Saturday, October 29, 2011

Coming Home from the NICU - essentials

For those of you who are preparing to bring your little one home from your long NICU stay I thought I would share what supplies and baby items we had waiting at home, and what I would do slightly different in hind sight.

The normal baby essentials:
  • 6-8 receiving blankets
  • 1-2 warmer blankets
  • 6 burp cloths, I used a package of cotton cloth diapers which worked great
  • Plenty of diapers and wipes- we purchased cloth diapers and covers
  • 8-10 newborn size gowns and one piece comfy outfits
  • onesies
  • socks
  • hats- depending on the season
  • infant car seat 
  • place for baby to sleep
  • place to change baby - a bed works fine too!

For a preemie:
  • Preemie size diapers depending on your little one's weight - Gwendolyn came home at 4lb 9oz /17 in.
  • a few preemie size outfits up to 6 lbs - I only had 5-6 and this was enough
  • a foam wedge to raise head when sleeping - I cut a crib size one in half to use in 2 places
  • a car mirror (this was essential for me since Gwendolyn was on oxygen and a feeding tube)
  • a night set-up next to sleeping area; soft light, diapers, wipes, feeding supplies, etc...
  • A double portable breast pump - my favorite is the Medela freestyle and it worked just as good as the hospital grade Medela's I had been using. I pumped for 13 months.
  • /
  • A place for baby to sleep - with a 45 degree wedge
  • a sound machine or sound CD - one I recommend is below in the amazon link
  • A stroller and car seat combo - for those long visits to the Doctors
  • An infant car seat with a good insert for supporting the head and body
We had originally planned on sleeping close to our baby and this decision only intensified after having a preemie. I could not imagine having Eleonora sleep in another room at night especially with all of her medical equipment. How we actually made this work will be coming soon... with details.

And a good carrier to wear your little one:

Instead of my ring-type sling (which I did love) I would purchase one with a bit of shoulder padding. The Maya Wrap sling is a good quality choice
available from Amazon as well

Looking back I wish I had a knit wrap-type carrier like the following:
 The Snuggly Wrap (similar to the Moby and Sleepy Wraps)

I had a Didymos guaze wrap-type carrier that took some work to put on when she was little but I did use it quite a bit that first winter home - especially when walking to her doctor appointments in the cold.
available on Amazon

When Eleonora got to be about 15 lbs I started using the Ergo Baby carrier and this has been a purchase well worth the cost. We have loved it and still use it at 27 lbs.
/ - I purchased mine from
there is also an infant insert available on

These are the basics of what we had ready and ended up using - along with all of the medical equipment and oxygen we needed to have.
I am somewhat of a minimalist when it comes to baby items and what worked for me may not at all be what is right for you of course!

I would love to hear what you considered essential in those first weeks with your preemie at home.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

392 days of Pumping

Or I could just say 13 months before I HUTH. Yes, I had to chuckle yesterday when I read that there is even an acronym for ending pumping "Hanging Up The Horns" - don't ask me who made this up!

But before I go into my story of EPer (being an exclusive pumper), I want to share a list of everything that I believe helped me to be able to continue that long, especially in the early weeks when I was  practically living in the NICU and trying to increase my milk supply production which was a struggle at first.

1. Start pumping ASAP after birth

2. Don't be discouraged when you only get 2 drops of colostrum (and yes, our NICU was amazing because they gave these 2 drops to Eleonora - even sending a nurse up to my floor to get it for her believing it to be so important!)

3. Pump literally every 3 hours around the clock (from the beginning of 1 pumping to the beginning of the next)

4. Use a hospital grade pump and have a lactation consultant make sure you have the right size shields

5. Drink lots and lots of water and eat 3 good meals a day (easier said then done)

6. Buy a pumping bra so you can have your hands free - this was essential for me

7. Look into taking Fenugreek capsules

8. After 6 weeks contemplate going one 5 hour stretch at night to get at least 4 1/2 hrs of sleep straight.

9. Call and see how your baby is doing during those lonely night pumping sessions

10. Pump for at least 15 minutes each session- but up to 20 or more, making sure you get every last drop

11. Talk to other NICU Moms to know you are not the only one doing this

I was blessed to have incredible support from my husband, encouraging me in moments when I really thought I could not keep doing this and to have his understanding when everything we did centered around my next pumping session really kept me going.

Be encouraged that it should get easier as the weeks go on and know that you are doing an amazing thing for your baby/babies!

What tips and suggestions have helped you in your pumping journey? I would love to compile a longer list to share at some point.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Formula, Pt. 3 - purchasing ingredients

Perhaps it will be helpful for some to know where I usually purchased the ingredients for the formula. It took me a little while to actually compare online companies but I was glad when I finally did for it saved me some cost in the long run.

Here is where everything came from -
Org. Coconut Oil, 32oz $24.95
Org. Sunflower Oil, 17oz $14.95
Org. Butter Oil (unflavored), 8.1oz $59.95
Org. Fermented Cod Liver Oil (unflavored), 8oz $43.95
Nutritional Yeast Mini Flakes, 16oz $17.45
Acerola Powder, 2/6oz $9.98
Lactose, 6/16oz pkgs. $23.54 ($3.92 each)
Natren Life Start, 2.5oz $19.31   --  (or from for $17.29)
Pure Beef Gelatin, 14oz $12.79

Health Food Store/ Whole Foods
Organic unfiltered Extra-Virgin Olive Oil - price varied

My raw pasture-fed milk and cream came from a local food co-operative of family farms.
1 Gal. Raw Goats Milk, $12.00
1 Gal. Raw Cows Milk, $7.00
1 Qt. Raw Cows Cream, $13.50

You can search here for co-ops that provide raw milk in your area:

And the Whey was homemade!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Homemade Whey

Making your own homemade whey is quite simple...

My method is as follows:

1. Fill a 1/2 gallon glass jar  (rinsed out) with fresh raw milk (about 2 quarts), leaving enough room to add 2 TBS plain organic whole milk yogurt. Close with a tight fitting lid and shake gently to distribute the yogurt.

2. Let sit for 2-4 days until the milk separates into curds and whey (which looks yellowish). I found placing it on top of the fridge worked great. And 3 days is how long it took for me.

3. At this point you need a large bowl or pot and then I used a large strainer with 1/4 of a muslin type dish/tea towel laying inside. Cheese cloth may also work if the holes are small enough.  Slowly pour the curds and whey into the strainer and let sit for several hours.

4. When the whey has stopped dripping (I would let it sit throughout the day) tie the ends of the tea towel to a wooden spoon to enable the rest of the liquid to drip out. Let sit several more hours or overnight.

5. Pour the clear/yellowish liquid into clean glass jars, label with the date and refrigerate. Now you have fresh homemade whey for your homemade formula and other lacto-fermented recipes!

The remaining curds can be refrigerated and eaten somewhat like cream cheese, but it has quite a tang to it which we did not prefer. But I have made delicious Rugelach with this from a recipe in Nourishing Tradtitions, by Sally Fallon.

Homemade whey lasts approx. 6 months and the "cream cheese" curds last about 3-4 weeks refrigerated.

2 quarts of raw milk make approx. 1 quart of homemade whey.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Homemade Formula pt. 2 - the recipe!

Following is the recipe that I used for 18 months, it is from the Weston A. Price Foundation and is also in the great book "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon.

Milk- Based Homemade Formula

2 cups whole raw milk, completely unprocessed from pasture raised cows or goats**
1/4 cup homemade liquid whey (directions to come soon!)
4 TBS lactose (NOW)
1/4 tsp. bifidobacterium infantis (Natren Life Start)
2-3 TBS raw cream, completely unprocessed from pasture raised cows
1/2 tsp. plain fermented cod liver oil (Green Pasture's)
1/4 tsp high-vitamin butter oil (Green Pasture's)
1 tsp. organic expeller pressed sunflower oil (FLORA)
1 tsp. organic extra virgin olive oil, unfiltered (from health food store)
2 tsp. small flake nutritional yeast flakes (Frontier brand only)
1 7/8 cups filtered water
2 tsp. organic extra virgin coconut oil (Radiant Life)
2 tsp. gelatin (Bernard Jensen's 100% beef)
1/4 tsp. acerola powder (NOW)

This is how I made it after a bit of trial and error:

1. Pour water into med. size pot, turn heat to medium and add the lactose, gelatin and yeast flakes; give it a good whisk then leave to heat up slowly.

 2. Pour milk (if frozen* thaw first) into blender and add the: whey, bifidus, cod liver oil, sunflower oil, olive oil and acerola powder. At this point check the water mixture and if pretty warm turn off, remove from heat and add the frozen* cream, coconut oil and butter oil.

3. Return to the blender and with the lid on pulse 2-4 times. Add the warm water mixture and again pulse only very briefly (or it has a tendency to curdle) 2-3 times max.

4. At this point it is made! I almost always poured the formula directly into bottles and then placed in the fridge. The other option is to pour into a glass pitcher with a secure lid and pour as needed, but I found it hard because the oils would be all at the top.  If there was 1-2 portions more than I knew she would drink over the following 24 hrs. I would pour each amount into a Lansinoh breastmilk freezer bag and place in the freezer.

5. Clean up!

It really became quite simple; I didn't even look at the recipe until everything was included (just in case I forgot something) and even though I didn't always relish the thought of making it EVERY single day it was so worth it because Eleonora thrived and loved it!

*Because I only could get my raw milk every 2 weeks I would freeze 1 weeks worth divided into 2 cup portions making it easy to thaw overnight. The same for my raw cream - I froze it in 2 TBS worth ice cube trays and when frozen I would place in a freezer ziploc bag. If I had fresh cream I would place it in the blender- not into the warm water mixture. I keep raw milk in the fridge for 1 week and raw cream for 2-3 days only, otherwise I freeze them.

** After reading up I chose to use raw goats milk for the first 1 year since it is more easily digestible and also higher in calories, I will share more details in a coming post.

I hope that these directions show just how simple it is to actually make such a nutritious formula and in the coming weeks I will share more of the why's behind the ingredients.
But coming up next is :
1.How to make homemade whey
2. The most affordable places I found to buy these ingredients
3. Why Raw milk?