Saturday, December 5, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving was the best I’ve ever had, all because of my little guy. There’s something infinitely special about roast turkey and gravy when it’s the first time in your life you’ve tried it! I fed my 8-month-old Thanksgiving Dinner with the rest of the family, and am changing the way I look at baby-feeding. I’ve chucked all the books and advice (for the most part), and taken a cue from Thanksgiving to start enjoying meals with baby.

On Thanksgiving, Grandma spared the added salt and we ground up turkey with gravy for baby, and fed along with mashed green beans, yams, and potatoes. We even cheated a little by offering a few bites of pumpkin pie filling. Hey, it’s a holiday! He absolutely loved all of it.

With so many foods now part of his diet, and after the success of the Thanksgiving meal, I am starting to feed him more of what we are eating. When I make him his own food, I tend to end up feeding him separately and he always wants a few more bites of what we have when we’re eating. It only makes sense to start combining meal preparations. Plus, when I can get my husband to eat at a normal meal time, it feels so nice for us all to sit around the table for a family meal.

Also, I’ve decided to return to following his cues for what and when to feed more than the books and doctors. I fed on demand when he was breastfeeding exclusively, but since adding solids it has become more confusing as I try to follow feeding guidelines. Other than remembering foods to avoid, I’m chucking all the rules. The biggest reason being that so many are conflicting – The What to Expect book, his doctor, and the nutritionalist all say we should always give him solid food before milk now that he’s 8 months, whereas the lactation consultant and the Le Leche League website all say always give milk first. I’ve been really stressed about it. But no more!

I know my baby best and he and I both know what he needs. I know he needs milk and that he won’t drink much if I always feed solids first. I also know that breakfast has to be really late after the morning milk feeding to get him to drink more milk. So, I’m giving him breakfast of solids earlier and with a little milk after, but we’re sticking to milk first for both other solid meals. And perhaps the hardest thing for me to realize – we don’t have to do it the same every day! Saturday we were going out to breakfast and I wanted him to eat with us, but he was hungry before we left. So I deviated from my new plan to feed solids first at breakfast, and breastfed him to hold him over till we got there. Amazingly enough, the world did not come to a screeching halt. If there’s one thing being a mother has taught me it’s to be flexible.

Last thanksgiving I was 5 months pregnant. We traveled down the coast and celebrated with my sisters and my mother, then with my aunt, my cousin, and my father. At the start of the month, I told my dad on the phone I wasn’t showing that much. Then, the week before the holiday, my belly suddenly ballooned. I thought I was really looking pregnant, though looking back at the picture perhaps I could have just passed for chubby. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t getting stranger comments yet.
As a perpetual dieter prior to conception, I was very excited to be pregnant for the holidays because I had permission to eat more! Maybe that’s why my belly kept ballooning into December. The first week of December I was in considerable pain from the new weight. It felt like cramps and I thought something was wrong. I went to the doctor and she said it was just muscle and ligament pain from my new, forward-heavy body balance. She recommended a maternity girdle.

I had never heard of such a thing, but the girls at Motherhood knew exactly what I was talking about. It was like an elastic belt to be worn under my clothes. It fit on the under side of my belly protrusion and wrapped around my lower back. What a relief! It supported my stomach, alleviating the cramps. As a bonus, it took some strain off my lower back too. I would wear it all day at work and during workouts, then take it off for relaxing (relaxing? Am I spelling that right? It’s hard to remember now what that means!) in the evening and sleeping.

The maternity girdle goes on the list right after sparkling mineral water for pregnancy must-haves that weren’t in the book.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Now: Development Milestones, Then: Ultrasounds


I believe in my heart that he is a perfectly normal, healthy baby. His little smile, his perfectly round angel face, the way I can swear his gibberish sounds like “I love you.” But it’s so hard not to worry.

No one ever told me becoming a parent came with endless paranoia. It started the day I brought him home, partly because I wasn’t exactly sure how to take care of him. Then, when I finally had myself convinced the things I thought were wrong were all in my head, my anxiety over his small size was confirmed when his weight gain dropped off in July. He went from gaining 6+ ounces per week to 1 once per week. Then last month, the development experts decided he is a bit behind on his large motor skills. At 6 ½ months the most he could do was roll over 1 way occasionally and sit with support. No crawling, cruising, rolling both ways, or sitting alone.

Since July we have been in for weight checks every 3-4 weeks. I started eating more fatty foods, we added solid food to his diet, and fortified the expressed bottles he was receiving with formula (under the doctor’s supervision for quantity). He was doing better come September, but still lagging. We met with a nutritionalist who helped us with the quantity of fat (yes, butter and veggie oil) to add to his solid food. Finally, at the weight check last week, the little scale meter had good news. He’s up to 14 pounds, 6 ounces at 7 ½ months. That’s a gain of over 3 ounces per week since September! I knew he was doing better because he’s almost too big for the 3-6 size sleepers now.

The weekend after my call with the development specialist, he was suddenly able to sit without support too!
It was very exciting. We continue to work with him in our play, placing him in a seated position for practice while he examines blocks or presses buttons on a toy that lights up. We move him around from sitting, to all fours (which he still needs help with), or standing. We have gradually been able to help him stand while holding on to a chair now, as long as we’re there to catch him when he falls.
My anxieties have eased considerably in the last month, due partly to the fact that he has made such great progress, and party to the fact that I finally admitted half of my anxiety was irrational, and getting worse instead of better. I have late-onset postpartum depression. I contacted my doctor, and she, along with our pediatrician and the physiologist, decided I need medicine and assured me that Zoloft is safe for breastfeeding. Now that I am being treated, I feel much better and am able to be there for my son to help him with his development. Turns out studies show terrible developmental outcomes for children whose mothers have untreated depression, especially for little boys.

Some anxiety about your child’s health and development is perfectly normal. So how do you know when you need to seek help, for you or your child? If you really stop and think, you know. I knew my child was behind in weight gain before they told me. I knew he was not growing out of his clothes as fast, and I knew he was colicky for a reason when I was having undiagnosed over-production of milk. If I would have listened to my instincts, we could have caught it sooner. And I know he is fine now with his development, because he is moving forward, making progress in all areas, and is a very happy baby these days! It just may not be on the same timeline as all the other babies. I knew my own stress and sadness for having to go back to work and over his weight gain was normal too, but I also knew it wasn’t normal two months later to feel worse and sad all the time even when the situation was getting better.

The key is to act upon what you know. Stop worrying and enjoy your baby, but don’t ignore a problem with your child or yourself. And if you’re not sure, ask your doctor. In most cases, it will ease your fears. And if something is wrong it’s better to catch it sooner than later.


Not much earlier than this time last year was a very exciting time for tracking his development during pregnancy. It was finally time for the big ultrasound! We’d had a “little” one before in the doctor’s office, just to see the heartbeat, but this one would be able to see allot more, hopefully including the sex. We were very nervous… even then we had fears about normal development, and we wanted badly to know the sex. My husband has always wanted a son, and though we would have both been happy with a daughter, I wanted a son too because I didn’t want my husband to ask for another child later on!

The procedure went beautifully. He looked perfect as the nurse pointed out features like feet, arms, and face. He even waved to us on the screen! She confirmed the due date based on his size, told us everything looked normal, and asked if there was anything else we wanted to see.

Well, yes, we said. Is it a boy or girl!?! She tried to show us, but we had no idea what we were looking at. After much suspense, she finally let us know. It’s a boy! My husband cried. Before returning to work after the appointment, we sat outside the hospital for at least 20 minutes calling everyone we knew.
When I saw that little boy on the ultrasound, and was able to call him by name, it was the first time he seemed real to me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009



The month-birthdays continue, with 7 months rolling by last weekend. He now stays awake for 2-3 hours at a time and is eating less frequently (every 3-4 hours) during the day. It is becoming easier to include him in many daily activities like shopping, visiting friends, and working out, because his awake-without-crying time is progressively longer. This is especially nice for my daily work-outs.

Exercise is so important. It is crucial to the health and well-being of your entire family. It is especially important for women in the months following pregnancy to avoid those pregnancy pounds becoming permanent, and to help with mood and energy. In addition, children who grow up in active families are much more likely to develop healthy lifestyles later. I could go on and on listing the benefits of exercise, but most of us already know them. But with the added stress of a baby for a working mother, where does one find the time to exercise? The name of the game is multi-tasking. I exercise while I commute or spend time with my son.

I get my cardio by riding my bike to work every day. It’s about a 15 minute ride each way, so I there’s 30 minutes of daily cardio without even thinking about it. Walking is great exercise too, but I live just a bit far from work to make that practical. Live to far to bike or walk to work? Consider parking or getting off transit further away from work to get in some walking. If you’re not pumping at lunch like I am, lunch breaks can also be used for a quick jog or 30 minutes at a nearby gym. On the weekends, take to the outdoors with baby in a jogging stroller. You will both benefit from the fresh air and change of scenery.

With cardio under my belt for the day, my next concern is toning. Before baby, I went to the gym 3 times a week after work. Even on maternity leave, I left him with hubby to go twice a week. But now I want to spend those precious non-work hours with my son. He grows too fast for me to miss an extra hour a day. My second day back to work, I called to place my gym membership on hold and went out to buy a set of barbells. For half an hour 3 or 4 times a week, baby and I work out together!

I hold him and lift him while I do step-aerobics and light toning to warm up.
He’s a great extra little weight for lounges and squats.
He loves to sit on my belly when I do crunches,
and to lay on the mat while I do push-ups over him.
I count out loud and he really gets to cracking up at me! Most of the time anyway – last week my hair scared him. I was doing push-ups over him when I caught him staring at the pony tail atop my head. I could see from my shadow it was sticking out in all directions. So I shook my head, thinking I’d get a laugh. But a look of horror came over the poor thing’s face and he started crying! We had to take a break for that one. Other than that, it’s been all fun and games for him.

When I want to lift a few weights, I put him in an activity saucer nearby so he can still see me, but far enough to be out of danger if I drop a weight. Not that I’m planning on dropping them, but you never know. He is usually pretty content there while I finish up. When he was younger it was a bouncy seat instead and I had to keep things short, but now I can usually even pass him off to hubby and grab a quick shower before he starts getting fussy!

There’s other ways to work out with baby too, this is just what works for me. Like Pilates or yoga? There’s videos available that incorporate baby into the moves. It’s all about being creative. Exercising with baby is a great way to bond and gets you both off to a good healthy-lifestyle start. With all these ideas for post-partum exercise, there’s no more excuses. Get moving!


I credit my quick delivery to maintaining my exercise routine throughout my pregnancy. I mean the entire pregnancy – I was lifting weights at the gym on my due date, a Friday, then again 2 days later on Monday before delivering on Wednesday! The doctor OK’d doing everything I did prior to pregnancy with a couple of modifications – from the start, she said not to life anything heavier than 25 pounds, and after 4 months no lying flat on my back. She even said crunches were OK “as long as they were comfortable.”

I’m not sure crunches are ever “comfortable,” but it was about this time last year they stopped being whatever the more appropriate word there would be. I was about 4 months, so stopped lying flat on my back for things like chest presses too. I used to love to take a class that incorporated weight training, cardio and core called “SET” at 24 hour fitness. I made modifications and substitutions when the rest of the class did things I couldn’t.

When they did crunches, I did other things for my core like get on my hands and knees and stretch and retract opposite legs and arms, or (also on hands and knees) alternating arching my back up and relaxing it. For chest presses, I removed one side of the risers under our step so I was at an angle, or I did girl-push-ups. Although they weren’t off-limits, I had a hard time with lounges because of pain in my hips, so I just did more squats during this time. Squats are great during pregnancy because they exercise the same muscles you will need for delivery. Those and kegels, but I generally didn’t do those in SET class. I topped it all off with a pregnancy yoga tape at home once a week.

I got some weird looks when I was at the gym. Many people are under the mis-conception it is bad to exercise during pregnancy. I learned to ignore them. I knew I was not doing anything my doctor had not approved, and that exercise would make me feel better now as well as make delivery and recovery easier.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Food for babies and preggos


One of my favorite activities is feeding my son solid food. We started on rice cereal mixed with breast milk when he was just over 4 months old. Many babies don’t start until 6 months, but he had been enviously eying our food for weeks. When I finally started him on the cereal, he scarfed it down and gave me this look, like “Finally, I’ve been waiting!” It is so much fun! We’ve been doing it for a couple of months now and are up to 3 times a day. He slurps it up, but half of it ends up all over him. I’ve given up wiping between bites. I just keep the spoonfuls coming, and at the end of the feeding I almost have to just take him, the highchair, and myself into the yard and hose us down!

We started adding fruits and vegetables recently by mixing a small amount with the cereal, but as the menu expands he seems to really enjoy bites of each separately. His favorites are yams and peaches. I always select fresh foods for myself, avoiding pre-packaged and pre-made foods, so naturally I had the desire to make fresh baby food for my little boy. What I didn’t know is that it would be so easy! On my mom’s recommendation, I bought a hand-crank Kidco baby food grinder because she said they are easier and work better than electric ones, but I hadn’t the slightest idea how to start.

Then a friend gave me a baby food cookbook called “Pure and Simple.” Many of the instructions for first foods literally have 2 lines of instructions. For example, for peaches or apples, peel and boil then mash or strain. That’s it! For yams (my little guy can’t get enough yams!), simply bake, then scoop out the insides and strain or mash. Bananas and avocados are even easier – all you have to do is mash or strain them! As long as they are ripe, they are perfect for baby raw.

We were away from home longer than expected a few days ago and I hadn’t brought any solid baby food with me. At just 6 months, he still gets most of his nourishment from breastfeeding, but I didn’t want to disrupt his routine. We happen to be at the hospital because my husband was ill, so we hit the cafeteria. I bought a sandwich for myself that came with a banana. I grabbed a plastic fork and mashed up a piece of the banana for baby and we had lunch together. He absolutely loved the banana by itself (until now he only had it mixed in with baby oatmeal). I did happen to have a baby spoon in the diaper bag, but I’m sure we could have made do with a plastic spoon too.

As we transition to solid foods from breast milk over the next few months, I am happy I am using real food instead of jars. In addition to the health benefits, I think it benefits both of us psychologically. It helps me to see him as a little person.


At this time last year, nausea became a bad memory and I was able to focus on my eating habits. Eating healthy is already a near-obsession of mine, except on weekends or when there is chocolate available. Eating whole grains, lean proteins, and lots of fruits and vegetables is a way of life. So during pregnancy, I continued the same diet as before, just adding a few calories here and avoiding a few high-risk foods there. I did splurge allot more often than before, as I lacked the incentive to hold back with the meter on the scale climbing anyway. It was about this time I was starting to show.

A typical weekday menu for me consisted of natural whole grain cereal and milk or a bran muffin and yogurt with fruit and coffee (yes, I kept drinking coffee but limited myself to one small cup) for breakfast; peanut butter with toast or apples dipped in peanut butter for snack; a green salad filled with all kinds of veggies, protein like chicken or fish, and a fat source like avocado or dressing with whole wheat bread for lunch; raw almonds and raisons or a Luna bar for snack plus some sweets if I was craving them; whatever my husband and I decided to make for dinner whether it be steak, tacos, turkey burgers, or stir-fry, as long as some more veggies were served; a little snack like a granola bar or crackers with milk for dessert.

The only thing really disappointing to give up was raw fish. Sushi is my favorite food and of course I craved the one thing I couldn’t have. It was easy to avoid lunch meat as I wasn’t in the habit of eating it much. The caffeine was a bit tough to cut back on because pregnancy made me even more tired than usual. Many people steer completely clear of fish for fear of mercury. However, so much of my reading touted the benefits of fish for baby that I continued eating it, cooked of course. I was just careful not to eat more than 12 ounces a week and to select fish with lower mercury content like wild salmon. Some fish with higher mercury content that should be avoided are shark and catfish. I don’t really like those anyway so stuck to salmon and tuna.

I thought I would stick to my “diet” well during pregnancy for the health of my baby, but it was a challenge because of cravings. I gained weight at the maximum rate that was still considered “normal” throughout the entire 9 months, with a grand total of 35 pounds gained at the end. There was no cause for concern though, as my baby was actually on the small side and I shed 20 pounds within the first 6 weeks. The rest came off within the first couple months of breastfeeding. So my advice is splurge away! Just make sure the healthy things are getting in first so baby doesn’t miss out on the benefits of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats. Oh, and add a prenatal vitamin just to cover all the bases.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This Year, Month Birthdays. Last Year, Maternity Clothes


Last Friday, we celebrated my baby’s 6 month birthday. I was on cloud 9 all day! I now feel as though I might just make it through the first year. I am half-way there! A friend at work who has small children asked me if I really thought the second year was going to be better. I said, well, yes I do! I won’t have to worry about breastfeeding or pumping anymore.

I love him being a baby. Never again in his life will he be so cute and cuddly. And as far as the baby-stages go, this is a pretty good one. He usually sleeps through the night, eats less frequently, hardly ever cries, and he’s not mobile yet so he’s generally pretty easy to keep up with. He’s lying in the pack-n-play next to me right now – very tired – but instead of crying he just coos a little, kicks his legs, and sucks on a pacifier he can now push back in his own mouth if it starts to fall out, drifting off to sleep. Very nice compared to 3 months ago. But I will be throwing a huge party when he turns 1, and weaning him from the breast and bottle!

Breastfeeding is easy. When it comes to nighttime or traveling, there’s nothing to pack, no water to sterilize, and no bottles to heat or clean. But trying to work and breastfeed is hard. I am tied to a pump for my lunch and coffee breaks and constantly struggle with keeping the amount I pump comparable to his consumption. For many women, this means trying to keep up with what baby is eating while she is away and anxiety over not having enough. For me, it is trying to avoid overproduction.

The women who can’t keep up are the ones with the most stories in the books. Determined not to let this happen to me, I pumped a large supply for the freezer while I was on maternity leave. After I went back to work, I was still getting about twice what he was eating. I had wasted all that time pumping. And on top of that, when he was about 4 months old I learned that my overproduction could have been contributing to his underweight problems as well as his colic between 6 and 12 weeks. Producing more milk at a time than your baby can handle can cause him to be getting too much foremilk. He doesn’t receive enough calories from rich hind milk, and can get an upset stomach from too much lactose in the foremilk. I felt terrible when I finally put the pieces together, having let the problem go on for months without being aware of it. But my doctor insists I not blame myself. It just means being more careful now. Not to mention, if I pump too much all week, it will be too uncomfortable not to pump on the weekend and the last thing I want to do is more pumping!

As much as I hate pumping, the benefits for the child of breastfeeding are so astronomical I wouldn’t think of stopping. And all the extra pumping wasn’t a total loss – I donated it to the Mother’s Milk Bank in San Jose. They supply hospitals for preemie babies too young for formula.
Happy 6-month birthday baby! We’ll get through the next 6 together.


A year ago today, I was 3 months pregnant and starting to think about maternity clothes. Some of my pants were getting snug, but the main problem was the pressure of a traditional waste band bothered my tummy. A friend of mine gave me a couple of jeans and a few shirts to get me started. One of the jeans had a large stretchy fabric portion for the tummy, and other a small elastic strip. Oh good, I thought, small waistband for now while my tummy is small, and a large one for latter. Nope! The small elastic strip hurt my tummy with pressure the same as regular jeans. So I went with the large ones. They gave me the feeling of granny-panties times 10, but they were comfy. At first I thought I had missed my window to wear the small-elastic-strip jeans, but my friend said they would sit under my belly later. She was right. Later on no amount of fabric would be able to fit over my belly! But I didn't know that at 3 months. I didn't even have a little bump yet.

I also needed clothes for work, so I hit up the consignment maternity store. There’s one in Sacramento called Another 9 Months. It’s great! I got everything I needed for $100, even some things that looked so big I thought I would never need them, but I did! I also picked up a “Bella band.” It’s like a tube-top for tummies that holds regular pants up without being buttoned. It worked out great for me because the maternity slacks were a bit saggy still at 3 months, and the Bella band just looked like a long tank-top on under my shirt.

This month was probably the best one in my pregnancy. I wasn’t sick anymore, and I still didn’t look pregnant. I could walk around feeling like I blended in with the other humans, a feeling I would not have again until long after the baby was born.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From Pregnancy Nausea to Baby Rolling Over


Well, Sort of. He’s almost six months, and rolling over sometimes. First babies will turn you into an obsessive psychopath. The book said he should roll over at five months. Some babies even do it as early as two months. So of course I am convinced he has some sort of developmental problem. The doctor isn’t worried though, and just says “give him more tummy time.”
All my baby does when I put him on “tummy time” – that play time they’re supposed to have on their stomachs to build up muscles that will be used for rolling over and crawling – is get mad and cry. So right away he is at a disadvantage for rolling over because tummy time is not fun play time enjoyed for hours. But I try my best to help him. I play with him, distracting him with toys and even helping with a rollover or two. He likes when I rolled him sideways over and over from one end of my bed to another. Not sure that accomplishes much other than giggles, but giggles are important too. He lasts a bit longer with tummy time on his own (supervised, of course) if I prop him on the Boppy – I thought that magic pillow was just for nursing but it’s good for just about anything. He also gets plenty of tummy time on my chest, as I recline and we stare at each other with smiles.

Last month there were a couple of transitions from stomach to back that might have counted as rolling over. Both times I had just set him down, and in a matter of moments he had flipped to his side. Then after many minutes of squirming he was on his back. Was that a rollover or did I prop him at just the right angle for the transfer to occur on its own? My husband, whose world view contrasts my own, promptly began telling people our son was rolling over. I wasn’t convinced.

Then it happened. Last week on Wednesday evening he was playing on his stomach, fussing and struggling as usual. He wants to roll over, almost has it, but I thought like most time, including the time I busted out the video camera and ended up with 6 minutes of nothing, it would end in tears. Then, he pushed just right with his arm and boom! He was over. I tried not to react loudly, because last time I did I scared him. He had done it all on his own!

Although he is not suddenly mobile and rolling from one end of the house to another, he has two rollovers under his belt now, and is starting not to fuss so much on tummy time. He is also now pushing all the way up on his arms from his tummy! He’s small for his age, so I’ll just have to wait for him to take these things in his own time.


It’s hard to believe the little guy with a million smiles just learning to roll over was a pulsing dot on the ultrasound screen this time last year. By mid September I had been nauseous since the middle of July. I don’t know why they call it “morning sickness.” They should call it “morning, afternoon, evening, and worse-when-you-don’t-eat-but-you-can’t-eat sickness.” I suppose I am fortunate that I did not actually vomit, but most of the time I wished I could. Food always sounded terrible, but I had to eat regularly or the nausea would get worse. Some foods sounded worse than others. If anyone even talked about pancakes I’d practically double over. The smell of food cooking was my doom – especially that slightly burnt smell wafting through the outdoor air near restaurants. I live in downtown Sacramento – there’s a restaurant on every corner!

I remember the first day I felt sick. I was scheduled for volunteer work at Happy Tails cat shelter in the afternoon, and enjoyed a late breakfast on my patio in the morning. I made myself eggs and toast, but I was still hungry. I told myself I should listen to my hunger since I was pregnant. So I had some vanilla pudding. Bad combo. By the time I got to Happy Tails, I was feeling so sick I could hardly concentrate. One of the other volunteers gave me some saltines, which helped a little, but nothing made the feeling go away. Nothing would for at least a month.

I tried crackers before getting out of bed, ginger tea, and drinking more water… all the cures in the book. Nothing worked. When I broke the baby news to my coworkers in August, one told me she wasn’t surprised since I’d been looking a little pale and sick.

I’m not a soda drinker, so when I had a few sips of my husband’s root beer one evening, I was pleasantly surprised to find the carbonation eased the quease. Not about to add volumes of sugar and chemicals to my diet by making soda a regular thing though, I ran out and got a sparkling water. It worked! I stocked up and for the remainder of my nausea (through about the 12th week) I was able to take 30 to 60 minute vacations from sickness by downing a bit of sparking mineral water or club soda. It was like magical fairies sprinkling numbing bubbles in my tummy. The best part was the doctor said the sparkling water had hydrating qualities and counted for water intake – getting your 8-10 glasses a day is doubly important during pregnancy.

I’m glad that slice of my life is over, but I try keep the details at close recall in case the cute little smiles of my six-month-old fool me into thinking I’d want to do this again. Two months of nausea is enough for a lifetime. My sincerest sympathies to those women who have it all nine months.

Check back next week for more about six-month-olds as well as tips and stories for the forth month of pregnancy.