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:

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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
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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.
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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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