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Category Archives: Body Care

Big March Post #1, Part 2: A New Night’s Sleep (Continued)

On Friday, I posted part 1 our first big announcement of three for March, which was that we finally got some brand new mattresses! I also laid out (hehe) all the reasons why we chose to forgo the conventional interspring mattress in favor of natural latex. For more on why we made our choice, check out the post!

Today we’re going deeper into our research to publish most of what we learned about latex, because there is a lot to learn! There are different manufacturing types, levels of firmness, options for mattress thickness and number of layers, how the layers are fixed (or not fixed) together, methods for wrapping the layers together, and different types of mattress toppers available. So let’s jump right in so you can gain a little insight from all the work we did!

Manufacturing Types

There are two methods for “curing” latex: Dunlop and Talalay. In either case, the white liquid that comes from the Hevea tree is whipped into a frothy mix, placed into a mold, and cooked, much like waffle batter being cooked in a waffle maker. The mold has a bunch of rods in it so that the finished latex has a cellular structure, which keeps the mattress breathable. After the foam has cured, it is removed from the mold and rinsed. From there the latex is cut to mattress size (or part of a mattress, in the case of Talalay) and stacked up with a bunch of other layers, waiting to be combined into a mattress.

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The whipped latex mixture being poured into a mold for curing (Image from myessentia.com)

For the Dunlop process, that’s about all there is to it. Dunlop has often been called the more eco-friendly process because it does not add any other chemicals to the mixture and it does not go through any other processing. It is also said to be more economical because there are no additional seams to add (doesn’t increase labor costs) and it creates a more consistent product.

Dunlop is said to be a heavier, denser, firmer, and more durable material. For the most part, the Dunlop process typically deals with 100% natural latex, but it can certainly be mixed with synthetic latex, or it could be a 100% natural layer of latex mixed with synthetic layers. Therefore it is very important to ask the company from which you’d like to purchase to make sure the mattress you’re buying is made of 100% natural, non-synthetic latex.

The Talalay process builds on the Dunlop foundation. After whipping the latex and curing it in the mold, the mattress is then sent into a vacuum chamber where all the air is extracted from the foam. It is then flash frozen with chemicals to stabilize the structure. Carbon dioxide gas is added to help the mattress gel. Finally the mattress is baked at 220 degrees.

Talalay pieces can only be so big because of all the extra processing they must go through, so most beds need to have a seam down the middle where the mattress pieces are glued or stitched together. Glue is often filled with chemicals, so that is something to consider.

Talalay is lighter, less dense, less firm, and has been said to show wear faster (although most manufacturers will state it is just as durable as Dunlop). The manufacturing process takes more energy since there are more steps to go through and labor required to stitch pieces together. There is an issue with consistency of firmness due to the lengthy and variable process. There is also no such thing as 100% natural Talalay latex, since chemicals are added in the curing processes that cannot be washed off, even if the latex that started off the process was 100% natural.

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Sap being collected from a Hevea tree (Image from Sumatran Feet)

Besides Dunlop vs Talalay, the next major difference in latex is natural vs organic. This has less to do with the manufacturing process and more to do with the growing process of the Hevea tress, but I thought I’d sneak it into this section anyway. An organic mattress is made from latex harvested from trees that have not been treated with inorganic pesticides or fertilizers, just like our food. A natural mattress uses latex that may have come from trees that have been treated. The cool thing about Hevea trees is that they don’t require fertilizers or pesticides in order to grow to their fullest potential. Hevea trees need to be in a tropical climate, so they are found primarily in the low-altitude, moist rainforests of South America. The only real trouble with the trees is that the moist environment does sometimes cause leaf diseases from mildew. This is usually controlled with sulfur dusts but can be treated with chemicals if the grower choses to go that route. Therefore, the biggest difference I’ve found between the “naturally” grown Heveas and the organic ones is the guarantee that organic trees are not treated with any chemicals that don’t conform to organic standards (keep in mind that there are such things as organic chemicals!). Organic mattresses will also be certified by a third party such as Oeko-Tex. Make sure the certification company is not the same company that is selling the mattress (as that would be a conflict of interest).

Whether you choose Dunlop or Talalay, organic or natural, make sure to ask these questions to ensure you’re getting a chemical-free bed:

  • Is any part of the latex in this bed synthetic? Is it a mix of natural and synthetic latex? Are there synthetic layers mixed with a natural layers?
  • Any fillers used in the latex milk, like calcium oxide or titanium dioxide?
  • Are there any fillers that were used as part of the curing process?
  • Was the mattress treated with any waterproofing or fire-retardant chemicals?
  • Where is the latex from? What are the farming practices there (pesticides, fertilizers, etc)? This may be a very hard question for manufacturers to answer, but they should be able to at least find the source of their latex.
  • If an organic mattress, what third-party company has certified the mattress? (You might want to research the reputation of the certification company if you’re unfamiliar with it.)

Firmness and Layers

Just like conventional interspring mattresses, latex mattress are offered in a variety of firmness options, typically medium firm, firm, and extra firm. Often firmness is controlled with a mixture of Dunlop and Talalay layers, although it is possible to find a 100% Dunlop mattress that is medium firm (we found one and bought two of them!). The firmness is varied by making the mattress more or less dense, but rather than me going into the subject of how latex achieves a certain firmness, I think I’ll just point to this article by Savvy Rest that explains the science and methods better than I could. Plus this post is already getting long and we’re only on the second section!

Firmness is also controlled by stacking latex layers of varying densities. This can also control the thickness of the mattress. In our case, we now have a mattress with two layers of Dunlop latex – one 6-inch firm layer and one two-inch medium firm layer. That gives us an 8-inch thick mattress which is a lot closer to the thickness of our old conventional mattress. We also opted for wool toppers on our beds, which further increases the mattresses thickness. We’ll get to the discussion on toppers in a bit.

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Our mattress has one 6-inch firm layer and one 2-inch soft layer

Firm latex mattresses would typically have two layers (or three) of latex with the same density. This type of mattress could be both rotated and flipped if desired. However, latex mattresses don’t need to be flipped! They just don’t wear like conventional mattresses. Latex wears differently, more uniformly. It does not hold body impressions like conventional mattresses do. It doesn’t sag or compress. Since those “impressions” are the whole reason for flipping, then it just doesn’t need to be done with a latex mattress. So there are two reasons latex saves your back – from the comfortable sleep every night and by saving the work needed to flip the mattress!

One more thing to look for about firmness is perimeter support. Some latex mattresses add perimeter support so that you can sit on the edge of the mattress and feel a little more supported, similar to a conventional interspring mattress. The unfortunate thing about added perimeter support in a latex mattress is that it is almost always made of polyurethane foam, not latex. It also reduces the latex sleeping surface by 20% in most cases. If the mattress you’ve found offers perimeter support, ask lots of questions about it to make sure it isn’t spoiling your chemical-free bed. I’ve been sitting on the side of my bed a lot today and I can tell you I feel supported just fine.

Here are some questions to ask about firmness and layers:

  • Are there any layers of synthetic latex in this bed?
  • Does this mattress need to be flipped periodically?
  • Does this mattress have perimeter support and, if so, from what material is it made?
  • Does this mattress have a warranty and, if so, how long is it and what does it cover? (Warranties usually cover a certain measurement of compression over time, which is why I’m putting this question here.)

Fixing the Layer Together

There are a couple of options to fix your latex sandwich, if you will. The options depend on the manufacturer of the mattress, but they typically include glue, stitch, and gravity.

The glue option can be risky. Glues typically contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which most definitely release toxic vapors. This basically takes your well-researched, 100% natural latex bed back down a few notches. It’s like putting a GMO- and sugar-filled salad dressing on your beautiful home-grown organic salad. If you choose to go with glue, ask a lot of questions about the type of glue used. Even water-based glues can be trouble, so get informed.

You might be able to have the layers stitched together, which is an especially good option if you’re buying a king-sized mattress that definitely will have a seam down the middle. Stitching involves no glue (make sure this is the case though), so you avoid additional toxins getting into your “clean” mattress.

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The layers of my new bed! No glues or stitches needed.

In our case, we don’t have a middle seam in the queen and twin mattresses we purchased and we opted to simply have gravity keep the layers together. If you’ve ever felt latex foam, you’d know how it’s very possible to stack up some layers and not have them move around on each other. The foam isn’t smooth, it’s kind of rough like a cat’s tongue. The layers really aren’t going to be moving around, no matter what kind of movement is occurring on your bed.

When it comes to fixing the layers together, the questions are pretty simple:

  • How are layers or sections fixed together?
  • If glued, what kind of glue is used? Does it contain VOCs?
  • If stitched, is there any glue used as well?

Mattress Wraps

As far as I’m aware, all latex mattresses are wrapped up in some kind of material. Of all the mattresses we researched from local companies, the wrapping options were either cotton or organic cotton. The wrap helps to keep the layers all nice and snug together. It also helps folks who might have a latex allergy, as there’s a layer of material between the sleeper and the mattress. Latex is a contact allergy, so as long as that extra layer is there, folks with allergies shouldn’t have a problem sleeping on a latex bed (of course I’m not a doctor or an allergist so make sure you fully check out this claim and the materials used before committing to purchase).

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The latex layers all wrapped up on comfy organic cotton

I don’t know of mattresses that aren’t wrapped, but in my research I found that the wrapping really just depends on the manufacturer. So as you find companies in your area that carry natural latex mattress, be sure to ask what the mattress is wrapped in and do your research on that material.

More simple questions about mattress wraps:

  • What material is used for the mattress wrapper/casing?
  • Is the wrapper washable and, if so, how easy is it to get back on after being removed? Do you recommend removal or spot-cleaning?
  • Does the wrapper claim to protect against latex allergy reactions? (If that is a concern for you.)
  • Is the wrapper waterproof or fire resistant? (Watch out again for those chemicals!)

Mattress Toppers

This one can vary a bit too. The mattress topper we saw was primarily wool, but it came in a variety of thicknesses and from lots of different suppliers. Wool is a fire retardant, so if you’re buying a 100% natural latex mattress that is not treated with fire retardants, you’ll either need a doctor’s prescription to get around the federal fire retardant laws or you’ll need a wool topper. As with all these materials, though, it is important to ask probing questions to make sure the wool has not been treated with chemicals, either to make it more resistant to fire or for any other purpose.

Wool toppers have more benefits than just resisting flames! They are great temperature regulators, staying warm in the winter but also cool in the summer. Wool is also resistant to dust mites and it’s moisture resistant. Keep in mind that it is not waterproof, though, so if you have a heavy spill on a latex mattress with a wool topper, make sure to take the topper off and let both surfaces thoroughly air dry to prevent mold.

Wool toppers do need to be replaced about every five years, as they will compress more than latex. Keep this in mind when you’re adding up your investment dollars over the life of the mattress.

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Our wool topper, also covered in organic cotton

Other than wool, there are also latex mattress toppers. These are usually a layer of less dense, less firm latex. Most of the latex toppers I’ve seen are Talalay latex, but there are Dunlop latex toppers available. The shop we bought from only sells Dunlop latex and they had several latex toppers to choose from.

In addition to wool or latex mattress toppers/pads, there is a third and final layer that can go on a mattress. We purchased a thick organic cotton pad in an attempt to add more water resistance to our mattress. With a young child in the family, you never know what could spill (or leak) onto our mattress at any time of the night (or day). While our cotton cover still isn’t water proof, it will delay the absorption of water into the wool and latex long enough that we might be able to avoid taking the wool topper off to dry so that mold won’t develop.

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The final layer – the organic cotton pad

No matter what, if you choose to have a mattress topper, make sure you ask the same questions about it that you asked about the mattress itself. A 100% natural, chemical-free bed doesn’t account for much if the topper is filled with chemicals. Make sure to ask about the manufacturing process, how (and if) it is secured to the mattress, and if it is treated with any chemicals, fire retardant or otherwise. Also keep in mind that any mattress topper, pad, or cover that is water proof (not water resistant) is guaranteed to have waterproofing chemicals applied to it. So read the labels carefully as well as asking thorough questions of your manufacturer.

Some specific questions about toppers would be:

  • What mattress toppers/pads are available? From what materials are they made?
  • Are the mattress toppers treated with waterproof or fire retardant chemicals?
  • How is the topper secured to the mattress?

Mattress stores

Now that you know all these wonderful facts about latex mattress options, where do you go to find one? Just like the beds themselves, there are more options than you might realize.

IKEA: IKEA sells primarily Talalay latex. Their mattresses do tend to be significantly less expensive, but don’t expect to get the longevity from them that you might get from other manufacturers. We read lots of reviews of IKEA mattresses, covering all their suppliers, because we really wanted to get all the benefits of latex for less price. But we found the vast majority of reviewers were only happy with their mattress for about two years. After that, the mattress started to compress a lot and get really uncomfortable. We also read lots of reports of chemical smells coming from new IKEA latex mattresses, which suggests there may be more chemicals used in the manufacture or post-manufacture treatment of the materials. IKEA claims that there have been changes made to the manufacturing processes to reduce chemicals and make the mattresses more durable, but only time will tell if they can really last.

Department Stores and “traditional” Mattress Stores: They will typically sell Sealy, Serta, Memory Foam, Tempurpedic, and other brands that use synthetic latex. Unfortunately it is the big, “trusted” brands that consumers need to check the most carefully when looking for a 100% natural mattress. Ask all the questions – is the mattress material any kind of synthetic blend, is it Dunlop or Talalay, are all the layers made of the same material, were any chemicals used in the manufacturing process, were any fire retardants used to treat the mattress, etc, etc. It sucks that consumers have to be so careful about these things, but these big companies are typically out to make money, not protect our interests. So keep that in mind at the department store (actually keep that in mind at any store!). “Traditional” mattress stores are stores like Sleep Company, American Mattress, your local “Beds R Us,” and any store that just sells mattresses and beds.

Online Stores: There are a lot of great options out there for buying a 100% natural latex mattress online. A lot of them get great reviews, offer a quality product, and their prices are reasonable. However there is a huge downside – you can’t try before you buy! Checking out the bed before purchasing is really important. I was sure we’d all want to go for firm mattresses with soft wool toppers, but once we tried out a few beds we were all sold on medium firm. Look for a store that offers a trial period, a money-back guarantee (with free shipping!), or at the very least an exchange option. Also, make sure you can call a representative who is knowledgable enough to answer all the questions you need to ask to make sure you’re getting a quality, chemical-free bed.

Local Stores: If you can find them in your area, this is by far the best option. Local stores will likely be very closely connected, if not immediately connected, to the manufacture of your bed. If you’re lucky, the bed is also assembled in your local area, which is good for your local economy. In the Portland area we have two stores that are highly recommended for latex, Mulligan Mattress and Cotton Cloud.

Summary

Whew! That is a lot of information! I hope it helps you in some way if you have a new mattress purchase coming up. Check out the sources I’ve cited below for EVEN MORE information, if you can handle it at this point.

Buying a latex mattress comes with lots of details, but figuring them all out is totally worth it to get not only a more comfortable night’s sleep but a chemical-free one as well. Best of luck in your research!

Sources

http://sleeponlatex.com/blogs/news/7845413-dunlop-vs-talalay-latex-foam

http://sleepingorganic.com/blog/talalay-vs-dunlop-latex

http://thenaturalsleepstore.com/blog/post/sustainability-of-natural-latex.html

http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/kids/species-profiles/rubber-tree

http://www.savvyrest.com/blog/guide-to-firmness

http://www.plushbeds.com/blog/mattress/need-rotate-flip-latex-mattress/

http://www.habitatfurnishings.com/blog/?p=13

http://www.cottoncloudfutons.com/onlinefutonstore.01/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=3&products_id=1704&zenid=2583273cefbd5d86fd5602b738665884

http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-204

Big March Post #1, Part 1: A New Night’s Sleep

Welcome to the first of three big posts for March! This one is very exciting for me because I’m going to talk about… our new mattress! Wait, stay with me, I promise it is more exciting than it sounds.

First, it’s exciting for me because, if you can believe it, I’ve never had a brand-new mattress in my whole life! Crazy right? My parents got my childhood mattress used, and I slept on it from about a year old until I left for college. Then in college I slept on the dorm mattress, gross and certainly not new. When I moved to an apartment I slept on a futon, which was new I guess but not really a mattress so that doesn’t count. And when my husband and I got our first house we were gifted his parents’ guest bedroom mattress, which was practically new but had still hosted a few guests in the few years that they owned it. And we have now slept on that bed for 13 years, so it is well past it’s need-to-replace date. Did you know conventional interspring mattresses need to be replaced after about seven years? (According to Consumer Reports and The Better Sleep Council.) Not only is our mattress old, but Kiddo1’s mattress is too. Although we bought his new from IKEA, the mattress is still about 10 years old and starting to get pretty lumpy. So, new beds for everyone! (Except Baby2 since she’s still rocking her crib mattress as a toddler bed just fine, and doesn’t look like she’ll need a new one for another year or so.)

Our new beds are even more exciting because we got a nice tax refund this year so we decided to invest it in the best mattresses we could buy. We did a ton of research, starting with talking to family who had also recently bought a new mattess. They went with a big-name company (think one of the “three S’s”) and told us lots of things we weren’t exactly happy to hear – the new mattresses have pillow tops attached to them (which I believe it an option not to have, but a lot of them have the toppers attached), which makes flipping the mattress impossible. The mattress can be rotated 180 degrees but not flipped around. Because of this, the newest beds claim to have an even shorter life span – about five years. We really didn’t like the thought of making this investment and then having to do it again in five years. If that were the case we would have to have bought three mattress in the time we’ve only slept on one together! Crazy!

Besides the fast replacement timeframes, conventional mattress also come with a standard cocktail of chemical flame retardants – boric acid (used to kill insects), formaldehyde (which is known to present a cancer risk), and antimony, a substance more toxic than mercury. There are all kinds of studies out there about the absorption rates of these chemicals for adults that sleep on conventional beds, and they state an adult sleeping on a chemically treated mattress “will absorb .8 mg of antimony every night, an amount that is 27 times more than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says is safe”. A child could absorb 63 times the safe limit. (source) That’s insane right?! Add to this the research that looks into the link between chemical flame retardants and fertility, as well as chemicals being found in newborns and breastmilk. Scary stuff. This post isn’t about chemicals, though, so I’ll leave my chemical research at that, but I think it is important to note here. It was certainly one of the main reasons why we chose to avoid purchasing a conventional mattresses!

All this research led us to find an alternative and we discovered natural latex. At first I was really hesitant, I mean don’t people have allergies to latex? But after reading into it more I discovered the allergies are to things like latex gloves, which have a thin, stretchy structure that concentrates the protein that allergic people have a reaction to. Also, sleeprs are protected from the latex itself by a mattress wrapper, typically made of cotton, and there are options for wool toppers, so you’re not sleeping directly on the latex. To cause a reaction latex must come in contact with the skin. Simply breathing around it is not a problem, as it does not “off gas” like the flame-retardant chemicals do (there’s an exception I read about for startch-lined latex gloves though, which can release latex molecules into the air and cause an airborne reaction). We read about latex allergies with regard to latex mattresses from a variety of sources, but this website give a good summary. No one in our family has any known latex allergies, but lately when I know something is a common issue I tend to investigate it a little further just in case!

Of course there are other alternatives to the conventional interspring mattress, like memory foam and Temperpedic mattresses. BUT, those are just made from synthetic chemcials! They also off-gas and they are not sustainable materials (meaning they can’t be replanted like the Hevea tree that provides liquid latex – they’re manufactured in a lab). So while these type of foam mattresses have some of the same benefits of latex, they’re still not quite what we’re going for.

Some benefits of natural latex:

      • No chemical flame retardants. A wool topper makes a natural fire resistant layer. And the more we thought about it, the more we wondered why our mattress needs to be flame-resistant anyway? We’re not smoking in bed, we don’t use portable heat sources, even our heating air vent is a safe distance away from our bed. So unless some actual sparks start flying in the bedroom (haha), why do we need a mattress that can resist a blowtorch flame?
      • Natural latex is inhospitable to dust mites, which love living in conventional mattresses where they can live off our dead skin cells. Ew! It’s also mildew and mold resistant (but not waterproof, so a water-protective layer like wool is a wise investment for further protection).
      • Natural latex mattress are super durable – they can last at a minimum of 10 years, often 20 or more. This site even claims they can last up to 30 years! And since there’s no build up of dust mites, I don’t mind keeping the same bed for that long.
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The cellular structure of a layer of latex (Image from Sleeponlatex.com)

      • Natural latex is “spongy” because of its cellular structure (ie it has lots of regularly spaced holes) and because of its natural “foamy” properties. Therefore it cradles your body but doesn’t leave impressions in the mattress – it bounces back. This cell structure also makes it breathable. Most latex mattresses do compress about an inch or so after roughly a decade, but without having much impact on the comfort or other benefits of natural latex.
      • Natural latex keeps pretty cool since it is breathable. If a cool mattress doesn’t work for you, though (I get cold when I sleep) then a wool topper helps the mattress not only stay warmer in winter but also cooler in the summer. Wool is also mildew-, mold-, and dust mite-resistant. Wool is a magic material!
      • The natural latex material is sustainable – it is harvested much like maple syrup, with a tap created in a 7-year-old Hevea tree, which can be harvested from for 25 years (source). Plus since you’re only buying one bed every, let’s say, 20 years, instead of two or three, that keeps fewer mattresses from going to the landfill or needing to be broken apart for recycling.
      • There are a TON of latex options out there – options on manufacturing types, firmness, number of layers, how the layers are fixed (or not fixed) together, how the layers are wrapped together, types of mattress toppers available, etc. Just as many options as presented by conventional mattresses, if not more. Of course, all these options can also be confusing, so you’ll see this “pro” come up in the “cons” section as well.
      • Finally, for us, our mattress purchase was kept pretty local. While the latex itself does come from an entirely different continent (since Hevea trees are tropical), our mattress was built right here in town and the organic cotton and wool was all American-made. Plus the store we bought from is women-owned, which gives me, as a woman, some warm fuzzies.
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A Hevea tree tapped to give natural latex material (Image from Encyclopedia Britannica)

 

Sounds wonderful right? It is almost perfect. Of course, there are a couple cons:

      • Price – a natural latex mattress will cost more than a conventional one, often two to three times more (even more if you go for organic natural latex). But they also last at least two to three times as long, and you don’t get the chemicals.
      • Latex mattress are a little less thick than conventional interspring mattresses. That doesn’t make them any less comfortable or less durable, but it will affect the height of your bed, if that’s an issue for you. There are also thicker latex mattresses available (they have more layers). The bed we purchased is 8 inches thick with three layers of latex, about the same thickness as the interspring mattress we got rid of.
      • There’s so much to learn about latex! There are so many varieties and manufacturing types out there. Which brings me to part 2 (this post got really long so I had to split “big announcement post one” into two parts!), which is our latex-specific research.

All of this research is what turned our exciting new mattress purchase from your regular experience at a mattress store to a big education on flame retardants and chemical-free alternatives. While we had become comfortable with the alternative of a natural latex mattress, we still had a lot to learn about the latex choices. Part 2 will cover all the research we did about latex and how we ended up choosing our new bed.

Six in One Hand, Half-Dozen in the Other

Baby2 has really come into her own this sixth month. Her personality shines through in everything she does. Her face still looks very much like her brother’s but also more like other family members; she’s coming into her own unique “look.” She’s quickly becoming more and more independent (for a six-month-old; independence at this age does have its limits).

As we have already seen in the proceeding months, Baby2 is such a happy girl. When she catches our eyes her whole face smiles with joy. When we have a dance party together she laughs and squeals with excitement. She bats her eyelashes and shields her gaze when you smile back. Her little cheeks puff up when she smiles and her dark blue eyes sparkle.

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Look at those faces! Mr. Handsome and I believe they are the two cutest faces we have ever seen (although I know every parent says that!). Kiddo1 at six months (ish) is on the left and a pic of Baby2 from the other day is on the right. They could be twins! But I think Baby2 has a more feminine look. That’s good, considering she’s a girl…

Baby2 has grown so much! Now that I have had two children and they have similar growth patterns I can safely determine that Mr. Handsome and I simply do not have big babies. Baby2 is just now doubling her birth weight, for example. But our pediatrician certifies that she’s super healthy. We also saw a heart specialist last week (to proactively check out a supposed heart murmur that was not found by the specialist and is said to come and go in young children) and that doctor said she is “in picture-perfect health.” I feel incredibly fortunate to have such healthy children.

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She is mobile already. Last month she would roll from side-to-side but now she’s rolling clear across the floor. I put her down, turn around to grab something and she’s already like 10 feet away. Time to get the power strips and tiny Lego pieces off the floor I suppose. Oh baby-proofed house, how I’ve missed you (insert sarcastic face here). She will usually start on her back playing on her little “ocean” thing there but she’ll escape it and roll away in a flash!

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She wants to do things for herself. We have started giving her solid foods and she already wants to hold the spoon, mostly because she wants to grab at anything in front of her. We are giving her whole foods: we started with avacado, mashed with a spoon and mixed with a bit of breastmilk. She wasn’t too fond of the avacado and I can’t blame her – this recipe is no guacamole, folks. It’s pretty bland. Yes I tasted it. We are on bananas now. We just scrape a bit of banana on a spoon and serve it up. And then I eat the rest of the banana. Yum! She loves the banana. She probably eats twice as much of it in one sitting than the avacado. So like two-peas-size worth instead of one. She has a tummy the size of her fist and she’s already full of breastmilk when she’s fed a solid, so I’m not expecting much yet. Mr. Handsome says her poo is already more green though. This will be our cloth diaper test I believe. Stay tuned.

As for me, I’m feeling pretty fantastic. I’m back down to my pre-pregnancy weight and I don’t feel the “squishness” in my midsection that I had felt even just last month (just feeling my normal squishiness now). I recall that after Kiddo1 was born it took a good six months before I felt “normal” again. Seems like six months is my adjustment period, which is just fine with me. If only I could have taken a six-month maternity leave, eh? However normal I feel, though, I still have my linea negra and I still have not had a period (and I’m pretty sure I’m not pregnant) so I’m just patiently – very, very patiently – waiting for the last piece of “normal” to fall into place. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it just never came back?!

Speaking of patience, Kiddo1 is getting better at connecting with his sister. He started actually acknowledging her at Christmas. Now he will sit at the table with her in the morning, eating his breakfast and not complain too much that she is staring at him (she loves to look at him!). He even picked up her toys when she dropped them to the floor the other day. We call this the “drop-pick-it-up game” in which the baby drops a toy over and over while someone picks it up for her every time. Kiddo1 invented this game so to see him play with his sister is pretty sweet. He was reluctant to play but he did it! They’re taking baby steps toward playing together.

I can’t wait to see what the next six months bring!

Our First Week at Home

First week down! Baby2 officially turned one week old on Wednesday. So much has happened that I thought I’d write another update. Here’s what has happened since our first days at home.

Breastfeeding

Baby2 continues to eat well – she’s gained another five ounces since Friday’s pediatrician appointment, bringing her back up to her birth weight already (which is a week two milestone – she’s an overachiever already!)! We went to the pediatrician’s office to weigh her yesterday for my own sanity. I think every breastfeeding mama wonders if her baby is eating enough. You just can’t see the milk going in! But we can see what’s coming out of her, and if Baby2’s diaper actions are any indication I’d say she’s eating like a champ. I probably didn’t need to go weigh her, but I was curious!

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Milk Drunk

What is interesting about her feedings is that she tends to eat in five minute increments. After five minutes are up, she loses interest. I can normally burp her and put her back on, or change her diaper and start again, but I could almost set my watch by her cadence. I’ve also noticed that the ducts on the underside of my breasts tend to get really full so after her first five minute time block I’ll spend the second five minutes massaging those ducts to give her a little more milk.

I’ve also been experimenting with only using one breast per feeding instead of switching back and forth. I know that the more empty the breast becomes, the more fatty hindmilk she’s getting (which is good!). So the focus right now is a full feeding and an empty breast. We’ll see how that effects my supply since one breast will be fully emptied every 3-6 hours as opposed to being maybe half emptied every 1.5-3 hours. I want to research this topic more…

Speaking of timing, she’s still eating every 1.5-3 hours. I won’t let her go longer than three hours between feedings. The other day I had to wake her out of a dead sleep because time was up. We struggled through that feeding but I did get a good 10 minutes out of her! In two five minute increments, of course.

Nights are working well. I always put her down in her crib about 30 minutes after her 8:00 PM feeding. If she wakes up after that I’ll feed her and put her right back down. If she wakes up after I’ve gone to bed (which has been late lately! 10 or 11 o’clock!) I’ll keep her in bed with me so I can get some sleep (just pull out a boob when she stirs! So much easier than getting out of bed). She wakes up a lot until I pull her in bed with me, then she sleeps a ton. I’m slightly worried that she’s preferring our bed over her crib, so she may start getting a lot more crib time soon. We’ll see.

For the first few days, I didn’t keep track of night feedings at all. Now I’m trying to a least glance at the clock when she stirs so I can keep track of how long she’s going between feedings completely on her own (there’s no way I’m setting an alarm or something to make sure she’s eating every three hours at night!). So far she’s keeping a rhythm of eating at 12, 2:30, 5 and 7:30 AM. Whoa. Self-regulating is amazing!

Sometimes she stirs but doesn’t really want to eat – she’s wet and needs changing. So I’m trying to watch out for that more. I don’t think she’s at all ready to drop a feeding, but I’m also not sure if five minutes every 2.5 hours is really much of a feeding… Monitoring is on-going.

Cloth Diapering

Still loving cloth diapers! We’ve modified our prefolds a little though. Since the size one Osocozies are still a little long for her, we’ve been folding them down in front so they’ll fit into the covers. But since Baby2 is a girl, she wets more in the back than the front so we started folding the prefold down in the back. That has helped to not only absorb more but also makes securing the prefold with the Snappi that much easier because there’s more fabric to pull around her legs. Ah, discovery.

Baby2 had a bit of a diaper rash earlier this week which really freaked me out! Kiddo1 had the nastiest of nasty and persistent diaper rashes when he was a baby. I fear diaper rashes like some people fear tight spaces. Or the dark. Or commitment. Anyway… Luckily the diaper rash is gone now, probably because I attacked it and killed it! I took Baby2 outside and sunned her bottom twice a day for a couple days, about five minutes in direct sunlight each time (I did shade her upper half from the sun). I also started using Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Bottom Balm on her with each diaper change. Worked like a charm. For one final nail in the coffin, I’m adding an extra cold rise (that’s two cold rinses) at the end of our diaper laundry routine, just to make sure all the soap gets out. Now I’m monitoring the absorbancy of the prefolds to see if I need to strip them because of the Bottom Balm build-up (although Bottom Balm is cloth diaper-safe!).

Baby2’s Disposition

Still quite awesome. I know she’s in the easy-going newborn phase, but if she’s anything like her brother she’ll continue to be content and mellow. She still doesn’t cry at much, just when she’s hungry or needs a new diaper. Our barking dog doesn’t even make her flinch. I’m sure she’s been used to that sound since well before she was born!

Mr. Handsome swears that she smiles. He “knows” that she’s just working her facial muscles, easing out gas, what have you, but he likes to say that she smiles. I gotta say, though, when she does start smiling for real it’s going to be freaking awesome!

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Dress up!

Finally, can I just say how much fun it is to dress her?! Oh, super fun. Dressing a boy was nice and all, but little dresses are quite nice. Baby2 has been in a dress every day of her life. Come to think of it, I’ve been in a dress this whole week too! (I just haven’t been feeling jeans yet. Maybe this weekend.)

Adjusting

Life in general is slowly getting back to normal. Mr. Handsome’s family (his parents and two older brothers) are currently in town until Monday. Once the family visitor traffic slows I think everyone will be able to relax a bit more. Two of my dear friends from college are flying in from the Midwest in mid-August. I’m super excited about that!

Kiddo1 has been super talkative lately! He’s probably a little more chatty because his uncles are in town (he loves to bend their ears) but lately he’s been talking-it-up to anyone who will listen!

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Kiddo1 wanted to be swaddled too!

He seems to be getting back to his normal, silly self. Perhaps he’s realizing that we will still take time to listen to him and hang with him. He has been awfully sweet… most of the time. For some time now (a year?) he’s loved to disagree with almost everything we say. What’s that all about? He’s back to doing that lately so things must be normalizing with him.

Mr. Handsome is, of course, still freaking awesome. He even took his whole family to the coast the other day so Baby2 and I could have a whole day to relax. He’s making sure that I get enough rest and don’t try to push myself too hard (because I do/will push myself, see below). I’m not sure if he is getting enough rest, as he seems tired and perhaps a bit stressed by all the visitors. He’s sweet to try not to concern me with these things. I’m still concerned though! I think we’re both just excited for things to get back to normal. The “new normal,” he calls it!

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Mr. Handsome practicing some baby wearing!

Max (our dog) seems to be used to the new human-to-dog ratio in the house. He loves to sniff Baby2 and give her light little kisses. He isn’t as sensitive to her cry anymore, but the other day we heard a distant sound of a neighbor’s baby crying and he was quite concerned. He kept looking at our silent, sleeping baby and seemed very confused.

As for me, things are going pretty damn great. Let’s get the gross stuff out of the way in this paragraph, shall we? As soon as my milk came in on Saturday, some bodily functions have returned to normal. Most notably, I poop every day now! And in the mornings just like my old pre-pregnancy self. It’s funny how elated this makes me feel. I can sit down without having to be slow and careful, too. Just plopping myself down on hard chairs, no big deal! The lochia, or hell, let’s just call it bleeding, has slowed to spotting and I’m down to just wearing panty liners and, get this, regular bikini underpants! Sure they’re the same one-size-up ones that I wore in third tri but at least they aren’t the hospital mesh granny panties that I wore for a week (I took four pair home with me!). I’m not sure if all this success is due to the placenta pills or not, but I can tell you that I feel better at 1.3 weeks postpartum from this pregnancy than I did with my first pregnancy. Of course that birth was a bit more difficult, too. Anyway, I do think the pills are helping, at least a little. I’ve tapered off to one or two pills per day because there aren’t that many and I’m supposed to save some for three, six and nine months postpartum. Speaking of pills, though, I’m completely off the ibuprofen now! It’s been three days since I took any so I’d say that need is dead for sure. Yay!

Okay, the squeamish ones can open their eyes now! (Who can really stay away from the gross stuff anyway, right?)

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Baby2 and I are ready for the public!

I’ve been getting out of the house more. Wednesday Mr. Handsome took his family to the coast and Baby2 and I got a lot of rest. That evening I finally got to walk around a whole two blocks (which really is like walking six blocks right?) and I felt really great when I got home, like I could do another two blocks! So on Thursday, yesterday, I probably overdid it a little. We took Baby2 to the pediatrician, then had lunch out, then went on a registry-completion spree at Target. First postpartum Target visit -big deal!! Then we only stopped at home for only about an hour before taking Kiddo1 to a late doctor’s appointment and finally going to dinner with Mr. Handsome’s family. Whew.

At dinner, Baby2 and I were pretty spent. It didn’t help that Baby2 was hungry, the restaurant was noisy (she seems to have trouble nursing in noisy environments) and we were hot. I ended up taking off her dress it was so hot! So she let out some loud cries at dinner and even though I ushered her out to calm her down, I still felt bad about 1) having a crying baby in a restaurant and 2) most importantly, not being able to get her fed! I tried a few times but she was just not having it. She ended up going five hours between afternoon feedings. I felt awful!! I talked it out with Mr. Handsome on the way home and I have agreed to take it down a notch. Today we still went out (I’ve got to do something with the in-laws!) but only to the Big Bookstore and lunch. Then Kiddo1 and I are going to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremonies (I’ve got to jet off to that here in a second!). He is super excited about that!

Physically I feel ready to do full days out but I don’t think Baby2 is quite ready and I might not be mentally ready to handle it either! I’m still in kind of a foggy state, although it is lifting a bit. It’s a super happy fog though! Happy baby drunk. I don’t really mind that not being back to normal!

A few “normal” things that have happened this week and I do like very much:

  • I drove for the first time in over a week! I was telling Mr. Handsome it felt like the first time you return home from college and get to drive the car you haven’t driven in months. He had a car in college though so he couldn’t really relate.
  • I cooked myself a meal! It was eggs and toast, not difficult, but I was proud enough!
  • I painted my nails, strategically timing polish removal, nail trimming and two coats of paint after the start of each of Baby2’s naps on Wednesday (when the fam was at the coast).
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Slowly shrinking!

A couple not-quite-normal things:

  • I feel great and so much smaller but I’ve only lost 12 pounds. I suppose the boobies have gain a pound or two though! Honestly I just weighed myself for the first time today, so I’m really trying not to focus on it. Feeling great and taking care of myself are definitely prioritized over losing weight. I am excited to get back to exercising, though. Hopefully I’ll get clearance for some light yoga after my two-week check-up. No water aerobics until the six-week mark though. Sad face.
  • So far I don’t really miss being pregnant which is great because I thought I’d miss it a lot. Maybe those four overdue days helped get that out of my system. I do feel a little, well, empty, for lack of a better word to explain it. Something was there that isn’t there anymore and my body notices it. I don’t miss being pregnant but I do miss that something extra. I have to get used to being just one person in this body again! Weird huh?

Well that was, once again, quite a massive brain dump. Off to get ready for our early afternoon out! Thanks for reading!!

Our First Days at Home

Wow, there has been so much to write about lately! First, again, thank you to everyone for your comments this week! I have loved reading your reactions to our birth story. Second, this is a really, really long post and most people will probably find it incredibly boring. However, I wanted to get this all down for myself before I forget. This is such an awesome part of my life and I don’t want to lose any of it! Here’s what’s going on with our start at breastfeeding, cloth diapering and how we’re all adjusting to our new family.

Breastfeeding

Baby2 took to breastfeeding like a natural. She ate for a solid hour after she was born. I couldn’t believe it! It didn’t take much to get her latched on and going.

The rest of that first day I attempted to feed her a dozen times, but she just wanted to sleep. The nurses and lactation consultant all assured us that sleeping the first whole day is completely normal. She ate wonderfully all night and the next morning, but she ended up losing eight ounces in the hospital.

She has continued to eat like champ since we arrived home Thursday at noon. She gained three ounces back by the time we saw the pediatrician on Friday morning! I had been anticipating that weigh-in for sure!

So far she’s eating about every 1-1/2 to 3 hours, but she has enjoyed some cluster feeding around dinner time. I’m not thinking at all about a schedule yet, just working her into an easy eat, play, sleep routine (more on that in a couple weeks).

My milk came in Saturday morning. I have felt very full but not painfully engorged. Mr. Handsome says my boobs are twice as big as Baby2’s head. I say they’re only one and a half times as big. I did have to bust out my pump on Saturday afternoon to get some relief, as Baby2’s 20-minute feedings just weren’t cutting it (I get a good 30-minute feeding a couple times a day). I got a solid two ounces in five minutes which was enough to feel some relief. Time to start building a breastmilk stash! I pumped again this morning for another two ounces. If I can continue to get just two ounces a day I’ll have 112 ounces saved by the time I go back to work!

Nights are honestly not bad. We put Baby2 down in her crib, but once she starts eating at night we keep her in our bed. That way I still get some sleep and Mr. Handsome doesn’t have to be too disturbed either. I’ve been taking a daily nap and so far keeping my energy at a good level.

Cloth Diapering

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Oh my goodness we are loving cloth diapers! Baby2 was in disposables for her first day, but we put a prefold and cover on her on Thursday morning and haven’t looked back. We’re using Osocozy size one prefolds with Snapis and covers by Kissaluvs, Thirsties, Bummis and Rumparoos (one of each brand, two newborn sized and two one-sized, two Velcro and two snaps). We haven’t picked a favorite yet, but we’ll get to that I’m sure.

So far we’ve done CD laundry once a day and OMG it is so easy! I literally empty the big wet bag into the machine, do a cold rinse then add my Nellie’s detergent to a hot wash with a cold rinse cycle. Pop in the dryer (we need a clothesline-type device!) and we’re done! We used flushable liners for two days to catch the newborn tar poop, but on Saturday she gave us nice liquid breastmilk poo so we ditched the liners. The diapers clean up just like new – even the ones that got tar poop on them!

We’re using cloth wipes too. So far we’ve just used water on the wipes. We keep a little bottle of water on the dresser and wet each wipe before use. Of course we haven’t had to clean too many colossal poos yet, but this method is working well so far!

Baby2’s Disposition

She is such an amazing baby! She rarely cries and when she does it is so easy to soothe her (thank goodness for The Happiest Baby on the Block!). She’s had fantastic periods of active alertness after feedings. It’s so wonderful to stare into her eyes and interact with her. I can tell that she knows her family’s voices already.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppShe sleeps great, usually nodding off 30-45 minutes after eating (but sometimes staying awake to just after her next feeding). I like to put her down while she’s still awake for at least one nap per day and at night (more on my sleep philosophies later). She does a great job conking herself out. I’ve been able to shower every day (that’s a big deal!) and even dry my hair and dress myself because of her ability to sleep (plus Mr. Handsome is all over holding her all the time).

She makes the best little faces, she smells fantastic (even her poop smells good! Really!), she seems to be trying to lift her head already (tummy time starts as soon as the cord stump falls off!), her skin is so soft, her eyes are so deep and intense, her toes and fingers are so long like her brother’s and her little nose is adorable. I’m so in love.

Adjusting

Life in general is on hold as I recover and we adjust. It’s wonderful having no outside-the-house responsibilities. My parents have been here since Wednesday afternoon. My dad is busy building a desk for/with Kiddo1 (he cut the pieces back in Phoenix and they put it together; they finished last night). My mom has been cooking and baking. All in all they’ve been great to have around. They leave tomorrow morning and Mr. Handsome’s parents and two older brothers arrive Tuesday afternoon. Lots of visitors in the house!

Kiddo1 is handling all of this very well. The kid has basically had his only-child life turned upside down: Dad is distracted with visitors and my requests (even though I try not to bother him, sometimes I just can’t get up from a feeding!), Mom is just straight-up different (I can’t go out much, I can’t walk far, I’m always breastfeeding), other people are constantly in our house and there’s a baby who everyone says looks just like him but he doesn’t see it.

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Kiddo1 (left) and Baby2 (right), both at about six hours old

He’s also been cooped up in the house ever since we got home on Thursday, which doesn’t help. He’s gotten out with one of my parents at least once a day, but it isn’t the family outings that he’s used to. We can’t have kids over for playdates like normal just yet either.

Since he’s got some extra energy he’s been a tad more sensitive, a little more short with his responses and a bit less responsive in general. He spends his time reading, playing video games, watching TV and occasionally helping my mom cook/bake or my dad build a desk for him.

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The finished desk he built with my dad

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppDespite these things, he’s doing amazing. For the last couple nights, I’ve made a point to put Baby2 to bed around 8 so he and I can read together before he goes to bed. I try to sit with him and talk for a minute after tucking him in. He’s a fantastic child – so interested in big things right now like ships, planes, movies and books. He loves to bend someone’s ear about these things. I’ve tried to give him my full attention whenever he talks, but I admit I’ve had to dismiss him once or twice and it kind of breaks my heart to do so.

We’ve been talking about when he can expect things to return to normal, when the visitors will trail off and when he can have friends over again. I know he’ll pull through this transition time with flying colors.

Mr. Handsome is my freaking hero. He has dealt with everyone in the house tugging at him from every direction. My dad needs tools and miscellaneous items for the desk he’s building (they couldn’t bring his whole shop from Phoenix with them!) so Mr. Handsome tracks things down from neighbors. My mom needs to find stuff in the kitchen so he helps her and lets her talk to him about all kinds of stuff. Kiddo1 tells him everything, all day long, and he dutifully listens and tries to play with him as much as he can. Max bothers him to go outside, go to the park and toss the ball, plus he has been barking a lot more and Mr. Handsome meets most of his demands but always without complaint. I have tried to limit my own demands on him as much as possible but, like I said, sometimes I just can’t get up in the middle of a feeding. I don’t know how he’s handling all this, but he gets it done.

We don’t get a lot of alone time right now, which super sucks. I love talking to my husband, even if it’s about boring, day-to-day stuff. I don’t know if he’s noticed, but I’ve been trying to sneak in some time with him when he takes Max out back or to sit with him when he’s holding Baby2. Soon we will have time together again. In the meantime I just hope he’s staying sane with everyone’s constant demands!

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppMax (our dog) has been a joy to watch adjust. On Thursday when we brought Baby2 home, I think Max was a little scared of her. He didn’t get too close to her and wouldn’t turn his back on her. Thursday night, though, she made some little coo noises while in her crib and he shot up in bed and booked it over to her to check things out. He slept in front of her crib. From then on out he’s been very curious about her and gives her lots of sniffs. He’s sensitive to her noises and will come right over to check her out.

He’s obviously jealous of her when Mr. Handsome holds her, though. He rushes right over to Mr. Handsome and tries to distract him. I find this amusing but I believe Mr. Handsome is getting a little annoyed.

Max has been barking a bit more and displaying other protective behaviors, but he is very gentle with Baby2 and has even given her a few little kisses! My camera isn’t quite fast enough to get a clear shot though.

As for me, there are only two words to describe my current mental state: baby drunk. My mind is in a happy fog in which I don’t feel too forgetful or “dumbed down” (for lack of a better phrase) but I do feel a little tipsy, if you will. I’m pretty much super happy in general!

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Out for breakfast – our first real outing as a foursome!

Today has been the first day that I’ve felt annoyed that I can’t do much yet. We ventured out to the neighborhood breakfast joint, a short four block walk away. Baby2 was snug in the wrap which was awesome – I can’t wait to start writing about our no stroller experiment! But even after four blocks there, a whole lot of sitting and four blocks back, I was spent when we got home. My body let me know that I needed to rest now. Luckily my parents had an outing planned with Kiddo1 so I took Baby2 to bed for her feeding and relaxed all afternoon.

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An evening walk around the neighborhood on Friday night

Otherwise, I’ve been pretty good physically. Sure, things are sore “down there,” but not “sit on an inflatable donut” sore, so that’s nice. We started taking an evening walk around the block on Friday night. After Saturday’s walk I vowed to walk two blocks tonight, although after this morning I might stick to just one block again. No need to push it. I’m just happy to get out of the house for a bit and Baby2 seems to love the fresh air.

Here are the gross parts of my postpartum period, so skip this paragraph if you’re queasy. My lifesavers for healing “down there” have been Earth Mama Angel Baby’s New Mama Bottom Spray and, what some like to call Peri Pops (pads doused with witch hazel and frozen – freaking heaven). I had used both every time I peed up until today, now I just use them when needed. I’m trying to wean myself. I’m also trying to cut back on the ibuprofen; I’m taking two or three doses a day, down from four or five 800 mg doses. I was super nervous about pooping for the first time because after my first pregnancy/delivery (with a third degree tear) pooping hurt more than anything ever had in my whole life. I had to scream and hold on to Mr. Handsome while I pooped. I shit you not (ha!). This time I started to get nervous because I hadn’t gone since Wednesday morning. But I finally pooped this morning and it went so well and I was so happy about it that I told Mr. Handsome! He was happy for me. One more gross thing, we took the placenta home and had it encapsulated. I’ve been taking placenta pills and I just drank some placenta tea since last night. Whoa. Too early to tell if it is having an impact, but the whole process was interesting to watch!

Enough gross stuff. And, I think, enough in general. That was quite a brain dump there (that I wrote over a few days) so I think I’ll go rest with my sleeping husband and baby. Yay!!

Book Review: Natural Hospital Birth

PhotobucketThis book was recommended to me by a member of my Moms Group. When I heard the title I knew I had to read it, as I am planning a natural hospital birth myself.

I was a little afraid the book would make me start to feel really combative about how we would have to deal with the hospital in order to get our natural birth. Over the last few weeks, I have identified that my biggest fear about birth isn’t that I can’t do it, it’s that hospital staff will somehow mess it up for me by not following my wishes.

Much to my surprise, though, this book doesn’t encourage confrontation with staff. Ms. Gabriel emphasizes a calm but firm approach, one that allows the staff to see your confidence in and commitment to natural birth.

One of her biggest strategies for avoiding interventions is using the phrase, “I think we’ll wait an hour.” It isn’t rejecting the staff’s ideas or being combative, rather it’s a keen delay mechanism that often allows time for whatever they feel needs resolution to resolve itself. For example, if the staff is pushing Pitocin because of an inactive labor, one hour could be all you need to really get in the groove of things. And if one hour doesn’t work, ask for another. Staff may try to guilt-trip you into seeing things their way, but hold your ground and they’ll see your commitment to natural birth.

One of the great things about this book is the assistance in writing one’s birth plan. I had no idea that birth plans can be controversial: apparently some practitioners discourage them because they don’t want their patients to get “too attached” to a specific plan. Ms. Gabriel is a big advocate of plans, though, as long as you understand that plans change and you keep your “hospital version” short and sweet.

Ms. Gabriel recommends three versions of your plan: a dream version, a realistic version and a hospital version. The hospital version should basically say, “I want the most natural birth possible.” I’ve been inspired to finally start to writing down elements of my ideal plan and get working with Mr. Handsome, too, to make sure we’re on the same page.

Plus, I’m asking Mr. Handsome to read this book, too. It’s great that I have all the information about obtaining a natural birth in a hospital, but there’s only so much I’ll be able to do during “the throws” of labor. Mr. Handsome is my advocate so he not only needs to live and breathe our birth plan as much as me (maybe even more so!) but he needs to know the strategies presented in this book in order to get what we want out of this birth. Poor guy, his prescribed reading list is getting longer and longer!

I’m not as nervous about the hospital staff failing me after reading this book. I think there are things we need to do to prepare ourselves for trying to achieve a natural birth in a hospital setting. I have confidence in myself and in Mr. Handsome that we can convey our commitment to natural birth and have things the way we want them. I know circumstances can change and some things are just out of our control, but I feel like we will have a handle on ensuring that we have the most natural (and enjoyable!) birth possible.

I Love Water Aerobics!

I already love prenatal yoga, but for about three weeks now I’ve also been taking a weekly water aerobics class at the community center down the street. I had some trepidations at first, but this class is actually pretty awesome! Sure, I’m the youngest one there (by far!) and the music they play is atrocious (think The Macarena) but I love it more and more each time I go to a class.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone AppI’m too cheap to buy a maternity swimsuit so I just wear my bikini. Some people look at me kind of funny – are they trying to answer the “fat vs. pregnant” question? I’m not really there to impress people so I’m okay with this.

Some of my favorite things about water aerobics:

  • It’s so low-impact that I don’t feel like I’m doing much. I mean, I push myself, go at my top speed and flex my muscles to make sure I am getting something out of the whole thing, but when I get out of the pool I don’t feel exhausted or sore like I sometimes do when I get off the elliptical. It isn’t until I’m back home on the couch that I start to notice my muscles are a little tired.
  • Water resistance is great – I can “turn up” the resistance by flexing my feet or moving my palms to push the water as I move. Or, I can lessen the resistance my moving my palms to cut straight through the water.
  • It’s great for the core muscles because I have to fight to maintain control of my balance. It’s so easy to let my hips move from center because I can move with the water, but it is such a better workout to fight against the water to keep my core upright.
  • Luckily I’m in the water so I can’t fall over! I can’t really hurt myself either, other than over-straining or something.
  • I’m covered by water up to my neck, so I don’t at all feel self-conscious about my belly hanging out or my big ol’ boobies bouncing around!
  • I like that I can work as hard as I feel like working and no ones knows either way. If I’m feeling pumped (which I have been so far!) I can crank up the intensity without alienating my neighbors. Or, if I’m feeling tired or slow, I can ease into it and once again, no one is the wiser.
  • At first I had some leg cramps but only because I kept pointing my toes. Now I try to flex more at my ankles and I don’t have that problem anymore. But, if I do have a cramp, I can stop for a second and massage it out and no one really notices.
  • Also, I sleep so great after being in the pool for an hour!

Plus, some things I learned about while I was reading about the benefits of water aerobics:

  • Did you know that being in the pool for awhile actually reduces swelling? I heard this from my midwife too. Apparently the water pressure helps to push the excess water out of your body. Yet it somehow hydrates too – I know this because I pee a LOT after water aerobics. Like, once before I change, once after I change and a couple times in the 30 minutes after I return home. I do drink water during the class but not that much water. It’s weird.
  • This NY Times article from 2008 describes a study (though a poorly-executed study, but a study nonetheless) which found that pregnant women who exercise using water aerobics are less likely to take pain medication during labor and delivery – 27% of women who exercise opted for drugs versus 66% in the non-exercising control group.
  • This article from Women Fitness also outlines some great tips and reminders for water exercise.

I’m so glad I’ve finally started to shake up my routine with this class. I highly recommend it!