Amy's Corner. our lactation consultant answers your questions about nursing.

Peanut Allergy No More? New Research Shows Food Allergies Respond to Exposure Treatments

Food allergies treated with exposure techniqueGood news! Preliminary findings

from a new report on food allergies find that children may be able to overcome peanut allergies. With carefully monitored daily doses of peanut protein, a study showed marked improvement in 84% of the children tested over a period of six months.

Though these findings do not eradicate peanut allergies, they do give hope to parents whose child suffers from a peanut allergy. Peanuts are the most commonly fatal trigger of food allergy-related attacks—a fact that makes parents shudder at the thought of how prevalent peanut butter is in the American diet.

What does this mean for the future of peanut allergies? Parents should not try to replicate the study’s results at home. Even though researchers found success in the first round of trials, at-home exposure to peanut protein is not safe for a child with a peanut allergy. Without doctors monitoring a child’s progress, it is unsafe to expose a child with a pre-existing allergy in case of emergency.

Peanut allergy symptoms include itching or swelling around the mouth and throat, hives outbreak, upset or cramping stomach, throat closing, or shortness of breath. Please consult your family physician or seek emergency treatment if you think your child is experiencing anaphylactic shock, as a peanut allergy can cause severe damage.

Let’s hope that in the coming years doctors will be able to treat food allergies in afflicted children and adults.

The Importance of a Birth Plan

Why do I need a birth plan?

birth plan_courtesy of claremontmidwife.comHaving a baby is one of the most exciting and life-changing experiences you can have. You’ve probably dreamed of many of the special moments you’ll have with your new baby, but have you thought about how you want to actually give birth to your little bundle of joy? It’s important to contemplate and make note of your vision for giving birth in a birth plan.  This 1-2 page document outlines your personal desires throughout the entire birth process including labor, delivery and post-partum procedures for both you and your baby.

The first step to creating a birth plan is to discuss your wishes with your partner.  Talk through the type of birth you envision and how you want your baby to enter the world.  Then talk to your OBGYN or practitioner to ensure she understands your desires, and seek her professional recommendations for the safest, healthiest and smoothest birth possible.  Your personal medical profile may dictate some of your options, so be sure to take your physician’s advice into consideration in your birth plan.

What are my options during labor and delivery?

There are many options to consider for your birth plan.  You can specify the people you want to be in your labor & delivery room; amenities such as music or special clothing you’d like to bring; birth props such as a stool or bathtub you’d like to have available; or what pain relief measures you want to employ.  Pain management is a major decision and options include breathing techniques, warm and cool compresses, massage, bathing and medication.

During vaginal delivery, you have options for pushing, including doing so instinctively or being prompted as contractions dictate.  You may want to specify pushing positions, especially if you’re having a natural birth.  Many women like to watch the birth of their babies in a mirror, and some want to have their partners help deliver the baby along side their practitioner.  During c-section, you have the option to partially view the process and have the baby given immediately to your partner.  These are all important details to express in your birth plan.

What choices should I consider for my baby after birth?

Once your new bundle of joy is born, you have several choices for your first few days of interactions with your baby while in the hospital.  You can opt to have all newborn procedures done in your presence or with your partner present, and you’ll have the choice of your baby rooming with you or being taken to the nursery.  If you have other children, you can specify when and where they can see their new baby brother or sister.  And if your baby is a boy, you should make decisions about his circumcision.

breastfeedingOne of the most important choices you will make is how you want to feed your baby.  Many women want to breastfeed their babies right away after birth and research shows this immediate attachment encourages milk production and begins the out-of-womb bonding process.  Even if your baby does not latch during this first breastfeeding session, skin-to-skin contact helps newborns regulate their body temperatures and has a calming effect on baby and mama.  And the closeness, even without latching, will still stimulate milk.  Be clear in your birth plan if you do or do not want your baby to receive formula.  And remember, even if breastfeeding is challenging at first, the colostrum you produce can sustain baby for the first days of his life.

What else should I know?

Your practitioner may have a standard birth plan template or you can download one from popular pregnancy and baby sites such as BabyCenter and The Bump.  Feel free to elaborate important points, but do not be too long-winded because this is meant to be a quick reference when labor and delivery may be progressing rapidly.

Remember that your birth plan is what you ideally wish to happen as you welcome your baby into the world.  Sometimes your health and safety, and that of your baby, will supersede your birth plan.  Be prepared to be flexible and use words like, “it is our wish” or “we hope to be able to” when composing your birth plan.  This will help your mindset of doing whatever is best for you and baby if your birth situation turns critical.

Once you’ve finalized your birth plan, give a copy to your OBGYN or whoever will be the one to deliver your baby.  Having your birth plan in writing will help remind your practitioner of your desires as he or she likely delivers many babies a day!  Also submit a copy to the hospital where you plan to give birth, if applicable, and they will keep it in your file.  And bring a copy with you.  You may not be in the mood to explain your wishes during labor so making sure everyone knows your wishes in advance is wise.

Postpartum Body Acceptance & Losing Weight after Pregnancy

ntima-preusser-beautiful-bodies-projectPhotographer Jade Beall’s stunning black and white portraits are notable for a number of reasons, but most recently she’s gained widespread notoriety since creating the A Beautiful Body Project

.Beall’s lens is trained on new mothers and their babies as part of the A Beautiful Body Project; in her revealing photographs, Beall’s subjects proudly display stretch marks and swollen breasts alongside smiling babies to send a positive body acceptance message. In an effort to combat anxiety about losing weight after pregnancy, the A Beautiful Body Project shows real images of postpartum bodies and celebrates motherhood without airbrushing.

Losing baby weight is a common concern among today’s new mothers. With widespread focus on celebrity moms like Jessica Simpson and Kim Kardashian, whose weight losses were documented in detail by magazines, new moms can feel extra pressure to quickly lose weight after pregnancy. Jade Beall hopes to reverse the baby weight obsession with her A Beautiful Body Project. On the official website, Beall hosts articles and personal stories that new mothers send in to be shared. One such story, titled “’Babies Ruin Bodies’: An Ode to my Postpartum Body” was written by new mom N’tima Preusser and published January 2, 2014.

ntima-preusser-beautiful-bodies-project-2N’tima chronicles her body’s physical changes as well as the emotional revelations that come with being a new mother. Her self-view is inspiring and relatable for all moms and women who have experienced weight gain or loss. To read N’tima’s excellent piece about losing weight after pregnancy and postpartum body acceptance, click here.

Losing baby weight isn’t nearly as important as staying healthy through pregnancy and breastfeeding so your baby is properly cared for. Looking for postpartum body acceptance and inspiration? Visit Jade’s website and celebrate in the fact that carrying a baby is an accomplishment much more significant than losing weight after pregnancy.

Stay happy and healthy, new moms!

Pregnancy Myths Decoded, Old Wives’ Tales Revealed

pregnant-woman-mahalieHas an aunt or friend told you they can predict your baby’s gender by simply looking at your pregnant belly? Old wives tale gender prediction claims are part of the pregnancy mythology, a catalog of hints, tips, and tricks founded on superstition and outdated scientific claims. Time.com recently covered 20 of the most prominent pregnancy myths floating around in our culture, and we’re breaking down our favorite myths from the group.

Pregnancy myth: Combat stretch marks with cocoa butter

Pregnancy stretch marks are unavoidable for most women; they range in severity and placement, show up regardless of your baby belly size, and don’t actually appear until the end of the third trimester. Skin experts suggest slathering on creams with almond or shea butter from your first trimester through delivery and even a little after. Stick with a stretch mark product that features ingredients like aloe and sea buckthorn oil (it heals scar tissue). Cocoa butter can make a woman’s skin more sensitive, so that’s why professionals recommend stretch mark products without the tropical ingredient!

Pregnancy myth: Women should avoid foods like smoked salmon, sushi, and hot dogs

The old saying “everything in moderation” seems to be the pregnancy diet model, according to Time.com’s pregnancy myth round-up. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and a freshwater fish which lowers the possibility of mercury poisoning. If a pregnant mom-to-be feels uneasy about consuming fish, there are alternative foods that can supplement the same nutrients fish would have. Omega-3s are found in flax seeds, which make a great, nutty addition to any fresh fruit smoothie.

As long as you monitor how much tuna you’re eating (only 12 ounces a week allowed!) and avoid all shark, swordfish, tilefish, and mackerel, experts say that a little sushi won’t hurt your baby. If you have your dietary doubts, just remember—you can go back to whatever food you’re on the fence about while pregnant after the baby’s born. These dietary restrictions are not permanent! Hot dogs are only questionable if they’re not cooked all the way through, so make sure that your designated grill master knows how to properly cook a hot dog!

Pregnancy myth: If you know how your baby’s positioned in your womb, you know if it’s a boy or girl

The old wives’ tale gender prediction game is perfect for your baby shower, but won’t shed light on if you have to paint your nursery blue or pink. The bright side of guessing your baby’s sex is that even if you’re wrong about gender, you’re delivering a beautiful, healthy baby that will be a welcome family addition regardless if it’s a boy or girl. Stock up on onesies in gender-friendly greens, grays, and taupes if you want to have baby’s wardrobe ready before birth. Once your baby is born you can add blues and pinks when appropriate!

Do you have other pregnancy myths or old wives’ tales that you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments!

 

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Extended Breastfeeding – Making the Best Choice for Baby and You

Extended breastfeeding is a personal choice between mother and baby.  As your little one nears her first birthday, you will probably have many emotions.  You’ll wonder where the time has gone and how your newborn quickly passed through infancy to toddlerhood.  You’ll remember all of the milestones your baby has reached already in her life and the most adorable things she did.  As you grasp to hold on to your little baby, you may find yourself a little sad that your breastfeeding experience may be nearing an end.  But that doesn’t have to be the case.

extended breastfeedingExtended breastfeeding is becoming more popular as studies continue to show the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers.  The AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of baby’s life, and breastfeeding and giving solids until at least one year.  They also recommend extended breastfeeding as long as you and your baby desire.

Breast milk is an amazing form of nutrition.  According to The Mayo Clinic, because it changes to meet the nutritional needs as a child grows and develops, there is no proven age at which breast milk is no longer considered excellent nutrition. This ideal nutrition helps improve the immune system and overall health. As an infant becomes a toddler, she’s probably becoming quite an explorer in this great big world of germs and perhaps spending more time with other children.  A boosted immune system and a constant source of nutrition can be quite an advantage, especially in the winter months of cold and flu season.

Beyond immune health, Dr. William Sears points out that brain development is most crucial during the first two years of life.  Research shows that the more breast milk a child has, the better for his or her ability to learn due to the fatty acid DHA found in breast milk.  Therefore, the longer and more frequently a child is breastfed in these early years, the better for cognitive development.  Additionally, breastfed children statistically have better vision, hearing, digestive health and dental health, and have less risk of obesity.

For moms, the benefits of breastfeeding have a higher impact when a women breastfeed for 12 months or more in her lifetime.  This includes reduced risk of many diseases such as breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes and heart disease.  Studies also show that the longer a baby breastfeeds, the better health a mother tends to have.  This may be because mother’s who breastfeed put more emphasis on their own well-being to ensure their milk is the best quality nutrition for their children.

extended breastfeedingExtended breastfeeding should be a joint decision between mom and baby.  There is no biological clock that says breastfeeding should end after 365 days.  Much of this decision is about motherly instincts, health benefits and your relationship with your child.  If she is developing properly and still feeding like a champ and you’re not ready to stop either, continue until weaning is natural for both of you.

Happy Breastfeeding!

Is breastfeeding after C-section possible and how can I prepare myself for success?

Breastfeeding after C-section may come with a few challenges, but it can certainly be done.  A cesarean is major abdominal surgery, which somewhat limits your mobility and ability to lift your baby, but it should not prevent you from nursing your baby if this is part of your feeding plan.  Because every woman’s body is different and each birth is unique, limitations vary from person to person.

When it comes to breastfeeding, with proper positioning, your baby will feed beautifully.  If you have a breastfeeding pillow, I recommend bringing it to the hospital, although just stacking up several regular hospital pillows will also do the trick.

Mom Nursing BabyThe best position for breastfeeding after c-section may be the “football hold” so your baby is not lying against your abdomen.  Football hold entails cradling baby on one arm, cupping her head in your hand and letting her body rest on your forearm.  Slide your baby back to meet your breast and use your free hand to ensure proper latch.

Following the first day after your c-section, you may find that you can better position yourself and baby in a glider than you can in your hospital bed.  If your doctor will allow it, try to get out of bed and into a chair to see if that works better for you.

Cramping commonly occurs during the first few days of breastfeeding.  Be sure to pay particular attention to your body and stay medicated for pain under your physician’s care.  Also, consider having your partner or a close friend or relative stay with you in the hospital for the first few nights to assist in lifting your baby out of the bassinet for feedings.

Baby Schedule: Getting Back on Track after the Holidays

Leading Lady BreastfeedingMost moms agree, having a baby schedule is generally a good idea.  Babies thrive on routine because it gives them a sense of what to expect in a world that is very much out of their control. It can also help moms be prepared when caring for babies, who are often unpredictable.   Many moms and babies naturally develop a feeding and sleeping schedule soon after birth.  But sometimes putting together your baby’s schedule may require you to assist Mother Nature just a bit.  Either way, knowing the general path your day will take is helpful to both baby and mama.

During the holidays, our schedules understandably get off track.  You may be traveling, which can interfere with naps and bedtime.  Changing time zones is especially confusing to a baby’s internal clock.  Staying up late, being surrounded by new faces and a whirlwind of activity may have your baby all out of sorts.

Now that the holidays are over, you may be concerned about how you’re going to get back to your routine.  Here are some helpful tips on how to easily get back on schedule:

Down on Sleep

If your baby has not been getting enough sleep due to your travel schedule or some late night parties, you have some work to do.  The theory is that sleep begets sleep, but conversely, the more tired your baby is, the less she will sleep.  And the less sleep, the more cranky babies tend to become.  It’s important to push for sleep when trying to get back on schedule.  If your baby gets drowsy during breastfeeding, throw in extra feedings when you want her to sleep.  Make sure sleeping accommodations are most conducive for good sleep, including good air circulation, darkness and whatever noises (or lack there of) make your little one snooze best.  Also, some sleep is better than no sleep.  So even if a nap happens later than desired, let your little one sleep so that she isn’t so sleep deprived that she doesn’t want to sleep later.

baby with clock_courtesy of pregprep.comTime Zone Change

Babies adapt to gradual changes more easily than abrupt shifts in schedule.  You’ve probably noticed this as your baby slowly starts sleeping through the night, drops naps or needs a later bedtime.  You can make the gradual time zone shift before you return to your local time zone or after, but start adjusting naps and bedtime in 15 minute intervals to ease baby back into her regular schedule.  She probably won’t notice these minor shifts and it should make for a smooth landing into local time.

Bedtime

With so much to celebrate, baby may be staying up late to visit with family or attend gatherings.  If you are hoping to reinforce a firm bedtime, get back into your bedtime routine.  This may include a bath and a story.  Maybe you nurse and rock your baby to sleep.  Or you may simply send your good-night wishes to all of her toys.  However you typically get ready for bed, picking back up this routine is important to getting baby in the mindset for sleep.

Playroom Overload

With everyone spoiling your little one during the holidays, your playroom may be exploding with new toys for baby.  Too many mind-blowing toys can cause sensory overload for babies so it’s smart to limit time with loud, light-changing and video-oriented toys.  Rotating toys in your playroom will ensure you have a good mix of developmentally appropriate toys that will interest your child without them getting stale.  Introduce new toys every 1-2 weeks and remove a few as well.  You’ll be astonished by how quickly your little one will latch on to a new favorite toy and learn to master a new skill from it.  When you reintroduce toys, your baby will likely play with them as if they were new again, making it a win for both of you!

We hope you had a lovely holiday season and we’re wishing you much luck getting your baby back on schedule.

New Years Resolutions: The Parent Edition

This time of year, most of us are doing a bit of self-reflecting as we make our New Years resolutions.  Like all jobs and roles in our lives, there are usually ways we can make improvements.  Parenting is no exception, whether it is being a little more patient, learning to let go of the small things, or simply taking some time out for ourselves.  So now is a great time to sit back and think about some changes you might want to make in 2014 and set goals for yourself as a parent.

We all know there is no perfect way to be a parent.  Along with the tremendous joy, satisfaction and endless love you feel as a parent, parenting is also an ever-revolving door of learning, changing, doubt and trying to make the best decisions we can for our families.  And of course, just when you think you have something figured out, new transitions are on the horizon.

We can’t stop change, but we can set goals for how we want to respond to it and how we want to improve ourselves as parents.  We’ve put together a list of some things you may want to consider for your parenting New Years resolutions this year.

Accentuate the Positive

Happy mom and babyResearch shows that having a positive attitude and displaying it through actions and speech can improve our overall well-being and happiness.  Most parents would agree that they want their children to grow up in a happy, healthy environment.  That starts with us as parents.  Being optimist and solution-oriented teaches our children to overcome obstacles and approach problems without anger and fear.  Using words like “no,” “stop,” “don’t” and “can’t” are negative influences on your child.  While using these words is sometimes unavoidable for your child’s safety, use them sparingly so they have more impact when you need them.  You’ll be surprised what a positive and pleasant household you can create with this shift in your outlook.

Do Unto Others

The golden rule is a great New Years resolution.  Yes, we all learned it in pre-school, but it is so simple to forget when we’re bogged down with the daily responsibilities of parenthood.  As a parent, doing unto others as we would want done unto us is about respect and being a good role model.  Respect your children as you wish for them to respect you.  Use your manners when asking your children to follow your directions: “please set the table” or “thank you for using your inside voice.”  When you respect your child by using kind words, your child will learn this behavior from you.  Also demonstrate respect for those around you, including your spouse, family, friends and even complete strangers.  Little ones learn how to interact with the world from our actions.

Foster Independence Within Boundaries

Most parents would agree:  we wish to raise well-adjusted, independent, productive children.  To do this, we have to give them a little space to make decisions, make mistakes and learn valuable life lessons.  We all have rules for the safety of our kids, and some rules Foster independenceare for our own sanity as well.  But create small spaces in your life where your kids can make their own choices.  For instance, declare one day a week when your little one can select her own outfit.  Make it a game by challenging her to ensure it is seasonally appropriate, includes shoes and perhaps a certain color of the week.  Another idea: let your kids decide the menu for one family dinner a week.  It has to include something from each food category and the whole family will eat it together.  Or if your goal is to spend more time exercising outdoors, let your child pick which sport or games to play. The freedom to make decisions will foster a sense of independence and pride in children.  If they discover they don’t like their own selection, they are more likely to make better choices next time.  Plus, giving your kids a say will likely cut down on arguments.

Spend Some Time Away

Kids need time to be kids just like adults need time to be adults.  Schedule time to get away from parenthood.  For you that may mean a far-away vacation or simply a night at a coffee shop with a good book.  Whatever your “away” may be, do take the time to escape from toys, crafts, meal preparation, diapers and laundry every once in awhile.  Relaxing and taking your mind off your day-to-day tasks will ultimately rejuvenate and re-energize you as a parent.  So do it for yourself and your kids!

Make Your Goals Known

By writing down or verbalizing your goals, you are more likely to feel accountable to yourself and your family.  If you set a goal to breastfeed for one year and your family knows it, they can help you achieve it with encouragement and other forms of help, like being mindful of feeding schedules and watching older children so you can bond with your baby.  Your parenting goals will only work if you can keep them, so set yourself up for success. Also, discuss joint parenting goals with your partner so you know you’re on the same page and can support one another throughout the year.

We wish you all a very happy New Year filled with love, joy, family and fulfilled New Years resolutions!

Breastfed Babies Score Higher in Child Development Tests

When it comes to feeding, there’s more good news about child development for moms who choose to breastfeed their babies. 

Breastfed babies score highest in skills tests

A new study out of Greece’s University of Crete followed 540 mothers and their children from nine months of age until the children were 18 months old. Each parent was asked how long she nursed her little one, and researchers evaluated each child’s cognitive, communication, language and motor skills at 18 months of age.   

The findings? The toddlers who were breastfed for any amount of time as babies had higher cognitive, language and fine motor skills skills scores than children who were not breastfed. The children that were breastfed for more than six months had the highest overall scores. While researchers say that the study does not prove that breastfeeding is the sole reason for better development, it certainly points to a strong association. 

So who knows? By following the World Health Organization’s recommendation to exclusively breastfeed your baby for the first six months of her life, you could be helping her learn to master the Greek language…or at least, her ABCs. 

Breastfeeding in Public and Breastfeeding around Family

Breastfeeding in public and breastfeeding around family are always topics we like to discuss around the holidays. We’re all out-and-about, enjoying holiday festivities this time of year.  And many of us will be getting together with family, perhaps for their first introduction to your new baby.  If you are breastfeeding, all of this action might make you a little anxious.  Beyond concern for sticking to your schedule, you may find yourself breastfeeding in new environments.  If these worries are on your mind, read on.

Breastfeeding with Leading LadyBeing away from home and breastfeeding in public can be nerve-wracking for many new moms but we’re here to settle your fears.  First and foremost, breastfeeding is one of the most natural and nurturing acts of love on the planet.  Plus, you know that breast is best for your baby.  This amazing gift should be the first thing you think about to calm your nerves when breastfeeding around others.

But let’s face it, not everyone in the world knows and understands the superior nutrition and emotional value of breastfeeding for both baby and mama.  And ignorance often breeds intolerance.  We’ve all heard shocking and infuriating stories of breastfeeding moms being harassed and even kicked out of establishments for feeding their children.  As we gasp in horror, we also feel for these mothers who are nurturing their babies.  While some states are better than others are protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, not one state prohibits it.

What should you do if you get unwelcome comments or nasty looks while breastfeeding in public?  Your response is a personal choice.  We recommend taking the high road:   Ignore when possible and focus on your baby.  If ignoring is not your style, inform people why you choose to breastfeed.  If you are concerned what others may think and say, try to find a private area away from onlookers.  This may be less-distracting for your baby anyhow.

Leading Lady Nursing CamiWhether you are breastfeeding out in the open or in a nursing lounge, you and baby will welcome easy-to-open nursing bras and nursing camis.  Simplify feedings by being prepared and wearing comfortable, supportive nursing bras while you’re out of the house.  This way you can easily feed and be on-the-go again in no time.  Right now enjoy 15% off all nursing wear site-wide here at LeadingLady.com!

Sometimes even our own family members are the culprits of unsolicited and annoying comments about breastfeeding.  This behavior may come from generation-based values and misinformation.  For instance, older family members may not have breastfed because the value of breastfeeding was not as well-known at the time and breastfeeding support was not readily available.  Not having been exposed to breastfeeding may cause bias and discrimination.  Family members of your own generation may take exception because they aren’t around babies often or perhaps were not able to breastfeed their own children.

When it comes to breastfeeding around family, we recommend a longer conversation about the health benefits of breast milk for babies and how breastfeeding improves a mother’s health as well.  Your family may be surprised to learn all of the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding and thank you for the education.  If you’re worried about exposing yourself to your family, males in particular, bring along a nursing cover so you don’t have to miss any activities or fun family moments while breastfeeding.  Also, try to incorporate your family members into the experience.  Let them tickle baby’s toes to keep her awake, burp her between breasts or change her diaper.  Being part of the process may help them understand and appreciate the special bond breastfeeding helps you create with your baby.

We hope these tips and insights make you feel more confident about breastfeeding in public this holiday season.  Happy Holidays and Happy Breastfeeding!

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