Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ways to Go Green During Postpartum & With Newborns

Just as with most areas of my life, I try to find the green route...greener options, greener choices, you name it. Postpartum and newborn care are no different. So today I will share some of my favorite ways tho go green when it comes to caring for your postpartum journey and for taking care of your newborn baby.


Here's my tips, with the help of Avery and Mila in this week's video...



No time to watch the video? I get that!  So let's breakdown the tips with pictures...

1. Breastfeed. Aside from being the best food for your baby, breastfeeding is also a great way to go green in how you avoid all the waste, packaging, and production involved in using infant formula. Granted, if you have a health condition or for some reason cannot breastfeed, then this tip is not for you and that's okay...there's plenty of other ways to go green. But if you are on the fence, I'd highly recommend it. 

I breastfed Avery throughout my pregnancy with Mila, and continue to tandem breastfeed her now.  I'm sure that seems kind of crazy to some of you, and even to me sometimes I'll look down and be like, "Wow, I'm tandem breastfeeding, never thought I'd be doing that...but here I am!" 

Tandem breastfeeding my girls.

Really though, it's not that bad. For starters, I love knowing that Avery is continuing to get extra nutrition from the breast milk, and it has been helpful for coping with the changes of having a new sibling. So instead of breastfeeding just being something that Mila and I do, it continues to be a chance for me to bond and connect with Avery, something that's much needed during these crazy days as we adjust to being a family of four. You can read more in this post about some of the benefits of extended breastfeeding and how helpful it is not only for toddlers, but also for moms too. 

So, in the long run I think that breastfeeding is one of the best ways you can go green! There's no warming, no containers, no trash, just good ol' breast milk!

2. Glass baby bottles. Now in a few weeks, I'll be going back to work, and at that time I will be pumping for Mila, you can read more about my pumping routine in this post. One way that I try to "green up" this routine is to use a glass baby bottle instead of plastic. Now there are lots of baby bottles on the market these days that claim to be BPA and phthalate-free, but for me I'm still a little bit phobic of plastic, so I stick with glass.

I love Evenflo's Classic Glass Baby Bottles, which cost about $6 for 3 bottles. I had about 6 bottles with Avery, 3 in the big size, 3 in the small size and now I'm able to use them with Mila.  Most plastic baby bottles get scratched or start to fade after just a few months, thus leaving you to throw them away and buy more. But with glass they clean, sparkly, and just as sturdy for years.


3. Cloth nursing pads. It didn't take me long once Avery was born to realize that when I was breastfeeding her that the milk came out of BOTH sides, not just the side the baby was on...who knew right?! ( : Anyways, to catch the flow from the other side or occasionally even the side the baby is on, I use cloth nursing pads. I use, "Heavenly Nursing Pads" from the website, Mommy & Me Creations. Avery calls them my "milk pads" and is quite the helper in helping me to keep track to them, as she is always picking them up from around the house and telling me, "Don't forget your milk pads!"


These milk pads are about 5 inches in diameter and are made with organic hemp fleece. A set of two pads costs $4. Basically I stick them in my nursing bra or nursing tank top and they absorb the flow as needed. Then when I'm done with them, I throw them in my laundry and they are clean and ready to go again. In the early days and weeks, I probably go through a 2-5 pads a day.  These are the same pads that I used with Avery and it's so nice to get a chance to use them again instead of having to buy new ones.

Now there are all kinds of cloth nursing pads you can find out there either on Etsy or Amazon, so anything you can find that's reusable, instead of disposable (as most nursing pads are) is a step in the "green direction". 

4. Use cloth diapers. From the time that Avery was born, we've used cloth diaper service to help us go green with our diapering and it has been great! As you can imagine, cloth diapers are a greener option compared to traditional disposable diapers because there is no waste so nothing goes to the landfill. Now although cloth diapers are a bit more expensive than disposables, (it costs about $20 a week for our service), it's well worth it for us to avoid the trash involved with disposables and I think the cloth fabric is more gentle on little baby bums as well.

We use a local company here in Kansas City called, Metro Cloth Diapering. They provide us with a cloth diaper insert, a diaper cover, a Snappi that holds it all together and even cloth wipes. 


So when Mila has a dirty diaper, we place it in a "wet bag" along with all her other dirty diapers, and a few from Avery who still wears one at night, and then once a week the "dirty bag" gets picked up. Along with it, new diapers get dropped off..that are clean! The best part about it is that I didn't have to clean them! Kudos to you parents out there who wash your own cloth diapers. You are brave and I applaud your "green-ness!" But for us, using a service is the best option for us to go green in the line of diapers. You can see more pictures of steps involved in cloth diapering from this post with Avery.

Mila rocking her pink cloth diaper.

This is the cover that goes on the outside of the diaper
to keep her clothes clean and dry. She usually wears one a day
and we are in charge of washing these...which I can handle!

Good thing I've got this little helper to assist me in diaper changes!

5. Cloth pads for postpartum flow. Another lovely fact of life I learned after Avery was born was that after you have a baby, you bleed (as if you are having a period, but stronger). Hello to that! So to catch the flow you will need pads of some kind. But as I stated before, we're going to look to reusable options in our quest to go green instead of disposable, so in come cloth pads. I use a pad from the same company I mentioned above, Mommy & Me Creations called, "Heavenly Cloth Menstrual Pads." I purchased the set of six, 9 inch pads including inserts for $45.


In those first few days after birth, I went through 2-3 a day so I had to keep up on my laundry, but really it wasn't too hard to do and I loved knowing that I didn't have to buy any disposable pads or even any new cloth pads since these were the same ones I used after Avery was born and occasionally during my periods. Find other ways I go green with my period in this post.

Now just with the cloth nursing pads, there are all kinds of cloth menstrual pads out there on Etsy and Amazon, so shop around. Feel free to share any favorites that you may have below! 

6. Keep baby products simple and "green". It can be very overwhelming for new parents to think that they need all kinds of personal care products to keep their baby clean and healthy, but I keep it simple and only use two products, both of which, our whole family uses. 

First up is Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Castile Soap. I've blogged about this awesome green soap in the past, and it is still my go-to especially now that Mila is here.  


So when we give Mila a bath in our favorite baby bathtub, the Tummy Tub, we just add a little bit of this soap and it gets her nice and clean...minus the toxic ingredients of traditional soaps. Here's more reasons why we love the Tummy Tub too in this post!

"You're using Dr. Bronner's right Mom?"

Remember that little helper? Oh yeah,
she likes to help give Mila a bath
too!

The second product I use with Mila is Desert Essence Organics Fragrance-Free Hand & Body Lotion. This is the lotion that I use, as well as the rest of our family. I find that it works great if Mila has any dry skin or just needs a little moisturizing. 


So there you have it, my top six tips on going green during postpartum and with newborns! Do you have any others to share or any favorite brands of green baby products? If so, share them below! Here's to green mommies and babies!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Mila's Birth Story

Well greenies, it's time for me to share my birth story for Baby Mila! It all started on a Monday morning, after a 3-day weekend from my teaching job. I woke up, worked out, and headed to school fully prepared to be greeted by my co-workers asking, "Are you still here?" since my due date was Sunday. Sure enough when I got to work, I told everyone, "I'm fine, I'm fine...Mila must just be happy in there...Avery was 11 days late you know!" But after a while I started to feel a little "different". As I went about getting things ready for the day and last minutes tasks crossed off my "maternity leave checklist" I started getting some cramps, kind of like period cramps. I figured I would eat something and see if the went away.

Let me tell you how I met Mila!
Wrong, they just turned into mild contractions. I figured the were just Braxton-Hicks, which I had been having more of in the last few days, but usually those will go on for an hour or so and stop, but these contractions were still going strong by lunchtime. When I talked to Brandon at lunch and told him about the contractions, he asked what the count was that our midwife said to look for as being a sign that I was in labor, but I could not remember. I told him I would text her and then let him know later in the day how things were going.

So, I text her, found out that if my contractions get to about consistently 6 minutes apart I probably want to be at home (since I was having a home birth).  I had yet to time my contractions that day, because I was still convinced it wasn't the real thing, mainly because my water hadn't broke, I hadn't lost my mucus plug, and the contractions, while mildly uncomfortable, weren't "stop what you're doing and lean up against something" kind of contractions.

So with the help of my para in my room (aka my "school mom" as I call her) we started timing the contractions. The results? They were about 3-4 minutes when I was sitting down and 2 minutes or so apart when I was up and walking around. Still convinced it wasn't the real thing, we continued timing and tracking for about an hour and a half. I kept saying, "Well, let me get through circle time and then we'll see how I'm doing, or let me get through recess and then we'll check."

The "contraction count" kept by my
para...they were clearly pretty close
together!
Finally, they started to get a bit uncomfortable and at a fairly steady 2 minute apart rate, I agreed with her that it was probably time to head home, at least to rest. So I let Brandon, my midwife, and my mom (whose job it was to look after Avery during the birth) all know that I was heading home, whether to rest or to have a baby I had no idea.

When I got home, I headed right up to bed to lay down and listen to my favorite Gentle Surge relaxation track, which you may have remembered me practicing in this post. I figured I would lay there, the contractions would slow down and then we would see what happened.

Well, like the rest of the day had gone, the contractions slowed down a bit, since I was literally just laying there, but they were stronger this time and it didn't take long for them to pick back up.

By that time Brandon got home and I starting to shift into the mindset that I was in labor. As you can tell by most of the morning, I was in a bit of denial about the start of labor. I guess I just never felt completely ready like I did with Avery's, maybe that's because I waited 11 days after her due date for her to arrive, or because I felt like I actually had a chance to get everything crossed off my to-do list before she arrived. But things were different this time around, life was clearly much busier for me, and every day that went by, I still had more to cross off my list before I could officially, "be ready". But in that moment, I knew, now was the time...Mila was on her way!

By now it was about 4:00 and this is when time starts to all blur together. To get through my contractions at this point, I practiced realxing my entire body during the hardest part of the contraction.  This plan lasted about 15 minutes, until the pain started to get so uncomfortable that I knew I needed another plan. Enter plan B: during the hardest part of the contraction, I would exhale out strongly. To me, this felt good, it gave me something productive to do when the contraction came and I knew the extra deep breathing was helpful for my body and my baby.

Here I am in labor with my Earthing mat, iPod and
headphones, a cloth napkin covering my eyes, and
my shirt pulled up (I didn't want anything touching my
belly). 
By that point, Brandon joined me in bed and was timing the contractions. I asked him to try pushing on my lower back during the contraction, so we did that for awhile. Then I found myself pushing on  the headboard of our bed during the contraction, so I figured, why not push on Brandon? So we repositioned and I began pushing/hugging him. I guess in a way it felt kind of like I was giving my contraction away to him. So I'd grab on to his arms and shoulders as the contractions came, and relax when they stopped. At this time we moved my iPod from being headphones to playing on speakers so I could hear it, and just with Avery's birth I put the Gentle Surge Track # 2 on repeat and this stayed on the entire time I was in labor.

Now holding on tightly to Brandon worked well for a while. I enjoyed being close to him and it was nice to feel like I didn't have to do this whole labor thing all by myself. But then things started to get more uncomfortable and in a moment of desperation, I tried something I had read about a few weeks earlier from a midwife-idol of mine, Ina May Gaskin...we tried kissing through a contraction! And I'm not talking about a peck, or just pushing our lips together, I mean straight up making out.

The craziest part of it all...it worked! It helped me make it through the contractions! By no means did it make the contractions painless, but it did help me manage them. Maybe it was because it gave me something productive to do every time they came that didn't involve holding my breath, tensing every muscle of my body, screaming loudly, or feeling literally scared out of my mind (all options I probably would have chosen if not for the kissing). Better yet, I didn't feel alone. I didn't feel like I had to take the work and weight of the labor by myself, I felt like Brandon and I were going through it together, and because of that I knew I could do it.

Here we are a few months back celebrating
our 6 year wedding anniversary.
I sure love this guy, 
With Avery's birth, I felt like I had to do it by myself, as if it was my battle to conquer, my mission to succeed in. Heck, I even sent him downstairs while I was in labor to cook lasagna for dinner, why, I have no idea? It was my choice not his. We still joke about it to this day. Later in Avery's birth, he helped comfort me during contractions from outside the birth tub, but this time with Mila's labor it was different, I felt drawn to him, like I needed him, and for once in my life I let him help me (not something I'm usually good at).

So the for the next 2 or 3 hours, that's what we did. When a contraction came, I pulled him close to me and we kissed through it. When it ended I relaxed, caught my breath, and tried to rest. During this time, I went from the bed to the toilet, and usually back to the bed again. The contractions were continuing to increase in strength and soon my midwife arrived. I remember telling her when she got there, "Ummm Lisa...we've been kissing through the contractions just so you know!" Her response..."Great, whatever works for you!" And so we continued. I'm pretty sure that there's no way I would have felt comfortable doing this if anyone else was there or if we were in any other place.

In her book, Birth Matters: A Midwife's Manifesta, Ina May Gaskin writes,


"When you kiss during labor, blood rushes from the thinking part of the brain, the neocortex, to the vaginal tissues which causes swelling that enlarges the vaginal opening enough to make painless penetration possible."

She goes on to state that kissing during labor also allows oxytocin and beta levels to soar.  Now while, I wouldn't exactly say that my labor was painless, I'd like to think that kissing helped dilate my cervix and shift my focus from my mind to well, you know where.

She explains it more in this video as well...



As she described in the video, the kissing can be helpful in allowing the mother to relax, instead of being tight, tense, and scared. I definently relate to this feeling in how kissing Brandon made me feel less scared, more relaxed, and just in love. I guess the frame above our bed says it all...

Here is the bed where our bed where I spent most of my
time in labor...obviously this picture was taken during the day
because during labor it was dim lights only!
As I progressed further into labor I began "transitioning" something I remember all to well from Avery's birth, and the one way that I knew this was because my legs began to shake, kind of like I felt cold and was shivering, even though I wasn't. The tricky part at this point was finding a position where I was comfortable and my legs wouldn't shake. I felt a strong urge to be on my hands and knees, squatting, or sitting on the toilet, but those were all positions that were becoming a bit tiring for my arms and legs. So we tried a new position in the bed, in a semi-reclined sitting position where Brandon was sitting up and I was leaned/reclined up to him. In this position I was able to let my arms and legs rest completely and focus solely on each contraction. Unfortunately with this new position, I was unable to keep kissing Brandon (bummer!) but by that point the contractions were quite a bit more painful and I found it harder to kiss Brandon, and instead found myself trying to breathe during the contraction.

So my new contraction plan became to make low vocal sounds as I exhaled during the contraction. This is something my midwife taught me during Avery's labor and that we called upon again this time, mainly because this sound is more helpful in focusing on pushing the baby down, compared to high sounds like "Ahhhh!". So as the contraction came, Brandon lightly placed his hands on my chest (which helped me focus on where I should be vocalizing from) and I would moan/yell in a low vocal sound by saying the word, "Ohhhhhhhhh" as I exhaled and holding it as long as I could. Then the contraction would stop, I would catch my breath, rest, and then the process would repeat. It's all a bit fuzzy, but I believe that as I was saying this, "Ohhh" sound I was also starting to push, but I'm not sure.

After a while of doing this, my water broke (all over my bed...that was luckily covered with multiple towels and plastic sheets!) and that's when things really started to pick up.  I felt a great sense of release once it broke and after my midwife checked me she said Mila had moved down substantially and would probably be born very soon. This is the light at the end of the tunnel that I needed to see to help get me through the last and probably toughest part of labor. Nothing is more motivating than knowing the end is near, right?!

So at this point I moved into a squatting/kneeling position and began pushing. Now these pushes were completely self-led, meaning no one was telling me, "Push, push push!" Instead it was all me, when I felt ready during a contraction, I pushed as much as I could, and when the contraction was over, I stopped, caught my breath, rested, and prepared mentally for the next one.

After several of these pushes, Mila's head was visible and crowning...the end was near. I then repositioned onto my hands and knees, so there would be more room for her to come out once she was born, and I continued my pushing during the contractions until her head was completely out. Next, it was time to push out the rest of her body. This is the part of labor that I had so been preparing for mentally, because it was obviously the hardest and most painful part, and the part I needed to draw forth the most focus. I tore quite a bit during Avery's labor at this point because I was so ready for the pain to be over and to have my baby in my arms, but for this labor, I was determined to do it differently. So with the help of my midwife, she instructed me to do "a little push" and then "a little breath"when I was ready, so that's what I did..little push, little breath, little push, little breath, as I slowly, and gradually pushed the rest of her body out.

I won't lie, this was clearly the most painful part, and I can remember feeling that at one of the little pushes an overwhelming urge to vomit, luckily I didn't and within a few seconds, Mila was out! Our little girl was born. Official time check was 9:39 PM.  It's seriously insane how the second she was born, the pain stopped.  Or at least if it continued I didn't care one bit about it because my baby was in my arms. Right after she was born, I sat down on the bed, and held her in my arms. And in a warm and welcoming fashion, she had her first bowel movement all over me...lovely, right? But I couldn't have cared less! I remember looking at her and thinking, "Wow, she looks a lot like Avery did when she was born."
Our first...and a little blurry, family picture.

At that point, sat back in the bed, and she was placed, skin to skin, on my chest while my midwife did some checks on her. All looked well, and shortly after, she began to crawl towards my chest, and after a few minutes she latched on and began nursing. Her umblical cord was still intact and pulsing, so it was left in tact for the time being. Meanwhile, I continued to have mild contractions as I prepared to birth the placenta. Maybe about 15-20 minutes later, and in one final push, the placenta came out.  It was then saved and placed in a Ziploc bag, and placed in my fridge so it could be  encapsulated in the days to come (something you can look for to post about in a few weeks).

During this time my midwife also checked me to see if I tore or was in need of stitches, and even though I did still tear this time around, it was minor in comparison to last time and I only needed a couple stitches. Yeah!  After letting Mila nurse for a while, we then weighed and measured her, and then it was back to bed with Mom and Dad.


My midwife helped get everything cleaned up, and then she headed home as well. As you can tell, by having a home birth we skipped several routine newborn procedures that are usually done at a hospital, such as Erythromycin eye drops, a Vitamin K shot, a Hep B vaccine, and she was not given a bath (we like to leave the protective vernix on her skin on for at least a day or two).

In case you're wondering where Big Sister Avery was at during all of this, she was with my mom, a plan we had arranged earlier in the pregnancy. I knew I wanted her to be home so she could see Mila shortly after she was born, but I didn't feel complelty comfortable with her in the room while I was in labor. I wasn't sure how she would react to me being in pain, or how I would react to her seeing me like that...so instead she played, watched her favorite movie, ate dinner, and eventually went to bed all with the help of my mom. So, when Mila was born around 9:30 PM, Avery was already long gone to bed. So instead of waking her, we soaked up our first night with Mila by ourselves and then had Avery meet Mila when she woke up the next morning.

A very proud Big Sister!

Here she is several days later, still pretty smitten with her
new little sister.

So there you have it, my birth story of Baby Mila. One reflection I have on this birth is how connected I felt to Brandon this time around...obviously making out with him for most of the birth kind of helps with that! Or perhaps it reflects a change that has occurred in me since Avery was born, specifically the part of me that's willing to accept help from others. Maybe you can relate to this or maybe not, but for a long time I relied only on myself to get things done, but after having Avery I learned this was impossible. Most importantly, I learned that the person I needed to rely on most was the one who I got into this whole little thing I call "life" with... my husband.

Going through labor with him like this truly made for an amazing experience that I will never forget for as long as I live. I like to think that we've had our fair share of exciting moments, from sky diving to zip lining, but this one takes the cake. Granted, Mila will probably blush in embarrassment when she's a teenager and she finds out that I made out with her Dad while I was in labor with, but if anything, I hope she learns that labor and birth are powerful experiences that can shape her and the relationship she has with her partner for years to come. For me, labor and birth taught me that the love I have with Brandon, keeps me going when times get tough, and gives me the strength to do anything I put my mind to. So for that I thank and love you Brandon! (  :

Okay, so now that taken this birth story to novel status, I'll wrap up here. Thanks for reading along and for all your support this pregnancy. Here's to more posts to come from this green family...


I'm sure it won't be long before Mila will make her way into
many more posts and videos!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Vegan Prenatal Vitamins & Supplments

Since I blogged about the prenatal vitamins and supplements I took during Avery's pregnancy, it only makes sense for me to give you an update as to the ones I took this time around during Mila's pregnancy. Vitamins and supplements have always fascinated me and as you can tell from the post that follows, I thourghouly enjoy researching them. What comes from that research is finding new brands, new formulas, and new products, so although some of the vitamins may look familiar from that post from Avery's pregnancy, I've added, taken out, and changed a few things. 



Now although I'm one researching-girl, I'm no doctor! Do not let me be your end all to be all...these are the supplements that worked best for my body and my pregnancy. Everyone is different, but at least this could be a starting point for you to get you thinking. On top of all of this, many people think it was crazy for me to be vegan and pregnant! How could you possibly be getting enough calcium/B vitamins/iron/protein? Your baby is not going to be healthy! Well, those are all very valid points and possible downsides to having a vegan diet during your pregnancy, but I feel with some simple planning and common sense you CAN have a HEALTHY, HAPPY vegan pregnancy...not to toot my own horn, but I'm living proof! 

Little did I know I was about 3 days away
from giving birth here!

Update as October 31st...My baby girl was born 7lbs. 12 oz. and was 19 inches long. She was alert, happy and healthy. On top of this I had no complications with my pregnancy, labor, or delivery. 

Little Miss Mila

Granted I may have gotten lucky, but I like to think that all the planning I put into eating a healthy vegan diet, getting plenty of exercise (and rest) as well as taking the appropriate vitamins and supplements had something to do with it.

My prenatal vitamins and supplements.

Here's a video discussion of the prenatal vitamins that I took during Mila's pregnancy (which as you can see by the video, I'm still pregnant with!)....



So with all that said, let me jump right into the vitamins and supplements I took when I was pregnant (many of which I continue to take now):

1. Prenatal Multivitamin- I took: Vitamin Code: Raw Prenatal Multivitamin.


Approximate Cost: $39 (lasts 2 months)
When and how much to take: 3 capsules per day (I do 2 at breakfast, 1 at dinner)
Why do I take it: I take this pricey vitamin over a Centrum or One-A-Day prenatal is because it is made with whole-food complexes, not synthetic chemical isolates. Meaning that our bodies recognize and absorb the nutrients better. A key thing about this is that it also is easier for our stomachs, and when you're pregnant that is one area you definitely want to keep happy! These supplements are so easily absorbable by your body that you can take them with or without food (most traditional vitamins must be taken with food to help with their absorption). Although it could have been for a number of reasons, I experienced very little morning sickness and perhaps this prenatal multi had something to do with it?

Other key features: it's uncooked, untreated, contains no binders, fillers, is gluten and dairy-free, non-GMO, contains probiotics to help enhance mom and baby's immune systems, and ginger to help with morning sickness and digestion. It can be taken before conception, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding (I took mine while breastfeeding Avery). Here is a closer look at the ingredients and supplement facts.

2. Omega 3s: I took: Dr. Fuhrman's DHA + EPA: Purity



Approximate Cost: $37.99 (lasts 40 days)
When and how much to take: 0.75 mL daily at breakfast (it comes with a dropper so this is easy to measure) Also, be sure to refrigerate it!
What nutrients and how much? DHA: 175 mg, EPA: 88 mg.
Why do I take it: For a long time I figured I was getting enough omega 3s from my diet, but from some research I've done, and recommendation of my health idol Kris Carr in the post: "Nutritional Supplements: Which ones should I take?" I've learned it's an important supplement to add to my routine.

While pregnant one aspect of omega 3s is very important, DHA. It has been shown to be benefical in supporting fetal brain and vision development. Additionally, Dr. Furhman's website cites a study where improved intelligence scores of breastfed children whose mothers took DHA during pregnancy and nursing.  (source) He also mentions that DHA supplementation reduces the risk of premature birth.  Omega 3s have also been shown to be helpful in treating depression, espescially postpartum depression.

Even beyond pregnancy, omega 3's have also been linked in helping treat and prevent ADHD and coginitive disorders, as well as prevent Alzhimer's, Parkinson's disease, coginitve decline that often comes with age, and even cardiovascular disease.

A key aspect of this supplement is...that the DHA and EPA is dervived from lab-grown algae instead of fish oil, so not only are we avoiding possible toxins like mercury and dioxin, but we are choosing a more sustaibnable opition instead of placing a burden on our already taxed oceans.


Other key features: Knowing how important Omega 3s are in supporting good health especially during pregnancy, I knew I wanted to start including them in my vitamin regimne, but finding the right supplement was a challenging task. Problem #1: Finding a vegan omega 3 supplement. Problem #2: Finding an omega 3 supplement without the food additive "carrageenan". Carrageenan is commonly found in things like non-dairy milk, non-dairy cheese, and nutritional drinks, and even pre-packaged meals.  This is an ingredient I first found out about in this post by Food Babe ("Watch Out For This Carcinogen in Your Organic Food"). This post led me to do some more research about   a report created by the Cornucopia Institute titled, "Carrageenan: How a Natural Food Additive is Making Us Sick." In this report, it stated that...

"Many individuals experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms (ranging from mild belly bloat to irritable bowl syndrome, to severe digestive inflammatory bowel disease) have noticed that eliminating carrageenan from their diet leads to profound improvements in their gastrointestinal health." 

So with this in mind, I cut it completely from my diet and my digestion has improved. To make a long story short, this DHA + EPA supplement by Dr. Furhman is the only one on the market I was able to find that was vegan and carrageenan-free. So although the price is a bit steep, I enjoy knowing Baby Mila and I are getting the benefits that come from omega 3s, while staying away from tummy-trouble-causing carrageenan.

Important disclaimer about omega 3s, while they are very benefical during conception and pregnancy, around 37 weeks of pregnancy I stopped taking this supplement, under the advice of my midwife because it a prostaglandin inhibitor (aka blocker). Prostaglandins are important when it comes to helping the cervix ripen and starting labor, so often times continued omega 3 supplementation in the last few weeks of pregnancy could lead to delayed and prolonged labor. So since I have a history of going late (11 days with Avery) this is advice I listened to and around 37 weeks I stopped taking this supplement. I replaced it with Evening Primrose Oil, a supplement I will tell you more about later, but in a nutshell, EPO (as it's often called) is a prostaglandin itself and has been found to help support the ripening of the cervix...which we want at the end of labor. Update as of October 31st, Mila was born one day after her due date, not sure if EPO's are to thank, but they sure didn't hurt. ( :

But no fear, I will pick the DHA + EPA supplement right back up once Mila is born in order to keep my omega 3 levels up to not only continue supporting her cognitive development (as she gets it through my breast milk) but also to help prevent postpartum depression.

3. Evening Primrose OilI tookEfaGold: Evening Primrose Cold Pressed Oil 500 mg.



Approximate Cost: $9-12  (lasts one month)
When and how much to take: 1 softgel daily at breakfast during the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy
What nutrients and how much? Evening primrose oil: 500 mg
Why do I take it: Evening Primrose Oil, or EPO, as it's often called, is high in Vitamin E, and the essential fatty acid: gamma linoleic acid (GLA). The essential fatty acids are converted to prostaglandins in the body, which is a hormone necessary for a variety of body functions...as I shared with the Omega 3 supplement. Also, it helps prepare the cervix for delivery and make labor more comfortable for mother and baby.

Come to find out, evening primrose oil can also be helpful for women that are trying to get pregnant because it has been shown to help women produce more cervical mucus and (which helps guide the sperm to the egg) as well as increase the survival rate of sperm in the mucus. Last, EPO has been found helpful for those that aren't pregnant, in how it can treat: bloating, cramping and breast tenderness due to PMS, joint pain due to arthritis, and even some skin conditions like acne. Read more here or here.

One last note: This product does contain gelatin, which makes it non-vegan, and although there are vegan versions available online, this one worked well for me, so I'm sticking to it.


4. Vitamin D- I takeNordic Naturals Vitamin D3 Vegan



Approximate Cost: around $18  (last one month if you take 2 doses a day)
When and how much to take: I take 2- 0.5 ml per day (I do 1 dose at breakfast, and 1 dose at dinner)
What nutrients and how much? Vitamin D3: 1,000 IU per 0.5 ml, making my total dosage: 2,000 IU daily
Why do I take it: Awhile back I read this book called: The Vitamin D Cure by Dr. James Dowd that really opened my eyes to the importance of getting more vitamin D and how it could help decrease risks of and heal: arthritis, obesity, heart disease, muscle cramps, and support a healthy immune system, and even improve your mood and skin just to name a few. But since it's difficult to get the recommended dosage from the sun on a consistent basis, I started looking into supplements.

Other key features: Not only is vitamin D great for everyone's health, it's especially important for pregnant women. A recent study was done that showed a group of women who took 4,000 IU daily during their pregnancies had less chances of: early labor, premature birth, and infection...compared to other pregnant women who took smaller doses of vitamin D. You can read more about this study and the benefits of vitamin D and pregnancy here.

Throughout my pregnancy I took two servings of this supplement, in addition to 1,400 IU from my multivitamin and 1,600 IU from my Calcium/ Magnesium supplement, giving me 5,000 IU of vitamin D daily and I did not experience early labor, premature birth, or infection. Whether it was due to this supplement I guess I'll never know, but there sure seemed to be more possible benefits in taking it, as opposed to not taking it.


Something special about this Vitamin D is that it is vegan...a rare thing when it comes to vitamin D supplements. A majority of vitamin D comes from lanolin (think the grease that comes from sheep wool), but now there is this awesome product so we can leave those poor sheep alone!  Instead of lanolin, this supplement uses organic lichen (pronounced- "liken" which is an algae/moss that grows on rocks), and just so happens to be a naturaly vegan source of Vitamin D3.

5. Probiotic- I took:Renew Life Ultimate Flora Critical Care 50 Billion ($35 for 30 capsules).
When and how much to take: I took one capsule daily at breakfast
Aside from helping my stomach feel better and staying more regular, there is some research out there that shows probiotics during pregnancy can: decrease your babies chances of developing allergies and eczema, and reduce belly fat in mothers after birth, among other things.


6. Calcium/Magnesium: I took: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Calcium


Approximate Cost: $27 (lasts about 1 month)
When and how much to take: 5 capsules per day (I take 2 at breakfast and 3 at dinner)
What nutrients and how much? Calcium: 756 mg, Magnesium: 386 mg, Vitamin D: 1,600 IU
Why do I take it: It's clear that including calcium and magnesium in your diet is an essential aspect of pregnant nutrition, but when you don't drink milk, or eat cheese, yogurt, or other dairy foods how do you get this? With this delicious Cal-Mag supplement of course! "Wouldn't it be easier just to drink milk?" you may ask. Well if you would like to drink blood and pus (see here), yes it would, but since I have an allergy to cow's milk and I don't like the mucusy feeling it gives me, I steer clear and take this instead.

Other key features: A key feature of this supplement is that the calcium is sourced from a plant, not from rocks. Specifically this brand uses something called, AlgaeCal Raw, which is an ocean-derived, organic, whole food plant form of calcium. Benefits of using this plant form of calcium include that aside from providing calcium, it also provides 73 naturally occurring minerals and trace elements like magnesium, silica, and boron. This calcium supplement also contains vitamin D (1,600 IU), which helps support bone health and increases the absorption of the calcium by up to 80% (according to their website).  Also, it is gluten-free, dairy-free, free of binders and fillers, free from limestone, rock, chalk, or animal-bone sourced calcium, and non-GMO.

7. Vitamin B Complex- I took: by Garden of Life Vitamin Code: Raw B Complex 

Approximate Cost: $14 (lasts 1 month)
When and how much to take:  2 tablets per day, one at breakfast and one at dinner
What nutrients and how much? Thiamine B-1: 5mg (3,333% DV), Riboflavin B-2: 10mg (588% DV), Niacinamide: 45mg (225% DV), Vitamin B-6: 10mg (500% DV), Folate: 450 mcg (113% DV), Vitamin B-12: 133mcg (2217% DV), Biotin: 325 mcg (108% DV), Pantothenic Acid: 45mg (450% DV).
Why do I take it: Kind of like calcium, B vitamins are one of those things that us vegans might be a bit low in, and although there are some food sources (such as nutritional yeast), I wanted to be safe so I started this B vitamin before getting pregnant.  One main reason to take a B vitamin supplement is for cellular energy support , they also provide mental and physical energy, support healthy blood, healthy heart, immune system function, and a healthy response to stress.

Another great thing about this B vitamin is that it's high in vitamin B6, which has been shown to help prevent and treat morning sickness during pregnancy, and as I mentioned before, I did not suffer hardly any morning sickness...perhaps I have this vitamin to thank?

Other key features: Aside from having a variety of B vitamins, this formula also has added folate and biotin. Raw, gluten-free, dairy-free, free of binders and fillers, and non-GMO.

8. Digestive Enzyme- I took: Enzymedica: Digest Complete Enzyme Formula


Approximate Cost: $39 for 180 caps (that will last me about 90 days)
When and how much to take: I take two a day, one right when I wake up before breakfast, and one before lunch. It's key to take them BEFORE a meal, as opposed to after because it will be too late. You need those enzymes in there, doing there thing right when the food gets there, not after it's already been sitting there, and your body is struggling to digest it. The bottle recommends taking one before each meal, I haven't found that I needed to do this, as two a day seems to work just fine for me. I tried one a day, and that wasn't enough, so adding that second one a day, seems to have helped.

Why do I take it: I won't bore you with the scientific facts and descriptions, but the science behind digestive enzymes is basically that our body and the food we eat (when raw) is usually equipped with a variety of enzymes that help us breakdown our food completely and convert the food into absorbable nutrients. Unfortunately some individuals have enzyme deficiencies (which I think I might have), so when I eat food, my body only has it's JV squad out to help digest the food, leaving me with semi-digested food which leads to the bloating and upset stomachs I'm prone to getting. When I take a digestive enzyme before the meal, things change...the Varsity team comes out, my food gets digested, my tummy stays happy, and best of all there's no gas (sorry for TMI, but that's my body's first sign of digestive trouble).

Since I've started taking the digestive enzyme over a year ago, I feel like I'm getting more out of the food I eat. I try to eat very healthy and to think that my body was not able to digest and absorb all those nutrients and vitamins from the food I was eating in the past, is frustrating. But now that I have the digestive enzyme, I feel like I'm really getting more bang for my buck with all the healthy food I eat. 

During pregnancy, I think my digestion is even slower, so these digestive enzymes were even more crucial. In fact, I ran out for a week and thought I could make it just fine...but boy was I wrong! I was bloated, irregular, and uncomfortable. I will never make that mistake again. So whether you are pregnant or not, if you happen to struggle with digestive issues, you may want to consider trying a digestive enzyme. 

Other formulas to try out from Enzymedica: Digest Basic (wasn't strong enough for me), Digest Gold (too strong for me, made my stomach cramp), Digest Spectrum (wasn't strong enough for me), just to name a few. But everyone is different so try the different formulas to see what will work for you.

So that's my vegan prenatal vitamins and supplements, and now I will breakdown how I take them. To divide up the doses, I take one group of vitamins with breakfast and another group with dinner. I beleive that this helps keep the nutrients in my system at a steady pace instead of just dumping them all in first thing morning. Most of the supplements have several capsules, so dividing the dose in half is pretty easy. Here's about how it goes...

First thing: 1 Digestive Enzyme, 1 PB Assist+ probiotic. (I
get up around 4:45 AM most days so I take these first, then I
workout, have breakfast and take the rest. On the weekends
though, I just combine these vitamins with the vitamins next).

Vitamins with Breakfast: 2 Multivitamins, 1 Vitamin B,
2  Calcium/Magnesium, 1 dose Vitamin D, and since it was
late in pregnancy 1 Evening Primrose Oil. If it were
earlier in pregnancy this would be replaced with a dose
of the Omega 3 supplement.

Vitamins with Dinner: 1 Multivitamin, 1 Vitamin B,
3 Calcium/Magnesium, and 1 dose Vitamin D.

One last thing...if it seems like I spend a lot on vitamins and supplements, you're right I do, but I believe that the quality of supplements is very important, so I'm willing to pay a bit more. Don't get me wrong though, I like to save money! So I buy all of my supplements online, and a majority of them I use Amazon's Subscribe and Save program. This saves me a lot of money and most of the time I can get my supplements for half of the price as they would be if I got them at a health food store. Another perk about getting them online, or through Amazon.com is that you can read other people's reviews of them, which can sometimes be very helpful.

Whew...that was probably way more information than you ever wanted to know about the vegan prenatal vitamins that I took before, during, and after my pregnancy. Again, I am not a doctor so even though these supplements worked great for me, research yourself and do what fits you, your baby, and your diet/lifestyle. Have any questions? Feel free to post them below and I'll answer them the best I can.

*Disclaimer: I purchased all of these vitamins and supplements with my own money and this is my honest opinion of them.*

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Mila is here! (Video Announcement)

Here's a little video announcement about Mila being born as well as some footage of what life has been like lately for our new little family of four!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mila is here!

Hi greenies! I have some exciting news...Baby Mila is here! She was born on Monday, October 21, 2013 at 9:39 PM. Like Avery, she was born here at home. She weighed 7 lbs 12 oz. and was 19 inches long. Her birth was amazing and I look forward to sharing more about it in the upcoming days, but until then, here are some pictures of her and our new family of four!

Shortly after the birth.

Waking up the next morning.

Looking so much like Avery here!

Saying "hello" with mom.


Proud big sis!

Avery kept saying, "Aww, she's so cute." 
Well, time for me to get back to cuddling, nursing, and soaking up some Mila love! See you in a few days greenies...

Sunday, October 20, 2013

40 weeks

Looks like Baby Mila held out for one more weekly photo.  Will there be a 41 week belly shot like Avery had? There's no telling! But in the mean time, let's take a trip down memory lane and see all the bi-weekly belly shots...



















Wow! What a journey this pregnancy has been. It cracks me up to see what I looked like back at nine weeks pregnant, I don't even remember looking like that. Guess I've just been pregnant so long, it kind of feels like this (the way I look now at 40 weeks) is just how I'm going to look from now on, even though I know that's not the case. Overall it's been so fun to plan and take all these bi-weekly pictures around my town, I have a feeling that even once Mila's born, I'll still be on the lookout for cool photo locations!


This week's photo background: For this week's photo I retunred to good ol' Unity Village, which I'm pretty sure I've used for 3-4 of my photo locations, but who's counting right? This time we ventured to the back side of Unity for this cool, layered stone wall.


The signifigance behind this wall is that we had our pregnancy announcment family pictures taken right literally a few yards away and across the street...

Clearly things were a little greener this time around, but I thought it was kind of fun to return to the place where this pregnancy's "photo journey" all began.


Now just as I've been doing some growing over these past 40 weeks, so has Avery! Check out how old she looks as she does a practice belly shot with me. I think it's safe to say she's seen me do a lot of these photos throughout this pregnancy and now it's a new pose she takes on...

Rockin' that belly shot.

Daddy on the other hand just got fun and smiles!

Questions of the week:

1. How big is the baby (with Avery's help)?



As we hit the end of this baby food size journey too, we had to break out the big guns, or shall I say, big "fruit" with this week's food: a watermelon!  Being as it's almost the end of October, I thought it was doubtful that I'd be able to find a watermelon at any grocery store other than those tiny mini-watermelons. But my local health food store came through for me with this big one.

Although Avery was a little bummed that she couldn't throw, hold, carry, or swing with it since it was just so heavy, she did manage to give it some love.

"I love Baby Mila," she said.
Now although it seemed like a pretty massive food size to end with, I think it was right on the money with the size of Mila right now as you'll see below...



Now it's only right to take another trip down memory lane to see how the food size has changed as this pregnancy went on. My favorite part though, is seeing how much Avery has changed as well...okay and her faces during some of these photo shoots are pretty entertaining too!

















Thanks for your help these past 9 months Avery! Sometimes it took a little bribery, but you were one great helper and I know you will continue to be when your REAL baby sister gets here.

2. How am I feeling...
So that's pretty much the number one question I've been asked these days, as my due date has been approaching (and is now here) and the truth is that I feel great! I have "practice contractions"daily as I call them, sometimes they're right after I eat lunch or for some reason around 4:00 PM when my day at work is almost ending, but they usually settle down after a few minutes (once I sit down and just chill out) and then fade away again. Also, I've been feeling lots of what my midwife and I call, "crotch zingers" sorry for TMI, but it's the truth and apparently a sign of "effacement" or the thinning of the cervical tissue that occurs in the weeks/days before labor.

Other times I just feel Mila moving, growing, and kicking around in there and as I get later into this pregnancy the bigger and STRONGER she feels!  So sometimes her just moving around causes me to have a light contraction or sometimes a light contraction causes her to start moving all around. Either way, I take comfort in those mild contractions because I know it's my uterus' way of strengthening itself for labor (kind of like doing reps at the gym), so when the day comes it will be strong and ready.

"How long will your midwife let you go?" This is the second most common question I get these days in reference to how far over my "due date" I will go, and given the fact that Avery was 11 days late, my midwife and I are in no rush to speed things along or induce labor in anyway. I get weekly checks from her at this point, just to make sure everything is okay with Mila and I, so I know I'm in good hands, and I truly feel content if Mila just wants to stay in there and "cook for a while longer". It served Avery well, and it helped build trust in my body's ability to start labor when the time is right, not on someone else's clock.

I know for some people the end of pregnancy can be an exhausting time, but as I said before, I feel pretty good. I'm still working out daily for close to 45 minutes, and I'm still going to work. My big belly makes it a bit harder to maneuver around, and I occasionally causes me some lovely lower back pain, but sitting on a stability ball, using my grounding mat (as I'll share more about below), and getting weekly adjustments at the chiropractor, all have been helpful in keeping this pregnant mama feeling good.

3. What I'm eating...
Spaghetti, spaghetti, and more spaghetti...that's clearly my favorite food right now. I've always loved spaghetti, and especially during the early weeks of this pregnancy and Avery's, spaghetti was my top craving. Now as reach the final weeks/days of this pregnancy, spaghetti is the main food I'm turning to. Now to keep from boring the other members of my house with spaghetti for dinner every night, I forgo my usual leftovers and just take dry spaghetti and a jar of spaghetti sauce to school for lunch and make that fresh instead, and boy does it hit the spot!

Spaghetti has been my go-to dish these past few weeks.
These gluten-free, vegan, "Pumpkin Chia Muffins" from the blog: Hail Merry, have been hitting the spot too given the season upon us...

P. S. I added 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips to the recipe!

4. Best moment of the week:
Wish I had a sentimental moment to share about, but really my favorite moment of the past week has just been taking naps! I think that it took me being this far along in my pregnancy to really stop and say, "Hey you're 39/40 weeks pregnant and tired...take a nap!" I was a napping pro during Avery's pregnancy, but this time around, life is a bit busier and I often choose crossing things off my to-do list rather than slowing down, stopping, and taking time to rest.


Now when I talk about naps, I'm not talking about 2-3 hour sleep sessions, simply 30 minutes is all I really need (okay well sometimes an hour on an especially tiresome day).  And even then my point of the nap isn't necessarily to sleep, but instead just rest my body, relax, and prepare for labor. See I even like to multi-task while napping!  But seriously though, while napping I listen to tracks from my Hypnobirthing days by Aaron Aldridge from the CD, "Gentle Surge". 

There are two tracks on this CD, one with a guided relaxation and visualization, and the other is just a music track. I find the first guided track best to practice during pregnancy, and the music track is what I used to get me though Avery's labor.  Truly, these tracks give me practice relaxing my body and visualizing the birth of Baby Mila. I try hard when listening to them to make my body "loose, limp, and heavy" as the guided imagery track states and I know I will take this with me into labor because I remember during Avery's labor that I felt tense, tight and a little scared because I had never been in labor before and I wasn't sure what everything would feel like or how long labor would go on.  

So, this time around, my "mental action plan" is to refer back to these tracks, focus on taking deep breaths, and relaxing any muscles that feel tight. I guess you can say I've been conditioning myself over these past few weeks and days to turn to these tracks and "relaxing thoughts" because I have a whole routine I do with this nap, from the way my pillows are placed, to the things I smell (like essential oils).  So, when the time comes, you'll probably find me in my bed, listening to these tracks, and smelling my oils...or at least that's where I might start out. We'll see if I end up using it or if I throw it out the whole thing out the window and try something completely different...ahh the beauty of labor, right?


Another key aspect of my naps is my "grounding mat" which I shared about in this post, not only does this help me to relax, but it also gives me energy and reduces aches and pains. I couldn't have gotten through this pregnancy without it!

Well that's my 40 week post, we'll see if I see you for a 41 week post or if I've got an exciting Baby Mila announcement!  Thanks to all of you who have followed the pregnancy journey of mine, your support and kind comments have been greatly appreciated!  ( :
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