Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Flu Shots and Breastfeeding

Every year around this time, I start getting questions about flu shots and breastfeeding. Moms want to know if their breastfeeding baby will be protected if mom gets the flu shot. So here's what I wrote to my local mom's group about the issue last year:

I had someone ask me about the flu vaccine and breastfeeding today and thought I'd do a quick little post for you preggos. For the record, I am not saying you should or shouldn't vaccinate and when, just sharing what information I know. You might choose to do a little more research and/or talk to your doctor....

Vaccines primarily generate IgG antibodies in your system (to "remember" the virus and mount a quicker attack if it shows up later on). IgG antibodies pass to the baby through the placenta quite readily and these antibodies stay with baby and offer some protection to things mom is already immune to up to the first 6-8 months of life. Then the IgGs drop off and do not again reach levels similar to an adult's until the child is 7-8 years old. IgG antibodies are present in breastmilk, but in very low quantities. Vaccinating yourself does not confer immunity to the baby through breastfeeding.

The antibodies that are present in significant quantities in breastmilk are IgA antibodies. IgA antibodies are what ramp up when you are actually sick. So once you have been exposed to something and are fighting an active infection, you pass these antibodies to the baby through breastmilk and help them fight/prevent the infection as well (as a side note, if the baby has been exposed to an illness, your body has the ability to produce IgA antibodies specific to that illness in the breast--it all happens locally to help protect the baby regardless of whether or not you have had a systemic exposure).

The take home message here is that vaccinating yourself (against anything, but obviously, lots of people are wondering about the seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines) will not give the baby immunity through breastfeeding (oh, how wonderful it'd be if it did!! That'd mean they would already be immune to anything we had become immune to through illness or vaccination!). I do not know the specifics of vaccination during pregnancy---how long it takes your system to produce those IgGs, how quickly they pass through the placenta, and how much protection that gives the baby. I realize my wording makes it seem like there could be a huge benefit to vaccinating during pregnacy. Keep in mind that there are risks and benefits to everything. It's up to each family and their doctor weigh those risks and benefits and make the decision that's right for them, I'm just passing on the information I know. Like I tell childbirth clients, anytime someone tells you there are NO risks or there are NO benefits to something, you should be skeptical---there are exceedingly few pregnancy/childbirth-related things I can think of that truly offer only possible good or only possible bad.

And while we're here, take the time to re-read my reminder about visiting with newborns during cold and flu season.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Latest Baby Update

I keep getting questions from people, so time to make the update about how the pregnancy is going, I suppose.

I did have an appointment last week and at first glance, it seemed to go really well. I gained 3 pounds in the last 2 weeks, my fundal height measured right on track, I was rockin' the blood pressure at only 112/58. Baby was active, head down and had a heart rate of 140bpm. She's a strong one--she's bruised me inside from her kicks/stretches. I was 1cm dilated, but that's not super uncommon after having had 2 babies already, plus I was at least that dilated by this point with the girls too.

At the beginning of the appointment, we did a fetal fibronectin test. This is a test for the "glue" that holds the amniotic sac to the uterine lining. If the test is positive for fetal fibronectin, it can indicate the "glue" is disintegrating early and there is an increased risk of early labor/delivery. The real value of the the test is in the negative result--if the result is negative, there is an extremely low chance of delivering in the next 2 weeks, which means things like bedrest and medications aren't necessary. A positive is a lot less valuable...while the delivery rates are a lot higher, a positive doesn't mean delivery is imminent. It does mean you need to take contractions seriously though, and I have more than my fair share of those.

I am just over 30 weeks along now, which is a pretty good place to be. Full term is obviously the goal, but 30 weeks is infinitely safer than 24 or 25. As I learned with Sierra, anytime you show up at the hospital in labor and you're less than 36 weeks, they will try to stop the labor (which would most likely mean a round of mag sulfate for me). So, I need to make it almost 6 more weeks. My goal is Halloween and anything beyond that is pure bonus!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Something's Going Right

You know something's going right when you write a note on your child's napkin and rather than throwing it away, she writes back and puts it in her lunchbox for you to findAnd you know something's going right when your 3 year old finds this much joy in a couple powdered sugar donuts

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Still Here, Just Tired

I am still here, just tired and not much to report anyway. The girls and I have been on our own for 12 days now and we're settling into a routine. As usual, we all get along much better if we stay somewhat busy. My children get stir crazy if you keep them inside and then they make me crazy.

A random collection of thoughts (some my own and some are things I've read recently):
  • I love my husband because he's him, not because he's familiar. It's easy to start to wonder after 8 years of the day in and day out if you just get used to someone, but an impossibly long 12 days (and many more to come) has made it clear that it's definitely HIM and not just the familiarity.
  • While I expect my husband to help in caring for his children, and I appreciate what an absolutely fabulous job he does at that, I am totally capable of single parenting if I need to. No, it's not always fun, but definitely doable.
  • At the end of a long day when you question if you can handle another day of completely age-appropriate, but insanely frustrating child behavior, take the time to watch your children sleeping. The sweet sleeping face of a child is a sure way to refill your patience.
  • Sometimes you find random gems on the internet, like "I’ve learned that kindness is not something I merely indulge myself in when everything is going my way...Being mean is being lazy."
  • True education can be a lot of work and also natural and easy. It's completely worth it. I'm proud that my 5 year old will initiate complex conversations with people of all ages, help younger children, link up concepts between such diverse subjects as math and Spanish, and ask questions that show she is more interested in understanding than memorization.
  • And last, but most certainly not least....a king sized quilt is still really, really big.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

P.F. Chang's Frozen Meals

I normally don't buy pre-made frozen meals. I can make my own cheaper and I'm usually all about saving a buck. We're in a unique situation for the next several months though...It's just the girls and I and we are working with a kitchenette (two burner stove, microwave/convection oven and regular pots and pans). I'm not interested in cooking an involved meal the girls won't eat, I don't have access to my stash of freezer meals, but I want real, grown-up food. When I was at the grocery store to stock up on supplies, I saw these new P.F. Chang's frozen meals. I love the food at the P.F. Chang's restaurants (if you go, you have to try the Great Wall of Chocolate for dessert--share with a friend and you'll still have leftovers. For my friends who need gluten free, they even have an entire gluten free menu you can ask for and order from), so I was excited to see something I could easily make at the hotel here. Even better, one of the varieties was beef with broccoli, which I never see in frozen meals, but is my favorite asian meal. The bag said it made two meals and it was selling for $7.50, so I went ahead and got it.

A few days ago, I tried it for the first time. I was very pleasantly surprised at how good it was! It didn't taste like a frozen meal, it tasted like something I would get at the restaurant. The first good thing was that the way everything is packaged in the bag, I had no trouble just cooking part of the bag and keeping the rest in the freezer for later. I was worried I was going to have to cook the whole thing and eat it two or three days in a row. The sauce is frozen in little bricks instead of already being on the vegetables and meat though, so it was easy to just take out what I needed without cooking the rest. The other benefit to that is it's possible to reduce the sodium content if needed. The Beef with Broccoli in particular is pretty heavy on sodium. One of my closest friends has a son with Duchenne MD and needs to watch his sodium intake, so she was worried about that, but it'd be easy to just not put all of the sauce cubes in. The other nice surprise was that when I paired it with rice, there was no way I could eat half a bag by myself. I ate about 1/4 of the bag, but if my stomach wasn't currently being squished down to the size of a walnut by the baby, I could probably eat 1/3 of the bag.

Yesterday, I was at Target and they had these meals too, but had different varieties stocked, plus they were on sale for $7.00. So I picked up another one...sweet and sour chicken this time. Much less sodium in this one, obviously, since it's not a soy sauce based sauce. It's packaged the same way though, the sauce is frozen in cubes and it was easy to only cook what I needed to cook. Equally tasty!

There is almost no effort involved in cooking these. Everything is already in the bag, you just dump it in a skillet, cover and cook about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. It's been so easy for me to throw it on the stove and continue on with making the girls grilled cheese or ham and cheese sandwiches. I've been making up a bowl of rice in the microwave at the same time, and dinner's on the table in 15 minutes.

I wasn't compensated in any way, shape or form for this review. P.F. Chang's has no clue I exist, I was just so impressed with how tasty and easy these were that I had to post about them!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Homeschooling Away From Home

A little less than 2 weeks ago, we packed up and drove to Texas for a long-term stay. Packing for 3 months, 2 seasons and 2 totally different climates is hard enough. To complicate things though, we know we will need to leave space in the van for another baby on the trip back to Montana. While I'll probably end up shipping a box or two back, I'd like to limit that if at all possible, so I was faced with the task of carting 3 months of homeschooling materials in as small a space as possible.

Primarily, this involved copying worksheets and putting them into two 1 inch binders (the binders are split by date, not by subject, so that I was able to just get out one binder while we were on the road). I have another 3 inch binder that I put the girls' completed work in (keeping everything is not required in either Texas or Montana, but I'm a first time homeschooler and I'm paranoid about proving what we've been doing, so I'm keeping things for now--I'm planning to clean out most of it at the end of the year). Then I needed supplies. I packed up a small storage box with our other school supplies (we also use these boxes to pack up medicine, thermometers, nebulizer tubing, and any other medical stuff we might use when we go on trips). It was a little more difficult to make sure I had all the supplies I needed--I started with the basics: pencils and a sharpener, a few pens, a 24 count box of crayons, a 12 pack of colored pencils, an eraser, scissors, glue stick and blank notecards. Then I looked through what work we would be covering while we're gone and put together necessary supplies that were specific to those lessons (math manipulatives, etc...). After all that was packed, I only needed to add a couple of small books for history, and a pack of construction paper (I had already put a pack of notebook paper in the 3 inch binder).

All together, everything fit into a pretty small space (it all fit into a larger box with baby supplies and clothes we had brought). In the hotel, it takes up one small section of the TV cabinet.

As far as actually completing the work, we are just following our regular daily schedule since we aren't on a vacation with a lot of new things to see. The only slight difference is that Sedona is going back to her old Montessori school 3 days a week while we're here. Sierra either does her work while Sedona is gone, or during Sedona's nap and I don't have Sedona do any extra (besides her speech work) when she gets home on those days.

I love having the flexibility to take off without worrying about someone else's schedule or minimum attendance requirements and their school hasn't been interrupted at all.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Look

Sedona has inherited my mad face. Actually, she had already started to get a little happier by the time I got the camera out. I forget what she was pouting over.....probably because I told her 5 more minutes until snack time.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Finally Reading!

I started a new 50 Books in a Year post back on my birthday like I usually do. Unfortunately, the next day was when the morning sickness really got beyond manageable and it stayed that way for about 2 months. I wasn't really capable of reading during that time. Then we were in a new place, trying to get unpacked and find our homeschooling groove, so I kept not reading. I've finally got a few books added to this year's list though and I have 3 more I'm currently reading that I'll probably finish soon. So click on the link above and check out this year's reading list!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


When we were back in Montana, it was the height of cherry season. We could easily find cherries for $1.50/pound at the grocery store. At the farmer's market, cherries picked the day before at a local farm were $2/pound. Since they run more like five or six dollars a pound in Texas, we had never preserved cherries before and decided we should give it a try. We went with cherry jam and cherry leather for our first try.

First we washed all of the cherries and picked off the stemsPitting cherries can be messy business, so to avoid creating a murder scene motif in my kitchen, Sierra and I put on old clothes and went outside to do the pitting. Once the cherries were pitted, we brought them back inside and I chopped them in the food processor For jam, we followed a basic sweet cherry jam recipe from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving using powdered pectin
For the cherry leather, we followed the same basic steps we used to make the peach leather: we pureed the cherries, added some lemon juice and some honey and put it on the dehydrator. This is where things got a little interesting. The peach leather was ready about 12 hours after we put it on the dehydrator, but the cherry leather just kept being tacky, it never seemed done. Finally, after about 36 hour on the dehydrator, we decided it wasn't going to work and we just turned the dehydrator off and let it sit, hoping it would harden up enough to at least be easier to clean. Lo and behold, once it cooled, it peeled off the tray just like the peach leather had. In the future, it think it will work better to leave it on for 12-24 hours, then let it cool before trying to package it up (as opposed to the peach leather, which does best if we take it off the tray right away, before it cools).

Hoping to get back to regular daily posts by Monday!
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