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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Something To Look Forward To Next March

I got this idea from the June issue of Health magazine. Next March, when Alex turns a year old, I'm going to pause at 12:04 p.m. and remember the moment of his birth.

I will remember needing an emergency C-section and being cut into within a half hour. I will remember how afraid I was of not knowing what was going to happen to me, since I hadn't really considered the possibility that I would need a C-section. I will remember telling my husband to take Alex from my arms because I sensed I was weakening and was afraid that I would drop him. I will remember the four hours I spent in recovery, waiting for the numbness in my limbs to go away so I could see my baby again and begin to breastfeed.

I will also remember my obstetrician announcing, as he pulled Alex out of my body, "He's crying! Oh! He's peeing and he's crying!" I will remember my husband coming to see me while I was in recovery, worried about me, anxious to get breastfeeding off to a good start. I will remember how Alex was tiny and big at the same time - his hands and feet were so small, but as a total package, it was impossible to believe he had been inside my body.

And I will be grateful for the best year of my life.

Ellen Steinberg's Most Important Things To Have Before Your Baby Is Born - Plus How To Find A Lactation Consultant

Here is baby expert Ellen Steinberg's list of The Most Important Things to Have Before the Baby is Born (Breastfeeding-related items):

Very Important Items:

  • A breastpump - If you will be going back to work, if you plan to do a lot of pumping, or if you simply want the best, get a hospital-grade double (pumps both breasts at the same time) electric pump. You can rent one or buy one. If you do not need this type of pump, you may want to get a mini-electric model or a manual pump, or just learn how to do effective manual expression.
  • Nursing bras - No underwire, look for good comfort and support. (I can fit you during late pregnancy.)

Other Items:

  • Nursing bra pads
  • Milk storage and freezing bags or bottles
  • Nursing pillow
  • Nursing footstool
  • Hands-free pumping bra
  • Sore nipple solutions - Lanolin, hydrogel pads
  • Possibly feeding bottles - some are better than others for nursing babies
Ellen's advice on How to find a good lactation consultant:

Unfortunately, anyone can call herself a lactation consultant. In order to be certified, however, you need to have a lot of experience and pass an exam. An IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) is someone who has achieved these goals, and most likely is a very qualified lactation consultant. Many experienced, professional lactation consultants have not chosen to become certified. However, they may also be very qualified. If you live in Los Angeles, you can obtain a list of lactation professionals throughout the county and area from the Breastfeeding Task Force of Greater Los Angeles. Visit the website at and click on the Resource Directory link. A good list of worldwide lactation consultants is available online from the International Lactation Consultant Association. They maintain a list of all lactation consultants who are certified IBCLCs. In addition, you can go to for a list of lactation professionals in your area that either just rent or sell Medela products (breastpumps) or who provide additional services.

Thank you, Ellen, for all of your fantastic expert advice! If you'd like to contact Ellen, you can reach her at (818) 345-4439 or at

This is the last post I have planned on the topic of breastfeeding. If you have any comments, recommendations, or a question that wasn't answered, please email me and I will do my best to help!


So You Want To Buy A House

The housing market here in Southern California is frightening to anyone who wants to buy a house for the first time or trade up. Single-family homes in my neighborhood are well into the $700,000 range, often for a two-bedroom, one-bath. I know a lot of people are interested, though, so I thought I'd share the strategy and values that worked for my husband and me when we bought our townhouse. (Remember that I'm not a financial expert, so consult a real expert if you need individual advice.)

I think the most important thing to keep foremost in your mind is how much you want the monthly payment to be. This is not the same thing as how much you can afford. It is much less stressful to buy a house that is less than what you can afford, so that you are not stretching each month to make your mortgage payment. An unexpected big bill, such as a bill for emergency surgery, is not going to send you into credit card debt.

The best way to figure out your ideal monthly payment is to get a comprehensive and honest list of your annual and monthly expenses. This article has excellent guidance to help you determine what those are. Next, come up with a rough estimate of how much additional homeowners' expenses would cost (e.g., yard maintainance, property taxes, insurance, etc.). You can ask some friends how much they pay in property taxes (they might be able to give you the percentage used, such as 3% of the sale price of the house, and an idea of how much it goes up each year). You could also give your insurance agent a call to get an estimate for your area.

Then, take your monthly expenses and your monthly income, and decide what a comfortable monthly mortgage payment would be. It should be a range of a few hundred dollars - for example, $1200-$1450. Next, determine how much money you have available to use as a down payment.

If you have a pretty good idea of how much the house you want to buy will cost, you can skip this next step and go on to the next paragraph. Otherwise, take your ideal mortgage payment and down payment amounts and visit's How Much House Can You Afford? calculator. Don't get too excited by the number if it's more than you thought it would be. Remember, how much you can afford is not the same as how much you can comfortably afford.

Here is the next step. Go to Bankrate's Mortgage Payment calculator. Subtract your down payment amount from the price of the house you have in mind or the ball park figure you got from the How Much House Can You Afford? calculator. This is the amount you want to enter into the first box, Mortgage Amount. Fill in the rest of the numbers and see what the monthly payment amount is.

Finally, tinker with the mortgage amount and the interest rate until you find some numbers that work for you. There are many different types of mortgages, and each type has a different rate. For example, if you're planning on moving within five years and the house you're interested in is out of your price range with a traditional 20% down fixed rate mortgage, an adjustable rate mortgage that has a low fixed rate for the first five years might bring the house within your comfort zone. But, an adjustable rate mortgage might be too risky, depending on your situation. has an overview of homebuying and mortgages, including the different types of mortgages, in Mortgage Basics. Happy house hunting!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ellen Steinberg's Most Important Things To Know Before Your Baby Is Born

Here's what baby expert Ellen Steinberg says are The Most Important Things to Know Before the Baby Arrives:

Although breastfeeding is natural, it is very helpful to take a good breastfeeding class before the baby is born so that you can understand the physiology and mechanics. When I teach a breastfeeding class, I focus in on what I consider to be the 2 most important topics to help you get started on the right track. The first is latching and positioning techniques; the second is developing and maintaining a good milk supply.

Latching and positioning - Although I could write a whole book on this subject, here are the most important basics. You want to hold your baby in such a way that you are comfortable, you have some control of your baby's head movement, and your baby attains a deep latch. I like to recommend the football hold position to get started. My second choice is the cross cradlehold. In both of these positions you place one hand at the base of the baby's head (to help direct his head movement toward the breast), and the other hand on your breast (to offer it to the baby). Use lots of pillows for good support. Wait until the baby's mouth is wide open before bringing him onto the breast. Make sure you latch him with an asymmetrical latch - place his bottom lip way down away from the nipple first, then bring him up and over to make contact with the top lip. Once he is on the breast, his lips should be flanged wide open, and he should create a pulling, drawing motion with his suction. You know that your baby is attached correctly if he "is stuck" to your breast and cannot come off without first breaking the suction. Many babies just pacify at the breast without actually getting a good latch. This baby is not getting milk and is not stimulating your milk supply sufficiently well. You may need assistance from a lactation consultant in order to learn good latch techniques once your baby is born.

Milk supply - During the first 3-4 days after your delivery, your body is producing a substance called colostrum. This early breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby in the perfect quantity. Your baby's stomach capacity at birth is about the size of a teaspoon. As he begins to eat, his stomach gradually stretches to accommodate the increase in milk supply.

These are the important rules for establishing a good milk supply:

  • Nurse as soon as possible after the delivery.
  • Nurse as frequently as your baby desires, especially in the first 3-4 days. The more the baby suckles, the sooner your full milk supply will come in.
  • Nurse exclusively - no water, glucose water, formula, or pacifiers. When the baby wants to suck - give him your breast.
  • Nurse without time limits - don't watch the clock. Feed your baby for as long as he is interested. Make sure you have a deep latch. Get some help from a qualified lactation professional just to be sure you and your baby are doing it right. (Many postpartum nurses have not been trained in lactation management. Ask for help from someone who has had this training.)
Once your mature milk comes in, you will notice a heavy feeling in your breasts. Your baby will be doing a lot more active suckling with audible swallowing. He will be having many more wet and dirty diapers. He may sleep longer between feedings because his stomach is feeling very full. If you produce more milk than your baby can take, you may become engorged. A good breast pump will help you to empty some of the extra milk and make you more comfortable.

If you have established a good milk supply in the first 3-5 days, keeping the supply going is the next important step. Remember the rule of supply and demand. The more milk that you give to your baby, the more milk your body knows it must produce. Make sure that you breastfeed exclusively around the clock. Skipping feedings will lead to breast discomfort, and possibly engorgement and plugged ducts. Your husband or mother may think that they are doing you a favor by letting you sleep through the night, but they are actually doing more harm than good. Your breasts need to be emptied at regular intervals. Also, feeding a baby with a bottle at this point may lead to a decreased milk supply. Eventually you will get into a rhythm where if you need to be separated from your baby, your will use your pump to substitute for that nursing session. Some mothers never use a pump because they are always with their babies. Other mothers, such as those who go to work, will pump instead of feed during the time they are away from their babies, and the baby will be supplemented until mother returns. Many working mothers have successfully maintained their milk supply.

Thanks for that great information, Ellen! Tomorrow, I'll post Ellen's most important things to have before the baby is born.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Meet Lactation Consultant Ellen Steinberg

It's my privilege to introduce to you the lactation consultant (LC) who helped me stick with breastfeeding when things were really tough. Every new mom who wants to breastfeed should have a good LC to call upon.

I met Ellen Steinberg when she came to my house when my son was about 10 days old. She was the fourth LC I saw, and the one who was really able to help me. Ellen spent two hours at my house consoling, reassuring, and educating me. She worked with me on technique, gave me a plan, and most importantly, gave me hope that we could make this work. She also runs a terrific support group through which I've made some wonderful mommy friends. If I have another baby, I'm not wasting any time or money - I'm having Ellen come to the hospital right after I give birth!

Ellen is a registered nurse with experience in pediatrics, obstetrics, health education and community health. She is an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), on the board of directors of the Breastfeeding Task Force of Greater Los Angeles, and a consultant to Glendale Memorial Hospital, which hopefully will soon be the first Baby-Friendly Hospital in LA County. In addition, she is a certified Lamaze instructor and a certified American Heart Association CPR instructor. She is also the mother of 2 daughters, and fluent in Spanish.

Ellen runs a private practice out of her home in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, but travels anywhere within a 50 mile radius from her home office (north to Santa Clarita, west to Camarillo, east to the San Gabriel Valley, south to Long Beach). Her lactation practice includes the following services:

  • Prenatal breastfeeding classes
  • Prenatal consultations for risk management of potential breastfeeding problems
  • Postpartum breastfeeding consultations in your hospital room, at your home, or in her office for any breastfeeding problem or issue

She addresses the following areas in her lactation practice:
  • Concerns about milk supply
  • Positioning and latch education and assistance
  • Helping you make sense of your baby's behavior
  • Helping you organize your baby's sleeping and eating patterns
  • Sore nipples
  • Engorgement and mastitis
  • Pumping education
  • Breastfeeding your premature baby
  • Breastfeeding twins and other multiples
  • Breastfeeding your older baby
  • How to balance breastfeeding and work
  • Sales and rentals of breastpump
  • Rentals of baby scales (you can actually see how much your baby is eating!)
  • Sales of every breastfeeding product imaginable - nursing bras, hands-free pumping bras, nursing pillows, etc.
Ellen's other services include:
  • New Mothers Support Group - Mommy and Me weekly sessions for mothers withbabies from 0-8 months old
  • Infant/Child CPR classes
  • Lamaze childbirth classes
  • Baby Care classes

Tomorrow I'll post Ellen's advice on the most important things to know before your baby is born.


Pasta Puttanesca

I've heard that Pasta Puttanesca was a favorite dish of Italian prostitutes because it's quick and easy. It's also delicious. Don't be put off by the anchovies. If you really hate them, use only the first tin - the anchovies will dissolve into the sauce and you won't taste them.

Pasta Puttanesca
Serves 4

Pasta Puttanesca

1/2 pound whole wheat linguine
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chile pepper flakes
2 2-oz. tins anchovies, drained
1 28-oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes
1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced
1 tablespoon dried parsley or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat oil and garlic in a large skillet over medium heat. When garlic is sizzling, add red chile pepper flakes and one tin of anchovies. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes, olives and parsley, and stir to combine. Simmer over low heat until pasta is done.

3. Drain pasta and add to the tomato sauce. Add the remaining tin of anchovies. Toss the pasta, sauce and anchovies together. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Nutrition bonus: Tomatoes (especially processed ones) contain cancer-fighting lycopene. The whole wheat pasta will give you fiber, and the anchovy bones and cheese will give you calcium. The crushed red chile pepper flakes may increase your metabolism.

*Disclaimer: I'm not a nutritionist and I'm not a doctor. Consult an expert if you have any questions or concerns.


Saturday, June 25, 2005

Thoughts About Breastfeeding Pillows

I suppose a breastfeeding pillow isn't mandatory if you're nursing, but I knew I'd want one anyway. The My Brest Friend got rave reviews from the books I read, so I put that on my registry and received it from a thoughtful friend. Unlike the Boppy, however, extra covers aren't available for the Brest Friend. And if you're a nursing mom, you need extra covers or you'll be doing laundry like a mad woman (as if you don't have enough stress).

So, now that my son is 3 months old, I have four - yes, four - breastfeeding pillows: 2 Brest Friends, 1 travel Brest Friend, and 1 Boppy. (I don't use the Boppy to nurse, though - a friend wisely suggested I use it to give Alex tummy time because it's not as upsetting to him if he's higher.)

I just decided to use my inflatable travel Brest Friend as my main pillow. It seems more sanitary than the traditional foam Brest Friend because it's made of rubbery plastic. That's especially attractive to me now that Alex is spitting up like a fountain. I've emailed the manufacturer of the Brest Friend to ask that they sell extra covers for the pillows. In the meantime, I have some laundry to do.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Other Breastfeeding Problems

Once again, please keep in mind that I'm not an expert and that everything I'm saying is based on my own experience breastfeeding. If you need expert assistance, find a lactation consultant.

Low milk supply was definitely the worst problem I had to deal with, but others came along. I suppose I was lucky that at least they didn't come up until after my supply had increased.

I first noticed a blister on a particularly active duct on the right side. It wasn't particularly painful, but I was afraid that it would become so - and I have zero pain tolerance. My lactation consultant (LC) suggested that I alternate nursing positions, and that helped the blister heal. It has also kept it from coming back.

As soon I resolved the blister on the right side, I noticed a crack on the left side. I noticed the crack because I kept feeling a sharp pain when Alex was nursing or when I was pumping. Eeek! Regular application of lanolin helped, and I became strict with Alex about his latch - if he didn't open his mouth wide, I did not put him on. I also re-latched him as often as necessary to maintain a good latch.

This was also when I decided to switch to Gerber's washable pads (I found them at Target, where they were cheaper than at Babies R Us). I was already looking for a good washable pad because of the cost of the disposable pads, but I was also motivated by reading that a breathable pad would help prevent cracks and blisters (the disposable pads have a waterproof backing).

When I thought I was finally in the clear and breastfeeding was at last going smoothly . . . Alex started pulling off, coughing, and I was spraying milk across the room. I had done enough research by this point that I immediately realized it was an overactive letdown problem (when the letdown is so forceful that the baby can't suck and swallow according to his own rhythm). To deal with this, I tried to nurse Alex before I got engorged and reduced my use of More Milk (since overactive letdown is often the result of oversupply). This was easily the least of my problems - after combatting low supply, I was thrilled to have too much milk.

I've been told that breastfeeding gets easier once the baby has pretty good neck control. Alex is almost able to hold his head up for long periods of time, so I am optimistic that breastfeeding is just going to get better and better for us.

I hope this information was helpful. Good luck!


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Breastfeeding Problems - Supply Part II

Again, please keep in mind that I'm not an expert and that everything I'm saying is based on my own experience breastfeeding. If you need expert assistance, find a lactation consultant - I found mine (eventually) through my son's pediatrician.

It took about 3 weeks for my milk supply to fully meet my son's demands. During that time, I followed the regimen below:

1. Nurse every 2 to 2 1/2 hours during the day and at least every 4 hours at night (minimum of 8 times a day).
2. Pump for 10 minutes after nursing.
3. Drink a lot of water.
4. Try to rest as much as possible.

After I nursed Alex, my husband would give him a bottle of formula while I pumped. The amount of formula depended on how much breastmilk Alex had just had (which is when the baby scale came in handy) and how much he was supposed to eat in a 24-hour period according to a chart.

If you want to try this, be forewarned: it's exhausting. By the time you've nursed, pumped, and washed the pumping equipment, it's almost time to start the whole cycle over. (And I had help! I have tremendous respect and admiration for women who manage this regimen alone.)

Finally, I also took herbal supplements. The most common supplement used to increase supply is fenugreek (caution - it's not recommended for diabetics because it can reduce blood sugar). However, fenugreek alone did nothing for me. My lactation consultant recommended a product called More Milk Special Blend, and I can't recommend it enough myself.

Tomorrow I'll post about the other problems I had, which were minor compared to the supply problem.


Financial Responsibility

Thinking about their finances makes many people feel out of control. I used to feel that way when I first graduated from law school and started working. I was making a decent amount of money but felt like I could barely pay my expenses. Thanks to the internet, however, I learned how to take control of my finances and that made me feel like I was in control of my life.

The most important thing you can do is keep a log of every penny you spend, so you can see where your money is going. Once you have that information, you can decide where you can spend less. I was able to save money by eating out less, cooking more, and bringing my lunch to work. I also stopped buying clothes and shoes all the time, asking myself if I would wear an item often enough to justify the cost before I bought it. Right now I am adjusting to the expense of having a child (I knew it would be expensive but wasn't quite prepared for just how expensive!).

The out-of-control feeling fades as you realize that you do have control. And being in control of your finances is one of the keys to happiness.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Breastfeeding Problems - Supply Part I

The lawyer in me feels compelled to repeat my previous disclaimer: Please keep in mind that I'm not an expert and that everything I'm saying is based on my own experience breastfeeding. If you need expert assistance, find a lactation consultant - I found mine (eventually) through my son's pediatrician.

Low milk supply was by far the worst of the problems I have encountered. In fact, I've read that fear of low supply is one of the most common reasons that women give up breastfeeding. However, there is hope. After the first month or so, my supply met demand and my baby is now thriving.

Even now, though, fear of low supply continues to plague me. Just the other night, after thinking about this post, I dreamed that the pediatrician's office called and said that my milk supply was insufficient for my son. I suppose the impact of the problem was so strong because it made me feel inadequate, helpless, and like a terrible mother, and my postpartum depression certainly didn't help. I have to keep telling myself that Alex has more than enough wet and dirty diapers each day, not to mention the fact that he's as filled out as any baby I've ever seen.

But I didn't imagine my low supply during the first few weeks. I rented a baby scale from my lactation consultant (LC), and weighed Alex before and after each feeding. A baby scale is sensitive enough to detect tenths of an ounce. It was exhausting, especially since Alex's "awake" time at the time was in the middle of the night. But I compared Alex's intake from me to how much he was supposed to be eating from a chart my LC gave me and knew I needed to supplement with formula.

It cost about $35 a week to rent the scale, and it was worth it for the peace of mind. Medela's website has a locator function for finding someone to rent a scale from.

Tomorrow I'll post about the regimen I used to increase my supply.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Breastfeeding Problems - Background

First off, keep in mind that I'm not an expert and that everything I'm saying is based on my own experience breastfeeding. If you need expert assistance, find a lactation consultant - I found mine (eventually) through my son's pediatrician.

With that disclaimer out of the way, let me give you the brief version of my experience. Quite frankly, the first month was so tough, there must have been at least 50 to 100 times when I said I was going to give up. I'm not quite sure why I didn't. I think I was feeling so bad about everything (due in part to postpartum depression) that I knew I would feel worse if I couldn't make breastfeeding work. Having said that, I also have to say that if breastfeeding is going so badly that you're not enjoying your baby, then there's nothing wrong with switching to formula. Both the pediatrician and my therapist (the one who had helped me through my miscarriages - I called her once out of desperation, that's how bad it was) thought I should go with formula, or a combination of formula and breastmilk.

In fact, for the first month, my milk supply was insufficient and we had to supplement with formula (you'll get so many free samples from Enfamil and Similac!). The supply issue was by far the worst for me, but I also had latching problems, blisters, cracks, and overactive letdown. Tomorrow I'll post about the milk supply problem and later in the week about the other problems.


One Last Yummy Granola Recipe: Cathy's Yogurt and Granola

This is what I have for breakfast when I go to work (yes, I make different things for my husband and me, but they're both really easy!).

Cathy's Yogurt and Granola

2/3 cup blueberries (frozen is fine, just thaw first)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup Yummy Granola

Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

Nutrition bonus: One teaspoon of cinnamon a day may help control blood sugar levels. Yogurt with active bacteria culture is good for the digestive and urinary systems (a family member swears it keeps her "regular" too).

*Disclaimer: I'm not a nutritionist and I'm not a doctor. Consult an expert if you have any questions or concerns.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Things I Wish I Had Known About Breastfeeding

While I was pregnant, I took the breastfeeding class offered by my hospital. I thought I was prepared, but I wasn't. Here's what I wish I had known:

1. Breastfeeding is hard. It doesn't come naturally. If I had known then what I know now, I would have found a lactation consultant (LC) I trusted before my son was born, and had her come to the hospital to get me started. I eventually found my LC through our pediatrician, but if I hadn't liked her, I would have checked with my obstetrician. (I saw two LCs in the hospital but the first did absolutely nothing for me and the second one was only marginally helpful, so you can't necessarily rely on the hospital's staff.) You might also want to check out these websites for more information:
International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners
La Leche League

2. I would leak like crazy. I didn't leak a drop during pregnancy, so I was a bit shocked when my milk came in. I had one box of Lansinoh disposable pads, which disappeared in just a few days. After going through several boxes in just a couple of weeks at $8 a box, I realized I needed a more cost-effective alternative. I tried Lansinoh washable pads but soaked right through them. I recommend Gerber washable pads, which have been great. I bought 6 boxes so I can change pads after every feeding and still do laundry every other day (instead of every day!). However, I still use Lansinoh disposables when I go out for more than a half hour because of the waterproof backing and larger size.

3. My wrists would cramp up and I'd get tendonitis from holding Alex's head in position. Apparently, this is a common problem but no one warned me. If I had known, maybe I could have been more careful about using my wrists but now I'm just always in pain.

4. I'd need a good electric double pump right away. I'd taken the advice I'd read somewhere about buying a good manual pump to start and seeing if breastfeeding would work out before investing in a good electric pump. Well, I've never used my Avent Isis, which seems to be universally considered the best manual pump. Instead, out of desperation, I bought a Medela Pump In Style Advanced at the hospital (paying full retail instead of a lower price at Babies R Us). I could have saved us $100 if I'd just bought the Pump In Style before my son was born.

5. There will be good days, when I love breastfeeding, and bad days, when I dread feeding time. The first few weeks were all bad, so once we got our problems ironed out, I was thrilled. I was caught off guard when I later found myself tired of being a human cow. But the feeling passed. It comes and goes, but in the end, I'm happy with my choices.

Sticking with breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I've ever done, but it's worth it for the bonding, the health benefits to both my son and to me, and not having to pay for formula. Supposedly, it's also convenient because you don't have to mix up formula, warm up bottles or lug the bottles with you, but since I haven't mastered breastfeeding in public, there are plenty of times I've wished that I could stay out for more than a couple of hours (I do sometimes take a bottle with me, but that affects my supply - a subject I'll address separately).

I'll post more about breastfeeding throughout the week, so check back!


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Before You Buy All That Baby Gear ...

I know some women who are getting ready to welcome a baby, so I thought I would share what worked for me. My husband recently complimented me on how well I had researched and chosen what to buy, so I think I did pretty well!

I relied on two books that I read before we registered at Babies R Us. The first is Baby Bargains, which is chock full of information and rather overwhelming - I recommend using it as a reference after you've narrowed your choices and want to see which brands get the highest rating, are safe, etc. I was really glad I had it with me when we bought our crib so I could check the brand's reputation.

The other book is Girlfriend's Guide to Baby Gear by Vicki Iovine. It's a lot easier to read than Baby Bargains and the list in the book was what I used to decide what to buy before my son was born.

Finally, one last piece of advice that I acquired the hard way: if you get a swing without having your baby try it out first, get the Fisher Price Aquarium swing that goes side to side. When my son was a few weeks old and especially fussy, my mother-in-law bought us an open-top Graco swing that goes front to back. My son spent maybe a total of 100 minutes in it before we took it apart. I later learned that a lot of babies prefer the side to side motion and I bet my son would have been okay in that - and it would have saved me some gray hairs, shoulder and backaches, and a lot of tears.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Another Yummy Granola Recipe: Marc's Muesli

My husband loves this and has it for breakfast just about every workday. It does require a bit of advance planning since the base mixture has to be refrigerated overnight but otherwise it is very easy.

Marc's Muesli

1/4 cup oats
scant 1/4 cup milk
1 heaping tablespoon dried cranberries
1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup blueberries (you can use frozen, just thaw first)
1/2 apple, finely chopped
1/3 cup Yummy Granola

1. Combine the oats, milk, cranberries, flaxseed and cinnamon and refrigerate overnight.

2. Stir in the blueberries, apple and Yummy Granola and enjoy!

Nutrition bonus: Again, the oats and fruit are a good source of fiber. Flaxseed is a good source of fiber and healthy fat. Blueberries top the list of most beneficial fruit, but dried cranberries and apples are on that list too.

*Disclaimer: I'm not a nutritionist or doctor. Consult an expert if you have any questions or concerns.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A Tribute To Dr. Harvey Karp

If you're a new parent, you've probably heard about the 5 S's. If your children are a bit older, you're probably sorry the S's weren't being taught when your kids were newborns. And if you're expecting, then pay attention because you're going to love the S's.

The S's come from Dr. Harvey Karp's book, The Happiest Baby on the Block. The 5 S's are: (1) swaddling; (2) shushing; (3) side or stomach position; (4) swinging or swaying (although it's really jiggling); and (5) sucking. The basic idea is to recreate the conditions of the womb, which reassure the baby. If you use these techniques, your baby will stop crying.

That's not to say it's easy. Swaddling was a bit tricky to master in the beginning, and now that my son is larger and stronger, it takes some real determination to swaddle him tightly (I recommend the DVD for this). And the only way I can jiggle my son properly is when I'm standing, which is tiring. But my husband is master of the S's, and the S's have saved our sanity more times than I can count.

I can't recommend the 5 S's enough because they really work. So, if you have or are expecting a newborn, do yourself a huge favor and master the 5 S's.

Dr. Karp's website is at

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Trail Mix

This is great for snacking, and is super easy to make. Enjoy!

Trail Mix

4 cups Yummy Granola
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup sliced dried apricots

Combine all ingredients and enjoy!

Nutrition bonus: Dried fruit has a lot of fiber, and dried cranberries are a good source of antioxidants, which help fight cancer. Chocolate also has antioxidants, but I don't think the concentration in semi-sweet chocolate balances out the sugar and calories. But I'll take any excuse to eat chocolate!

*Disclaimer: I'm not a nutritionist and I'm not a doctor. Consult an expert if you have any questions or concerns.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Yummy Granola

Below is a recipe for Yummy Granola, a staple in my household. In the next few days, I'll post some delicious recipes that incorporate Yummy Granola. I've added some nutrition facts, but remember, I'm not a nutritionist so I can't be held liable for any inaccuracies. And don't rely on me for medical advice, either - it became pretty clear in college that med school was not for me.

Yummy Granola (adapted from the recipe in Kathleen Daehlman's Cooking Thin cookbook)

4 cups oats
1 cup walnuts (I take a bag of halves and break them up with my hand)
2/3 cup sliced raw almonds
2/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan or baking sheet with parchment paper. (Ideally, the parchment paper will be just big enough to go up the sides of your jelly roll pan so that later you will be able to lift the granola out by holding the parchment and use that to pour the granola into your container.)

2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and salt.

3. Combine the water and brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 1 1/2 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved. Be careful not to let the mixture boil over the sides. (I just use a Pyrex measuring cup instead of a bowl.) Stir in the vanilla extract.

4. Pour the sugar mixture over the oat mixture and stir well to combine. Pour the mixture onto the parchment paper and spread into a thin layer.

5. Bake the granola for 35 minutes, stirring once after 20 minutes to ensure even cooking. Let cool completely before storing.

Nutrition bonus: Oats are an excellent source of fiber, walnuts contain omega-3 fatty oils, and nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy fats.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Surviving Post-Partum Depression

The recent news story of Brooke Shields vs. Tom Cruise hits close to home for me because I'm just recovering from my own bout of post-partum depression (PPD). (In case you missed it, Tom Cruise criticized Brooke Shields for taking Paxil to help her PPD, asserting that she should have taken "vitamins" instead.)

The first month postpartum was particularly difficult for me. Breastfeeding didn't start well, I felt totally helpless and incompetent when it came to taking care of Alex, and I missed my old life of being able to do what I wanted when I wanted. I knew having a child would change my life forever and be hard, but as prepared as I tried to be, I still had no idea just how hard.

A low dose of Zoloft helped. So did hearing other moms say they felt the same way, as well as the passage of time. As Alex has gotten older and a little easier to take care of, I've gotten more confident and therefore happier. Sorting out our breastfeeding issues was a huge part of my recovery.

PPD is very real. I know there was a time when doctors didn't believe that, but my OB and Alex's pediatrician have only been supportive. Like so many other women who have been through it, I applaud Brooke Shields for being open about her pain, and for doing what she needed to do to take care of herself so that she could take care of her child.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


One of my cousins is graduating from college this year and isn't sure what he wants to do, so he's going back to school for two years to get his teaching credential because he can't think of anything else to do. Among other ideas, I suggested the following, which I was taught by my dad and has served me well:

Set aside some time and decide what you want out of life and set some long-term goals. Some universal ones that come to mind are have a family, go to Italy/Paris/etc., save X amount of money, etc. Then set some intermediate term goals, about 10-15 years from now. Examples are own a house, pay off student loans, keep baseball/politics/friends a part of my life, run a marathon, be involved in charity work, etc.

Next, look at your intermediate goals and decide what will get you there. For example, to save $50,000 in 10 years, that's an average of $5,000 per year, so you would have to save about $400 per month. That might be a little steep right now, but you'll be able to save more as you earn more. Right now, maybe you can afford to save $100 per month and still pay all your bills, eat, and have a little fun.

Another example: if your goal is keep baseball a part of your life (my cousin was a really good pitcher in high school), you might say to yourself, My dream would be to play pro ball, but that's not realistic. So, what would still make me feel fulfilled? Do I need to keep playing or will I be just as happy or happier coaching? If I need to keep playing, I could look into adult leagues at the local parks, etc. Or if I want to coach, I'll decide what age, if I want to coach school or in a park league, and find out what I would have to do to become a coach. Or maybe I'd be perfectly happy to just be fan - I could see how much season tickets are and save up for that. Or, maybe I want to work for a team as a scout, so I'll contact my high school coach and see if he knows anyone who can give me advice. I can contact the Angels and Dodgers too, and find out if they have any openings or someone I can interview.

Once you set your goals and know what steps you need to achieve them, the only thing left is to take the first step. Remember to look them over regularly to check your progress and reassess whether you still want to achieve them. Good luck!


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

About Chief Family Officer

Updated 5/22/11

Welcome to I'm Cathy, and I'm happily married and the mom of two boys ages 4 and 6. In September 2010, I quit my full-time job as an attorney to become a work-at-home blogger mom. It was a scary big step, but one we had been working toward for years, and I'm happy we did it.

I started Chief Family Officer back in 2005, a few months after my oldest son was born. I was on maternity leave and my husband suggested that I might enjoy blogging. He was right! I've loved blogging from the moment I started, although my blogging style has certainly evolved over the years.

My favorite topics to discuss are saving money, family finances, parenting and cooking. I publish new posts every day, and while I talk about what's going on in my life, my great hope is that you'll be able to relate to what I'm discussing and gain something from reading about my experiences. I love the comments that readers leave, because they teach me and add so much to the discussion. I hope you'll join in, too.

Regular features around here include daily roundups of the hottest deals and coupons, weekly Drugstore Game deals, and recalls of children's products.

If you like what you see at Chief Family Officer, why not subscribe via RSS or email? You'll get the latest on CFO delivered right to your favorite feed aggregator or inbox. You may also want to like Chief Family Officer on Facebook or follow CFO on Twitter - I frequently post time-sensitive offers there that don't make it into the daily posts on the CFO homepage.

And be sure to check out the Best of CFO for a taste of what goes on around here.

You can contact me at cfoblog [at] gmail [dot] com.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005


These days, my dominant identity is "new mom." My son was born in March and I've been home taking care of him since. But I'm still holding onto my identity as a wife and as an attorney also. I'll go back to work in a few months, but right now this blog will be my "project" during nap times.

I'll share recipes, nutrition tips, money-saving and financial planning tips, my experiences getting pregnant and being a mom, and just about anything else. I love to cook and have had a recipe published in Cooking Light Magazine. I handle our family finances and love finding ways to save money while still maintaining a comfortable lifestyle. I had two miscarriages, extreme morning sickness, an emergency C-section, tremendous breastfeeding difficulties, and post-partum depression.

Right now I'm trying to find a balance being a wife, mother, lawyer, and plain old me. Although I'm months away from going back to work, I wonder if my heart will be in it or if I'll feel guilty because I'm enjoying my time away from my baby. My husband and I are doing well, but finding couple time and alone time is tough. And I've changed since becoming a mother. I hope that you will find this blog helpful in many ways. And I hope that I'll find that balance I'm looking for.