Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It Was Fun While It Lasted

I got my period back this week (grumble, grumble, expletive). Aminah is 9 months old, so we had a good run. I was period-free for about 9 months with Miles as well. Combine my lack of pumping skills and dwindling supply with a baby who decides that, yes, sleeping through the night actually does sound like a good idea, and it was clear that my luck was going to run out shortly.

Like last time, my first postpartum period has been a horrible mess (add this to the "Things They Don't Tell You About Pregnancy" list). It's been super heavy, I'm crampy, miserable and since I haven't done this in so long, I feel like I am 12 again, forgetting to change my pad in time and suffering the consequences.

Except since I am 34 and a woman who has given birth twice, I don't do pads, except as back-up. Like most of you I used tampons throughout my pre-baby 20s, but they simply don't work anymore. They have a tendency now to um, migrate and they hurt. And just thinking about all of the chemicals in those things, that live inside your body for 5 days a month, was making me nuts (remember learning about Toxic Shock Syndrome in 5th grade health class? No bueno).

So about three years ago I made the switch to the Diva Cup, a silicone menstrual cup that you wash and reuse every month. The main reason I made the change is because I was having trouble with tampons and a friend suggested the Diva Cup to me as an alternative. I had already used those Instead cups for period sex (this is swiftly turning into a TMI post, isn't it?) so the concept wasn't completely foreign. And then one night I stumbled into a giveaway for the Diva Cup on Twitter and won. I've never looked back.

I really love my Diva. It's reusable, so it has pretty much eliminated the cost associated with having a period (I splurge on the Diva Wash, but meh, you don't have to. Any gentle soap works fine). It's safe, non-toxic and comfortable (it specifically comes in two sizes, for women who have and have not given birth). It has also mysteriously made my periods generally shorter and my cramps more manageable. I don't know how or why, but I'm not complaining. I don't imagine I'll ever go back to any other type of period protection.

I know you are wondering about the "ick" factor of the whole thing and for me, it's pretty much a non-issue. Periods in general are kinda icky and I don't think think they are any worse with a Diva. I don't have a problem inserting the cup into my vagina or sticking my fingers in there to pull it out. Your mileage may vary, but I still think the benefits of the cup outweigh any of these minor cons. You wash your hands well afterwards. Big whoop.

The one thing I will say is that there is no way in hell this thing provides a full 12 hours of protection as they claim on the website. Maybe on my third day I can get away with that, but on days 1 and 2 I am changing it every 3-4 hours, which means yes, I have to change it in a public bathroom at work. I use the handicapped stall with a sink inside it and it's not that much different from being at home.

If you are thinking about the Diva Cup or other menstrual cup, there are lots of reviews online to guide you. There are even a ton of YouTube videos with tips and tricks for inserting the Diva easily. There is a learning curve to it, but it's small. Even after not using it for a few years, insertion was a breeze.

So I just realized that because we are done having kids I'll never get an 18 month break from my period again. We shall continue to meet every 28 days for the next TWENTY YEARS or so. Sigh.

What about you? Have you switched to a menstrual cup or cloth pads? What's your favorite?

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Weekend WTF?: On Jessica Simpson, Breastfeeding Duration & Weight los

According to a small blurb in this week's US Weekly magazine, Jessica Simpson is finding out that postpartum weight loss isn't quite as easy as she thought it would be. You've probably heard that Jessica signed a $4 million dollar contract with Weight Watchers to be one of their spokesmodels. But if you've seen the photos of Jessica being papped around town, she hasn't lost much of her pregnanc weight. According to the insider who talked to US, Jessica's first WW weigh-in revealed she'd gained 70 pounds. She is contractually obligated to shed at least 20-30 of those pounds by the end of August, exactly four months after giving birth. Buh bye, million dollar pay out.

There's a lot to dissect in this teeny tiny piece that never even made it to the rag's website. First, several blogs turned it into a "should you drink while breastfeeding?" story, because the source said Jess has given up her margaritas in order to facilitate this weight loss. To me, this is a non-issue. Yes, you can drink as a nursing mother. No, you shouldn't breastfeed while drunk because you know, you shouldn't be PARENTING while drunk. If you think you're too impaired to breastfeed, you should probably call a baby-sitter.

What irks me so much about this culture is the unrealistic standards that we hold new moms up to. I always remind moms that it took you a full 9 months to put this weight on, why should you feel you need to get rid of it all in 3? The things that a new mother should be focused on are bonding with her baby, breastfeeding, resting as much as possible and taking care of herself. That's your job as a new mother. Who in the hell advised Jessica that it was a good idea to agree to lose 30 pounds in 12 weeks? Where are her people? And yes, Weight Watchers is getting a giant side-eye from me for this, too.

I'm guessing Jessica bought into the lie that all she had to do was breastfeed and the weight would just FALL. OFF. Because this is the lie celebrities tell. They swear up and down that all they do is breastfeed and chase after their toddlers and poof! the weight just disappears. In a rare moment of truthiness, Jessica Alba tweeted that she had started back to a "light" exercise regimen of 45 minutes on the treadmill when her daughter was three weeks old. But most celebrities don't get caught exercising heavily so soon after giving birth, but they do it. And they go on seriously calorie restricted diets in order to lose the weight.

The truth is that the AHRQ study on breastfeeding showed that although breastfeeding may be associated with postpartum weight loss, it was "small, transient and depends on breastfeeding intensity and duration." In other words, don't beat yourself up if you are breastfeeding and aren't back to your pre-pregnancy size just yet.

In addition to the weight loss and alcohol stuff, US's source also throws in that "Jessica plans to breastfeed through July" (seriously, there was a lot of fucked up shit in this teeny tiny little blurb!) Now, again, every mom can decide how long she wants to breastfeed and three months is better than no months.....but what is really going on here? If this is about weight loss, that makes me so sad and angry. Jessica is under a tremendous amount of pressure, I know, but to quit breastfeeding in order to go on a diet is just ridiculous. Jessica Simpson has a bajillion dollars. Why she is not throwing up the deuce (and the middle finger) to Weight Watchers and chilling on the couch with her baby and her man is beyond me.

But let's dig a little deeper, too. Why is it that so many moms are setting such low breastfeeding goals for themselves? Beyonce breastfed 10 weeks; Hillary Duff said her initial goal was 4 months; and a recent study showed that most moms want to exclusively breastfeed for 3 months (and most fail to even do that). What is it about this 3 month range? Could it be that our paltry excuse for maternity leave in this country is setting up women to fail in more ways than one? Are moms deciding they will nurse for their entire guaranteed 12 weeks, but finding that they have to stop before then because they have to return to work earlier than planned? Do they decide they won't bother trying to combine work with breastfeeding and begin weaning while still on leave? Even celebrities, who have the money and power to take years off, are putting themselves on a self-imposed FMLA-esque maternity leave and abandoning breastfeeding. Tia Mowry recently revealed that she ended up only breastfeeding her son for 3 months because she was "working a lot, and working really long hours." She said she was sad at first but eventually came to terms with it, and was happy he got her milk for 3 months. I wonder if she still feels that way now that she's been fired from The Game?

Our approach to motherhood in this culture has got to change. Be a total martyr and never take any risks while pregnant or breastfeeding! No more drinks for you, you're a mother now! But why aren't you back in size 4 jeans, you had that baby like, weeks ago. You should get back to work so you can use that degree. You're going to breastfeed right? But not for too long, OK?

There is just so much that is screwed up about the way we treat moms, and it's all encapsulated right here, in two paragraphs in a gossip magazine. 

Here's the full story from the magazine:

The scale has spoken – and it doesn’t have any good news for Jessica Simpson. A source tells Hot Stuff that Jessica learned at her first Weight Watchers weigh-in – a few weeks after the May 1 birth of daughter Maxwell – she had gained 70 pounds. Luckily, Jessica has $4 million worth of motivation to shed them. Her contract requires a 20 to 30 pound loss by the end of August or no payday, says a source. But it won’t be easy.
“Jessica has always had issues with junk food,” says a Simpson pal. So Jessica has called in reinforcements: She enlisted her mom, Tina, and a few pals to do the program “to help keep herself in check,” says the insider. Simpson, who plans to breastfeed through July, also ditched her beloved high-calorie margaritas, adds the source. “She had a few drinks postpregnancy, but then stopped.” 

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nine Months!

Aminah is officially 9 months old today! She's been outside almost as long as she was in inside (what can I say, my babies like to cook for a full 42 weeks).

Aminah is 19 pounds of delicious. She started sitting up unsupported just before her 1/2 birthday and began crawling soon after. She is a funny little crawler, moving around with one leg up, but she's very quick. She has been reaching for food off of our plates since she was 3 months old and we finally started her having little bites at around 5 months. Now she eats anything and everything. Some of her favorites are lentils in tomato sauce, raspberries, scrambled egg yolks with cheese, spinach salad, miso soup, spaghetti, couscous, rice and beans, avocados and mangoes.

She is also sleeping through the night and sometimes we can even get her to spend a few hours in her crib. She is standing up, cruising and taking tentative steps. I think, like Miles, she'll be an early walker. She babbles a lot, but definitely seems to understand that I am mama, Daddy is dada and grandma (my mom) is baba.

She went on a serious nursing strike that lasted WEEKS but she seems to be regaining interest in nursing again, at least first thing in the morning and before naps and bedtime. I don't think this is a child who will be nursing, even part-time, well into toddlerhood, but we'll see. My son was always reaching into my blouse at this age and almost always had a hand on my breast, squeezing it if he needed comforting. Aminah really could not care less. I have to offer and remind her and even then she doesn't always take me up on it.

It's funny how different our nursing journey has been this time. I thought that getting Aminah's tongue tie clipped would mean that we would breastfeed easily for a few years, but it's been difficult anyway, just in different ways. This time I had tons of milk and a baby who settled into a textbook nursing routine and wasn't attached to my breast 24/7. But she's just not that interested in nursing anymore. My pumping output still sucks so I think, like Miles, she'll basically be getting formula during the day until she turns 1. But unlike Miles I don't think she'll run into my arms when I get home from work, snuggle with me on the couch and nurse happily.

So what's worse, the baby who won't let go or the baby who is just growing up too damn fast?


These photos are from my Instagram account. If you're on Instagram, follow me for more cute photos of the kids. I'm Blacktating there, too.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Milk Samples Needed for Breast Cancer Research Study

African American moms are needed for a breastmilk study. Can you help?

As I've written before, I have the privelege of working with Professor Kathleen Arcaro at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, on her groundbreaking breast cancer/breastmilk research.

Kathleen analyses breastmilk to study DNA changes in breast cells, which are naturally present in breastmilk, and their relationship to breast cancer. It's very gratifying work because a better understanding of these patterns may one day lead to new early detection, prevention and treatment strategies for breast cancer. Here's a sampling of some of the recent press coverage about this research.

Our current goal is to recruit African-American mothers to donate milk samples. Why African-American moms? Because Kathleen wants to ensure that her findings apply to all women, and to do that she needs a diverse sample of mothers participating. Having African-American moms well represented in this research is of particular interest because we have different patterns of breast cancer than women of other races. You may know that black women are more likely to get triple negative breast cancer, which is more aggressive and more likely to reocur, spread beyond the breast and result in death.
One of my main duties is helping Kathleen recruit moms to participate in her studies. The response to her work has been incredible, but we still need more black moms to donate breast milk! So, the UMass Breastmilk Lab is currently seeking:
•African American mothers who are nursing

•Living anywhere in the U.S.

•Willing to donate a *fresh* breastmilk sample (shipped via overnight mail at the lab's expense)

•Willing to fill out a consent form and questionnaire

Participants will receive $25 in thanks - and the knowledge that they are advancing our understanding of breast cancer! I hope that you can donate, or help us find moms willing to donate milk for this important research.

To participate, or for more information, you can email Beth, or call Beth or Eva at (413) 545-0813. More information is also available at the UMass Breastmilk Lab website. You can also like us on Facebook where we're keeping you updated on the latest in breastmilk research and Kathleen's work!
We need help spreading the word about this study. Contact me if you'd like me to write a guest post, and link, share on Facebook, Pin, and Tweet to your heart's content!

And if you're African-American (nursing or not), PLEASE consider signing up for the Love/Avon Army of Women, who are funding this important research. Please select "Breast milk study" when asked how you heard about the Army of Women.

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