Friday, March 27, 2015

Top Gear: Breastfeeding Edition

***The title of this post says it all, so feel free to move along if you don't care to read about this topic...

As I mentioned in my previous "Top Gear" post, if there was anything about being a new mom that I was not prepared for, it was breastfeeding.  I mean, I had read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Le Leche League and bits and pieces from other books.  I also went through Medela's online "course" (which isn't free but I had a free code come through my e-mail) and watched videos on YouTube.

Still, once the baby got here, nothing went as planned.  Without going into too many details, all the drugs from the birth interfered with things, and we had to rush Baby Tuesday to the pediatrician only to get sent to the lactation consultant.  I always wondered why in the heck you'd need consultants for something that seemed so easy, but now I know.  Otherwise, there is the Internet, and I found to be a wonderful resource.

Anyway, it probably took two months and some supplementing to get into the swing of things.  As a disclaimer, I have nothing against formula at all -- in fact, it was all I ever knew, but they (my doctors) pounded breastfeeding so hard that I figured I would at least try it and quit if it didn't work out.  A part of me just thought, "how hard could it be?" Famous last words.  I'm sure I would have quit eons ago had it not been for Google and "The Ukrainian" helping me wrangle those first few weeks.

Now that we're now en route to five months, I don't think I'll be acquiring any new gear at this point.  But those first months... my credit card got a lot of exercise.  You see, I was dumb/naive and didn't think I'd need stuff... you kind of have everything you need, right?  And maybe that's true for some.  As I said in my previous "Top Gear" post, everyone is different.

1) Traditional Medicinals Mother's Milk Tea

This tea comes in a pack of 16, and Target had them on sale during one of my postpartum Target runs. So I bought many boxes.  I try to drink a packet a day, and I think it did help build my supply. The taste isn't super great... something like muddled licorice, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  Plus, drinking tea counts as hydration, right?

2) Medela Harmony Manual Pump

This was one thing I DID buy before the baby came, knowing that a back-up pump is a good idea, and I'm glad I did.  It is a quiet and portable alternative to electric pumping.  I like bringing it out for emergencies and have even used it while nursing on the other side (but I don't do this a lot because it's involved).  I often feel like it's more effective at getting milk out than the electric pump I have because you can control it better, even though, yes, it's definitely slower than a double electric.  Good hand workout, though!

Also, in the early days, it was much easier to stop pumping to tend to baby than it would be with an electric.  The parts are easy to assemble and clean.

3) Ameda Purely Yours Pump

Due to my issues, I started off with a hospital-grade pump (Medela Symphony -- great quiet pump, but heavy and expensive) that I was able to rent, but I honestly found that this Ameda one was almost as good at getting the milk out because you could fine-tune the speed and suction better than the hospital pump.  This pump is very light and travels easily (which is good because of all the times I have lugged it to work), and it can run on batteries if needed.  I also got a car adapter for it and have even used it in there -- not while driving, though I contemplated this... but it seemed to logistically difficult and distracting.  Also, I like that it doesn't really trap milk anywhere, so there is little waste (I tried another pump that trapped milk in some parts, so sad when you aren't pumping much!) and is hygienic.

The downside is that the valves need to be replaced pretty quickly, like once a month.  Luckily, these are pretty inexpensive online.  The flanges (horns) are kind of shallow, too, so I feel like I have to sit just so, or else there is some leaking.  Also, it is kind of annoying sounding, but I think that might be true of most pumps.  I've never tried a Medela pump (the non-hospital-grade kind), so I can't really compare, though I do prefer the Medela parts/bottles.  You can actually screw on Medela bottles onto the Ameda pump, though I haven't for some reason.

4) Nursing cover

Great for nursing and pumping in public or in the car.  I'm so glad my sister let me use hers (linked above -- a great, sturdy cover!).  It provides privacy while still letting you see what's going on under there and allowing baby to breathe.  If I were to do this again, though, I'd get a nursing scarf, which seems more convenient and fashionable for nursing... maybe not the pumping, though.

5) Lanisoh Breastmilk Storage Bags

I didn't have enough milk on hand to freeze until my baby was maybe 11 weeks old, which was great because I was returning to work soon.  I remember the feeling of satisfaction when I froze my first couple of bags.  I had not bought any but had a few samples, and then I realized that I did actually need to buy more (wahoo!).  These freeze flat and don't leak, which is very important for that precious stuff.  They also don't smear when I write on them.  At the time of this writing, I have about 60 ounces frozen (I know many people have more... I can't imagine), which I rotate through for the sake of freshness.

I recommend freezing in 2-3 oz portions, so that you can get small amounts thawed quickly and waste less because thawed milk will only last 24 hours.  Definitely if you are starting out freezing, thaw out a bag ASAP to see if your baby will still drink it, before freezing any more.  Luckily, my kid is not picky about milk and will probably drink anything I give him.  Thawing is easy -- baby gets one thawed bottle per weekday -- I put one in hot water until it liquifies again, which is actually pretty quick. I've heard you can store baby food pureé as well, though we're not there yet (and when we do, there will probably be a "Top Gear: Solids Edition" LOL.

6) Nursing tops/bras

I wanted to splurge on a nice nursing bra, but I didn't know what size I'd need, and by the time I did, going to the mall was a luxury.  Luckily, before I had the baby I got some cheap ones from Target in the size I was during pregnancy, and it seems to be working.  They don't have a very long life, though, but I'm roughly expecting that weaning will happen before they die completely.

I also have some sleep ones that are nice for home.  These are great because there are no snaps/clips to worry about, which is good because I'd always have to check if one of these was rubbing up against my baby's face.

I also picked up some of their nursing tanks, which I pretty much lived in for the first few months when pulling up clothing to nurse seemed cruel.  They went well with button-up shirts, which I still swear by now.  I will say, though, when I went back to work, I started nursing in anything I had on, maybe because I didn't have to do it as often or because I was tired of limiting my clothing choices.

7) Hands-Free Pumping Bra

I would have said this was essential, and for many people, it is.  I tried making one using an old bra that I cut holes in, but this did a better job.  Ultimately, though, I prefer not to use any because it makes it hard to get everything out (see this link for a video that explains this).  I guess if I really, really needed to multitask, I would use this.  It also keeps you from having that icky leaking feeling while pumping since it absorbs everything.

8) Dr. Brown Newborn Bottles

I was dumb, dumb, dumb and did not buy any bottles before the baby came.  I had inherited some bottles and figured I wouldn't be needing them much, and by that point, I could see if my baby had a preference for a particular kind of bottle that I could buy when the time came.  Wrong!

Besides those tiny bottles of formula that came ready-to-drink, we started out using the Medela bottle for pumped milk, since I did have one of those lying around from Item #2.  I decided to buy Dr. Brown bottles afterward because my baby, like I'm sure many babies, had bad gas, and it seemed to help in my mind.  Yes, washing those parts is annoying!

A note about these... after much research, I learned that breastfed babies up to 6 months don't usually need more than about 3-4 oz of formula per feeding, so although I have a few 8 oz versions of these bottles, I mostly use the 4 oz "newborn" version, unless I'm behind on washing or if later on if I move on to strictly formula (in which case, more than 4 oz per feeding could be needed).  I get a lot of flack about not putting "enough" in his bottles, but I'm pretty sure it's because most people (including me, previously) are used to feeding formula, which has different properties.  I had to trust my research and my baby's signals and progress.  Here's a story: I took Baby Tuesday to see his Rabbi, and the first thing the Rabbi said was, "He looks well-fed."

Also, the newborn "Level 1" nipples seem to be doing the trick since it doesn't get the baby used to a fast milk flow.  I do use the larger ones to store pumped milk, though, as there seems to be less, um, separation in them than Medela bottles.

9) Baby scale

I probably paid about $50 for one, probably too much, but this was key for me to know that my baby was actually taking in milk.  I know you're normally supposed to count diapers, but I was insecure and giving bottles, and there was a lot of spit-up during that time period due to this insecurity and my baby not knowing when to stop.

They do weighted feeds at the lactation consultant's office (which was so far away), but I only got to see them a couple of times when the results were extremely, extremely poor.  So I did more research and my own weighing and learned that 1 mL of breastmilk is about 1 gram, so all I had to do was get Baby Tuesday to settle long enough to get a grams measurement before and after a feed.  Voila!!

Honestly, I've only done this once or twice, just for reassurance.  These days, he's bottle fed a lot of the time, and on the weekend I mostly am back to watching diapers, his contentment, and weighing him periodically for weight gain.  So I would say this was probably an unnecessary splurge, but one that I really needed for confidence.

10) Fine-tooth comb

Yes, very odd item, but hear me out.  When I returned to work, I had a clogged duct that would NOT go away.  They usually would within a day or so, but it was so bad that it lingered for days, and I got a low-grade fever for several of them.  The only thing that ended up working was using a comb in the shower.  Hooray for weird remedies!

11) Oats, Flaxseed, and Brewer's Yeast

I mixed these up in an oatmeal canister and eat this for breakfast a lot of the time.  I'm not certain it really helps, but it's approximately what I normally eat and a cheap way to get things going if it does work.  The oats and flaxseed I am used to, but mannnn that Brewer's yeast smells and tastes quite bad.  Luckily, after everything is cooked, you can kind of mask the taste with nut butter or something.  This was my alternative to making lactation cookies, because I was/am lazy and didn't want to consume a bunch of extra butter and sugar (beyond what my appetite has led me to!).  If I hadn't already bought a large jar of the Brewer's yeast, I probably would have just taken the pill version, albeit a more expensive option.

12) Gatorade

Little did I know when I wrote this review that I'd be drinking this stuff outside of running.  Not long after I went back to work, I noticed some days were not particularly prolific at the pump, so rather than going for another supplement, I read somewhere to drink Gatorade.  I've also tried coconut water but haven't seen the same result.  And by "result," I'm only talking about an ounce, maybe slightly more, a day.  So I think it has helped, though it could just be because of the liquid intake itself.  Either way, had it not been for me reacquainting myself with this drink, I would have never learned about the "pepino limon" flavor that is really quite tasty!  Gotta wash down #11 somehow, right?

13) Bamboobies

While disposable breast pads work well, it's kind of an expense after months of having to wear these daily.   Okay, I'm not going to flatter myself -- I honestly think that I really don't need to be wearing these during the day mostly, but I'm sure the minute I try it, I'll have an embarrassing incident.  Maybe these are just so comfortable and absorbent that I don't know that I need them.

These come in a multipack of 3 sets + 1 overnight set for about $25, which is a lot upfront, but if I consider how many wears I've gotten out of these, I think it's a good deal.  I will still use the disposable ones occasionally, like if I were wearing something where I could not afford to have pads potentially slipping around.

14) Medela Quick Steam Bags

These little baggies are good for quick sanitizing of pump parts and bottles, but I honestly haven't used these much, maybe while traveling and when a bottle got really funky one time. I will also sanitize if a bottle has been left out dirty for wayyy too long or if Baby Tuesday has been sick.

I included it on here because these are convenient and fairly cheap (like $1/bag and each bag can be used 20 times). 


That concludes the round up!  Hopefully this helps some other parent out there comes across these suggestions and lets me know if it was helpful at all!

FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive samples for this post, unless noted.  Also, there are quite a few links in here, but no, they don't earn me any money.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Top Gear: Postpartum Edition

I thought I should follow up my Top Gear: Pregnancy Edition with some of my postpartum recommendations.

I'll try not to turn this into a "everything is going to be horrible and you'll have stuff coming out from everywhere" post, though inevitably, some of that kind of stuff will be mentioned.  Postpartum (the first three months or so, in my mind) is such a sensitive time, and as someone who is still there, I think any useful tips from someone who has "been there" are helpful.  Thinking back to that time period definitely brings back some... feelings.  I was in pain, exhausted, and in teary awe that there had been such a delightful little guy in me all those months.  But mostly, I felt (and still feel) like I was way in over my head in thinking that I could be someone's mother and that I have no idea how to take good care of another human being.
For the items below, note that I had a Cesarean section, so this list might be different for those who don't go that route. Also, I decided I'd do a separate "Breastfeeding Edition" of this post, because many, MANY of the items I had to run out to get postpartum had to do with that specifically.  I anticipate it to be a lonnnnng post.

1) Pads, liners

Yes, people who get the ol' slice-and-dice need these, too, even though you'd think they would do a pretty good job cleaning out the premises before sewing you back up.  You'll see these on every one of these postpartum list, but I underestimated the need.  Get ones that are comfortable as they are functional, because you should make every effort to be comfortable at this point when everything else is going crazy.  Switch to liners as soon as you can, which might take a few weeks, but you'll love when you make the switch to them.

Also, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that "granny panties" are not really necessary unless all you wear normally are skimpy things.  I mean, I'd imagine whatever worked during pregnancy should be able to support a pad... right?  Anything that is "normal" will make you feel better during a time where everything is but.

2) Food

This was so, so, so important during those first few months.  I was hungry and didn't have the hands to cook.  People brought food, bless them.  My family brought a lot of soups and rice, Japanese snacks, and even a Thanksgiving meal.  My in-laws brought cake, and I totally almost ate the whole thing single-handedly in a few days.  My friends brought over Chinese food, breads, pizza, tamales, and pie.  I have always been one to bring food to new parents, but I greatly, GREATLY underestimated the need for this, too, so if anyone else has a baby, I will make sure to bring more (or maybe I was particularly hungrier than most).

The freezer covered the balance, and I'm not talking about fancy freezer meals that people actually had time to prepare -- I'm talking about Trader Joe's meatballs, enchiladas, and pizzas.  The other balance (told you I was hungry!) was covered by oatmeal, cereal, and bars/trail mixes from Costco.  Speaking of which, bulk is great.  In the beginning, I'd keep food by my bed and on the couch because I was hungry and on my butt in those places a lot.

3) Belly Bandit

I wonder if people will find this post by Googling "does the Belly Bandit work?" hoping to find an answer.  Unfortunately, I don't really have one.  I did not really use mine, since it was uncomfortable to sit or nurse with it on, and I did a lot of those things.  I imagine it would help with things flattening out after delivery, as well as provide core support post-surgery.  I ended up getting something similar from the hospital, though I did not wear it when I got home due to bad associations/memories of pain. I think what helped get my stomach mostly back to normal (because it still isn't what it was, let's face it) was nursing, small amounts of exercise, and whatever I had built prior to pregnancy plus the time period I was exercising during pregnancy.  I'm sure I would have done better had I been on top of wearing this.  Everyone is different, though.

These are not discreet under clothing necessarily.  If you are going to try this, get the bamboo version, as bamboo is known to be soft.  I can't imagine what the non-bamboo version feels like.

4) Hip Shrinkx

This I also ended up not really using, for the same reasons stated above.  I haven't bothered to check if my hips grew due to pregnancy, and now that I'm a few months out, these no longer would work on me because they work with the hormone relaxin in your body that only lingers in the first few weeks afterward.
5) Ginger

All the hospital and pregnancy fluids were horrid.  I remember coming home wondering why I only lost 10 pounds after birth, only to shed the remainder over the next few weeks (through sweat and pee, lovely!).  One thing that helped immensely was ginger.  My mom made a bunch of ginger stuff for me, including tea, to hasten the process.  Try infusing it with water or buying ginger tea.  Drink water in general... it's important for flushing out things as well as milk supply if you're doing that.

Speaking of weight, one thing you don't need: a scale.  I mean, you're going to WANT to keep weighing in, but in my opinion, that's quite stressful.  And anyway, that weigh-in will happen sooner or later... like at the postpartum appointment.  I had mine 4 weeks out, and I was pretty pleased with the results -- unfortunately, no progress since then -- *cough*.

6) Hand lotion

All the hand-washing, feeding accessory washing, and hand-sanitizer made my hands soooooooooo dry.  Now that I'm constantly slathering moisturizers on my baby, I no longer need this, but it really did get bad before.  Choose your favorite, preferably something you wouldn't mind touching your baby with, though usually by the time I would pick up my baby in the beginning, I would have already washed my hands again.

7) Yoga pants

Of course, right?  My favorite comes from New York and Company.  I have a pair from years back that I love... by the time they went on sale again online in my size, I feel like something changed about them, yet I still like them.  They are probably the most flattering things that I wore for a while.  Due to multiple clothing changes that will be necessary due to your or the baby's bodily fluids, get a few.

8) Prunes & Colace

I hate to bring more TMI into this post, but you should really pick up some of these things, even if you think you won't need them.  You will, regardless of how your baby is born.  Heck, you might already have some of this stuff lying around from pregnancy.

9) Vitamins

I'm still taking prenatals leftover from my pregnancy (due to nursing, but even if I wasn't, what would I do with them otherwise?), but vitamins are just helpful in general because I don't know about you, but healthy eating is questionable during this period... and vitamins are very much needed to replenish your body after all the madness.

So that's that.  Really, though, what you need postpartum are not items, but mostly: help with the baby while you take care of your basic needs, showers, people to talk to (especially people who recently had a baby and can help you answer your 4784957403 questions without Google), fresh air, and sleep.  Oh, how I (still) miss sleep.

FTC Disclaimer: I was not provided any samples for this post... just sharing my opinions!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker 5K -- 2015

EVENT: Los Angeles Chinatown Firecracker 5K
DATE: Sunday, March 1, 2015
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
RACE BEGAN: 08:00 am
FINISH TIME: 1:03:50

This was nearly a DNS/DNF (did not start/did not finish) for me, which would have been a first!

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I am trying to collect all 12 of the Chinese zodiac medals from this race.  So far, I have:

- the horse (2013)

- the snake (2012)

- the dragon (2011)

And now...

... the ram (the medal doubled in size this year, but darn my photography for not capturing that well)!

So that means "only" 8 more.

I registered for this race a couple of months before Baby Tuesday was born, planning to either wear him in a carrier or use a stroller.  Well, we haven't quite gotten the hang out babywearing, so the stroller it was.  The decision to actually show up to this race was a last-minute one.  It was predicted to be a rainy weekend, and I had been running a low-grade fever for a few days, coinciding with my return to work (or maybe due to my return, lol).  These things wouldn't have stopped me in the past, but now that I have to worry about making my baby cold or making myself too sick to take care of my baby or go to work when I have no sick time left... more considerations are needed.

I kept checking the forecast overnight (and overnight involves way too many opportunities to check, unfortunately), and the rain seemed to stay away.  Two hours before the gun, I decided we were good to go.  So I quickly got ready and put the little one in a plushie monkey suit, and we all headed to Chinatown.

We picked up our bibs and hung out for an hour before the start.  I covered the little guy's (real, not fuzzy) ears as they set off 100,000 firecrackers near the start (we were also standing way in the back, but still).  The starting time for the 5K coincided with nap time, so that kind of worked out.  One of my friends decided to drop down to the 5K from the 10K to walk with me, while my other friend and "The Ukrainian" did the 10K, which started half an hour later.  There were several others with strollers and dogs who kept the back, a total contrast to my normal "sneak as close to the front as allowable/possible" tendencies.

The weather turned out to be quite nice.  A little breezy, some sun, but mostly cloudy.  Tuesday slept for half an hour and then started babbling the rest of the way.  The 5K course seems to have changed since I last ran it, from a loop at Dodger Stadium to an out-and-back nearby.  It was definitely hilly, and moreso pushing my heavy stroller up the hills.  I remember just making the first turn when the leaders were coming in to finish, haha!  I continued to walk through the finish area, and due to the lengthy 5K, "The Ukrainian" found us not too long later.

Close to the finish, I circled myself, lol.

Overall, doing this race was pretty uneventful, but the mini-streak is still alive for now.  Everything is definitely harder and more unpredictable with a baby, though!!  Hopefully next year or the year after, Tuesday can do the Kiddie Run.  While this could be considered the baby's first race out-of-utero (see: Big Sur recap from last year), I can't wait until he is old enough to do his own race!!

This new year's race continues to be one of my favorites because it can be as serious or casual as you need it to be.