My Breastfeeding Journey

As I’m sure many of you know, August is National Breastfeeding Month. I figured this was the perfect time for me, as my weeks of maternity leave dwindle down, to share my own journey with breastfeeding — both the ups and the downs. While fed is always best, being able to breast feed was something that was extremely important to me. Whether it was difficult or came with ease, I was excited and anxious to give it my best effort once Ella was born.

I’ll preface this post with first saying, I am no expert when it comes to breastfeeding. I had some prior experience working with breastfeeding mothers at WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) when I lived in Columbus, Ohio, but my words were supported by textbooks and educational videos that I had watched in school. I lacked the experience and understanding of one who has walked the journey them self. I squirm in my seat when I think of some of the comments that I likely made to these moms at that time. I was so blind at the fact that there is not one perfect way top breast feed. It is not a textbook subject and does not follow any written rules. I’ve learned this many times in the 2 short months that I have been doing it myself.

— I’ll finish this comment by saying if you need help and you are a breastfeeding mother, please consult a professional. Ask someone who is certified to give you sound advice and please shy away from any inexperienced individual who attempts to give you guidance. —

~~~~ Stress.

Before Ella was born and after I found out I was having a c-section I had an immense fear that I would not be able to breast feed. I don’t know where I got the idea in my brain that because I was not giving birth vaginally, Ella would not have the intuition to latch on after birth. I researched and googled “can I breast feed successfully after a c-section”  and read countless numbers of articles and personal stories to feed my anxious brain. I did exactly what I tell others, including my patients and their families, not to do.

When I look back at the anxiety I developed about breastfeeding prior to her birth, I know exactly why I had this experience. Being told I was having a c-section was something that was out of my control. Losing the ability to give birth in the way I originally intended made me fearful that the one thing I could contribute — breastfeeding — would be taken away from me too. How silly and selfish those thoughts were….

~~~~ The beginning.

The day finally arrived and Ella came into this world with a bigger appetite then I could have ever imagined. I remember getting tearful when she latched on so effortlessly in my recovery room. Even the nurse commented on how surprisingly easy that was for both me and her. Her first feeding was just shy of an hour and I was on cloud 9. The next 2 days were filled with late nights of nursing and minimal sleep, but I could have cared less. I was so elated that this experience was going well, nothing could take away my excitement……. then my milk came in.

I remember waking up, looking in the mirror, and being horrified at what I saw. Surely something was wrong. I thought to myself, why didn’t we stay in the hospital one more night? While I have never been small-chested, what I saw in the mirror was foreign and painful. I panicked and texted just about every breastfeeding mother I knew asking what was going on. Do I have an infection? Is this what mastitis is? Sure enough, nothing was wrong… this was just what “having your milk come in” felt like.

I quickly googled ways to help relieve my pain. One of the first things I figured out was not to pump…. “don’t pump?!” I was so confused. How in the world was I supposed to get through the next few days (I remember reading it could take up to a week to regulate and wanted to start crying) with these foreign objects that Ella could barely latch on to.

Engorgement is no joke.

I continuously was trying to squeeze and pinch as much of my skin as I could into her mouth to help her latch. I was not only in pain, but I was more uncomfortable than I had every been during pregnancy. I spent as much time as I could rotating between hot and cold compresses and expressing milk out in the shower. I was constantly trying to apply nipple cream in between feedings. I was so emotional and so frustrated that I eventually turned to the Haaka. If you are expecting, add this to your list of things to purchase; it was my savior! I suctioned it on for about 3 minutes 2 times per day to help relieve myself. This seemed to help just enough to get me through this time without causing more harm then good. Believe it or not in those 3 minutes I was getting upwards of 2-3oz per breast… again, in 3 minutes.

Fast forward a week later…. I was no longer in pain and felt happy to be back to our normal feeding routine without continuous discomfort.

~~~~ The emotional rollercoaster.

Breastfeeding a newborn with a big appetite is something I was not fully prepared for. While I was happy that nursing was coming along with ease, I could not believe how much time I actually spent nursing during the day. I was so anxious about anyone coming into our home aside from our families knowing that pretty much every hour Ella would need (or want) to eat. This hectic schedule in combination with me being fairly immobile from the surgery set me up on our couch for a good 2-3 weeks. I had minimal movement other than to use the bathroom or shower. It amazes me that this time was only 9 and half weeks ago.

With little ability to do things for myself and being pinned to the couch the majority of the day, I felt myself feeling frustrated at the little-to-no privacy I had for myself. Even when I would shower, it felt like 10 minutes would go by and I would hear Ella start to fuss or Jeff walking upstairs with her knowing that it was time to nurse again. I would have minutes before my milk would let down whether I was ready or not. That meant many wet nursing sessions with me barely able to dry off and put on clothes before this would happen. While I was happy to be there for my little girl and thankful that she was thriving, I was completely overwhelmed, emotional, and found myself many times crying in the shower. Jeff was wonderful and supportive. With time my emotions calmed down and we were able to move on to the next stage of this journey.

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No one prepares you for the amount of attachment you feel to your baby.

Ella was, and is, one of the happiest and joyful things that has come into our life thus far. As minutes between feeds spread out to hours, I started to thoroughly enjoy nursing time, especially when it was just me and her. I felt that “bond” that everyone talks about with breastfeeding knowing that she could rely on me to provide for her at any time of the day. It’s unlike any emotion I have ever felt. Still to this day, I tear up when I think (or type) all of this out because the love for her and our time together is so joyfully overwhelming and special to me.

~~~~ Milk supply.

With everything going well, I decided to start exercising again after I was cleared by my doctor. Surprisingly, running came back with ease, and I was happy to get in 30 minutes whenever I could during the week. I was elated to be active again and start feeling more like myself, until I realized that my sudden rapid increase in exercise was doing something to my body that I did not want.

I started to notice a slight dip in my milk supply and immediately regretted what I was doing. I tried to drink more water, eat more, but still felt my milk supply was not where it was just a few short weeks ago. I turned to my lactation cookies, which I felt helped, but having to many at once seemed to cause Ella to develop gas which made her fussy and irritable. I felt stuck and my only option was to slow down and try a few other means of exercise that were a little easier on my body.

Today, I think I have finally found a good mix of cardio (running and/or walking) + easy at home exercises with body weight or light weights that has helped feel active without dipping my milk supply again. I am also shocked at the amount of water I have to drink in a day!

~~~~ Rounding the corner.

Today, my headspace is much clearer than it was even a few weeks ago. I feel stable in breastfeeding for the most part and enjoy every little moment I get to spend with Ella. Nursing is something that has been challenging but very rewarding for me, and I am so thankful that I have the ability to provide for her in this way. In this new phase of our journey, I am trying to learn that life will be ok and Ella will not starve when I go back to work (any other mamas have this irrational fear!?). With help from Jeff and my mom, we have accomplished little victories in Ella taking bottles of breast milk from people other than me which has been both exciting and heart-wrenching for me to watch. I am excited and happy to continue this journey with her and am ready for the next curveball that is thrown our way. What an experience this has been thus far!


Why I don’t count calories…

Ok, this is probably a controversial topic but something I’ve learned over my few years of being a dietitian is everyone has an opinion about something. One person may believe one thing while the other believes another, and that goes for dietitians too. This post is more based off personal opinion and experience. If you feel otherwise, that’s ok! I just wanted to share my perspective.

First….

I know I haven’t posted in a while. LIFE HAPPENS! Jeff and I have been through a whirlwind of a year with adding a furry member to our family, deciding to build our first house together, me finishing up grad school, and me changing jobs. Life can get hectic and while it’s all good things, stress still creeps in whenever it can.

Honestly, I just wasn’t feeling the whole “blogging” thing for a while. Posting was adding more stress than enjoyment to my life, and that is a big enough reason for me step back and take a break for a while. That being said, life goes on, things started to settle down, and here I am again!

Now, for the important stuff…or I guess the stuff I find important.

So why don’t I count calories? I actually use to be a big supporter of counting calories. I’ve used apps such as myfitnesspal to track my foods and keep a total of the calories I would eat in one day in comparison to what I burned through exercise and daily activity. While I think these apps definitely have a place, I don’t think they are necessary for everyone.

We now live in a country that is fixated on eating “less”. Making things with “less sugar” or cutting out fat for “low-fat products”. The dieting and diet food industry is booming with the latest shakes, fat-burners, cleanses (don’t even get me started on that….), and everything else under the sun that give you less sugar, fat, carbs, dairy, gluten, etc. You name it, there’s a product for it. Many people now feel that less calories, less sugar, less of all the things that have comprised foods for years will lead to a healthy body weight and in return — happiness.

I’m not so sure about this.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote down or recorded in my phone how many calories I ate in one day. For me, if I count minimal ingredients and can recognize most if not all of them, this is a good food choice for my body. When I eat bread, although thats not often, I look for one with ingredients I recognize and know are needed to make a delicious and wholesome loaf of bread. Do I care if the slice has 60, 100, or 150 calories, not really? I’ve written previously how I use to use “diet” peanut butter, egg whites, and other low-fat products such as cheeses and yogurt. I have now traded these products for whole eggs, full fat peanut butter, and a variety of yogurts (some made with whole milk, other not) that are satisfying, tasty, and get this —- FILLING. Who would have thought?

The crazy thing is, even thought I use to be an avid calorie counter, my body hasn’t really changed much. If anything, I think I look healthier and feel more at ease not having to constantly look at every loaf of bread to find a calorie count that I liked.

This brings me to the other main reason I don’t count calories. I think it can become meticulous and obsessive. I never want to be stressed out because I can’t find a food I ate in the app I’m using or be distant in a conversation because I want to enter my meal before I forget. Again, do I think calorie counting or using these apps has a place in some situations for some people, yes I do. It’s just not for me and not something I find vital to living a healthy and happy life.

Thanks for reading!


Trail Mix Cookies

HAPPY SUNDAY! This is such a good Sunday, want to know why? I am so, so, SO happy to be done writing my Master’s final defense paper! Yay!!! Everyone just cross your fingers that it goes well in a few week! Once this is complete, I will have one class left and then I’m officially done! How stinking exciting is that?! Two years truly flew by, and I’m so proud of myself for checking (almost….) this box!

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So with all this excitement, I thought I’d bake cookies! You know, any time I’m feeling an emotion — happiness, sadness, stress — the kitchen is always one of my safe havens. These cookies came out way better than expected, so I’m extremely excited to share them!

Disclaimer:

OK… this is kind of a funny (but not really) disclaimer, so all of you dog lovers please read! If your dog is like mine and absolutely loves peanut butter, do not let these cool near the edge of the counter! These cookies contain raisins, almond milk, and walnuts, which are all things that dogs should not have…. especially raisins! Our household spent quite a bit of time on the phone with emergency vets and pet poison control yesterday afternoon after Eddie decided to jump up on the counter and have a little taste test for himself. Thankfully, he is perfectly fine (and I probably over-reacted a tad), but I just thought I’d pre-warn you…. they really do smell THAT good!

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Now that we got that out of the way, lets get to the recipe! These are super easy and perfect for a quick breakfast or pre-workout bite. I call these trail mix cookies because they have a lot of components of trail mix that I love such as dried fruit and nuts. I made this cookies fairly large, but you could always make them a little smaller to increase the final quantity. Because I made larger cookies, I got about 12-13 out of my cookie dough!

I hope you give these a try! I recommend you play around with different tastes and textures if you are feeling creative. Maybe try adding coconut shreds or using different nut butters! Let me know what you think, and as always you can message or comment with questions or general thoughts! Have a great Sunday everyone!

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Trail Mix Cookies

  • Servings: 12-13 large
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 brown bananas, mashed
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
  • 1/2 cup seedless raisins
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup unsalted PB
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch of pink salt

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

In a medium size bowl, smash bananas until fairly smooth. Add dry ingredients (coconut flour, oats, cinnamon, brown sugar, pink salt) as well as the walnuts, cranberries, and raisins. Lightly mix to incorporate the banana and cover the dry ingredients.

Add all wet ingredients (egg, coconut oil, peanut butter, and almond milk) and mix until well combined. This will be a chunky batter!

Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Scoop large spoonfuls of batter onto the sheet and use your hands to help form the shape of your cookie. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the edges start to become a light golden brown. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving!


Setting Realistic Goals – The Do’s & Don’ts

Happy Sunday everyone! So, throughout my blog I talk a lot about weight management, positive body image, and being happy with yourself as a person. I discuss these often because all of these topics I am very passionate about and have either thought about a lot or experienced aspects of them in my personal life. Today I want to give a good foundation for change. Even if you are practicing good self body image or working more on your own personal happiness, it’s always OK to want to better yourself. There are always going to be things you want to try or want to work on. For example, one of my long term goals since I have been in college is to be a good and competitive runner. When I say competitive, I don’t mean compete in the olympics or run as my career, but I want to PR each time I compete in a race. I want to test myself and see my name crawl up the list from 500 out of 1,000 to 100 out of 1,000. These are personal goals of mine and running is something I enjoy. This brings me to my first “don’t” of setting goals…

1. Don’t compare your goals to others’. To add on to this a little…. don’t set trendy goals. 

This is probably the most important thing to remember when setting your goals. Set goals around something you are passionate about or enjoy. I would never set a goal to compete in crossfit games. I admire people who do this and think they are way stronger than I ever hope to be, but it truly is not something I am interested in. There are plenty of “fitness fads” that come around for a few months and then fade away. For me, running has and probably always will be my number one way to exercise and remain fit. Because of this, I set my fitness goals around running. When I achieve these goals it makes me feel happy, empowered, and want to push myself further!

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Have you ever heard of SMART goals? SMART goals stand for simple, measurable, achievable, realistic (some people say relevant), and time bound. Using this concept is a great way to evaluate goals in your personal life and make sure you are setting yourself up to achieve them. This brings me to a “do” when setting your own goals.

 2.  Do set standards with your goals. Give yourself a time limit, and a way to            measure what you have achieved.

Whether you want to become better at meal prepping or you are training for your first half marathon, giving yourself standards is important! It helps hold you accountable and give you a way to measure your success. For example if you are really working on planning ahead and meal prepping, perhaps set a goal like “By this day next month I will try to prep at least 3 meals/week to bring for lunch at work.” If this time next month you are still dragging your butt and that grocery list never quite makes it to the store to get your supplies, maybe you need some help setting up a new plan or need to find a new motivator to complete this goal. One of my running goals has always been to decrease my half marathon time by at least 2-4 minutes each race. Believe it or not I have been running halfs (I’m not quite motived yet to complete a full) for about 5 years, and each race I have in fact decreased my time. This is something that is always in the back of my mind when training and it is very clear if I achieve it or not come race day.

3. Do set realistic goals and KNOW what is actually realistic for yourself.

Setting unrealistic goals leaves potential for you to feel unsatisfied or frustrated if you fail. It also increases the chances that you won’t follow through with the goal or will burn out early. An example of an unrealistic goal would be: “I will loose 20 lbs in 2 weeks before I go to my high school reunion.” This is unrealistic for a few reasons. The first is 20 lbs in 2 weeks is not feasible and it is not safe. Safe weight loss that remains off is about 1-2 lbs per week. If someone is telling you that you can lose 20 lbs in 2 weeks, automatically know it is a scam (just an FYI!). This goal also has an external motivator, not an internal motivator. Wanting to lose weight to feel better physically or better your health is an internal motivator. Wanting to lose weight to impress others is external. If you do not complete this goal, you are not only going to feel upset with yourself, but you will feel like you are disappointing others. Stick with internal motivators. If you feel like you need more motivation, surround yourself with positive people whom will check in with you and help hold you accountable for the right reasons. For example a friend that will attend fitness classes with you can help you meet your weight loss goal by giving you someone to exercise with and hold you accountable to actually show up to the class!

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The last thing I’m going to touch on is so extremely important and should perhaps be the first thing to think about before even starting the goal-setting process.

4. Do set goals that will make you happy. Happiness is key; goals that can interfere with that should be put on the back burner or adjusted.

Sometimes I cringe when I hear people complaining about goals.

“I can’t believe I signed up for X…. it is such a waste of my time.”

“Training for X has been so stressful. I can’t wait until it is over.”

“Trying to lose 50lbs has been so depressing. I feel like I can’t eat anything on this diet.”

Stress can do so much harm to both a physical and mental state. Setting goals can be stressful, but the satisfaction and motivation of working towards something you want should eventually replace the initial stress of trying something new. If a goal is causing more frustration than satisfaction from seeing progress, you may need to re-evaluate the goal or maybe take a look at why you set it in the first place. I would never tell someone who hates to run to run a marathon. Don’t lose sign of your end results and find ways to motivate you that don’t interfere with your daily happiness!

 


Stepping Away From the Scale

I’m sure you guys have noticed a pattern with some of my blog posts over the past 6 months. I’m really, really trying to break the weight-obsessive attitude and stigma that can come with “healthy eating” and really focus on more general health and wellness. Disordered eating is something that I feel very passionate about, because I believe it effects more people that we generally realize. There are times when someone who doesn’t necessarily have an eating disorder show habits or signs of disordered eating. The concept of disordered eating is extremely gray. There isn’t one primary way to identify or manage it. It can surface some days and other days be the furthest thing from someones mind.

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The graphic above gives a very broad depiction of where someone may fall within the eating disorder or disordered eating spectrum. Of course there are extremes such as development of an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, but preoccupation with weight or partaking in excessive or extreme exercise can fall into a more broad pattern of disordered eating.

So, my title is “Step Away From the Scale” and there is a reason for that.

I remember in when I was in college, I would go to our main fitness center called the RPAC at least 4-5 times per week in between classes or on the weekends. There were multiple scales throughout the gym which people could use as they please, myself included. Nothing abnormal about scales in a gym right? Its ones own choice whether or not to step on the scale, and athletes such as wrestlers or swimmers where weight may play a more prominent role may also need to use these more frequently.

I, of course, stepped on the scale each time I was there and thought nothing of it. I knew my weight would fluctuate between morning and later on in the day. Depending on what time of the month it was I might even see a greater fluctuation. That didn’t change the fact that any time I saw that number inch up, my stomach would churn a little bit and I would think, “what am I doing wrong?”.

I can especially remember when I was training for a race and seeing a consistent 102-105 lbs, I would think to myself “that sounds about right”. A few month later once training had ceased, that number slowly crept to 106-108. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. On a completely separate occasion, I went to the campus health clinic for something unrelated (I was sick or something) and was routinely weighed prior to going back into the room. The scale said 110 and I about had a heart attack.

This is what one simple number can do.

Did I look any different throughout this entire year? Not really. Is it abnormal for a woman to fluctuate 3-5lbs depending on the time of the month. No. Did that number have a negative impact on my day? 100%

Now…I didn’t change anything about the way I was eating; I didn’t restrict; I got over it in a few days and entered back into real life, but for others that number can cause a lifetime of damage. That number can mentally stick and haunt someone until they choose to enter into a world that is really, really difficult to get out of.

During my time at Ohio State, they ended up banning scales from the fitness center. At that time, I was baffled. Why in the world are they taking away something that goes hand in hand with fitness? I have a right to weigh myself, and they just took away that right? I look back on this now and applaud whoever made that decision. I don’t know if that is still the case, but I am happy that someone at least gave this a thought at that time. I think scales can be a useful, but also extremely dangerous tool.

I encourage you to step away from the scale and truly listen to your body unless there is a medical reason you need to weigh yourself. Learn about your body and pay attention to different areas, how your clothes fit, and you you feel on a daily basis. These things are so much more important than a silly number. I stopped using scales about 3 years ago prior to moving to Arizona, and only use them now on occasion. We use to have one in our bathroom, and now it sits wrapped up in our closet untouched for years.

I hope this post encourages you to recognize if preoccupation with weight has or does play a role in your life. Stepping away from the scale is one way to fight back against those preoccupations and have a more well-rounded and healthy view of your body.