It recently came to my attention that I might be propagating an image that is not entirely true to life. I am not trying to be dishonest about my family life or the way I raise my child. If I don’t mention any of the unpleasant stuff, it is not in an effort to look more perfect but to spread around the good stuff rather than the bad. But to clear the air I just want to open up a little bit about what does go on in my home.

My daughter is not happy all the time. I don’t know anyone who is and I don’t think that would be healthy. We do disagree and she does yell at me and hit me sometimes in anger. She has temper tantrums and demands my attention. I don’t believe her actions to be out of the ordinary for a 4 year old child. I try to handle these unpleasant moments with as much patience as I can. I have never yelled at my daughter. I have never hit my daughter. I have lost my patience and sighed in exasperation.

When she was 2 we did try time outs a couple of times and I abhorred those moments. I had read a book that suggested you gently tell them they can come out when they are ready to be kind and to not let them come out. We did that one time. It was torture and I regretted it the moment it started. I have no idea how that time out might have scarred her and I don’t know what terror she felt by being isolated. It haunts me to this day.

When she is misbehaving we do time ins. We sit together and talk about it or don’t talk about it. The point is, I believe that when she is misbehaving it is because some legitimate need is not being met. I try to figure out what that is and we try to fix it together.

Another thing that is missing from this blog is the presence of Violet’s father. She does have a father and he does live in our house. I don’t often write about him because this blog is mainly a blog about mothering. I do write about her father and our family life on our family blog.

My husband and I argue, a lot. We disagree about almost everything these days. Our daughter has taken to jumping in and trying the things she has learned about conflict resolution. Yesterday in fact she made a wonderful suggestion to us. She said, “Daddy, would you treat mommy like a partner today? Mommy, would you treat daddy like a partner today? Now hold on to each other really tight like you are running away from a big bear. Hold on to each other and love each other.”

What an analogy! She takes my breath away sometimes. It reminded me of the day of the tsunami, when I thought my husband might be dead. And when he walked in the doors and we embraced it was as if time stood still. All of the arguing and disagreements we had been having melted away. We were so thankful to be together and to have each other again. We felt so weak and yet so strong. When you feel you have escaped death you look at life differently. I wish that I could say that feeling lasted forever for us. It didn’t. Three years later and here we are taking each other for granted again. A life lesson gone to waste. But I don’t think it is too late, I think we can get back that zeal for life, that appreciation for each moment, each breath.

I wish that I could tell you that after she said that to us that my actions changed. I continued to feel anger toward him but I did try to get along with him for the rest of the day.

Our parenting style has challenged our marriage in ways that I didn’t expect. I don’t think it is fair to say that all of the difficulty we are having stems from our parenting style, because I think we have other underlying issues as well. I also don’t want to give attachment parenting a bad name. I think it is wonderful and I wouldn’t do it any other way. And there are plenty of families that practice attachment/gentle parenting that have happy marriages. I do hope that my husband and I can continue working on our relationship and that we can figure out a way to not argue so much. I don’t like that my daughter has had to witness our arguing and I hope that we can model healthy behaviors for her. I want her to know that marriage is hard but also that making the effort to work on it is worth it. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with each other, but we should find a way to disagree in a healthy way. I also think that if she is going to see us argue, then she should definitely see us make up.

So, although it is embarrassing to admit that my life isn’t the perfect model of a happy family, I felt it important to clear the air and remove any veil that might be creating a cloudy image of the reality of my life. Please don’t judge me too harshly nor my child’s life. I only wanted to try sharing a glimpse into my life without the rose colored glasses.

With social media being so pervasive to our lives, I / we often have these false ideas about what other people’s lives are like. I don’t believe that your child is always perfectly dressed or that your husband always brings you flowers or that you all get along happily all the time. But when I / we only share these happy moments it does propagate an image of perfection that no one can attain. It can, unintentionally, create jealousy and envy of a life that doesn’t really exist.

In real life, we don’t have this constant stream of information about each other. When we meet or talk on the phone, we exchange stories and experiences of recent and there is almost always a mix of pleasant and unpleasant moments. We share because we long to connect with someone who will listen and understand us. I wouldn’t normally tell just anyone about my marital troubles or  my failings and mistakes as a parent, out of pride mostly. But I would and do share them with my closest friends. But since for some of you, reading this blog or my Facebook statuses is the only way you “know” me ,I thought it unfair to only share the positives about my life. So in an effort to be more open, I am sharing these details of my life. If I / we are going to continue living with social media (which I believe we are) I think it is important that I/we try to be more honest.

Thanks for reading today. I wish you and yours a peace filled day.

Shark Baby

What do you do when your sweet little suckling angel suddenly turns it to a shark with an extremely strong urge to bite? My little one started biting at around 6 months old. I had no idea her mouth was so strong.  When she would clamp down I would remove her from my breast  and try to start again. When her teeth came in and she was still doing it  I was scared out of my mind, but determined to work through it. I asked friends and relatives what to do. I searched through books and the internet. I was advised by many a mother and father even, that I should give her a little swat or pinch. Others told me to hold her nose so she would come off for air. Another advised firmly saying no and putting her down in another room. I will admit right now that I am a softie. I come by it honestly. My mother was the same way. She was always teased about how she punished my brothers and me. We would even laugh at her after she spanked us. (we were terrible, I know.) We respected her though and we did mind her most of the time. So when I was given all this advice about giving her a physically bad association with biting while nursing I knew this wasn’t going to be the way to go for me. I just knew I couldn’t do that. Violet started biting harder and harder and with more teeth. She broke blood on several occasions and I cried and cried and cried. My poor husband was in shock and didn’t know what to do either. He would hold her while I tried to ice down my sore nipples and tell me it would be o.k. I kept trying to believe that this too would pass. I started telling her no in a firm voice and removing her from the breast each time. But pulling her off was more painful than her clamping down. Those were hard times. I was afraid of wanting to stop nursing because of the pain. I knew I did not want to quit. I was also afraid of scaring her into a nursing strike. Sometimes when mama’s respond to the biting with a loud noise it scares the baby into stopping, other times it scares them so much that they stop nursing for a while.  People kept telling me that I was crazy to let the biting go on so long but I didn’t know what else to do. I heard that pinching or swatting your child usually stops the biting in a few days. Though at times this seemed appealing I just never could bring myself to do it. It went on for 4 months. I do not tell you this to scare you out of breastfeeding your teething child. I am just being honest about my situation. Some babies never bite so please don’t let this sway you on your decision to breastfeed. Eventually she learned. I started holding her in closer to my breast when she would bite, this blocked her nose briefly and she would relax her jaw. I also tried to remain as calm as possible when she would bite. Sometimes babies will think it is playful because they get a reaction out of you when they bite.  I knew she never did it with a malicious intent. She did it to relieve pressure from teething. I started watching her like a hawk when she was nursing, looking for cues that she might be getting ready to bite. I would offer her wooden teething rings, a natural rubber teething toy (Sophie the Giraffe) and frozen wash cloths. These seemed to help but nothing soothed her like breastfeeding. Still to this day, nothing does the trick better than “milkies”.  Other people might find this strange, wrong or just plain weird, but I just let her keep doing it until she outgrew it. And she did. She eventually did stop biting me and we went back to pleasant nursing sessions. It was an unpleasant season in our journey but it passed without permanent damage to either one of us. I felt like I did the best I could to help her through her teething months and also tried to teach her in a peaceful manner that she shouldn’t bite. She doesn’t bite her milkies anymore and she doesn’t bite other people either.

Some babies never bite but, but most will try it at least once or twice. It  usually happens around teething time. You can stop your baby from biting by being persistent. Most of the time it usually only lasts a few days or weeks. My story is probably uncommon in that I allowed to go on so long.

No two babies are alike, so you might have to try a few different techniques before finding what works for you. It will depend on what kind of personality your baby has and also what kind of personality you have. I don’t think I am permissive in my parenting but I am definitely more on the soft side.

Just because your baby has started teething or has teeth it doesn’t mean that you have to stop nursing. Many moms and babies have worked through this stage and have gone on to have happy nursing relationships. Violet and I are still very happy nursing and she is 2 years and 8 months old now.

Some techniques I learned were:

Remain calm. Don’t overreact (though this can be extremely hard when you are in pain). Your baby could go on a nursing strike out of fear. Or she/he may think you are being playful and continue to bite you to see you react.

Bring baby in close to your breast when the biting starts. This will cause her/him to need to open her mouth and release the grip on your nipple.You can also slip your finger in between her teeth and gently pry her mouth open.

Put your baby down when biting starts and remove your self from the situation. My route was usually to give her to her daddy because I didn’t like letting her cry alone. Or if I was home alone, I would remove her from my breast and give her something appropriate to bite on. And tell her “this is for biting. We don’t bite milkies, we have to be gentle with milkies”. (I actually think that this was when I started calling my breasts “milkies”.)

Watch for signs of boredom or distraction while nursing. If you notice your baby is looking bored or distracted remove her from your breast and give her a teething toy. If she is distracted try going to a quiet dark room.

Focus your attention on your baby. If you are distracted while nursing, your baby might bite you to get your attention. Also by focusing on your baby will will learn the cues for when she is about to bite.

Above all, try not to get discouraged if and when your baby starts to bite you. You can work through it. Breastfeeding isn’t always “sunshine and lollipops”. Sometimes it does hurt. Sometimes you will dread it. Sometimes you will want to stop. But if you stay strong and try to find techniques that work for you and your baby, you will be rewarded with a beautiful relationship that can’t be duplicated. You will also be giving your child a beautiful gift that comes with benefits that last a lifetime.

Sugar and Breast Milk

Are you a chocoholic? I certainly am. I love chocolate. I love chocolate milk, chocolate cake, chocolate ice cream. I love chocolate. If you ask my daughter what mommy’s favorite food is she will say “chocolate!” She knows me very well.

She has developed my love for chocolate as well. If I try to sneak a bite of chocolate in another room, when I return she looks around and says “I smell chocolate. Are you eating chocolate, Mama? Can I share some of your chocolate?” It’s hard to resist when she asks so politely. But I do try to limit her sugar intake. She is satisfied with just a little taste and we leave it at that. I wait until she is asleep to continue with my chocolate treat.

She loves chocolate milk and we do share a glass of that every now and then. One day she asked me for chocolate milkies. I had to laugh out loud. I knew she was joking when she proposed the idea and it was so cute. I told her “I wish I could make chocolate milkies. Then we could have chocolate milk whenever we wanted!” She laughed.

When my daughter was 3 months old we traveled to the US so that she could meet our family and friends. She was great on the 14 hour flight and nursed like a champ the whole way. People commented on how quiet she was and what a pleasure it was to fly with such a “good baby”. I told them it was all thanks to breastfeeding. We were going to home to spend Christmas and New Years with our families and we were very excited to introduce them to our little angel.

If you remember from my previous post, I had suffered twice from mastitis before this trip and I was concerned with it happening again while we were traveling. I was careful to nurse her as much as possible and not to let her fall asleep without emptying my breast. As hard as I tried, it started happening again. We were almost to our destination city when I started to feel the fever coming on again. Thankfully I nursed through it this time and Violet was able to unclog the ducts herself without me getting an infection from it.

I remembered the words of my LC about diet and I tried so hard to be careful with what I ate. I didn’t eat too many fried foods and I tried to keep up my intake of water.

Unfortunately, I am crazy for Christmas cookies! I had not been home for Christmas in 5 years. I had not tasted my Aunts delicious, chewy, chocolate chip cookies in 5 years! I had not let her peanut butter cookies melt in my mouth for 5 years! I had not feasted on the fabulous fudge, brownies or peppermint bark made family members for FIVE YEARS. I was ready.

Several of my aunts kindly prepared me my very own gift bag of sweets. Usually these are reserved for only their siblings. I have a huge family. My father is the oldest of 8 children. I have 5 Aunts and 2 uncles. All of them are married with children and many of their children have children. We are a very close knit and very large family. To give you a picture, we have to use a church rec hall for our Thanksgiving dinners. Christmas Eve is our big celebration for the holidays. If my aunts had to prepare cookies for each family they would have to start their baking in September to be done by Christmas Eve. My point is, for one of the grandkids to receive their own bag of cookies is a big deal! I am sure they did this because I am very rarely home and therefore I was given special treatment! 🙂

I was so very pleased with my loot that I decided to take them up to my bedroom that night. I couldn’t risk someone else mistaking them for public cookies! I set them on the dresser and got ready for bed.

At 3 months old Violet was still nursing every 2-3 hours. The bed in the guest room at my father’s house was a pillow top and extremely comfortable. Violet started waking every 45 minutes and we couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t stay asleep. She would seem so peacefully asleep and then wake screaming. I would nurse her back to sleep and then sneak a cookie treat.

The bed was so comfy for my husband and me but by 3 in the morning I realized she was waking because she was sinking into the bed! Very scary events could have occurred had I not been staring at her while I ate my cookie treats. (And I don’t mean to make light of this I was seriously glad that I was awake and watching her to find that this bed was not suitable for a baby of her age.

Co-sleeping is a very important thing to me and safety is the number one priority when you do it) Finally we decided to take cardboard from one of the Christmas boxes and put it under her to help her stay stable. That got us through the night. I had finished half of my first package of cookies by morning.

The next day we decided to fashion a bedside cradle of sorts. And by cradle I mean a shallow metal basket that was used to hold a wine gift that my father received. We lined it with blankets and made it soft. Violet slept much better in her basket bed and so did my husband and I.She did, however, still wake every two hours for her feeding. At each feeding I would also treat myself to a cookie.

By day three, Violet started having diarrhea. I was confused and worried about this since we were traveling. She started out with 3 diarrhea diapers on day 3. By day 4 she had 6. I was freaking out! So my brother called his kids’ pediatrician, who was also our pediatrician when we were growing up. They asked about my diet and what I usually ate and what I was eating now. The nurse said that the change in my diet could definitely cause her to have diarrhea. She asked if I had been eating a lot of sugar…. I was soon found out.

My midnight snacks were no longer a secret. She outed me with her diarrhea. I felt terrible! I felt like the worst mother on the planet! I had no idea that too much sugar in a mother’s diet would cause diarrhea for a nursing baby. I never would have eaten as many cookies if I had known. My husband was shocked and I had to ask him to remove the cookies.

Luckily, her diarrhea was not accompanied by cramping or fever or any other symptom. She just had watery poop. Her bottom did get irritated though. And that is when I discovered the best wipes in the world! (see side link) She never had to go to the doctor as she was never dehydrated. She still nursed and made wet diapers frequently and so that was never a worry.

Everyone jokingly poked fun at me and helped lighten my mood by reassuring me that I actually was not the worst mother in the world, just a mom with an extremely sweet tooth. I learned an important lesson that trip. Too much of a good thing can be really bad. No more gorging on cookies.

After Violet’s diarrhea subsided I allowed myself only one sweet a day and learned how to balance my cravings with my baby’s needs. My husband forgave me, my daughter forgave me and I forgave myself. After all, I am only human and we all make mistakes. We are never as perfect as we hope to be but we can do our best with what we’ve been given and hope that that is enough.

Mastitis Round 1

When I had my 6 week postpartum check up I was feeling great! I was producing more than enough milk. I had a large reserve in my freezer and was nursing every 2-3 hours. It was going so nicely. Violet and I walked up the hill to the hospital for my appointment enjoying the nice autumn weather. (It was about a 15 minute walk to the hospital) My Dr. told me that my body was healing nicely and that I could resume my normal activities. I was thrilled. Violet and I walked back home from the hospital and enjoyed a nice nap together. Violet was scheduled for her first well baby check up the next day. That night I started feeling like I was getting a cold. My head started to hurt and I felt weak and feverish. I thought maybe I was just tired. I went to bed early only to wake up 2 hours later with cold chills. I took my temperature and realized I had a fever of 103.9! I woke up my husband terrified that I had the flu and that I was going to give it to our baby. He brought me some tylenol and cool rags to put on my head. I got online to search what to do when breastfeeding while sick. I found that I should continue as the antibodies in the milk would help her fight off whatever I had. I put on a surgical mask just for added protection. Side note: It is common in Japan for people to wear surgical masks when they are sick so as not to infect the people around them. When I first arrived in Japan I thought it was so strange to see people walking around with masks on.) That night my fever continued to hand around 102-103. I felt achy throughout my whole body and felt like I couldn’t stand up. But I kept nursing my little angel hoping she would sleep longer than 2 hours at a time so that I could rest. At around 3AM my right breast started hurting extremely badly. Every time Violet nursed it felt like a thousand pins and needles stabbing me through my nipple. She started crying too because she wasn’t getting enough milk out. I woke up my husband again and asked him to get my book. he knew exactly which book I meant. In the first few months of Violet’s life “my book” meant The Complete Book of Breastfeeding by Sally Wenkos Olds. I kept that book hand at all times. He went to retrieve it from the living room and brought it back to me in bed. After some reading I realized that I probably had a plugged duct. The rest of the night I kept trying to feed her hoping it would clear itself out without turning into mastitis. By the time it was time for Violet’s appointment I was exhausted and overwhelmed. My husband dropped us off at the hospital for her check up and had to get to work. We got in and got checked in for her appointment. Because Japan has socialized medicine (which by the way, I LOVE!) everyone with a baby around 1 month old was there for their check up. There is no specific appointment time. It goes by order of arrival. So you just sit and wait until you are called. Sometimes it goes quickly, other times it does not. This was one of the times when it did not go quickly. Violet kept wanting to nurse and I was still using nursing covers at that time. She kept pulling it off and I was getting sweaty from my fever breaking and so I gave up on the cover. I sat in the waiting room with my shirt half open and let her drink. When it was finally our turn the Dr. checked out Violet and said she was perfectly healthy and gaining weight at a normal rate. He was pleased with her breastmilk intake and told me we were doing a great job. Then he finally looked into my eyes and saw how tired I was. He asked if I was ok and I told him what was going on. He immediately called upstairs to the OBGYN ward and asked if they could see me. They were no longer seeing patients but the head midwife said she would check my breast for me if  I came up. So we walked up the stairs and waited to be seen by the midwife. She came out and I recognized her from my prenatal visits. She, thankfully, was not the nipple twisting nurse from the previous story. One of the administrative clerks came in to hold Violet while the midwife felt around my breast. She said that there was definitely a clog and most likely mastitis. She called the OBGYN and had consulted with him over the phone. He decided to call in a prescription for antibiotics and suggested that the midwife massage my breast to get the clog out. She asked me if I that sounded ok. Massage! Sure why not! I quickly agreed. Then she informed me that this was going to be extremely painful and was I sure I wanted to go ahead. I thought about the pain I was having already and decided it would be better to get the clog out and done with. So the torture began. She was as kind and gentle as she could be but honestly, this hurt worse than my 73 hour drug free labor! She started from under my arm and worked inward manually expressing milk from my nipple. She found the clog and started to massage that area. She twisted and pulled on my breast until finally, at last, my milk was once again spraying from my nipple and the other 5 holes on my areola.I felt a like a huge weight had been lifted off my body. Poor Violet cried the whole time and I am sure that helped my milk let down. Once she saw the milk spraying she cried even harder like she was saying, “Hey I have been waiting for that! Don’t waste it!” So they let me feed her back in the exam room until she was satisfied. The pain continued while I nursed her even though the clog was gone. She told me that was because of the infection. She assured me that the best way to heal was to keep nursing through the pain. So that is what we did.

When we got to the pharmacy the pharmacist asked if I was exclusively breast feeding. I told him that I was. He looked at me and asked if I had any formula in the house for emergencies. I told him I had the free can from the hospital but that was it. He told that I would need to use that unless I had a storage of breastmilk because it wasn’t good for Violet to nurse while I was on antibiotics. Well that through me for a loop. The midwife just told me to continue nursing to help my breast heal faster! I explained this to him and he said that I would need to take the medicine at the beginning of a feeding and then she could have my milk until 6-8 hours later! What!!! I freaked out! I did have pumped milk but Violet had never had a bottle before. We had never even tried because nursing was going well and I was terrified that if I skipped a feeding my supply would drop. I told him she drank every 2-3 hours still. He sighed and said that at most we could wait 4 hours. I cried all the way home worrying about how I was going to feed my baby. When my husband got home I told him my predicament. He assured me that he would help and that we would get through it. I would pump so that I wouldn’t miss a feeding and we would give her a bottle of previously pumped milk until it was safe. So I took my medicine and started a feeding. She feel asleep and I was so relieved! I hoped that she would sleep for at least 3-4 hours so that we wouldn’t have to worry. ! I got the milk ready from the freezer and pulled down one of the bottles that were still in the package. We sterilized the bottle and had everything ready just in case. She woke up after 2 hours! I decided to try the bottle. Violet cried and cried and pushed the synthetic nipple out of her mouth each time I tried to put it in. She looked up at me with eyes that said “Why are you torturing me! You have what I want! Why aren’t giving it to me!” I started to cry. I told my husband that it wasn’t working. So he stepped in and tried. She still wouldn’t take the bottle. Later I learned that when introducing a bottle for the first time it helps if the source of the milk (ie Mama) is not around. So we just had to rock her and console her as best we could until the 4 hour mark. She did calm down but she definitely wanted the boob! I pumped to get out the “tainted milk” and tossed it out. When it was finally time I sat on the couch with her and her eyes were filled with anticipation. I couldn’t get my shirt open quickly enough. She cried and cried and once my full breast was in her mouth her whole body gave way to a relaxation I had not yet seen, since she had never been denied my breast before. She slept and we all took a deep cleansing breath of relief. I decided to do a little research after that. The antibiotics that I was prescribed were considered safe for breastfeeding. The pharmacist was being overly cautious as he is required to be. Also with my lack of Japanese we had somewhat of a communication mishap. It was of course safest if I waited until all of the medication was out of my body. But it would not harm her if I fed her before that. She could possibly react with thrush but nothing life threatening. I consulted my books and my Nurse Practitioner mother-in-law. After one more failed attempt at a bottle feeding I decided it was time to throw in the towel. I just gave her what she needed, me. And what I needed too. The thought of bottle feeding was putting too much stress on me and I didn’t want to do it. I can honestly tell you that the first time I put that bottle in her mouth I felt like I was poisoning her. I cried and cried and it broke my heart. I don’t know why I reacted that way. I know that bottle feeding is perfectly fine and I know that many women have no other choice but to pump and bottle feed. But this was not for me. It was not what was right for our daughter. So the bottles went back into the cabinet never to be touched again.Thankfully my pain subsided after the 3 day of antibiotics and my fever went down on the second day.

I wanted to list some of the things that helped me when I had clogged ducts and mastitis:

massaging the affected breast

warm compress (I used Breast Buddies, see link “soothing breast care” on side of page )

nursing as often as possible

warm bath or shower and manually expressing milk in the warm water

tylenol for fever or pain

pumpingin between feedings

Also, Just as a reference I am going to post a list of breastfeeding safe antibiotics. Of course always consult your doctor before taking any kind of medicine or supplement.

Amoxicillin Larotid, Amoxil Approved B L1

Aztreonam Azactam Approved B L2

Cefadroxil Ultracef, Duricef Approved B L1

Cefazolin Ancef, Kefzol Approved B L1

Cefotaxime Claforan Approved B L2

Cefoxitin Mefoxin Approved B L1

Cefprozil Cefzil Approved C L1

Ceftazidime Ceftazidime, Fortaz, Taxidime Approved B L1

Ceftriaxone Rocephin Approved B L2

Ciprofloxacin [more] Cipro Approved C L3

Clindamycin Cleocin Approved B L3

Erythromycin E-Mycin, Ery-tab, ERYC, Ilosone Approved B L1
L3 early postnatal Fleroxacin – Approved

NR Gentamicin Garamycin Approved C L2

Kanamycin Kebecil, Kantrex Approved D L2

Nitrofurantoin Macrobid Approved B L2

Ofloxacin Floxin Approved C L2

Penicillin – Approved B L1

Streptomycin Streptomycin Approved D L3

Sulbactam – Approved – NR

Sulfisoxazole Gantrisin, Azo-Gantrisin Approved C L2

Tetracycline Achromycin, Sumycin, Terramycin Approved D L2

Ticarcillin Ticarcillin, Ticar, Timentin Approved B L1

Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole Proloprim, Trimpex Approved C L3