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I'm a wife, sister, daughter, nurse practitioner, teacher, halfway-hippie, foodie, health nut, and type A crazy lady on a mission to make life even better for me, my family, and YOU!


Any information here on this blog, however useful, should not in any way be used as a substitute for seeking professional medical help.

For any illnesses or health issues you may have, PLEASE contact your healthcare provider.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Help for Low Milk Supply + A Recipe for Lactation Cookies that WORK

You landed here because you are worried you may have low milk supply and you're hoping to find a fabulous trick to remedy the solution.  Right?

If you are feeling like your milk supply is low or your newborn is not gaining weight well, please realize that while reading blogs may be somewhat helpful, NOTHING takes the place of getting face-to-face help from a lactation professional.  There are many causes for low supply/poor weight gain, and a lactation professional can help you pinpoint what the cause is for you and help develop a plan for overcoming that hurdle.

Find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant near you
Find a Certified Lactation Counselor near you
Find your local La Leche League chapter

First things first.  You *think* your supply is low... but is it really?
The following things are often mistaken for low milk supply, but they are NOT:

Your baby is nursing frequently.
This is not a sign of low supply... this totally normal, it is simply what breastfed babies do!  Breastmilk is digested more quickly and efficiently than formula, so babies become hungry again sooner than their formula-fed counterparts.  This is especially true during the newborn period, as baby's tummy is very small and can't hold much per feeding.

Your baby suddenly increases the frequency and/or length of nursing sessions.
Again, this is normal.  Babies go through growth spurts, and will go on a feeding frenzy!  This is normal, and even if baby seems unsatisfied, don't supplement!  What baby does when she nurses so much is increasing your supply naturally.

Your baby does not nurse for as long as she used to.
As babies get older, they get more efficient at emptying the breast, so the time they spend nursing often decreases.

You can't pump very much.
The amount of milk you are able to pump is not a good representation of how much milk you are actually making.  A baby is much more efficient at removing milk than a pump.  Plus, there are many variables here, such as technique, type of pump, flange size, etc.

Your baby will quickly suck down a bottle of formula or expressed breast milk, even if she has just nursed.
Traditional bottle feeding is like shotgunning a beer.  Baby can't tell that he's full because it is happening too quickly.  Babies often over-eat (and then spit up!) when bottle fed because of this.  The best way to bottle feed a breastfed baby is using a paced technique.

Your breasts seem softer, or no longer feel full/engorged.
This is normal and usually happens after the first month of feeding.  This is often a sign that your supply has regulated and you are producing exactly the amount baby needs.

You don't feel a let down.
Some women do, some women don't.

The following are signs that your milk supply IS low:

Your baby is not gaining weight well.
A newborn should gain 1/2 to 1 ounce daily.

Your baby does not make enough wet/dirty diapers.
Your baby should give you at least 5 wet diapers daily.  By day 4 of life, a newborn baby should give you at least 3-4 dirty diapers per day.  Diaper counts are THE BEST measure of baby's intake.

Link out:  Is Baby Getting Enough?

Potential Causes of Low Supply

Supplementing with formula or expressed breast milk.
Breastmilk production is a SUPPLY and DEMAND process.  If baby demands more, your body will supply more!  If you demand less by feeding with a bottle instead of your breast, you sent your body the message that you need it to make less milk.  If you do choose to feed via a bottle, you *must* pump to make up for the lost nursing session to avoid repercussions to your supply.

Using a nipple shield.
Nipple shields can be helpful tools in certain instances, but they decrease the amount of stimulation to the breast and can ultimately decrease your supply.

Feeding schedules.
When you left the hospital, they may have told you to "nurse baby every 3 hours for 15 minutes per side."  This is not evidence-based, and can actually harm your breastfeeding relationship.  Babies should be nursed on demand (whenever they want!) this may be more frequently than what the hospital told you to expect.  You should not switch sides until baby has shown you they are finished on the first side.  This may be more or less time than you expect.  Trying to use a feeding schedule instead of following baby's lead may lead to infrequent nursing or shortened nursing sessions.  On the flip side, if baby is a sleepy baby and wants to go more than 4 hours without nursing, you should wake the baby to nurse.  You can't feed too often, but you can feed too little.

Not offering the other side.
Baby seems content after nursing on one side... that's great!  Now offer the other breast.  Usually, they will nurse some more.  If you consistently only offer one side, this is considered "block feeding," which is a technique that is used to decrease milk supply.

Problems with baby.
A poor latch, a tongue tie, or jaundice can cause baby to be less efficient at emptying the breast.

Problems with mom.
Certain medications (such as hormonal birth control or decongestants) can decrease supply.  Health issues such as anemia, retained placental pieces, hypothyroidism, and PCOS can affect supply as well.  Another far less common cause of low supply is hypoplasia, also known as Insufficient Glandular Tissue.

There are lots of other potential causes for low supply, but these are the most common.

Ways to Increase Low Supply

The best way to increase your milk supply is to nurse your little one often!  Nurse frequently, nurse as often as your little one wants to, and nurse for as long as baby wants to, and ALWAYS offer both sides at each feeding.  You can even offer both sides multiple times in a feeding!  (I call this "super switching").

Make sure baby is nursing efficiently.
If baby has a tongue tie or a poor latch, they will not remove milk well, which will in turn tell your breasts you need to make less.  A lactation professional can help you tweak latch and make sure there is nothing abnormal about baby's oral anatomy.

Avoid pacifiers.
Babies have a strong desire to suck.  This is not always a result of hunger.  However, if you are struggling with your supply, you should allow *all* of baby's sucking needs to be met at the breast.  This will increase stimulation to your breast which will increase your breastmilk production.

Avoid supplementing unless medically necessary.
See my earlier explanation about supplementing.

The best lactation cookie recipe out there:

Remember.  YOU are enough for your baby, and YOU CAN DO THIS!

Kellymom: Increasing Low Supply
The Leaky Boob:  Help, my milk supply is low! Or is it?
Breastfeeding Basics:  Increasing Your Milk Supply

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lactation Cookies: How They Work + A Recipe

Lactation cookies are... ALL. THE. RAGE.  Right?  Are you seeing them EVERYWHERE?  They're definitely all over Pinterest and Etsy.  There are even businesses that have popped up to sell you some if you don't have the time to make them yourself.


I'm a Certified Lactation Counselor, and I definitely didn't learn about cookies in class... So... after seeing so much of this stuff floating around on the internet, I had to ask... Do they work???  If so, how???

Before we get any further... please know that the BEST (really the ONLY) way to increase your milk supply in the early days of breastfeeding is to breastfeed your baby FREQUENTLY (at least every 3 hours, with a goal of breastfeeding 10-12 times per day, every day), and based on your baby's FEEDING CUES (don't wait until she's crying!!!).  

If you are not already doing these things, please stop reading this, take a detour from here, and read:
OR, if you are still pregnant, start here:
Breastfeeding - Starting Out Right @ the International Breastfeeding Centre 
After you finish reading these, come back and check out the rest of my post :)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Oh good.  You're back.  Welcome!!!

So.  How do lactation cookies work?

The mainstay of lactation cookies, although there are many different recipes and variations, is that the cookie contains two important ingredients:  brewer's yeast and flax seed.  Another ingredient found in many, but not all, of these recipes is oatmeal.  These ingredients are considered by many to be galactagogues.

A galactagogue is any substance that increases breastmilk production.  These may be foods, herbs, or prescription medicines.  Some galactagogues have been proven to be effective and have the support of high quality research.  Other galactagogues have not been researched and the evidence is based on many years of tradition among certain cultures, where advice has been passed down from woman to woman for centuries.  

I am here to tell you I spent all day looking for research about brewer's yeast, flax seed, and oatmeal and what qualities they possess that might make them galactagogues.

I looked hard.  Really hard.  I used PubMed, Google Scholar, EBSCOhost, and several other databases I have access to via the university where I teach.  And ya know what?

I found squat.

My conclusion?  Lactation cookies do not work. They do not directly increase mom's milk production.

For those who adamantly insist that they work, this is probably the placebo effect.  (not to rain on your parade or anything... but come on, let's be realistic.)

Still, these cookies contain a whole bunch of really healthy ingredients and are a GREAT snack for a nursing mommy... galactagogue or not... and BONUS, she can eat them with one hand!!!

Let's talk about the health benefits of the "magic ingredients" in these cookies:

Oats are high in iron, fiber, protein, and omega-3 (healthy) fats.  They are effective in reducing LDL cholesterol and helping with maternal anemia.
to learn more about oatmeal's effect on nursing see Oatmeal for Increasing Milk Supply @ KellyMom

Flaxseed is high in fiber and protein, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and a great source of antioxidants and several vitamins and minerals.
Learn more here and here.

 Brewer's yeast is rich in protein, B vitamins, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and several other nutrients.  It is also considered a probiotic, which is awesome in itself!
Learn more.

I was originally going to list coconut oil as one of the healthy ingredients but during my research I have found that it really  may not be all it's cracked up to being... so we will leave that alone for now... coconut oil lovers, please do not crucify me.  Agree to disagree, k?  Do be aware, also, that if the coconut oil you purchase is not high quality, you might as well use Crisco in this recipe. (no, really.  you can directly sub shortening for the coconut oil)

Bored yet?  Let's get to the recipe!!! 

Double-Chocolate Oatmeal Lactation Cookies 
(this is a tweaked version of the recipe at Sweet Treats, which was a tweaked version of the recipe at I Am Baker)

  •  1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 3/4 c expeller pressed virgin coconut oil (I like Spectrum Naturals or Whole Foods 365 brand)
  • 1.5 c granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1.5 c rolled or steel-cut oats (NOT instant)
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2 tsp brewer's yeast
  • 1 10oz bag of chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and prep your baking sheets.
  2.  In the bowl of your stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the coconut oil and sugar on medium until fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix on low until incorporated.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together your flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.  Add these to the wet ingredients and mix on low until the ingredients are about halfway mixed in.
  4. Again in a separate bowl (how about the one you just emptied!) mix the oats, flax, yeast, and chocolate chips together.  Add them to the ingredients in the stand mixer and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.
  5. Scoop your cookies onto your baking pans.  I used a cookie scoop and fit 12 cookies on each pan.
  6. Bake at 350F for 4 minutes.  Rotate the pans, then bake for another 4 (or 5) minutes, until the edges are light brown.
  7. Cool, then store in an airtight container.
When I made these, I ended up with 48 cookies.

For your convenience, I have calculated the nutritional information.   Yours may be different depending on how large your cookies turn out.
for 1 cookie:
97 calories
31 grams of carbohydrates
5 grams of fat
1 gram of protein
5 wwp+



Friday, July 4, 2014

Nautical Baby Shower Diaper Cake & Wreath

Somehow at work, I have been pegged as 'the crafty one.'
It's a complete joke, considering the talents that some of my coworkers have!

Putting all self-deprecation aside, we are throwing a nautical themed baby shower this month for one of our girls, and I was asked to make a diaper cake.  What's more, the lovely lady that asked me to do it showed me a picture of a gorgeous cake off an Etsy listing that could serve as my inspiration.


I have never made a diaper cake.

I did not feel good about this.

So what did I do???  I hit up Pinterest, of course.  Thankfully I stumbled upon this 3-part tutorial from Crafty Chics.

Part 1 covers your planning stage, how to roll the diapers, how many you need, etc.  Part 2 covers building/assembling the tiers of the cake.  Part 3 has some tips on decorating the cake.  I was so grateful for the tutorial - I realized doing this was not going to be nearly as difficult as I had worried it would be.

So, check out my finished product!

The ribbon and little trinkets came from Michaels.  The sign on the middle tier I made using my Silhouette Cameo.

If you are new to crafting with your Silhouette, there are 2 great tutorials you can look over for some help -- printing and cutting here and text to path here.  This was my first successful print then cut, so I was proud of it.

There was really only one thing I did that was quite different than the tutorial.  She mentions using size 2 diapers.  I actually ended up using 1s, 2s, and 3s.  I always buy 2s and 3s because I feel like people get overloaded on newborn and size 1 diapers at their showers.  The 1s on the cake were given to me by the notorious diaper cake requester. ;)

1st and 2nd layer were 2s, middle layer was made of 1s, and the bottom layer was made of both 3s and 1s.  I hid the 3s (they were colorful and there was more of a size discrepancy between the 3s and the other two sizes) by putting them in the middle of the bottom layer.  See 'em squished in there?  The top layer was totally unnecessary, but I had three diapers left and wanted to include them :) 

Pretty proud of myself, to be honest!

Additionally, I made a diaper wreath to go with it.  Below was the inspiration for that.  I would link it to its original source, but the pin on pinterest didn't have a link to go with it :(  hate not giving credit to someone for their hard work!!

I forgot to take a good picture of it before handing it off to a coworker, so excuse the iPhone photo.  It was SO easy... I followed this tutorial here, but instead of cardboard for the wreath form I used an actual MDF wreath form for extra support.  The anchor and letter are spray-painted MDF shapes from Michaels.

The biggest thing when making the wreath is to take great care to only apply hot glue to the ribbon, and never to the diapers themselves, since that would ruin them, and as cute as this is, it needs to be a gift as well as a decoration, and what's a mama to do with diapers that won't unroll?

I hope that you guys like these!!  I didn't re-do the tutorials because the tutorials I used were so great, I just wanted to share with you my finished products and show you where you can go for some good instructions.  (and encourage you that you CAN do something like this, even if you think you can't!)

Linking Up At:
Tatertots and Jello Link Party Palooza
Strut Your Stuff Saturday
Craft Frenzy Friday
Feathered Nest Friday

Friday, June 13, 2014

Using Essential Oils the SAFE Way

I am unashamed to admit that I spent a huge amount of time on Pinterest.

I browse pins not only for recipes and craft ideas, but since I am a nurse practitioner in my "real life," I also browse for parenting and healthcare advice that I can share with family and friends, patients, and fellow healthcare providers.

In doing this, I have found a TERRIFYING amount of BAD, unsafe, and misguided information!!! 

I have especially found a TON of this type of information abounding regarding the use of essential oils, so today, I decided I wanted to share with people some basics on the  SAFE Use of Essential Oils

Let me start by telling you this - I AM an IPC for doTERRA essential oils.  I do NOT, however, support all of the health claims they make.  All recommendations I make are based on solid evidence and research that I have retrieved via PubMed (sponsored by the National Institute of Health) and other reputable, peer-reviewed sources.  This is because I am a professional healthcare provider, and while I strongly support the use of alternative medicine modalities, I refuse to recommend something on a purely anecdotal basis.

The most important thing you need to know about essential oils is that they are very concentrated Much more so than if you were using the actual plant the oil came from as an herb, spice, or food.  For this reason, you need to use your essential oils in safe dilutions.

Despite what other bloggers, holistic providers, and IPCs for EO companies will tell you, essential oils, for the most part, should not be used "neat," or undiluted.  A little bit of EO goes a LONG way.

For topical use of essential oils, the accepted "safe" dilution is a 2% dilution.
This means that for every 1 fluid ounce (30mL) of carrier oil you use, you add only 12 drops of essential oil.

In children or people with sensitive skin, you should reduce this dilution to a 1% dilution.
This means that for every 1 fluid ounce (30mL) of carrier oil you use, you add only 6 drops of essential oil. (for very young children or babies, you  may want to use even fewer than 6 drops, to be safe)

Please note, putting oils into plain water does NOT dilute them.  They will simply sit on top of the water.  The only way to dilute an oil is with another oil (hence the importance of using a carrier oil). Find more info here.

***Have you ever put some oil undiluted on your skin, and "felt the burn"???  I made the mistake of putting a drop of a EO blend containing a "hot" oil directly on a blemish on my face.  It burned and hurt so bad I wanted to peel my skin off.  Remember that "hot oils" such as cinnamon, clove, thyme, oregano, peppermint, black pepper, and cassia.*** 

To read more about diluting your EO mixtures, visit AromaWeb for a clear and concise article.


Many EO enthusiasts (and salespeople) will tell you that it is perfectly safe to use EOs without dilution, as essential oils "have no side effects."

I'm sorry, but the concept that essential oils cannot cause any side effects is simply untrue.

When using undiluted oils topically, you run the risk of SENSITIZING YOUR SKIN. Even with proper dilution, sensitization is still a real risk for people who have food/environmental allergies, sensitive skin, or eczema.

Contact Sensitization is the most common side effect of essential oil use.  It is a hypersensitive allergic reaction to a substance that is normally harmless or non-allergenic (such as Lavender oil).  Itching and inflammation are the mostly likely symptoms of contact sensitization.  This allergic reaction occurs with repeated exposures to one particular allergen.  In other words, you are INDUCING an allergy in a person that did not have an allergy to begin with.
For an example, sensitization can go like this:

One day, you decide to use undiltuted lavender oil on your LO's itchy insect bite.  He feels better, you feel better, and how great that you improved his symptoms without using a chemical-laden steroid cream?

Next week, your LO falls off his bike and skins his knee.  To keep it clean, you put a little lavender oil, neat of course, on the scrape.  You don't notice any side effects, although he does seem to be picking at it a little, but hey, kids do that.  Still, you're so glad you didn't need to apply anything unnatural, like triple-antibiotic ointment.  Eventually it heals and you forget about it.

2 weeks later, LO is starting to come down with a touch of a head cold.  You put several drops of undiluted lavender on his feet at bedtime, after reading a success story on another blog.  In the middle of the night, he wakes you up, complaining that his feet are itchy.  You look and find that they are red, rashy, and warm.

Your little one is now sensitized (in other words, allergic) to lavender oil.
You can no longer use lavender oil on this child.

Yes, this may be an exaggeration -- I doubt it would take only 3 exposures to induce allergy in an otherwise healthy person (although it happens much faster in people with history of allergy or skin problems).  And I'm not trying to scare you.  I'm just trying to stress to you the importance of adequate dilution for the topical use of essential oils.  For more info, see AromaWeb's list of EOs most likely to cause sensitization.

PHOTOSENSITIVITY is another side effect you will want to watch for.  Some essential oils react to UV rays and can cause sunburn or rash if you spend time in the sun after using these oils topically.  For the most part, the citrus EOs are the biggest culprits here such as bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, lime, wild orange.  When using an oil known to cause photosensitivity, you should wait 6 hours before exposing yourself to UV rays (and you should use sunscreen... but you should ALWAYS use sunscreen!)

an example of EOs that can cause photosensitivity

Another potential side effect occurs when you choose to take EOs internally (by swallowing a few drops, taking them in a capsule, or mixing them into your food or drink).  Just like different foods and herbs cause symptoms in some people, some essential oils can cause gas, indigestion/heartburn, abdominal discomfort, or diarrhea.  Different people will react differently the same oils.  Just because your hubby doesn't get heartburn when you give him peppermint in a capsule doesn't mean you won't.  I'm not saying you shouldn't take EOs internally.  I'm just saying don't be shocked if you have some tummy troubles when you do.

Another important thing I would like for you to remember is that although some EOs are safe to use internally (as in, you INGEST them) you should never put essential oils, diluted or not, into the nose or ears.  This is is NOT a safe use of essential oils.  For earaches in yourself or your little ones, apply EO remedies AROUND the ear.  Here's a cool link to a few safe earache remedies.

Essential oils are an amazing, natural weapon we can load into our healthcare arsenal.
  There is plenty of high-quality research that shows us that tea tree oil is antibacterial and antifungal, that doTERRA's OnGuard blend can kill strains of MRSA, and that ginger is great for tummy troubles, and just so much more than I can list.  Again, I want to stress that NOTHING here was to frighten anyone, or discourage you from using essential oils.  I use them DAILY! I just want to encourage you to make sure you are always using your oils in the SAFEST manner possible!!!

For more info or if you have questions, feel free to comment below or email me.