip ties anymore.
  • Sitting Up and Leaning Forward to Nurse – Getting a good latch is difficult enough as it is, but when you’re dealing with a lip and/or tongue tie, it’s even more challenging! This seems to help.
  • Burp Often – Because they are taking in a lot of air, it can help to burp during a feeding by either patting their backs or putting them up on your shoulder. I would also try to angle their bodies to make them more upright while nursing. Also, keep burping periodically even long after the feeding.
  • Hold to Sleep – Now, I’m a really light sleeper, so this works well for me, but it can be dangerous, so use this strategy with caution! What I do is prop a big tower of pillows in a U-Shape around me for support. Then I sleep with pillows propped under my arm and my head leaning against a pillow. When we sleep, I hold his upper body upright and about every 3o minutes or so when he gets fussy, I would pat his back, bounce, and rock him until he calmed down. We are six weeks after the procedure and Julian is 3 months old, and I still actually hold him while I sleep every night. I think I’m just used to it now!
  • Belly Band Over the Boobs – You know that thing that you put over your pants when you’re pregnant so that you can leave your pants unbuttoned as your belly grows? Well, I pull that over my breasts because my nipples are just so dang sensitive. It’s a much more comfortable alternative to wearing a bra at night and makes it easier to nurse too.
  • Air Time – Putting breast milk on my nipples and just walking around without a shirt on felt good (I just had to remember to close my curtains!)
  • Lanolin – I put lanolin on my nipples if they got sore, but I’m not sure how helpful it was.

Options Moving Forward

You have several different options depending on your specific situation. You will want to consider the following: the problems you’re having breastfeeding (Is it preventing you from getting any sleep because your baby is nursing every hour and then spitting up or is it just slightly uncomfortable?), the availability of a skilled practitioner in your area or your capability of traveling, your financial situation and insurance coverage, the age of your child, and so on. Here is a list of the next possible steps.

  1. Wait and See – If your symptoms are not that bad or if you feel like they may be caused by something else (a poor latch, strong let down, flat nipples, etc.) you might want to take a wait and see approach. Dr. Kotlow, a leading expert in tongue and lip ties, however, strongly advises against this for a lip tie because he does not feel that it will get better with time. With Ophelia and Julian, however, their lip ties were not that serious and I felt like I was able to stretch them out by rubbing my finger under their lips regularly and flanging their lips out while nursing. It was really hard to get a good picture, but you can kind of see how it is there. It attaches below the gum line and was kind of tight at first, but seemed to stretch out over time. 

    Julian's Upper Lip Tie

    Julian’s Upper Lip Tie

  2. Best Time to Act – Keep in mind that the younger the child, the easier it is to deal with this procedure. Once you go through with the procedure, not only will your child have to physically heal, but he or she will have to learn how reuse his or her tongue based on the release and the new muscle use related to the increased mobility. The best time to get a procedure done is before the child is 3 months old, and really, the younger, the better. Usually, when the child is over 6 months old, the doctor won’t do the procedure in the office, and it will have to be done in the hospital with anesthesia.
  3. Pediatrician’s Opinion – We did not need a referral to get an appointment with a specialist, but you might, and this would be a good place to start to learn about your options. Just keep in mind that some pediatricians are not familiar with tongue or lip ties or worse yet, might not believe in them and make you feel silly for even asking. We took our fourth baby, Julian, to see his pediatrician because we had no idea where to even start. She said, “Yup, that’s a tongue tie!” and suggested that we see an ENT for a frenectomy (also known as a frenulectomy, frenulotomy or frenotomy – which is the removal of a frenulum). When he cries, you can see the heart shape of the tongue and how it is tethered to the floor of his mouth.

    Julian's Tongue Tie

    Julian’s Tongue Tie

  4. ENT – That’s an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist in case you didn’t know (I didn’t). Some people feel like this is the best place to go for getting a tongue or lip tie procedure. For us, we needed something close that was in our network, and this was the only option. We had to pay $45 for the office visit and we were quoted that the procedure would be $450, but six weeks later, we have yet to get a bill. (Maybe insurance is covering it after all?)
  5. Pediatric Dentist – Some people feel like this is the preferred specialist for this procedure. I think that it all depends on what is most convenient for you. If you can travel and money isn’t an option, then you might have the freedom to research all specialists nationwide and find the best of the best.
  6. Scissor Method – This is the most common way of doing the procedure. Depending on the severity of the tongue tie, a topical and/or local anesthetic may be used, the membrane may be clamped to stomp blood flow, a nurse (and you if you can handle it) will hold the baby down, the nurse will prop up the tongue with q-tips or some other tool, then the doctor will go in with one or two snips, and then he or she will then cauterize it with silver nitrate if there is a lot of bleeding. When Julian had his cut, I was really shocked by the amount of blood, but the doctor assured me it was normal. He breastfed right after the procedure and the bleeding stopped after a few minutes. (His next poop was pretty black from all of the blood he swallowed.) There is a concern with this method that the doctor won’t cut enough (I’m sure it’s scary going into a little baby’s mouth like that with a pair of scissors, especially if they are screaming!) and there won’t be a full release. We did not have this problem.
  7. Laser Method – Some say that the laser method is superior because it can penetrate through more of the tissue for a more complete release and immediately cauterizes the wound, but it is not easy to find someone who will do this. (It takes a steady hand and a lot of skill.) Here’s a list of nationwide providers that will do the laser method.
  8. Questions to Ask – If you have several options within your area, it might be a good idea to ask some of the following questions to narrow your search such as: 1) How often have you done this procedure? 2) How often do your patients come back for a revision? 3) What is the procedure like? 4) What are your thoughts on the scissor method versus the laser method? 5) What do you recommend for aftercare?

After Care

After the procedure, some say that doing exercises to help the muscles learn what they are supposed to do and to make sure the tongue tie doesn’t reattach and scar tissue doesn’t form is absolutely crucial. I personally felt that my son would strengthen his muscles by nursing and that the wound would be given sufficient time being stretched every time he cried. (I mean, I wish I could soothe him perfectly so that he never cried, but that has yet to happen.) To be honest, I felt like he had been through enough and I could tell he was in pain when I tried to do the exercises, and I just couldn’t bear to put him through any more. I can see how the lip tie would reattach if the lip continued to not to flange out while nursing, but I can’t imagine that the newly detached lip wouldn’t flange out. At any rate, you may want to rub a finger over the wound periodically to ensure that it doesn’t reattach.

Typically, babies feel discomfort for the first 24 hours after the procedure. Older babies and toddlers will typically feel discomfort for the first 48 hours. Breastfeeding and skin to skin are the best first lines of defense. Arnica is a good natural method for pain relief, or there’s acetaminophen (dosage should be given based on the child’s weight not age). Ibprofen should not be given to children under the age of 2 months and topical numbing ointments containing benzocaine (Orajel/Anbesol) should not be given due to health risks.

After Julian’s procedure, he was in a considerable amount of pain for the first 48 hours. I ended up giving him some acetaminophen every couple of hours for the first two days and then periodically after that as needed. The wound was white for about the first 10 days and then it looked pink again. They say that with a successful tongue tie revision, you should be able to see a diamond shape. It was really hard to look under Julian’s tongue to see if this was the case but I could tell things were better based on our nursing relationship.

The Ideal Diamond Shape After a Tongue Tie Release

The Ideal Diamond Shape After a Tongue Tie Release

We are now 6 weeks past our frenectomy date and I feel like I am finally noticing a difference. To be quite honest, he improved ever so gradually, that it was hard to notice on a daily basis, but when I reflect back to the way things were 6 weeks ago, it’s really a night and day difference. The clicking went on for some time until it finally faded away. He still pops off the breast during my let down from time to time, but that could just be due to my really powerful letdown. He is sleeping better and best of all, I am able to nurse laying down! He still wakes up to feed every 2-3 hours, but that is WAY better than every 45 minutes! At first, I really questioned whether or not getting the procedure was worth it, but now I am definitely glad we did it. I think that maybe we would’ve had a better experience had we found a pediatric dentist who could do the laser procedure, but that just was not an option for us.

Body Work

Some people recommend chiropractic or CrainoSacral Therapy both before and after the procedure to help release the muscles needed to nurse. CranioSacral Therapy (CST) is a gentle, hands-on approach that releases tensions deep in the body to relieve pain and dysfunction and improve whole-body health and performance. In her article, CranioSacral Therapy: When Can It Help, by Dee Kassing, BS, MLS, IBCLC, she states that,

“If there is misalignment and imbalance of the skull bones, this can affect the function of the palate, tongue, and other structures of the head. This can cause the palate to be too high or uneven, or the facial muscles to be too tight. Imbalance of the structures of the head, as well as trauma from the birth process itself, can cause constant irritation to the nervous system. This constant irritation may also cause hypersensitivity, which can sometimes be the underlying cause for babies who gag and cannot accept anything in the center or back of the mouth.”

We took Julian to get some CST before his tongue tie release when he was about 5 weeks old, and while it didn’t make breastfeeding better per sae, it changed him in both subtle and powerful ways. He always seemed to be just a little bit fussy, and afterwards he was SO CALM. I would definitely recommended CST for every infant after birth (But that’s another post!). I kept meaning to take him for some post CST, but the timing just never worked out. It is definitely something I would recommend to anyone getting a frenectomy. To find someone who does CST, you can call chiropractic offices that specialize in infants and see if they recommend anyone.

Happy Julian

Happy Julian

More Personal Stories

Like I said, all of our children had either a tongue tie, lip tie, or both. Too bad I didn’t learn about what they were until recently.

  • Ruby – Looking back, we had a very rough start to our breastfeeding relationship, and now I know that it was due to her having a lip tie. She couldn’t get a good latch, she was constantly popping off the breast, she spit up A LOT, she couldn’t drain the breast and had green poop, she took in a lot of air while nursing because of the constant on and off and as a result she was very gassy. Now she is five years old and has a noticeable gap between her front teeth. And sure enough, when we lift her upper lip, there’s a lip tie. It doesn’t seem to be too serious, however, and we are hoping that the gap will close when her permanent teeth come in.
  • Elliot – Looking back, I can see that I had a lot of the same problems with Elliot that I have had with Julian. I just had no idea about tongue or lip ties at the time! I nursed Elliot until he was 18 months old, but had to wean him (before either of us were ready) because it was just too painful. Now, he is four years old and has some speech problems. He cannot say the /r/ or /l/ sound and has trouble with the /c/, /g/, and /th/ sounds. We had the ENT look at him when we were there for Julian’s appointment and he said that it was there, but that it wasn’t bad enough to warrant surgery. We have decided to just work with him on correctly pronouncing his letter sounds and hope for the best.
  • Ophelia – Our midwife pointed out that she had a lip tie right away. I had no idea what that even was at the time. I worked on stretching it out as she suggested and flanging her lip out when she nursed, and it never really became a problem. When her baby teeth came in, there was no gap in between her top front teeth.
  • Julian – I noticed that he had a lip tie right away, so I was able to stretch it out and it wasn’t really an issue. I asked our midwife to look at it during our 6 week visit, and she discovered that he was actually tongue tied. And that is when all of this research began. Full circle.

For more reading on the matter, check out these resources: Breastfeeding a Baby with Tongue-Tie or Lip-Tie (Resources)

12 Breastfeeding Tips to Read Before You Give BirthPostpartum Recovery

12 Breastfeeding Tips (You’ll Want to Read This BEFORE You Give Birth)

Through many ups and downs, I have successfully breastfed my own four children, and these are the things I learned about breastfeeding along the way. I don’t presume to know the “right way” to breastfeed, and I’m not trying to prescribe a “one size fits all” solution to make breastfeeding a more prevalent fixture in our society (although that would be nice). These are just the things that have worked for me, and maybe while reading about my journey and my discoveries about breastfeeding, it will spark something within you as well.

1. Choose Breastfeeding

Before I became pregnant, I obviously knew what pregnancy was, but I didn’t really know what pregnancy was until I was pregnant. I felt the same way about breastfeeding before I was pregnant. I knew about it, I assumed I would just do it…easily, and that was that. But I am obsessed with research, and when I researched breastfeeding while I was pregnant, I learned not only about the tremendous benefits of breastfeeding, but also the unfortunate struggles that kept 21% of women in the U.S. from ever even breastfeeding at birth and only 49% still breastfeeding after 6 months (according to 2014 CDC data).

Once I began to realize that breastfeeding might be challenging, I accepted it, and I did my best to prepare myself for it. I was choosing to breastfeed. I was making a stand to myself that I was going to do it no matter what. I didn’t say, “Oh, I’ll give it a try,” I said, “I am going to do this.” Despite the odds, I was determined to make it work.

2. Have a Support System

Knowing that my mom had successfully breastfed all five of us children gave me the confidence to think that I could do it too. I knew that she might not remember all of the little details of her breastfeeding journeys, but I knew that I could rely on her for support. I knew that I could count on my husband to support me too. He was right there with me every step of the way as I shared the findings of my research with him as we would spend our evenings cuddled on the couch, sipping tea, and preparing for our future. My in-laws, siblings, friends, job…everything in my life was there supporting me in my choice to breastfeed. This made a huge difference.

Somewhere in my research, I stumbled across the La Leche League, which is an incredibly helpful breastfeeding organization where I learned a lot about breastfeeding just from going to their website, reading their articles, and using their forums. I made contact with my local La Leche League Leader before giving birth, and it was the best thing I ever did. I even attended a few meetings while I was still pregnant and enjoyed meeting some other breastfeeding mothers. After I gave birth and had some problems breastfeeding, my La Leche League contact was able to talk me through them and I totally credit her with saving our breastfeeding relationship.

3. Birth Experience Effects Breastfeeding

I can’t speak to what it’s like to have a hospital birth, but I did have three amazing, beautiful, peaceful, and relatively pain free home births and one pretty traumatic and painful birth center birth. Guess where I had an easier time breastfeeding? Now, I know that going through a first birth and breastfeeding for the first time are all singular activities, but when I gave birth at home, something magical happened every time that made breastfeeding come easily.

Breastfeeding Elliot Right After Birth

Breastfeeding Elliot Right After Birth

Even though at both my birth center birth and my home births there was low lighting, soft music, minimal interventions, and the opportunity for Scott and I do be left alone to “follow my instincts”, the home births felt dramatically different. When I was at the birth center, I was constantly tense and on edge as I watched the clock and wondered how long it would be, but when I was at home, I was constantly putzing around in my own environment and getting things ready for when the baby came so that I hardly noticed the clock.

And then when our babies came, and I got to pull them up to my breast for the very first time, there was something completely magical about feeding them in our own home surrounded by all of my comforts. I was completely at ease and so happy to snuggle up in my own bed with my new little angels. Breastfeeding came very easily for my homebirths. In the birth center, however, there was this pressure to nurse right away because we had to leave (four hours after giving birth…can you believe it???), and it was a very stressful situation. Breastfeeding was not so easy at the birth center.

I can only imagine what it would be like to breastfeed a baby in a completely sterile and unfamiliar environment with bright lights, lots of nurses and doctors, and the effects of anesthesia or an epidural making both me and the baby tired and sluggish, and then to go home and try to essentially learn how to nurse all over again but without the false sense of confidence from the in-house nurses helping to provide 24 hr care and pushing formula at the first sign of breastfeeding trouble. But according to CDC 2012 data, only 1.36% of women in the U.S. have home births, so it is hardly the norm.

Just know that if you have a hospital birth, breastfeeding might come easily, but it might not, and just give yourself time to figure it out before you succumb to formula. Your baby only has a marble sized stomach for the first few days and just needs a few drops of colostrum here and there. I wasn’t able to get Ruby to latch on for 48 hours, but I pumped my colostrum and fed her with a little dropper until we finally got the hang of it.

4. Skin to Skin

After giving birth, I pulled every one of my babies onto my chest for skin to skin. They weren’t whisked away to be washed, weighed, and measured, and I was able to snuggle them close to my heart and whisper soft words into their ears as I rubbed the patches of vernix into their supple skin. In these amazing moments after birth when both me and my babies are completely awash with oxytocin, the rest of the world melts away and we are in a cerebral place where only the two of us exist, and we fall deeply madly in love with each other. There should be no pressures or time constraints placed on this precious time. Mother and baby should be allowed to bond and figure out breastfeeding for as long as it takes, which should be an hour at least, before anyone separates them.

Elliot and I Right After Birth

Elliot and I Right After Birth

Babies are born with the natural ability to root, where the they will open their mouths if you touch their chin or cheek as they look for the nipple. They are also born with an instinctual reflex called the breast crawl, where if you put a newborn on his stomach, he will scoot himself up to the breast and latch on by himself. I heard about the breast crawl before my fourth birth, and I kind of tried it, but I just wanted to cuddle him close rather than make him work to find me. Needless to say, it’s pretty cool how babies are designed perfectly to get their needs met.

5. Getting a Good Latch

This seems to be one of the most crucial aspects for establishing a healthy, long-lasting breastfeeding relationship. With all of my babies, I have seemed to struggle one way or another with getting a good latch for a variety of reasons, and it made breastfeeding very difficult. Here are some things that helped me to get my babies to form a good latch.

Breastfeeding Julian Right After Birth

Breastfeeding Julian Right After Birth

  • Open Wide: Make sure the baby’s mouth is wide open. You can stimulate this reflex by rubbing your nipple on his or her upper lip.
  • Nipple Flip: Flip the nipple into the baby’s mouth for a deep latch.
  • Roll the Nipple: If the nipple is flat, roll it until it becomes hard.
  • Pinkie Trick: If the baby is having difficulty latching on, put your pinkie into his or her mouth (nail side down) until he or she establishes a good sucking motion. Then, do the old bait and switch by pulling out your pinkie and quickly inserting your nipple.
  • Break the Latch: There might be a bit of pain initially as you get used to the feeling of breastfeeding, but if the pain persists, break the latch by inserting your finger in between your nipple and the baby’s mouth and start over.
  • Keep Trying: If the two of you are not getting a good latch right away, don’t stress out about it. Just keep switching sides, taking breaks, and trying again. You’ll get it eventually. If it’s really taking awhile, you can pump some colostrum and feed it to your baby with a dropper. Their stomachs are the size of marbles at this point, so they don’t need much.
  • Avoid Nipple Confusion: I would avoid using nipple shields. They might work in the short term, but it will be even hard to get your baby to latch on to your nipple after successfully latching on to the nipple shield. I would also avoid all pacifiers and bottles for the first few weeks to avoid nipple confusion.
5 Month Old Julian Has a Good Latch

5 Month Old Julian Has a Good Latch

6. Get in Position

When I first get started with breastfeeding, I make a conscious effort to be sitting correctly. After awhile, I know that I’ll be able to breastfeed upside down on the top of a mountain in the dark with one hand, but it takes a little while to get there!

I have always found that it helps to be in a comfortable seated position where I can lean forward slightly. This can be achieved sitting on the side of a mattress on the floor (which is how we sleep because I like how it’s easier for young-ens to crawl into our bed) or sitting in a rocking chair with a Bobby (or cross your legs to bring the baby closer) and a nursing stool, and with some experience, sitting in bed propped up by a lot of pillows.

7. Hold the Baby Correctly

There are so many things to think about while breastfeeding, that I sometimes forget one of the most important aspects of all, the position of the baby’s body! When I look down at my breastfeeding babies and see that their legs are facing up, I know that I have them in the wrong position!

In order to hold babies correctly while nursing, you want to have their stomach facing yours, with their legs stacked on top of each other. You should be holding them up high, right above your navel. Using something like a Bobby or My Breast Friend or crossing your legs can help with this positioning.

When I’m holding my babies, I always like wrapping them up in one of my homemade silkies. I love the feel of these blankets and when I cradle it under my babies’ heads, it prevents them from getting all sweaty. Plus, I love to stroke their faces with it and cover up their eyes as they fall asleep in my arms. (I now sell them on my Etsy site…custom ordered!)

Using a Silky While Breastfeeding

Using a Silky While Breastfeeding

8. Take Care of Your Nipples

The first two weeks of breastfeeding are the toughest. As a first time mom, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed as long as I could, but I was a bit discouraged during my first two weeks because of how much it hurt. After two weeks, however, my nipples weren’t as sensitive, we were figuring out the whole latch thing, and it suddenly became much much easier. After a month, I felt like an old pro, and after 3 months, I was nursing in my sleep. Here are some tips for dealing with sensitive nipples.

  • Use a Nipple Cream: I liked this and this, but just choose one brand and stick with it, otherwise your baby will be surprised and angered by the differing flavors.
  • Use Breast Milk: If your nipples are just a little dry or sensitive, give them a little milk bath. It’s very healing.
  • Let Them Air Out: Walk around the house with your shirt off or just cover up loosely with a robe. Your husband will love it!
  • Cover Them Tightly: I have always been a sleep in a t-shirt kind of girl, but when I’m nursing, I hate the feeling of fabric rubbing against my nipples. I like to bind them up with a bellaband. The pressure feels great, and it prevents them from leaking all over the place.

9. Feed on Demand

I have never tried to feed my babies according to a schedule or get them on a routine, especially when they were newborns, even though I read many books, blogs, and forums that tried to convince me otherwise. Look for these cues that your baby is hungry and just know that they’ll need to eat about every 2 hours for the first few months:

  • Opening and closing mouth
  • Sucking on objects
  • Rooting around your chest
  • Getting a little fussy
  • If you wait until your baby is crying, it’s too late. They are now beyond hungry, and now they are upset, and it’s not easy trying to feed a crying upset baby without them taking in a lot of air, getting gas, and then getting even more upset.

When I feed my babies on demand, they always get really chubby. I love the rolls upon rolls and the squishy little cheeks! But some people are worried about fat babies, and they worry that fat babies will turn into fat kids who will become fat adults, but rest assured the opposite is actually true. Studies show that the fatter the babies, the skinnier the adults. So feed those babies!

10. Drain the Boob

I always have one boob that produces an insane amount of thinner more watered down milk and another boob that produces but a fraction of the amount, but it is thick, rich, fatty milk. I typically like to nurse on just one side at a time. If I can’t remember where I am in the cycle, I’ll just start with my little boob and then give them the bigger boob the next time around. Sometimes after feeding on the little boob side, they still seem hungry, so I’ll immediately go to the bigger boob. Usually, I’ll burp in between.

At any rate, you want to nurse on each side until the breast is fully drained. If too much milk is left behind, it can lead to plugged milk ducts and mastitis over time. Also, it’s usually the thinner, more watered down milk that comes out at the beginning of the feed (known as the foremilk), and the thicker, fattier, more nutrient dense milk that comes out towards the end of the feed (known as the hindmilk), so you don’t want to stop nursing before the cycle is complete.

11. Set Up Comfortable Nursing Stations

Once you get the hang of breastfeeding, you’ll want to make it easy to breastfeed everywhere in the house. In the beginning, I know that I’ll be spending a lot of my time breastfeeding in my bed, so I made that my central station for breastfeeding. You’ll notice in the picture below that I have my nice stack of pillows, a soft salt lamp with a dimmer switch, a newborn sleeper, some diapers and wipes, water, kleenex, a rocking chair, and a crib (that won’t be used for 6 months at least).

Our Bedroom is Set Up for Nursing

Our Bedroom is Set Up for Nursing

My nursing station in the living room is the one I really spend the most time setting up. I know that I will be sitting there a lot with my new little peanut, and so I stock this station with everything I could ever need. I have a comfortable rocking chair, a nursing stool, a good size table to hold all of my things, a breast pump, water, kleenex, a NoseFrida (nasal aspirator) and saline spray, some finger nail clippers, some magazines ( love reading Above Rubies for inspiration), and the tv remote and a wireless mouse to control it. I also make sure to have plenty of things for my other kids to do around the room so that they can stay busy while I nurse.

My Living Room Nursing Station

My Living Room Nursing Station

12. What Goes In Will Come Out

I feel like I am at my hungriest when I’m nursing, especially when they start to get closer to that 6 month mark. The time right before they are introduced to solid foods, but still somehow gaining tremendous amounts of weight, all from my milk! I love it!

When babies are in the womb, they have our bodies and the placenta to help them filter through whatever food we’re eating, but when they are nursing, they have to go through digestion alone. This is why it is even more important to eat a healthy diet and stay well hydrated. A healthy diet for pregnant and nursing moms should include plenty of raw milk, pastured eggs, butter, cheese, yogurt, grass fed beef, wild caught fish (like salmon), bone broth soup, organic soaked grains, and organic fruits and vegetables.

I have also found it beneficial to stay away from coffee and alcohol completely for the first three months until they are better at metabolizing it. Every baby is different, but if you notice that your baby is particularly fussy, this might be why.

In Conclusion

I will always treasure the special time I’ve had with each of my children as I’ve nursed them. In the first few months as we’re figuring each other out, we spend a lot of time together up in the night, and even though I’m tired, I cherish these times more than anything in the world. It is an honor to bring life into this world, and it is an honor to be able to sustain the life that I delivered with nourishment from my own body. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Julian’s First Ten Days

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I’m sitting on the couch right now watching The Land Before Time with Ruby and Elliot snuggled up close on either side of me. We just ate a huge pile of cookies and some fresh milk and now we’re all buried under silkies while Julian rocks peacefully in his swing. A fire is blazing, the snow blankets the world outside, and I feel very cozy staying inside and happy to not be tempted by the nice fall days that could lure me to do too much while instead I get to recover, rest, and recuperate. Ophelia is sleeping and Andrea just left after spending three wonderful days with us. Daddy is still at work for a couple of hours and then he has tomorrow off for Thanksgiving. Ruby had a half day today and she’ll be off from school on Thursday and Friday as well. These past ten days have been amazing, magical, life-changing, and completely wonderful and I want to go back to the beginning and try to remember how we got to this place.

For nine months we talked about what our lives would be like with a 4th. We imagined, we dreamed, we moved,  we prepared, we rearranged, we prepared some more, and we rearranged again, and again, and again. We were most concerned about how we would get through our bedtime routine and how I would handle taking care of a baby and three little ones. This new baby was the biggest reason for sending Ruby to school, and while it was difficult at first, I’m so glad that we stuck with it because she loves it so much, she is learning so many things, and I don’t know how I would have managed doing homeschool kindergarten and taking care of the other three.

But all of that planning and preparing couldn’t get us quite ready for what was to come as much as just diving in and getting used to this new life. I thought that we would need extra help especially preparing dinner and getting the kids to bed, but with a big winter storm snowing us in, we didn’t really get the help that I thought we would need, and it turns out, we didn’t need it!

I knew how important it was to have a baby moon, especially when Ruby was born and EVERYTHING was new to us. We didn’t want people coming over and telling us what to do before we had a chance to figure it out for ourselves. But with baby number four, I didn’t really think that a baby moon was possible or even necessary, but it turns out I was wrong! Whether we had planned for it or not, we got a baby moon! We had my mom, grandma, and sister there to help us on day one, and then we were on our own for the rest of the week. It was a wonderful week and it was so cool to see all of our lives transform as we became a family of 6.

Scott’s Transformation

The first person that I noticed to change and grow was Scott. He has always been an amazing father and husband, but he stepped up to a higher level than I even thought possible after this birth. I knew that I really needed to take advantage of his week off to recover so that I could take over when he left and so I spent a lot of time sleeping in, resting, sitting in one chair or another, cuddling, and demanding one thing after another. Scott was there before I could even ask him to come, he did things before I even saw that they had to be done, and he was constantly busy keeping the kids dressed, fed, and happy, the house clean and picked up, laundry taken care of, food prepared, the kitchen cleaned, and he was always there to make sure that I had everything that I needed. He was so attentive to our needs and so in tune with what needed to be done and I just fell in love with him all over again. In this week of sleepless nights where we were constantly at least a baby’s length apart, he made me feel beautiful, loved, appreciated, and so much more.

It’s just amazing how much our lives have changed since having kids and instead of trying to balance the way our lives used to be with the way our lives are now, we have simply embraced the way that they are now without any pretenses about trying to recreate the past. In some ways, I think this is an easier task for the mother. Carrying a child for nine months and then having them need you constantly during that fourth trimester forces you to be there. All a mother has to decide is if she’s going to do it begrudgingly, simply waiting for the sleepless nights and sore nipples to pass or if she’s going to embrace it with a passion that consumes her. Easier said than done, I know, but when you carry a child in your womb, you feel like they are a part of you forever and always. Even as my children grow, I still feel like we are connected by an invisible umbilical cord. Every joy they experience I do too and every sorrow they encounter is one that breaks my heart as well.

But the father is needed in a different way. One that isn’t quite obvious at first, but is just as important as the mothers’, albeit in a different way. I see our kids desperately seeking their father’s approval and love, and I see them beam and grow in very strong and powerful ways when he encourages them. He is more practical than me. Sometimes I look at my little angels as if they are perfect and can do no wrong, but he is so good about gently guiding them to learn about the rules of what is right and wrong. He tells them about the world and patiently answers all of their questions, he wrestles with them roughly when they need to fight and cuddles them gently when they need to be loved, he tells them about his passions and encourages them to seek theirs, he introduces them to new things that make them feel so cool, connected to him, and respected like how to fix computers, play Minecraft, cook, do dishes, enjoy books, and more. But the most important thing that he gives his children is his honesty. His love is honest—it is not forced, he does not do these things or give of his time because he is supposed to or it is expected of him. He truly enjoys it. He loves being a father and he tells me and the kids this constantly. To have a father who parents with such joy, not begrudgingly while wishing he could be out on the town or doing the things “he wants to do”. This is what he wants to do, this is who he wants to be, and our children will grow up with this knowledge at the very core of who they are.

Kids can sense when you’re doing something out of duty or if you’re doing it because you completely enjoy it with every fiber of your being, and it is obvious to anyone who sees Scott interact with his children that he is madly in love with them and loves to be with them. I think that this stems from the love that we share with each other. When you go back to the beginning of Scott and Stacey, you will find two people that are completely, madly, and deeply and passionately crazy for each other. This passion has grown deeper with every adventure, every change, and every child and we still can’t keep our hands off from each other just like when we were in the beginning stages of our relationship. I love him so much and the thought of spending our entire lives together watching these children who we birthed, raised, loved, and cherished grow into adults and have children of their own warms my heart and makes me happier than anything money, prestige, or status could ever offer. As we become grandparents and reflect on all that our love has created as we settle into our “golden years”, I simply can’t imagine a better future.

 

The Kids Have Changed Too

The way that Scott and I have changed and grown is more obvious, but as we welcomed Julian into our lives the kids changed too, although in more subtle ways. Ophelia was quite indifferent at first, but she is going through perhaps the biggest change of us all. Now she is no longer the little baby and mommy’s lap that used to be reserved just for her is now being shared my a helpless little infant. She loves standing on my footstool while I nurse and she says, “Baby! Baby! Goo goo ga ga!” It’s so cute! She gets a little jealous if Scott gets her up and she sees Julian on my lap, but then Scott will take Julian and I cuddle up with Ophelia and then she’s just fine. Other than that, she hasn’t really shown any other signs of jealousy. We’ve treated her like all of the other little siblings with a new baby and have tried to give her lots of extra attention and we haven’t pushed her to acknowledge the baby unless she is ready to do so. She loves looking at him and saying, “Baby sleeping!” or if he’s laying on the floor she’ll pet his head and say, “Baby. Gentle.” just like she would with a kitty.

Elliot has been through the roof happy with his new brother! After being so indifferent after Ophelia was born, it’s been so nice to see him so excited for a new sibling. His enthusiasm is so vibrant and he gets so loud, but Julian LOVES it and looks right at him. I think that he heard Elliot’s voice in the womb very clearly and really recognizes it. Elliot loves cradling his face and showing him things and talking to him about fighting and video games and Minecraft. He is so excited to have a brother and wants to know when he’ll be able to wrestle, fight, and play. It has been so nice having extra time with him while Ruby is at school and Ophelia is sleeping or busy. I know it won’t be long until he’s in school too or too busy to need me as much as he does, but for now, he’s my special cuddly guy and it’s just so fun to spend all day every day together.

Ruby is a little mother hen and she is truly quite helpful. She loves to tell Julian stories and sing to him and every time she sees him she wants to see if he’s awake and give him a kiss. She is always wondering why he is sleeping so much and wants to know if his eyes are open. “Sorry dear, he’s probably more awake at night than during the day”, I tell her. She is so good about getting me things that I need and keeping me company while I’m nursing or holding him. She is also so helpful around the house picking things up and helping us with cooking or other projects. We were so worried that she would want to stay home with us while Daddy had a week off, but she was really excited to get back into her school routine and hardly noticed what was going on at home while she was gone.

But through all of the positive aspects of change, there have been some bumpy and rough parts too. It’s hard to put my finger on what has been rough exactly, but there just seems to be a bit more angst, feelings that are hurt a little more easily, fights that erupt over seemingly unimportant things, and everyone just seeming to need a lot more attention. I’m so glad that we have limited our contacts and excursions and have instead focused on being a family and meeting the needs that everyone has as we stretch, grow, and change to welcome this new addition into our family.

 

Julian and I Get to Know Each Other

With this being my fourth birth, I feel like I kind of know what I’m doing now, but each child is different and unique and while there are certain techniques that are universal, these ten days after Julian’s birth have been all about the two of us getting to know each other.  First of all, after going through thrush with Ophelia, I was very happy in the end of this pregnancy to finally beat my reoccurring yeast infection by eliminating sugar and processed foods along with buying some really great cotton boy cut underwear. 🙂 But breastfeeding and sleep were still the two biggest challenges that I had to face.

 

Breastfeeding

Julian latched on right away and I thought we were going to have an easy breastfeeding relationship, but that hasn’t quite been the case. The initial latch on was painful, but that’s kind of normal, so I didn’t think anything of it until it was still hurting over a week later. My nipples were also kind of slanted, a tell tale sign of a bad latch. So I pulled up his lip in search of a lip tie, and sure enough…there it was! Ruby had this and as a result she wouldn’t latch on for very long which resulted in her taking in too much air, getting gas and hiccups and well as not nursing long enough to get the fatty hindmilk (green poop was a tell tale sign of this) which resulted in her being really fussy. I had no idea why until our midwife pointed out Ophelia’s lip tie. She said we could cut it with a scalpel, but I simply couldn’t imagine doing that! Plus, it could heal back together. She suggested rolling her lip up several times a day to stretch it out and after she latched on to make sure her top lip was rolled up by coaxing a finger underneath and helping it to flip up. By doing these techniques, her lip tie ended up not being a problem.

So, I’m implementing the same techniques with Julian, but getting results has been slow going. I can’t get him to latch on while reclining in bed and I either have to sit up and really lean forward or go to our rocking chair where we somehow always seem to find the perfect latch. I know that we’ll figure it out eventually, it’s just hard when he needs to eat every two hours throughout the night and I’m oh so very tired.

 

Sleep

I remember reading somewhere that babies are really tired after birth and so they will sleep pretty much nonstop for two days. I think that this happened with Ruby and maybe Elliot too, but I was not fortunate enough to have that for Ophelia or Julian. Part of it are the afterpains that totally shocked me with Ophelia. I was more prepared for them with Julian, but they were still painful. The uterus has more work to do to contract and get down to it’s normal size with each child and so the contractions that help it to do so that are brought about by nursing can be as intense as labor. I had an afterbirth tincture that I took to help with this, but what really saved me was having a heating pad ready to go. I put it on my belly and it really helped to melt the pain away.

That first night, I was able to swaddle Julian and lay him between us and he slept for one five hour stretch…the most he would sleep at night for the next ten days! I usually prop up about ten pillows all around me and hold my babies close while leaning back on a well positioned pillow to sleep at night, after I tried many times with no success to put Julian inbetween us, I ended up doing this with Julian too. It just takes awhile to get used to sleeping this way, but by day ten, I’m so tired that I could probably fall asleep standing up if I had to!

The next few nights, sleep was a bit more difficult. Julian would sleep really good during the day, but at night would get a little more fussy. I kept trying different strategies until I found something that worked. Sometimes he really liked it when we did skin to skin, other times he liked to be swaddled, and when I couldn’t console him in our bedroom (we tried to be quiet so as not to wake up Scott and Ophelia) I came out to the living room where he could be awake if needed. One time I had to swaddle him, have him suck on my finger, and shush him to get him to calm down, but he usually just wanted to be awake, so I would watch some Once Upon a Time until he fell asleep and then came back to bed.

It’s so easy to get frustrated in this first month when babies do not have their circadian rhythm or produce melatonin to help them sleep at night, but I know that the best thing to do it try to sleep any way that I can, get through these first four weeks, and know that eventually he will fall into a pattern and I will get more sleep. I feel like I’m really well equipped to survive for awhile without much sleep and it really helps that we don’t need to go anywhere or do anything. I took it easy as much as possible, especially during these first ten days, and that really helped.

 

My Recovery

I know from recovering from the other births that I need to take advantage of the extra help that I have in the beginning and do whatever I can to heal so that I can get back on my feet quicker and not backslide. I really didn’t bleed much at first and my bleeding kept stopping, but then if I would go up the stairs or walk around too much, I would bleed fresh blood again. I tried my best to not do too much, but there is really only so much that I can stand sitting around and running a household with three other children (even with help) requires a lot of work, so I didn’t worry too much about it.

My recovery downstairs was really quick. There was one little spot that stung if pee got on it, so I would spray a peri bottle on myself while I peed and sprayed some bactine on it afterwards. It stopped stinging on the third day. The thing that hurt the most were my hips from Scott pressing so hard on them! I think something may have gotten out of line on my left hip because it was so tender and hurt to even walk. It has taken ten days for the pain to fade and it’s almost gone now.

I tried wearing my girdle a few days after birth and I couldn’t even fit it over my belly. After Ophelia, I was determined to heal my diastus recti and I wore my girdle day and night which really helped me to get my figure back. But this time around, I knew that the process might take awhile longer and I am totally fine with that! There are more important things in the world than having a flat stomach. Once my stomach shrinks down a little more, I’ll try to wear it for a few hours at a time and then work my way up to wearing it for longer periods. I also look forward to working out again, but I’m going to give it a good six weeks before attempting anything.

 

Julian’s Growth

As soon as he was born, we saw his peaceful personality. Hardly a cry and those wide eyes looking around ready to take in everything the world has to offer. Coming into the world in such a peaceful atmosphere and settling in to the sounds he became familiar with in the womb certainly helped I’m sure, but I can tell that his personality will reflect these traits that we see right now. I am amazed at how well he’s able to turn his head to look at different voices that he hears. He does like to sleep a lot, but when he’s awake he is so extremely aware , focused and calm. Just like when he was in the womb, he likes to be awake right after we put all of the kids to bed. It’s such an amazing time for Scott and I as we snuggle up on the couch together and cradle him in between us so he can see both of our faces. And then we gently coo to him and he looks back and forth from Mommy to Daddy with his big wide eyes and his mouth pursed into a little o.

His limbs remain still and his body calm as he patiently accepts all that is happening around him, and then just like a snapping twig, he’ll erupt into a powerful and monstrous cry and we know that he’s had enough of the world and wants to be safely cradled back in his mother’s arms to nurse and be rocked back to sleep. I remember with Ruby how I would hardly be able to step into the shower without her screaming and crying, and once again, it could be just because we’re all more comfortable with this world of parenting, but Julian can stay with Daddy or others for quite a bit of time before needing Mommy again.

We bought a really nice (and expensive) swing thinking that he would like sleeping in it at night, but it’s just too loud of a contraption to keep in our bedroom so we have it in our living room and it works great for naps. After Julian was born, Scott and Elliot took a trip to Meijers for groceries and I had him pick up a little vibrating bassinet that is extremely portable and easy to move around. I drag it from room to room and Julian loves sleeping it is during the day, but at night, it’s just easier for me to hold him. We have a bunch of little bouncy chairs from the other kids, but he’s too little for them yet.

I love taking pictures and videos of him every chance I get. He changes so gradually, but when I look back to the beginning I can see the enormity of his change. I know that I am going to be busy and I may not write in my journal as much as I have in the past, but I wanted to remember every moment and feeling of Julian’s birth and how our family changed as he joined us.

 

 

 

Our Fourth Born: Julian's Home Birth

Our Fourth Born: Julian’s Home Birth

Julian William Maaser

Born: 11-15-14 (Saturday)

Time: 12:40 a.m.

Measurements: 7 lbs 8 oz, 21 inches long, 13.5 cm head circumference

Pregnancy

They always warn you that the more kids you have, the less pictures you’ll take. Well…because we keep getting better iphones and gadgets, we actually have plenty of pictures and videos, but now I just don’t have the time to organize them all and do as much writing as I used to. With this pregnancy, I was so busy settling into our house, spending time with the kids, and working on my new blog www.embracing-motherhood.com that I haven’t had a lot of time to write about this pregnancy, so here’s a little overview of what this pregnancy was like.

I always love being pregnant…especially in the beginning. Just knowing that a new life is growing inside of me is so magical and wonderful, and I love thinking about the new little person who will change our lives forever. But this pregnancy seemed to bring on a few more stressful situations than the others. With this being my 4th pregnancy in 5 years and being 35 years old, I all of a sudden was in a higher risk factor bracket. Plus, welcoming a new little peanut into an already full household and busy schedule made me want to plan everything out so perfectly in order to avoid feeling overwhelmed or depressed after the birth.

The beginning of the pregnancy went so smoothly that I kept forgetting that I was pregnant. Things would settle into a really nice rhythm and I kept feeling like saying, “I’m ready to get pregnant again…oh wait, I already am!” It made me so happy to know that for the first time since having children, we wouldn’t have to move again. We were so excited to welcome a new baby into our new home and we spent my entire pregnancy doing one project after another getting everything just so.

We found a wonderful midwife near the Amish community where we get our milk and when she noticed that I was measuring 4 cm ahead of my weeks, I started to wonder if it could be twins. So we scheduled an ultrasound and it’s so funny how when you just start thinking about something that could be, it all of a sudden starts to become a reality in your mind, especially if it’s something that you’re afraid of. I cracked a double yolk that morning and found two baby mattresses at the thrift store…all signs that I was certainly carrying twins.

Andrea rode with me to the ultrasound and we chatted the whole way there about what it would be like to have twins. Scott met us there and when we found out that it was only one baby, we were kind of sad. But then the relief sank in about only needing to nurse one baby, be up in the night with one baby, soothe one baby, and all of a sudden one baby seemed easy in comparison. With the last two pregnancies, we didn’t have any ultrasounds and never found out the gender, but with the answer being right there in front of us with this baby, we couldn’t refuse. We wanted a boy soooooooo bad that we were afraid to find out, and when she said it was a boy, we just about cried we were so happy! Elliot would have a little brother and our “girl, boy, girl, boy” pattern would be complete.

Unfortunately, the ultrasound also revealed that I had a low lying placenta, so we knew that although unlikely, placenta previa which would mean an automatic c-sections was a possibility. We didn’t worry about it too much though until I had some bright red bleeding at about 34 weeks. At that point, we scheduled another ultrasound and we were sadly informed that the placenta was touching the cervix. As we started discussing the ramifications of this, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to have the homebirth that I had wanted so badly and that it could very well mean that I would need a c-section and somehow have to recover from major abdominal surgery while also taking care of 4 little ones…two of which who need to be put to bed upstairs…

But then, a miracle happened and as my bladder filled, the ultrasound technician realized that the placenta was actually quite far from the cervix. Phew! But there were a few other concerns such as significant calcification, a heterogeneous placenta with many “lakes”, and the lingering concern over the blood that we couldn’t seem to explain.

So we scheduled a meeting with an obstetrician and he was able to explain in clarifying detail what he saw in another ultrasound that he performed in his office. He said that there were also “lakes” or pools of blood in my uterus (from having so many babies so quickly) and that that would explain why the technician thought that the placenta was touching the cervix. He also did a cervical exam and determined that a blood vessel in the cervix was likely ruptured, which explained the blood loss. We had been most concerned about placental abruption, which could mean hemorrhaging and death during delivery, so we were very glad to clear that up.

We were so happy that we would still be able to plan a home birth and we continued preparing for our sweet little boy to enter our lives. At 35 weeks, I started to really notice my Braxton hicks contractions, and I became concerned that I wouldn’t be able to meet my due date. I started researching “babies born at 35 weeks” and we talked about how if he came early, we would just have to go to the hospital and do the best we could.

When I was 37 weeks, I was so glad that I had made it technically to “full term” and as I noticed the Braxton hicks increasing, I continued to try to take it easy. I knew that every day in the womb was worth three outside, and I wanted our little boy to be able to grow as much as possible before he was born. Besides, we had WAY too much to do before he came and we needed the time to finish all of our projects!

Every day I kept thinking that he would be coming any time and Scott kept reminding me that I said that with every pregnancy. So, I reread my birth stories, and sure enough, I did! I guess I just kind of start to panic a little bit in the end. I know that I want to be able to take the time to recover after the birth and so I want to know that everything I could possibly think of is done so I can rest assured. That in addition to the fact that it takes me awhile to mentally psyche myself up to go through the labors of labor. A part of me just wants to get it started so I can get through it and get the last uncomfortable stages of pregnancy over with, and another part of me feels like I’ll never be ready! Ophelia had been trying to cut her bottom eye teeth for months and she kept waking up in the night, so I didn’t even want to think about the baby being born before her teeth came in.

When we were at the midwife appointment two weeks before my due date and she started making plans for our next appointment ON my due date, I only half-heartedly made it thinking that there was NO WAY I would last that long. But sure enough, my due date came and went and still no baby. Every morning I excitedly thought, “This could be the day!” And then when night time came around I became worried and thought, “I’m not ready yet! We’re too sick, too tired, there’s too much to do!”

But then four days after my due date (and one day before my original due date – based on the date of my last period rather than the ultrasound’s diagnosis), things began to happen.

Early Labor: Out and About

It was a Thursday night in the middle of November, and winter was coming much too fast. We knew that it was our last evening of mild weather, so Scott and I moved all of our yard furniture, toys, etc. closer to the house in preparation for the early nights and blowing snow. I had really been trying to take it easy because every time I walked a lot or exerted a lot of energy, I noticed that my Braxton Hicks contractions would increase, but I just really wanted to get this done, so we pushed through it. “I’m probably going to put myself into labor now!” I told Scott. And sure enough…

For the past few nights, weeks, I would feel contractions intensify in the evening after putting the kids to bed, but then they would die down as I slept. So after all of our moving on Thursday night, I wasn’t surprised to feel them again. I slept peacefully that night until about midnight and then they started to become too painful to sleep through. So I got up to make sure everything would be ready if I DID go into labor. Ruby still needed her lunch prepared for the next day, I needed more sourdough muffins, another batch of kombucha, the mirrors were streaked, there were dirty dishes, and of course I needed to get some coffee ready for the next day.

Scott came into the kitchen groggy and excited, “Is it happening?” he wondered. “Maybe, maybe not” I said unsure. While he was there, I got on my hands and knees and he really rubbed on my lower back and the back pain that I had been feeling for weeks finally melted away. I think that our little boy was in a somewhat of a posterior position and we must have helped him to turn and descend into a more optimal position. I shooed Scott off to bed and stayed up for a few more hours getting everything ready. Finally, at 5 a.m., I went to bed and the contractions died down while I slept.

I was up at 7 a.m. to help Ruby off to school and once her and Scott left, I called my mom to tell her that even though I wasn’t feeling contractions at the moment, I had felt them pretty intensely in the night and that things would probably be starting again soon. She had already planned on trying to work from home that day and so she said she would be there at about noon to help out just in case.

The evening before, Scott started feeling really sick and I knew that he would need his strength to take care of me and our family during my labor, so I strongly encouraged him to take the day off and rest. He came home from work, reluctant to take the day off when he wanted to save up as many days as he could for after the baby was born, took a bunch of herbal “get well” pills and slept all morning long.

I sent a Facebook message at 10:00 a.m. to my midwives to let them know that things were starting to happen. With Ophelia’s birth, I had started feeling contractions for her in the morning, things got intense by noon, and I told my midwives that she would probably be born at 7 p.m.…she was born at 7:20. But this time around, there wasn’t any time that I felt comfortable making a prediction about when the baby would come. About 6 weeks prior, however, I had written on the calendar that I thought he would be born at 10:59 p.m. on November 15th. With that prediction, I was less than 2 hours off.

So anyways, while Scott slept, I took Ophelia and Elliot to the thrift store to get Scott a really cool coat that I had seen earlier. I was starting to have contractions that were definitely more than Braxton’s, but not enough to stop me from moving around. It was half off toys day and Elliot loaded up on his favorite toys of all…little figurines of superheroes, fighters, and the like, and Ophelia got a cool little ferris wheel/merry-go-round toy. I got Scott his really cool winter coat and one for myself as well, plus this amazing white chair that we needed for the dining room.

I was about to drive 40 minutes to get our milk on my own, but I was relieved when I called my mom and discovered that she would be there soon. I really wanted to be able to get milk and go to Meijers before labor kicked into full gear, so I was really driving fast, passing everyone and speeding quickly to get it all done. Elliot and Ophelia enjoyed getting out of the car with us and playing in the barn as I filled up our 8 gallons of milk. My mom helped me to carry them to the car and we just laughed about doing all of this work during early labor! It was so fun to have my mom there with me and I really enjoyed chatting with her on the drive. We both agreed that staying busy during early labor was so good because it doesn’t make you feel like a watched pot and get too nervous about what’s to come.

Getting Milk at the Farm

Getting Milk at the Farm

Elliot and Ophelia Pretending to Switch Seats

Elliot and Ophelia Pretending to Switch Seats

When we got home, Scott was feeling well rested and much better, and we decided to pick up Ruby early from school (2:00 p.m.) and try to head to Meijers. Ruby felt so special to have us both there to pick her up and she said that if the baby was born in the car, he could have her coat to stay warm.

After we dropped Ruby off with my mom and got about one third of the way to Meijers, contractions were picking up and becoming too intense for me to feel comfortable being out and about. So we turned around and went to Vics, the local grocery store, instead. While we were picking out cheese and sour cream, my midwife Laurie called us to see how things were going. The store was really busy and it was fun trying to talk quietly about my mucus, cervical dilation, and pain level. Contractions were about 5 minutes apart, lasting for about 35 seconds, and intense enough to make me pause, but not too strong to talk through.

Pre Labor: At Home

I told my midwives that when I got home and started to relax that things would probably start to move quickly. I don’t know, I just kind of assumed that with the fourth baby in five years, things would just progress rapidly, but they never really did. The entire labor was just slow, easy, manageable, and calm…just like our little boy would be.

So Scott unloaded and put away the groceries, my mom had just pulled out a fresh batch of my sourdough muffins from the oven, and the kids were all playing quietly throughout the house. I started putzing around slowly folding laundry, checking on the kids, tidying up the house, and walking around. During contractions, I would just sway back and forth, but they still weren’t getting very intense. In the picture below, I was leaning against a chair to get through a contraction when Elliot climbed on my back to “help” me, and if you look at my face, he actually did!

Elliot Helping Me Through a Contraction

Elliot Helping Me Through a Contraction

After the bath, we all got the kids dressed in their snowpants and headed outside for a fire in the early November snow. My mom kept saying that she was going to lay down for a nap, but there kept being one thing after another that kept her on her toes. I even put on some slippers, coat, hat, scarf, and mittens, and rolled my ball out by the fire.Scott unpacked my birth kit and made our bed with the plastic and extra sheet and we got ready for things to progress. I started hanging out in our bedroom a lot. Scott drew a nice warm bath with music and soft lights and I enjoyed relaxing in the tub for awhile. I kept trying to check myself, but for some reason, it was really hard to tell what was going on. After the bath, I told the midwives that I couldn’t be dilated more than 4cm. There was also some more blood that came out, but I think it was from the placenta, not the mucous plug. I’m not really sure that I ever lost my mucous plug during early labor, maybe I lost it awhile ago???

The first midwife assistant, Julie, arrived and hung out with us by the fire. We turned on the back porch lights since it was completely dark, and the kids enjoyed playing on the slide and eating snow. It was such a fun distraction to keep busy during early labor. When I bounced on the ball during contractions, I could hardly feel them.

Having a Fire

Having a Fire

Ophelia (1.5 years old)

Ophelia (1.5 years old)

I was getting so excited about the impending action, but also a little anxious wondering when things were going to get going. Julie reminded me to keep eating and drinking water and I suddenly remembered I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch, so Scott brought me a plate of chicken and mashed potatoes. That food gave me instant energy and I could feel my contractions intensify almost immediately!

Grandma Reading with Ophelia

Grandma Reading with Ophelia

When we came inside at 7:00 p.m., I realized that things probably wouldn’t be happening until after the kids went to bed, so we moved all of the birth supplies to the new birth location…the living room. I set up a bunch of candles over the fireplace and Scott got my Enya/Joshua Radin mix going on the tv. We got the kids in their pajamas and I enjoyed watching them do their nightly wrestling in our bedroom.

Nightly Wrestling

Nightly Wrestling

After that, Scott brought my ball upstairs and we were able to pretty much go through with our normal bedtime routine. Scott cuddled up with Ruby and Elliot and read them three books. I read Ophelia a few of her favorite books and when I felt a contraction, I would sit and bounce on my ball. When Scott brings Elliot to his room to read him three more stories in bed, I usually read Ruby three more stories in bed while Ophelia reads to herself, but on this night, my mom read Ruby a whole bunch of poems from A Light in the Attic and I was able to take Ophelia downstairs to put her to bed.

After I kicked my big ball down the stairs, I was a little worried about managing my pain during contractions while I read Ophelia stories. But I just kicked the ball into our room and things seemed to stall out just long enough to have her sit on my lap in the rocking chair, give her some milk, and read her three stories before putting her to bed.

Active Labor

While we were putting the kids to bed, the other two midwives Laurie and Jillian arrived and got all of their things set up. After that, they checked the baby’s heart rate and took my blood pressure. I felt so bad that I had encouraged them to come out so much earlier and now here they were getting here so much later and still nothing was really progressing very fast. After I apologized, they said, “Don’t worry! We’d rather be here early than get here just as you’re pushing him out.” My mom was so sweet and showed them where the food was, the extra beds where they could rest, and chatted with them for a bit while Scott and I got things settled in the living room.

My mom soon joined us in the living room and we talked excitedly about the day so far and what was to come. I kept waiting for things to pick up, and they didn’t. My contractions were 3-5 minutes apart, lasting for less than a minute, and still not very intense. I kept trying to check myself to see how far dilated I was, but things were just too mushy and I couldn’t tell. One of the midwives said she would check for me and even though I typically don’t like being checked by anyone ever after feeling violated during Ruby’s birth, I was very curious to see just how far along I was. It wasn’t easy for her to tell either, but she guessed that I was at about 6 cm. At least there was some progress. I couldn’t imagine being at a 6 and having things fizzle out overnight.

At about 9:30 p.m., my mom finally went lay down. “Wake me up if things start happening,” she said. I felt so bad that things weren’t progressing, and that all of the midwives had to just sit around waiting for me. But I put all of those feelings of being a watched pot out of my mind and knew that this time was all about me and whatever I needed. I let everything else melt away and focused on my body and what it was telling me.

During contractions, I would bounce on the ball and the pain would just melt away. I didn’t really even feel the need to vocalize, but I did anyways just so that the midwives would know that something was going on. They were set up in our little homeschool room staying out of sight, but within earshot. They would come in to check the baby’s heart rate periodically, but basically let us do our thing which is just what I wanted.

By 10:00 p.m., Scott wondered if I was up for some video games. That sounded perfect! So Scott and I played this silly fighting game called Altered Beast where you have to punch and kick all of these evil creatures and every time you kill the white wolf you power up to become an increasingly more muscular man or ferocious beast. The midwives later told me that it was so funny because they would hear all of these sounds and rush in to see what was going on only to see us excitedly talking about the game. Even during contractions, I would keeping pushing A and B to fight the evil creatures.

By about 10:40 p.m., I suddenly got really tired and just wanted to lay down so I closed my eyes and rested on the couch for awhile. I almost felt myself slip into a deep sleep and contractions seemed to stop. After laying down for about 20 minutes, I felt another contraction coming, so I slipped onto the ball and rocked through a very mild one. I laid down for another 20 minutes or so and expected to get up to a very powerful contraction, but once again, it was very mild.

I went to the bathroom at 11:25 p.m. and told the midwives after I checked myself that it felt like the baby’s head was lower and that I was dilated further, but that contractions had died down, so I didn’t know what was going on. Jillian told me that my body was probably saving its strength for the final push, but I was starting to feel like maybe things wouldn’t be happening that night after all. I was starting to get really tired and feeling a little shaky. I was also getting really anxious about how long things were taking, and I didn’t know if I would be meeting my sweet little boy soon, or in hours…how many hours? How much longer???

I was determined that I didn’t want to go to sleep and wait until things picked up the next day, and even though I was tired and really just wanted to lay down, in between each contraction I would squat and sway, or pace the room, or go to the bathroom, or bounce on the ball.

When the midwives came in to check on me, I apologized once again for things taking so long and Jillian said that her and Julie didn’t get to see each other very often and were really having fun catching up. I said I wished that I had some wine for them or something! Scott remembered our kombucha and offered them a glass. He ran to the kitchen and came back with two little glasses and a bottle of our red raspberry leaf kombucha. They loved it and just before I could give them the recipe, I felt a powerful contraction coming on, so I got right to my ball.

Active Labor

Active Labor

Transition

I’m not sure if I was quite to transition at this point, but by about 11:30 p.m., contractions started getting intense to the point where I needed Scott to start rubbing my back. He reached into his old bag of tricks and pressed really hard on my hips massaging them with all of his strength. I didn’t feel like doing our “washing machine” move from Ophelia’s birth, but just steadily bouncing up and down on the ball during each contraction. A low guttural moan started to escape my lips at the height of each contraction and my entire focus was on that moment and what I needed to do to get through it.

But as each contraction ended, the pain completely melted away and Scott and I would joke and laugh and putz around getting ready for the next contraction. At one point during a particularly powerful contraction, I yelled at Scott, “What are you doing! That really hurts!” He had been rubbing my hips pretty intensely and all of a sudden it got painful! “Push in the middle of my back!” I commanded. He did, but it didn’t really do much. (Sidenote: For over a week after the birth, the only thing that really hurt were my hips from Scott pushing on them so hard!)

With just about every other labor, I had experienced back labor and these techniques really worked, but maybe this baby was in a better position because I never once felt any back labor. The peak of each contraction lasted about 20 seconds and was intense, but manageable. I never felt out of control or that the pain was too much. I just knew that I needed to get through it one contraction at a time and that every one brought me that much closer to holding my sweet baby boy in my arms.

This went on for about an hour and then at 12:30 a.m., Laurie told us that she had another mom in labor with contractions 2-4 minutes apart and lasting over a minute. “Well,” I said, feeling like a failure, “she sounds closer than I am.” Laurie explained that she would be sending her backup midwife, Dorthy, to come and assist us. “My last two births happened with the midwives getting there five minutes before I pushed, and now our midwife is going to be gone for five minutes until I push,” I joked.

I knew things were feeling close, but I guess in some ways, I was still scared and I realized that there had been a small part of me that had been holding back this whole time. The part of me that didn’t want to quite accept what was happening, the part of me that kept feeling like there was one last thing that needed to be done before he could be born, the part of me that didn’t feel like I could handle it, the part of me that was afraid.

Scott asked Laurie if he could help her out with her second load, and in that moment, I just let it all go. The fear, the worry, the pain…I let it all go and went inside of myself and felt like something deep within was finally able to exhale. In that moment, I was rocked by a huge and powerful contraction and then I felt a pop and a warm gush. “My water just broke!” I shouted.

Pushing

The other midwives came rushing into the room and yelled to Laurie, “She’s pushing!” Laurie quickly came into the living room where I had slipped off from my ball onto my hands and knees and started leaning against the coffee table. Scott helped me take off my underwear, and I almost knocked everything off the coffee table in one fell swoop until I realized that it was a candle and half drunk bottle of kombucha beside me. So I gently moved them aside and grabbed onto the side and back of the table while I rested my head in the middle and let my body get to work. I could hear the midwives scurrying about getting their supplies and laying chux pads underneath me.

I felt that familiar urge to push that took over every sensation in my entire body, and I knew that I would soon be meeting my son. The thought thrilled me, and I felt the adrenaline surge through me as he traveled down the birth canal. I remembered to take it slow and gently let him enter the world so that I wouldn’t damage myself too badly.

When it felt right, I pushed. In a few minutes, I could hear Scott yell, “I see the head!” I heard other voices too saying things like, “You’re almost there!” and “You’re doing great!” I love hearing words of encouragement when I get to this pushing phase. Feeling that ring of fire is intense and I like to hear that it will be over soon and be reassured that everything is okay. Scott just told me as I’m writing this that as the head was crowning, Laurie said, “This might sting a bit” as she poured some kind of black oily stuff all over my perineum that they had been heating up in our crock pot all evening. I will have to ask them what that was at our next appointment! I have no recollection of that by the way. Then the intense feeling of him crowning was over and I knew that I had delivered the head and that the rest of him would be slipping out soon.

As soon as his head was born, Laurie suctioned out his nose and mouth right away. There was a big smear of something dark on his face. They thought it was meconium at first, but realized later that it was just blood because all of the water that came out was completely clear. As I prepared for the final push, Jillian cradled his head and said, “I’m going to bring him up through your legs,” and with one final giant push, our little baby boy was born. I reached down and picked up his small slippery body and drew him close to me. Nine minutes after Laurie started heading out the door, and there I was holding my sweet little boy!

Everyone helped me turn over and I brought our son up to my chest. He looked a little pale and I quickly wrapped him in a blanket and brought him to my chest. I cooed to him and rubbed his sweet little head in complete awe of the miracle of life as I held him. He never once cried and his bright eyes looked calmly right into mine. Within a few minutes, he started to pink up and I suddenly felt the urge to push again. Out came the placenta.

After I held him for a few minutes, the midwives noticed that his cord had stopped pulsing and so they clamped it and with a few snips, Scott cut his cord. At this point, I was kind of awkwardly propped up on the floor and Scott helped me up while the midwives ushered me to the couch where they had prepared some more chux pads and pillows.

After the Birth

Scott texted my mom to let her know that something had certainly happened. He sent her one word…it said “born”. She was so sound asleep that someone had to go wake her up, but I knew she wouldn’t want to miss this for the world. As I settled onto the couch with my sweet little boy nestled against my chest, Scott cuddled up next to me and we looked into each other’s eyes with that look that says, we just went through something amazing that has changed us once again forever. We looked at his sweet little face and couldn’t believe how alert he was and how simply peaceful he seemed. He was such a beautiful baby!

He latched on right way and ate hungrily. The midwives were busy filling out paperwork and I asked Scott, “Should we tell them his name?” We had decided a while ago what we wanted to name him, but of course we had to meet him first and see if the name fit. When we said it out loud – Julian William Maaser – we knew that it fit him perfectly! Soon, my mom joined us and couldn’t believe that he was here. We joyfully told her the rest of the birth story and she was so happy to meet her little grandson.

Julian William Maaser

Julian William Maaser

Julian and Mommy

Julian and Mommy

Julian, Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma

Julian, Mommy, Daddy, and Grandma

IMG_4100

Mommy, Daddy, and Julian

After Julian ate to his heart’s content, they were ready to do the newborn screening. They gently looked at his reflexes and checked over every inch of his body while I sat right next to him talking gently and rubbing his head. He made one little cry of protest, but otherwise continued to display his calm and gentle demeanor that he had shown since the moment of birth. He was a perfectly healthy little boy and there were no concerns. I dressed him in a little onsie and footie pants that I had picked out weeks before. After that, I swaddled him tightly in really nice new swaddling cloth I splurged on from Amazon.

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening with Jennifer

Newborn Screening

Newborn Screening

Mommy's Here!

Mommy’s Here!

When they checked me over, I just had one little “scuff mark” down there, but otherwise things looked great. My blood flow was normal, my uterus was contracting as it should, and I felt great. I had sent Scott to look for the cats who went outside when we were by the fire much earlier in the evening and hadn’t come back in yet. He kept calling and calling but they didn’t come. Jillian asked me if I’d like to go pee, so I handed Julian to my mom and hobbled to the bathroom with Jillian’s help.

Later, when I asked my mom about holding him for the first time, she said, “It was a magical moment because I was all alone with him. Scott was out looking for the cats and both of the midwives were with you. The room was dim. It was just precious. I didn’t have any pretenses or feel like anyone was watching me. I just looked at him and felt so honored and in awe and sort of in shock a little to hold this precious little being that belonged to you.” When I came back to the living room, Scott was expertly rocking Julian, and just like with Elliot, he was soothed by a pinkie in his mouth.

Julian and Daddy

Julian and Daddy

Julian

Julian

I was determined to get those cats inside because I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest easy unless I knew they were safe and sound, so I sent my mom outside to do her loud, “Here kitty kitty kitty!” that was so loud I’m surprised all of the stray cats in the neighborhood didn’t come running. Eventually, both of our cats came running from half a block away and they were eventually corralled inside. Ahhhhhh, now I could sleep!

After that, we said goodnight to my mom and the three of us headed off to bed. It was about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday morning at that point. The midwives came in to tuck us in and gave us a few postpartum care reminders. Scott drifted off to sleep immediately, but I was up checking my facebook status that I had posted of our new family, and felt like I would be too excited to sleep. But at some point I drifted off. Julian was swaddled beside me and slept soundly for five hours (the best he would sleep for the whole first week, so it’s nice he started off with some good sleep). All of the other children slept peacefully throughout the whole labor and birth. We were so excited to think about their reactions to their new baby brother the next day.

Midwife Notes 1

Midwife Notes 1

Midwife Notes 2

Midwife Notes 2

Midwife Notes 3

Midwife Notes 3

Midwife Notes 4

Midwife Notes 4

The Next Day

Elliot was the first one up and came into our room at 5:30 a.m. So early! He is usually pretty good about sleeping in until 7:30-8:00 a.m., but he will wake up early if he has to pee. He cuddled up in bed with us, so happy to meet his little baby brother! He giggled and laughed and loved his little brother as he snuggled under the covers with us. After that, Scott took Elliot out to the living room and I continued to sleep.

Ruby woke up at 6:30 a.m. and joined Daddy and Elliot. Then Ophelia, who usually sleeps in until 9:00 or 10:00 a.m., woke up at 7:30 a.m. and that’s when Ruby and Ophelia came in our room and met Julian for the first time. Ophelia said, “Baby, baby!” but was really pretty indifferent. Ruby was sooooooooo happy! She cuddled right up to him and started talking to him right away. I don’t remember her first words exactly, but I think she started describing the world to him right off the bat and explained how much she loved him and was so happy to meet him.

At about 9:00 a.m., my mom woke up and joined Ruby, Elliot, and Ophelia who were all dressed and fed and playing with Daddy in the living room. She took over and let Scott come back to bed. I tried sleeping some more, but I was still just too excited. Plus I felt really gross and wanted to take a bath and brush my teeth. My mom brought in the herbal bath mixture and I enjoyed a nice hot soak in our walk in tub while Scott cuddled up with Julian. It felt AMAZING!!!

I was so happy to bring Julian out to the living room and to have our whole family was together for the first time. My mom took such good care of us that day. She brought us food, played with the kids, and kept the house clean. At about 2:00 p.m., Grandma Gene and Andrea joined us. It was so nice to have a few extra hands to help keep everyone entertained. Scott and I were able to slip away for another nap and my mom brought us out an amazing platter of dinner when we awoke and came back into the living room.

That night, we were able to easily pick up our bedtime routine with one extra person in tote and everyone went to sleep on time, peacefully, and easily. I am sooooooo glad we had some good bedtime routines in place and were so settled in our home. Scott and I sat in the living room with Julian, who just like when he was in the womb, would wake up after the kids went to bed. He was so peaceful and calm and Scott and I chattered away excitedly about all of the events that had taken place. My heart felt so full of love that it could just about burst.

Elliot, Ruby, Mommy, and Julian

Elliot, Ruby, Mommy, and Julian

Ruby Holding Julian

Ruby Holding Julian

Ophelia Isn't Quite Sure What to Think

Ophelia Isn’t Quite Sure What to Think

Grandma Di is Helping

Grandma Di is Helping

Grandma Gene, Grandma Di, Ruby, and Julian

Grandma Gene, Grandma Di, Ruby, and Julian

Elliot Holding Julian

Elliot Holding Julian

Elliot, Auntie Andrea, and Ruby

Elliot, Auntie Andrea, and Ruby

In the Living Room

In the Living Room

Grandma Gene Holding Julian

Grandma Gene Holding Julian

Julian William Maaser

Julian William Maaser