Category: health

Mom’s health matters too

Eamon sleep“Breast is best!” is akin to “Back to sleep!” as the most overused phrase for a healthy baby.

My son eats about 82% breast milk (I’ve done the math)…and I hate that it’s not 100%. I pump at work, I breastfeed at home, I try to make ‘enough.’ It is stressful. Since he is a preemie, there’s even more pressure to give him the ‘perfect’ food to make up for his early arrival.

I actually LIKE breast feeding, but it’s time-consuming, energy-depleting and sleep-depriving. I don’t have a solution to the guilt, but articles like this one from The Washington Post help:

Doctor says: When it comes to breastfeeding, your health and happiness matter as much as your baby’s – By Vivien K. Burt, Sonya Rasminsky and Robin Berman

Whoever said, “Don’t cry over spilled milk” couldn’t possibly have been talking about breast milk. As reproductive psychiatrists who specialize in treating women who suffer from depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the postpartum, we see far too many tearful new mothers for whom breastfeeding is a source of self-recrimination.

Doggedly determined to provide breast milk exclusively for their babies, these moms endure breast and nipple pain, around the clock pumping, sleep deprivation, anxiety, and chronic feelings of inadequacy—all for the sake of doing what’s “best” for their babies. As physicians, we think we know better, but as mothers, we too bought into the dogma that breast is best at all costs. We would never have taken our own advice: when it comes to breastfeeding, your health and happiness matter as much as your baby’s.

Sheepishly we recently shared our secret stories of shame with one another:

“I proudly accumulated a freezerful of stored breast milk by routinely pumping immediately after nursing. I was happy that my baby never had to have formula, and I was devastated when I had to throw away gallons of expired milk. To this day, I have deep regret about my choices. I wish that I had never bought the pump; my time would have been better spent bonding with my baby.”

“When I went back to work when my baby was five months old, I was so ashamed that I had switched to formula, I lied to all my friends and coworkers.”

“For me, nursing was harder than medical school. My milk was slow to come in and my baby howled whenever I put him to the breast. It hurt so much that I cried. I was so determined to feed him breast milk that I didn’t realize that he was getting dehydrated. Even when he was hospitalized with an IV, I felt that my most important task was to try to pump milk for him. In retrospect, I wish that I had transitioned to formula—we both would have been happier.”

Sharing these stories, we wished that we had put less pressure on ourselves. Despite our knowledge about the importance of maternal mental well-being to healthy mother-baby bonding, we let shame and guilt eclipse our good sense.

Read the full article

Labor-Inducing Spinach Artichoke Dip

Just kidding. Sort of.

While there’s no scientific evidence that a particular food can jump-start labor, my water broke within one hour of eating this dip.

Adapted from Slate’s “You’re Doing it Wrong,” I threw this together for Thanksgiving. At 33 weeks pregnant, my husband and I made the short drive to Houston for the holiday. My 94-year-old grandmother lives there, and some other family drove in from Arkansas.

We left Austin with the uncooked dip in tow, compression stockings squeezed onto my swollen legs. I napped most of the way (Aside: I have a superhuman ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime, within moments. It’s great for me; not so great for whomever I’m roadtripping with).

We exchanged hugs and a few jokes about whether my grandmother’s or my ankles were more swollen, and then the seven of us sat down with paper plates of dip, veggies, pita chips and Panettone bread. We’re not the kind of people to postpone eating for decorum’s sake.

I sat on a scratchy old, yellow chair with my legs stretched out in the living room, talking with my big sister. Something must have registered on my face, as she suddenly asked if I was okay. I nodded, and excused myself. I can only describe the feeling as unexpected dampness.

Surprise! I’ll leave out the details, but suffice it to say my water broke on that ragged yellow chair while my husband was jogging and my dad was sleeping. A few phone calls and we headed to a Houston ER.

742
Happy Thanksgiving from the Houston hospital! This is about four hours after eating dip. If I’d known it would be the last I could eat for 20 hours, I’d have consumed the entire pan.

My big sister graciously blotted up the poor chair, and grandmother is still none the wiser. Our son was born at 6:30 a.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving. No word yet on whether he likes spinach.

So if you’re pregnant and feeling ready to pop, why not give this recipe a whirl? Or just make it to enjoy; it’s easy and delicious.

Ingredients
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Âź cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper – to taste
Salt and black pepper
2, 15-oz cans marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Directions
Heat the oven to 450°F. Put the cream cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper, and stir to combine. Stir in the artichoke hearts, spinach and mozzarella. Transfer to an 9×13 pan or a gratin dish and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm with crisp crackers and crunchy veggies.

 

Eating as a New Mom

933I’m a mom! My son arrived 7 weeks early and spent a month in the NICU. We brought him home a few days before Christmas and are riding the rollercoaster of parenthood.

The little man loves to eat and isn’t a fan of sleeping – or at least, sleeping without being held. This particular trait is endearing – snuggle bug! But it also makes it challenging to accomplish anything, say, like, prepping or eating food.

My husband is awesome about making ‘real’ meals for dinner, but during the day and after late night feedings, I’m purely snack ‘n grab. This means my eats have included:

  • spoons of peanut butter and hummus
  • bananas
  • cans of green beans and baked beans
  • string cheese
  • Triscuits
  • Cheerios

My mother visited and showed her concern about my lack of balanced diet by adding slices of of butter and extra mayonnaise to everything she prepared for me. It was sweet in that mom way, and also served as a reminder that I need to do a better job of managing healthful eating – for myself, for baby and for successful breastfeeding.

Since her visit, I’ve made a more conscious effort to store leftovers in containers easy to pop in the microwave, stock lunch meats for meat-and-cheese roll-ups, and keep quick proteins like cottage cheese and yogurt on hand. Less butter and mayo necessary.

What other quick, easy and one-handed foods should a new mom consider?

Everything is bigger in Texas

…Including the bug bites.

Deep Ellum’s Neato Bandito

Last night I enjoyed a 45-minute walk with some ladies, followed by a juicy lamb burger at Black Star Co-op and pint of Deep Ellum’s Neato Bandito. A delicious and satisfying evening all around.

This morning, I woke up with a robin’s egg-sized itchy, raised welt on my forearm. Four hours later, it’s grown in itchiness. I’d call it goose egg-sized now too. If it gets softball size, I’ll hit the urgent care clinic.

arm500x680I swear, there is something in the spit of these damn Texas bugs that makes me puff up like a balloon. And thisTexas  guide to diagnosing mysterious bites isn’t helping.

Swelling from mysterious nibbles isn’t new.  I have distinct memories of waking up in the twin bed in my grandmother’s house in Houston and counting 20 bug bites on myself before waking up Dad, who made a midnight Benadryl run.

From the time I was a little kid, I related perfectly to this Calvin & Hobbes strip:

Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

I’m feeling miffed this morning at the lack of awareness for health equity. I first read this piece during ‘Sociology of the Family’ my freshman year at college, and it profoundly impacted my worldview. The full list of 50 ways white privilege is hidden is available online.


White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
by Peggy McIntosh

“I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness,
not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group”

DAILY EFFECTS OF WHITE PRIVILEGE

I decided to try to work on myself at least by identifying some of the daily effects of white privilege in my life. I have chosen those conditions that I think in my case attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location, though of course all these other factors are intricately intertwined. As far as I can tell, my African American coworkers, friends, and acquaintances with whom I come into daily or frequent contact in this particular time, place and time of work cannot count on most of these conditions.

1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.
12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair. 
13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
14. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
15. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
16. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
17. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my color.
18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.
19. I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
20. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
21. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.22. I can remain oblivious of the language and customs
of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
23. I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
24. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
25. If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
27. I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance or feared.
28. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
29. I can be pretty sure that if I argue for the promotion of a person of another race, or a program centering on race, this is not likely to cost me heavily within my present setting, even if my colleagues disagree with me.

Peggy McIntosh is associate director of the Wellesley Collage Center for Research on Women. This essay is excerpted from Working Paper 189. “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming To See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies” (1988), by Peggy McIntosh; available for $4.00 from the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, Wellesley MA 02181. The working paper contains a longer list of privileges.

5 Things I Learned About Food This Week

In no particular order…

1. Switching to a low-carb diet results in brain fog (stupidity), flu-like symptoms of blarg, fatigue like mono, irritability and spending lots of time thinking about food. Apparently this allll goes away, and with it, pounds! It’s magic, they say! But here in the land of low-carb day 8, I just want to sleep and get my throat to stop hurting.

2. The term ‘alcohol sugar‘ is just a fancy name for ‘artificial sweeteners.’ There’s not even alcohol involved. Examples of sugar alcohol to look for are:

  • Erythritol
  • Glycerol (also known as glycerin or glycerine)
  • hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
  • isomalt
  • lactitol
  • maltitol
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • xylitol

3. There’s a guy who wants to make food – and eating – obsolete. Given the vast energy I spend making, planning and feeling bad about food decisions, this appeals to the utilitarian in me. But not to the gastro-bliss fairy who sighs over hot bread and fresh butter. (I’m HUNGRY). For more thoughts on the irony of creating soy-based fake ‘food,’ check out this piece on the ethics of food in Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake.

4. The infamous ‘Dirty Dozen’ may not be so bad. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the following have the highest pesticide load, making them the most important to buy organic versions:

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Cucumbers
  • Potatoes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Hot peppers

However,  the Journal of Toxicology folks disagree over the significance of the pesticides, “We concur with EWG President Kenneth Cook who maintains that “We recommend that people eat healthy by eating more fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic,” but our findings do not indicate that substituting organic forms of the “Dirty Dozen” commodities for conventional forms will lead to any measurable consumer health benefit.”

5. Which pulls me full circle back to Michael Pollan’s thoughts: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

10 Lessons for Your 30’s

I liked this piece from Mark Manson, “10 Life Lessons to Excel In Your 30’s” — even if the title doesn’t roll off the tongue. I’ve captured the 10 points below, and encourage you to read the full piece.

1. Start Saving for Retirement Now, Not Later

2. Start Taking Care of Your Health Now, Not Later

3. Don’t Spend Time with People Who Don’t Treat You Well

4. Be Good to the People You Care About

5. You Can’t Have Everything; Focus On Doing a Few Things Really Well

6. Don’t Be Afraid of Taking Risks, You Can Still Change

7. You Must Continue to Grow and Develop Yourself

8. Nobody (Still) Knows What They’re Doing, Get Used to It

9. Invest in Your Family; It’s Worth It

10. Be Kind to Yourself, Respect Yourself

 

Fajita Marinade

I recently faced a total food fail while attempting Baked Spaghetti Squash with Cheese. I figured it’d be the perfect healthier mac ‘n cheese. Truth? It was downright terrible. My roux never thickened, I burned my hands pulling out the ‘noodles,’ the whole thing came out a liquidy wet blob lacking flavor. Not to mention that I wasted $14 on cheeses! I tried reinventing the leftovers by making little cheesy noodle ‘pancakes’ in the skillet. Nope. I don’t know what went wrong in those 2 hours but I know it did not go right.

Given that disappointment, my level of cooking effort is greatly diminished of late. Sometimes I just need a break from planning meals.

Aligned with that mindset, here’s an easy marinade that worked really well for chicken fajitas, and I imagine would be great for steak, pork or tempah too. I put 2 chicken breasts in a gallon ziplock and added these ingredients, smooshing them around to blend and then allowing the chicken to marinate for 1 hour in the fridge:

  • 1/4 cup worchestire
  • 4 TBS olive oil
  • 1 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 TBS minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder
  • 2 TBS cumin
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

We sliced the raw chicken and added it with the ziplock sauce to a cast iron skillet. When the chicken was cooked, we removed it and added diced onions, bell peppers, jalapeno and more chopped cilantro for a quick stir-fry. Because the marinade boiled while the chicken cooked and then boiled again with the veggies, I wasn’t worried about raw chicken bacteria.

Better-for-you Butter Chicken

According to my fiance, this should be called “Righteous butter chicken.”

I love butter chicken and order it every chance I have. Officially known as ‘murgh makhani’ and described as ‘Indian chicken in tomato cream sauce,’ I’m rarely disappointed. This is baby Indian food — almost zero heat, sweet and hard to resist seconds, or thirds.

However, generally I place it in the category of ‘foods best made by others’ since the amount of cream sends my stomach racing into hiding. To avoid lactose overload, I gave this version from Natural Noshing a try. It’s light on dairy but still full on flavor, and can easily be made lactose free. Overall assessment: it’s good. It’s not EPIC or a copycat recipe but it’s solid.

Next time I’ll use vegetable or peanut oil, though. I apparently don’t like the scent of heated coconut oil; it reminds me of being stuck in a car on a hot day with a box of melting crayons and a coloring book. Also, lemon juice is an absolute must for finishing the dish. I’ve made the changes that I will make next time to the recipe below.

TIP: This will take you about 2 hours, start to finish.

Ingredients for the Chicken:
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 cups yogurt (can use dairy-free options)
2 TBS ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp salt or to taste
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tsp tandoori masala powder
2 tsp kasuri methi or 1 tsp ground dried fenugreek seeds
4 TBS canola oil, coconut oil or other neutral oil

Directions For the Chicken:
1. In a small bowl mix together cumin, garam masala, salt, cayenne pepper, tandoori masala and fenugreek/kasuri methi. Rub on both sides of the chicken and refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes.
2. Line a pan with parchment or foil. In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil and ginger garlic paste. Dip each chicken breast into the yogurt mixture. Coat well. Lay on prepared pan.
3. Heat oven to broil and cook 10-18 minutes or until cooked through (depending on thickness of chicken), flipping them over halfway through. For 4 meaty breasts, I cooked 15-20 minutes on each side. When cooked through, let chicken rest for 5 minutes. Optional: slice chicken into 1 inch cubes.

Ingredients for the Butter Sauce:
4 TBS coconut oil, canola oil or other neutral oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 TBS ginger-garlic paste
4 cups diced tomatoes (use canned or marinara to save time)
2 TBS flour
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp garam masala
3 TBS kasuri methi or 1 tsp dried ground fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 TBS sugar or sweetener of choice
1/2 cup coconut milk OR greek yogurt OR  sour cream
4 TBS butter, ghee, or margarine
Juice of 1 lemon

Directions For the Butter Sauce:
1. Heat the oil in a medium sautĂŠ pan. Cook onions until soft and translucent. Add ginger-garlic paste and stir for about 1 minute.
2. Add tomatoes, flour, cayenne, cumin, garam masala, kasuri methi, salt and sugar. Cook on medium heat until thick. Optional: Puree sauce in a blender and return to the pan. Personally I find blending hot liquids in batches a messy business.
3. Add dairy (yogurt/coconut milk/sour cream) and butter. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Add lemon juice. Taste and adjust. If you prefer a thinner sauce, add a bit more coconut milk.
4. If you opted to cut up the chicken, add it to the pan and simmer for a few more minutes. I sliced up the chicken and poured sauce over it instead.

Serve hot with lentils, rice and buttery garlic naan. Sigh contentedly and enter righteous butter chicken food coma.

 

Tattoo Parlors > Mall Kiosks for Piercings

I read this great piece in TIME on why tattoo parlors are better for piercings. My first piercing was the ears. Like many

Ear Piercing Gun

girls my age, I was absolutely dying to be deemed grown up enough to pierce my ears. My dreams came true on my 7th birthday: I remember sitting in the lavender chair in a Claire’s at the mall, the odor of rubbing alcohol heavy and my ear lobes cold, trying not to squirm while a woman put a dot on each ear and shot an earring through a piercing gun. I clenched my eyes tight and hoped that the dots would be parallel and centered, or ‘straight’ in 7-year old speak.

I admit a bias towards tattoo and piercing parlors: my undergraduate honors thesis was on the gender differences in piercing preferences, and involved a number of interviews at local businesses. I found shop owners and artists to be respectful, honest and scrupulous about sanitation — which I can’t say for any mall kiosk on the planet. When I got a nose piercing and entered the world of body jewelry purchasing, I found businesses ready to offer advice and suggestions, often with simple instructions and easy DIY recommendations.

In sum: save time and headache and likely money – go to a tattoo parlor for all your piercings. 

Why I Took My 7-Year-Old to a Tattoo Parlor

By Bonnie Rochman
“Last month, following a long period of girlish cajoling, my daughter finally got her ears pierced in celebration of her 7th birthday. The setting was not the traditional mall kiosk staffed by some bored and minimally trained 16-year-old. Instead I took my daughter to a tattoo parlor.

Surprised they even allow 7-year-olds in those kinds of places? Think again. A growing number of parents are apparently turning to tattoo parlors to bejewel their children’s little lobes. I didn’t come up with this crazy idea out of the blue; I’m a reporter, after all: I researched where to take Shira and weighed the pros and cons. I found that tattoo parlors — despite the blaring heavy metal music — were mom-approved by a local parenting email list. When even a nurse cast her vote in favor of the tattoo parlor, I deliberated no longer.

“There is a stigma attached to tattoo parlors that they’re dirty and will be bombarded by foul-mouthed people,” says Sarah LaRoe, a mom with multiple facial piercings and tattoos creeping up her neck, who pierced my little girl’s ears so tenderly that she left her not in tears but with a big, happy smile on her face.

Contrary to what you might think, tattoo parlors — at least the one I went to — are actually bastions of cleanliness. Some states regulate them, and reputable ones use disposable needles and sterilize all their equipment in an autoclave. In contrast, mall piercers and many jewelry stores use piercing guns that have been associated with complications and can’t be completely sterilized. Armed with that knowledge, which would you choose?

While some parents might be freaked out by the idea of taking their kid to a tattoo parlor, I looked upon the outing as an adventure, joking with my daughter about getting a Hello Kitty tattoo for mom. What I didn’t expect was that the experience would evolve into a lesson in tolerance. In that unnerving way little kids have of speaking their mind, Shira took an initial look at LaRoe and stage-whispered: “I think she looks ugly like that.”

I immediately flashed her my scary mom eyes to signal her to clam up. But later, after we’d left the store, her comment served as an opportunity to point out that just because someone looks different, it doesn’t mean she’s not a good person. LaRoe, regardless of her unconventional piercings, was super-professional and extremely kind.

For professional piercers like LaRoe, who stick needles through noses, eyebrows, tongues and nether regions, ears are the most mundane of piercing locations. But that doesn’t mean they don’t take it seriously. LaRoe spent nearly an hour with us, versus the quick in-and-out that I remember from getting my ears pierced at the mall as a girl. Before leading us into the piercing room — which looked just like a doctor’s office — LaRoe handed the birthday girl a bag with a lollipop, which expertly distracted Shira from being overly nervous about what was going on.

The bag also contained non-iodized sea salt and instructions for mom on how to mix a saline solution to clean newly pierced ears. Unlike the alcohol that mall kiosks recommend for cleaning, salty water doesn’t burn.

Now for the gory details: at tattoo parlors, piercers use hypodermic needles to core out a sliver of skin, making room for an earring — a relatively painless procedure. In contrast, at the mall, the piercer uses a gun that painfully jams a blunt-tipped earring stud into the ear lobe; the process does not remove skin, but effectively pushes it aside.

LaRoe is so convinced of the superiority of needles over piercing guns that she’s signed petitions to ban the guns; one such petition makes the case that “only cowboys use guns.” In her quest to reform the ear-piercing industry, LaRoe leaves her business card at schools and pediatricians’ offices. When she takes her own son to the doctor, she’ll frequently get questions about her multiple piercings; sometimes she gets customers that way too.

Ultimately, though, change starts parent by parent, through word of mouth. “It kind of acts like a trendsetter,” says LaRoe. “All it takes is one little girl who goes to school and says it didn’t hurt.”

It didn’t hurt? Well, maybe a little. But so little that Shira didn’t even blink when LaRoe pierced her first ear. During the procedure, LaRoe had her do some deep, yoga-like breathing, which Shira is familiar with from her weekly yoga class. In and out, in — pierce! Of course, the lollipop helped too.”