Month: October 2008

Thinking of a new kitchen look: “Cute”

From Design Daily News, I was alerted to these uber-cute salt and pepper shakers:

And from that link, found singing cruets:

I’m officially a fan. Goodbye, dream craftsman-style kitchen. Hello, cute.

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Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day and the topic is poverty. Similar to last year’s post, Iā€™m going to reflect and celebrate on what Iā€™m already doing to help, investigate areas that could be improved, and then commit to action.

Reflect

I have to admit that I’m even less passionate about “poverty” than I am about the environment. However, I can’t ignore the very real fact that if I’m to practice what my faith preaches, I’d better care about the poor and I’d better do something about it. So, I’m thankful that Blog Action Day is here and that I can use it as a chance to commit to some real action.

Let’s look at some of the reasons why I don’t take action more often, and things I can think about to counter my excuses:

  • Feeling overwhelmed: Knowing that about half the world’s children are living in poverty is a staggering statistic. When you look at the masses of people – about half of the world’s population – who subsist on less than $2.50 a day, it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing you can do about it. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, it’s helpful to remember the starfish story and commit to making a difference one life at a time. If each person who made over $2.50 a day helped out one person who was living on less than $2.50 a day, everyone would be covered. šŸ™‚ Of course, it’s not going to be that simple, but it does make me feel a little better to know that by finding a way to do my part, I’m helping to balance out the equation a little more.
  • Self-centered perspective: In these “tough economic times,” at least for those of us in the US, it’s easy for me to focus on getting me and my family through and to think that I don’t have any extra to spare. In college, when I was on a REALLY tight budget, I remember feeling a bit disgruntled by “call to action” people who would urge us to “give up that daily mocha” and donate the money to a charity. I wasn’t sure how other people were affording a daily mocha, because all of my money was going to textbooks, rent, and basic food! These days, I’m living a much more luxurious life with organic food, a “fun” budget line item, and owning a home. While I still don’t buy a daily mocha, there’s certainly more flex in our budget – on most months, at least – so that we could sacrifice in some areas temporarily and have a little more to give.

Celebrate

This list is much shorter than last year’s, but it’s still something that I can celebrate!

  • We sponsor a child through Compassion (which costs less than $2.50/day, actually, as our bank account gets debited $32/month automatically). It’s been neat to see our little girl from India grow up to be a young lady, exploring interests in school and beginning to dream dreams, via quarterly handwritten-and-translated letters.
  • At least once a year around Christmastime, we’ll peruse the World Vision Gift Catalog and purchase a share of a cow, or four chickens, or a few goats, which are given to needy families or villages. It’s a little bit weird to look through a catalog, which is a naturally consumeristic activity, and make decisions that affect real people’s lives. Should we feed a starving village or rescue a child from a life of prostitution? Kind of jarring, but at least, in the end, we’re doing something.
  • Steve and I participated in 30 Days of Nothing the first time around and donated the money we saved. We missed it this year, but I think it’s something I want to do every year, if Steve is up for it.
  • We buy fair trade bananas. šŸ™‚

Investigate

Time to brainstorm next actions! This list is by no means comprehensive nor is it very radical, but I tried to come up with realistic and achievable actions that I could take. Rather than trying to come up with a big life-changing plan, I’ve found that real change happens when I start small and think of things that I could imagine myself doing.

  • Write a letter to my Compassion child. The web site allows for an easy interface to email the child, but I think it’s time to write a hand-written letter and include a recent family photo, now that we have a baby.
  • “Do” 30 Days of Nothing in a month other than September – talk to Steve about trying it out for November, for example.
  • A few years ago, I bought Material World, a really cool book where families around the world are photographed with all of their possessions lined up around their house. The disparity between the family in Mali and the family in the US is staggering, and each page is a visual reminder of how much we own – and how much we don’t need. While I don’t want to dull the impact by looking at the book every single day, I think that flipping through the pages at least once a year would be a good activity for me – maybe to kick off 30 Days of Nothing.
  • I’ve always been intrigued by Kiva‘s concept of microloans and their excellent implementation of making it easy to loan a small amount of money to someone else halfway across the world, watch it get repaid, and then loan the money back out to someone else. Their site currently says that all loan requests have been filled (although you can donate to their operating expenses), but it’s a site to keep an eye on for future giving opportunities.
  • We can reexamine our charitable giving and our values. Is helping the poor high enough on our value system that we want to reflect that in our charitable giving?
  • Add more fair trade items to our grocery list where we can – fair trade chocolate, for example (we aren’t at-home coffee drinkers, or fair trade coffee would be an option, too).
  • I also like the idea of starting at home. Grace In Action is an organization affiliated with several of the churches in town that helps the homeless in our community. I can start by looking at their donated items list and picking something up each time we go to Costco, which we do infrequently yet regularly enough for it to work as a “regular” donation without being a “ongoing” budget line item.
  • Have a garage sale, or, more realistically for us, sell items on Craigslist and donate the money.

Commit to action

I could really see myself doing all of the above! But again, I’ll commit to just a few actions and will follow up in a later post. Let me clarify – I will commit to talking to Steve about these actions, since we have joint finances and his opinion and approval is needed before moving forward!

  • One-time: Do 30 Days of Nothing in November or another month next year.
  • One-time: Write a letter to our Compassion child – this is something I can do on my own!
  • Ongoing: Get fair trade chocolate for baking/cooking purposes.
  • Ongoing: Commit to one year of getting something “extra” each time we go to Costco to donate to Grace In Action.

How about you? Do you have a post for Blog Action Day, or are there specific actions you want to commit to taking to help combat poverty?

Baby related thoughts: On cloth diapering

This is the seventh of a series of posts on pregnancy, labor, birth, and being a new parent. See intro and full list.

Early on in my pregnancy, I did some online research to try to figure out the most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solution for diapering.

First, I examined my options.

  • Disposable diapers – Very common and convenient. Purchase different sizes as necessary and toss into the garbage when you’re done. The main problem is that they last forever (or at least, a very, very long time) in a landfill.
  • Cloth “prefold” diapers – Your typical cloth diaper (we have tons of these, used as burp cloths), usually involves purchasing a diaper cover for convenience. Diaper covers are usually made out of water-resistant material and come in many different brands and varieties; Bummis and Bumkins are two popular brands. Usually, you have to purchase different sizes of the covers as your baby grows larger; you may also need to purchase larger-sized prefold diapers if you started with “infant” sizes. The cloth diaper needs to be laundered after each use; diaper covers can usually be reused unless obviously soiled.
    • Diaper service – For apartment-dwellers who don’t have a washer/dryer in their unit but still want to use cloth diapers, you can consider using a diaper service. They cart away the dirty cloth diapers (you will most likely have to purchase the covers and launder those yourself) and drop off a new, clean load for a fee.
  • Pocket diapers – These diapers usually involve a diaper “shell” with a water-resistant outside and fleece or microfiber inside (which helps to prevent diaper rash because it wicks away the wetness), with an opening that allows you to stuff the shell with absorbent material – usually a thick microfiber-esque pad. When you launder them, you pull out the insert and then wash both the shell and the insert. Popular brands include Fuzzibunz, Kissaluvs, and bumGenius. Most pocket diapers come in different sizes so you have to buy larger ones as your baby grows, but bumGenius has a “one-size” pocket diaper.
  • All-in-one diapers – These are often made by the same companies as pocket diapers, but have the absorbent material sewn inside so that you wash the whole diaper instead of taking it apart, which means you save some time. You have to buy different sizes as your baby grows.
  • gDiapersgDiapers are a different animal, involving a outer cotton shell or wrapper and a flushable, compostable liner (“wet” liners can be composted, but “dirty” liners should be flushed or thrown away). You have to buy the liners, obviously, and will also have to buy larger shells as your baby outgrows them. If your sewer system doesn’t like flushable liners, you can feel okay about tossing the liners because they biodegrade very quickly.

The environmental cost of disposables is obvious. Diaper services most likely use a lot of bleach in the cleaning process, plus factor in the fuel cost for transporting the diapers, so they aren’t doing much for the environment, either, unless you can find a service that uses natural cleaning products. For home-laundered cloth diapering, the environmental cost comes mainly in the use of water and energy. gDiapers are probably the most environmentally friendly of the bunch in terms of day-to-day use, because the refills biodegrade nicely and the wrap doesn’t need to be washed very often. Most of the cloth diaper brands above are made in the US; I couldn’t figure out where some of the main brands of disposables were made (anyone want to find that out?).

In the end, I chose to go the home-laundered cloth diapering route because we had convenient access to energy-efficient laundry machines and because I didn’t like the idea of contributing unnecessarily to landfills. I don’t know what we would have done if we still lived in an apartment, however.

Diaperdecisions.com has handy charts that break down the actual total cost (and the cost-per-change) over your baby’s diapering lifetime. According to their numbers, which include estimates not only for the actual diapers but for energy and water costs, you’ll spend around $2500 on disposable diapers, about $1500 on the fancier pocket or all-in-one diapers, and only $381 on prefold cloth diapers and covers. Their chart doesn’t include costs for gDiapers or bumGenius “one-size” diapers, though. I did a cost breakdown on bumGenius one-size diapers using their numbers and came up with this:

12 pack bumGenius one-size diaper $203.40 x 3 (36 diapers) = $610.20
Energy costs: $36.00 – $122.40 depending on water heater
Total cost: $732.60 (using higher energy number)
Average changes (potty trained 2.5 years): 7,398
Cost per change (including washing): $0.10

As you can see, the bumGenius one-size diaper isn’t as cheap as cloth prefolds and covers, but it’s significantly cheaper than the all-in-ones or other pocket diaper brands by $900 or so.

In the end, we chose to go with bumGenius diapers instead of cloth prefolds, despite the higher cost. Here are the reasons we chose bumGenius diapers over all the other solutions.

  • bumGenius diapers have three rows of snaps on the front part of the diaper, allowing you to effectively shorten the size of the diaper. You only have to change the size as the baby grows, and you can use the diapers for babies up to 35 lbs. The all-in-one diapers, other pocket diaper brands, and cloth prefold/diaper covers require you to purchase different sizes. Since we don’t have much storage space, we liked the idea of just having one diaper shell to deal with for our baby’s diapering life instead of dealing with and storing different sizes.
  • bumGenius diapers come with two thicknesses of insert pads – the Cottonbabies brand “thick” pad, which includes snaps for resizing them to fit the bumGenius diaper, and a thinner “newborn” pad. Unless your baby is a very heavy wetter, there’s no need to purchase more inserts.
  • There are some other all-in-one diapers on the market, but they seem to involve rows of snaps. bumGenius diapers have snaps that you only touch twice in the baby’s lifetime to increase the size of the diaper, but the day-to-day closure method involves handy velcro tabs which make them as easy to put on or take off as disposables.
  • Cloth prefolds and disposables supposedly result in diaper rash more often than the microfiber or fleece inner liner of pocket and all-in-one diapers.
  • bumGenius diapers are made in the USA.

At the time that I purchased the diapers, bumGenius had just come out with their 2.0 version. (As of this writing, they’re on 3.0, which has some modest improvements, and they also have new organic diapers!) If I were to do anything differently, I would have scoured parenting forums to try to purchase gently-used diapers and save more money, but at the time I just wanted to order them and have them in-hand. Diaperswappers.com is one such community where people sell or swap diapers, although you’ll have to get used to their use of acronyms (BGAIO = bumGenius All-In-Ones, BG2.0 = bumGenius 2.0 diapers, etc.).

We used disposable diapers for the first month, which gave us enough time to get used to having a baby around, then started using bumGenius diapers. So far, I’ve been very happy with them. I purchased 24 diapers, which gives me enough to do laundry every other day or every third day. The diapers have been holding up well, although I expect that at some point in the distant future, the velcro tabs will need to be refurbished by a handy sewing friend. Diaper leaks have been very rare (most of them happened in the transition from using the newborn to large insert), and diaper rash has been non-existent.

Before embarking on the cloth diapering journey, I had no idea what was involved with laundering them. (Cotton Babies has a reader-friendly guide to cloth diaper basics, including how to wash cloth diapers.)

With exclusively breast-fed babies, it’s really easy initially because you can toss the diaper into the laundry even if it’s poopy, because it all washes out. Once you start solid foods, or if your baby is formula fed, you need to first scrape or rinse the poop off into the toilet. While it seems gross at first, “diaper dunking” is one way that many parents clean off the diaper – swishing the diaper in the toilet. For the more squeamish, sprayer hoses can be installed and attached to the toilet to squirt off the mess. For the even more squeamish, you can buy “diaper liners,” which are a sheet of thin, flushable material that goes inside the diaper. The poop stays on the liner and can easily be flushed down the toilet, and it helps keep the diaper a little cleaner, too. (This is not factored into the cost above, though! It costs about $0.06 or $0.07 more per change if you use diaper liners.)

Read the manufacturer instructions to find out if you should keep dirty diapers in a “dry” or “wet” pail before washing them. A “dry pail” is basically any container that you want to use to keep the diapers in until you have enough to do a load of laundry, while a “wet” pail is something that you can use to soak diapers in. bumGenius diapers should be stored in a dry pail. For us, this was initially a laundry basket. When things got stinky, we switched to a zip-up waterproof bag. I ordered custom fabric-outer-lining ones from happytushies.com, along with smaller travel-sized bags, but it looks like they only offer them through retailers, now.

So far, I’ve been able to wash the diapers with the baby’s other laundry without a problem. Bringing everything to the washing machine, I quickly pull out the inserts (albeit a bit gingerly, with two fingers) and toss them into the washer. bumGenius diapers allow you to fold down the velcro tabs so they don’t stick to other things, so I make sure those are in place before tossing the shell into the washer. Then, I wash the diapers twice – once on cold, once on warm/hot, with an extra rinse. The extra rinse is to get all the detergent out of the diapers, because detergent residue = odor. Check the manufacturer’s information to find out if there’s a specific detergent that’s recommended. On the recommendation of my friend Kristine, we’ve been using Allens Naturally Detergent. With high-efficiency washers, you have to be careful to use less detergent than with normal washers.

I put all of my bumGenius diapers in the dryer, although I’m hoping one of our weekend projects will be to install a laundry line solution outside. When I fold the laundry, I stuff the liners into the diapers so that they’re ready to go. At night, we’ll grab one of the newborn inserts and put them in for a double-stuffed diaper so that the diaper doesn’t leak.

You can also buy or make your own cloth wipes so that you’re not using disposable wipes. I’m using Seventh Generation disposable wipes for now, but am considering switching over to cloth.

I’m glad that we are able to cloth-diaper. I might make a very different choice if we didn’t have a washer and dryer in our house, or if I was working full-time away from home.

Anyone else have anything to add to the topic? If you cloth diaper, what brands do you use and what do you like (or don’t like) about them?

Sending mail in Outlook with AT&T DSL

I just killed a good part of my day trying to figure out how to get Outlook (2003) to send mail with AT&T DSL’s SMTP settings. Now, I don’t consider myself to be very savvy in terms of getting networks and internet connections and such to work, but I have configured Outlook several times in the past with various ISPs and didn’t have any problems as long as I had the proper setup instructions. We had SBC/AT&T DSL a couple years ago and email receiving and sending was fine. This time, however, I was stumped.

The handy booklet that comes with AT&T’s DSL modem has these instructions (which can also be found if you Google various phrases such as “Outlook AT&T DSL SMTP”):

If you use client mail and have trouble sending or receiving email, the problem could be incorrect settings. In this case, you need to enter this server information to tell your program where to retrieve your mail:

Your Email Address; For example, UserID@att.ne
Incoming (POP): pop.att.yahoo.com
Outgoing (SMTP): smtp.att.yahoo.com (SMTP authentication required*)
Incoming mail server: POP3
Incoming mail port #: 995, secure connection (SSL) checked
Outgoing mail port #: 465, secure connection (SSL) checked

*You should find the authentication check box in the outgoing mail section of your account setup. For specific instructions, refer to the help section of your email client.
NOTE: If your email client does not support SMTP authentication, you won’t be able to send client email from your AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet account.

All well and good. I have ten or so email accounts that I check through Outlook. Here’s what I did:

  1. In Outlook, I went to Tools > E-mail Accounts > View or change existing email accounts.
  2. I selected my first email account and clicked Change…
  3. My former settings were already there (with Comcast info). I edited them so that they had the following information:
    1. Your name: Corrie Haffly
    2. Email address: [my-email@my-domain.com]
    3. User Name: [my-email@my-domain.com]
    4. Password: [my-password]
    5. Incoming mail server (POP3): [pop.my-domain.com]
    6. Outgoing mail server (SMTP): smtp.att.yahoo.com (note: depending on which AT&T provider you have, this may be different – log in at AT&T Help or look at the possibly out-of-date chart here)
  4. I clicked the More Settings button.
  5. On the Outgoing server tab, I checked “My outgoing server (SMPT) requires authentication.” I selected “Log on using” and entered my AT&T user name and password.
  6. On the Advanced tab, I checked “This server requires an encrypted connection (SSL)” and changed the port to 465.
  7. I repeated this for each email account.

The above configuration is correct, however, it didn’t work for me. I tried various combinations without effect. Finally, I contacted AT&T online chat support.

Having handled online chat support as the tech support person several times before, I tried to be succinct and clear with my problem. I forgot to save the chat, but here’s a reconstruction of how it went:

Me: Hi! I’m trying to configure Outlook 2003 to send email from different email accounts using AT&T DSL’s SMTP settings. Here is what I’m using:
Outgoing: smtp.att.yahoo.com
Under more mail options, Outgoing server tab – checked requires auth. and entered my AT&T user/pass
Under Advanced tab – checked ssl, port 465
It’s not working for me – do you know if I’m missing something or doing something wrong?
Tech: I’m sorry you’re having problems. It sounds like you are having problems sending mail, correct?
Me: Yes.
Tech: Make sure that you have “My outgoing server requires authentication” checked and that “Use same settings as my incoming server” is checked.
Me: I am NOT trying to receive email from the AT&T account. I am trying to SEND email from a different email account. I have “outgoing server…” checked, but “log on using” selected with my AT&T user/pass entered.
Tech: I see that you are trying to check a different email account. What is the email address you are trying to use?
Me: I have several different email addresses configured in Outlook. I can RECEIVE email fine. I cannot send email.
Tech: What error do you get?
Me: Um… I don’t know what error I get. When I try to send, the “enter account info” dialog box pops up continuously and will not accept my username and password. I end up having to cancel the send.
Tech: This is a problem with Outlook. [inserts canned response about how Outlook doesn’t save the SSL information properly, so I will either have to pay for AT&T “plus” support or contact Microsoft, the creator of Outlook.]
Me: As there are so many Outlook users out there, I am surprised and disappointed that AT&T does not have a solution at hand for this issue.
Tech: I am sorry that you are having problems. We cannot support Outlook, as it is software provided by a different company, Microsoft. You will have to contact the makers of Outlook to resolve your issue, or I can refer you to AT&T paid tech support.
Me: No, I understand. Can you please look back at my info above and confirm that my settings are correct?
Tech: Yes, your settings are correct.
Me: Okay, thanks. I’ll try to find a solution on my own.

So AT&T thinks this is an Outlook problem? I refined my googling with “at&t dsl outlook outgoing smtp not saving password” and eventually came across this site, which suggested that a service pack would fix the problem. I couldn’t figure out if I had the service pack or not and finally downloaded it and, in trying to install it, found that I already had it applied. So that wasn’t the issue.

As I beat my head against the desk and tried different things, I finally found an error message by using the “Test Account Settings” button in Outlook:

Send test e-mail; the specified server was found, but there was no response from the server

Searching with keywords on that phrase brought me to a forum post that pointed me to this Yahoo Help article which explained the real issue: My email accounts had to first be verified. The Yahoo Help page basically explains the steps you need to take to verify EACH email account through Yahoo. Once verified, emails can be sent in Outlook using the settings described above.

I found that simply leaving the Yahoo window open and manually entering the verification code, as suggested in Step 9a-d, didn’t work for me. Step 9e, entering in my password, would shoot me out to the AT&T Yahoo! home page without actually processing the verification. I only got results if I clicked the verification link that came in the email for that specific account (I was using Firefox 3, didn’t try any other browsers).

I also skipped the step where you enter in your server info, as I didn’t want to check these accounts via the Yahoo interface.

I also read that you’re limited to 10 email accounts. I actually had 11, but luckily could ditch one without consequence.

Before I could verify my emails, though, I had one more atypical road bump. When installing AT&T DSL last night, I chose to do a manual install instead of using their install CD. During the AT&T DSL registration process, I created a username and password successfully, but the next page didn’t load properly for me. I went ahead and activated the modem with my new user/pass successfully, so I didn’t think anymore of it. However, it seems that simply creating a username/password wasn’t enough – it didn’t actually create or activate the account to allow me to access Yahoo!/AT&T services. So when I tried to log in at http://mail.yahoo.com with my username and password, it told me that my ID didn’t exist. I had to go back and go through the registration process again (it worked, this time) to be able to access Yahoo Mail and thus Yahoo Mail options.

So this ended up being a three step process for me…

  1. Register new AT&T/Yahoo! ID properly.
  2. Set up Outlook settings properly (which I did in the beginning).
  3. Verify each and every email account using Yahoo! Mail options.

I’m still very disappointed with the AT&T live chat support that I interacted with. Is it really such a rare occurrence for someone to want to use a non-AT&T email address that they never run into this? Or was it a ploy to get me to pay for tech support? Seeing as how verifying email addresses through Yahoo was an integral part of the process and Outlook had NOTHING to do with it, my opinion of their customer support is currently very low.

Baby related thoughts: On breastfeeding

This is the sixth of a series of posts on pregnancy, labor, birth, and being a new parent. See intro and full list.

After the initial few days of figuring out how my milk plumbing worked, breastfeeding was a breeze for me. But for many women, it’s not. I think our culture has lost some of the normality of breastfeeding; it’s no longer common knowledge as to how it works and how it’s done. Women of my generation learn from books, pay for lactation consultants, or go out of their way to join groups like the La Leche League to find the support they need. Unlike many other places in the world, it’s not okay to whip out a breast and start feeding in public (even in my town, which supposedly has a higher percentage of women who breastfeed); breastfeeding is something that happens behind closed doors or under colorful Hooter Hiders, so girls and young women never actually get to observe what a “good latch” looks like. Consequently, women find out that breastfeeding is not a natural but a learned behavior. In an informal observational “survey”* of the young moms that I know, 7/10 had more difficulty than not getting breastfeeding “going.”

Even without facing a tenth of the challenges that some of my friends did, I can’t say that breastfeeding was “easy” when starting out. Like almost every other aspect of parenting, I was uncertain, worried of doing things wrong, and had no prior reference or personal experience to draw on. The “good latch” photographs in books such as The Nursing Mother’s Companion and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding gave me some idea of how the baby should be positioned, but I wished that I had x-ray vision to see if the baby’s tongue was properly positioned below the nipple and areola and if the nipple was drawn back into the back part of the baby’s mouth. I had to trust the nurses and lactation consultants at the hospital, who reassured me that I had “perfect breasts for nursing” and that the belly-to-belly, nose-pointing-at-me position of the baby was fine. Nonetheless, I still developed a painful pressure blister on one of my nipples by the second day. (It eventually scabbed over and got better.) A few weeks later, I worried that I had a plugged duct and spent hours (well, at least a good half-hour) in a hot shower trying to get the painfully hard, engorged spot on my breast to loosen up and unplug. I flipped through the breastfeeding books I was borrowing from the library, trying to figure out if it was really a plugged duct or not or if something else was going on. (I think it was a plugged duct.) Also, as is typical for newborns, Steven was a very sleepy eater – three sucks in and he’d be dozing off. Despite these initial stresses, I’m very grateful that I had a relatively easy experience. Steven naturally caught on to breastfeeding well (despite being slightly tongue-tied, which can add on to the challenge of feeding) and my milk production was good.

While I can’t speak too much from my own experience, I think I can put together at least a few thoughts and tips, mostly based on the experiences of other friends.

  • “Breastfeeding may lead to some discomfort initially, but it shouldn’t be terribly painful. If it is, there may be something wrong with the baby’s latch.” This is general advice found in most books about breastfeeding, but it’s terribly unhelpful to new moms. How are you supposed to know the line between discomfort and pain when you’ve never breastfed before? My experience was that the nipple that developed a blister felt like it was getting pinched with each suck, and the painful spot was getting pink. In contrast, the other side never felt like it was getting pinched.
  • Especially when first starting out, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Ask for help, even if you feel embarrassed about making a big deal out of a “little pinch.” One of the best pieces of advice I got from a friend (even though I ended up not having to use it) was to budget extra money in the case that we needed to talk to a lactation consultant multiple times. In the first days of breastfeeding, your body is establishing its level of milk production, so it’s better to get help sooner than later.
  • If breastfeeding is a big priority, be prepared to expend a lot of effort to get it going properly (and then be thankful if it ends up being easy). Some friends found it necessary to pump between feedings to get their bodies thinking that demand was increasing in order to get the supply up. There are also herbal remedies for increasing milk production, I think. I spent the first few weeks confined to my room so that I could be topless while feeding and allow the skin-to-skin contact to increase the milk-producing hormones in my body. Other friends spent hundreds of dollars visiting different lactation consultants. It’s very possible that you may need to put a halt on visitors in order to focus on giving the baby an optimal environment for getting a good feeding, or that your husband or partner has to take over all other household tasks so that you can focus on staying relaxed and rested, both of which influence milk let-down.
  • One of the things I took away from our “intro to breastfeeding” class was how milk production is rooted in hormone activity. Specifically, oxytocin, known as the “cuddle hormone” because it’s produced in response to touch (cuddling, sexual intercourse, and breastfeeding being three examples), also plays a role in milk let-down (and possibly production, if I recall the class correctly). So, skin-to-skin contact was highly encouraged. Things that inhibit milk production and let down include adrenaline/stress and distractions. So, especially when starting out (and possibly continuing for a while), you want to provide a calm environment for both you and your baby.
  • Milk production is also based in supply and demand. However, this doesn’t mean that you should nurse your baby for hours on end. While I don’t know the specifics as to how much rest is best in between feedings, I’ve at least heard vague statements by mothers (quoting their lactation consultants) that the body needs some time to recover.
  • Starting out, nursing Steven was always at least a half-hour to 45-minute process to eat on both sides. This was because he was soooo sleepy as soon as he started eating (because oxytocin is produced in the baby, too, it makes them verrrryyyy relaxed). The literature and experts are split on whether or not you should try to keep the baby awake or not. Some say that you should let them sleep because when they are really hungry, they’ll stay awake. Others say that you should encourage them to stay awake so that they get a good feeding, which will help them to establish a more regular pattern and routine, even if that means tickling their feet, putting a cold washcloth on their skin, or stroking the side of their cheek. Child of Mine, the go-to resource for feeding children from infancy and up, is somewhere in the middle, advocating that you encourage the child to stay awake but shying away from tickling the baby, jiggling them, or otherwise messing with them. Instead, the book describes animatedly taking with them. (We and chose to go the keep-them-awake method, but resorted to tickling/cold washcloth because talking didn’t do a thing.) Now, however, Steven eats for 10 or 15 minutes and is done! Now that he is older, he stays awake and eats very efficiently.

Finally, I do have friends who weren’t able to get breastfeeding to work exclusively for them and supplemented with formula or went to exclusively formula. The guilt and frustration they experienced is a whole other topic. As a friend, I struggled with encouraging them without communicating to them that they weren’t trying hard enough. Next time, I think I would mention that Child of Mine has a chapter for formula-fed babies next to the chapter on breast-fed babies and stays away from making judgment calls on breastfeeding or not, which other breastfeeding books tend to do (they make mothers who don’t breastfeed feel like second-class citizens). Also, in Bright From the Start, a book about encouraging development and learning in your baby, the author suggests that some of the causes of higher IQ in breastfed babies are because the babies switch sides and because the mothers talk more to them. Babies tend to play and touch things as they nurse, and switching sides forces them to use both hands (the one that’s free) to explore. This exercises both parts of their brain. So with a bottle-fed baby, it might be worth it to try turning them around halfway through feeding to allow that type of development. The parents might also find it helpful to observe how different nursing mothers interact with their babies (research supposedly shows that they talk more to their babies) and then replicate that while bottle feeding. Finally, another person gave me some great advice that it doesn’t matter what sleep theory you adhere to, what matters is loving and consistent parenting for the child’s whole life. I think that applies to whether or not the child is breastfed or formula fed, too!

Okay – other moms out there, what ideas or thoughts do you have about breastfeeding?

* I didn’t actually survey people, so this information is mainly based on conversational snippets that I’ve had with my friends, including secondhand snippets.

My breastfeeding bibliography from other posts: