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For those who know me personally, or have known me from reading my blog, you’ll know that both Bry and I are foodies. We love eating and making foods from a lot of different cultures. It also helps that both Bry and I, although we look fairly similar in skin, eye, and hair color, are actually of different cultural backgrounds: he is Korean-American who was born and bred in Los Angeles, and I am Singaporean Chinese. Through him, I got a solid introduction to Korean food (among other foods such as Mexican, which seems to be more of a comfort food to him than Korean – Hmmm!, Southern, and Jewish) and I LOVE it.

Over the years, I picked up a few Korean recipes from his mom and after Benji was born, she wrote me telling me to make Myeok Guk (seaweed soup) which was a staple post-partum dish in the Korean culture. It is supposed to be rich in calcium and iodine, which is said to help with the supply and quality of breast milk. At that time, my mom who flew over from Singapore to help me out with my post-partum cultural confinement was already making me all sorts of post-partum dishes (which were awesomely delicious, by the way) so I did not make it until much later. But OH MY when I did, I just wanted to keep eating it. The Koreans really know what they’re doing, making a winning combination of both healthy and tasty food. My mother-in-law was pleased that I made the soup and enjoyed it so much. In fact, even Bry had some of it and demanded for more. Apparently, this soup is also traditionally served at birthdays. I think in our household it will be enjoyed at anytime, just because it’s so yummy.

It’s also simple to whip up, so busy moms can make this easily. The only trick is getting the seaweed, which would be available at any Korean grocery store if you can get to one. The recipe I used was mostly “by taste.”  Here’s an actual recipe if you want to try it out. In one version, I used ground pork and marinated it for a couple hours in soy sauce, crushed garlic, and sesame oil, then sauteed it, added some chicken stock (was lazy!), then the seaweed, and let the ingredients cook for about 30 minutes, and the soup was done!

(A side note: I’m really into cross-cultural experiences and love how every culture seems to have their own post-partum beliefs and staple foods to help with breastmilk quality and supply. A friend of mine who is Russian Jew swears by cow’s milk and said to have it with tea “mother’s milk tea.” in the Philippines, I believe, it’s green papaya, in Cantonese, it’s red snapper, in Korea it’s seaweed. In the west, it’s milk tea, too, and fenugreek. Here’s an interesting article to read about cross cultural post-partum beliefs. )

Benji chugged down almost 5 half-feeds of breastmilk in two days so I think time to say we have safely crossed over to the bottle feeding stage. I wrote in a previous post about the struggle we had with feeding him from the bottle after a few months of exclusively breastfeeding, and it took us – me – about a week or so to gather the courage to try it out once more. It also helped that my folks were around for more moral support and in case Benji rejected the bottle from Bry, we had more people to help feed him. I was armed with all sorts of ‘tricks’ up my sleeves but the solution was actually not complicated.

We found out that the little guy was simply fussy with the previous bottlefeeding trials not because he hated that his dad was feeding him or that he desperately wanted only mommy to feed him. All we needed to do, and this was one of the suggestions from one of the moms who responded to my post (thanks, discoveranddevour!) was to warm up the milk AND teat just before the feed. Too easy (as the Australians love to say)! Once we hit jackpot, Benji downed the whole thing down without putting up any fight.

Bry who missed getting to feed Benji the last few months I was breastfeeding, really enjoyed getting to reconnect with Benji on that level, too. Benji, however, seem to need a few more cuddles from me during the day and that’s totally understandable.

20120416-193516.jpg “It should not be this difficult!” I kept thinking to myself. But it was. Breastfeeding was not easy for me for the first few weeks. Benji had a really strong suck and I was not correctly latching him on, creating sore and cracked nipples. Furthermore, my milk supply only started about a week after Benji was born, and because I was constantly trying to stimulate my boobs for milk supply using either the pump or Benji’s suckle, my boobs were working on overdrive and felt sore. Constantly.

Later on, I think I got a really mild form of thrush – the sharp sting and radiating pain were my only symptoms – and, thank God, Benji never showed any. That also prevented me from breastfeeding comfortably.

So Benji was formula fed for the first week, then after my milk supply was established, was only breastfed half the time while the other half was with the bottle.

It took three visits to lactation consultants, and more than six weeks of persistence to finally feel comfortable breastfeeding exclusively and after all that, 3 months later, I’m now struggling to re-introduce the bottle to Benji.

Again, I told myself “It shouldn’t be this difficult.” But as with most new things, it is. We tried the bottle with Benji a few days ago and he fought it. Our game plan was for me to pump half a feed, leave the room, have Bry feed him, and then finish the half with a breastfeed. It took Benji awhile to realize what was going on and when he did, he started screaming and choking on the milk. Then, after a few rocks and lullabies, Benji calmed down, held on to the bottle, sucked on the teat…and then started screaming again after a few sucks. The entire half a feed probably took 20-30 minutes (vs 10-15 mins on the breast). Today, we tried it again and Benji went even more ballistic. He was almost inconsolable the entire time Bry tried feeding him. The Pediatrician we saw a few weeks back who urged us to introduce the bottle with him again forewarned us about this battle but I didn’t think it was going to be this bad.

There were little moments when I thought back to how difficult it was for me to establish breastfeeding and wondering what that was for, if he was going to need to be bottle fed again in a few months anyway and had I known it was going to be such a battle to reintroduce the bottle to him, I might have never completely given up the bottle with him.

Anyway, I’ve been looking up other ways to help Benji take the bottle again and found more strategies that we might try:

  • feeding him in a different room
  • holding him in a different position
  • having me even further away than I was the last couple times
  • offering the bottle when he is hungry but not starving
  • offering the bottle when he is in a calmer mood to begin with
  • using a sippy cup
  • trying a different teat (we’re currently using Dr Brown’s number 2 teat for 3-6 months)

Moms out there did you go through something similar with your kid and if so, do you have any other suggestions?

Benji’s skin around the neck has now flared up. I feel like everytime he makes a little improvement, then a regression, the regressed state gets worse and worse. He woke up earlier screaming and obviously itching and in pain. I’m not sure what to make of it. The diet – if his eczema was really food allergy related 0 is supposed to improve his condition yet it’s getting worse. I might cut out grapes, bananas and even maple syrup as I have had those in the diet. Meanwhile, it’s 2am and I can hear the poor baby thrashing his head from left to right in the crib. How quickly do people see results from the TED if it was really a food allergy??? It sounds like almost immediately. Do we need to get another laundry detergent? Should I be doing something else differently? I’m going out of my mind replaying today’s events over and over, trying to find a reason for his regression.

We have a ped derm appointment next week. I have also now looked up naturopaths in the neighborhood and if things don’t look better in the next 2 weeks or so we might have to try that.

I’m finding it hard to trust that things will get better and that we will find a trigger. Maybe he’ll be one of those babies whose eczema just is and we just have to deal with steroids and medication.

I’m terribly sorry Benji we didn’t mean to sign you up for this. 😦

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After a week (more like 7 weeks of steady decline of his skin) of watching Benji go through breakouts of rashes everywhere and getting increasingly fussy because of itch, I decided to do it: TOTAL ELIMINATION DIET.

Not just dairy and eggs and shellfish n red meat as in my previous post, but any food that has been known to cause allergies to rule out as quickly as possible if he is allergic to foods I’ve been eating. That on top of using new all natural laundry detergent, wearing and coming into contact with ONLY cotton, and getting our place spring cleaned tomorrow with all natural products.

It was a very tough decision for me (again I LOVE my food too much! And one of the ways Bry n I bond over so much is through food) but watching my poor baby so uncomfortable with rashes and having bound hands to prevent him from scratching is an even more difficult feeling to stomach. We need to get down to business faster.

Popularized by Dr SearsDr Sears the diet is made up of: millet, rice, rice pasta, organic lamb chicken turkey, squashes, and pears. I m going to modify it a little to include quinoa, apples and spinach lettuce and Chinese leafy veggies. Calcium n omega 3 supplements should also be consumed to keep up the nutrients.

I hope to follow through for at least two weeks and pray to see some noticeable results so we know there is a trigger and can work it out from there rather than simply relying on steroids medication n worse of all continuously having to bind his hands and watch him like a hawk.

Let’s hope it’s just food allergies. Goodbye junk food, cakes n cookies, cereal, cheese….etc for awhile!!

Meanwhile mommy needs to try to chill out.

The first 20 days of motherhood has been filled with much love, warmth and joy. I love holding little Benji and rocking him to sleep, and watching him make little expressions with his face. With all the good parts, however, also come the challenging bits. Just as I thought discomforts are over after the pregnancy, I find myself still having to battle pains – both old and new ones. Here’s some of them:

– Pelvic pain: yes, still have them, which is restricting me from walking around too much. I’ve been doing my pelvic floor exercises (or Keegel exercises, as it’s called in America) quite religiously and whilst I can feel huge improvement, I’ve still gotta be very cautious not to exert myself too much.

– Nursing: this is probably the biggest and most stressful bit of motherhood for me at the moment. I’m constantly paranoid that my boobs are going to explode if I don’t get rid of the milk on time be it through breastfeeding or expressing (using a breast pump). Also, nobody really tells you just how sore your nipples can really get the first few weeks of feeding, and I felt totally incompetent and kind of a whimp when for a few days I did not dare breastfeed because of the pain. In fact, I’m still trying to get over the mental and physical hurdles of breastfeeding. I’m into about day 10-12 of serious breastfeeding but am still unable to do it exclusively. It’s stressing me out big time but this is something I’ve got to really pray about and trust that, in time, it will get better. :-/

– Sleep – what sleep? I haven’t had more than 4 hours of sleep in a row since Benji’s birth, which, when coupled with hormonal changes, resulted in an extremely cranky me the first week. I have soon learned to control my temper a little more but still find myself exhausted and brain power running on a low speed. I had friends over a few days ago for dinner and had a bit of trouble keeping up with the conversations because I was simply too exhausted.

In saying all that, I thank God that I have been getting maximum support from my parents and Bry in all areas, especially nursing. They all know it’s a huge challenge for me and I can’t thank them enough for being so supportive and encouraging.

I just hope the road ahead will get a little physically easier for me but even if it doesn’t, waking up to this little face with his variety of cutesy little expressions makes it all worth while.