Tandem nursing

Oh God, no!

‘Could I be pregnant?’

That question was ringing in my head when I was experiencing the common early symptoms of pregnancy a few months ago. I was so stressed that I even feared taking the home pregnancy test. The idea of getting another child with a small  baby at hand was suffocating me.

How will I deal with two crying babies at once?

How am I going to afford their needs?

How will I breastfeed two babies at the same time?

Wait, how will I even hold two babies at once?

Have I ever seen mothers of twins breastfeeding before?

My curiosity took me to the internet in the middle of the night and there I learned about tandem nursing.

Most mothers, including me, who breastfeed exclusively are under the assumption that exclusive breastfeeding can serve as an effective birth control method. Some of these mothers get the shock of their lives when they discover that they are pregnant and have to juggle two small babies. One major challenge these mothers face is the deciding to continue breastfeeding during their pregnancy. Imagine all the hormonal changes your body was going through during pregnancy- the painful breasts, the nausea, the back pain and oh the mood swings. These will surely affect one’s decision to continue breastfeeding as that can affect milk production.

Researches have shown that a significant number of children self wean during pregnancy because of the decreased milk production. But for mothers who decide to continue, the act of breastfeeding a toddler (or a baby) and an infant (not necessarily at once) is what is referred as Tandem nursing.

As long as a mother is well- nourished, her body has the capacity to produce the necessary needs of her baby and the unborn child. One of the most common problems tandem nursing mothers face is nipple soreness which is mainly due to the hormonal changes. Decreasing milk production can also make the nursing baby to suckle more and thus cause sore nipples. This can make nursing uncomfortable and the mother, moody.

There is also the fear of over using the colostrum by the older child but despite experiencing decrease of milk production at the beginning, it will pick up towards the end of pregnancy so the newborn will have sufficient amount of the nutritious milk he/she will need at the time of birth until the mature milk follows. Once the newborn joins the scene, the older child may self wean due to the change in the taste of breast milk and the mother might have to deal with sibling rivalry.

Tandem nursing can help a mother keep that special connection with her child but it can also become an uncomfortable experience in which case, she has to find ways of working around it such as limiting breastfeeding time and opting for cuddling only or topping up with cow milk and more solid foods. Tandem nursing seems to also help with morning sickness while for some it worsens the nausea.

When the older child is under 18 months, mothers are most likely to continue nursing despite its challenges because the benefits weigh more.  But as demanding as it may be, it can be quite a special experience to continue breastfeeding both until the need for weaning arises. Do you think you have what it takes to do tandem nursing?

This first appeared on The Standard on 28th May 2017

 

 

4 Easy snack ideas for your baby

According to various researches, nutrition in the first 1000 days of life can shape a child’s future. Not only will it determine your child’s health and eating habits but also the ability to learn new things because the brain grows most during the first three years.

Since I don’t have a working menu for each day, something that racks my brain in the mornings is what to cook for my daughter. But because I usually try to incorporate proteins, dairy, carbs, vegetables and fruits in her daily diet, it serves as a guide. My greatest challenge though is what to offer for snacks.  I believe well timed snacks are important for healthy appetite on main meals. So far, I have been giving her fruits at 10 am and yogurt at 3 pm but now that she is more active and her taste buds are well experienced, it has become less interesting. I Therefore went on hunting for easy and healthy snack ideas that I can make at home and here are the 4 snacks I tested and worked for my daughter and I.

Oatmeal cookies

These are perfect grab-and-go healthy snacks that even you will love. All you need to prepare the cookies is 100 gms of oats (I ground the oats for a softer texture), 2 medium bananas, a hint of oil/butter, and cinnamon. Mix all the ingredients well and put in a preheated oven in any shape you desire for 15 minutes.

Fruit veggie smoothies

Depending on the amount you offer, these smoothies can also serve as breakfast. Put the following ingredients in a blender and mix them well.

  • 2 oranges, 1 mango and 2  carrots
  • Half a cup of milk
  • 1 cup of greek yogurt (you can make this from plain yogurt by putting it on a strainer until the liquid has fully dripped out)

You can also experiment with different fruits your child likes such as strawberry, banana and cauliflower.

Banana pancakes

These pancakes can also be served for breakfast but I personally prefer them for snacks. You will only need 1 banana and 2 eggs to make this but if you want to make it with oats you can use 2 bananas and 2 eggs instead. Mix the ingredients and fry in a tiny bit of oil over the pan.

Cereal bars

Because of the peanut butter and honey these bars have, this will only work for children who have already been introduced to the two. These are the ingredients you will need to make the cereal bars.

  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons of honey
  • 2 cups of toasted quick oats or muesli
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut flakes

Melt the peanut butter and honey in a bowl and stir in all the other ingredients. Once they are well mixed, lay the mix on a plate and put then in the fridge to chill until it is firm. Once it is firm, you can cut them in any shape you like. These bars can be finger foods that your child can grab and eat herself. You can add dried fruits for variety.

This first appeared on The Standard on 21st May 2017

 

 

Happy Birthday Baby!

First birthdays in Ethiopia are big celebrations. They are usually thrown by grandparents and everyone, I mean everyone is invited! It is a very lively and noisy place but I am yet to see a happy child on her big day.

As we were preparing for my daughter’s first birthday a few weeks ago, that was my greatest fear. As much as first birthdays are mostly celebrations for the  parents, I wanted her to enjoy her special day as well, and the simple things we did helped us achieve just that. By following the tips below, we had a good birthday party and so did she. I garnered a few pearls of wisdom from the celebration.

Keep it simple!

It truly takes a village to raise a child and making it through the first year of parenting is worth celebrating. Inviting the people who helped you through the first year is customary but don’t overdo it. We opted for a simple lunch and cake cutting with just family and close friends at home. Have a simple plan for what you want to do for the day and send invitations in time so guests can RSVP for better planning.

Respect nap time

12 months of experience has taught me that for children to be happy and play good hosts, they must have enough nap time like other normal days. Make sure that they sleep before your guests arrive or find a quiet place for naps during the party.

Avoid noise makers

My daughter warms up to strangers easily but some can get easily uncomfortable when they see strange faces. Also the whistles, firecracker candies for the cake, balloons and other colorful and noisy decorations can overwhelm your child. Avoid noise makers to make the day stress free for your child.

Keep it short  

This is for everyone’s benefit but more for the birthday girl and the invited kids.When our party started we had seven jovial kids who were excited to be there. But as we took our time with setting up the cake and other formalities around it, tears started falling down. We had to rush the cake cutting because they were frustrated. I also observed that it would have been fun to plan for some simple games for the other kids by putting an adult in charge.

Have a simple cake

I think we have agreed that the first birthday is more for the parents. So, whether you are baking or ordering, get a simple cake and save that Frozen themed 7k cake for the third birthday.

Take pictures before and during

This is a step I forgot and regret. I was busy with serving our guests and making things look perfect that I forgot to take pictures. If you have a special outfit for the birthday girl, taking some pictures before the party starts is advisable . It is also preferable to assign someone for that duty if you don’t have a professional photographer.

As you plan for the special day, remember that making memories and celebrating how far you have come is more important than anything else.

Have a wonderful first birthday.

This first appeared on The Standard on 14th May 2017

Lessons from the first year of motherhood

My little one is turning one in a few days. I don’t know about you but I personally think that it is an accomplishment to make it through a year with a small human being who asks for anything with just a cry or grunt. If you ask me to describe the last year with a few words, my answer would be – love, joy, uncertainty, lack of sleep, diapers, diapers and more diapers. It has been an amazing journey that transformed me and redefined my purpose as a mother and wife.

I was not a patient person but motherhood has beat me to submission through its ups and downs. Besides patience it has helped me grow personally with lessons I might not have learned any other way. Here are some of the most important lessons I have learnt.

Delayed gratitude – all those sleepless nights you spent rocking and breastfeeding might not be recognized by your child now or for the next 20 or 30 years but it is worth that cute smile of satisfaction they give you. Whenever I had an argument with my mother as a teenager, she would usually say you will understand when you get children of your own. It took 30 years for me to understand her but that understanding has brought us more closer. I have learned to appreciate not only my mother but other mothers I know.

Expect the unexpected –  I used to think I would lose the baby weight fast and get back to work after four months among many other expectations but here I am with 22kgs of baby weight and working from home in a job I never expected to be in. Whether it is your body, career, relationship or the next diaper explosion, I have learnt to work with what I have at hand. This has helped me avoid disappointment and made me focus and on the way forward.

Comparison steals the joy – I think we are obsessed with perfection. And those 100+ pictures from other moms on our timelines don’t help at all. As a first time mother you want to do everything right but let us be frank, you cannot and it is okay. Everytime I compared my daughter to other children or myself as a mother, I ended up feeling down. I have learned to do my best and be content with it.

Giving time to yourself and partner – giving time to yourself through the 24/7 duties of motherhood may seem difficult but I have learned to do just that with a 30 minute bath/shower or a 5 page read. I have also learnt that unless you give time to yourself, it is hard to spend quality time with your partner. A few minutes of doing everyday things can do wonders for your relationship. Looking at my husband sharing a beautiful moment with our daughter is one of the happiest moments in my life as a family.

Treasure every moment – When my daughter was a few weeks old, I wished that she would grow up fast and start smiling back at me, when she was able to do that I wished she would start sitting and interacting with me more, the wishes never end but I have learned to treasure the moment. It is important to enjoy each stage before it flies away quickly. Special moments are printed in our minds but taking pictures is also another way but don’t be obsessed about snapping every moment and actually missing the moment. When taking pictures of your little one, I have learned to organize them regularly as you store them, it will be too much to sift through later on.

Mommy partners – it is very important to have a support around you that you can call at 3am about a cracked nipple home remedy or the color of your baby’s poop. It truly takes a village to raise a child and I was blessed with mothers around me who were always happy to lend a helping hand.

Hard times will pass – motherhood is full of ups and downs and I have learnt that in the moments that I felt so helpless and tired, knowing that it will pass helped me carry on. However difficult that sleepless night was or that first cold your baby caught, it will pass.

This first appeared on The Standard on 30th April 2017

Hiring a nanny

I have a confession to make. I am a stay at home mom (this still sounds funny to my ears) and yet I don’t think I can survive more than a day without Ciru. Who is Ciru you ask? She is the secretary of my daughter’s upbringing committee. In the few days she left my baby and I alone, I have seen how tasking it can be to take care of my daughter and still find time to eat and pee. So I wonder at times how mothers of two or three toddlers keep their sanity even with a nanny around.

Finding a good nanny to your children these days can be equated to winning a lottery. Most mothers I know are usually looking for one at any time. With the disturbing videos we see and the unfortunate news headlines we hear about bad incidents with nannies, a little paranoia is allowed while you are looking for one. But a well planned search and well executed hiring process with sufficient time period can land you a trustworthy nanny you can be pleased with.

The first step is to sit down and write what kind of nanny you need – live in or a day scholar?, how much is your budget? Strictly a nanny or will she help with the other housework? How many leave days in a month?… It is easier to look for someone when you have a a list of criteria. Once you have clearly described your need, you can now use different means to look for potential nannies – family and friends referrals, agencies, etc. If it is possible, it is advised to go with someone recommended by someone you know but even that has to be verified.

After you have secured candidates, dedicate some time to sit down and talk with them. You can ask them about their experience with children or what they will do in case of an emergency. Trust your mommy instincts as you make your assessment. This might sound far fetched but our little ones are the apple of our eyes who needs to be taken care of by the best available.

The next step after making your choice will be to do a thorough background check. If a nanny is recommended by a friend or family, look into the relationship and reputation. Check the authenticity of the national ID she presented or other identification documents. There are agencies who also check criminal records and it is best to use their services to do a full background check.

Once you have picked your nanny, have everything in writing, which can be used as her job description and personal file you can keep. Even if you are satisfied with your choice, have a trial period before hiring her permanently. Take some days off and take care of your baby together until everyone can get along.

Hiring a nanny is just the beginning. The real job comes later and it requires time. You will need to be keen with her day to day routines, and learn to compromise. She is the part of the family who cares for your greatest asset so treat her like the way you want to be treated but keep things professional. Every time you come across an issue you want to address with her, ask yourself would this be an issue if this happened at my workplace?

Good luck in finding the best nanny out there!

Did you know?

According to the law, the least amount of compensation for a house help is 12,000.00 Ksh.

This first appeared on The Standard on 7 May 2017

My battle with milestones

‘Does she keep eye contact?’ ‘Not yet’

‘Is she supporting her head yet?’ ‘Hmmm she is getting there.’

‘She must be sitting without support by now.’

‘Give her time. She will get there in her time.’

This is what my conversation looks like with people when it comes to milestones and my daughter. She takes time to reach at milestones that most children get to early. It is something I have been struggling with for months and it doesn’t get easy. I even feel like it has somehow made me miss the joy of looking at her grow because my focus is on her reaching some milestone.

Like most mothers out there, I was told that babies should support (note that the word is should) their head by month 3, should be able to sit unsupported by month 6, walk supported by month 8, say baba and mama by month 9, …the list goes on. And if the baby fails to reach that milestone in time, there is either something wrong with the baby or the mother is too clingy and not letting the baby develop well.

So some part of me usually dislikes going for the checkups because of what the visit will bring, going to another specialist, another treatment or medication. There is also that funny thing babies do when you visit the doctor – everything they do at home escapes their mind when the doctor checks their development. A baby that rolls over in the house, all of sudden doesn’t have head control in front of the doctor. Then you will end up at the lab to do some test to understand why. ( I have learned to take a video clip of my daughter while she is active and doing the things she usually do to show the doctor when we visit.)

We have always tried to stay positive and enjoy her growth as much as we can. But I can’t lie that there is always that voice in my head, that keeps on saying maybe we should have done the occupational therapy or given her that medication. The toughest point has been drawing the line, when is a milestone considered delayed? When should one seek medical help? We are aware of the timeline our babies will reach milestones but that does not apply to every child. In my quest to understand delayed milestones, I have learned it is best to seek help if your baby

  • At the end of the third month – never seems to focus on your face, is not startling to loud sounds, never smiles or doesn’t follow things with her eyes,
  • At the end of the six month – not able to lift the head when on the tummy, her head is still not steady when held upright, is not trying to grasp or swipe at toys, does not respond to sounds around her,
  • At the end of the ninth month – is not able to sit even while supported, not making attempts to move around, not reacting to people who care for her regularly or doesn’t babble,
  • At the end of the 12th month – is not interested in playing, doesn’t make a range of sounds, is not moving by crawling, scooting or rolling, is not standing up and bearing weight even when supported.

Every child is different and develops at different rate. We as mothers are eager to see them grow and get easily frustrated with delays.  A keen mother will always know when a child is not progressing well. Don’t miss out on the joy of looking at your child like me, monitor keenly but enjoy their step by step growth.

This first appeared on The Standard on 16 April  2017

Bizarre facts about newborns

We were still in the hospital when I decided to change my daughter’s diaper for the first time. I am sure I looked like those bomb squads detonating a bomb as I was undoing the fastener tape on the diaper. To my shock I saw blood on the diaper and the nurse came close once she noticed my shock. ‘She is bleeding.” I almost cry and she smiles and say, ‘This is perfectly normal my dear.’ That was my first introduction to the bizarre things that newborns do but it did not stop there. These are some of the other weird things I experienced.

Spotting and lactating

Babies are exposed to our high level of estrogen hormone when they are in the womb and when they are born, the levels drop rapidly. That sudden change causes what is known as  pseudomenstruation, hence the spotting. It is a common thing that happens to more than a quarter of female babies, usually in the first seven days of life. It can be scary but it will clear on its own.

The same reason behind the spotting can also cause lactation. The sharp change of hormones can cause newborns to develop tiny breasts and produce small amount of milk from their nipples. This can be caused by some medications as well so it is best to check with a doctor if that happens.

Trembling jaw

It was my husband who noticed her trembling jaw for the first time. It freaked me out because she had a convulsion when she was in the hospital. I observed her keenly and decided to Google instead of calling the doctor. I then learned that it is result of undeveloped nervous system. It will take a few months for their system to adapt to their environment but until then it is good to keep the baby comfortable to avoid the quivering.

Weird breathing

One of the most beautiful experience with newborns is to look at them as they sleep though the way the breath can be strange. I remember calling my doctor friend so she can have a look at my daughter at 6am. Newborns have irregular breathing , taking a pause then going to rapid breathing. But all that will stabilize once the diaphragm develops around two months.

FUN FACT

A baby can breathe and swallow at the same time until 7 months of age.

Startling

When I saw my daughter frequently startling herself awake,  I assumed she took after me because I personally startle easily. But that is an important reflex called the Moro reflex that babies must have. Doctors actually check how strong that reflex is at the first clinic visit. When babies are in the womb, they are snuggled and protected by the amniotic fluid.  But once they are born, their system starts learning how to protect the body. When they startle, they throw their hands out with open palms and they suddenly bring their hands back in while drawing their head. You can try snuggling them or putting your palms against their chest to calm them. But if the trembling doesn’t stop when you touch them or you think it is abnormal, please visit a doctor. This too will stop around the third month.

Raising a child is a learning process, even if it is your second or third child. Trust your motherly instincts and don’t be shy to ask your doctor the million and one questions you might have.

This first appeared on The Standard on 23 April, 2017