Sunday, August 30, 2009

In Memory of My Dad

Today is my dad's birthday. Every year on father's day, his birthday, and the day he died, I do a little something special in his memory. When I was in Georgia, I ate breakfast for dinner at The Cracker Barrel - his favorite restaurant. When I was in California, I ate dessert crepes for dinner at La Creperie - a restaurant we ate at the last time he and my mom visited me. When I was in DC, I started the day at Starbucks with an apple fritter - one of his favorite pastries, in memory of Saturday mornings as a kid when we brought donuts and Danishes from Hillcrest Bakery to the lot where my dad and uncle built boats - and a grande raspberry mocha - my twist on his favorite homemade espresso drink, a raspberry latte in a humongous mug. Now that I'm in Colorado, I've added a little flair to the DC ritual:

This afternoon we headed to The Market
(a great cafe and coffeeshop with tons of character)

in Larimer Square (a cute, historic block in Downtown Denver)

and enjoyed an apple strudel and black forest latte (a cherry mint mocha).


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why I Share A Bed With My Baby Part 2

I shared a bed with my baby from the moment he was born, and since that time have heard a lot of alarmist comments on the perceived danger of mamas sleeping with their babies. Every mama I know who has slept with her baby says the same thing: There is no possible way she could roll onto her baby. Fathers, maybe. But mamas, never.

Infant co-sleeping deaths can virtually always be attributed to one of the following unsafe sleep practices:
  • An adult in the bed is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • An adult in the bed is a smoker.
  • An adult in the bed is obese (thus creating a "trough" in the mattress that baby can roll into).
  • There is room between the mattress and the wall or furniture that baby can roll into.
  • There are blankets or other items on the bed that baby can burrow under.
  • Baby is sleeping with an adult on a couch, chair, water bed, or other soft, flexible surface.
It is the sleep environment that can be dangerous, not the co-sleeping. Unfortunately, some state government agencies have decided it is easier to advise against co-sleeping than it is to educate the public on unsafe sleep practices. Thus, co-sleeping is often vilified and unnecessarily termed dangerous. How sad, considering the fact that bed sharing in a safe environment actually decreases the risk of SIDS.

Regardless of where baby sleeps, mama should always take responsibility to ensure the sleep environment is safe. Here are a few safety check items for a co-sleeping mama:
  • Make sure there is no space between the mattress and the wall, headboard, footboard, or other piece of furniture that baby can get stuck in. (I always perform the two finger test.)
  • Make sure the fitted sheet is snug on the mattress and cannot easily be pulled off.
  • Do not use blankets or comforters. (Receiving blankets are fine.) Instead, keep the room at a comfortable temperature (at least 68 degrees) and dress in layers if needed.
  • Keep pillows away from baby's face. Do not place stuffed toys in the bed.
  • Do not wear pajamas with strings or long ribbons.
  • Do not sleep on a water bed, pillow-top mattress, or any other soft, flexible surface.
  • Make sure no lamps, cords, electrical items, or drapes are within arms reach of the bed.
My baby started rolling about the time we moved to Colorado. So once we arrived, I placed our mattress directly on the floor (with no box spring). I also bought a Snug Tuck Pillow to prevent any roll-offs during the middle of the night. It was the most reasonably priced product of its kind, and did a great job keeping us both on the mattress while asleep!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Why I Share A Bed With My Baby Part 1

While still pregnant, I decided to share a bed with my baby. I figured:
  • it seemed a little harsh to make my baby (who slept inside my belly for nine months before being born) sleep apart from me just because he had been born, and
  • it seemed a little silly to have an entire bed/crib (not to mention a separate room) for a tiny little baby.
For some bizarre reason, I allowed a co-sleeping (but not bed-sharing) friend to convince me it was a good idea to buy a co-sleeper bassinet. I ordered the Original Arm's Reach Co-Sleeper a few weeks before my due date, but due to a handful of mishaps it didn't arrive until a good five weeks after my baby was born. By that time I simply couldn't imagine him sleeping anywhere other than snuggled up next to me, even if it was only a few inches away. So my baby never used it for more than a handful of naps. We are still sharing a bed and love it! Here are some of what I think are the best benefits of co-sleeping:
  • When a mama and baby sleep together, both mama and baby can easily fall asleep and stay asleep since they are both already in bed and mama doesn't need to later transport baby to another sleeping surface. (I couldn't even begin to count the times I accidentally fell asleep with my baby even though I was planning on staying awake to work.)
  • When a mama and baby sleep together, they share sleep cycles. When baby is in a light sleep, mama is in a light sleep; when baby is in a deep sleep, mama is in a deep sleep. Because babies only naturally wake up out of a light sleep, mama only wakes up out of a light sleep (and so is never awakened out of a deep sleep). This means better quality sleep for mama!
  • When a mama and baby sleep together, nighttime nursing is a breeze. Mama can pop baby on the breast and both can fall right back asleep while baby is nursing. Mama doesn't have to get out of bed, and once mama and baby have mastered the art of nursing lying down (which for us was at about 6 weeks), mama doesn't even need to sit up.
  • When a mama and baby sleep together, they get more skin-to-skin contact, which is essential for baby's health, physical growth, and emotional well-being.
  • When a mama and baby sleep together, mama's sixth sense is put to good use. When my baby was little, I always woke up about 10 seconds before my baby even stirred. This meant I could comfort my baby at the breast and lul him back to sleep without him ever really waking up. And because I rarely was awake longer than half a minute, I usually had no idea in the morning how many times my baby "woke up" during the night.
  • When a mama and baby sleep together, baby feels safe and secure and so often sleeps better than he would if he were alone. My baby sleeps sounder after I have joined him in bed for the night than he does when he is asleep but I am still up. When we are together, he feels my warmth, smells my presence, and hears my heartbeat and breath. When my baby was very little he would often open his eyes, see me, reach out his hand to touch me, then smile and close his eyes and fall back asleep. Precious!
  • When a mama and baby sleep together and wake up together, the first thing they see when they open their eyes in the morning is each other. Now that my baby is active, we snuggle, giggle, and play together before getting up. What a great way to start the day!
  • Baby sleeping in close proximity to his mama is the second best thing (behind baby sleeping on his back) that can be done to reduce the chance of SIDS. According to Dr. Sears, "[r]esearch shows that infants who sleep in a crib are twice as likely to suffer a sleep related fatality (including SIDS) than infants who sleep in bed with their parents." There's a reason SIDS is also called "crib death." It is normal for babies to stop breathing in their sleep for a short period of time, then start breathing again. Hearing and feeling mama breathing regulates baby's breathing and so babies who sleep close to their mama have a lower chance of NOT starting to breathe again. (This is not surprising given that skin-to-skin regulates breathing, body temperature, and heart rate.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Welcome to Our Neighborhood

This weekend marks six months from when we opened the doors of our business. Since signing our lease, there have been four shootings on our street in the four blocks just west of us. Two were fatal. (Although one was a store owner shooting a robber.) Oddly enough, I feel fairly safe here. Here's a flavor of the type of businesses we walk by every day in our neighborhood:







Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kombucha Sweepstakes Part 3

I bottled my first batch of kombucha (since moving to Colorado) last night. It all started three weeks ago when I received a priority mail package with my "winnings" (a kombucha scoby) inside. Here's the recipe I followed:

Bring 3 quarts water to a boil.

Add 1 cup organic sugar. Simmer 15 minutes.

Remove from heat. Fill tea ball with 4 teaspoons organic black loose leaf tea.
Steep 15 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Pour 1 cup starter kombucha into a 4 quart glass jar.

Add sweet tea.

Top with kombucha scoby. Here, it sank to the bottom.

Cover jar with a tea towel and rubber band.

Place in a dark place away from strong smells. Brew for 3 weeks.
Ideal growing temperature is 80-89 degrees.

Remove mother and baby scobies.
Here, one is floating on top and the other is floating in the middle.

Pour kombucha tea into pint size bottles and refrigerate. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Vaccines Part 2

More interesting vaccine-related tidbits:
  1. Flu (Influenza) - The media erroneously reports the flu causes 36,000 deaths each year in the U.S. This number comes from the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report database, which reports flu and pneumonia deaths in the same group. The National Center for Health Statistics classifies flu deaths separately from pneumonia, and reports approximately 1,500 flu deaths each year in the U.S., over 90% of which are in people older than 64 years. The main reason babies and children are vaccinated is to limit flu exposure to the elderly. There are two types of vaccine: a live-virus nasal spray (which causes flu symptoms in approximately 2/3 of the people who are vaccinated) and a killed-virus injection. The virus for the nasal spray is grown in baby chicken kidney cells; the virus for the injection is grown in chicken eggs with chicken embryos inside. There are five brands of this vaccine, four of which contain mercury, three of which contain formaldehyde, and one of which contains MSG.
  2. MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) - For the measles: This disease is transmitted like the common cold and causes a rash, fever, runny nose, and cough. There are only approximately 75 cases each year in the U.S. and only about 1 in 1,000 cases is serious. For the mumps: This disease is transmitted like the common cold and causes a rash, fever, and swollen saliva glands in the cheeks. There are only approximately 250 cases each year in the U.S. and the mumps is not serious in children. In fact, most children with the mumps are probably never diagnosed as having the disease. For rubella: Also known as the German measles, this disease is transmitted like the common cold and causes a rash and fever. The sypmptoms in children are so mild that it almost always goes unnoticed. However, if a pregnant woman catches rubella in the first or second trimester, it can infect the unborn baby and cause birth defects. The vaccine contains human blood proteins, cow fetus serum, and chicken embryo proteins. (This disease also played a prominent role in the Agatha Christie book The Mirror Crack'd From Side to Side.)
  3. Chickenpox - This disease is transmitted like the common cold. Symptoms are worse in teens and adults than they are in chlidren, and the disease is most serious for individuals with compromised immune systems. The virus was originally grown in guinea pig embryo cells and unkown human tissue cells, and is reproduced in cow fetus blood. It also contains MSG. The vaccine does not guarantee to protect a person from catching chickenpox, and what protection it does provide wears off with time, thus still making a vaccinated person succeptible to the disease as an adult. If an individual has not been vaccinated and does not catch the disease, a simple test can determine if he is susceptible or not.
  4. Hep A (Hepatitis A) - This disease is transmitted through infected stool. Symptoms in children are virtually nonexistant; symptoms in teens and adults are similar to flu symptoms. There are two brands of the vaccine, both of which contain aluminum, formaldehyde, and human cell proteins; one of which contains cow blood proteins; and the other of which contains 2-phenoxyethanol and polysorbate 20.
  5. Meningococcal - This disease in transmitted like the common cold. It causes an infection in the bloodstream that moves to the organs and brain, and can cause meningitis. It is recognized as the most serious and potentially deadly of all vaccine-preventable diseases. There are approximately 3,000 cases each year in the U.S., approximately 15% of which cause a permanent disability and approximately 10% of which are fatal. Most cases occur in babies between 6 months and 2 years. However, the vaccine schedule does not call for immunization until age 12.
  6. HPV (Human Papillomavirus) - This disease is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., with approximately 20 million new cases each year. Most viral strains only cause genital warts which typically "cure" themselves without treatment, but some strains cause cervical cancer. The vaccine protects against 90% of the strains that cause warts and 70% of the strains that cause cancer. If cervical cancer is detected early, it is curable by removing part of the cervix.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Vaccines Part 1

The Vaccine Book by Robert W. Sears

This must-read book unbiasedly presents all the facts about each of the 12 vaccines on the current vaccine schedule, and allows each parent the opportunity to make an informed vaccination decision for her child. And in my opinion, only informed decisions can be wise decisions. The best thing about this book is that five different mamas could read it and make five very different decisions regarding whether, when, and how to vaccinate their children.

As a backgrounder, here is the current vaccine schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (although not necessarily recommended by every pediatrician):

Here are a few interesting tidbits I learned while reading this book:
  1. Hep B (Hepatits B) - This disease is transmitted through blood. If a pregnant mother is infected with this disease, she can transmit it to her baby during birth. (So any mama with this disease may want to consider having her baby vaccinated.) This disease is also transmitted sexually, by sharing IV drug needles, and by using improperly sterilized tattoo needles. (So any mama whose baby is engaged in these risky behaviors may want to consider having her baby vaccinated.) There is also approximately a 1 in 282,500 chance that a person can contract this disease from a blood transfusion. (So any mama whose baby is undergoing a blood transfusion may want to consider having her baby vaccinated.) There are two brands of this vaccine, both of which contain aluminum, and one of which also contains formaldehyde.
  2. HIB (Haemophilus Influenzae Type B) - This disease is transmitted like the common cold. There are only approximately 25 new cases each year in the U.S., most in children under 2 years. Breastfed babies who do not go to day care have an even lower risk of contracting the disease.
  3. Pc (Pneumococcal) - This disease is transmitted like the common cold and is treatable. Because the Centers for Disease Control has not classified this as a reportable disease, nobody knows exactly how common it is. However, a baby has a 1 in 20,000 chance of having a seizure after getting this vaccine. This vaccine also contains aluminum.
  4. DTaP (Diptheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis) - For diptheria: There are only approximately 3 new cases each year in the U.S., and the disease is treatable. For tetanus: This disease lives in soil and on dirty metal, and is introduced into the body through deep, dirty wounds. In children under 5, there is only approximately 1 new case each year in the U.S.; in older children, there are only approximately 5 new cases each year; and in adults, there are approximately 70 new cases each year. If an unvaccinated person gets a deep, dirtly puncture wound, he can get vaccinated after getting the wound and the vaccine may help prevent the disease. For pertussis: Also known as whooping cough, this disease is not considered serious after 6 months. (It is intersting that the vaccine schedule calls for children to be vaccinated 3 times at/after 6 months.) There are three brands of the vaccine, all of which contain aluminum and formaldehyde, two of which contain 2-phenoxyethanol (a known toxic substance), and one of which contain polysorbate 80 (a known toxic substance) and mercury. In addition, two of the brands contain liquidized cow tissue. The Tdap vaccine listed on the schedule at 12 years is a version of the DTaP vaccine that contains less diptheria and pertussis than the DTaP.
  5. Rotavirus - This disease is transmitted by coming into contact with the stool or saliva of an infected person. It spreads most easily in day cares, and most children have caught the virus at least once before turning 3 years. It is an intestinal virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea, which in turn sometimes causes dehydration. (The best hydration remedy for babies is breast milk.) The vaccine contains a live, whole virus, and is actually intended to cause a mild infection. A baby has a 1 in 1,300 chance of having a seizure after getting this vaccine. The vaccine also contains monkey kidney cells and fetal cow blood.
  6. Polio - This disease is transmitted like the common cold. The last case of polio in the U.S. was in 1985, when an already-infected immigrant entered the country. The last case of wild polio contracted in the U.S. was in 1979. The old form of the vaccine was taken off the market in 2000 because it caused paralysis in approximately 8 children each year. No reports of paralysis have been reported from the new form of the vaccine. The vaccine contains monkey kidney cells, baby cow blood serum, human blood proteins, a component of MSG, formaldehyde, and 2-phenoxyethanol.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why the 8th day?

In Genesis 17:12 God said to Abram, "And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations."

Why eight days? God's laws not only have spiritual significance, they are also based upon scientific laws - the scientific laws He Himself created. God created the human body and so is intimately familiar with its every detail. Babies are born without a natural supply of vitamin K, the blood clotting vitamin. As babies nurse, vitamin K develops in their intestines. After seven days of breast feeding, babies have a sufficient supply of vitamin K to clot the blood during and after a circumcision. Amazing!

A typical baby boy in the United States is circumcised during the first three days of his life. Because such a baby does not have a sufficient amount of vitamin K to clot the blood, a doctor must first administer a vitamin K shot. In fact, doctors routinely administer vitamin K shots to all newborn babies, regardless of whether they are boys or girls.

I birthed my baby at home and opted to forgo the shot. But I did want my baby to be circumcised. Because our pediatrician did not perform circumcisions, I arranged for a mohel - a Jewish rabbi who performs circumcisions - to circumcise my baby if he was a boy. The mohel came to our house on the eighth day (counting the day of birth) and circumcised my baby in our bedroom.

Five things really surprised me. First: The entire procedure took less than five minutes. Second: The mohel did not numb the area prior to the procedure. Third: My baby stopped crying immediately after the procedure, making me suspect he was crying primarily because he did not like his legs being held open. Fourth: The area did not bleed much. Fifth: Although a little fussy the day after the procedure, my baby's recovery was otherwise very smooth. I am pretty certain watching the circumcision traumatized me more than it traumatized my baby.

Our mohel was incredibly kind and compassionate, left me with everything I needed for the after-care, answered all my questions before leaving, called the next morning to make sure things were healing properly, and even stopped by a few months later to see my baby and answer a question I had. Thank you, Rabbi Rappaport.

With our children's pastor, who held my baby during the circumcision:

With mama and Rabbi Rappaport:

With a friend's mom, who was my emotional support during the circumcision:

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sleep Aids

My baby can usually fall asleep anytime, anywhere.

But if he's feeling icky or super excited, he sometimes has a tough time falling asleep, even if he's really tired. Here are a few of my homemade sleep aids:
  1. Epsom salts - The magnesium in this salt relaxes baby's muscles. Dissolve 2 cups of Epsom salts in a shallow bath and soak for 20 minutes. This "prescription" came straight from our pediatrician in DC after she diagnosed my screaming baby with having a mama who was too stressed. Among other things, she had us take Epsom salts baths together several times a week and had me increase the magnesium-rich foods in my diet.
  2. Lavender essential oil - The smell of lavender relaxes baby's central nervous system. Add a couple drops to your bath water, or mix a few drops with olive oil and rub into baby's skin. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used straight on adults' skin, but I always dilute it in olive or another carrier oil when using it on my baby's skin.
  3. Massage - If baby is still enough for a massage, this can be a helpful way to calm baby to sleep. We took a series of very helpful baby massage classes at the DC Breastfeeding Center. I got so much more out of the classes than I would have just from a book, but parents who are unable to take a class can still learn a lot from the book Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents by Vimala McClure.
  4. Chamomile flowers - This sunflower relative acts as a sedative by soothing the nervous system. Brew a single cup by filling a mesh tea ball half full and letting it steep in hot water for at least 10 minutes; brew a quart by pouring 1/3 cup directly into a mason jar and letting it steep in hot water for at least 10 minutes, then pouring the tea through a wire mesh strainer. A breastfeeding mama can drink the tea immediately before or during nursing, and the herbal properties will transfer almost instantaneously to the breast milk, automatically diluted to the appropriate strength. If giving tea directly to a baby from birth through 2 years, 2-3 teaspoons of tea equals a 1 cup adult dose. If giving tea directly to a child from 2-6 years, 1/4 cup tea equals a 1 cup adult dose. If giving tea directly to a child from 6-12 years, 1/2 cup tea equals a 1 cup adult dose.
  5. Sleep tincture - I first made a batch of this tincture when I was pregnant and waking up often in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, but then having trouble falling back asleep again. I was amazed at the results - 4 droppers full and I was able to get back to sleep quite quickly!! I have only used this on my baby a handful of times, but it has worked great every time. I keep it on hand for "special" situations when I can tell he is super tired, can't fall asleep or stay asleep, and none of my other remedies seem to be working. Click here to read about the ingredients and learn how to make your own.
If you have another natural sleep aid that has worked for you and your baby, I'd love to hear about it!