Free (or cheap) Breastfeeding Classes? Really?

I have recently seen advertisements for VERY reduced rate (and even free) breastfeeding classes for expectant parents online, in large department stores and even in hospitals. While these classes may seem so tempting for many reasons, I would like to point out a few flaws in attending these classes.

But isn’t breastfeeding a natural and normal process? It should be easy, right? I shouldn’t even have to take a class for that. Well, isn’t childbirth a natural and normal process as well?

What could possibly be wrong with a free (or cheap) breastfeeding class?

  • Breastfeeding is as important as your birth. It deserves as much attention and respect as childbirth. Many moms-to-be spend countless hours preparing for their birth; attending 6 week class series, reading an average of 2 birth books, interviewing providers, taking fitness classes, researching birthing options, making a solid birth plan, and even composing the perfect playlist for their big day. Just as the placenta nourishes the baby in the womb, the breasts nourish the baby outside the womb. Shouldn’t the same amount of preparation one puts into birth be put into breastfeeding?
  • There is no such thing as a free lunch. Really, there isn’t. Believe me, I’ve been searching for quite some time! Who is producing these ‘free’ online classes? What messages are they trying to convey? Where are they putting in the advertisements and what are their interests? Someone has to benefit from these ‘free’ classes or it is just not profitable. If you think you are the only person benefitting, think again. It’s business.
  • You get what you pay for. A $10 breastfeeding class sounds tempting, but in order for that class to be profitable, there needs to be about 20 couples in that class and the class must last no longer than 2 hours. High volume is the key here. Can 20 couples really learn the basics of breastfeeding in 2 hours? One would expect a lecture, a video or two (so the instructor can catch their breath), plenty of coupons and/or advertisements in a goody bag, and no time for questions. Lecture and video? Feels like I’m back in college. How many dads/partners would fall asleep during THIS class?

Let’s discuss the benefits of an independent, competitively priced class.

  • A smaller class size and longer instruction time allows for optimal learning. This gives couples (especially pregnant ones) plenty of time to process the information as well as ask questions and receive a non-hurried, detailed answer. More one-on-one attention means that couples feel a part of the learning process. They come to find solutions on their own because they are given the time. Plus, dads/partners are less likely to doze off during class.
  • Multiple teaching methods are used in the class. The instructor will likely combine lecture, videos, games, hands on practice, discussion, quizzes, and maybe even stand up comedy to ensure you truly absorb the content being presented.
  • Competitive pricing means that the instructor has gone to great lengths to make sure you get your money’s worth. Instead of reading from a script, the instructor creates unique handouts,presentation slides, reviews notes, creates fun games (often rewarded with candy), makes sure all content reflects the latest research, and strives for your satisfaction in the class.
  • The independent instructor does not have any financial or undisclosed interest in products that are discussed in the class. All of the information given is the honest opinion of the honest instructor.  Working for a hospital, large baby store, or even a pharmaceutical company means the instructor has been told what to say (and what to NOT say).

I can understand the temptation to take a deeply discounted or free class. I really do. Financial times are tough on us all. So what do you do if you really cannot afford another expense?

My honest suggestion is to read a breastfeeding book if you cannot afford a quality class. With a book, you can process the information at your own speed, your partner can read along with you, and you can reference the material as many times as you need to. I highly recommend Breastfeeding Made Simple: 7 Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Kathleen Kendal-Tackett PhD, IBCLC and Nancy Mohrbacher IBCLC, FILCA. This book presents the material in an easy, scientific way that truly makes breastfeeding simple. It is also the reason I am a lactation consultant today.

By Meghan Garcia-Salas, CLC, CBS (Active Mama Milky Maven)

Meghan Garcia-Salas, CLC, CBS is a Certified Lactation Counselor and Certified Breastfeeding Specialist who owns and operates Village Lactation Services. She instructs childbirth professionals on breastfeeding issues as well as facilitates local breastfeeding support groups. She has spent over 1200 hours directly counseling Atlanta’s breastfeeding families and is an active member in ILCA, USLCA, SELCA, GBN, and AABP. She recently took the Board Certification Lactation Consultant Exam in July and is eagerly awaiting exam results.

Come meet her at: http://www.meetup.com/Active-Mamas/events/140615992/

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When Kids Get Sick: Remedies, Symptoms, & Early Indicators

When babies get sick, do all you can
To make them well; cancel your plans

Soothe their bellies, get a pail
Lower their fevers and bathe them well

Find your home remedies, Tell them it’s ok
Boost those immune systems; to God, you will surely pray

– Robyn Cooper

Natural Remedies

Though this post is going to focus less on remedies and more on symptoms, I want you to think about what you do when your kids get sick.  Do you run to medicine right away?  When your kids get a fever, do you try to lower it immediately, or stop their runny noses?

Since becoming a mother, I do far more research about health and wellness than I used to do.  In my family, we look to essential oils, vinegars, herbs, probiotics, healthy herbal chicken stocks, tepid baths, mixtures to put into the bath, laughter, and getting more rest and sleep.  We also encourage nursing more often and say our prayers and thanksgiving.

Believe me, there is a time and place for over the counter or prescription medicine, but the body is amazing and wants to heal itself, so I only use these in dire situations.  Our bodies function the way we do for a reason.

How the Body Communicates through Symptoms and Moods

I’ve come to realize how the human body communicates.  Just like we communicate our feelings and thoughts through words, sounds, and body language, the body communicates how it’s feeling through its sensory system, desire for input, output, and it communicates with your mind and spirit too.

The body communicates through its sensory system (how you physically feel):

  • energy levels
  • body temperature
  • muscle aches
  • how your throat feels
  • headaches
  • chest/ organ pain

The body communicates through input:

  • appetite
  • hearing loss or sensitivity
  • sensitivity or loss of smell
  • the way food tastes, or the type of food cravings you have
  • how much sleep or quiet time you need

The body communicates through output:

  • mucous membranes
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • excrement
  • blood
  • skin (rashes, pimples, dryness, oiliness, ailments, tone, paleness)
  • eye brightness or dullness
  • the color of your gums

The body communicates with your mind and spirit:

  • your instincts
  • mood

Surely, you can think of other ways the body communicates.  If so, please comment below.

Early Indicators in Babies and Toddlers

It’s easy for most people to tell when they are getting sick.  It’s harder to tell when babies are getting sick though.  For babies and toddlers, some of the early indicators tend to seem more subtle because kids either don’t talk yet, or they are too young to isolate what’s really bothering them.  If you learn what your child’s early indicators are, you can start addressing the body’s needs earlier with immune boosting remedies.  Some of the early indicators include:

  • grumpiness
  • wanting to nurse more often
  • changes in sleeping patterns
  • changes in appetite
  • changes in the stool’s consistency, color and/ or odor (I know… gross!)

Some of the later indicators in child illnesses, when you’re in the height of a common virus, include the obvious: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, sweat, crying, skin rashes and more.  Since babies and toddlers have a difficult time communicating that their heads or tummies hurt, you have to play ‘health detective’ and try to stay ahead of their illness.

I keep a health log for my son.  I know how often he tends to get ill, how high a typical fever runs, how long a typical virus lasts and what his other symptoms are.  I can tell the pediatrician what and how he’s been doing down to the half hour.  What might be even more important, is I know exactly how he is when he’s well.

If you haven’t yet, start a health log for your children.

You can use the notepad in your phone, for example, and keep a separate note for each child.  Write the date, and what symptoms you notice.  Keep your notes short and simple.  My notes look like this:

  • 9/26 doc kute confirmed hand foot mouth disease – said this was the height of the illness and he can be w/others Monday (9/29) but wait longer.  Said only possible to get 1 virus at a time. 28.6 pounds.
  • 9/25 rash on body and bottom of foot, mouth blister back of throat, no fever
  • 9/24 saw blisters on his bum, no fever
  • 9/23 no fever
  • 9/22 101.4 fever 9am throw up 3 times till 10:30a
  • 102.3 at 12:30p
  • 103.3 at 3:30p
  • 102.4 at 5:30p throw up once
  • 102.0 at 8:30p

Keep doctor’s records in a binder at home, or scan a digital copy into a computer, just to keep organized.

Finally, log what medications he’s been prescribed and given.  Basically, just try your best to remove as much of the guesswork as possible.

Play health detective for your family, learn about natural remedies, and be proactive about learning about common illnesses and symptoms.  Everyone will remain healthier this way.

If you have any tips or tricks for good health, please share them.

Thanks and love,

Robyn

Creating a Nice Morning

It can be hectic in the morning for moms, everyone knows that.  You can’t predict your children’s moods every day, the weather, everyone’s health, etc.

You can, however, do a few things each evening to set yourself up for success in the morning.  You can either do these things after the kids go to bed, or even better, have your kids help you after dinner each night.  Here are some ideas that will help you keep the chaos-factor down:

  • Have your kids help you prep tomorrow’s lunch.
  • Do the dishes after dinner and wipe down the table.  While you clean up the table, have your kids put their toys away.
  • Start the bath water.  While the bath is running, have your kids put their dirty clothes in the hamper each night.
  • While the kids are taking a bath, while you’re sitting next to them, look at tomorrow’s schedule and make a note of any necessary events including driving time, errands, or events and how this changes what you need to bring along.  If you need more snacks then you’ve packed tonight, make a note.
  • After the bath, the kids can get into pajamas, and they (or you) can set out the next day’s clothes.  This way, you avoid a confrontation in the morning regarding what they want to wear.  Pack the diaper bag if needed, but do it tonight.  It’ll be easier this way.
  • After everyone is in pajamas you are ready to spend quality time together winding down, reading and saying prayers.  If you want to use my wind-down meditation, see here.

I hope this helps you run smoother in the morning, and feel more productive each evening.  The nice thing about this routine is it helps teach your kids responsibility as well.

Comment with any additional routines you add a night which help create a smoother morning.

Love, Robyn

Little Moments

It’s the little moments that make us great mothers.  Your child is not going to remember that the house was spotless, or you made lots of money.  Your child won’t remember you were the most efficient person you knew.  Your child won’t recall how you had so many friends.

Your child will remember the kinds of words you used with him or her.  Do your words build up or destroy?

Your child will remember the kinds of looks you gave him or her.  Do your looks encourage or discourage?

Your child will remember the kinds of touches you extended towards him or her.  Do your touches show affection or instill fear?

Your child will remember the attitude you had with store clerks.  Do you show appreciation or are you perturbed?

Your child will remember that you stopped so (s)he could show you something (s)he achieved, observed or remembered.  I’ve discovered all people just want some basic dignities in life above food, clothing, and shelter: to be loved and respected, and to be acknowledged and appreciated.

Your child’s heart is a garden for which God made you the caretaker for just a whispering moment.  God gave you the soil.  Your job is to help that garden bear fruit by giving it good water and nutrition.  Your job is to keep out the little foxes, rodents, and insects that steal the fruit away and cut off the stems.  Your job is to prune down the weaknesses and encourage the strongest limbs to grow.  Your job is to make sure no fungus or parasite takes hold.  Your job is to pull up the weeds and fight the droughts.  Your job is to let in the sunshine.

Let’s all take a moment to ensure we are the best gardeners possible.  We are, after all, responsible for these tiny hearts.  One day we hope our kids will be mighty, courageous, and stand up for what they believe.

What’s one thing you will improve about your mothering as a result of your contemplation?

Night-time Wind-down Meditation

Many moms ask about how to get their kids to bed at night.  I’ve taught several seminars on transitioning a kid from a shared family bed to their own bed, but thought it would be helpful for you to hear about a night time wind down meditation I do with my son.

Sometimes kids don’t know how to get calm, so it helps to do calming things at night that help guide them into a calm state.  We have our own routine that consists mostly of reading for at least a half hour, a prayer, and kisses and hugs.  Depending on my son’s mood on a given evening we may decide to burn energy with high-activity fun before we read, a warm bath, or lengthening or shortening reading, but the basics stay the same.  The key is to be consistent, so your child learns there are reliable cues for bedtime.

In addition to establishing a wonderful bed time routine, here is a meditation you can do with your child.  Recite the following calmly and softly with lights out, or with a nightlight or candle if your child is afraid of the dark.  Just make sure to not leave a candle burning at night without you there!

“We had a beautiful day today. (You might mention the fun things you did together today).
Now it’s night time and we feel calm and relaxed.
Breathe deep, in and out one.  (Breathe and out with them).
Breathe deep, in and out two.  (Breathe and out with them).
Breathe deep, in and out three.  (Breathe and out with them).
Ah, that feels nice.  (Pause).

Now your head feels heavy. (Touch the top of their head).
Your forehead is relaxed. (Touch their forehead).
Your eyebrows hang loose. (Touch each eye brow).
Your eyes are closed softly. (Touch each set of eye lashes lightly).

Breathe deep, in and out one.  (Breathe and out with them).
Breathe deep, in and out two.  (Breathe and out with them).
Breathe deep, in and out three.  (Breathe and out with them).

Your nose is just perfect. (Touch that cute nose lightly).
Your jaw is light and loose. (Touch both their cheeks by their jaw bone).
Your tongue just barely touches the back of your teeth, and your lips are calm. (Touch their lips lightly).
You release your neck (Touch their neck).
Your shoulders relax.  (Touch both shoulders).
Your arms hang lazily.  (Run your hands lightly down both arms).
Your hands are open to good dreams.  (Run your hands down their hands and fingers lightly).

Breathe deep, in and out one.  (Breathe and out with them).
Breathe deep, in and out two.  (Breathe and out with them).
Breathe deep, in and out three.  (Breathe and out with them).

Your heart feels full of love because I love you so much, and so does [name family members or friends].
Your belly is calm and feels nice, and you breathe deep.

Breathe deep, in and out one.  (Breathe and out with them).
Breathe deep, in and out two.  (Breathe and out with them).
Breathe deep, in and out three.  (Breathe and out with them).

Your legs feel loose and free.
Your feet are just perfect.

Breathe deep, in and out one.  (Breathe and out with them).
Breathe deep, in and out two.  (Breathe and out with them).
Breathe deep, in and out three.  (Breathe and out with them).

And now it’s time to relax.  Sweet dreams. (Give a little kiss and hug, but don’t make them get up nor out of bed).” – Robyn Cooper

It may take several times for your child to settle down as you are doing this little meditation with them.  If you don’t meditate with your child now, the concept will be new for him or her.  Give it time.  Meditation is a wonderful way for you both to relax at night and get in the mood for sleep.  Of course, I recommend you do leisure reading and prayer beforehand, and use this recitation as the final step.

Let me know what you think, and if, after trying this meditation a few times, it helps with your night time routine.

Love, Robyn Cooper

To Vaccinate, or Not to Vaccinate: That is the question – Series

It’s September 14th, 2013.  I thought I’d write a series of articles on vaccinations (“vax”) for 2 reasons: to force me to do an even deeper dive into the topic myself, and to open this topic up for open and friendly discussion among our friends and to the public.  Here are the only rules I will put forth for this online discussion: (1) Be kind, (2) Only share information if you can cite your source.  

Disclaimer and digression:  I am not trying to start a wildfire debate.  I’m being investigative, not argumentative.  I’m being open-minded, not biased.  I’m not a healthcare professional.  If you believe that only healthcare professionals can correctly understand published data, and will therefore dispose of my reported findings, then you may as well stop reading this blog post.  I feel, in order to accurately and fairly assess whether I should or shouldn’t vaccinate, the data should come from published 3rd-party peer-reviewed research studies.  At the end of this investigation, don’t fret over our choice to vax or not to vax.  My husband, a physical chemist, will also scrutinize whatever I show him.  He’s been trained to do exactly that.  The point being, the choice regarding each vaccination will be thoroughly dissected from all sides.  Capisce?  By the way, I posted a date at the top of this article just to create my own timestamp for me.

What I want to explore:

  1. The current vaccine schedule vs what I received as a child of the 80’s
  2. The difference in non-vax vs vax kids pertaining to (a) the rate of contracted illness and severity of its symptoms, (b) rate of morbidity, (c) rate of contracted disease and severity of its symptoms
  3. The impact of the various vax ingredients
  4. How the immune system works and it’s efficacy when stimulated naturally vs unnaturally

Today’s Topic: 1. The current vaccine schedule vs what I received as a child of the 80’s

Now let’s break down each topic one at a time.  Firstly, what is the current vaccination schedule?  See here for The CDC’s full MMWR supplement (birth-18 years, catch-up, adult, adult medical and other indications, adult contraindications and precautions) (for healthcare professionals) [1MB, 21 pages].

I counted a minimum of 35 different doses given in the above cited 2013 CDC-recommended schedule.  How does this differ over time in America’s history?  Source for the info below (also, see this timeline from the same site).

  • In the 40’s: “A combined vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough)… [plus] smallpox” (though smallpox is no longer recommended because “the risks from complication of vaccination became less acceptable to the medical establishment and to the public”)
  • In the 50’s: add polio. “The specific vaccine used has changed since then, but polio vaccine remains on the current schedule”
  • In the 70’s: add “The combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine”
  • In the 80’s: add “The Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) vaccine”
  • In the 90’s: add “A vaccine for hepatitis B”
  • Since ’95, add “chickenpox (varicella) and hepatitis A”.  “The first rotavirus vaccine added to the schedule was removed because of an association between the vaccine and intussusception, a type of bowel obstruction. It was later replaced with a different rotavirus vaccine that has no association with the condition.”
  • In the 2010’s: add Meningococcal, Influenza, Rotavirus, Pneumococcal, Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

As of today, September 14, 2013, the CDC cites 28 different vaccine-preventable illnesses/ diseases.  It made me curious about how many infectious diseases exist – Some sources listed over 100 infectious diseases, and other sources cite over 200.  Here’s a list of emerging diseases from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Share your thoughts in comments below. I’ll write posts on the other 3 topics as I address them.

Love, Robyn

“I am amazing one minute at a time” – Robyn Cooper

“I am amazing one minute at a time” – Robyn Cooper

I made that quote up after being challenged by my great friend Mindy who led a 30-day fitness challenge for us.  I lagged behind in my own workout routine, because I couldn’t work out with the group due to scheduling, and discovered I gained weight instead of losing it.  Everyday Mindy gave us a challenge.  Near the end of the 30 days, our daily challenge was to think of an inspirational quote.  The bad news is, there was some resistance in me I was battling.

The good news is, about half a month after the challenge ended, I kicked into gear.  I made my quote: “I am amazing one minute at a time” (If you like it, you can use it too).  Also, I really started to work out on my own, eat better, and stay motivated to take care of my body proactively.

I am hosting a 6 month Warrior Workshop for a phenomenally inspiring group of women, along with 3 additional leaders.  The workshop’s purpose is for the women to identify their family values and then make positive changes in 5 areas of their lives: finances, relationships, how they discipline their children, time management, and self-care.  Inside this workshop, during the fourth month we work on creating affirmations.  It is a warm and fuzzy activity, but it starts in a very difficult place.  The first part of the exercise is to write down all your insecurities.

Old map makers used to draw maps for sailors, and wherever there was uncharted territory they would scribe a picture of a dragon.  Some sailors would see the dragon as a place of fear, and they would avoid going there.  Other sailors would see the dragons as a place of adventure and exploration and go into new open waters to push the limits of the known world.  Working with affirmations is much like that experience.  Going to face your insecurities head on, going to slay your dragons, is scary, vulnerable and difficult.

To do this exercise well, ask a 2nd person whom you trust to help as you the hard questions you won’t ask yourself, and kindly push you towards a genuine answer that really gets to the heart of the difficulty.  In other words, push through your boundaries.  Then, once you’ve gone there, you must not get stuck.

The second part of the exercise is to turn these negative thoughts upside down, and make firm decisions about who you are now.  These new decisions must be written down, acted upon, and held in high esteem.

My insecurity became “I am amazing one minute at a time!” – Robyn Cooper.

What’s your new mantra?