Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A quick fix for cradle cap

Cradle Cap:
/krādl kap/
A newborn scalp condition causing dry flaking and/or thick crusting of skin.

My daughter didn't get cradle cap so I didn't even know what it was until my son developed it. He had excessively dry skin all over which cleared up quickly except in his eyebrows and on his scalp. I noticed he had a thick layer of crusty skin on his scalp that looked like a terrible case of dandruff.  Initially I thought I could get rid of it with wash cloth and Cetaphil baby shampoo but it turned out that shampoo was causing more harm than good. I'll post more about that in detail later.

I looked online and saw recommendations to try coconut oil and a brush but I guess the brush I used was the wrong kind so it didn't help much. It would lift some of the flakes off his scalp but the problem still persisted. His pediatrician told me not to worry about it because it resolves itself, but he has thick curly hair and so the flakes were basically trapped on his head. She told me to use mineral oil (baby oil) with a brush. But I still didn't have much luck getting rid of it.

In doing additional research online and speaking to fellow blogging moms I finally got some great advice that was able to eliminate his cradle cap within a few days. The advice was to combine two awesome products;

1. Mustela Foam Shampoo For Infants
This foaming shampoo is awesome and I'll continue to use it even though his cradle cap is gone now. It has great cleansing power without being too soapy and rinses out quickly. Using it on its own without the brush wont eliminate cradle cap though. Trust me, I tried πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚.

2. Bean B Clean Cradle Cap Scalp Massaging brush

Unlike a regular hair brush, this brush has thick rubbery bristles that gently lift flakes off the scalp and away from the hair. The brush comes with the below instructions on how to properly use it. Its also important to take it apart after each use so it can dry properly


After using this brush just twice, the cradle cap had totally disappeared! Thanks to the awesome moms who recommended it to me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A tale of two pumps: Spectra S2 & Evenflo Dual Electric

Can I start by confessing that I thoroughly hate pumping.😧 I really hate pumping. I feel like I need to get that out there loud and clear. Every single thing about pumping and storing breastmilk grates my nerves, and yet I "suffer" through it because its so totally worth it.πŸ˜πŸ’™
When I had my daughter in 2012, Obamacare had not been implemented yet, so I narrowly missed out on getting a free breast pump.  At the time I didn't want to spend too much on a pump especially since pumps aren't returnable and I didn't even know if I would be successful at breastfeeding. I ultimately decided to go for the Lansinoh pump and posted about my experience with it here. The pump worked well for me although it did break down at about the 9 month mark and I had to get into a fight with the company to get a replacement. Nevertheless I was happy with the pump until I stopped pumping once my daughter turned a year old.

This time around I had every intention of benefiting from the free pump. I was excited to get to choose a pump without worrying about the costπŸ’°. My insurance company provided me with a list of medical equipment suppliers that I could get the pump from in order for it to be covered. All of them seemed to offer the same options; with one pump from each major brand such as Medela, Ameda, Lansinoh and Spectra. I was 100% certain I would go for the Medela but then I remembered realized it has an open system; meaning there is no barrier between the milk and the tubing. This can potentially allow milk and condensation to build up inside the tubes. For me this was a total no-no.  I decided Medela just wasn't right for me. During my hospital stay I used a Medela pump provided by the hospital and it seemed like a decent pump however I didn't like how delicate the membrane pieces were. After doing a lot of research I decided the best choice for me was the Spectra S2.

Based on all the reviews I gathered that it featured a closed system, a quiet pump and "hospital grade" suction. So I went ahead and ordered it.


As you can see from the photo above it features a convenient carry handle and bottle stand in the back. I'm really not sure why there is only room for one bottle considering that this is a double pumpπŸ˜’Once I started using the Spectra pump I noticed a few things that I did not like:

  • Firstly it doesn't have a battery option. Not that I've ever had to pump using a battery but its nice to know that if there is no power the pump would still work
  • The screen doesn't light up, so if you are pumping in a dark room you can barely see the screen. Instead there is an independent light that shines down on the screen that just seems out of place and doesn't help you read off the screen.
  • The pump always starts out in the expression phase and not the let down phase. πŸ˜’πŸ˜’ Let down always comes first and with my Lansinoh pump it was set to always run the let down phase for 2 minutes and then automatically switch over to the expression phase. The Spectra pump always starts in the expression phase so you have to manually switch it over to the let down mode. Then you have to manually switch it back to the expression mode in a minute or two. Keep in mind that you only have two hands and you are already using both your hands to hold up the pump bottles. I     just   don't      get    it. πŸ˜’
  • The pump comes with two different size flanges but its just not comfortable regardless what size you use. There is something about the shape and angle of these flanges that makes them no fun to use. The lansinoh flanges had a silicone comfort ring that made it a lot more comfortable than the Spectra.
The main things that I like about this pump is how super quiet it is. It is quieter than a phone vibrating in your pocket.  With the tv on I can't even hear if the pump is on without looking at the screen to see that its working.

Five weeks into using this pump it shorted out and failed to power on. It happened late at night when I was about to pump before going to bed. There was no way I could just not pump until I could get a replacement so my husband rushed out to Walmart and got me the first pump he could find there. It happened to be a discontinued EvenFlo pump

Can I just say that this pump looks like its from the stone ages. There are no tubes because the pump connects to the bottle directly. Yes that's right. No tubes πŸ˜• πŸ˜’.  So that means instead of having one pump that connects to two bottles using tubes, the Evenflo pump is actually two independent pumps that each connect directly on top of the bottles. Let that sink in. πŸ˜• 
So every time you go to pump you have to carry not just the bottle but the entire pump for the whole duration of the pumping session! Who thought of this?  Mind you, the pumps are quite heavy.
To make matters worse there is no screen because this isn't a digital pump, there is just an on off switch and a dial on the top of each pump so there is no let down phase and no option for  different pump speeds. The dial on top allows you to control the suction strength only, but how on earth they expect you to be able to reach the dial while pumping is beyond me. πŸ˜’πŸ˜ž
This pump is also insanely loud, and keep in mind there are actually two pumps going at the same time so no one can even hear the tv if this pump is on in the same room!
Aside from all that, the main negative about this pump is that milk can get inside the pump unit itself if you don't hold it perfectly upright which is just bizarre. Since pumps can't be returned I used this for the few days it took to get a replacement pump sent to me from Spectra and I now have this as an emergency back up pump.

Having said all that, there were some surprisingly good things about the Evenflo pump. Firstly the price is less than half of what most double electric pumps cost. It retails at Walmart for $62 which is nothing compared to most pumps out there. The low price is most probably because it has been discontinued. Another awesome thing is that it comes loaded with accessories😍. There is a tote bag to carry everything, a cooler bag, two ice packs, bottle stands and spare parts. I was definitely impressed with that because the Spectra pump came with none of these accessories.

 Additionally the suction on this pump is ridiculously strong, I guess because there is no tubing? Even on the lowest setting it seemed really high suction which meant I was done pumping in under 10 minutes.  Additionally the flanges on this pump come with a silicone insert for extra comfort.

After pumping with the Evenflo for a few days it felt weird pumping with my replacement Spectra. The suction seemed very weak in comparison and it seemed to take forever to pump. However I'm glad I don't have to use the Evenflo pump everyday because it clearly isn't designed for regular use. Here's hoping I don't ever have to use it again!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Update on her Uptown Espresso Kidkraft kitchen

A while back, I posted about two toy kitchens I was torn between but I forgot to post the update about which one we finally decided to get for her second birthday! I ended up sticking to my original choice which was the uptown espresso kitchen by Kidkraft.

When the box was delivered I was slightly overwhelmed by how much assembly was required, This felt a lot less like assembly and a lot more like building it from scratch! There were just so many loose parts with this kitchen it was pretty intimidating. Thankfully my husband was able to put it all together.

Once it was fully assembled it was really quite heavy and not that easy to move, so we definitely should have assembled it in the right spot. We had to move ours afterwards and that wasn't fun.  Since the kitchen doesn't come with any food or accessories I gave her a mini pan and cooking spoon from my kitchen and purchased a pack of Kidkraft pretend food. The food wasn't the best quality especially the cartons; they were super flimsy and crushed within minutes of gentle play. 


Overall my daughter loved this kitchen even more than I thought she would and even now two years later she is never bored of playing with it. She already can't wait for her little brother to be old enough to play along!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Recovering from a repeat c-section

Our Hospital Room

In many ways a c-section is simply a drawn out reverse of a natural birth, you have a quick and a somewhat "painless" birth and then you are in excruciating pain for weeks afterwards but the first 24 hours are the most challenging. As I mentioned in his birth story everything they told me about controlling the itching was all a big lie. The OB told me the anesthesiologist would handle it, the anesthesiologist assured me the nurses would take care of it by giving me something in my IV line. The nurse looked at me somewhat blankly when I mentioned it a few hours after the surgery when I was finally wheeled to my room. She came back and told me they only had benadryl  in the form of a pill. A pill!!!!  There was no magic itch relieving medicine that would go in my line and start working right away. no. There was a pathetic benadryl pill that would basically take 30 minutes to get into my blood stream and would still do nothing.
The itching gradually built up in intensity to the point where it was unbearable; I was itchy from head to toe and also in terrible pain. My face was the itchiest especially my nose and mouth. The nurses all seemed focused on controlling the pain and not really as concerned about the itching. However in my opinion the itching was far worse than pain. Pain is a constant that you can kind of get used to but itching crawls all over your skin and is impossible to ignore! They assured me the itching would start to go away in about 24 hours. The longest 24 hours of all time.

Aside from the itching and hunger, the main challenge in the first 24 hours is the intensity of the pain, combined with being bedridden, the discomfort of the compression boots and catheter. Caring for the baby that first night fell fully on my husband once again. After the first 24 hours I was able to get up, take a shower and start feeling like a human again. I started to walk around a bit and hold my precious baby more. 

Just like last time, basic activities such as standing up, sitting, walking and coughing are excruciating because they all rely on the abdominal muscles and tug at the incision. However based on my last experience this didn't come as a surprise at all. The hospital provided me with a belly support binder that really helped me get back on my feet.

On day 4 after the c-section we were ready to go home!  I was told once again that the average heal time is 6 weeks and I was restricted to very light activity to allow the incision to heal. I foolishly expected the recovery to be similar or better than the first time but I was in for an unpleasant surprise. With my first c-section I started to feel much better at about the 3 week mark. By 6 weeks I was fully feeling fine and was able to go out with my daughter to run errands. I had no issue carrying her in her car seat or in the baby bjorn carrier. At 2 months post partum my husband and I left our baby at home with my mother and visited a theme park, we walked a lot and went on rides and I was fine doing all that.  Fast forward to this repeat c-section and the experience was totally different with a much slower healing time.

I've heard from others that their c-section incisions were sometimes held closed with staples but in both my surgeries the incision was initially covered with steri strips instead. The photo below shows the difference between sutures, strips and staples.

The strips eventually peel off by themselves like a bandaid or you have to remove them when they are wet. By the 3 week mark some of the strips had started peeling off.  The incision looked mostly healed but I noticed that one section seemed to be open and every time it got wet in the shower it seemed to be oozing. I waited a  week and then went in to see the doctor to make sure it wasn't infected. The nurse removed all the strips and confirmed that one inch section of the incision was still open! At 4 weeks!! She pressed and poked all over the incision and it began to ooze and bleed.  She had a doctor come and look at it and they both agreed that it just needed additional time to heal so she placed fresh strips over the section that was open. She said she felt like a suture on the inner layer was poking at it and not allowing it to heal in a timely manner. At this point it really dawned on me the reason why a c-section leaves you in so much pain; because they cut through multiple layers of skin, fat and part through muscle to get to the baby. So you are actually dealing with multiple incisions in the same area, one on top of the other.

 A week later it was still looking awful or maybe worse. I went back in and again they removed the strips and that section was still open and oozing and bleeding! Why!?! The doctor calmly explained that the incision site was uneven and that was delaying the healing process. I was so annoyed because showering and other basic things were a nightmare with this section of my tummy open! I also couldn't help constantly worrying about it because I wasn't sure if it was maybe getting infected! They kept telling me to give it more time and keep it dry, I was literally spending 10 mins after each shower patting the strips dry. Meanwhile holding my baby was tricky because I had to hold him in way that wouldn't put any pressure on my still super sore belly, which was basically impossible. It was also impossible to use my boppy pillow while feeding him without being in a lot of pain.

At 6 weeks I had my postpartum check up and once again the strips were removed and that section of the incision just fell open!! I could have cried. The midwife then proceeded to poke inside the incision with a cotton swab to determine how deep the opening was. Not fun!! She determined that the inner layers had mostly healed up and it was just the top layer of skin that was open.  She consulted with the doctor and they both agreed that at this point it was best to discontinue using the strips and just leave the incision open.  To be clear this is a one inch opening on my belly thats constantly oozing, bleeding and icky and they were telling me to leave it uncovered for two weeks and then return for yet another incision check! To say that I was frustrated would be a major understatement, but I had no choice but to take their advice and hope for the best. Naturally I was also googling it like crazy and finding many stories that were similar or even worse.

The first few days were the trickiest because the inside of my clothing kept sticking to the open section of the incision, however after a week I realized it was definitely looking much better with the open section shrinking daily. Today is exactly 8 weeks since the surgery and the incision is 95% healed with a small section of it still healing. This time around the recovery process was definitely not easier or quicker than the first time. To be honest I'm not sure how people claim to have a faster recovery the second time around, It actually makes sense that it would be a tougher recovery because the old incision with scar tissue is reopened so it is logical that it would take longer to heal.  To all the c-sections mommas out there going through a tough recovery hang in there and remember this too shall pass.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A family centered C-section

When I had my daughter I posted my very detailed and slightly dramatic birth story, complete with a sequel!  To recap, I had complications that led to a failed induction and ultimately a c-section. Clearly the entire experience was a far cry from what I had expected and left me slightly embittered. Thankfully it didn't take long for me to realize how blessed I truly was to have a safe delivery and healthy baby despite all the complications.  This time around my son's birth experience couldn't have been more different and true to my promise, here is his birth story.

From the moment I discovered I was pregnant with him, I knew I did not want to repeat the c-section experience, I hated it the first time around and I was pretty darn sure I would hate it again. The only other option was a vbac (vaginal birth after c-section) but stories of uterine ruptures just filled me with terror. I researched for months the risks of a repeat c-section versus the risk of a vbac and I wished somehow I could have a third option!! Based on additional complications that came up during the pregnancy I grudgingly concluded that the repeat c-section was the lesser of two evils. I was assured that this time around the experience would be much better for several reasons.

Reason #1 Because of the intense itching I had last time, I spoke to my doctors at length and they assured me in advance that the anesthesiologist would be able to do something about it.  So imagine my disappointment when on the day of the surgery the anesthesiologist explained to me in great detail how there wasn't much he could do because the interaction of the spinal with morphine causes that itchy reaction in over 80% of women. He told me that without the morphine I would be in unbearable pain and they wouldn't even consider doing the procedure without it or a similar opioid. Instead he assured me that immediately after the surgery I could request an anti-itch drug from the nurses that would largely control the itching. This turned out not to be true at all. I could literally cry from how itchy I was later; I'll post in more detail about that separately.

Reason # 2 It would be a shorter hospital stay since we were not attempting to induce like last time.

Reason # 3 Scheduling in advance allowed me to be mentally prepared for it.

Reason # 4 Since I had already been through a c-section, there would be no surprises.

We moved out of state during the pregnancy so I was forced to switch to a new doctor.  I was heartbroken leaving my old doctor behind but the new practice turned out to be great as well.  Leading up to the scheduled c-section date they told me about their 'family centered' c-section option. This is an attempt to make the birth experience less clinical by allowing immediate bonding after birth. I was skeptical but of course I said yes. I googled it and came up with pictures like this that attempt to show what the clear drapes would look like.
Of course in reality it doesn't look quite like that because there are so many people around and you are hooked up to multiple monitors. Additionally they keep blue drapes until the last minute when the baby is coming out.

The c-section was scheduled for 2.30pm on a Monday and I was told not to eat or drink anything from midnight the day before. For a pregnant person that's about the same as telling me not to eat for a month. I questioned them about this and they told me the real rule is no food or water 8 hours before surgery but they like to say midnight since most people won't be eating through the night anyway. I did continue to drink some water til about 2am and then began my excruciating fast.

We were told to arrive at noon so we could be prepped for surgery. It definitely felt weird knowing exactly when I would have the baby, but even then, the anxiety was palpable.  I thought arriving 2.5 hours early would be way too much time and I was sure we would be bored to death but surprisingly it went by fast. We had to go through all the motions of consent forms, speaking with multiple nurses, doctors and anesthesiologists. A plethora of information was thrown at us all at once and everyone kept reminding me of all the possible things that could go wrong. I'm sure they are legally obligated to that but I was sweating intensely by the time I was all prepped to head into surgery. I had to remind myself that I had been through this before and everything was going to be just fine.

Just like the first time, they brought in a sterile outfit for my husband to wear over his clothes and then they took me away to get the spinal placed. Just like last time I had to hunch my back over and get stabbed in the back repeatedly. Once the spinal was placed I was told to lie down really quickly and felt warm all over. Unlike last time there was no wet wipe test but my legs immediately felt numb. A nurse told me that I was being pinched and poked really hard on my legs and belly but I couldn't feel a thing.I tried to stay really calm but once again the dizzying nausea, extreme thirst and breathlessness built up in waves. I also felt extremely hot and thought I would burst into flames, the anesthesiologists were great one of them began manually fanning me until my temperature regulated itself. Unlike my first time around I was not place on oxygen. Once I was stable, my husband was brought in looking like an astronaut! Our first hospital had him wear scrubs over his clothes but this hospital had a one piece overall type outfit very reminiscent of a space suit!

True to their word they put up clear drapes behind the blue drapes so that once our baby was born we would be able to see him immediately. Once the surgery began there was nothing to do but wait and pray for the best. Once again I thought to myself that it felt like such a passive way to bring a baby into the world and yet I was thankful that modern medicine provides such a life saving option when needed. Before long they told us they would be taking him out any minute, my husband and I looked at each other anxiously and then we heard his precious cries! Right away they dropped the blue drapes and we could see them holding my precious son!!! He looked much bigger than I imagined he would be and his crying was once again the most beautiful sound in the world, no words can explain the feeling. The nurse had to prop my head up to see all this. I watched them cut the cord and then they immediately placed him on my chest.

Can I pause and say that this experience was a major improvement on  my first c-section where my daughter was whisked away immediately after she was born. Having said that it was still difficult to really hold him when I was still in the middle of surgery and had to remain completely flat on the narrow operating table. I also had my right hand strapped to a billion things so I was only able to move my left hand. So I was holding him but in a really awkward position. I couldn't even see him properly but despite all that, it was the absolute best moment; cradling him on my chest as he cried his heart out and my husband and I tried to soothe him. After a while they came to take him to be weighed, measured and tagged right there in the operating room. Then he was wrapped up so he wouldn't get cold. They asked if we were okay with him having a bath and then he was taken away.  By the time all this was done the surgery was basically done I was transferred to a bed and wheeled over to the recovery room where I patiently waited from him to be brought to me. It was only at that point that it really hit me; after months of worrying and waiting our son was finally here and we were now parents of two!