A physician at Tempe’s Desert Wellness Center
When I think about women’s health and postpartum health, the first things I think about are pelvic health, hormone balance, and mental health maintenance.
When you Google women’s health and postpartum health, headlines nearly always only point to mental health factors. There’s probably a lot of positive things to be said for this focus as mental health is still often put on the back burner, but I would argue that we’re forgetting the realities of the rest of our bodies.
When women age, have babies, and go through all the hormonal changes associated with the female life, a lot can shift.
I recently met the folks at Tempe’s Desert Wellness Center and was so encouraged by their approach toward women’s health. I took some time earlier this month to talk with Dr. Barbara Ezrre. Our Q/A is below.
It all started on a Tuesday morning when our eldest son had blood in his poop. That's right, blood.
The poor guy had a dairy and soy intolerance that didn't rear its ugly head until about 2 months of age-- a common age when the body begins to counteract foods and substances that it can't break down. Unbeknown to us, dairy (and most likely soy, too) were gathered in his gut, eating away at the lining of his stomach (hence the blood).
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When we found out Zeke was allergic to milk and soy, I spent 48 excruciating hours cutting out nursing cold turkey.
My milk supply had dropped in the first week back at work (because STRESSSSSS), so when we found out about his allergy in that same week (uh, STRESSSSSS), it made sense in that moment that I just cut the cord and give up breastfeeding. Truth: Breastfeeding as a working mom is incredibly hard because of the logistics of it all. This isn't a sob fest-- its easy enough because enough of us obviously do (or did) it-- but it's a real dance in managing priorities.
You have to set aside time at work to pump, which means not just the actual act of pumping, but the setting up the pump, storing the milk, cleaning the pumping supplies, rearranging your outfit, drinking a million gallons of water to keep up, not forgetting your pump, making sure your milk is chilled if you have to take it with you. It's a freaking chore.
SO, you can understand that the combination of a huge diet change (to accommodate Zeke's allergy) + managing pumping + stress-induced lower production can be daunting. Well, I wouldn't recommend my rash decision to anyone. Cutting nursing/pumping cold turkey is like slapping yourself in the face with a serious hormonal depletion.
You see, amid the stress and logistics of pumping and breastfeeding hides a wonderful emission of this awesome happiness hormone called oxytocin. It's part of the reason breastfeeding can be so rewarding and enjoyable.
When I quit cold turkey for 48 hours I wasn't just in pain because I didn't know how to properly wean (internet fail), but I was crying that entire time because I was so sad. Like, SO SAD.
It didn't take long for me to pony back up to my little man and figure out a new diet (more on that in a future blog post).
...And then two months later I started weaning because I was tired of taking my shirt off. So, on to the wisdom I learned in the crazy weaning rollercoaster...
Here's the basic equation: Every three days, stop one session of nursing or pumping and only release enough milk to relieve pressure. Repeat until you're done.
My best advice on how it's done:
1. Don't wean unless it's medically necessary or you are ready.
If you're like me, there will be a moment hanging in time that just screams, "I'm done."
For me, it was having my hair pulled at a Wendy's while Zeke was flailing around (like a normal baby, it's not his fault) underneath my cover while my chili was getting cold. I just wanted to eat and keep my clothes on. Like, can a girl have a nice normal lunch?
2. Take it slow. Like, as slow as you can.
A lot of what I heard and read hurried up the process a lot more than I would ever recommend so I made myself my own chart and stuck to it. Every three days, I cut out a feeding. Download the PDF below that details a sample timeline with suggested comfort measures to employ at certain days and copy it to fit your needs.
3. Use ice and cabbage leaves for engorgment and clogs.
Cabbage leaves changed the game for me. I can't make this up.
Use those bad boys as layers on your ladies underneath your bra and you'll feel better in no time. Bonus -- coleslaw for lunch. KIDDING.
Ice packs help too. My favorite kind is listed below.
4. Hand express in the shower.
Every time you shower, do a massage to check on potential clogged ducts and take the time to empty your breasts.
There's no better excuse to have that second glass of wine or cup of coffee. You have to hydrate when you're nursing, so it helps to dehydrate when you're trying to get your production down.
6. Laugh about it. Celebrate it. Congratulate yourself. Kiss your baby.
I would say this is the most important part of the whole process.
Weaning isn't easy no matter how you do it. If it's an emergency weaning process, I hear it's horribly painful and shocking. And even if it's planned, chances are it'll be uncomfortable.
So, get up and over your bad self and celebrate the freedom to wear whatever you want. Pat yourself on the back for breastfeeding as long as you did. Kiss that gorgeous baby of yours and rest knowing he/she is well nourished with whatever replacement their eating because, as I love to say, #fedisbest.
Rapid Reduction in Supply - Linda J. Smith
Best guidelines I found. This is where I learned about the cabbage leaves and ice pack.
The water/light ice or warm water option (versus a bag of peas or ice cubes) is super soothing. The article I linked above mentions use of cold and hot therapy. Just pick up any compress like this and you'll be good.
Champion Compression Sports Bra - From Target
When I first started weaning, I was super engorged and avoided hugs or any physical contact like the plague. This bad boy helped loosen the blow and keep my ladies in tight so I could focus and not have to feel as much discomfort.
What I learned after my firstborn was born
My little guy was born naturally the first week of March with the guidance and support of my husband, an incredible doula, a wonderful hospital staff, our perfectly (I'm not being facetious) stern doctor, after more than four weeks of early labor.
That's right. Over four weeks before our little man decided to make his debut, he was prepping the sails, revving the engine, and rolling out the red carpet.
Now in case you don't know what that is and think I'm a whiny-baby who was misreading her body's signs because "it's her first time," you can sit down and listen. Yes, this was my first experience with birth. No, these weren't Braxton Hicks. Yes, I was dilating and contracting for four plus weeks. Yes, this is normal. AND, no, you're wrong-- I'm actually really glad it played out like this.
Those four weeks were a gift from God to me. Literally.
I was forced to slow down and skip the gym and any extra exertion and literally prescribed by my doctor to relax and soak it all in. Although the 'sit down and watch TV,' and 'no walks for you,' drove me crazy, it caused me to look at a big truth in the face.
Birth will happen to you no matter how much you walked, crunched, lifted, or stretched.
You see, I had it in my head that I would do my best to have a natural labor, but that I should also be in great shape to make that a possibility.
That's just not the case.
If given the opportunity-- and barring any medical concerns-- your body, no matter its 'in shapeness' will do its job as its medically able.*
Truth: When you have children, you'll do things for them that you would usually wait or reconsider pre-kid. Now, you'll take care of business regardless of the when, where, why, and how. I mean, have you heard of the Nose Frida?! (I digress)
Today's small photoblog is focusing on just that... All the weird places I've pumped to make sure my kid has food. Please note that I've laughed through all of this because what else do you do? The first photo was taken SECONDS before the lady in the stall next to me farted. I mean, guys. Humor comes first.