Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas and 9 months for Ivy!

A cold, snowy day in Minnesota made a lovely Christmas.

Ivy turned 9 months old today. Her biggest milestone this month is eating solid foods. She began with little tastes a few weeks ago, and now she's an enthusiastic eater. We do solid foods the lazy way and feed babies little bits of whatever we're eating. No mushing or pureeing, no nasty flavorless prepared baby foods. It's easy and exposes young children to a large range of flavors right away.

Here's a peek at what she ate today:

Breakfast: homemade waffles, strawberries, pineapple, cantaloupe, blackberries, grapes
Lunch: vegetable chowder, homemade bread, clementine, lebkuchen (German spice cookie)
Dinner: bell pepper, cracker, pomegranate seeds (I popped them inside her mouth to get the juice out), homemade macaroni & cheese, roast beef, sparkly grape juice (because it's Christmas!), more fresh fruit

She loves having cousins and grandparents around. She's super mobile and cruises the furniture very quickly. We don't have smartphones or tablets at home, so she's enthralled with all the electronic devices her relatives have. Touchscreen technology is amazing and so intuitive. Maybe some day we will get a tablet or a fancy phone...maybe...

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Looking for people who attend outdoor births

I've been corresponding with a documentary producer who would like to feature outdoor births. They're looking for people with some experience attending or facilitating birth outdoors--midwives, doctors, birth centers, etc. More information below:


I work in project development Matador, a television production company in Los Angeles whose founders have produced series such as NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Discovery’s Storm Chasers and Dual Survival. We are primarily focused on creating documentaries and unscripted television series for a wide variety of cable channels and media outlets, and have funded series and projects with A&E, Discovery Channel, Lifetime, CNN, and NBC, amongst other networks.

We're currently developing a documentary series with a female-skewing cable channel about DIY birth practices- most notably, outdoor births in unique locations. We're currently looking for experts in this field to potentially consult on the project, or help offer guidance on production. Be it midwives, physicians, doctors, birthing centers, etc, anyone who has some experience with outdoor births, we would love to speak with them. We're still formatting the arc of the documentary series, but the basic idea is to follow the journey of one mother/father team as the prepare to have a child in their 3rd trimester of pregnancy. Wanting to get away from the confines and experience of giving birth in a hospital, we would document their experience of taking on this process themselves, and eventually having the child outdoors. Documenting this in a "fly on the wall" approach, we would be very hands off, and attempt to simply follow and respectfully document these expecting parents as they take on this incredible journey in unique settings that much of America hasn't experienced before.

In order to take this project to the next level, we need to identify some experts in this field and speak with them about how to go about this. If there is ANYONE who has experience with this practice, and would be willing to chat briefly, I would LOVE the opportunity to connect. My contact information is below.

Happy Holidays!

Sam Brown | Director, Development| Matador


1041 N. Formosa Ave., Writers Bldg. Suite 11

West Hollywood, CA | 90046 | 818-261-5689 OR 323-850-3100 |
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Recovering from varicose vein surgery

My right leg 5 days post-op:

This leg had EVLT on the top half (see the line of bruises going towards the groin) and ambulatory phlebectomy on the bottom half.

My left leg doesn't look as bad. I had some sclerotherapy behind the knee, which is much less traumatic than pulling out the veins with a hook or zapping them with a laser.

I've learned that ibuprofen is my friend. I've been more tired than usual and have to avoid jarring/jumping/vigorous walking.
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Post-surgery fun

I'm recovering from having my varicose veins removed yesterday. I had EVLT and ambulatory phlebectomy one one leg and sclerotherapy on the other. My legs are wrapped in layers of bandages. I have to wear them for 3 days and then I can finally take a shower. So excited for that shower tomorrow night!!! I also am curious to see the battle scars...

Anyway, I found a few things of interest:

Home Birth Dads Calendar

A fun article in the Huffington Post explains the origins of the Home Birth Dads 2014 calendar, produced by clients of InnerBirth.

New version of Home Birth: An annotated guide to the literature

This bibliography, authored by Saraswathi Vedam and colleagues, is offered as a resource for clinicians, researchers, educators and policy makers, who must, within their own context for work, assess the quality of the available evidence on planned home birth. This may be for the purpose of clinical decision making or policy development in response to the international debate on safety, access, ethics, autonomy, or resource allocation with respect to birth place.

This is an open source document.

The bibliography is updated annually and the most recent version (as well as the document saved in booklet format for printing) can always be found at the following website:
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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Mama Midwife: book review and giveaway!

Author and illustrator Christy Tyner has written a new children's book, Mama Midwife: A Birth Adventure. It's about about life when mom is a midwife. Christy's partner Michelle is a homebirth midwife, and their two children ages 4 and 5 are used to birth talk.

Why write a children's book about when mom is a midwife? Christy explains:

Growing up with positive messages about birth will hopefully reduce the fear created by the flawed model I grew up with. I was exposed to birth the same way most people are - through movies and television, where unfortunately most birth scenes are excruciating emergencies in a hospital that requires intervention. By contrast, my kids hear stories firsthand about whole families that participate in birth, where siblings are woken up in the middle of the night to come witness the birth of their baby brother or sister. They hear stories about the mom reaching down with her own hands to guide her baby out, about birth by candlelight in a warm birth tub, about babies that are placed immediately on the mother’s chest, and about dads and partners that provide amazing support, catch the baby and stay by the mother's side. And of course a perfect birth isn't always the case, but we talk about the transfers, too. I think they have a more realistic sense of the spectrum of birth experiences that are possible. Every time a baby is born, Michelle texts me a picture of the baby with his family. I show the kids, and we all celebrate. Their association with birth is joy.

Mama Midwife is populated with charming, whimsical animal characters. Miso the Mouse has a midwife mother. Miso watches and learns and plays midwife. She even gets to come along with her mom one special night. Here's a sample page from the book:

Zari was really excited to help me with this book review. In this short movie, she reads the first few pages and then gives her thoughts about the book. (Isn't it amazing that this grown-up girl was once a tiny baby...and now she's reading? sniff...)

To learn more about Christy Tyner, the book's origins, and Christy and Michelle's birth stories, visit the "About the Author" page.

Mama Midwife is available in both hardcover and paperback in English, Spanish, and Finnish. Click here for a complete list of distributors (US, Canada, UK, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy).

Now for the fun part...a giveaway!

To enter, visit and read more about author/illustrator Christy Tyner. Then come back here and leave a comment.

Open to U.S. residents. Giveaway ends at 5pm EST on Saturday, December 14. 
Read more ...

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Jim Gaffigan on home birth and life with 4 kids

This had me laughing out loud:

"We had all our babies at home, just to make you uncomfortable."

Read more ...

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Blessing Ivy

My mom visited us this October. Right before she left, we remembered that we still hadn't blessed Ivy, who was 6 months old at the time. We called the bishop of our local LDS (Mormon) congregation to let him know we wanted to bless Ivy at home and to see if anyone else needed to be present. He checked and said: "the manual says that 'normally' another priesthood holder is present, which I interpret to mean that it isn't required. Go ahead and do it."

So we gathered in our living room. I held her in my arms while my husband blessed her. One of the advantages of doing a baby blessing at home: you can do what you want and don't have to ask permission! Little Ivy was super wiggly. As soon as the blessing started, she tried to escape and see what was going on.

Luckily, I had a secret weapon: The Boob. Out it came. She latched on and nursed through the whole blessing. She popped off a few times to check out the action, but mama's milk was just too good to pass up.

(Yet another benefit of doing it at home. I have no problems nursing in church, but I imagine some people in the audience might have passed out had I "Whipped It Out" in front of them all during the blessing).

After everyone was in bed, Eric and I were talking about the blessing. At one point, he blessed Ivy to find joy in the body that her Heavenly Father had given her. He told me that as he was saying this, he felt an overwhelming impression that her body was also a gift from her Heavenly Mother. But, for some reason, he hesitated in saying it. He wasn't sure why--maybe because my mom was there? (To be fair to my mom, I don't think it would have fazed her.)

He had a definite impression that Ivy possessed a powerful intellect and intelligence, something he doesn't remember the same way with our other children.

When he gives our children baby blessings, he gets glimpses into the people that they are, something he otherwise doesn't have through his day-to-day interactions with our children.

I'm glad that we can do baby blessings at home. I've done two at home (Zari and Ivy), one at church (Dio), and one at a relative's house after my sister's wedding (Inga), when all my extended family were gathered together. I definitely like non-church blessings the best.

It was really lovely nursing Ivy while my husband blessed her. I was pouring all my love and heart into her through my breasts while he poured his love onto her through his hands.


Now a brief explanation of how Mormons do baby blessings.

At church, the father or other male friend/relative gives the blessing, surrounded by any other males invited to participate. It looks like this:

Or like this:

In some congregations, women are allowed to hold their babies during the blessing. In others, they are forbidden from doing so. It depends on how the local leadership interprets church policy manuals. Many of us wish women could have a more active role in baby blessings. Maybe some day they will look like this:

This is why I do them at home.
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Friday, November 29, 2013

Is milk sharing like playing Russian Roulette?

Zari admiring some donor milk I'd just pumped

I was listening to an NPR report a few days ago on how the booming demand for donated breastmilk has raised safety issues. I'm always happy to hear topics such as milk banks and informal milk sharing on a national stage. However, the reporting made me all jumpy. I almost talked back to the radio.

Quick synopsis: more women want to breastfeed, and those who can't are turning to milk banks and informal milk sharing. Milk banks are swamped by high demand and can only give it to babies who need it the most. So many mothers have turned to milk donors/sellers. But milk sharing is dangerous! Don't forget, formula isn't that bad.

I've donated milk to many families after Zari and Ivy were born. It's not that hard to ensure that donor milk is safe. If the mom has tested negative for certain communicable diseases (HIV, syphilus, hepatitis, etc.) and follows commonsense precautions like freezing the milk right away, then it's not "playing Russian roulette with your child's life," as Kim Updegrove, president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, suggested.

To give Updegrove some credit, she was specifically referring to breast milk sold online through anonymous sellers. I'd be wary of buying milk online, too. I value the person-to-person contact involved in milk sharing.

I also take issue with the assertion that every ounce of milk donated informally or sold online is one less ounce to a milk bank. I don't have time or desire to drive my milk to the nearest bank, which is a 2 hour drive roundtrip. And while I think that milk banks are fantastic, the cost of milk is over $4/oz, sometimes much more. That's over $100/day for an average baby! I love that I can help other mothers out for free.

What bothered me the most, though, was how the report pushed formula at the very end:

In the meantime, even nursing proponents like Updegrove and Tucker maintain that when nursing fails emphasize that formula remains a good and safe choice for full-term, healthy babies. They say donor breast milk should be preserved for the babies who need it most: babies who are premature, allergic, or have digestive problems.

"Formula sometimes doesn't have to be the four-letter word," Tucker says. "Sometimes it's necessary and that's OK. And sometimes we need to let moms know that's OK, you're still doing the best you can do."

Informal milk sharing isn't a zero sum game. Milk is a free-flowing resource, and milk sharing can be very safe. Women who seek donor milk feel strongly that formula is not as "good and safe" as it's made out to be--that's why they're looking for alternatives to formula in the first place!

If you're looking to donate or receive donor breast milk, you can try:

Read more ...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ivy is 8 months old!

I know these updates are probably more exciting to me than to anyone else, but it's so fun to have a record of my childrens' babyhood.

Ivy is busy getting into everything: pulling open cabinet drawers, opening doors (if they're not latched shut), climbing up stairs, pulling dirt out of my houseplants and then eating it if I'm not fast enough, climbing underneath and through the kitchen table and chairs in search of every stray crumb of food. She loves to pull the toilet paper off the roll, rip it into pieces, and stuff it into her mouth. She loves taking baths and showers. She has also acquired some new tricks: waving "hi" at people and shaking her head as if she were saying "no."

She likes to crawl's hard to get good pictures because she's always on the move.

With a little help with water and a comb, Ivy's hair stands up in a mohawk. Dio has now started asking for the same hair style.

She's become really attached to Eric and will often fuss when he leaves the room, even if I'm there. She does the same for me, too, but I like that she cares about her Papa :) She's become more accustomed to our houseguests. She will happily play with them and walk around in their arms...most of the time.

Sleep is getting better! I don't know why it happened or what I did/didn't do...but Ivy has started sleeping longer stretches. Many nights she wakes around 12 am, 4, and 6:30 (or 1, 5, and 6:30) and is up for the day around 7 am. If she wakes up before I am in bed, I let her fuss. It's worse if either of us go in to help her, and she's done pretty well at lying herself back down and going back to sleep. Usually, though, she doesn't wake up until well into the night. If she wakes up soon after I've nursed her, I bring her into bed with me and snuggle her in the crook of my arm or lay her next to me and hold her hand. She gets really mad and cries for a few minutes, then conks out.

I haven't started feeding her solid foods yet, but she's pretty intrepid about finding morsels on her own. If they're safe, I might let her eat them. She's started getting carrot sticks, celery sticks, and apples to suck on.

Here's a video of her growling. She hasn't done it as much the past few weeks. Inga loves to say, "I love that Ivy!" as if there were another Ivy and she had to point out which one she meant.

And one of her crawling

And one of Dio "reading" a book to Inga

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Participants needed for alternative breastfeeding study

I just received notice that a researcher is looking for women to interview about their "alternative" breastfeeding experiences. Details below!

Alternative Breastfeeding Study 

I'm seeking to interview all kinds of folks breastfeeding in "alternative" ways:
  • co-feeding
  • milk donors and recipients
  • adoptive parents breastfeeding
  • lesbian couples breastfeeding
  • re-lactators (e.g., older aunts, grandmothers breastfeeding)
  • trans breastfeeding
I am interested in interviewing folks who are currently nursing or who did so in the past or who are considering it right now (because a pregnancy or adoption is in process) or considered it seriously in the past. The interviews are confidential, take about an hour and a half, and the results are completely anonymous. I have ethics board approval and research ethic certifications.  If interested in volunteering, please email or text, 831-334-2258.

Kristin J. Wilson, Ph.D.
Program Chair, Anthropology
Author of "Not Trying: Infertility, Childlessness, and Ambivalence," forthcoming from Vanderbilt University Press, Fall 2013
Read more ...

Monday, November 18, 2013

Birth Relaxation Kit: a complete birth hypnosis program

On last month's post about my experiences using birth hypnosis, I mentioned that I used the Birth Relaxation Kit during Ivy's pregnancy and birth. The company's founders, a husband-wife team of certified hypnotherapists, generously donated the program for me to test out and review.

Dr. Mavi Gupta, a board-certified physician and hypnotherapist, created the Birth Relaxation Kit along with her husband Jeremy Dyen, a musician and hypnotherapist. They combined their medical, musical, and hypnosis training to create an effective, affordable birth hypnosis program.

When Mavi was pregnant with her first baby, she had originally planned a hospital birth with an epidural. However, exposure to birth hynposis helped her and Jeremy look into other options, and they ultimately decided to have a home birth with a midwife. She writes:
On February 7th, in the middle of winter, our daughter Anjali was born at home with our midwives and doula in attendance. The birth of our daughter turned out to be a beautiful, blissful and amazing experience.  It was the most intense experience of my life, yet I did not experience pain. I birthed Anjali on the day I envisioned and labored at the time I had envisioned as well, in the peacefulness and privacy of my own home. We felt truly blessed.

After the birth, my husband Jeremy and I became inspired to train in hypnosis so that we could develop our own hypnobirthing methods and empower women who want to have a natural birth process without fear.  We each became certified in hypnosis, accredited by the International Certification Board Of Clinical Hypnotherapy (ICBCH).  Our continued work in this field combined with the feedback we have received over the years help us continually refine our program.

Unlike most other hypnobirthing programs, we offer extensive experience in medicine and music in addition to hypnotherapy. I am a board certified physician with extensive pain training and Jeremy has over 20 years experience composing music for meditation and yoga. We have blended this experience along with our personal experience using these techniques to bring you a quality program that will change your life.

The Birth Relaxation Kit is a complete birth hypnosis program and comes in three different packages: Basic ($49), Plus ($79), and Deluxe ($499).

The Basic package has everything you need to learn and practice hypnosis techniques for your labor and birth.

If you'd like personalized one-on-one support, you can order the Deluxe package ($499). It includes all the materials from the Plus package, as well as a personalized hypnosis mp3, 2 phone consultations, and 2 phone or Skype hypnosis sessions.

I reviewed the Plus package while it was in the final stages of development, so I received everything except the sleep and postpartum mp3s.


I highly recommend the Birth Relaxation Kit. Mavi narrated all of the hypnosis tracks, and her voice was soothing and calming. (Sometimes the narrator of the Hypnobabies program got on my nerves, so I was really picky when testing out the BRK).

Jeremy composed all of the music for the BRK. I'm a trained musician, and I cannot focus on anything else if the background music is too loud. Fortunately, the Birth Relaxation Kit's music was at the perfect volume: audible but never dominant or distracting. I sensed rather than heard the music when Mavi was speaking. Exactly how it should be.

I found the Birth Relaxation Kit incredibly relaxing during pregnancy. I've used hypnosis for all my labors during the early stages. However, the main value of hypnosis, for me, came in the daily deep relaxation during the final months of pregnancy. Hypnosis pulled me through the normal worries of pregnancy, terrible bouts of sleeplessness, and anxiety over various concerns (Dio's breech presentation, possible GD during Inga's pregnancy, etc.).

If you are looking for an affordable alternative to hypnosis classes or self-study programs such as Hypnobabies, the Birth Relaxation Kit is exactly what you need. 


I've been reflecting on Ivy's birth. Every new detail I remember leads me to suspect that she was posterior the entire labor and for most of pushing. I never felt the amazing, pleasurable high between contractions that I was used to experiencing from my three previous labors. I could tell that the endorphins and other hormones were still there, but they manifested as dizziness rather than as "la-la-ahhhhhh" goodness. I never felt a complete break between contractions. The intensity and pain lessened, but never faded away entirely. I also had constant rectal pressure for most of my labor.

Ivy's labor was definitely my most challenging, although not the longest or the shortest. I wonder how much more intense the birth might have been, had I not done daily hypnosis sessions with the Birth Relaxation Kit.


To end the review, I want to include some of my correspondence with Jeremy. We were discussing our motivations for using hypnosis. I mentioned that my main goal wasn't to avoid pain; it was to embrace every sensation without judgment. He responded:

That you touch on the fact that your goal was not to avoid pain or have a "comfortable" birth, and that those goals are contrived, is so honest....I love that you want to "let birth be what it will be" and "to accept every sensation without judgment, fear or anxiety." I think undoing the fear and anxiety are the most important elements of our program (and, if I may speak for Madhavi, my wife, her birth experience). But to say you "accept every sensation without judgment, fear or anxiety," is so eloquent and speaks directly to birthing itself, not just the fear and anxiety that is felt during pregnancy.


The Birth Relaxation Kit is available as an instant download here.
Read more ...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Sleep update

Thanks for all your advice and, better yet, your expressions of sympathy and solidarity. I haven't made any decisions about what my strategy will be--or if I even have a strategy besides wait until it gets better.

Ivy has skipped her 1 am waking several times since I posted last. Here's to hoping the trend continues! On the downside, she's getting speedier at standing up as soon as she wakes. Not good.

I think it would help to put her in a separate room, but that isn't logistically possible right now. Maybe I'll try rearranging everyone in a few months. It would mean moving Inga in the same room with Zari and Dio. Inga is a wild card (remember we have to lock her in her room so she doesn't get out 20 times a night?). Putting her with her siblings might not be a great idea until she's a bit older.

Eric just had a good idea: move Inga into our bedroom so Ivy can sleep in a separate room. Inga is a pretty sound sleeper, so we won't disturb her nearly as much as we disturb Ivy. Brilliant...I might have to try it sooner rather than later!  


Lots of people had questions or suggestions that I'll answer here.

Is Ivy overtired? Does she nap well? What about changing nap times or bedtime?
Ivy naps twice during the day, morning and afternoon. I think she's getting plenty of sleep overall, and her naps come when she needs them. She gets 2-3 hours of naps during the day and around 12 hours at night. In this regard, she's on the same schedule as my other kids at the same age.

Someone suggested moving her bedtime several hours later to coincide with my bedtime, but that would be a total nightmare for us. She really is ready to sleep at 7 pm, and I need those evening hours to prep for class. It's the only time I have during the day.

Food allergies or sensitivities?
I highly doubt this is a culprit. Ivy's sleep pattern has been pretty consistent for months, with slight fluctuations or gradual changes. Nothing in her overall behavior or health points to food sensitivities or allergies. I also haven't changed anything in my diet or introduced new foods.

No-cry sleep solution
I read it a few years ago. I probably should revisit it in case there are useful suggestions that I haven't thought of. I remember it being okay, but not revolutionary. (Edit: I looked back through older posts and found it very helpful when Dio was my memory is not all that reliable!)

She thinks they're a cool chew toy, but she's never figured out how to suck on one.

Don't think so. But I've never been able to tell my kids were teething until the tooth popped through!

Change the sleep environment (different PJs, temperature, white noise, etc)
The room is fairly cool in the winter, so I dress her warmly in two layers plus a blanket swaddled around her torso. I think that's just about right for her. I just switched our noise machine to ocean sounds. I'm not sure it made much of a difference, but I was getting tired of the plain white noise!

Eating solids yet?
Nope. Except for stuff she scrounges off the floor. You know, yummy things like paper and dirt :) She'll start eating "real" food soon enough, but I like waiting until my kids are very insistent.

Hotel night or sleep doula?
I don't think I could do that (hotel night) to Ivy yet. And I've never even heard of a sleep doula...


I've gone through periods of desperation with all of my kids, usually in the 6-12 month stage. It gets better, then worse, then better, then worse, and finally one day your child sleeps all night long. Amazing.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013


Remember how in Ivy's 7-month update I mentioned that sleep was still an issue, but that I was dealing with it?

Well, I take that all back. I think I am going to go crazy. I've never had such a bad sleeper, and I can't think of anything that would make it better. Everything we try makes it worse.

Last night, for example, she woke up around 11 pm. I nursed her and put her back in the crib. 15 minutes later, she woke up again. I asked Eric to help, since I was just so tired. He patted her on the back for an hour. She was still wide awake, so I swaddled one of her arms and snuggled her in bed with me. She cried for more than an hour. Finally at 2 am, she fell asleep--for only 5 minutes. When she woke up again, I finally gave up and nursed her so I could get some sleep. Even with being awake for several hours and therefore exhausted, she woke up again to nurse at 5:30 am. (And then my alarm accidentally went off at 6 am, and I didn't get back to sleep after that. Curses. It was a terrible night.)

Ivy's basic pattern is to sleep from 7-11pm. From then on, she wakes up every 1-2 hours all night long. The ONLY thing that will settle her back down is nursing. Sometimes she wakes up just 10-15 minutes after I've nursed her, and the craziness starts all over again.

If she wakes up before 11 pm, she will usually fuss herself back to sleep. She's never once gone back to sleep without nursing after 11 pm. Never.

Anything we do (short of me nursing her) makes it so much worse. Patting...rocking...snuggling her in bed...bouncing...singing...swaddling...not swaddling...all terrible. She works herself into a frenzy no matter what we try. She also stands up in her crib if we don't get her right away. Then she's wide awake and either really mad or ready to have a party.

Ivy is a super light sleeper. When I creep into the room at night, I often wake her up. I slide ever so slowly into bed, moving the covers carefully so they don't rustle. I try to avoid any squeaky spots in the floor. She has a white noise machine next to her crib going all night long. But still, she wakes with just about any movement we make.

Because we have 10 extra people living with us right now, I can't put her in another room.  Plus the thought of having to get out of bed, walk down the hall, nurse her, and then come back to bed 5-6 times a night is too terrifying to contemplate.

I wish cosleeping would solve the problem, but I had to put her in the crib next to my bed a few months ago. She became so wiggly that no one was sleeping well. Plus she sleeps better in the crib on her stomach than next to me in bed.

I could just keep nursing her every single time she wakes up, but sometimes it reaches point of ridiculousness. I'd also like her to not be entirely dependent on nursing at night to settle down. Most of the time? Sure. But not every single time.

But if I don't nurse her, it's 100 times worse. I would like her to sleep more than 1-2 hours at a time. I don't think she's waking up that often because she's hungry. It's habitual, and I don't know what her reset button is. I'm not even asking for her to sleep through the night. Just 3-4 hours at a time. Even having one 4-hour stretch of sleep would be positively amazing. Is that too much to ask?

The most depressing thing is that no matter how much I declare that I've had it, that something has to give, I can never give up. I can't put a pillow over my head or go sleep in another room. I'm the only one who can help her. Believe me, if Eric tries, it's a disaster for all parties involved. Nothing but nursing will settle her down.

So, help? Please?

ps-- thanks for slogging through my long rant. I'm not necessarily expecting any useful advice, because frankly I don't see how anything could help right now.
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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy 7th birthday Zari!

Halloween is a great time for a birthday.

We did our usual birthday celebrations: homemade cake, opening presents (wrapped in brown paper--who needs wrapping paper when you have paper shopping bags?), looking at Zari's memory book, and reading her birth story.

This year Zari said she wanted a fancy cake that she could decorate. I made a 4-layer pink ombre cake. I even dyed the pink frosting 3 different shades. I frosted the cake, then put Zari in charge of decorating it.

I love ombre!

We embarked on a new adventure last week and invited a family with 8 children to come live with us. They spent more than half a year driving around the United States, up and down both coasts and all over in between. With colder weather moving in, they were getting really cold living in a tent. Our kids are in heaven with all the playmates around. And my house has never been cleaner, thanks to all the industrious helpers I now have!

Happy Birthday Zari! You can read her birth story here or browse around the November 2006 archives to read more about her early days with us.
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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ivy is 7 months old!

Remember how Ivy started commando crawling at 5 months and perfected crawling before she was 6 months? Now she's pulling herself up to standing on everything: walls, beds, couches, chairs, my legs, cabinet knobs...

Poor thing is still fairly unsteady on her legs, so she's had some good tumbles backwards. I've also caught her climbing up a step stool; she got stranded on the top and needed rescuing.

And she's starting climbing up stairs. Yet Ivy still isn't interested in sitting like a normal baby. No way!

Ivy is very sensitive to other people. If she's in my arms or Eric's, she smiles at everyone and makes noises to get their attention. But if I pass her on to someone...the world is ending! Go away scary stranger! (even when it's grandma).

Sleep is pretty much awful. With rare exceptions, Ivy wakes up every 2 hours at night starting at around 11 pm. That translates into me getting about 1 1/2 hours of sleep at a time, factoring in how long it takes to nurse her and put her back down. It's hard to sustain this week after week, month after month.

I've tried various things to see if I can help her sleep longer stretches, but they just fail. Patting her on the back or holding and rocking her? She gets furious. Letting her fuss and seeing if she'll settle herself back down? Nope. She'll cry for an hour or more and still be wide awake. I've resigned myself to just nursing her as soon as she wakes up. It's the least bad solution.

But you know what? I can live with the mind-numbing fatigue. I've lived through it three other times, and I've survived. Eventually babies start to sleep. It gets better. And there's so much about this stage that I love and will miss terribly when it's over.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What I'm up to right now

Pumping (to donate) as I type. Trying to hurry up so I can nurse Ivy, who just woke up...

Old Job

I'm teaching freshman composition again this semester. Between teaching, taking care of four children, and the demands of everyday life, my free time is close to nonexistent. The kids are all asleep by 7:30-8 pm, so I have a 2-hour window of time to "get stuff done." In the summers, this means reading books or checking emails. During the school year, this means grading papers and prepping for class.

Oh, and did I mention that Ivy wakes up every 2 hours at night? I'm also really tired. 

New Job

I took on a new job this summer: renovating on a historic property in town. It was originally a 2-family side-by-side home built in 1900. Several decades ago, each home was split into two apartments, making 4 total. I was hired to oversee all aspects of the renovations, since the property owner lives across the country.

I get to do fun stuff like choose finishes and paint colors or visit antique stores for light fixtures and doorknobs...and the less glamorous stuff like decide when to tear down a wall or when to keep the original flooring versus when it's not able to be salvaged.

We are keeping as many of the historic details and original finishes as possible. The kitchens and bathrooms all needed to be completely renovated, though. Don't you love the granite tile countertops and the mosaic tile backsplash?

This property is amazing--or rather, it will be when we're done. Here are some before and after pictures from the first two apartments, both on the ground floor.

Apartment #1 Before:

Apartment #1 After:

Apartment #2 Before:

Apartment #2 After:

Now that these two downstairs apartments are finished and rented, we're working on the upstairs apartments. One will be done by early November, the other by early December. 

Apples Everywhere

I have hundreds of pounds of organic apples that I picked from a friend's tree or that were given to me. I've been making applesauce. I have a new respect for home canning. It's so much work! So far I've put up 42 quarts and still have tons of apples left.

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Canadian NICU puts parents in charge

At Mount Sinai Hospital in Ontario, Canada, the NICU has implemented a new program putting parents in charge of their baby's care. From an article at CTV News:

Parents have long been encouraged to spend time with their babies in the NICU, but they were typically more observers than participants, often feeling helpless and lost as they sat by their child's isolette watching every breath, trying to make sense of the monitors and startling at every bell or buzzer around them.

"With family integrated care, we have done something quite different," explains Dr. Shoo Lee, pediatrician-in-chief and director of the Maternal-Infant Care Research Centre.

"What we've done is to say that for all babies in the NICU, the parents should be the primary caregivers, not the nurses. And the nurses are really teachers to the parents."

The program was instituted following a 2011-2012 pilot project in which the parents of 40 newborns were asked to spend a minimum of eight hours a day in the NICU and tasked with the overall management of their child's care.

That included bathing and changing diapers, monitoring the infant's vital signs, and recording feedings and weight gain on their medical chart. Nurses were responsible for the medical side of care -- looking after feeding tubes, adjusting ventilation apparatus and administering medications.

The babies' progress was compared with those whose care was primarily provided by nurses, and Lee says "the results were phenomenal."

"There was a 25 per cent improvement in weight gain of the babies who were looked after by the parents," he says. "Breastfeeding rates doubled from 40-something per cent to over 80 per cent. Infection rates fell from 11 per cent in the nurse group to zero in the parent group. Treatment errors dropped by 25 per cent. Parental satisfaction went up, parental stress went down.

What a fantastic idea! I hope this becomes standard practice across more NICUs.

Read the rest of the article here
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Friday, September 27, 2013

Ivy is 6 months old!

Ivy has been (figuratively) running from one milestone to another. She started commando-style crawling right after she turned 5 months old. Just this week she crawled for real. She has started to twist from a crawl into a sideways supported sit. She has otherwise skipped the sitting phrase altogether. Because sitting is for babies.

And this morning, Eric found her standing up, cruising along the open dishwasher. He turned away for a moment, and she pulled the dishrack off and on top of herself. Slow down little Ivy! You have plenty of time to learn how to walk and run. Just be a baby for a little longer.

She's all over the house, getting into the houseplants, stuffing every scrap of paper she can find into her mouth. She LOVES paper. I'm always fishing out wads of shewed-up paper from the top of her mouth.

She pees really well whenever I cue her, and we occasionally get some poops too. It's a bit tricky because she only poops once every several days. And talk about stinky poop! I thought breastmilk poop wasn't smelly until I had a baby who poops infrequently.

Sleep: not great. She loved the baby hammock I made last month for about a day. Grrrrr. I finally changed a few things that seem to have helped. I stopped swaddling her arms, and I took away the rolled-up towels that kept her from rolling over in her crib. And I stopped co-sleeping at night (sniff). She's still next to me in her crib, but she was rolling and wiggling so much at night that no one was sleeping well. Now, she can be a ping-pong ball all she wants in her crib. And she can sleep on her stomach--definitely her preferred position. Some nights are okay, but more typically she still wakes up 3-4 times in a 12-hour stretch.

She's so interested in what her siblings are doing. She's started making little growling/roaring noises (we call them dinosaur noises), which makes us bust out laughing.

Getting her to nurse is next to impossible unless I'm in a dark, quiet room. She likes to fiddle with her ear when she nurses. She definitely knows what "nurse" means. Now if she'd only do it! She's still plenty chubby, weighing in at 16 pounds a few weeks ago.

Now it's show-off time. Here is Ivy commando-style crawling (a.k.a. seal-style crawling)

And here is Ivy crawling for real

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Not enough milk: one mother's story

A blog reader, Michelle, sent me her breastfeeding stories. She has four children and was never able to nurse exclusively, despite trying everything. I'm so glad she was willing to share her experiences. Some women cannot produce enough milk for their babies. For those who want to nurse but cannot, the regret and frustration can be overwhelming. 

Michelle commented to me: "I am very grateful that I was able to nurse my girls for however long I could. I wish I were still nursing my fourth! I am glad to that I finally decided to pursue all solutions because I needed to realize that nothing I did would help. That knowledge helped alleviate a lot of guilt. If I ever have another child, I won't beat myself up so much and just enjoy what I can give them!"

I want to encourage anyone who can to donate breastmilk to mothers in need. You can go through a milk bank, or you can donate directly. I chose the latter option because milk banks charge upwards of $4/ounce and they pasteurize the milk. I was screened for any common infectious diseases (the same ones that milk banks screen for) and shared the results with the donor family. You can visit Human Milk 4 Human Babies to connect with families in need.

My first pregnancy was very easy. The only unusual thing about it was that my breasts didn't grow, but since it was my first, I didn't notice. After a traumatic delivery with 4th degree tearing, I struggled getting my baby to latch but she eventually did. 72 hours postpartum, my milk came in and we started our nursing relationship.

At five weeks postpartum, my milk supply suddenly dropped. I thought it was because of two reasons-- the first being that at two weeks postpartum, I had gone back to school to finish my last year of college and, since I didn't have a breast pump, instructed the babysitter to feed my daughter formula when she was hungry. The other reason, I thought, may have been because my daughter was going through a growth spurt.

After two weeks of near-constant nursing and lots of crying, I realized I needed to supplement. I had been co-sleeping, drinking a lot and taking brewer's yeast (the solutions suggested to me by my lactation consultant) but I simply wasn't producing enough. I started supplementing a lot but continued nursing a little until we weaned at eleven months.


My second pregnancy was also easy and this time my breasts did grow a little. I had a much easier labor with very little tearing and nursed almost immediately after. My milk came in at 48 hours and all seemed to be going well until I got mastitis twice the second week postpartum. After that my milk never recovered and I started supplementing at three weeks postpartum. I also experienced postpartum depression, which negatively impacted my milk supply and my daughter weaned herself at 7 months. I was very sad, but my daughter was finished.


My third pregnancy was a joyful one and healing in many ways. My breasts grew a lot and I had an easy, natural delivery. My third daughter latched easily and nursed well. My milk came in well at 48 hours. I was determined to do everything right and nurse full time, so I obtained a hand pump and for the first six weeks, I would pump one side while nursing on the other--even in the middle of the night. I got mastitis but caught it early enough that it didn't affect my supply.

At six weeks I figured that I had established a good supply and stopped pumping. At around four weeks my daughter had started crying every night for hours and was growing slowly, but I felt like I had enough. When I stopped pumping, however, I saw a very fast decrease in my supply. At seven weeks, I began taking fenugreek daily to help my supply, which I did until she was about four months old. At that point I had to start supplementing, in spite of the fenugreek. Once I started supplementing, my daughter stopped crying at night and started growing faster. We supplemented and nursed until she was 14 months old. Supplementing brought about a huge personality change in her and she turned into a happy, easy baby.


My fourth pregnancy was harder. There was a lot of stress, some antenatal depression, and I had incredible hip/sciatic pain. I would crawl to the bathroom in the middle of the night because it was too painful to walk. I was determined to breastfeed, but I started getting concerned when I couldn't express any colostrum one month before her birth. My breasts grew, but not nearly as much as my third pregnancy.

Her birth was an amazing, unassisted home birth. She started screaming as soon as she was born and didn't stop for 30 minutes. I tried to get her to latch and finally she latched at 30 minutes postpartum, but didn't nurse well or frequently the first 24 hours. I kept her at the breast for nearly 36 hours, but she struggled with her latch and bobbed on and off. She figured out her latch around 72 hours. My milk also came in about then, but I wasn't engorged. I never suffered any engorgement at all.

At 6 days postpartum, we received a call from her pediatrician stating that her newborn screening results had come back abnormal. We spent the next 3 days meeting with doctors and specialists, with a huge amount of stress and very little sleep. She was diagnosed with MCADD, a rare but fairly easy to manage metabolic disorder. One of the management techniques was frequent feeding, every three to four hours. She was a good sleeper, so I had to set alarms throughout the night to wake up to feed her.

By the time she was 10 days old, I was on Reglan to increase my supply. We were in the middle of selling our house and the stress of that, combined with the stress of her diagnosis and lack of sleep, impacted my already tenuous supply. My supply had dropped the few days we were learning about her diagnosis and I simply couldn't keep up.

In order to build my supply back up after taking Reglan, I started sleeping nine to ten hours a day, consuming about 100 ounces of fluid and about 3000 calories. I put on weight. I obtained a double electric breast pump and pumped in between nursing sessions. I co-slept, took my Reglan prescription (even convinced my doctor to give me a refill) and began taking the MoreMilk Plus tincture. I nursed her as frequently as she wanted, often sitting for three to four hours in the evening just to get her to sleep. I continued this regimen of milk-increasing tactics until she was 9 weeks old. By this point, we were getting ready to move and she was so hungry she screamed all day in my arms. I would nurse her every 45 minutes for 20 minutes, pump during or in between and do all the other things I had been doing. She would bob on and off, cry the whole time we were nursing and was not satisfied after. She would scream most of the day and nursed constantly at night. I was completely exhausted, mentally and emotionally.

In order to make our move easier, I began to pump instead of nursing so people could feed her while I was packing. I have an overactive letdown reflex and can easily pump. It was then I realized that I was only producing seven to ten ounces a day in spite of everything. I had only been supplementing with four to six ounces of formula a day up to this point. I realized her crying wasn't because of colic, but because of hunger. I was basically keeping her fed just enough to avoid a metabolic crisis.

So at eleven weeks old, six days before our move, I stopped nursing. The first day on the bottle, she ate five ounces every two hours. I wasn't even engorged. We realized that she was starving. We also realized that as part of her metabolic disorder, she was only able to use a certain amount of her food as calories and needed to eat twice as much as my other children in order to get enough calories. Even now, at four months, she is very petite but eats voraciously. I wasn't producing enough to feed a regular baby, much less one who needed extra calories.

That decision proved to be the right one. We were able to move much more easily. She started putting on weight. She hadn't smiled much but she began smiling more. I could finally take a short shower without her screaming. I could even put her down to do the dishes!

The biggest difference was her personality change. When we bottle fed her, she stopped screaming. She was still a needy baby, but she was actually content in my arms or a carrier. She slept peacefully. She cooed at me. She was a different baby.


In the midst of the challenge with my fourth daughter, I came across some articles that talked about lactation failure and insufficient glandular tissue. I don't have all the physical characteristics, but I do have very wide set and small breasts. I found that there were almost some genetic markers in my family that could have clued me in too. In talking with my father's mother after the birth of my fourth daughter, I learned that her breasts never changed during pregnancy and her milk never came in with any of her three children. My grandmother has three sisters, and none of them had their milk come in. My great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother were also unable to nurse and relied on other things to feed their babies. My great-great had 13 children and gave them all meat broth!

It has been two and a half months since we weaned. I so desperately wanted to nurse all of my children, and, despite exploring every option, I simply can't nurse. The realization that I will never be able to nurse a baby successfully has been excruciating. I truly love nursing. I treasure the moments of closeness. Cuddling skin to skin in the middle of the night. I miss the peace that comes from nursing.

I also feel guilty. Looking back on my third daughter, I realize that I wasn't producing enough for her. I feel a lot of guilt over my selfishness in wanting to nurse her and being unwilling to see she wasn't thriving. I feel guilty knowing that I'm not providing antibodies for my fourth daughter. I feel guilt that I'm using formula.

I pleaded with God to change my body, to help me nurse my babies. I pleaded that He would give me a miracle. But it seems that this experience has been one to humble me.

Breast is best and I love to breastfeed. I am grateful for the times I was able to breastfeed my daughters. I will always cherish those moments.
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

My experiences with birth hypnosis

Birth hypnosis, HypnoBirthing, Hypnobabies, Hypbirth, the Birth Relaxation Kit...

If you're at all part of the birth world, you've probably heard of one or more of these terms. I've had four pregnancies, four labors, and four babies all using some kind of hypnosis.

Basic idea of hypnosis for childbirth (in my words): the mind is extremely powerful and malleable. Through deep relaxation, conscious breathing, and visualization, you can reprogram yourself to respond positively to the sensations of labor.

How and when I listened to the hypnosis recordings:

For my first baby, I listened to the two hypnosis tracks provided with Marie Mongan's  Hypnobirthing book. I listened to one track every day for the last two months of pregnancy. I didn't have an mp3 player at the time, so I listened on my stereo system. I turned the track on early in my labor when I started having contractions. Once I was up and moving around the house, I turned it off.

For babies #2 and #3, I used the Hypnobabies Self-Study Program. You're supposed to listen to one of the hypnosis tracks, along with the birth affirmations track, daily starting at around 30 weeks. I ended up skipping the affirmations most days. I was busy enough with little children that I didn't have time for two sessions. I put the tracks on my mp3 player when I lay down in bed at night and usually "slept" through most of them, waking up at the end of the track. I listened for a few hours early on in both labors. But once things really started cooking, I was no longer interested. Well, more like I was too occupied with labor to focus on anything else!

For baby #4, I used the Birth Relaxation Kit, a complete birth hypnosis program. Like with my last two babies, I listened at night when going to bed. I listened a bit during early labor, but not once the work started in earnest.

I'd consider using hypnosis in labor a small added bonus. For me, the real value of hypnosis came during pregnancy. The daily deep relaxation was priceless, especially when I was dealing with severe sleep issues and the typical worries of pregnancy (will the baby be okay? what if _____ happens?). 

Does birth hypnosis work?

I'd answer with a qualified yes. Some hypnosis programs emphasize having a comfortable, pain-free birth. I was always a bit hesitant with those promises. I totally believe that some women do have pain-free, comfortable births through hypnosis. But I was also wary of trying to force my experience into a box (and then being disappointed when it didn't fit).

Rather than aiming for being pain-free or even comfortable, I wanted to embrace all the sensations of labor without judgement, to work through the process without fear, to feel everything and to fight nothing.

I don't know why some poeple can do hypnosis programs and feel no pain ("I only felt pressure," they often say, "really intense pressure but no pain"). Or why others like me feel all the sensations--good and bad, pain and pleasure, pressure and power. I theorize that it depends on where the hypnosis affects the nervous system.

Some women truly can "anesthetize" themselves and eliminate feelings of pain entirely. (I still wonder how they can do it, honestly, since there is no way I can imagine feeling the sensations of labor without pain being one of them.) But for them, hypnosis works here to filter, or perhaps the better word is "alter," the sensations of labor so that they are not experienced as pain or discomfort once they reach the brain. Like this:

For me, hypnosis doesn't control the sensations going into the brain. I feel and experience everything. The hypnosis kicks in at the other end, where the brain reacts and sends out signals. The hypnosis helps me experience labor without fighting or struggling against it. So instead of controlling what I feel, hypnosis helps me control how I react and interpret what I'm feeling. Like this:

Mothers using birth hypnosis are often, but not always, outwardly calm. I tend to remain quiet and focused during active labor, although I'm more vocal when I'm pushing. I don't think you need to act calm or quiet to be effectively hypnotized. Remember that hypnosis is really just very deep relaxation and meditation.You can be up, moving, and talking and still be in a hypnotic state.

Stay tuned for my thoughts on the Birth Relaxation Kit...

In the meantime, I want to hear about your experiences using birth hypnosis. Please share!
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Saturday, September 07, 2013

Breastflow Memory Pump Giveaway!

I recently tested and reviewed the Breastflow Memory Pump by The First Years. The company has generously offered to give away a pump to a Stand and Deliver reader!

The fine print:
  • Open to U.S. residents
  • Each household is only eligible to win 3 TOMY products, via blog reviews and giveaways, each calendar year. Only one entrant per household per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Monday, September 02, 2013

Review of the Breastflow Memory Pump by The First Years

I've been pumping and donating since Ivy was 2 weeks old. I've used two pumps, the Ameda Purely Yours and the Medela Personal Double Pump (see my review here). Breast pumps are a big investment and are usually non-returnable. You can't test them out in the store, so you have to go by reputation, cost, or word-of-mouth.

The First Years company just came out with a new double electric breast pump, the Breastflow Memory Pump (approx $179), and offered to send me one to test out. It's an upgrade of their earlier model, the miPump Double Electric Pump (approx $79). The big change from the old model to the new? An electronically controlled pump that can store data (time, duration, suction & speed settings, and volume on each breast) on the last 10 pumping sessions.

The Breastflow Memory Pump comes with a lot of stuff:
  • zippered cloth bag
  • insulated cooler bag that holds 4 bottles
  • reusable icepack
  • two Breastflow bottles, nipples, and covers
  • rechargeable pump with AC adaptor
  • tubing
  • two sets of flexible silicone shields (M and L)
  • a handle that allows you to double pump with just one hand
  • and, of course, two pumping kits

Okay, let's get down to how this pump performs. 

It is slow. Agonizingly slow. It sounds like a dying cow. It has 10 suction settings, but only 3 cycle speeds, the fastest of which is just 36 cycles per minute.

I need a much faster cycle frequency to get a good letdown response. I prefer Medela's 75 cycles/minute over Ameda's 30-60 cycles/minute. And I would probably use a faster cycle frequency at first if that were an option (as it is with the Medela Pump-In-Style). For more on cycle speeds, read my Ameda & Medela review.

I don't know if all women respond similarly, but it takes me much longer to pump a similar volume with the Breastflow Memory Pump than with the Ameda or Medela models. I imagine it would be relatively easy for the company to program faster cycle frequencies, since they are controlled electronically rather than mechanically.

I did a little experiment when I was testing this pump and timed how Ivy's suck patterns. When she first latches on, she nurses really fast, around 150 sucks/minute. Once my milk lets down, she slows down to about 80-100 sucks/minute. A good breast pump should come close to these patterns.

Pros of the Breastflow Memory Pump

It was fun to program in data from each pumping session, although I don't need to keep track for any particular reason. I wonder why the memory only extends to 10 previous sessions--why not 100? 200? If, as they advertise, the memory feature will help determine what settings get the best response, you'll need a lot more than a sample size of 10 to come to an accurate conclusion.

I like that the pump is small, rechargeable, and portable. The Ameda and Medela models both require a power outlet.

The optional handle lets you pump with just one hand. It's big and a bit awkward to hold, but it also frees up one hand. I used it about half the time. The other half, I just leaned over and balanced the bottles on my thighs.  I you really need your hands free--say you're pumping for all your baby's feeds or are at work--then I'd advise getting a hands-free pumping bra.

This pump comes with two sizes of flexible silicone shields. (They're labeled 1 and 2, but honestly I couldn't tell the difference between the two!) 

Includes an insulated cooler with a reusable ice pack.


Hands down, the biggest drawback is the slow pump cycles.

The Breastflow Memory Pump is an open-system pump. Like the Medela pump, contaminants can enter the tubing, work their way into the motor, and come back into your pumped milk. If you want a pump that won't contaminate your milk, or one you can share between users, go with an Ameda Purely Yours or Hygieia Enjoye. Both are closed-system pumps.

The First Years is not a WHO Code compliant company because of how it markets its infant feeding bottles. The only breast pump manufacturer that is consistently compliant is Hygeia. (Ameda sometimes makes the list, sometimes not.)

The pump kits have more parts than the Ameda or Medela. Not a huge difference for cleaning, but worth noting. On the upside, you can put all the parts--valves included--into the the top rack of a dishwasher.

Where to buy

Available at Target for $179.99
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