Nobody Said it Would be Easy!

Breast-feed, Breast-feed, Breast-feed!!!

No. it’s not easy.  No, it doesn’t happen in a snap. But it is well worth it and priceless if you can manage to figure it out. First and foremost get a lactation consultant! I repeat – get a lactation consultant!! Most hospitals offer this service as part of your labor and delivery regimen. Also, there oftentimes are classes that you can sign up for before you deliver that give very good, basic information about infant care, breastfeeding, and what to expect during the delivery with a tour of the hospital.  If you are using a midwife or plan to deliver at home, ask your midwife if she offers similar instructional courses for expecting moms.  I was blessed with an awesome lactation consultant after I had my first child.  I nursed my 9 pound baby for a full year. I had my second 9 pound child about a year after I stopped nursing my first one. So I thought ‘This should be easy! It’s the second go around. No big deal right?!’ Wrong! Yes, it had just been a year since I last nursed but it had just been a year since I last nursed a one year old that had the hang of it! I was starting all over with another completely new and immature 9 pound baby. He had no idea what he was doing. And at times felt like I didn’t either. But I didn’t give up. I asked for the very same lactation consultant that I had after I delivered my first child by name. She whipped me and my baby into shape quickly. I must admit that I’ve noticed personally and professionally that on about day two or three there is a ‘click’ when things seem to get a little bit easier- term used loosely. Then again at about two weeks out from delivery there’s another ‘click’ and things tend to go much smoother. Try, try, try to press through the first 2 to 3 weeks as hopefully it will get better and better. Now, I will admit it was downright painful in the beginning. Irrespective of whether my child latched on properly or not there is a toe curling sensation as your milk first starts to be evacuated from your breast. AND the same hormones that your body secretes during breast feeding also cause uterine contractions -OUCH! BUT the added bonus is getting your waistline line back faster! The reason is two fold, your uterus contracts and you burn more calories when you breast feed – WIN, WIN!  Fortunately for me that discomfort only lasted a few weeks and just for the first few moments of the nursing sessions and it was greatly outweighed by the joy of finally succeeding. However, I do realize that for some women it never goes away. I hope that’s not your story. If it seems to be the case, try pumping your milk to see if that is less uncomfortable for you. At least your child is getting the nutrients from your milk. There are lots of great options these days – even “hands free” pumps. Often times I made and ate my breakfast while I pumped in the morning- multitasking at its best. You produce the most milk in the mornings so the best time to pump is after your first nursing session in the morning  you can sometimes pump several ounces after your baby’s first feeding. The added bonus is there’s a bottle for a late night feeding ready to go so you can get a break.  My husband was more of a night person so I would go to bed after the 9pm feeding, then he would give a bottle about 11pm or midnight while I rested. I would nurse about 3am and again at 6 or 7am. That way each of us got about 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep on a good night. See if you can work out an alternating schedule at night like that during the first months where your baby needs to eat every 2-3 hours. It can make a big difference.

If you’ve done all that you can and just cannot seem to produce enough milk -you’ve tried all the teas and have been drinking all the water and hydration possible and you just still don’t feel as though you are making enough milk, there are other options. You can supplement here and there with formula.  The added bonus is it gives daddy (and siblings) a chance to bond with and feed the new baby and a specific way to help/participate. There are also breast milk banks. Proceed at your own risk. Consider asking the hospital where you delivered your child if they have any referrals to a breast milk bank. Ask about the testing and processing procedures of the milk and make an educated decision. If that is not an option, a wetnurse may be an option as well. Again, proceed at your own risk! At the very least consider adding some high quality colostrum to your child’s formula. Yes, I said colostrum. You can purchase high quality, grass fed, pasture raised, bovine (cow) colostrum powder with all of its immune modulating properties and benefits for you and your child.  Breastfeed

If you absolutely cannot breast-feed at all for whatever reason be it medical, or personal, no guilt trips here. As I said in the beginning it is not easy! Either way know you are doing your best. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently. I’m here to tell you as no one else may have – it is not easy. You are not a failure. You are no less of a mother.  If you must choose a formula, please try to choose an organic version with as many organic, naturally derived, non GMO (genetically modified organisms -more on that another day) ingredients as possible. If you can’t read the ingredients, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. That goes for you and your baby.  Also be mindful of soy based formulas. About 90% of all soy in this country is genetically modified (there it is again).  In addition, and perhaps even more importantly, soy is a hormone modulator and mimics estrogen.  I’d be cautious about giving THAT much soy (estrogen) all day everyday to a new baby.

If you notice your baby having difficulty tolerating the formula or breast milk consider a few things. If you are breast feeding, what have YOU been eating? I can’t tell you number of times that things have been going well and all of sudden a new baby develops violent diarrhea and/or vomiting because mommy answered a craving for chili cheese fries -true story. If your baby develops bloody stools, it could be a milk protein allergy. Remove all dairy from your diet if you’re breastfeeding and consult your Pediatrician immediately.  If there is a history on either side of the family of food allergies, eczema, or nasal allergies, and you notice difficulty tolerating the formula (constipation, diarrhea, skin rashes, colic, fussiness) you may want to consider a hypoallergenic formula. Discuss this option with your Pediatrician. Again, adding bovine colostrum may help this condition as well. Remember all of those awesome immune modulating properties I mentioned?  You may also want to consider giving your baby probiotics as this may help colonize their intestines with good quality bacteria to help them process and digest their food better. Probiotics in the gut also produce some of the vitamins that our bodies need – especially new babies.  If your baby was born via C-section, then they didn’t pass the the birth canal where we first pick up the bacteria that colonizes our gut naturally. Another reason to consider giving probiotics to your baby from the start. Probiotics have also been shown to reduce symptoms of allergic/immune conditions like asthma, eczema, and even psoriasis. Probiotics come in powdered form and can be added directly to your baby’s bottle. If you are nursing and wish to give your baby probiotics, simply apply the probiotic powder with a clean fingertip to your nipple and when your baby latches on they will easily consume the probiotics as they nurse.

An aside-There are very cute and fashionable breast-feeding covers that you can use when out and about if you choose. I personally preferred them. It made a unique, quiet, calm environment for comforting and soothing my baby Bunny to receive nourishment and continue to bond with me without the distractions of the over stimulating world around us.  There was a nice little ‘window’ through which I could peek down and we can look into each others eyes as my babies nursed.  It maintained my modesty. It set the stage for pseudo-quiet time with my baby. And people in the room were none the wiser. They just thought my baby was taking a nap most of the time. Nobody was offended. Nobody was hungry. Everybody was happy!!!

Happy healthy living!

Until next time!

Two Minute Tidbits:

  • Breast feeding isn’t easy.
  • Breast feeding shrinks your uterus and burns calories
  • Bovine Colostrum and Probiotics are a great way to bridge the gap.
  • 90% of soy is genetically modified and soy is a hormone modulator that mimics estrogen
  • Breast pumps and breast feeding covers are great options.

Supportive Documents

The case in favour of probiotics before, after, and during pregnancy:insights from the first 1,500 days

Food Allergies: Our Evolving Understanding of  Its Pathogenesis, Prevention, and Treatment

Gut Microbiota and Allergic Disease in Children

No See-Ums AKA Mosquitoes

Did you know that there are plants that you can purchase for less than $10 they can help repel mosquitoes? You can place them around your doorways to help keep them from slipping in your home behind you and becoming a nuisance in your home.
Although typically just a pest or nuisance, unfortunately mosquitoes can also carry and transmit blood-borne illnesses as well as cause severe allergic reactions in some susceptible people.
There are some natural alternatives to reduce the risk of mosquito bites for you and your family. For starters be sure there’s no standing water in or around your property if at all possible. Be sure to flip over and empty buckets of water, toys or anything else where water can collect.  Mosquitoes can lay eggs in very minimal amounts of water or moist soil. They can lay hundreds of eggs at one time that are joined together to form a raft that can float on water. However, it takes about a week or so for the eggs to transform into larvae then pupae (depending on the climate) and, therefore, be able to survive into adulthood and create a problem. So checking your yard, and around your house about once a week can help. There are several plants that have been known to help deter mosquitoes from hanging around and wearing out their welcome. Citronella is probably one of the most popular plants. They are annuals. So they need to be brought indoors in the fall or you will have to replace them every spring. Lemongrass, marigolds, catnip are other plants that may help repel or discourage mosquitoes. (FYI marigolds also repel rabbits and catnip attracts cats so choose wisely.)

There are also safe, DEET and picardin free options that you apply on you and your family.  DEET (chemical name N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) and picardin are the most common ingredient in chemical based bug repellants.  I personally do my best to stay away from thing that hard to read and/or pronounce.  You may want to do the same. DEET inhibits acetylcholinesterase (an enzyme in the brain and nervous tissues that breakdown the molecules that nerve cells make to communicate with each other and other cells) causing and excitatory effect on cells in the nervous system. Some of the other potential side effects of these chemical bug repellants are eye irritation/pain, vomiting, red eye/conjunctivitis, and oral irritation. In addition, products that contain sunscreen AND bug repellent have a higher penetration of the repellent into the skin.  Using a sunscreen that is not mixed with a bug repellant is safer.  After generations of mosquitoes have been exposed to chemical repellants, they can actual develop resistance and the repellents are no lower useful.

Essential oils are actually very potent, safe alternatives if used properly. Essential oils are the compounds extracted from plants and herbs that have a therapeutic effect either by direct application or inhalation of the aroma (aromatherapy).  More on that at another time. You can purchase citronella oil alone or you can start experimenting and mixing different oils together like citronella, lemongrass, and  grapefruit. There are also premixed oils available and citronella sticks.  Of course, there are citronella candles and lamps but if you can avoid open flames near young children and get the same effect, why not?!

***If you’ve never worked with essential oils before know that they should be diluted with a carrier oil like coconut oil (as long as there are no allergy to coconuts to contend with) or any vegetable oil in your kitchen. Some pure essential oils can be an irritant especially to children’s skin so always dilute oils if you’re not sure. You can just place a few drops of the diluted oil on some of your pulse points where your blood flow is higher and the scent will radiate around you more. Pulse points can be found  behind your ears, inside your wrists, behind your knees, and your ankles. Definitely be sure to apply the oils near openings of your clothing (neck, arms, legs).
Mosquitoes come out at dusk and dawn. So try to avoid being outside during those time frames.  If you must be outside, if possible wear long sleeve shirts and long pants that are lightweight and don’t forget to place your oils around your ankles, neck, and wrists!
If the “no see-ums” insist of having you for a sweet treat, try applying lavender oil to calm the inflammation. A cool compress will help take the edge off as well. If you’re out and about at the park or something, a cool bottle of water or other beverage will do in a pinch. Apply it to the area briefly to get some relief from the itching and slow the progression of the swelling. Adding Epsom salt to your bath also helps relieve the itching. Bear in mind that salty water can sting if you have any open wounds.  So if you’ve been scratching intensely and broken the skin, then skip this step for now. When taking a bath, use lukewarm not hot water.  Heat causes histamine to be released from your cells and will increase the itching sensation.
Happy Healthy Living!
Until next time…
Two Minute Tidbits
  • Mosquitoes come out at dusk and dawn.
  • Mosquitoes only need a small amount of standing water to reproduce.
  • Mosquito egg only take about a week to become larvae that can survive until the adult phase of life so clear your yard about once a week of any standing water.

Supportive Documents

Neurotoxicity and mode of action of DEET


Sun Exposure – Good, Bad, or Ugly?

Some sun exposure is actually good for you. Shocker!
There has been a lot of hoopla about sunscreen lately.  Is it safe? Is it necessary? Is it all hype?
Yes, yes, and yes!
If you plan to be outside for more than 20 minutes, then yes, you should use sun protection.  That could mean hats, umbrellas, a shady spot (that’s not next to water), or a little mango butter – yes mango butter, or eating antioxidants.  Yes, EATING antioxidants like berries! After all – you are what you eat! Antioxidants are what help to repair the skin DNA damage after over exposure to the sun.
If you plan to be outside for more than 20 minutes, then more protection may be in order like sunblock. (More on that another day).
Our bodies actually use the light from sun rays to convert cholesterol into natural vitamin D which has a lot of great anti-inflammatory and protective properties.
If you are eating a well-balanced diet that contains healthy fats then your body will have the good cholesterol and bacteria in your gut that it actually needs to produce its own activated vitamin D once your skin has been exposed to the sun’s rays (more on cholesterol and gut bacteria at another time). This vitamin D is very essential to our health and well-being.  It is the UVB rays that help convert the substrate cholesterol into active vitamin D. It is overexposure to the UVA rays typically that is detrimental and linked to certain types of cancers including skin cancers. (Bear in mind, however, that controlled amounts of UVA rays are used in Medical therapy for eczema, psoriasis, and vitiligo. So controlled, small amounts of UV rays can be beneficial if used properly under the guidance of a medical professional.). The problem that arises with some of these chemically based broad-spectrum sunscreens is that they actually can block both UVA AND the helpful UVB rays.  If you plan to be in the sunlight for less than 20 minutes, which you should try to do about three times a week, then sunscreen may not be necessary at all depending on your skin complexion. If you are of a lighter hue and tend to burn quickly and easily, then you may want to consider applying something. Here’s the beauty of it- something as simple as mango butter or shea butter applied to the skin can block some of the sun’s harmful rays. That can get you to an Sun Protection Factor, SPF, of about four. Mixing in other botanicals like green tea, milk thistle, reservation, curcumin (turmeric), sweet almond oil, and others can increase the protective factors even more!  So for brief exposure to the sun (like WALKING to go eat during your lunch break – hint, hint) for less than 20 minutes in a non-tropical climate zone using butters can afford you enough protection while still allowing your skin to get the rays that it needs to produce the vitamin D that your body desperately needs. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium (see figure above) and also is an awesome anti-inflammatory and anti cancer nutrient.  If you are at risk of, or suffering from osteoporosis, or bone loss of any kind, simply increasing your calcium intake isn’t enough. Your body also needs vitamin D so that it can actually absorb the calcium that you are consuming. Yes, there are supplements of vitamin D available. However, most of them are synthetic and your body doesn’t know exactly what to do with synthetic chemicals. There are better options for obtaining vitamin D. Just a little bit of sunlight three times a week might do it! Making sure that you have enough good fats in your diet like coconut oil, MCT oil (the medium chain triglyceride found in coconut oil – I put some in my coffee every morning.  Yum!), avocado oil, and pasture raised, farm fresh eggs which will naturally have much brighter egg yolks due to the richer type and amount of nutrients including that good cholesterol that we need to make vitamin D.
Local health food store organic egg (top right) vs a farm fresh egg from a farmer’s market (bottom left). Vive la difference!
Happy healthy living!
Until next time….
Take Home Tidbits:
  • Sun exposure for up to 20 minutes three times a week may be good for you.
  • Vitamin D is produced once the sun’s rays hit your skin if you have enough good fats in your diet
  • Vitamin D is a great anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer hormone.
  • Botanical ingredients may be effective protection from mild amounts of sun exposure.
If you have a known allergy or sensitivity to any of the alternative solutions mentioned, then please try other options. Use your best judgement if you burn easily in the sun, use sunblock!!
Supportive Documents
UVB rays and Vitamin D
Vitamin D as an anti inflammatory
And I could go on and on….
Vitamin D as an anti cancer molecule
Again, I could go on and on but you get the point…
Botanicals as UV Protectants
Mangos and sun protection

Nature + Nurture + Knowledge

Nature + Nurture + Knowledge Nature + Nurture + Knowledge Nature + Nurture + Knowledge

Two of the things that significantly changed the trajectory of my life are when I became a Doctor and when I became a Mom. Medical School and Residency were chock full of information but becoming a mother took what I thought that I knew to a totally different level. When I was expecting, I started cleaning up my world to prepare and pave the way for my new bundle of joy. By the time I had my second child and we began to experience some health challenges, I thought “there has got to be a better way!”  I dove head first into any and every book, text book, and medical journal that I could get my hands on and slowly but surely we dug our way out step by step by further changing our diet and environment and we have never felt (or slept) better!  Modern Medicine definitely has its place but most of what we did simply entailed using things that grow from the ground or eats the things that do. By connecting the dots of my formal education foundation to what I learned reading and researching with my “new eyes” I began to put the pieces together to “a better way”. I learn something “new” almost every day.  I firmly believe that with a few changes we can live a fuller, healthier, happier life with more vitality and energy than we’ve ever imagined and I’m here to show you how!
Come join me on this joyful journey to health, and well-being!