Friday, December 2, 2016

6 Signs that Your Baby May Be Teething and How You Can Help

By Laraine Clark, RN, IBCLC 

Babies experience teething differently. While some have minimal symptoms, others will have a rather
difficult time getting through the teething process.

For some babies teething symptoms may only last for a few days at a time, whereas with others, it can seem to drag on for several months. Your baby may react differently if there is one tooth coming through vs. more than one.

Normally, babies begin to teethe between 4 and 7 months old. However, some may start much later than this. If you are concerned about any delay in seeing baby teeth, talk it over with your child’s health care provider.

1. Drooling

Teething stimulates drooling. If you start to notice an increase in drooling, look inside your baby’s mouth. You'll probably be surprised at how much drool your baby can produce. This is completely normal.

2. Increase in Crying

As your baby’s teeth are emerging, the gum tissue can become inflamed and irritated. This can make your baby uncomfortable.

3. Waking Up

If your baby’s gums hurt, he or she might wake up more frequently during the night than what you are used to. Patience and your soothing comfort is what baby needs to get through the most difficult nights. 

4. Face Rubbing and Ear Pulling

Your baby may begin pulling on his or her ears, or rubbing the face or chin. Gums, cheeks, and ears share some of the same nerve pathways. For example, Baby may perceive the pain in his mouth as being caused by the ear.

5. Refusal to Eat

When Baby’s gums hurt, sometimes they don’t feel like eating. Continue to offer food as normal, as this will typically resolve on its own.

6. Biting

Counter-pressure on the gums is a great way to soothe teething pain. Babies will often want to bite something, and sometimes it’s Mom’s nipple. This is normal and can be handled.


1.  LOTS of patience is essential. Your baby needs your soothing comfort to get through the toughest days and nights. Singing, rocking, playing with, and cuddling him or her offers a great deal of security. This period will pass, and your baby will feel happy again.

2. If your baby is drooling, use a bib to keep his clothing dry and comfortable. Gently wiping the wet chin can help to prevent skin irritation and chafing.

3. Chewing on something cold can help soothe your baby’s gums. Cold-safe teething toys are wonderful choices, but avoid direct mouth contact with frozen items. For example, chewing on a cold, slightly damp washcloth can be just the remedy needed to relieve achy gums. Discuss these options with your baby’s health care provider.

4. Specially designed toys such and bumpy teething rings can provide counter-pressure for sore baby gums.

5. If you have any question about using pain relievers such as acetaminophen, talk to your baby’s health care provider.

6. Speak to your baby’s health care provider if you are concerned about any unusual fussiness regarding feeding.

7. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against topical numbing agents. These can put children under age 2 at risk for reduced oxygen levels in the blood. The FDA also cautions against homeopathic or herbal teething remedies, as there are some out there that may contain an ingredient that can cause heart problems and drowsiness. NEVER apply rubbing alcohol on your baby’s gums.

Teething can be a trying time for both babies and parents. Some children may go through the entire process with minimal challenges, while others seem to have a difficult time. There are ways in which we can assist in easing the discomfort, but often what Baby really needs the most is lots of patience accompanied by hugs and kisses from Mom and Dad.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Are Energy Drinks safe for breastfeeding moms?

Written By: Laraine Clark, RN, IBCLC

Caution – If you’re a breastfeeding mother, that “high energy” drink may not be as safe as you think.

Perhaps a well-meaning friend remembers how exhausted she was when she was breastfeeding her new baby around the clock.  So she brings over a meal and she includes a couple of the popular “high energy” drinks, “for you and your partner in parenting”.  Her intentions are to help you get past fatigue and increase your alertness during the daytime. 

The United States Lactation Consultant Association recently published a brief article, cautioning against the use of “high energy drinks” by breastfeeding mothers.  There appears to be a potential for harm to the baby since the high caffeine and undisclosed levels of herbal and vitamins in them are not well studied.  Here are some of the potential problems:

  •        High vitamin levels in the drink combining with the mother’s prenatal vitamins pass along to the baby and could possibly cause some forms of vitamin toxicity.
  •        High caffeine may lead to irritability in the baby.
  •        If there are undisclosed herbal contents, they cannot then be measured or evaluated for potential negative interactions with other ingredients.

Caution seems to be appropriate at this time.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Breastfeeding when you’re sick and milk supply is low

When you are sick with a cold or other temporary illness, feeling crummy can add stress that sometimes affects your breast-milk supply.   This decrease in milk supply is usually only a temporary thing.  Once you start to feel better, a little extra attention should help your milk supply to increase.
If you feel that your supply has decreased, the first and most important thing that you can do is to pay attention to the breastfeeding basics:
      (1) frequent feedings with a
      (2) good deep latch and
      (3) enough time at breast to adequately empty the breast.

Plan on you and your baby working together to accomplish the following goals, and your milk supply should return to normal.

(1)    feeding at least 8 to 12 times in 24 hours (or at least 6 times if baby is already taking solid foods)
(2)    latching well onto the areola taking the nipple deeply into the mouth AND
(3)    nursing long enough to get to the rich “hind-milk” (the stuff that comes out last) in the feeding

Be patient, and as your health improves, your milk supply will probably also improve.  In the meantime, there are a few things that you can do that might help you feel better and possibly protect your milk supply.  Warm soups and other liquids can be soothing and bring comfort; it helps to stay adequately hydrated when you are ill, especially with a cold or flu.  Taking time for yourself to relax (deep breathing, meditation/prayer, yoga, bubble baths, etc.) will help improve milk supply as well.

If you do decide to take an herbal supplement or over-the-counter cold remedy, please take time to read and understand the ingredients in the medication or supplement.  Some of the over-the-counter cold remedies, while considered safe to take (will not harm the baby) have also been known to cause some decrease in breast-milk production.  For example, the nasal decongestant pseudoephedrine has been linked in recent research with a decrease in milk supply, particularly in mothers whose babies are over 8 months old or those mothers who may already have a low milk supply before they became ill.  As an alternative to pseudoephedrine, some health-care providers recommend using a sodium chloride (saline) nasal spray to relieve sinus congestion.   (They may also recommend trying a nasal spray with oxymetazoline, or phenylephrine as an active ingredient.)  If possible, it is best to avoid medications that are long-acting or treat multiple symptoms at the same time.  Keep in mind, that if a drug works by drying up secretions in other parts of the body, it might also affect your milk supply. 

For more information about common over-the-counter medications for symptoms of short term illnesses, check out this link:

Contact your healthcare provider prior to taking any over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Question from Facebook: Can moms breastfeed when they are sick?

The short answer is "Yes, except in a very few circumstances."

When you are sick or exposed to an illness, your body's immune system produces antibodies to fight that illness to help you stay well or to help you to get well again.  Those protective antibodies can pass into the breast milk and help keep the baby well or help the baby to get well, if he / she becomes sick.  Babies who never receive breastmilk, can only rely upon their own immature immune systems to stay well or to recover from illness.

 The circumstances in which the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) advises AGAINST babies breastfeeding are listed at the following link:

Please remember that whenever illness is in the home, it is a good idea to use good hand washing prior to caring for the baby.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Patience and Persistence
Having patience today will bring you more comfortably into tomorrow, regardless of the annoyances swirling around you. 
 If we give up too soon, there likely may be "what ifs.." in the future.  What if I had done this or that?  When we do the best we can, even if the outcome is not what we desired, at least we "gave it our best effort" with what we knew or had available to us at the time.
      When I became a mother 35 years ago, the world was emerging from a formula feeding culture.  In the late 1970's, my nursing school curriculum enthusiastically promoted the concept of "breast is best," however, we lacked the ability to actually apply the practice and accurately teach mothers how to make breastfeeding work.  Consequently, we never realized that scheduling breastfeeding sessions to every 4 hours and limiting feeding length to prevent sore nipples, actually set up many women for low milk supply and lactation failure after they left our care in the hospital.  There just were not enough women experienced in breastfeeding to mentor us and teach us how breastfeeding actually worked.  Lactation practice and knowledge had basically gone extinct in the hospital setting in our grandmothers' generation. 
      I worked as a registered nurse in a hospital newborn nursery through the 1980's and delivered my 2nd and 3rd breastfeeding babies during that time.  Many of my nursing colleagues also had babies and returned to work as breastfeeding mothers.  During that era, too many women, when they faced breastfeeding problems that we easily work through today, simply gave up and grabbed the free formula sample from the hospital. 
     My first child, born the weekend of graduation from college and nursing school, presented with significant latch problems.  But I was determined to figure out a way to make breastfeeding work.  I did not yet know that breastfeeding babies needed to be fed every 2 to 3 hours, at least 8 to 12 times a day.  But I did know that my baby wanted to nurse and needed to be fed when she cried.  Although I had been taught as a nurse the policy of every 4 hour feedings, I nursed my baby when she gave her feeding cues.  It is a miracle that I maintained a more than adequate milk supply, in spite of using the thick latex nipple shields (all that was available at that time) to help with latch, for every single feeding for 6 months. 
     It wasn't until my lactation training, after my youngest child was in preschool, that I discovered how unusual my lactation situations had been.  As we taught mothers and assisted them with breastfeeding in the hospital during the decade of the 80's, we really only had our own personal experiences to rely upon.  I personally could maintain a more than sufficient milk supply, regardless of feeding schedules or inadequate breast pumping when I returned to work, following the births of the other two children.  I innocently passed along faulty (by today's standards) information based upon inaccurate and unusual anecdotal experience. 
     I am so glad that I patiently persisted in continuing to breastfeed, in spite of the limited lactation knowledge that we had at that time.  Many of my nursing colleagues also worked through breastfeeding challenges and continued for as long into their babies' first year of life as possible. 
But many mothers of the 70's and 80's just couldn't overcome the breastfeeding challenges which were magnified by our misinformation at that time.  For most of them, there should be no "what ifs", as we simply lacked the lactation management skills that we continue to rediscover today. 
     In 1990, my sister Julie, also a maternal / child RN, and I attended a lactation consultant training program up in Washington state.   In spite of nursing three children for about a year each, I was amazed at the information about lactation that I previously had never been taught before.  I passed the International Board examination and became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in 1991 and have maintained my certification ever since.  I have cared for thousands of breastfeeding women and children and continue to update my lactation knowledge and skills. 
    I am grateful that I was invited and able to provide lactation assistance to my daughters and daughter in law for at least one or more of their children.  (When two of the grandchildren were born, my husband and I were serving a church mission for 3 years in Singapore / Malaysia and could not return home).  We patiently dealt with latch and other challenges.  But they moved forward, one day at a time.  They did the best that they could so that they could achieve their goals of breastfeeding for as long as possible.  In the case of my oldest grandson, the goal was to be able to provide breastmilk for as long as possible.  My oldest daughter fed her first baby her expressed breastmilk for about 5 months.  For her at that time, that was achieving success.
    However, years of experience has shown, that of all of the skills a mother possesses, it seems to be her patience that ultimately is the key to her success.  It is her willingness "to give it her best effort," to avoid prematurely "tossing in the towel" and giving up.  Most of the time, it is that tincture of time that will allow us to get over the hurdles we face.  Utilize the best resources of assistance and information available to you at the time and the "what ifs" will not apply to you in the future.