Essential Oils 101: Lavender

lavender

As we begin our journey into learning about individual essential oils and oil blends, I have decided to start with the essential oil that I feel is not only the most versatile essential oil, but also one of the most beneficial to the largest population of people.

Young Living Lavender essential oil is by far my most used oil of all time. Why? Let me tell you!

Why I love lavender:

  • Lavender is one of the only oils that can be safely used undiluted (in some cases) and is gentle enough for babies, children, and pregnant & breastfeeding mommies
  • Lavender has lots of uses
  • Lavender is naturally anti-pathogenic (destroys bacteria & viruses)
  • Lavender smells lovely!

Some uses for lavender:

  • Calms anxiety / Soothe emotions / Reduce stress
    • Rub one drop onto your temples, then rub into your hands, cup hands together & inhale deeply
    • Diffuse in your diffuser
  • Encourage restful sleep / Insomnia
    • Make a lavender spray for your pillow, use a few drops in your bath before bed, and/or use the anxiety calming technique
    • Diffuse in your diffuser
    • Make up some bath salts with lavender essential oil & epsom salts. So relaxing!
  • Soothe and cleanse irritated skin
    • Apply directly to the irritated area, or dilute in a carrier oil and apply
  • Scrapes/sores
    • Apply directly to the irritated area
  • Neutralize insect bites/stings
    • Apply directly to the bite/string area
  • Regenerate burns/damaged skin
    • Apply directly to damaged area or mix in aloe vera gel & apply. You can also mix in a few drops of colloidal silver to help repair the damaged skin. DO NOT apply to opened wounds & DO NOT dilute in an oil as this will trap heat and create further burn damage.
  • Headaches
    • Rub one drop onto your temples, then rub into your hands, cup hands together & inhale deeply
    • Mix with peppermint essential oil & dilute in a carrier oil for further relief
  • Allergies
    • Mix a 2:2:2 drop ratio with lemonpeppermint essential oils, then take orally (in a gel capsule or water). NEVER take non-Young Living essential oils orally.
  • Make products for baby
    • Baby bath wash & shampoo can be made with castile soap, water & lavender essential oil
    • Dilute in coconut oil & apply as a skin moisturizer and for diaper rash
    • Dilute in coconut oil & shea butter to help treat baby eczema
  • Freshen laundry
    • Add a drop or two to a wash rag & throw in your dryer with your laundry to freshen the scent
  • Air freshener
    • Dilute several drops in a spray bottle filled with filtered water, shake up the bottle & spray in air, on carpet & on fabric covered furniture
  • Help with motion sickness & nausea
    • Place a drop of Lavender oil on end of your tongue, behind your ears or around your navel
  • Cold sores
    • Apply a drop directly to the cold sore
  • Dandruff
    • Rub a few drops into your scalp or add a few drops to your homemade shampoo
  • Sunburn or chapped lips
    • Apply directly to the sunburn or chapped lips. I have personally found lavender to be very effective for eliminating blistering, peeling, pain & itching due to sunburns & promoting faster healing.

These are just a few of my favorite uses for lavender. There are many more uses for this incredible oil!

What questions do you have about lavender essential oil? How have you used lavender essential oil?

Contact me if you would like more information on purchasing this amazing product!

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Essential Oils 101: How To Use Young Living Essential Oils (Lesson 4)

As you learn about essential oils and read different books and articles on aromatherapy, you will see a wide variety of recommendations for how many drops of essential oils you need to use in each recipe. This is because, as we discussed in this post, not all essential oils are created equal. While Young Living essential oils are 100% pure essential oils, many other brands are as little as 3% essential oil in each bottle, with the rest being additives and fillers.

In general, when a generic recipe I find on the Internet includes essential oils, I will start out by using 1/4-1/3 of the drops called for in the recipe. So, if a bath salts recipe says to use 8 drops of essential oils, I will start with 2-3 drops and then add drops as needed. When the recipe does not specify what brand they are using, I assume that it is a generic brand & that since I am using the potent Young Living oils, I will probably need less than what is called for in the recipe. It is a lot easier to add more drops than to take away drops if you have added to many.

When diluting essential oils into a carrier oil, I will use 1-2 drops of essential oil for every 1 tsp-2 tbsp of carrier oil. This is a wide range of dilution, but how much you want to dilute really just depends on what essential oil you are using, where you are applying it, what your purpose for application is, and your own individual body size and composition. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach with essential oils. I always really dilute the oils when I am using them on infants and children & pay particular attention to researching the ingredients to make sure they are safe for little ones. Just because an oil comes from a natural substance does not mean that it is safe for every age or in any quantity.

It is important to remember that Young Living essential oils are very potent & highly concentrated, so be cautious that you are diluting them appropriately in carrier oils before using them.

Did you know that you can use essential oils to pretty much replace your OTC medicine cabinet? Check out the chart below!

 

younglivingotc

All of these oils & more can be found in the Everday Oils Collection. This is a really great starter collection for anyone who is new to essential oils and would like to start using them.

In upcoming posts we will be highlighting each of these oils individually and learning about their unique uses.

 

DISCLAIMER:
– No statements made here are meant to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. Although many people have found great relief from ailments with use of essential oils and products containing them, we legally cannot claim to heal or cure disease with essential oils because they not FDA regulated.

Essential Oils 101: Using Essential Oils vs. Pharmaceuticals (Lesson 3)

Now that we’ve talked about how to use essential oils, let’s discuss why I like to use them as my first line of defense in attacking sickness before I turn to pharmaceuticals.

I am a registered nurse. I worked in a pediatric cardiovascular intensive care unit for 4 years. I have a lot of experience working with very sick children with conditions that essential oils cannot treat. I am very thankful for the technology we have these days and believe that western medicine certainly has its place. However, I also believe that when it comes to mild illness and every day discomfort, I would rather try to first take a more gentle approach with less side effects than to use pharmaceuticals. This is where essential oils come in handy!

Pros of Using Essential Oils vs. Pharmaceuticals

  • Essential oils come from plants found in God’s natural creation
  • Essential oils give benefits with little to no side effects
  • No toxic chemicals
  • Many are safe for the whole family (pregnancy/babies/children/adults)
  • Versatile for multiple symptoms
  • With proper care, essential oils don’t expire (except citrus oils which last 7-10 years before expiration)
  • Minimize symptoms while getting to the root cause vs. managing/masking symptoms
  • Unlike western medicine, essential oils can attack viruses
  • Same cost or cheaper per dose with no medical fees, insurance or co-pays

Wow! That’s a lot of benefits to essential oils over pharmaceuticals if you ask me!

Let’s explore each of these points down a little further.

Essential oils come from plants found in God’s natural creation.
Have you ever looked at the inactive ingredients on the bottles in your medicine cabinet? Sodium benzoate, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavor, propylene glycol, and multiple colored food dyes just to name a few. These were ingredients I found in bottles of children’s medication. These ingredients are linked to health problems and we are giving them to our kids for symptoms like headache and runny nose! Young Living 100% essential oils are ONLY essential oils. Nothing else. No other hidden chemicals or ingredients. Just 100% natural plants that God made.

Essential oils give benefits with little to no side effects.
Have you ever noticed that on commercials for pharmaceuticals, the list of side effects at the end tends to be longer than the rest of the commercial? With essential oils, you don’t have that problem.

No toxic chemicals.
Refer to the point directly above. Although not oils can be used in the same ways (for instance, wintergreen should never be ingested because it is poisonous when consumed), there are no toxic ingredients in the essential oils. They can safely be used as directed on their bottles.

Many are safe for the whole family (pregnancy/babies/children/adults).
I think the most miserable part of pregnancy was unrelieved discomfort. I had the worst sinus infection I have ever had during the January I was pregnant with Josiah. Since during pregnancy women are limited with the medications they can safely take, I am SO thankful that I could safely use my peppermint essential oil to relieve the headache and sinus pressure. There are several essential oils that are safe when used properly during pregnancy, with infants & children. For all you mommas of little ones, this is a huge benefit to essential oils over pharmaceuticals!

Versatile for multiple symptoms.
How many times have you gone to the store to spend money on a medication, only to use it for a few days and then have it sit in your medicine cabinet for a year or two before it expired and most of the bottle was wasted? Well, essential oils are so versatile that you can use one bottle of one oil for many, many different uses so that not one drop gets wasted!

With proper care, essential oils don’t expire (except citrus oils which last 7-10 years before expiration).
Speaking of expiration, most oils don’t ever expire! If you’re like me, I use them frequently enough that one bottle would be long gone before I have had it a decade, but even if you don’t use yours very often, rest assured that you won’t be wasting your money on a product that will go bad before you can use it up.

Minimize symptoms while getting to the root cause vs. managing/masking symptoms.
Not only do essential oils help minimize the symptoms of illness, but they can also relieve problems at the root cause, helping to relieve the symptoms for good. Most pharmaceuticals work more like a band-aid where they cover up the symptoms, but they don’t get rid of the problem.

Unlike western medicine, essential oils can attack viruses.
Are there any other science nerds like me out there? This is one of the most amazing things to me about essential oils. Pharmaceuticals can attack bacteria because bacteria lives on the outside of the cell wall, but pharmaceuticals cannot penetrate to the inside of the cell wall where viruses attach and make their home. This is why antibiotics don’t work on the common cold, because the common cold is a virus. There are essential oils that can penetrate to the inside of the cell wall, fighting off viruses and relieving those awful symptoms. How cool is that?!?

Same cost or cheaper per dose with no medical fees, insurance or co-pays.
I am a frugal person. Our family lives on a tight budget. That being said, essential oils have saved us so much money over the last few years compared to what we would have paid if we were buying pharmaceuticals. I have broken down the cost per “dose” of several different essential oils vs. their equivalent in over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, and the cost has either been comparable or cheaper. Here is an example of using Tylenol vs. peppermint or lavender essential oil for a headache:

  • Tylenol $25.80­-30.96 for 250­-300 tablets (325mg each), dose is two tablets
  • Peppermint $28.29 (15ml) for 250­-300 drops, dose is one drop
  • Lavender $30.92 (15ml) for 250­-300 drops, dose is one drop

With this breakdown, you can see that Tylenol is TWICE as expensive as peppermint or lavender. Tylenol has possible side effects. Tylenol is not nearly as versatile in its usage. Tylenol has an expiration date of just a year or two, so it may go to waste in your medicine cabinet. Tylenol is made up of a lot of man made chemicals that could potentially wreak havoc on your health. I am not bashing Tylenol… but I do think it’s only fair to say that in comparison it doesn’t hold a candle to peppermint or lavender essential oils.

Ok, now that we know how beneficial essential oils can be, let’s start learning about individual essential oils and how they can be used! In upcoming posts in this series, I will share information on some of my favorite oils and oil blends and the many different ways they can be used.

 

DISCLAIMER:
– No statements made here are meant to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. Although many people have found great relief from ailments with use of essential oils and products containing them, we legally cannot claim to heal or cure disease with essential oils because they not FDA regulated.

Essential Oils 101: How Do I Use Essential Oils? (Lesson 2)

Now that you have learned what essential oils are, it’s time to learn how we can use them!

When you start using essential oils, it is easy to get overwhelmed learning about what all can be done with them. They are SO versatile and have SO many uses ranging from relieving symptoms of illness to being ingredients in home cleaning products, bath and body products, and some of them can even be used in cooking!

Before we dive into the details, let’s talk a little about the many ways we can use essential oils.

There are 3 different methods for using essential oils:
1. Aromatically

  • Affect mood (uplift/stabilize/balance/relieve stress & anxiety/etc.)
  • Kill germs in the air (bacteria/viruses/mold/mildew)
  • Open airways (respiratory)

2. Topically

  • Systemic/localized effect (apply directly to area of discomfort)
  • Massage
  • Immune support (application to the bottom of your feet is great for absorption!)

3. Internally

  • For systemic results: under the tongue/swallow gel capsule/dilute in water
  • Relieve digestive system symptoms
  • Direct application for mouth/throat symptoms

SAFETY WARNINGS:
– Essential oils should never be applied directly into the eyes, ears, nose, or on eyelids- “Hot oils” such as peppermint, oregano, basil, etc. should always be diluted into a carrier oil before application
– Always use your oils per directions on the bottle. Not all essential oils are safe for internal use. For example, wintergreen is toxic and would be very dangerous to use internally.

What are carrier oils?
A carrier oil is a “real” oil (or vegetable oil) such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, apricot oil, sesame oil that an essential oil can be diluted into to “carry” it for usage. A carrier oil dilutes the essential oil, making the powerful essential oil it less potent and expands the usage of each drop.

Tell me some ways I can use essential oils!
I sat down for about 5 minutes and made a list of how I personally use essential oils in my own home. This is by no means the extent of how essential oils can be used:

Everyday Uses

  • Toothpaste
  • Shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Bath salts
  • Lotions
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hand soap
  • Air freshener
  • Diffusers
  • Candle warmers
  • Cooking/Baking
  • Laundry
  • Stain removal
  • Disinfecting
  • Furniture polish
  • Carpet cleaner/freshener
  • Cloth diapering
  • Teething oil
  • Baby lotion & oil
  • Massage oil

All sorts of medical symptoms & remedies

  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Respiratory discomfort
  • Upset stomach
  • Muscle tension
  • Numbing
  • Antiseptic
  • Dandruff
  • Acne
  • Inflammation
  • Allergies
  • Depression
  • Mood
  • Insect repellent
  • Bites/stings

Are you getting an idea of how versatile essential oils can be?

Next we will talk about why I like to use essential oils as my first line of defense for illness. I like to keep my bag of essential oils handy to use before I turn to pharmaceuticals. Read my next post in this series to find out why!

DISCLAIMER:
– No statements made here are meant to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. Although many people have found great relief from ailments with use of essential oils and products containing them, we legally cannot claim to heal or cure disease with essential oils because they not FDA regulated.

Essential Oils 101: What Are Essential Oils? (Lesson 1)

Have you heard your friends talking about “essential oils” and all of the great things that can be done with these versatile products?

Your co-worker is making bath salts with lavender essential oil…

Your neighbor is cleaning her counters with lemon essential oil…

Your best friend just kicked her cold with some blend of essential oil called “Thieves…”

Your local fire fighter just saved a cat from the top of a tree while standing on his head, singing Mary Had A Little Lamb and diffusing some sort of stress relieving essential oil…
ok, not really, but you’ve probably heard some sort of claims related to using essential oils that sounds a bid outlandish, right?

So, what’s this all about? What are essential oils? What do you do with them? How do they work? Why do I consider them life altering?

Welcome to Essential Oils 101! The series where I will educate you on all things, well, essential!

Let’s start with the basics:

What are essential oils?
An essential oil is the essence of the plant from which it comes. An essential oil is not actually an “oil” like olive oil or coconut oil (these are called carrier oils and we will discuss them later). When a plant is distilled, it is broken down and the liquid that remains is the essential oil.

What’s the difference between essential oils and herbs?
Although some essential oils come from herbs, such as oregano, basil, rosemary, peppermint, lavender, etc. they are highly concentrated amounts. It takes many plants of the same type to make one bottle of essential oil. For example, one drop of peppermint essential oil is the equivalent of 28 bags of peppermint tea. That means that one 15 ml bottle of Young Living peppermint essential oil is equal to 7000-8400 bags of peppermint tea! WOW, that is potent!

What is the difference between Young Living essential oils and other brands?
After much research & personal essential oil usage, the brand I have become loyal to and am a distributor for is Young Living Essential Oils & products. I have found it to be true that when it comes to essential oils, you get what you pay for! Young Living is committed to providing 100% pure, therapeutic grade essential oils. This means that there are no additives, fillers, or ingredients added to dilute the oil bottles. Many store bought brands, though cheaper, contain other ingredients and can be as low as 1% essential oil in the bottle. After experiencing the difference between Young Living and other store bought brands, I found a very noticeable difference & cannot in good conscience recommend other brands. If you read the labels on the store bought essential oils, you will find disclaimers that say, “for aromatic use only. do not ingest!” With Young Living, many of their oils are safe when ingested properly. This is because they are 100% pure, high quality oils. Young Living also goes to great measures to acquire their ingredients from their natural environments. For more information about how their products are created, visit their Seed To Seal Promise.

Why is it important to purchase your essential oils from a trusted brand?
If you are going to be putting a product on your skin, breathing it into your lungs, and/or ingesting it in your body, it is very important that said product is safe! Young Living provides 100% pure essential oils with a guarantee of no fillers, the plants are not sprayed or treated with dangerous chemicals, and they are grown & harvested in their natural habitats. Other brands potentially have added ingredients which may be carcinogenic (cancer inducing), can cause other long term adverse effects, may not be quality plants grown safely, and may not be 100% essential oil. Some other essential oil brands actually only contain 3% essential oil in the bottle & the rest of the product is water and filler ingredients. So, with other brands you may be paying a cheaper price, but you are also getting 97% less essential oil in the bottle.
After personally using Young Living products for over 3 years, I can promote that this brand is effective and true to its word without a doubt in my mind.

So, now that you know a little about what essential oils are, would you like to know how to use them? You can find out in the next post in my next Essential Oils 101 series!

 

DISCLAIMER:
– No statements made here are meant to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. Although many people have found great relief from ailments with use of essential oils and products containing them, we legally cannot claim to heal or cure disease with essential oils because they not FDA regulated.

Weekend Link Love (8/15/2014)

Today is a special day in my household. It is the one year due date anniversary for my son, Josiah. This is a milestone day because although he has been a year old for almost seven weeks now, he was born premature. The brains and bodies of premature babies tend to develop according to their due dates rather than their actual birthdays until they “catch up” to their birthdays at around 2 years old; therefore, I have treated my little as if he was born on his due date when it came to making decisions such as what was appropriate to feed him, nursing, developmental expectations, etc. I am so excited that he is so healthy and growing so well! His pediatrician says that his development exceeds his due date expectations and is quite close to his birthday age. Thank You, Lord, for this undeserved blessing!

I love reading! I especially love to read blogs and interesting information pertaining to health and real life. So, here are some links to articles I have enjoyed reading this week and found interesting! I hope that you have an excellent weekend and a little time to wind down and spend some time reading!

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies – I was so excited to find these! They are free of all of the top 8 allergens, which means I can make them and share with Si. That makes me incredibly happy since due to his food allergies I can’t usually share treats with him.

How Many Eggs Can I Safely Eat? – Have you heard about watching the number of eggs you eat due to cholesterol? Here’s the scoop on eating eggs.

Why The Calories-In-Calories-Out Myth Is Wrong – I love this! I hear so many of my friends talking about calorie counting, dieting, weight loss & maintenance, etc. but although calories do play a part in our overall weight maintenance, it matters more WHAT we are eating. Here’s why!

5 Simple Ways To Be A Great Wife – What a sweet, inspiring article on encouraging your husband and building up your marriage! I know that my own marriage definitely benefits from these tips!

Essential Oils For Better Sleep – Sleep troubles? Here are 3 essential oils that can help you wind down and get some much needed rest! (if you don’t own these oils, contact me and I can help you obtain them)

Homemade Mouthwash (3 ingredients)

A clean mouth is a priority in my home. I have a very sensitive sniffer & can smell foul smells from fairly far off, so when I learned that my sweet hubby is prone to bad breath I knew that we had to take action!

We don’t use store bought mouthwash due to all of the chemicals that I am not comfortable with us swishing in our highly permeable oral mucousa (that’s just a fancy way of saying mouth). Just take a look at all of these unfamiliar ingredients hiding in your average breath freshener!

Photo courtesy of andreamariemanalo.tumblr.com. Thank you!

 

Um… no thank you. Some of those ingredients have been linked to cancer and other diseases.

So, what’s to be done when you don’t want to use questionable chemicals and your breath is bad?

Pull out those essential oils and make your own, of course!

Homemade Mouthwash
1 cup of filtered water
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 drops of Young Living peppermint OR spearmint essential oil
2 drops of Young Living Thieves essential oil

Directions
1. In a small glass jar, combine all ingredients & shake well.
2. Shake well before each use. Use the same as you would store bought mouthwash, swishing well for a couple of minutes and then discarding the used liquid into the sink or trash.

We have been using this mouthwash recipe for months now and it has worked really well for both of us. It leaves our mouths feeling clean and free of icky breath. As you swish, you can feel it working and “tingling” the same way as store bought mouth wash. It’s fast, easy, and just 3 ingredients (because filtered water really doesn’t count as an ingredient)!

Enjoy your clean & healthy mouth!

If you would like to purchase the essential oils listed above or other Young Living products, please contact me.

 

DISCLAIMER: I absolutely DO NOT advise the oral/internal use of any brand of essential oil other than Young Living. I cannot guarantee that any other brand of essential oil is 100% essential oil without chemicals, fillers & additives that could potentially cause disease. I am also in no way claiming to diagnose, treat, or cure disease through the use of this recipe or the products within.

Frugal Friday: Slow-Cooker Meat Lover’s Chili

It was around 100 degrees outside yesterday… and I made chili for dinner. Who says chili is only for cold weather? I love chili almost any time of year. But can I tell you a secret? I don’t love beans in chili. I know that some people do, but it’s just not my favorite. However, we live on a pretty tight budget around here, so I found it vital to come up with a beanless chili recipe that didn’t break the bank… even though it’s a cheaper cut, quality grass-fed ground beef is expensive! The ingredients in this chili may surprise you, but trust me, you won’t be disappointed by the flavor and it is packed with nourishment! To top it all off, this recipe is one you can throw in the slow cooker, so it’s very simple to make and not very time consuming. *ding, ding, ding!* We have a winner!

So, what is this surprising ingredient? Beef liver! Now, before you “x” out of this page in disgust, please know that I am not a lover of the flavor or texture of liver. However, in this recipe the bold flavors of the tomatoes, chiles & spices completely mask the flavor of the liver while still giving you the nutritional value and making your wallet smile. Beef liver is not only a super-food powerhouse, but also very economical to purchase. I am all about combining nutrition, good taste & smiling wallets, aren’t you?

This is seriously my favorite chili recipe now. I don’t know if I will ever make another chili recipe again! Hubby also loved this chili & had no idea that there was liver hidden in it.

(Photo to come soon… I forgot to take one yesterday)

 

Frugal Slow-Cooker Meat Lover’s Chili
(Paleo, Gluten/Grain Free, Dairy Free, No Beans)

Ingredients
1.5 lbs uncooked ground beef (I use frozen)
1 lb uncooked beef liver (I use frozen)
1 28oz can diced tomatoes (preferably BPA free)
1 7oz can green chiles
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2-1 large onion, chopped (depending on how much you like onion)
1 cup of chicken broth (homemade is best)
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2-3 tsp cumin
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt

Instructions
1. Place ground beef and beef liver into your crockpot, on opposite sides. Set slow cooker on high for 3-4 hours. If you are using already cooked ground beef and beef liver, you can skip this step.
2. After 3-4 hours, carefully spoon the beef liver out of the crockpot and into your food processor. Puree well.
3. Add the beef liver back into the crockpot along with the rest of the ingredients in this order: onions, garlic, tomatoes, chiles, spices & chicken broth.
4. Give a light stir (you want to mix it a little while keeping the meat and onions near the bottom of the cooker), cover & set on high for another 2-3 hours.
5. Serve as is or optionally with rice, avocado, cheese, organic corn, etc. as meet your dietary needs… and you could even serve over cooked beans if you have bean chili lovers in your family! If you are grain free and/or paleo, you could serve over cauliflower “rice” or zoodles (zucchini noodles). Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Simple, frugal, and oh, so yummy!

Tell me in the comments: Do you prefer your chili with or without beans? What other ingredients do you love in your chili?

Happy National Breastfeeding Awareness Week: My Story

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of the day that I would be a mama. I would wrap my dolls in blankets, hold them in my arms and pretend to nurse them just as I saw my own mother feeding my younger siblings. What I didn’t know at the time was that though God made the art of breastfeeding to be natural, He does not always make it come naturally!

This week is National Breastfeeding Awareness week, so I want to pay special recognition to the breastfeeding mamas in the world. There are many who have wanted to breastfeed and cannot for one reason or another, and there are some who chose not to, and that’s ok, too. This post is not one about judging whether or not one should or shouldn’t choose to breastfeed, but rather to give a hug of appreciation to my own mother and every other breastfeeding mother for nursing her children when it wasn’t always easy.

My Story

My own first experience began much differently than I had expected. I had envisioned the birth of my child, him being immediately laid on my chest & then rooting around until he found his milk. I thought we would cuddle closely as we learned each other and bonded in those first moments of his life, and though I expected there to be some struggle in the learning, I had no idea how much. Since God chose to send me little boy almost 7 weeks prior to term, the reality was that after a long night of labor starting around 1:00am, his birth at 8:42am, a quick hold of my newborn before he was whisked away for assessment, and then an entire day spent going back and forth from the NICU as my premature baby was cared for by medical personnel, I retired to my hospital room around 11pm that night and we realized that I needed to call lactation to help get me set up with a pump and supplies since my baby was not going to be feeding directly from the breast just yet.

And so, my first experience was not the sweet little mouth of my beautiful son, but instead the cold, hard plastic horns of a pump… every 2-3 hours… 24/7. Oh, my. Not at all what I had expected. Thankfully, my son was strong enough that on day two of his birth the doctors were willing to let us start practicing breastfeeding. We had so many struggles. His mouth was so small, his jaws were weak, he would start to suck and then forget to breathe, he would choke trying to swallow, he would latch and then immediately unlatch and fall off, he would get frustrated and impatient… I would get impatient! This was not at all what I had imagined! He had a feeding tube down his throat because he was hardly getting any milk from nursing, so after each practice session some milk I had previously pumped would be sent down his feeding tube… and then I would go and pump again. At first we were only allowed to practice once a day, then twice, until finally after a couple of weeks we were practicing at every feeding time. He was still so weak and not gaining weight well, so we continued with the feeding tube. One doctor wanted to fortify my breast milk up to 22 calories per ounce with human milk fortifier, insisting that breast milk was only 20 calories per ounce. However, I was adamant that I would not be using GMO laden fortifier unless absolutely necessary, so after speaking with a lactation consultant, we had my milk tested and sure enough, the samples tested 23-30 calories per ounce depending on the time of day the sample was taken. I was so very thankful that we did not need to fortify my milk! We were discharged from the NICU after 3 weeks and so excited to go home, but little did I know that the breastfeeding battle had just begun.

After a few days at home we went in to the pediatrician office and Josiah was weighed. He had gained 3 oz in 4 days. Not bad, but not ideal as they said the goal was 0.5-1oz per day. We went back home & kept practicing. All day and all night we worked on feeding. A week later we went back for another weight check. He had gained nothing in a week. Not one ounce. I thanked God that he had not lost any weight. Prior to his birth, my husband and I had decided that we did not want to give our baby pacifiers and that we would wait to introduce a bottle until closer to the end of my maternity leave. Because of his lack of weight gain and weak suck, the pediatrician advised that we go ahead and try a pacifier to help strengthen his jaw and that we would need to “top him off” with an ounce or two of pumped milk after feedings to help him gain weight. I was devastated… and anxious. I had read so much about nipple confusion caused by artificial nipple use with newborns. Yet, there seemed to be no alternative. They also thought my once ample milk supply had dwindled since Josiah was not nursing well. During the discharge process from the hospital, I was told that I no longer needed to use the breast pump throughout the day since Josiah was nursing, but I later learned that this was poor advice in our situation since he was not nursing well enough to keep up my supply. I started researching how to increase milk supply and began pumping after every nursing session, taking Fenugreek 3 times a day, making lactation cookies with oats, brewer’s yeast & flaxseed, and drinking many cups of mother’s milk tea. We also started co-sleeping so that he could night nurse frequently.

Over the next couple of weeks, we used a bottle with pumped milk after each nursing session, but still my little one was not gaining weight well. Each week he weighed a little more, but never the weekly goal and each day it seemed like his nursing was getting worse and we were having to give more from the bottle. The slow flow bottle nipple sent the milk out too fast and he would choke and thrust his tongue to stop the flow… but then he would do the same when he went to nurse & get frustrated that he couldn’t get his milk very well when nursing. It was the dreaded nipple confusion. I was a weepy mess. I thought I was going insane. All I did was nurse (for between 40min-1.5hrs at a time), pump, bottle feed, and wash bottle & pump parts. Pairing this with a premature newborn that couldn’t sleep due to the caffeine medication he was on (oh, and caffeine is also an appetite suppressant) and we had a recipe for disaster!!! At one point I added up that I was spending an average of 18 hours a day doing something feeding related. I was getting 2-4 hours of sleep, but only in 30 minute increments. The two left over hours were spent in a brain fog. This was not at all what I expected.

By late August, we knew something had to be done differently. I was absolutely determined to breastfeed if at all possible, but after 2 months of struggling, I was so weary. At the advice of a friend, we set up an appointment with a outpatient lactation specialist. If you want to nurse your newborn but are struggling with breastfeeding issues after you leave the hospital, I strongly recommend seeing an outpatient lactation consultant. The lovely consultants in the hospital are great, but most of them are only trained for helping directly postpartum. The outpatient consultant we saw was excellent & I told her that I believe God used her to save my breastfeeding relationship with my baby. During our appointment she gave me a lot of good advice on encouraging him to nurse & then recommended a different type of bottle nipple. We started using this new bottle nipple (the Medela Calma) and it changed everything because my son had to suck in order for this nipple to send him any milk. Without sucking, no milk dripped out. This nipple mimicked the breast a lot better than any other we had found.

We kept practicing, and slowly but surely Josiah started gaining weight better and taking more from me and less from the bottle. By mid October we were no longer using the bottle at all and he was gaining 8+ ounces per week. By November he was gaining an average of 10oz per week. Although it still took him about 30 minutes to nurse and he nursed every 2-3 hours, my heart was bursting with happiness that we were making such progress!

Due to the caffeine he was on as a newborn for Apnea of Prematurity (AOP) and also what we later found out were food allergies, my son has never been a good sleeper. He was still waking up to nurse 5-6 times a night at 7 months old (we did not know at the time it was because of severe internal itching caused by food allergies), and still woke up to nurse 2-3 times a night until 10 months old. Around 11 months old he started only waking twice per night, then once a night. As hard as I tried to implement routine, it took him until 10 months to finally fall into a predictable eating pattern/schedule.

These days, he is 13 months old, weighs 23 lbs, and he nurses an average of 6 times between 8am-8pm and then sleeps from 8pm-8am, waking once usually between 4-6am to nurse and then go back to sleep until 8am. It now takes him 6-15 minutes to nurse, depending on how hungry and/or distracted he is.

My goal was to exclusively breastfeed and for his primary source of nutrition to be breast milk until his one year due date (that is August 15, so we are less than 2 weeks away!!!). What this looks like for us is that he nurses 7-8 times a day (every 2-3 hours), and then has one decent sized solid meal in the evening before bath and bedtime (generally a meat and either veggies, avocado, or potatoes). Throughout the day I sometimes give him a bite of banana, melon, veggie, or meat, but not more than a bite or two. My plan is to start slowly weaning after his one year due date by offering two solid meals a day, then three, and eventually three plus snacks until he is completely weaned. People ask me how long I plan to nurse him and my answer is that I honestly don’t know. Since he is allergic to dairy, some tree nuts, peanuts, soy, and eggs, I feel that breast milk is currently a vital part of well-rounded nutrition for him. I would ideally like to move to only nursing in the mornings and at night by the time Christmas rolls around, but we will see what happens.

I also want to encourage you that though it has been a struggle, breastfeeding has gotten easier. These days I am very thankful that I can nurse Josiah in just a matter of minutes no matter where we are without having to plan and pack bottles, pump parts, pump, formula, have access to hot water, etc. It is very convenient and has also saved us a lot of money over the past year.

It’s been a difficult year and not at all what I had envisioned, but I am so thankful that we were able to make it through the hard times and make it this far. There were many times I thought we wouldn’t make it, but The Lord was my strength and He saw us through the trials. Those long nursing sessions were excellent for times of prayer and meditating on Scripture. I am thankful to Him for every moment. Nursing my baby is precious to me.

To all of you mamas who have made sacrifices to breastfeed (or tried), way to go! Thank you for all you have been through for the good of your little one/s! Being a mommy is not always easy, but the reward is so great! Happy National Breastfeeding Awareness week!

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