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Nursing Tips: Ties

This is the second in my Nursing Tips series.  I am writing these to myself as a reminder for future needs I may have.  I also hope that any Mama’s reading may be able to glean a bit of help from it if they find themselves in a similar situation.  As always, these are simply my [not always right] thoughts, and none are recommendations for you.  Please seek professional help if you need!  Other posts in the series:

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When Aury was born, the midwife checked his mouth and said that he had both a tongue and lip tie.  If you know me, you know I balk at this ‘silly nonsense’ as trendy lunacy.  Well, not anymore.  If you remember, his poor latched caused bleeding inflamed swollen nipples within a few days of his birth, leading to infection and mastitis, and almost ten weeks of recovery.  But we prevailed!  Despite some rather bleak moments when I wasn’t sure we’d succeed at breastfeeding, I can report that we are still at it – and everything is going swimmingly at last!

On Day 6 postpartum, the first bit of relief arrived.  With an injection of local anesthetic, Aury had both his lip & tongue tie corrected.  He cried for 10 seconds.  I cried for 20 minutes.  I couldn’t even fathom doing the every-two-hour exercises to making sure things healed correctly.  Scott did it as often as he could, and Adyn did when Scott couldn’t.  After almost a week, I finally built up the courage to do it, and took over.  It wasn’t all that bad.  By then, the heebeejeebees were minimal, and Aury really didn’t have much of a problem with it, even from the beginning.

The next two nursings after the tie corrections were slightly better.

My midwife had suggested using a nipple shield to keep things better protected as they healed; and to keep pain just a little bit less.  Scott left in the late night hunting some down.  He came home with several, all the same size, but different brands.  I was surprised that they all fit very differently; one just right.  Because of the poor latch and angry nips, I was incredibly swollen (I may have referred to myself as an “amazon woman” at one point as I cried to our lactation consultant), which made for fitting a bit different during this time vs. after things settled down.  I was glad for the variety.

I’ve never used nipple shields, and it made no sense to me at first.  I did some internet searching about how they work, and how to use them, and found them to be a real psychologic buffer that made nursing much more … well, less petrifying (the pain was intense).  Because of Aury’s poor latch, I had scabbing, which plugged the shields at the beginning of each nursing.  I’d have to take them off and clean out in order to finish nursing.  Also, for several weeks due to my initial infection, my milk was very stringy – but usually passed through the shields holes.

I’ll be honest… I cried the first several (and randomly after that) times that I used the shield.  It felt like a breastfeeding loss.  I had to grieve a bit before I could accept that it would help.  I didn’t like having this “fake” nipple being what my baby learned to nurse.  I was jealous of it.  I was mad at it.  But I definitely learned to love it!  I was concerned it may become a necessity for our entire breastfeeding journey, but am thankful that with time we were able to wean away from it completely and back to al la natural.

That night, feedings became incredibly painful again.  I was so discouraged.  After midnight, I emailed a lactation consult an emergent request for help.  I really felt like I was at my wits end.  I was a huge mess.

Amber Ham Langelier, the lactation consult, arrived at 9am the next morning.  We talked about the ties. We talked about the infection and the damaged nipples.  She was calm.  She was kind.  And she found the fix: positioning.  I thought I had tried it all, and yet her simple solution was perfect.  It was the big turning point on our breastfeeding journey.  Apparently Aury had been tucking his chin while nursing, due likely to his lip and tongue ties, which was irritating my nipples and was causing the pain.  We moved away from the cradle position (she mentioned this is actually not a very good position in general) to either Aury “standing” in front, or the “football” position or both of us laying down.  In all of these positions, I could really make him stretch his chin upward and reach for the nipple, which was exactly what we needed.  Even now, months later, his natural tendency is still to tuck his chin.

I continued using the nipple shield for more than a month, longer for my damaged/infected side.  The first time I didn’t use it, I was so scared.  It took several days to wean from it entirely (mostly because I wasn’t psychologically ready).  I continued having latch-on pain in my left side until Aury was almost 10 weeks old.  The pain went deep into my tissue, all the way to my ribs.

I wasn’t sure whether or not the damage was permanent at this point.  I had some pretty intense (and deep) scabbing for a long while.  It got smaller and smaller oh so slowly until at last it all [tissue, not scab] sloughed off after a nursing.  It was disgusting.  And horrifying!  But after that, milk flowed much more freely.  I’m happy to report that I’ve successfully pumped on that side again as well – A feat I thought literally impossible after that roller coaster!

Thankfully, right around his 3 month bend, I remember one day realizing: “huh!  it hasn’t hurt for a while!”  What a blessing that the pain slipped away like that!  Now we are nursing well, things have healed back miraculously (IMO) nicely – the tissue filling back in – and our little chunk of a fellow has apparently thrived!  I chalk it up to God’s great provision.  He is in the 90% for weight, and 75% for height, weighing almost 17 pounds at his three month check up.  His older siblings weighed that at one year old!  And have never been anywhere near his height percentile.  We may have a football player on our hands.

I learned a good lesson about my mockery of tongue ties: it’s real, folks, and it can be awful.  I still think babes are diagnosed (or rather, treated) too often for it, but also realize that I need to get off my soapbox and admit I’m wrong: I need help.  I’m thankful for the gals in my life that supported me through that, and especially Mary & Pita who were able to correct it, and Amber who taught me how to form new habits out of it!  I’m especially thankful to our Creator who made all things so adaptable and unique.  I’m so thankful that my body was able to heal from that whole ordeal and for being able to nourish my wee one in this way through it all.  I count both a huge blessing and privilege!  I’ve learned I cannot expect these things ‘just because,’ but instead thank God each day for the gifts we have, day by day.

Whelp…

birth day

birth day

Early this spring some dear friends just a couple miles down the road had to rehome their Great Pyrenees LGD’s, and so we added to our canine clan.  Bosco & Marley have made a wonderful addition, and have recently given us a litter of perfect little puppies a month ago.  They have remarkable instinct and are amazing with humans (Flynn could pull their tail or tackle them to his hearts content and they’d just gently nudge him sweetly), and even better with protecting their farm.  So much, that one from their last litter that went to a thousand-plus acre farm in Eastern Washington killed 22 coyotes in a single year protecting his flock of sheep.  Bosco has his share of stories with wild critters.  They’re more personable – and yet impressively protective – than any LGD we’ve had before.

cuteness!

cuteness!

We’ve never raised puppies, and so their other family (their original home) has been walking us through it step by step.  It’s surprising how different the whole process has been versus livestock.

Brandy birthed excellently, surprising us one morning with wee pups.  The babies took to her right away, needing no assistance.  Now, 4 weeks in, their eyes are open and they’re little playful balls of soft squishy!  More than half of them already have farm homes lined up.  I’m excited to watch them work with their new families and critters.

We have a hawk eyeing our chickens these days that I suspect won’t be around much longer…

3 weeks old and cute as buttons

3 weeks old and cute as buttons

More photo’s and information can be found here.

Nursing Tips: Infection

I just wanted to provide an update, and a whole lot of notes for myself – and any other gals out there who could use this information in their own lives.  NONE of it is a recommendation to you.  Please do your research as you pursue health and wellness.  Also seek professional help, as necessary.

Other posts in the series:

Aury and I have been progressing nicely since his birth and our nursing woes.  The infection that I got early on led to some fairly long-term issues.  In fact, it’s only now (he’s 9+ weeks old) that I can honestly say nursing is going “normal.”  I’m so thankful for that!

In an effort to clean out the infection and (Lord willing) keep supply up, Aury and I were working hard at nursing as often as possible for the first several weeks.  This left us hunkered down at home most of the time.  The side effects were that nursing was still painful since I was recovering from his early poor latching, and the tissue in my infected breast had been severely damaged to the point of zero milk production by one week postpartum; yet [lots of] fluid draining (never have had this for more than a day or two).  This caused a lot of belly aches for my poor nursing babe.  We were both frustrated more than once.  But neither of us were about to give up at this point.

It literally took over 5 weeks for my milk ducts to clear, and for milk to begin to return (no more stringy-ness; no other fluids; exterior bruising gone; nip swelling diminished).  I’ve never had an infection have such long-term effects.  Only this week do I finally feel like it’s back to full production.  Despite all of this, praise God, we have a very healthy chunky monkey, and have been pleasantly surprised that there has been so little scarring.

As we carried no schedule during those weeks, it’s took a week or two to get into a good rhythm.  Aury is definitely a more happy baby with a clear cycle.  We both have really appreciated the calm we now can enjoy.  We both appreciate the freedom to leave as well, him and I both emotionally (ha!) doing outings smashingly now.

So I wanted to talk a little bit about the healing measures we took during the time of engorgement, infection and poor latch, as well as what I’ve done to work on maintaining a good supply during – and after!  I’ve decided to go at it one subject per post, so check for my others in this Nursing Tips “series” if you’re interested.  Perhaps start here to get a full view of what we were dealing with.

#treeoflife

#treeoflife

There are many techniques and recommendations to treat mastitis (breast infection), milk fever, and nipple health (poor latch, etc).  I cannot cover them all here, and do not hope to.  I want to share what worked for me, tho’, in hopes that it can offer some practical help to your own toolbox of information.  I also want to keep records for my future benefit.

I’ve had a lot of breast infections in my lactating years, and so at the onset of my first with Aury – only 3 days after he was born – I knew what was coming.  I got a flax seed bag warmed up, removed restrictive clothing, filled up a water canister and went to bed.  Unfortunately, Scott was laid out on the bathroom floor with a migraine, hugging the toilet all night long.  So Kendra slept in our bed all night, getting up and helping so much during the night.

I was delirious.  Hot.  Cold.  Sweaty.  Headache.  But we had to press on.  The sweet fresh babe would need new milk as I was also just starting to become engorged.  The combo was quite the trip.  Not realizing yet that it was a poor latch that was contributing to the infection, I went at it with my normal tricks:

Nurse as often as possible.  I realize that when you have an infection, it’s hard to want to let a baby nurse it out.  It’ll hurt like the dickens.  But it’s so important!  If your baby won’t take it, try pumping to clean out the infected duct.  Make sure that the pump, however, isn’t exacerbating the problem.  It was with Aury because of his poor latch and the damage it was inflicting on my nips, and after Day <5?>, I was pumping a shockingly scary amount of blood.  My mammaries were mad.  Aury was gassy and belly-upset (this continued into his 4th week of life, thanks to this infection).  All that to say: Stick with hand expressing and nursing if pumping is problematic.

Drink lots!  Your body needs to flush out the infection.  You also are at risk for becoming dehydrated as a breastfeeding Mama, and as your body fights infection.  Drink water if it’s easiest, or have an herbal tea nearby – always, infection or not!

Take a hot shower.  Or warm bath with epson salts!  It will help your milk let down, stimulate blood flow, soothe your body and calm your nerves.  Add some essential oils or herbs (below), if wanted.

Use compresses.  In the same light as showering, hot compressing is fantastic, as well as cold.  Some gals will use boiled cabbage leaves alone (there’s conflicting information that cabbage leaves can help diminish supply for weaning – so I avoid it) or grated raw potato.  I like to soak a cotton cloth (or nursing pad!) in an herbal tea and place over my whole chest.  I had a pot warm on the stove that I’d just dunk, squeeze a bit and repeat all day long.  When using cotton, I’d start with a layer of plastic wrap, put on the compress and top it all with a hot pad (I use a flax seed bag, but sometimes the weight of it isn’t my friend if I have an infection).  I’d use any of the herbs listed under “herbal oils” below.  Raw apple cider vinegar compressing also has been known to be helpful.  It’s cooling effect was soothing, but the smell… I just couldn’t do it for long.  Be sure to clean your nips before next nursing so babe isn’t getting anything other than your milk.

Tuck in hand warmers.  A sort of hot compress “cheat,” Scott bought a box of 10 that served an awesome help.  I was in no position to leave my house, but when I did (or if I was up and at ’em), I’d stuff one of these in my top against the infected area.  Often with a soaked nursing pad (compress).  I keep one in our diaper bag at all times just in case.

Herbal oils.  Y’all know I’m not a huge proponent of using essential oils excessively, but this was a particularly useful time that I put them to work.  I didn’t have a lot of energy to make up concoctions all day, so infused some olive oil with a few herbs and applied generously on my chest, particularly the affected areas (but away from my nipple so Aury wouldn’t be consuming any of it).  I used rosemary, sage, lavender, garlic, marshmallow, calendula and comfrey.  Nearly all of these herbs would do well for you/Mama in tincture or tea (internal) form as well except those noted.  I’d use comfrey internally with caution, at best.

Massage.  This is one of the first things I do if I feel an infection coming on.  That, heat and rest.  I massage the affected area in a circular motion as often as I think of it.  It will help work out your ducts.  This was a good time for me to use the infused oils (above).

REST.  I know, I know.  You have a baby (and possibly a passel of children besides that).  Responsibilities loom.  But it is SO important that you rest.  Now is one of those times that you should plug in a movie (or twelve in a row) and let the kids chill as you do.  Give you nips a rest, too.  When not in a compress, leave them exposed as much as possible.  No bra or restrictive clothes.  No shirt.  Fresh air.

Coconut oil. I adore lanolin.  I’ve used it on my nips (and lips!) for a decade and a half now.  I love how thick it is, and how healing it is.  BUT I had to let it go when I had this rough time with Aury.  It’s tackiness was not helpful.  It caused me to stick to my nursing pads (tearing off scabs from poor latch – shiver), and also is so thick that it doesn’t allow your nipple to breathe.  I switched to coconut oil and instantly noticed improvement – and it was sooo soothing – and good for the little man nursing, too!  Once things are under control with nursing, I suspect I’ll go back to lanolin just because I adore it.

Antibiotics.  I use propolis because it has a lot of antibiotic properties.  I sprayed (YEE-ouch!) a tincture straight onto my tips right after each nursing session when I had cracking, preventing further infection, and hopefully getting into my ducts to work some magic.  If natural remedies aren’t working, your doctor will recommend antibiotics.  I’ve resorted to this once early on in my mastitis years when I didn’t know how to work on it myself and it got way out of hand.

To help your body fight the infection, consider boosting your Vitamin C, echinacea, and probiotics.  You’ll want to boost your immune system as it fights and to prevent further infections.

Our Budding Artist

Earlier this Spring Kendra painted this beautiful agriculture piece on a large canvas and won first place in the first contest she entered it into. The Washington State Farm Bureau then purchased it from her to frame and showcase in their state office in Lacey.

Last night at the Washington State Farm Bureau’s 96th Annual Conference, it was offered up during the live auction with the proceeds to support the Washington FFA.  Guess how much it sold for?  $800!  Her very first art piece that she’s shared publicly!  We are so proud of her.  Her natural artistic inclination will do her well for years to come.

Our Rainbow

Two and a half years ago I remember seeing Scott laying on a bed hooked to machines keeping him alive.  His arms were covered in sores & scars from needles; his whole body swollen beyond recognition.  His stats were unstable, at best.  We really weren’t sure of the future.  I worked hard to avoid thinking beyond the moment.  Except I couldn’t seem to avoid one thought: I want more babies with this man.  He is the love of my life, and the best example I know for the sweet babes we have.

When God spared Scott’s life by providing sweet miracles & amazing professionals who worked long and hard on sustaining him, I was nervous about actually getting pregnant.  The future was still so very unstable.  Looking back, I suspect I should have reached out for some post traumatic stress help.  I didn’t bring the subject of babies up with Scott, but just days after we got home, he told me he wanted more.  Lots more.  That life is short.  Precious.  And investing in the future in this way was more important than most of the ways we typically invest.  I loved the way he was thinking, and that it aligned with where I was, despite my nervousness.  We’d always said we wanted a hundred.  So let’s!

After several months of trying with no success, I got discouraged.  We’d never had to “try” before.  I worried that perhaps the trauma on his body left us unable to conceive again.  Thankfully, doctors all seemed to think that it shouldn’t be an issue, and were encouraging.  Our close friends were praying for us, all of us hopeful that it be God’s will for us to have more babies.  I researched fertility herbs and tried to get my body on track for a pregnancy.

At last, in November of 2015 we found out we were pregnant, only to end in a miscarriage.  I have sweet memories of loving friends surrounding us in unexpected and loving ways, supporting us through the devastating loss.  I struggled for longer than I expected to, and in more ways than I expected to.  I captured my thoughts and reigned in my chaos, bit by bit, over time.  The grief is still alive and real today, tho’ has changed significantly for a lot of reasons.  Hormones subsided.  Truth prevailed.  Two months and one cycle after our miscarriage, we found ourselves pregnant again.  This time, to stick.

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It’s with great joy I share that earlier in October we welcomed a new little one into our family.  We call him “Aury.”   Continue Reading »

Risking Our Children

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives;
But greater still the calm assurance:
This child can face uncertain days because He Lives!
Gaither

When I was a young Mom, I struggled a lot.  My mind raced with every scenario that left my baby lifeless, brutally hurt, or forever scarred emotionally.  I soaked up all of the parenting books, battling which might be right, which wrong.  I wanted to do it “right”.  I didn’t want my children hurt.

When they were babies, I’d wake up too frequently to check if they were still breathing as they slumbered in their bed.  As they grew into toddlers, suddenly furniture was my enemy.  Sharp edges.  Glass surfaces.  Plug-ins and electronics.  There is danger everywhere.  My heart raced.  I lost sleep.  Now several of them are pre-teen/teen’s, and dangers are exponentially growing.  The motorcycle.  The rope swings, swimming, video games, and – gasp – soon driving.  Now there’s hormonal changes and pre independence and … oh man… We’re not ready for this!

But there’s a balance to be had here… surely… And yet… It is not our job to be flexible.

It is our job to protect our children.  There are many dangers out there that we need not be ignorant of.  Because of this, we set boundaries for our children that are age- and maturity-appropriate.  For example, we limit the people our kids leave our house for sleepovers with or have alone time with.  We happily welcome friends to co-mingle in a family setting.  We limit their interaction with bad influences of all varieties until they are “of age,” and also take responsibility for their intake of good, be it spiritual, educational, chemical, etc… And will assist in their learning how to make wise decisions as they grow.  Ultimately, we’d rather risk offending someone than risk our child’s safety or well-being.

But something has changed in us as parents.  

We no longer keep those boundaries based on fear or control.  

We do still believe that as parents we are responsible for guiding our children to the best of our ability in most areas, bit by bit letting them “fly the coop,” so to speak.  We want to instill good decision making skills based on a firm foundation.  We do still cling tight to our family being the go-to for them as they do so.  Home is their base, Lord willing.  Yet we still catch ourselves from time to time.  As politics sway, there were added fears for society, the culture, it’s future, and the surroundings of their lives in various times and trials.  Even still I find myself trying to guard them at times.  I am constantly reminding myself that sheltering is not guarding or biblical, but praying is.     Continue Reading »

Farming For Free?!

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photo courtesy of Robin

We’ve always been of the mindset that animals cost money.  I mean, let’s be real.  You don’t raise your own animals to be frugal.  It’s a luxury.  You do it because you love it, you seek the lifestyle, or because you’re looking for a particular type of food to be on your plate.  Unless you’re a commercial operation, the cost is real, in most areas of your resources (finances, time, space, etc).

For example, when I calculate our expenses, we aren’t saving a ton of money on our sheep milk*.  I can justify it financially, but if we had to cut our budget, I sure couldn’t justify keeping ’em.  And when I [try not to] judge others, it’s the first thing I think they should let go of when the purse strings need tightened.  But this one family I know is making me change my perspective (and is certainly not following the norm), and reminding me not to judge a book by it’s cover.

Let me preface by saying: Steve & Robin’s number one goal is to supplement their groceries with free food.  So sure, they may not be doing things how we would (or have) as far as grassfed, organic, etc.  But honestly, it’s still leaps and bounds above CAFO mixed meats and picked-prematurely veggies from who knows where doused in who-knows-what.  Even if it doesn’t meet our general philosophies a hundred percent of the time.  It’s surprisingly not far away either.

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photo courtesy of Robin

Here’s what they have on their homestead: sheep (milk, fiber, meat), pigs (meat, pasture-managers, scrap-clean-up-ers), chickens and ducks (eggs, meat, fertilizer), cows (beef, hides & milk) and a couple of horses (training children responsibility and skill).  Rabbits (meat, pelts, leatherwork).  Bees (honey, pollination).  Fruit trees and herbs (dinner plate and animal food).  What they “bring in” to feed their animals:

  • They hay their neighbors field once a year, paying $2.85 per bale; saving neighbors annual mowing costs.  Win-win.
  • They maintain a fodder system ($10/month for entire farm)
  • The food bank they grocery shop with weekly gives them excess for livestock; providing 90% of what is fed to the pigs and chickens
  • They water from a well (expense: minimal electric to run pump)

They do have to invest in minimal supplies from the feed store from time to time, as well as minerals and other odd items here and there.  They usually butcher their own meat, slaughter to wrap.  Butchered lamb skulls hang in their chicken coop where maggots clean them out, then drop to the floor where chickens get their protein.  They then sell the cured skulls to folks with terrariums after proper cleaning.  The property they rent came with fencing and small structures to contain their animals.  They co-op the pigs with other owners – the other owners are responsible for cleaning barns and fields of manure, etc… keeping this portion of workload (and waste) minimal for their own family.  They grow low-maintenance corn, melons & pumpkins (and weeds – ha!), feeding the harvest to the chickens, the stalks and vines to the pigs.

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photo courtesy of Robin

As for the horses, they’re a bit of a splurge.  Or are they?  They don’t provide food for the family, but provide a learning opportunity for the two children.  They teach responsibility and disciplines one would never get elsewhere.  And best of all?  It’s all financially sponsored (feed is included in the family’s farm expenses; minimal and self-sustaining).  Their five year old has sought – and secured – both businesses and private entities to 100% financially support her rodeo and training through selling farm goods and sponsorships.  What could add up to hundreds a month is instead worked for, providing a great opportunity for this young entrepreneur to not only set a budget, seek out investors and sell farm goods, but also to work hard for good results to report back of progress.  And heck, clean stalls and tie knots and lift her share of weight in the process.

Funny story: All but one in their family doesn’t like lamb or rabbit (but the kids’ll eat it if they have to).  They raise both because it’s cheaper than buying any meat from the grocery.  So they’re not going for gourmet.  They’re going for saving money.  Period.  Their monthly food averages $250 for a family of [currently] 5 – soon 6!  Some months it’s closer to $100, when the freezer and pantry are particularly generous.  Insane.

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photo courtesy of Robin

I don’t even want to mention how much we spend on groceries per month, even growing a lot on our own.  We believe this area a high priority, and budget accordingly.  That said, Steve & Robin’s semi-permaculture-esque set up and goals have really inspired me to consider how we can enhance our strategy into providing continued high quality food, utilizing our resources to the best of our ability in a more economical fashion.  A good challenge for sure.

First step: Setting up that dag-gum fodder system that I keep saying I’m going to.  Literally adding 60 seconds a day to chores, decreasing feed costs a hundred fold.  Yep.  I need to just do it.

*actually, I have no idea where to buy sheep milk.  But other raw milk of this caliper is $20/gallon minimum.  In reality, we probably are saving money on dairy/meat from our lamb, but not a ton – we certainly aren’t eating cheap by growing it ourselves.  Tho’ I could argue in favor because they help maintain our land, add fertilizer, share wool, and offer a wide variety of meats & dairy products that would add up significantly otherwise… Yeah, but still.  Not cheap.