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Jaundice & the Breastfed Baby

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Newborn jaundice is normal in most cases, appearing within 2-3 days post-birth, and affecting up to 60% of full-term babies.

Physiologic jaundice is caused by a buildup of bilirubin, which is produced when red blood cells are broken down. The liver is responsible for eliminating the bilirubin, but a newborn’s liver is often too immature to efficiently handle this process yet. This causes a yellow cast on the skin (which can be trickier to detect in dark-skinned babies) and the eyeballs. This resolves itself in a week or two as the baby matures further and red blood cell levels have lowered.

In a breastfed baby, jaundice is more common and tends to persist longer than a formula-fed baby (as breastfed babies are the standard, this means it’s the norm). True breastmilk jaundice, which only affects 0.5% to 2.4% of newborns, sticks around longer than one or two weeks, sometimes up to twelve (now, this shouldn’t be confused with breastfeeding jaundice, which is caused by starvation/lack of proper milk intake). Bilirubin levels might even increase at the two-week mark. None of this is a cause for concern in an otherwise healthy baby.

On how breastmilk and formula compare in causality of newborn jaundice, Dr. Sears says:

“The difference is thought to be due to an as-yet unidentified factor in breastmilk that promotes increased intestinal absorption of bilirubin, so that it goes back into the bloodstream rather than moving on to the liver. Higher rates of jaundice in breastfed infants may also be related to lower milk intakes in the first days after birth, because of infrequent or inefficient feeding.”

Hence, why medical treatments should be avoided unless truly necessary because they threaten to interrupt breastfeeding further. As breastmilk helps move the baby’s bowels to remove excess bilirubin, frequent feedings will hasten the normal bodily process.

If bilirubin levels have reached more than 20 milligrams, a health provider might recommend treatment with phototherapy (ask about fiber optic blankets, an especially good option for nursing moms).

What not to do: do not supplement with sugar water, and do not restrict the baby from breastfeeding.

Links:

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Vegan While Breastfeeding

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Photo credit: Bloom Photography & Design

Is your little bean sprout kind of literally a bean sprout, thanks to your meat-free milk? Many women remove animal products from their diets in hopes of improved health, and thankfully it has been shown that animal-friendly lifestyles are not only perfectly safe but also as beneficial to a breastfed baby as his mother.

I read about maternal vegan diets while breastfeeding and had no concerns that my milk would still be perfectly healthy (in fact, likely more so). When my baby was exclusively consuming vegan breast milk, he was in the 94th percentile for weight, delightfully roll-y, meeting all milestones, and clearly not starved for nutrients. Continue reading

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Vegan While Pregnant & Birthing

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Looking to enjoy an animal-friendly pregnancy, birth, and beyond? Read on for some tips I picked up along the way…

First, a little about my experience: I decided to eat a vegan diet four and a half years ago and shortly thereafter began adapting the rest of my lifestyle to be cohesive with veganism. Why? For sake of brevity, I’d say in this order: 1) for animals, 2) for my health, 3) for the planet.

Before, I was a type of pescetarian for some years. I ate fish on a regular basis (I’ll admit, I was addicted to sashimi grade raw fish — blech!), scrambled eggs on special occasions, and I didn’t consume much dairy or cheese directly, but also didn’t notice or care if it happened to be hidden in foods (which is most of them, it turns out!). So for me, the switch to a vegan diet was a pretty much a matter of ordering vegetable sushi, scrambling tofu instead of egg, and checking labels for dairy and other hidden animal ingredients.

My oldest son had just turned one a few months prior to this lifestyle change. He was starting to eat food other than breast milk, and it ended up being plenty of time to get adjusted before my next pregnancy, which was fully vegan and perfectly healthy.

Both of my kids are vegan (M is five, J just turned 2) and so is my husband, so that makes things easy when it comes to dining out, stocking the pantry, cooking meals and so on.

Skip ahead to sections:

1). Vegan While Pregnant & Birthing

2). Vegan While Breastfeeding

  • Tips
  • Mother’s Breast Milk
  • Donor Breast Milk
  • Plant-Based Formula
  • Conventional Formula
  • Homemade Formula
  • Lanolin Nipple Cream

And coming soon in the next post…

3). Vegan While Raising Baby

  • Tips
  • Vitamins
  • Baby Foods/Plant-Based BLW
  • Baby Products
  • OTC Medicines
  • Circumcision
  • Diapers
Disclosure statement because I’m not a Doctor, m’kay?
The following is not intended as medical advice. Always ask your doctor/pediatrician/naturopath/health provider for a professional opinion before taking any advice suggested here, which is for educational purposes only and to be considered at your own risk.
Also, please note – this post contains no paid affiliate links.

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Breastfeeding Moms, It’s Time To Ditch Dairy

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In the process of birthing her child, opening up to allow life to pass through her and howling or whimpering along with thousands of other human mothers and multitudes more female creatures, a woman feels a primal connection to her animal nature. Herein is sparked an unspoken understanding of The Mother Code: all mothers worldwide, of all ages and races and species, learn this unspoken language in their gut and communicate it with their hearts.

This Code is founded upon an equal, shared love for our babies, a desire for the best for our babies — and what’s best for our babies is, by protective feature of Mother Nature, likewise best for us. The Code recognizes another mother’s profundity of pain when her child is hurt or lost, and it celebrates her joy when motherhood is thriving. It sees the essential closeness of mother and baby as gold; the syncing of their bodies and spirits as fact.

As a breastfeeding mother, you know the depth of emotions that make breastfeeding possible. You know the struggle when it doesn’t work, and when it gets painful and exhausting and when we face external obstacles. You know the anxiety when questioning whether your body ‘works,’ whether biology has failed you or if you’re ‘woman enough’ to handle the pressure of this responsibility. You know the Breastfeeding Mother Code.

Lactation works the same in all mammals. Emotions and hormones are the fuel for the mechanics of lactogenesis, a natural triumph of a nurturing, healing system that has secured mammalian survival since, well, the evolution (or divine creation) of mammaries.

So keep this Code in mind, because now it’s time to talk about dairy cows.

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Julep’s Water Birth at Home

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This is the story of my second child’s birth. My first son MaiTai was born three and a half years ago in a hospital. (I’ll share details of that tale in a future post).

***BEFORE YOU READ: Again, this is a birth story. If you’re not accustomed to reading real birth stories, are uncomfortable with images of birth-related nudity, or have a very particular definition of what’s TMI, you might consider skipping this post.***

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A “Birthday Candle” Cord Burning Ceremony

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Instead of cutting Julep’s umbilical cord we held a sacred severance ceremony, an ancient ritual that involves using flame to slowly burn the cord.

It was a beautiful and peaceful few minutes dedicated to Julep’s final step in the separation from his uterine life.

**All photos in this post credited to Stephanie Shirley Photography.**

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Julep’s First Latches

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Julep latched for the first time twenty-four minutes after he was born on April 28th. I remember the feeling was… beautiful. It felt right.

Memories of MaiTai’s first latch attempts in the hospital three and a half years ago came flooding back. Was I really doing this again? How lucky am I! And what work we have ahead of us…

Other details of the moment are all a blur now. I nursed this bright-eyed, alert baby on and off during my time on the bed right after birthing him in a pool several feet away.

*All photos credited to Stephanie Shirley Photography.*

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