As I get out of the shower and look back at the drain, there is enough hair left behind to weave a wig. Long strands end up wrapped around my baby’s fingers and toes. Somehow they even get caught in the chubby little rolls of his legs. Postpartum hair loss. So real. So annoying.
This phenomenon, like so many other changes to our bodies, starts in pregnancy. Normally, our hair goes through growth and shedding phases on a daily, monthly, and annual basis. The shifts in hormones during pregnancy cause a perpetual growth phase with minimal shedding phases, which is why our hair often looks shiny and luxurious during pregnancy. Then comes baby. Hormones shift again. This time, the shedding phase resumes, but by now, we’ve accumulated months of hair growth and all that extra hair decides it has made its home on your head for long enough and it’s time to drop. Onto the floor. Onto the back of your sweater. Stuck in your hairbrush. Embedded into the rug. You get it. Scientifically speaking, this process is called telogen effluvium. Most women notice this shift in hair loss happen around the 3-month post-partum mark.
Thankfully, it doesn’t last forever. For most, extreme hair shedding usually lasts 3-6 months, but it can last up to a year. You won’t go bald (although it may feel like it). Hair loss after giving birth is totally normal, but if you are noticing extreme hair loss or are unsure what is considered normal versus abnormal, you can talk to your doctor about checking for thyroid conditions.
You can’t stop it, but you can help yourself by making sure you are eating well, with plenty of protein and iron. You can mask the thinning with different hair styles by adding texture and layers of length—ask your stylist for ideas. And remember, it’s just a phase and it will return to normal soon.
There will likely come a time when you will need to express breastmilk, either by hand or with a pump, and that liquid gold should not go to waste! Proper breastmilk handling procedures are key to keeping the milk safe for consumption. The chart below by the CDC lists the recommend optimal storage time frames.
Milk should be stored in BPA-free containers, either bottles or breastmilk bags. They even make breastmilk ice cube trays that freeze the milk in thin tubes so you can pop them directly into a bottle. Don’t fill bags and bottles all the way because the milk will expand when it freezes. I learned this the hard way with my first son and I wondered why my milk was leaking everywhere when it thawed—the bag had split open in the freezing process!
The further away from the door (whether the fridge or freezer), the better, so aim to stick that milk way in the back of the refrigerator or at the bottom of a deep freezer.
Ideally, milk should be thawed overnight in the refrigerator. Once thawed, it needs to be used within the next day or two. Do not refreeze it! Speaking of which, what constitutes “frozen”? A contacted me the other day who had lost her electricity during a bad storm and did not regain it for almost 24 hours. Cue: panic mode. She was afraid she would have to use all of her stored milk within 48 hours or dump it. Some of the milk had started to thaw. The good news is, as long as there are still some ice crystals in the milk, it is still considered “frozen” and can be refrozen. Milk that is completely thawed but still cold can be used within 48 hours. Milk that has been thawed and is no longer cold should be discarded. Some new studies are coming out that are testing the nutrient-content and bacteria levels of milk that has been thawed and re-frozen, and it is looking promising to give moms a bit more leeway with milk storage, but this is still preliminary. More to come on that topic at a later date. In the meantime, err on the side of caution.
Handling and Warming
Breastmilk naturally separates and the fat/cream floats to the top. Gently swirl it to mix. (Don’t shake it or it will create air bubbles that can upset baby’s tummy). Milk can be warmed gently in a bottle warmer, or by placing in a bowl of warm water. Always test the temperature of the milk before giving it to the baby. Never warm milk in the microwave. If the baby does not finish the bottle during the feeding, you can offer it again within 2 hours, but it should be discarded after that.
Lastly, always date the milk you’ve expressed so you can keep track of how long it has been stored!
Does breastfeeding make you feel like you’re on a long trek through the Sahara Dessert? You’re not alone. Breastfeeding triggers the thirst sensation, but the exact reasons why remain unknown. There are two likely causes identified by researchers:
We always hear about the benefits of breastfeeding—it truly IS liquid gold! The list of health benefits for both mom and baby is a mile long. But what isn’t discussed as often is the mental fortitude required for breastfeeding. One of the most common times moms express emotional fatigue during their breastfeeding journey is in the beginning, when their hormones are fluctuating, they may be experiencing discomfort from newly nursing, and uncertainty about whether they are doing it correctly. Add on the sleep deprivation factor, and breastfeeding can be a trying time. Moms may feel particularly isolated for several reasons.
The first couple weeks after giving birth, as the baby started crying and I got up, in the dark, to feed him, I would look over at my husband, who was sound asleep. How do you not hear him? And it’s not his fault—he told me over and over again to wake him up so he could help with the baby in the middle of the night, but there is something we do as moms that sometimes makes us feel like we have to do it all. Like we need to be superwomen. (And we are!). So while he slept, and the older children slept, and the dogs slept, and the house was totally dark and quiet except for the baby suckling away and me wide awake, an overwhelming sense of isolation bloomed. Surrounded by people who love me and are willing to help, and yet I felt so alone. I’m the mom with the breasts who has the responsibility of feeding the baby…all day and all night long.
This isolation effect can also manifest at any other time of the day too. With my first child, wherever I was (even in my own home), if there were other people around I would hide away to a private place to feed the baby. By the second child, I was more likely to feed the baby around people I was comfortable with, but still in the corner of the room. By the third baby, I told myself I was not going to miss out on socializing when company is over, or lock away in a room by myself for what could sometimes be 30-45 minutes during a feeding while everyone else continued on, so I feed him wherever I need to.
How can you overcome the isolation effect of breastfeeding?
It started with a conversation about a zombie apocalypse, because what good conversation about breastfeeding doesn’t bring up zombies? The following exchange happened on the way to school yesterday and I took it as a good opportunity to explain to my two elementary-school aged boys what to expect when the new baby comes and mommy breastfeeds:
John: “You know, in a zombie apocalypse, the biggest danger is running out of food to eat. And babies cry too much so I think this new baby wouldn’t do too well.”
Mom: “But at least we wouldn’t have to worry about getting groceries for the baby—Baby will get all the food he or she needs from mommy’s milk.”
Conner: “What?! That’s crazy! Is the baby a cow?”
Mom: “No, but all mammals can drink milk from their mommies. Don’t you remember seeing the goats at the zoo drink from their mommy’s teats? And puppies drink from mommies. And all the animals do, just like humans.”
Conner: “So, do you just pee out the milk??”
Mom: “No, it comes from my boobies. Why do you think girls have breasts? Just for decoration?”
Mom: “Well they don’t. It’s to feed their babies, and that’s how your baby brother or sister will be fed too.”
Conner: “That’s cool.”
John: “But that doesn’t solve the baby crying and giving away our location to the zombies.”
Talking to kids about breastfeeding can be an uncomfortable subject for some parents, but why? For most, at least subconsciously, it is because breasts have been sexualized, and we project our own feelings about that onto the subject of something as natural as breastfeeding. But there are a few tips to help your older children understand breastfeeding.
December 4th is National Cookie Day! Let's celebrate with a yummy cookie recipe that may help promote milk production. And let's face it--they are downright delicious! This recipe, along with many others for during pregnancy and lactation, can be found in the cookbook "Eating from Bump to Baby", on sale now at Amazon at: http://a.co/d/8QGuk2w
Oatmeal “Lactation” Cookies
Yields: 2 ½ dozen
Some people spend big bucks on buying so-called “Lactation Cookies”. They are so popular because they usually contain three common galactagogues: flaxseed, oatmeal, and brewer’s yeast. Whip up a batch of your own for a fraction of the cost and 100% certainty of the ingredients you’re getting. In place of the chocolate chips, you can substitute raisins or dried cranberries. A big batch of these can be made in advance and frozen for up to 3 months, so you can make them before baby arrives and have them ready to go!
2 sticks butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cup flour
¼ cup flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup brewer’s yeast
3 cups old-fashioned quick oats
1 ½ cups mini chocolate chips or raisins
Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
Beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Add the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, flaxseed meal, salt, baking powder, and brewer’s yeast. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined.
Stir in the oats and chocolate chips or raisins. Drop cookies by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until just slightly brown.
Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months.
Those first few moments after giving birth are some of the most important in a baby’s life. In times past in the United States, babies—even healthy ones--were often given a minute or so with mom and then whisked away to be cleaned, weighed and measured. As more and more hospitals transition to Baby Friendly hospitals (ie. hospitals that promote and support breastfeeding using the WHO standards) and understand the importance of those first moments after birth to the physical and emotional health of both mom and baby, skin-to-skin contact, or kangaroo care, is becoming more commonplace.
What is Skin-to-Skin?
Just as the name implies, skin-to-skin contact is when the naked baby (or clothed in just a diaper) is placed on a bare chest. The concept was first recognized in the 1970s in Bogota, Colombia when there was a shortage of incubators and skin-to-skin contact was used to help keep babies warm. During this time, they noticed many other benefits that were happening while babies were engaging in kangaroo care.
Who Can Do Skin-to-Skin?
Traditionally, the mom is usually the one to first experience skin-to-skin contact, but any parent or caregiver can also participate! As part of some birth plans, dads wear a button-down shirt to be able to easily engage in skin-to-skin contact with the newborn, which is particularly helpful if the mom needs to be whisked away for surgical or other health reasons.
What are the Benefits of Skin-to-Skin?
The benefits of kangaroo care are numerous to both mother and baby.
How do I do Kangaroo Care?
Talk with your healthcare provider about your birth plan and your wish for skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. Have the baby placed belly-down on your bare chest. The nurses may wish to dry off the baby and put on a hat first. You can then wrap a blanket around the both of you to keep you warm. For skin-to-skin contact at later times, you can leave the baby diapered. Moms and dads can both participate in skin-to-skin contact, and the benefits will continue, providing a naturally calming way to bond with your baby.
You’re out at a restaurant with your little one who decides you shouldn’t be the only one eating right now. Can you breastfeed at the table in public?
The short answer: Absolutely.
All 50 states and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in any public or private location. No nursing cover is necessary. Of course, because many women feel less exposed (and their baby less distracted) if they can nurse in a more private area, many states and private companies have gone a step further and require certain places to have designated lactation rooms, such as airports and malls.
Not all babies are willing to nurse while they have a cover over their heads—it’s hot and dark and impersonal. For this, among other reasons, moms may choose to nurse al fresco, and that is their 100% legal right to do so. Remind nay-sayers of this if you are ever unfortunate enough to have negative comments thrown your way while you are feeding your child in public.
Below is the National Conference of State Legislature’s most recent update of breastfeeding laws by state. And remember, breastfeeding your child is a natural act that you should be proud of; do not let uneducated individuals shame you into thinking you have to hide in a bathroom to feed them. Your baby has just as much right to eat whenever and wherever as a bottle-fed child.
In families where there is a non-breastfeeding parent, whether that is a father or other partner or family member, some moms may feel alone in the breastfeeding process, since they are the sole source of nutrition for their exclusively breastfed infants. And many partners feel helpless or clueless as to their role when the other parent is breastfeeding. How can the non-breastfeeding parent get involved in breastfeeding?
So, you’re ready to go back to work. Or maybe have a kid-free date night out planned. Or maybe you just need a few hours to yourself. For most breastfeeding mothers, there will come a time when their babies will need to use a bottle. You may pump and pump, making sure you have enough milk to feed your baby when you’re away, only to realize that the issue wasn’t going to be the milk, but the bottle. It’s fairly common that exclusively breastfed babies reject bottles at first. After all, why have a rubbery nipple and lukewarm reheated milk when you can have the real thing at the perfect temperature? So, what should you do if your baby is experiencing a bottle strike?