The great tongue tie caper


Or how I feel like I stumbled into a cult.

I mentioned my second child having a tongue tie previously. Well after the snip with the scissors I was still having pinchy latch feelings  as well as latch slipping and I knew the lip tie was still around. After wondering about long term management of my not entirely tongue tie related low supply problems on the MOBI message group I was prompted to revisit my research  into laser release.  I emailed them and asked if I could send along some pictures and see if they saw any problems.  They did. So in a whirlwind I made an appointment to see them, booked flights and planned a 12 hour day in Auckland with a 3.5 week old.

We flew up there, I found where the place was and I proceeded to hang out. This baby is incredibly laid back and sleepy, so armed with a baby carrier there was no problem.

Here is the lovely park we spent far too many hours at.

 

I’m glad it was a nice day.

Anyhow, the Laser procedure was fairly straightforward. The Doctor/dentist was nice, his staff was nice as well. The whole thing was very posh. Posh is a good word. It was really over the top for me. I felt a bit grubby in my jeans and sweatshirt next to the fleet of designer suited office assistants in an obviously expensive office block. The procedure was also quite expensive. But I rationalized it by thinking it’s about the same amount some people spend on a designer stroller or a smartphone, and this is more beneficial. Well at least I hope so. I still feel several weeks after the procedure that the whole thing is a bit faddish and people’s behaviour is a bit cultish as well. Oh, no doubt my child had a tongue tie and a lip tie. And no doubt many people who also have tongue and lip tied children have much more severe symptoms than we did. The ties didn’t hurt me that much, though they were a bit uncomfortable. I didn’t have anyone doing test weights so how much they helped milk transfer is debatable. It certainly didn’t fix everything. But I still feel vaguely taken advantage of.  Preyed upon even. Us poor women with breastfeeding problems doing everything we can to make it work. Not necessarily by that doctor, but in general. My midwife is a bit displeased I went ahead and did the laser. She thinks I’ve been taken in by a fad. And maybe I have been. We plan one more child and right now I can’t say definitively that I would do the laser again. Or if I’d have it done for my older child. I know for some people the result is unquestionable, but for us, not so much.

There’s a huge hole in terms of what most professionals will or can treat and it’s being filled somewhat by self diagnoses and things that are expensive with dubious benefit. And I’m finding the associated peer support a bit questionable as well with certain things that must be done and it’s sort of like if you aren’t doing the whole laundry list then you have only yourself to blame when things don’t work out. I’ve found myself at odds with others in this situation before. I do draw a line as to how far I am willing to go and for some that makes me less dedicated, but I also go further than many others do and for some that makes me a tad bit crazy.

Anyhow. Here are the before and after pictures of the tongue and lip ties.

Lip tie

Tongue before scissors

Tongue after scissors

A few days after lasering

Lip tie

Tongue

A week after lasering

 

 

Why a correct diagnosis is important.

Or how wait and see doesn’t cut it.

For the first 8 months of my first child’s life I thought I had low supply, probably from insufficient glandular tissue. I wanted a definitive diagnosis though and couldn’t find anyone to give me one. Then around 8 months, after we’d transitioned to just solids and breastfeeding and put the SNS away in the closet I noticed something that led me to believe that a posterior tongue tie might be the real problem. I couldn’t get a diagnosis for that either, but the more I read and researched a tongue tie did seem to be present. That discovery filled me with hope. Hope that next time would be different, that there was something I could do to make things better. So I planned my next breastfeeding experience around that. I lined up tongue tie release, made my midwife aware of my history and suspicions and mostly did as I was told- to wait and see because this time things might be different. I was told different child, different mouth shape, maybe no problems this time. I was dubious, and didn’t use as my midwife anyone who refused to take my concerns seriously, but I did get some variation of wait and see from everyone I talked to.

Just to hedge my bets I drank various teas throughout my pregnancy and made all my postpartum meals full of lactogenic ingredients.

And then I had my second baby, not how I planned, in fact things went in a way I hadn’t thought to plan for, but I had her and it was ok. Not great, not bad, but ok. And there was an obvious tongue tie, not a posterior one, and there was some waffling about whether it would cause problems from the hospital lactation consultants, and my midwife went to bat for me and we got it snipped anyhow. It made the latch a bit better and things were going normally. We were proceeding with caution, and I was getting some varying opinions on whether intake was good. Some people said looks good, some people were concerned about swallow frequency. I was a little stressed out, but I was assured that if I hadn’t had any history that no one would be worried. I was cautiously optimistic. Things were already different and better by leaps and bounds in terms of latching and output and weight loss.

After 5 days we went home. My milk came in, though there wasn’t engorgement as such, just a feeling of fullness and heaviness. I wasn’t too worried. After all some women don’t have much engorgement, right? Yes, but. Be concerned when you keep running into signs and symptoms that by themselves don’t mean much but when accumulated paint a more dire picture.

We’d had 8% weight loss by day 6. Well within normal ranges. Considering last time we’d had 11%+ by day 5 and more after that, 8% was fantastic. Output was good, my optimism was increasing. There was still concern about swallow frequency, but things seemed to be going well.

By day 11 only 60g (2oz) had been gained. Normal newborn weight gain should be at least 30g/day. I’d been expressing milk on top of feeding to boost my supply and to give as top ups to combat the cluster feeding. My midwife wanted me to get more than 2 hours sleep per day to help my milk, and also because having a toddler and a newborn isn’t sustainable on 2 hours of sleep out of 24.

The baby was sleeping more and more. We were feeding on demand, but where #1 had screamed and cried and never slept unless held, this one would sleep for 4+ hours, fall asleep at the breast and was generally very lethargic. I was pumping 4-6 times per day on top of feeds, and giving that milk via the SNS. Output was still good.

And day 15 came and the weight was the same as at day 11, 210g below birth weight. And the baby was so lethargic at that point that getting her to take a bottle was over a 1 hour affair of cold cloths, stripping, changes and so on for 60ml consumed.

So now we went into disaster management mode. I was to give 60-100ml via bottle every 3 hours day and night and pump afterward. We practically have to force feed the baby at this point.

It’s been a few days of that and hopefully birth weight will be regained in another day or two and we can revisit other feeding options, or even go back to feeding on demand.

And that’s where we are now. I wish we’d known before that IGT was the issue. I wish I’d been able to get that diagnosis. I could have been using the SNS from around day 10 or before and doing test weights to measure intake rather than disaster management of a lethargic and dehydrated baby.

Now I’ll likely have to contend with nipple confusion, breast refusal and possibly losing any kind of breastfeeding relationship. I might still be able to pull this situation out of the fire, but a diagnosis last time would have made this easier.

 

Q: How to accept advice from people who have no clue?

A: Do it with grace or don’t ask at all.
Or is it just understanding, compassion that you want?
I rarely ask for advice anywhere these days because, perhaps arrogantly, I find that I’m not going to see anything I haven’t seen before. Yet I still have the urge to ask. Maybe because I’m lonely either via social circumstance or the rarity of my personal situation. So I was thinking, how can one ask for advice and not be irritated by unhelpful suggestions? Well you can’t. Oh, I’m sure you can manage not to be irritated, but the unhelpful suggestions are still going to happen. So what are your options then? You can ask and know you are unlikely to get anything helpful other than vague support, or you can not ask. Pretty much that’s it.  I asked a question somewhere the other day and was pleasantly surprised that one person had something novel to offer. So there’s always that chance.
It is important to recognize that people mean well. Generally. Of course once you open yourself up by asking you do also open yourself up to those who will not understand, who will be critical, who will disbelieve. I find those to be risks I am no longer willing to take.

I suppose on that note I should say I’m going to limit the commenting and be removing some of my posts from the history. I naively hadn’t realized that my personal birthing challenges would end up being controversial and worthy of unwanted lecturing. So, while I felt my birthing issues were tangential to both my breastfeeding challenges and breastfeeding challenges in general,  I’ll keep that sort of thing off of here in the future. I’m less than two weeks out from my due date and I don’t have the time, interest or energy to deal with commenters with their own agenda who seek to educate me in the error of my ways. Or whom will use scare tactics such as the impending death of my baby to influence me or spread their message. While my posts are public I didn’t ask to be berated, nor for anecdotes supporting whatever poorly conceived point such a  person is trying to make. Those who have read the blog have probably noted that I do cite things and even when I don’t many of my points are supported in some way. What I haven’t made a point of emphasizing is that I don’t set out to use research in a lawyer-like manner. That is I do not use it solely to support a point unless there is a larger body of evidence that my citation happens to be a good example of.

I was planning to highlight a few things over the next few weeks. Colostrum collection, however, is not going well. Sure it’s there, but I’m not producing enough to collect and freeze. I say that because the droplets I do get aren’t enough to reliably suck up and when they are they get stuck in my 1ml syringes and don’t go into the body of the syringe. So I’ve decided to save my syringes for postpartum.  I might still write up some lactation supporting postpartum recipes I developed, how I feel about my preparative measures, and maybe in 5-6 weeks some progress on if I do have to fly to get my baby some surgery, or if things are unexpectedly going well.

Five days of faith

My anxiety over baby weigh ins is coming back. I’d more or less become at ease with having my toddler weighed until her last appointment. Here we have well child nurses who do the weighing and measuring. Most people seem to have ineffectual but harmless ones, a few people seems to have good ones, but mine is subtly malicious. I’d been putting off going for the 21-24 month check. I figured I was going to get a lecture on how bad it was for my child not to drink milk and another suggestion of doping the milk with chocolate or sugar to get her to drink it. Believe it or not I was told by a doctor to do that. Then I swapped doctors. Some kids don’t like cow milk and that’s ok. But milk is some kind of odd holy grail of child nutrition. Whatever. There are plenty of other dairy products and fats in her diet so I wasn’t worried about the lack of milk drinking, just annoyed I assumed I would have to sit through a lecture.

Boy was I wrong. When asked how much milk she consumed I said, none, she doesn’t like it. And I braced for the lecture that didn’t come. I was told that was ok. However, rather than feeling better my stomach dropped because I knew, knew, that the nurse was going to find something else. She always did. Every visit has been an exercise in criticizing something about my parenting.  So at the end of the visit there it was. ‘She’s too fat’. Cue jaw drop from me. My 12 kilogram (27 pound) 23 month old is too fat. I was instructed to stop giving her snacks and the usual anti-obesity advice about not letting her have soda or sweets. We’re a soda free household, child only drinks water, not even juice, eats reasonably well, e.g. not picky, only whole foods. As processed as it gets is store bought pasta. Needless to say I went home and cried. I may not have even made it home. I probably cried in the car.

But now, rather than being obsessed over her weight gain I find myself looking at her body, wondering where the extra weight is. Because she’s not even remotely a chunky child aside from toddler belly.  She’s a lot smaller than most kids her age even. I feel in some ways like my whole life with her has been an eating disorder by proxy. I used to have panic attacks before getting her weighed when she was a baby, terrified her weight wouldn’t go up and I would have to supplement more than I already was. I now compare her mentally to other children and I still can’t see anything wrong, but now I wonder if I’m just deluded. I hate it. I’m terrified I’ll let it slip in my attitudes or behaviors and she’ll pick up on it.

I wanted to enter this next baby’s life without that anxiety over weight. I knew I’d have to go through the 5 days of faith to see how milk intake and gain was going. But now I’m back to being a panicky mess over it. Back to where the thought of a weigh in makes me want to vomit.

Body function and self image.

I referred to this in another post. I had thought to combine the topics, but both grew a bit of leg so two posts it is.

I realized sometime after I’d had my c-section how tied up in body image being able to birth normally was. Just a huge feeling of what are these parts of me good for if I can’t birth a baby. I’ve seen women dealing with prematurity expressing these sentiments as well. You begin to feel an inferior woman when your female specific parts don’t function as advertised. I’ve mostly been able to dismiss them as irrational as I knew from the beginning that my c-section was a baby issue, not mine, but it still rankles a bit. It’s certainly a body issue thing. Why have these massive hips if babies aren’t able to come out of them? What’s the good in being built as I am if none of it works right?

The breastfeeding issues we had were much harder to bear because for about 8 months I thought it was my issue and mine alone. I feel more now that it was a baby issue, but those 8 months of self loathing induced by looking at my inappropriately functioning body still linger. I often wished during that time that I had made a clean break for my psychological welfare. Once I got to not needing assisting devices I was happy enough I’d continued, but I had a lot of regretful feelings about being stubborn during those eight months. All the insecurities of adolescence over extra weight, uneven breasts, extra hair and body shape, all come crashing down when what’s supposed to work doesn’t. The more I read about what caused mother-side breastfeeding issues the more I began to focus self loathing on attributes I’d never liked but had come to accept as unchangeable parts of myself. All those things I long thought I’d learned to deal with or ignore. They were something it became more ok to hate about myself because they were signs of something wrong with me, outward signs of how I was failing my child.

I know body image during and post pregnancy is an issue that plagues a lot of women. Well, not just during and after pregnancy, but those who may have been secure enough before become less so when faced with pregnancy changes. So many seem to dread stretch marks, sagging skin and the other trials of baby-growing. It seems quasi-normal for women to be in a perpetual state of self-doubt and loathing over their appearance. I’ve been able to put that aside for the most part. Perhaps it’s the few years I spent living with nudity inclined strippers that has made me more secure in my body, perhaps it’s the years I spent purposely not shaving my legs as a teenager as social experiment, and still finding validation of being attractive, maybe it’s knowing that I’ve done what I can to lose weight and make my body healthier, or maybe I just have a strong sense of who fucking cares about that issue (certainly not about others apparently though). Whatever it is I have no issue putting on a swim suit or being nude in semi-public situations. I do find I’m still more ashamed of my breasts. Even though now I don’t think they did anything wrong, the loathing our breastfeeding issues awakened within me means I find their lopsided appearance shameful. Oh I still nursed in public, but showing them not in use gives me what must be a normal dose of modesty. I didn’t want people to see my source of shame. Even though it might not even be the case that they are faulty, or that the majority of anyone who would notice the unevenness would know it meant anything, it was something I began taking extra pains to hide.

Of course, now having been through that and out the other side there’s the comfort one can take in how our children love us no matter what we look like and how outwardly flawed we might be to others. I have dreadful upper arm flab, aka bingo-wings. However, my daughter loves them. Funnily enough I remember loving my grandmother’s upper arms as well. Not to the extent my daughter loves mine though. I think they act as a substitute boobie for her. She pinches them, nuzzles them and rubs her face on them frequently. It’s oddly comforting that my child loves such a conventionally unattractive part of me.  I used to comfort myself with that early on in our issues. That my baby loved my boobs even if they weren’t working right. It really hit home one day when she was about 15 weeks old. I was having her have nothing but a bottle all day in preparation for her going off to daycare. and every time I picked her up she’d stick her hand down my shirt and stroke my breasts and cry. It was heartbreaking, but after that day I didn’t cry every day about breastfeeding. (I managed to drop down to only around 5 days a week. Ha.)

Body image problems are not something I want to pass on to my current or future daughter. My mother, never noticeably overweight, was a constant dieter, constantly putting her body down and starving herself. I remember being maybe three or four and asking if I was fat and indicating hatred of my child-belly because it wasn’t something a barbie doll or iconic female body had. My mother got really upset with me. I didn’t understand why at the time, that she was upset I’d picked that sort of thing up. I just internalized it as there was something wrong, and so I remember. This was probably reinforced by my various family members having me weigh my food at age eight…

I don’t want concern about my body function to bleed through to concern about my body image.

Fussing over my body appearance isn’t something I do often. I only really feel frustration when I have to shop for clothing. Hopefully my general lack of concern with how I ‘ought’ to look versus how I do look will serve my children well.

Mothers and the internet.

I’m pretty sure there are 3 main types of mothers on the internet. Mothers who want advice or support, mothers who are lonely or bored, and mothers who have a mission. These can all really blend into each other as well.
I’ve just been wondering if there were such a thing as a non-judgmental mother on the internet. Then I realized, of course there are, but they aren’t the ones who you’ll notice. They aren’t going to be giving abrasive advice.  Chances are they aren’t going to say very much of anything to those asking for advice. They might be reading, cocking an eyebrow at the advice and diatribes you’ve gotten and meandering on.

 

Loads of mothers want advice or support. From anything to being a new parent, to dealing with serious medical issues. It’s normal to want experiences, advice and support. And of course being faced with a difficult problem can make you feel isolated, leading to loneliness and so on.
Mothers on a mission. Oh so many types. These can range from the converts- I didn’t know better, but now I do and I’m going to instruct you all, to those who are clandestinely insecure, but proclaim their actions to the world to get attention and reinforcement and put others down to bring themselves up. Phrases you might hear- ‘I do it because I care about babies’, ‘I’m just stating facts’, and so on. Pretty much these people fall on the no-tact side of arguments. Having been there and done that apparently lends license to talk down to people with little regard for others situations.

Now lots of mothers are lonely. It goes with the territory. It’s not uncommon to be baking a baby and have friends drop away. Your priorities change, your life changes and suddenly you are in a lonely place. It’s a peril of our culture. Seems loneliness can figure in all of these. From the mother who is the first of her friends to have children and finds herself increasingly isolated from her pre-baby life, to the one who makes a mother-based career change and struggles with getting out and meeting new people, loneliness is rampant. Or hell, maybe they are just mildly bored and looking for some mental stimulation.

What else is there to be said about this really? I think this is one of those things where knowing is half the battle.

People use facts aggressively and retreat behind the ‘I’m just stating facts, not making judgements’ barrier. As a counter to that people often perceive a lack of confluence or agreement with their methods as condemnation. Basically it’s insecurity that feels hurtful when someone does something differently. Many magazines, books and online resources only serve to pit mothers against each other and convince the mildly insecure that they do indeed have something to be insecure about. If online life as a mother is so fraught with pitfalls and group-think (the topics of which is entirely dependent on the community), no wonder real life seems intimidating and ends up feeling isolating. Something important to keep in mind is what do you care if someone you don’t know on the internet disagrees with you? Are they going to come over to your house and do it differently for you? No? Well then. As a veteran of some mommy-war skirmishes I can say it’s the isolation from real people that does you in. Real people can be, but are hardly ever, as ridiculously outspoken as those you’re likely to encounter online.

Preparing for incompetence

I’m not sure how to feel.
I’m doing my best to be optimisitic. As several midwives have said, and I know, every breastfeeding experience is different. I’m certainly living a different pregnancy, so that point is well and truly home.

This child could have a totally different mouth shape, I should grow additional glandular tissue, things could go off without a hitch.

On the other hand I’m preparing for the worst. No one able to treat this simple issue, no official diagnosis, having to travel to an oral surgeon on the other island with a newborn and hoping that something can be done. Being refused.

I’m set up better this time, that’s certain. I have experience, I know what to look for…sort of. I have someone who says they will aid me with referrals and seeing specialists. It’s a very confusing feeling, being optimisitic while preparing for incompetence.

I have the what-ifs on all sides. What if things do appear normal? I’m going to still be paranoid and stressed. I’m going to worry that my supply will drop off if a problem is missed or dismissed. What if it is my issue with production? What if there is a problem and no one can see anything? I still don’t know what I’ll do in all situations. I can only hope that either things are normal and no problems appear, things are abnormal but easily recognized and fixable, or I can manage the problem the way I did before. That last one is certainly not the preferred option.

It feels bittersweet to think that my best option is a problem, easily recognized and largely fixable.

I wonder sometimes what I’m thinking. Walking back into this trauma, both to get it right, and because it’s the right thing for us to do.

Milk and casting resin jewelery tutorial

Updated at the bottom-after 4+ years!

 

I was curious about this and I had some left over milk that my kid will not drink. I think it got all lipasey in the freezer and it’s past it’s best by date anyhow. Besides, she’s suspicious of anything not water in cups. So I had loads of milk to play with (I’d tried to donate it a while back but we got crossed signals and I didn’t try again). I live in New Zealand so the artist that does commissions in the US is not an option for me. Plus I’m a naturally curious person and I’ve done resin casting before (though of scientific specimens). So be warned, this is a long picture heavy post. The step by step procedures (with pictures) are at the end, after I explore some things that didn’t work (or worked not so well), so if that’s what you want, skip on down. I’m not going to do any commissions (as I said, I live in NZ), this is just a starter guide for those interested in DIY milk-resin work.

I found this but I thought I’d try a few other things as well

I tried plasticizing milk via the vinegar-casein method and it really did not work. My milk separated some, but the globules did not stick together. They were so tiny that they just passed through my ultrafine cheese cloth.  I’m not sure how it’s been done by other people. I know the Etsy artist who does commissions in the US and a French design company both have plasticized human breast milk. I know the Etsy artist uses relatively small quantities, and from looking at her work I’m quite curious as to how that much precipitate comes from the volume of milk she requests. I’ve made cheese in the past and I know how cow milk precipitates, so I’d expect even less from human milk. Perhaps some sort of dehydration method. Well, whatever it is, it’s an interesting trade secret.

This is my milk after adding rather a lot more vinegar than the cow milk plasticization recipe called for (and lemon juice when the vinegar failed to do anything).

Still pretty liquid. The image doesn’t show it well, but there were tiny tiny precipitates in there. They, however, did not stick together. I left it sit for a bit with not much change. And they went right through 2 layers of ultrafine cheesecloth. So chalk that up as a failure.

Anyhow, on to things that did work, in various ways.

So what you need:

  • Polyester clear casting resin. Mine is called Klear Kast. I bought 500ml of it (about 2 cups). You can get this from craft stores and even auto body hobby shops. Make sure it’s clear. There are some resins that are white and opaque when they harden. By the way, this (500ml) was an excessive amount even for experimenting. 250ml (1 cup) should be more than enough for any milk casting project alone. You’ll even have enough with that for some other small projects. Only buy more if you plan on doing some deep casting (like making paperweights or something).
  • Moulds. There are special resin casting moulds. They are kind of a heavy duty thicker translucent plastic. Again, check a craft store. I suppose you could try some of the cheaper chocolate or candy ones. I can’t really see any reason why not to use a chocolate or candy one. The resin does get hot and will melt things (left over resin setting melted the little plastic medicine cups I had mixed it up in), but surely something you pour molten candy or chocolate into would hold up? I don’t know. Use at your own discretion. The chocolate/candy moulds tend to have more intricate designs, which you may not want for your resin project.
  • Small plastic or paper cups for mixing in-disposable.
  • Popsicle sticks (or some other wide thing to stir with, aka something disposable eventually)
  • Gloves, face masks and a well ventilated work area.
  • Toothpicks
  • Your milk (you don’t need much if you know how you want to use it, otherwise if you want to play around you may need more-also consider playing around with cow milk if your milk is in short supply). I’ll include volumes of how much I used for each process. Make sure you pasteurize your milk (by heating on the stove or microwaving it until it’s nearly boiling) before using. Otherwise any bacteria in there can continue to grow and turn your project all kinds of colours you may not have intended.

Things you don’t need but may want depending on what you want to do

  • Commercial resin spray- (I found cooking oil left a bit of a cloudiness to some of my castings). I’d say you may only need this if you are working with a complicated mould. All of my shapes came out without using it.
  • Dyes if you want them.
  • Pictures, other beads, mementos, glitter etc.
  • Modelling clay. I bought Sculpey (I let my daughter pick a color, she picked sparkly blue) because I had an additional idea in mind. If you just want milk shapes, you can get any, preferably oil based,  kind.  If you might want coloured shapes as well, get something that you can bake like Sculpey or Fimo. If you aren’t a very good sculptor, I’m not an artist, but I have done some sculpting, there are push moulds available for this type of clay.
  • Plastic wrap
  • syringe or eyedropper-disposable is best. You’ll likely want one for your milk and possibly another one for resin use. I got through all my testing, though I reused some, with less than 5 disposable droppers.

So the numbers are 1: My thawed microwaved milk, 2: toothpicks, 3: my casting resin, 4: toilet paper for wiping stuff up (didn’t have paper towels), 5: That’s a straw for getting out air bubbles (didn’t need it), a wide handled scoop which proved to be very handy for stirring things since I didn’t have any popsicle sticks, and plastic bags (for cleanup, but also because I didn’t have plastic wrap), 6: plastic droppers for dropping milk, 7: My clay shapes, 8: my mould, and 9: my plastic medicine cups for mixing in.

So here’s the thing. Preparation is key. Get everything you might want and do a dry run, without resin made up, before you make your resin up. The resin brands vary and some have as few as 3 minutes of working time once the catalyst is added/ the solutions are mixed.

You should make up your resin in very small batches as it will harden up and be unusable if you forget something or are doing anything layered. Stir the resin and the catalyst/hardener with a popsicle stick in the plastic cups (while wearing your gloves and mask in your well ventilated area). The directions on mine has how to make up various volumes. The smallest was 1 ounce (30ml), so I pre-measured that volume with a marking pen on the side of one of my plastic cups. Everything has clothespins on it because it was windy and stuff was blowing away.

There are a few ways to do this. You can have abstract patterns, swirls etc, or you can have shapes.

To make abstract swirls, layers you mix the milk in (along with dyes, glitter, other beads etc) right before you pour it in the mould. It will not mix well. Use a popsicle stick or toothpick to mix it as it’s in the mould even. You can also pour a layer of resin (or dyed resin), wait for it to set, and then pour a milk mixed layer, set, pour another layer etc for a layered look.

Here are some results where I mixed about 10-15ml of my resin with around 4ml of milk. I mixed it really well and after a bit got it to be only bubbly looking, but of a uniform color. I poured that into a few moulds. On the left picture you can see that from the 10-15mls with added milk I got 4 (3 shown here) whole shapes and a few partial dribbles (shown in other pictures below). The right picture is a closeup of the bubbly appearance of the mix. I have no idea how this will hold up long-term, but after a few hours it was solid enough to remove from the mould. It was however tacky and flexible for several days. In subsequent tests of this method I had gummy shapes after letting the pour set overnight. So when you mix your milk and resin you will need to A) add extra catalyst, B) allow it to set for several days. Generally, after 2-3 days the gummy ones had set fairly well and hardened off after a week. I don’t think this in itself is a good long-term piece of jewelery. The milk resin cast shapes seem a bit brittle in texture. Maybe embedded in resin or coated with another clear coat they would be fine. I did find that it casts up much harder (not gummy) if you increase the amount of catalyst. I made several milk mix castings that are white, bubbly and opaque this way. This will only work if you have the kind of resin where you add a smaller amount of catalyst, rather than the kind where you mix equal volumes of two solutions.

          

To make shapes:

Mould your shape out of modelling clay. You are going for a bas-relief effect within your resin mould. So if I were to make a heart I’d make it sort of flattish and only finish it on one side. Make sure it is nice and smooth. You also want it to be smaller than the perimeter of your mould, so there will be resin all along the edges. A deep shape also works better than a shallow one.

Here are the shapes I made. I kept it simple and smooth-edged. So hearts, starts, moons. Make sure you measure them to your mould. Will they fit inside?

Now  wrap your model in plastic wrap. I used freezer bags and rubbed out the lines. Plastic wrap is a lot better since the freezer bags tended to un-cling (from themselves, the clay etc).

Pour your resin to the level you’d like your shape at, or halfway. Deeper holds the milk resin mix better and makes more of a contrast in the finished product.However, you don’t want your resin to go over the top of your clay shape. It will be very difficult to remove. So a deep, but straight edged shape is best. Now, while the resin is still liquid, use toothpicks to hold the model in place, shape and plastic wrap side in the resin.

Allow the resin to set for at least 24 hours (cover it with something, like a clean box, and set it out of the way. You pretty much can not bring this stuff inside unless you like the smell of varnish and paint thinner. So garages are cool. If you don’t have one, put a box upside down with rocks on it over this outside for the night). Now,  remove the plastic wrapped modeling clay, which should pop right out (but you may need to dig out), and dropper, pour, or syringe your milk-resin mix in there. See below for what happens if you use straight milk (even frozen). Allow your milk resin mix to set for at least a day, if not several days. Now, pour (or dropper, droppers work well for this) another thin layer of clear resin on top (you can always make up more), sealing the milk in and fill the mould the rest of the way.Don’t be afraid to overflow your mould a bit. You can sand off any imperfections later on. If you want to do a layered thing, maybe a photo or other memento you can put the photo in first or after the milk, but there should be a layer of resin between them.

So here are the various photos and what I did

Round 1:

From top, clockwise: Milk resin mix large oval, resin with clay shape large oval, milk resin mix small oval, milk resin mix long bar, resin with milk resin mix swirled in long bar, resin with clay shapes rounded rectangle, resin with milk resin swirl hexagon, milk resin mix heart.

Shapes held in place with toothpicks-solidifying

   

Set up, in the mould, after.

These were the initial ones I did where I put the clay (oiled in one case) right in the resin. I thought the oil, or the oiliness of the clay would allow it to come out. Alas, after much digging I only got most of it out. And blue dusty stuff everywhere.

Here they are after removing as much of the clay as I could (still blue tinted, as you can see. So unless you want that, use plastic wrap!):

With milk in:

I put milk in the recessed bits and froze it overnight, then poured clear resin on top of it. The milk when it thawed rose up through the second layer of resin. So that’s why you don’t use plain milk. These would have turned out great if I’d used a milk resin mix. It’s a shame these had the clay sticking issue (and the further milk issue) as these turned out very crisp.Well, lesson learned, experimentation and whatnot.

After less than an hour:

After several hours:

So that’s why I recommend mixing the milk and resin before putting it in the bas-relief shape. It’s a bit bubbly looking, but produces a slightly cleaner end product. You can see the results of putting a previously cast milk-resin shape into a larger shape above the heart in the second picture above. See below for finished versions of everything I tried. Still only 4ml or so of milk (which can actually make rather a lot of castings with the 10-15ml of resin).

Here’s round 2 in the mould:

Clockwise from top: Clear resin with previously cast milk-resin embedded in it, bas-relief resin with pure milk shape (used straight clay, had to dig out, left blue residue), clear resin with clay shapes embedded, bas-relief round 2 with plastic wrapped clay 1, bas-relief round 2 with plastic wrapped clay 2, milk resin mix squares (2 of them), bas-relief resin with 2 pure milk shapes (again, blue residue), clear resin with milk-resin swirled in it (hexagon), bas-relief round 2 with plastic wrapped clay 3, 2 drop shaped milk resin shapes, and 2 long rectangular milk resin shapes, trapezoid clear resin with swirled milk resin.

Here are the results from a more successful round.

Here are the processes and finished products from all rounds:

So what ultimately worked well.

Bas relief casting and pouring a milk resin mix (~4mls milk to 10-15 ml resin) into the recessed shape.

How to do:

  1. Mould your shape (that you want to be made of milk) out of clay and wrap it in plastic wrap.
  2. Make sure the shape fits in your mould (resin shape) and pour resin prepared per manufacturers directions into your mould.
  3. Place your shape supported by toothpicks into your mould, and make sure it is about halfway submerged in the resin. You don’t want it to be too much more than halfway or it will be difficult to remove.`
  4. Allow to set. After 4-6 hours you may be able to remove your shape, but allow to set at least overnight before doing the next steps.
  5. As you can see I’m reusing some of the plain milk experiment ones.
  6. Do any cleanup (removing errant clay, plastic wrap etc, any scraping you feel necessary and so on)
  7. Prepare a small amount more resin per manufacturers directions. Pour a smaller volume of it into a separate cup and add milk. I used 10-15ml resin and 4ml milk and had way more than I needed. I found 4ml milk in 10-15ml resin gave a uniform whiteness that still hardened up if I used extra catalyst. I also found that increasing the catalyst increased the setting speed. Mixing the milk and resin before adding the catalyst often gave a smoother mix.
  8. Stir up the milk resin mix until fairly uniform. It may mix well and it may retain a bubbly appearance (like oil and water)
  9. Pour (or dropper with a disposable dropper) some of this milk resin mix into your shape. Allow to set (You can pour clear resin over the top of this, but you risk the milk floating out) for a few hours if not overnight.
  10. A few examples
  11. Make up more clear resin per the manufacturers instructions and pour another layer, fully filling your mould, over the top of your milk resin mix. Allow to set at least 24 hours or per manufacturers instructions.
  12. Drill any holes and you have jewelry.

Here are some examples of this technique. You’ll notice some surface imperfections from resin rundown, but those are easily sanded away with a fine sandpaper. Cast resin polishes up well. You’ll also notice that some of the milk shapes are quite light. This is due to the shapes not being deep enough. This is after something like 4 or more separate shape runs and over a month of work, so I was getting a little tired since I had some I liked fairly well. Now that I (and you) know what to do I’ll adjust my future shapes accordingly. Deep, and well away from the walls of the mould.

Setting a milk-resin mix shape into a larger clear resin cast

  1. For this you will need a smaller mould whose shape fits inside a larger mould.
  2. Prepare a small amount of milk resin mix. I used 4ml milk to 10ml resin which made several castings.
  3. Stir until well mixed.
  4. Pour into first mould. Allow to set at least 48 hours (this will be tacky and flexible when you pull it out)
  5. Pour clear resin into second mould
  6. Place milk resin shape into second mould. Push into position with toothpicks.
  7. Allow to set
  8. Drill holes and you have jewelery

I actually like the way this one turned out best in terms of opaqueness and general appearance. Too bad I didn’t have many interesting shapes that fit into other shapes!

Swirling milk resin mix into resin

  1. Make up some clear resin per manufacturers instructions
  2. Pour off a small amount to a separate cup and add your milk. Stir to mix.
  3. Pour some clear resin into your mould shape of choice, but do not fill.
  4. Pour some milk-resin mix into the mould.
  5. Use a toothpick to swirl however you like it
  6. Pour more clear resin on top
  7. Allow to set per manufacturers directions
  8. Drill holes and you have jewelery

Here are some various examples of this technique.

Now that I have spent over a month testing things (getting resin on my brand new camera 😦 at least it’s only on the screen) and writing this post here are some more photos of my finished products. Here are some of my favourite results:

There are 6 (3 matching pairs) cast milk resin mix,  3 swirled resin mixes (2 small ovals and heart), 2 bas-relief cast shapes (oval with heart and trapezoid with heart), and 1 cast milk resin inside clear resin (oval in oval).

A close up of the non-solid milk resin cast ones. Same as above.

These all still need some minor sanding and drilling…but no drill yet so I can’t show off finished products.

Other tips. If you wanted a dyed layer decide if you want an opaque or transparent dye and where you want it. If you want an opaque dye, for example, behind your milk shape, you’d proceed as I described until step 9, then dropper a circle (or other shape) of dyed resin on top of the milk resin mix, let that set, then finish off with clear resin. Similarly if you want the whole thing translucently dyed, just use that instead of clear resin. If you want beads, glitter, a photo or other memento do a mock-up of how things will fit together so you know what order to put things in the resin.

 

Edit: Hey I see this post is getting really popular. I’ll try and put up some pictures of my resin cast milk over a year after I made them.

 

Edit 2: So it’s now been over 4 years, I’ve moved nearly every year, have 3 kids 4.5 years apart, and I have a job, so have been busy.

BUT! I dug these out (I still haven’t done anything with them. I have plans involving dremel tools, drilling and mounting them on some wood- we’ll just see if I ever have time for that). It’s November 22nd 2015.

They have yellowed. I put them on a black background to show maximum contrast. But only to an ivory kind of colour. I still think they look quite nice. Especially for being left in various boxes stored away for so many years.

I tried to pick ones that I showed above.

So here they are, with and without flash.

20151122_103624 20151122_103617

Postmortem

I’ve been thinking about why some diagnoses make sense for me and others do not.  I’ve done mental lists before but I think it’s past time I did a postmortem analysis of my breastfeeding experience. Not that it’s dead just yet…

My midwives told me that it was my supply. So I pumped and I pumped, and I fed and I took herbs and domperidone… and it didn’t really seem to help. For a long time I thought baby not getting enough milk to gain weight or poop, and I can’t pump it out means it’s not there, right? Not necessarily. When my daughter was around 8 months I noticed a lip tie and read about the correlation between that and posterior tongue tie. So then I thought that was the issue, but I can make some points in favour of several causes.

I’m not sure the best way to group this. Maybe a reason for, reason against section for each suspected issue.

Symptoms in support of IGT:

I have breast asymmetry. It’s fairly noticeable. I also have stretch marks, though I’d assumed they came from puberty. I actually remember the time when my left breast grew bigger than my right. I was probably about 12-13 (I was in junior high because the memory includes wandering around that day in the halls with my hand clamped over one breast because it hurt so badly). I just remember it being painful.  My breasts look a lot like one of the pictures in the MMM book.

I don’t think that I had engorgement after birth. I did have a bit of warmth and itchiness, but not the hard breasts my midwives led me to believe I should have. Which is false anyhow, not all women have that symptom even with a normal supply.

Symptoms against IGT:

My breasts have always felt fairly glandy. If that’s a word. They aren’t very soft, instead tending to be firm. I’ve noticed them floating in the pool for the first time since I’ve had my baby.  I’ve never really gained weight in my breasts and they don’t seem to be primarily fatty tissue. As I said, glandy. I was always good about getting my yearly exams when I lived in the US (things are 3 yearly here if everything’s been normal, which it has for me), and that usually included a breast exam. You’d think someone (one of the at least 5-6 different doctors I’d had do breast exams) would have said something if there were not much tissue there… Then again, maybe not.

I tended to leak. I mean, not buckets, but changing my baby in the middle of the night, her crying would give me a wet shirt. Easily 5ml from one side and maybe 2 from the other. Also sometimes when I was feeding the other side would leak. Not enough to collect, or really  need pads, but enough to be messy.

This is a bit odd. I have some extra nipple tissue on one of my areola. So, while my breasts were not really engorged, that area swelled up like a blister. It got about peanut-in-the-shell sized.  I could get milk out of it, but it wasn’t easy. Apparently it was connected to some ducts as well.

When I was in the hospital after giving birth I had to hand express some colostrum. My baby would not initially latch well, she couldn’t open her mouth wide enough and when I tried biological nurturing style she shredded my nipples and gave me hickeys, preferring to latch onto any surface she could like a little suckerfish. Anyhow, as I was hand expressing colostrum the hospital midwives commented that at least my supply wasn’t a problem.  I know that colostrum production and milk production are not necessarily related (that is amount of colostrum does not indicate amount of milk), but it’s always made me doubt that supply was my problem, even when I was told it was.

While I don’t think my breasts did grow much during pregnancy and after, I know they did because bras from before pregnancy (still) don’t fit me. Also I had significant nipple pain during the first trimester.

I have had engorgement before to the point that one (just one, the other one has more fat on it I think) breast looked like a sack of peas. I went 15 hours without feeding or pumping when I had to travel for business. I had been accustomed to going 10-12 hours without pumping at that stage (my daughter was 11-12 months old), but the extra few hours made a big difference in comfort.

Symptoms for undiagnosed tongue tie

My baby has a lip tie for sure. She also was not able to hold herself on the breast until she could do it with her hands at over 6 months old. So I had to hold it in her mouth or it would fall out. Pacifiers (dummies) fell out of her mouth.  Even now she either holds them in with her teeth or her hand. Not that she’s much of a fan, they are more something to bite. She would leak milk when drinking from a bottle. She shredded my nipples early on. It wasn’t until 8-10 weeks that I didn’t look like ground meat from the cracking, and all the missing bits grew back. With some improvement in latch technique it didn’t hurt much after about 2-3 weeks. I did have nipple creasing for months. Since she got her upper front teeth I’ve felt them digging in to me somewhat, and she does leave little tooth indentations on me.

Her tongue has been forked in the past. As she gets larger and stretches it the fork has significantly lessened. For a while she was not able to touch her upper lip, but now she can. Nowhere near touching her nose, but she can now get the tip of her tongue over her upper lip.

She does have a ‘fence’ in her mouth per the Murphy manuever, though I can’t use Dr. Kotlow’s method of checking since it’s now a game to bite me when I try to feel what her tongue is up to.

When she touches her tongue to her upper lip the floor of her mouth tents up (as does mine…), and the sublingual salivary glands stick out (again, as do mine).

She has only rarely drained the breast, though that’s hard to gauge because my breasts don’t ever really seem to go totally soft because of the glandiness.

Symptoms against undiagnosed tongue tie

She has a pretty mobile tongue. I don’t see much inhibited movement to be honest, though I’m mainly comparing to myself, which is not a fair comparison, and she has been working on it as I try to gauge her tongue mobility by making faces at her. Perhaps it’s improved as she’s gotten bigger. She doesn’t have much in the way of frenulum either, though I know with PTT that can be the case.

Symptoms for PCOS related complcations

I suspect my grandmother had some form of PCOS. She told me she got her period at age 10. I got mine at 11. I have elevated androgen levels and issues with carbohydrates and my weight. If I do have some form of PCOS the onset was when I was around 20. One lactation consultant told me my issue was probably PCOS related (no breast exam for me, no oral exam for the baby though).

Symptoms against PCOS related complications

I have completely regular periods (I’ve been irregular twice I can think of and once was after a miscarriage). A lot of doctors have hinted at PCOS, but no one has ever felt able to make a diagnosis. While I do experience mittelschmerz, no cysting has ever been observed during ultrasounds.

Other ‘what does it mean?’ issues:

I was living in an agricultural area before and during puberty. I had also been consuming large volumes of soy products (dairy free from 8 to 13, then dairy and soy free) and been put on various calorie restrictive diets by my family from age 8 including a diet from age 13 to 17 that did not allow me to eat sugar, wheat, dairy, soy (as I had developed an allergy), any fruit other than grapefruit and lemon. I also experimented with veganism during this time (though that didn’t last long). I skipped a lot of meals, not eating for up to 12 hours at a time (sometimes longer) until I was in my early 20’s.

Fenugreek did not work for me. I couldn’t take enough to get the ‘smell’ and I didn’t see any difference with the amount I was taking (up to 12 pills daily. I also tried spoonfuls of soaked seeds as well as fenugreek seeds cooked with barley and tea made from a spoonful of seeds). Domperidone seemed to decrease my supply, or at least my let down. Blessed thistle made it so I did not have to supplement at night times and fennel and oatmeal were some of the more helpful things I tried. Anise seed, licorice root, red clover and nettle were also helpful. Vitex increased my supply, though I didn’t try it until after 12 months.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a fairly robust, if apparently insufficient,  milk supply. Since pumping at work and altering my pumping schedule until I no longer pumped I noticed that it would take at least a week to stop feeling discomfort from a missed pumping session. I only ever pumped 30-50ml per session combined. I expect the 18 hour per day feedings and excess pumping in the first 6 weeks helped me lay down adequate prolactin receptors so that my supply remained robust.

Prior to getting pregnant I had been having 9-11 day luteal phases with spotting before my period started, which can indicate a hormonal issue. However, this was for the months in between a miscarriage and getting pregnant with my daughter. I had not previously experienced much spotting before starting my period. I do expect that a 10 day luteal phase is more or less normal for me though.

I didn’t get my period back until nearly 16 months postpartum, and only after much cutting down on breastfeeding. I make the supposition that the inefficient sucking, as well as the numerous night time feeds,  delayed it’s return because sucking stimulation releases the oxytocin which inhibits menstruation.

Oh, then there were the array of potential medical issues. I lost 600ml of blood, which is within normal for a C-section, but if I recall correctly over 500ml can cause issues in some people. I had an emergency c-section. I was overhydrated both before and after birth because of my blood pressure being so low (to the point of breast edema, though it didn’t delay my milk, which came in, such as it was, on day 3). I had low platelets. Not dangerously low, but enough to be mildly alarming. I had been taking iron pills in my second and third trimester, but had run out early in my third trimester and my midwives didn’t think to give me more. So I could have been anemic.

What might have been

I’ve had some passing retrospective…introspective? Something ‘spective at any rate, moments of late of what might have been. Wondering what kind of person I would have been if we’d not had these issues. It kind of makes me afraid. I wonder if I would have been as inflexible and uncompromising as I see some people be on the subject of breastfeeding issues. Part of me doesn’t think so though since I am prone to compassion. I certainly wouldn’t have the ability to empathize quite as strongly as I do now. I think it takes staring choices you never thought you’d have to make in the face to really get some things. I do know that our problems have made me a better, and certainly more complex, person though. I’m certainly more thoughtful about how other peoples struggles are not my own.  I read somewhere recently that exceptional people consider others just as able as they are if not more so. That people who have succeeded consider others more able than they are. And that really hit home for me. Because I have often wondered, why me? Both as to why this happened and to how and why I got through it.

I never really considered myself that out of the ordinary in terms of our struggles. I mean, unusual to be having them, I suppose, but once I got into dealing with things I certainly didn’t feel extraordinary in any way-except that I was alone with my struggles. People in similar situations to me either met their original goal or went a different way. There was no one else who was defining alternate goals on the fly and making those work.  I guess that I consider myself mostly lucky despite not having any help. Lucky that I stumbled on the fact that the SNS existed (and found somewhere to buy one), lucky that my baby latched on,  lucky that my baby tolerated the SNS, lucky that being told over and over again that I couldn’t do this made me mad instead of stop.

I certainly understand communities of women who have faced breastfeeding difficulties (the Fearless Formula Feeder community springs to mind) being fiercely defiant over their eventual choice and outcome. Finding solidarity over what ended up being best for them and being proud that they are better people for their struggles. I feel the same way although my choice was different, and thus more isolating, than most. Most every community I’ve found is either banded together over something I only share peripherally (which has made me an object of suspicion), or a collection of people bound together over their isolation. Which doesn’t exactly make for much of a community…

I’ve talked to a lot of people experiencing issues with breastfeeding. I’ve referred those who asked to what I did that worked, to the support I’ve found along the way and of those one has taken my advice on support networks (MOBI), and none have found my experience or advice particularly helpful. I suppose it was faulty of me to assume that just because I would have loved some support from someone like me that anyone else would be grateful for advice from someone who’d been there, done that and made it work for them. Which leaves me wondering, why me? Previous to these experiences I would not have thought this would have been something I was capable of.

A big part of becoming happy with how things are (other than time, which heals most wounds) is extracting myself from negative influences. Without people telling me that even though I was doing something tricky with little to no guidance that I was ‘actually’ failing by their definition, or alternately that I should stop doing something that was working for me in order to make my life easier caused me no end of heartache. Because I kept searching for somewhere to ‘fit’ I endured more pain than I needed.  And of course the eventual realization that I did do the right thing. Finally being able to look back and feel a tiny glimmer of pride at what I did do, whether or not it worked, or if it was what I’d planned. I did that. I helped grow that little person not through our struggles or what I fed her but through love and parenting. So no matter what I’m glad I’m not what I might have been because me, now, is better. My little toddler certainly has her priorities straight. What her baby-doll needs most are apparently kisses and hugs.

So this kind of means I don’t want to go looking for things to write about because there are some scary uncompromising people out there.

So with that I’m winding this thing down to the extent there won’t be bi-weekly, or maybe even weekly posts. Certainly for now, but who knows about later? How I’ve been operating lately is write a bunch when I have time and auto-schedule the lot. But I don’t have anything much scheduled. I have a few posts readied for various circumstances and occasions (watch this space for a tutorial on making milk jewelry), but nothing regular. I might even start publishing my previously mentioned journal on a semi-regular basis. And if I see or think of something I may, or may not, feel motivated to write something up, but not going to be making the effort to be weekly, or potentially even monthly.

Or I could add a parenting subsection and go on about that…