Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bilingual children's songs: A cheater's guide

This post was written for inclusion in Bilingual for Fun's Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, hosted this month by Mummy Do That!. Check back at Mummy Do That! for the carnival when it posts June 2.

baby singing into microphone and playing keyboardIn the spirit of my post on making up your own bilingual children's books —

Bilingual children's books: A cheater's guide

— I now bring you a coordinating cheat sheet for bilingual songs.

By "cheating," I mean you take a song you already know in one language and translate it on the fly or in advance into your target language. You can also consider easy children's songs you already know and look for a counterpart already online in your target language. I'll give you more on that in a post I've already compiled of free places to find songs in other languages online. (Wait with bated breath till the next bilingual carnival!)

I'm raising my son bilingually in German and English, but I'm a non-native speaker of German. That means that most of my repertoire of children's songs is in English. I've learned quite a few German songs since starting this adventure, but I can always use more variety.

The secret to a good make-do bilingual song is that:
  1. The tune and original words are familiar to you.
  2. It's super-duper easy.

After all, you don't want to pick a cantata for your first go!

As with my last cheater's guide, the focus is on frugal and easy ways you can learn new songs in your target language. Obviously, you could buy CDs and downloads and learn them that way, but I'm going on the assumption that we're not made of money, dang it. In a still later post, I hope to compile some inexpensive resources for owning or renting language books, films, and songs. But for this post (and my future non-cheater guide to bilingual songs), I'm going to encourage you to make your own music!

Here are some simple songs I thought of. You probably can think of some of your own, which you can feel free to share in the comments!

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

This children's action song has already been translated into umpteen languages, so your work is probably done for you. Just do a Google search for the title and your target language. The comments on this Mama Lisa's World Blog post should get you started, and there's helpfully an mp3 to remind you of the melody.

If you can't find your language online, it's easy enough to translate the body parts and figure out something that will fit. Some people will rearrange the lyrics to fit the meter better or switch "toes" to "feet" or similar. I'm fine with this. I'm not a purist when it comes to "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes." Use what works for you and your language!

The best part of this song is the motions! Urge your kidlet to stand up and point to each body part as you name it, and you'll be reinforcing your target language through kinetics.

Are You Sleeping?

If you're anything like me, you might have already grown up knowing "Frère Jacques" in French, even if you otherwise don't speak French! We were singing it as a round on a car trip once, and my dad (also no Francophone) forgot the line "Sonnez les matines!" and hastily improvised "Someone ate the pizza," finishing it up with a flourish of "Was it you? Was it you?" See, there are no mistakes in language learning. Only opportunities for family jokes to last a lifetime.

Take a gander at this astonishing list of language versions of "Frère Jacques" from Wikipedia. If you can't find your target language on that list, let me know so I can be agog.

The bonus fun of this song is that it can be sung in a round. The first person or group sings "Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?" (in whatever language), and when the first group starts the line "Brother John," the second group starts in on "Are you sleeping?" Even just one parent and one kid can successfully sing a round, but it's even more fun in a bigger group. Don't let anyone tell you they can't sing a round. Here are some hilarious steps at eHow to get everyone's confidence level up (or ignore their protests).

This might be a good place to point out that children don't care if you can't sing. They won't know the difference, so enjoy yourself and the nuance that singing can bring to your language experience!

You can make this song truly multilingual by having your singers each choose a different language. This is a good way to include people in your family who don't speak the target language — let them pick a language they're comfortable with. I like to sing the German with Mikko while my husband handles the English (or, if he's feeling particularly saucy, the French!).

Elmo's Song

All right, bear with me here. "Elmo's Song" is one of those easy, repetitious songs with very few lyrics that would lend itself to on-the-go translation.

The lyrics are as follows:

This is the song
La la la la
Elmo's song.
La la la la,
La la la la,
Elmo's song.

La la la
La la la la, la
La la la
La la la la, la

He loves to sing,
La la la la,
Elmo's song.
La la la la,
La la la la,
Elmo's song.

He wrote the music.
He wrote the words.
That's Elmo's song.

What do you think? Could you knock that out in another language in a few minutes? I guess dealing with the possessives would be the only challenging part for some tongues, but I have faith in you. Feel free to get creative, and enjoy all those "la"s!

The fun part of this song is personalizing it with the names of everyone you know in place of "Elmo" on the repeats (with "I love the music, I love the words"). What kids don't love a song about them!

The Gummy Bear Song

You would be surprised at how many versions there are of this bizarre-o theme song on YouTube. Very surprised.

There are even more — go take a look if you need a different version!

Along the same theme, you can often find theme songs to children's shows (Sesame Street, Spongebob Squarepants, and even really old-school ones like "Pippi Langstrumpf") translated into your target language on YouTube. It's a treasure trove of mindlessness! You're welcome.

Where Is Thumbkin?

"Where Is Thumbkin?" is the odd song where the fingers come out from behind your back in order to greet each other and then run away again posthaste. (Are they embarrassed? Anxious? Antisocial? Did they make some terrible faux pas when they said "Very well, I thank you"? Maybe they realized the other finger wasn't a "sir" after all?) I think this would be another simple song to figure out in each language, as long as you know or can find out the names for each finger. If you scroll down, there's a suggestion for the German version on Infanaj Kantoj submitted by Sara Tsudome.

Stay tuned for the Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism and my future post on how to find authentic songs online to sing with your kid(s) in whatever language you prefer!

What songs do you like to sing with your children? Have you translated any into a different language? Give me more suggestions of cheater songs if you have 'em!

Hey, speaking of carnivals — did you know the June Carnival of Natural Parenting submissions are due Tuesday night? Yes, this Tuesday night, June 1. This month we're taking it outside … to play! Details here.

Yes, that's Mikko rockin' the mic and keyboard simultaneously
at twelve months. What can I say? We have a prodigy that
would make Mozart poo his pants. Well, ok, yes, technically
he was licking the microphone instead of singing. So what.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Giveaway of nursing necklace & children's book at Hobo Mama Reviews and twiddling tips!

Just letting you all know you have the opportunity to enter to win two wonderful prizes right now over at Hobo Mama Reviews:

Smart Mom Jewelry Teething Bling necklaceThe most recent is for a teething or breastfeeding necklace by Smart Mom Jewelry called Teething Bling, offered to you by the fabulous Stacy at the equally fabulous Posh Baby Boutique.

Hobo Mama Giveaway: Smart Mom Jewelry Teething Bling Necklace from Posh Baby Boutique {6.22}

The Smart Mom Teething Bling is an elegant pendant on a cord that looks just like a fashionable necklace — but the pendant is made of soft, baby-safe silicone for your little one to chew on, and the cord has a breakaway clasp if needed.

The necklace is intended as a way to soothe inflamed gums, but I think it would rock as a nursing necklace, don't you?

I wrote awhile ago about my struggles with Mikko and nipple twiddling:

Twiddling leads to a nursing necklace

And here's the necklace I made at that point to help with the problem:

My nursing necklace

Some mamas don't mind twiddling, but I find it really irritating and skin-crawling to have Mikko tweak and twist my free nipple while he eats from the other. My nipples are ultra-sensitive while breastfeeding, and I think part of my discomfort is psychological. Mikko's old enough now Mary Cassatt breastfeeding Mother and Child paintingto know it bothers me, which helps a lot, but if you're in the phase where it's bugging you but your baby is too young to compromise with you, a nursing necklace that's safe for your baby to play with (safe both for the baby and for the necklace!) can help give busy hands something to do.

The funny thing about twiddling is I totally understand that it's natural and serves a function. Twiddling stimulates milk production just as the baby's mouth would, so it's a way older babies get more efficient at eating quickly. If they get the other side primed and ready for them, the milk will flow more readily when they switch sides. For the baby, of course, it probably just feels good to fiddle. As you can see from the charming Mary Cassatt painting to the left, breastfeeding babies have always loved exploring their mothers' bodies in general!

I totally understand this, biologically and developmentally, and I don't blame Mikko for twiddling. But neither do I blame myself for not liking it. In fact, it's led to some interesting conversations with my two-year-old about how my breasts are part of my body. If you don't mind twiddling, just stick with that. But if it does bother you, here are a few strategies to help:

  1. Keep your other breast covered by clothing when you're breastfeeding. Fasten back up your bra on that side, or pull down or up your shirt to make it more challenging for your baby to find the nipple. You might find it doesn't feel so sensitive and tickly from the outside if she still wants to play over the clothing.
  2. Try deep relaxation, meditation, or hypnosis techniques if you know them to see if you can come to terms psychologically with the twiddling.
  3. Gently remove your baby's hand as often as needed. You might have to hold it in place away from the nipple.
  4. Cover your free nipple with the palm of your hand as an additional block.
  5. Talk to your baby about why you don't want him to touch you in that way. Even if he's young, it will get you into the habit of explaining in a calm and reasonable way. Try to use nonjudgmental language. Many mamas find it helpful to say something like, "It's too ticklish for mama to be touched that way" or "Mouth only, please!" rather than language that blames the baby or implies that it physically hurts you if it only makes you uncomfortable.
  6. Try to train your baby to touch you in a way you find comfortable. Some mothers don't mind a flat hand on the breast, so you can try gently flattening out your baby's palm while talking about and demonstrating what you want. You might redirect the hand to touch the side of the breast or your hair or clothing.
  7. Keep in mind that your baby has an innate drive to twiddle. She's not doing it to annoy you.
  8. Tandem nurse! :) That way, there's never a free breast!
  9. Use a toy, safe jewelry, or other tempting goody to distract that wandering hand. This is where a nursing necklace can be so helpful!

Here are some other takes on twiddling:
  • Breastfeeding Moms Unite! includes nursery rhymes she made up about twiddling. How fun is that!
  • Code Name: Mama shares the funniest unorthodox toddler use of a nipple ever.
  • Stand and Deliver posts a sweet video showing nipple twiddling in action, with moms smiling about it! See, not everyone minds.
  • gives a general rundown on how to promote good nursing manners.

Smart Mom Jewelry Teething Bling blue camo heart necklaceWhether it's twiddling or teething or just plain distraction, there'll come a time when a lovely necklace like the Smart Mom Teething Bling will be just what you want around your neck! I think it would also make a unique and treasured baby shower gift, as a way to support a mama who intends to breastfeed and give her a way to still feel stylish in those frumpy-feeling postpartum days.

Posh Baby ClothesPosh Baby Boutique has lots of other lovely items, from adorable onesies to fluffy tutus, and you can follow Stacy on Posh Trendy Blog as well.

Enter to win the Smart Mom Jewelry Teething Bling pendant-and-cord necklace by June 22. This giveaway is open to USA and Canada (not just USA as originally noted, so if you're Canadian and had already given up on the contest, head back on over and rejoice).

steve ouch reads steampotvilleI also reviewed and am giving away a children's book by Steve Ouch called SteamPotVille. It's a book that puts the "Sure, you betcha" in "surreal." (I just made that up. Catchy, no?)

Hobo Mama Giveaway: SteamPotVille, by Steve Ouch — an imaginatively surreal children's picture book {6.17}

If you want a cross between Monty Python and Where's Waldo? (as some happy reviewers have described it!), head on over to enter by June 17! This giveaway is open to USA, Canada, and UK.

What have you done (or not done) about twiddling? And I'm taking an informal poll: Are you still able to wear tempting jewelry since becoming a parent?

Friday, May 28, 2010

The confusion of average vs. normal

Normal gas station sign

I wanted to do a short little (we'll see, won't we?) informative post today about the difference between the terms "average" and "normal," because I think they're confused a lot in our culture, even by those who theoretically should understand them due to their training (i.e., health professionals, who I believe take science and math classes to graduate, whereas I was an English major), as well as by parents who are either unjustifiably concerned about not meeting averages or unsuitably (but understandably) proud at beating them.

This article —

"Average age versus normal range," by Michael K. Meyerhoff

— originally published at Pediatrics for Parents, is what really helped me understand the differences between these two concepts, during those developmental phases that we as parents get antsiest.

An average (in terms of "mean") is a mathematical construct that takes data, (often) filters out the extreme outliers, adds up all the numbers that are left, and then divides the total by the number of items. We all know this, right? It's just when it gets put into practice that it gets murky.

bell curve graph of standard deviation and normal range
Bell curve showing normal distribution of data.
The average is the "mean score" in the middle.
Normal, on the other hand, is always a range, when referring to "normal distribution," the bell curve shape you would expect to find within a group of data. For instance, it might be normal for a baby to crawl (or scoot, as in Mikko's case!) between six months and ten months. The average time for a baby to crawl, then, might be eight months, but it is still normal for a baby to crawl starting at six months or not until ten months. Six months might be at the far left of the bell curve and ten months at the far right, but both are still within the expected range for crawling.

When I talked about "extreme outliers" in defining average, that's where you get abnormal. I don't really like the term "abnormal," because it sounds pejorative, but I hope you know that I mean by it simply outside the normal, expected distribution. As in, a baby who crawls at four months would be outside the norm and would be an early crawler. A baby who didn't crawl (or scoot or walk) until fourteen months would be a late crawler. Their age of crawling would not be normal and would fall outside the expected bell curve distribution. The babies themselves might still be perfectly healthy (more on that in a minute), or they might not, but it's only at that point that it bears looking into. Up until the end of the "normal" range (barring any other signs pointing toward developmental delays), it's perfectly reasonable for a parent to wait patiently for a child to "catch up" to the children who took a developmental step earlier (note I said "earlier," and not "early").

What I find frustrating is medical professionals and other experts who don't understand the difference between average and normal when it comes to diagnosing problems. For instance, the average length of a pregnancy (or so someone decided) is 40 weeks. The normal length of a pregnancy is 38 to 42 weeks. If a woman is a day past 40 weeks, she is not "overdue" or "late." She is normal. If she is two weeks past her "due date" (a term I wish outlawed), she is still not late! (Again, barring any indications of a problem. Being past the due date is not in itself a problem.)

You also see this with weight gain recommendations, both for pregnant women and for babies. A pregnant woman will gain five pounds one month and be warned off eating fat for the next month. She'll gain only two ounces the next month and be told to increase her fat intake. It's ludicrous. Averages don't work that way! An average is over time, over a large set of data. It doesn't mean that every month is going to exactly match the average. But health professionals (and those trusting them) get it into their heads that the "average" monthly weight gain of a healthy pregnant woman is also the magic number that must be met every month, and it simply isn't true.

There's another fallacy inherent in looking toward an average weight gain and applying that to every woman (or baby or child). No woman is average. I cannot emphasize this enough. An average is a mathematical construct, a calculated midpoint within a set of data. It is not a human being. No individual woman or man is average; no pregnancy weight gain is average; no baby's growth chart is average; no child's development is average. No one meets the average!

Let's take some real numbers as an example.

1 6 7 8 10 11 12 27

Play along with me and assume that we determine that 1 and 27 are outside of normal distribution, so we discard them. Now we're left with 6 7 8 10 11 12. We add them up: 54. We divide them by the number of numbers (6) and are left with our average (mean): 9.

Is 6 abnormal because it is not 9? No. It's true that 6 is lower than 9, but it is still within the range of normal. Is 12 too big because it is not 9? No, because it is still normal. Note, too, that 9 doesn't even exist! It is only a theoretical, mathematical construct. It is an average but not an item in itself. (Yes, I chose the numbers this way on purpose to make a point.)

Now, is 27 or 1 outside of normal? In this exercise, perhaps so. Maybe if 1 and 27 represent people with some potential health issue, they should get that looked at. But maybe they're fine, too, and if we had more data to go on it would help determine what the normal, expected distribution might be. Maybe 6-12 are simply occupying that widest part of the bell curve, but 1 and 27 are still within the narrow ends on either side.

You can see this play out in everyday life. For instance, the "average" woman's menstrual cycle is 28 days. Well, fine, but that doesn't mean that my average cycle is 28 days. Mine happens to be 29 days. I am still normal. AND, furthermore, my cycle ranges from 27 days to 34 days. You know what? All those cycles: still normal. Possibly very few of them are 29 days. But the average emerges over time, given enough data. I know that if my period doesn't magically appear after 29 days, that doesn't mean I'm pregnant. I just give it a few more days. If my period comes "early," on day 28, I just shrug and put in my DivaCup. It's all fine. I also don't get bent out of shape that my cycle isn't an average 28 days, because — say it with me — no one is average.

Now, again, this is where outliers come into play. If my cycle average was 23 days, I might in fact have a fertility problem due to a short luteal phase. If my cycles varied wildly, really wildly, from 23 days one month to 38 days the next, that might suggest a hormonal imbalance (or miscarriage or menopause). That's where averages help — averages can assist in setting a range for what "normal" might be, but they don't by themselves define normal.

And just another word about outliers. I want to repost my son's growth chart from when he was 10 months old. Talk about unaverage!

He wasn't even, strictly speaking, normal. You can see he's actually breaking the weight chart. But he was fine. He was healthy, and is healthy, and his growth slowed way down after that point and has remained at almost a plateau (which, again, is totally fine). (You can see more pictures of his chubbiness in development here.)

Mikko also talked and walked later than the average, but still within normal range. We weren't worried. We knew some people who were. He caught on just fine once he started, and proved our lack of worry correct. Now, if he still wasn't talking now at 2.75 years old, I probably would have gotten his hearing checked again or looked into other physical problems that might exist. But, even then, there are children who for whatever reason choose not to speak for longer than is "normal" and end up fine. It's one of those things where, if it's really worrying you, it's probably best to check, because there might be an undiagnosed hearing problem or similar. But if everything seems fine otherwise — it probably is. And, on the flip side, if your baby starts talking or walking "early" but still within the normal range, go ahead and brag — why not? But just know that it doesn't indicate anything about meeting future developmental milestones (or your prowess as a parent — but you already knew that, didn't you?).

My point is this: If your child is within the range of normal (or your weight, or your cycles, or times your child breastfeeds per day, or hours your kids sleep, or length of your pregnancy, or progression of your labor, or whatever it is), and you don't see any reason to be worried — and even if you're outside the range of normal but you believe you have good reason to be (for instance, we factored in that both Sam and I are taller than average — but still normal! — to our interpretation of Mikko's large size) — then don't sweat it if you're not hitting the average in every respect. No one does.

We're all normal that way.

I want to include a tiny disclaimer that I am not a health professional, and please don't take the word of a blogger as reason not to have any health concerns checked out by someone who's qualified. Just don't let anyone bully you into thinking average is the same as normal, because it isn't. So there. I'm only trying to empower all those who are within norms to stand up for their right not to be average. And I love all those of you outside the norms, too, because I'm there as well in various ways.

When have you been confronted with the confusion between average and normal? Has anyone told you that you or your children weren't normal when you knew everything was fine, thankyouverymuch?

"Normal" gas station photo courtesy jendo on stock.xchng.
Bell curve distribution chart snagged from University of
Kansas Medical Center
, and I hope they don't mind,
because it was the bestest one I could find.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Reusable shopping bag

boy in reusable shopping bag 1

boy in reusable shopping bag with father 2

boy in reusable shopping bag 3

Find sites to link up your Wordless Wednesday post
at my new super-cool collection of Wordless Wednesday linkies,
and let me know if you have one to add.
You can also link up a thumbnail from your post below!
Just enter your WW direct link, and then click to choose thumbnail from web
it will let you pick your WW picture that's already online. Easy peasy!
For name, if you want, you can enter your name or the title of your post
or a combination, like "Lauren @ Hobo Mama — My Wordless Wednesday title."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Instead vs. DivaCup for your menstrual cup needs

DivaCup menstrual cup in two box sizes Diva CupsInstead Softcup disposable menstrual cup with box

I am here to tell you that I am currently on the rag. Only it's not exactly a rag. I am, more specifically speaking, on the DivaCup.

I've seen plenty of reviews of DivaCup, Mooncup (UK based), and The Keeper (all reusable menstrual cup options) [ETA: also the Moon Cup from the makers of The Keeper and the Lunette] from those who were switching to a cup from pads or tampons. But I might be somewhat unusual in that I switched to the DivaCup from a disposable menstrual cup, the Instead Softcup.

I bought a DivaCup half a dozen or so cycles ago when I wanted a more sustainable option for my special monthly time. (Wait — I'm going for quaint euphemisms now? When all the squeamish hightailed it after that opening sentence about being on the rag?)

So, I had been using an Instead Softcup, which is the same basic idea, in the sense that it, too, is a collection cup rather than a tampon or pad.

Tampons and pads work, as you probably know by now (and if you don't, hello, little girls, and welcome to your future!), through absorbing the blood flow. Collection cups like the Instead (a disposable brand of cup) and the DivaCup, Moon Cup, and Keeper (other brands of reusable cups) work by catching the blood flow, which you then have to empty.

Many years ago, I found that I greatly preferred the cup method over pads (which gooped me up) or tampons (which dried me out). Any of these types of cups fits snugly inside your vagina and catches nearly 100% of the blood flow if inserted correctly (I sometimes have a little spotting leakage on the early heavy flow days, or as I'm withdrawing a full cup, but a pantiliner is generally sufficient to catch any overflow). However, cups do not catch your natural vaginal moisture — and this is a very good thing! There's no messiness of blood, but your usual moistness stays at its accustomed level. I always found, with tampons, that first of all, it was hard for me to find the appropriate absorbency that didn't wick blood down the string (the squeamish did hightail it, right?), and secondly, toward the end of my period, inserting and withdrawing tampons got downright ouchy as they sucked everything dry.

Another HUGE plus to all cups is that you can get away with emptying them about once every 12 hours, so twice a day. I empty mine morning and night, and that's that. Even at my heaviest flow, I haven't breached any yet. I did come close once, but only once!

(By the by, you're not supposed to use anything internal like a cup or tampon during those very heavy flows experienced during miscarriage or postpartum. I personally did end up using an Instead after many months of miscarriage bleeding, once the heaviest flow had died down, with no ill effects, but I'm not recommending it, just sayin'. I think postpartum, at least after a vaginal birth, a cup would be very uncomfortable and likely ineffective, given how your lady parts would all be knitting themselves back together and not be able to hold a cup very well.)

Menstrual cups also don't smell funky the way that pads can after several hours. My understanding is that the blood smells only once it's exposed to air and oxidizes, so there's nothing to sniff at until you're emptying the cup.

As with tampons, menstrual cups allow you freedom and flexibility to do your regular non-period routines, such as exercise and swimming, without worrying about bulky pads showing through your leotard (hey, it's happened to me!) or needing to hold up your dad and brothers on a trip to the beach but being too embarrassed to explain why you were taking so long in the bathroom trying to improvise something else out of toilet paper (hey, it's happened to me!).

For these reasons, I'm a big fan of menstrual cups. However, following are the reasons I chose Instead and then switched to the DivaCup.

The Instead Softcup

Instead Softcup disposable menstrual cup in a handI don't remember how I first heard about the Instead or decided to try it, but I did worry that it was a little gimmicky and weird. No one I knew used one or had even heard of it, but I was willing to be a pioneer. (I've since discovered that the DivaCup and its sisters were around long before the Instead, but I wasn't quite so crunchy then so we didn't hang in the same circles.)

The Instead is a disposable cup made of a shallow flexible polyethylene plastic bag attached to a firmer but still pliable ring. You pinch the ring flat and slide the cup up into your vaginal canal, ring side up. The ring suctions around your cervix, catching the flow that comes from your cervix. You don't feel it being all suctiony or anything, and I never had taking it out feel painful. You just hook a finger under the rim of the ring and pull it out, carefully, so as not to spill the contents. If there's any problem with removal, I found bearing down as if pushing out a baby (it was good practice!) helped get it on its way.

The Instead is meant to then be thrown away and a new one inserted. Later on, I heard people talk about reusing the Instead cup. It's not what the designer or manufacturer recommends by any means, so proceed at your own risk, but I was, once again, willing to trailblaze. So I started emptying the blood into the toilet or sink, rinsing mine out with clear water, and then popping it back in in lieu of tossing it in the trash. I did always throw it away at the end of a cycle, however. I did that for at least a couple years, I'd say, with no noticeable problems, such as infection or cup disintegration over the course of the cycle.

UPDATE 2015: The Instead Softcup people now do make an Evofem Reusable Softcup designed for what I said above: to be worn for an entire cycle and then disposed of. So it's still not AS reusable as a DivaCup or similar, but it's getting closer.

Here is the beauty of the Instead Softcup:

  • You can have sex with it in! I had to put that first, because it rocks my socks. By "sex" I mean, if you couldn't guess, vaginal intercourse. Because the collection bag hanging down is so flexible and light, it just pushes out of the way, and the ring is snug up high around the cervix, so it doesn't get in the way. Sam and I never had any problems with discomfort or blood spillage. It's non-messy period sex! Seriously, what a treat. Take that, Leviticus (kidding).
  • It's hard to know once you've been using something a whole long time if it's easy to put in because you're used to it or because it's easy to put in. But I'm going to go ahead and say the Instead Softcup is easy to put in. I don't remember any fiddling with it to find the proper position. I did have to discover which way was most comfortable for me to insert it (sitting on the toilet), but that was pretty easy, because that's also the way it was most comfortable for me to insert tampons (some women prefer standing with one leg bent and that foot resting on the toilet — I think it might depend on how your canal is tipped). The Instead Softcup is also very comfortable and unnoticeable once inserted.
  • As with all menstrual cup products, you can safely leave the Instead in for up to 12 hours. I do, even during my heavy flow days, and only one time did I come close to filling it. Usually, I'm not anywhere close. I'd say my flow is on the moderate to heavy side, but just kind of guessing there. There's no risk of toxic shock syndrome as with tampons, because it's not absorbing and therefore building up the type of bacteria that tampons can promote.
  • One size fits all with the Instead cup (as far as my experience goes), though some find it large. It's definitely wider than the DivaCup, but it expands up near your cervix where there's (in my experience, again) plenty of space for it.
  • All of the pros listed above for all menstrual cups: long wearing time, no smell, little ick, still comfortably moist, cost savings over time, undetectable and flexible.

Here are the cons of the Instead cup:

  • You can't use that "But I'm having my period, honey," excuse to call off sex. Just joking!
  • It's disposable and not as environmentally friendly. It's not as wasteful as disposable menstrual pads and tampons, because you use one only every 12 hours, or — if you want to go off-label with it as I did — one per cycle. I didn't personally push it further than that. For one, it seemed to get a little grubby toward the end, and I wasn't sure how to safely clean it other than with water. For another, the polyethylene bag is really so thin I wasn't sure how long it would hold up to repeated use. Now that I know more about BPA and leaching and so forth, I'd want to investigate that further, too, if I were still reusing it. The Instead uses more packaging than the DivaCup or similar since it's disposable; each Instead is wrapped in a little plastic bag (which I always saved to throw it away in), and the wrapped cups are packaged inside a pretty cute little box.
  • Because it's disposable, it costs more over time than the DivaCup, and it seems expensive compared to other disposable menstrual products as well. Now, again, you're using fewer per cycle, so it's not really, but the upfront outlay of cash is slightly higher, and it's harder to find sales and coupons.
  • In fact, because it's not as popular as pads and tampons, it's hard to find on the store shelves! As a tip: Try searching up really high.
  • As with all menstrual cup products, emptying it can be a little messy. I try to hold the menstrual cup (Instead or Diva) really level when withdrawing, then immediately tip and dump the most liquid parts into the toilet. I then do the best I can to slosh any stringy bits (did I mention squeamish people should no longer be reading?) back into the cup as I transfer it to the sink or tub for a quick rinse under cold water. If you're throwing the Instead away, you can catch it in a little toilet paper or the plastic bag it comes in. I figure there's no escaping the ick factor during your period. You either get it every 4-8 hours as with tampons, every time you go to the bathroom as with pads, or concentrated every 12 hours as with a cup. I prefer the last option, but it's up to your squick preference.
  • The materials are not eco-friendly. The polyethylene in the Instead creates pollution in its production (as per DivaCup but I have no reason to believe they're lying). Polyethylene is the same plastic used to make disposable grocery bags, which do not biodegrade and which we already know are a landfill nightmare.

The DivaCup

DivaCup menstrual cup with pink drawstring bagAs I said, I ended up switching to the DivaCup instead. The primary reason was how much more environmentally sustainable the DivaCup is than the Instead, even when reusing the Instead against instructions.

The DivaCup, instead of suctioning up around the cervix, suctions against the sides of the vaginal canal (same with The Keeper and Mooncup). You have to flatten it quite a bit to insert it, and then it's supposed to expand internally and catch any blood that flows down from the cervix.

Here is the loveliness of the DivaCup:

  • First of all, see above for the general pros of all reusable cups, like 12 hours between emptyings, a reduction in the goopiness and stinkiness of blood flow, no wicking of moisture as with tampons, ability to participate freely in activities like swimming and exercise, and cost savings over the long run versus the cost of disposable products.
  • The biggest plus of the DivaCup for me, and why I started using it in lieu of (almost wrote instead of) the Instead Softcup, is that it's almost unlimitedly reusable, which makes it a much more sustainable option. Technically, even the DivaCup is suggested to be disposed of after a year, as per FDA recommendations and DivaCup's expertise. However, in the real world, most women use theirs for years and years without a hitch. This is one of those "It's up to you" situations.
  • The material (silicone) and minimal packaging of the DivaCup are much more eco-friendly as well. If you prefer a different material, The Keeper is made of latex gum rubber; however, my understanding is that more people (a small percentage overall) are sensitive to latex than to healthcare-grade silicone, which makes up both the DivaCup and the Mooncup. As far as comparisons to disposable pads and tampons go, the Diva Cup is light years ahead in terms of sustainability and health, since disposable products contain or produce ingredients that can be harmful to the earth and your body such as plastics, adhesives, bleach, and dioxin. In contrast, silicone is BPA-free, phthalate-free, plastic-free, latex-free, and healthcare-grade. I can't find a lot of information about silicone's production or biodegradability, so others can chime in if they like, but what I have found seems generally benign (see especially the Frequently Asked Questions PDF link). The DivaCup and its materials and accessories (such as the DivaWash) are not tested on animals.

Here are the downsides of the DivaCup:

  • The DivaCup and its reusable sisters all have to be sized to fit based on age and experience of vaginal childbirth, so each brand has one (smaller) size for women who have not given birth vaginally or younger users, and one (larger) size for post-vaginal childbirth or women over 30. (And this is a perfect time for a reminder, ladies: Do your kegels!) If the version you get isn't comfortable or doesn't work properly, perhaps you need the other size. This isn't a huge downside; I bought the post-childbirth model (being over 30 and a vaginal birther gave me two checks on that list!) and had no problems with the fit. But, clearly, there is some risk in shelling out $30 for an item you can't exactly "try on" and then return if it doesn't fit. Read the descriptions carefully, because each brand of reusable cup has its own sizing markers (for instance, Size B of the Mooncup is smaller, but Model 1 of the DivaCup is smaller, so make sure you get the right one for you).
  • Beyond just the sizing, I found that quite a lot of fiddling was necessary to make the DivaCup comfortable when inserted. Now, again, I could shell out $30 more a pop and try out the competition (The Keeper or Mooncup), but I'm frugal (read: cheap) and was determined to make the DivaCup work. I had to look online for alternate folding techniques with pictures, read on message boards about tips and tricks, learn to trim down the stem, and just generally fiddle around until it finally felt right. It took several cycles to get it down, with one cycle being fine and then the next being uncomfortable, and then back to fine. I've gotten the feel for it now, though, and know some techniques I can use immediately if I start feeling uncomfortable again. But, seriously, I can't emphasize enough that there is a learning curve with this thing, so you have to give it time.
          I think why it's so much more complicated than the Instead cup is that instead of sitting right under your cervix, it really has to suction to your vagina on the sides. This means you have to flatten it to get it in there in the first place, then insert it while simultaneously spinning it to encourage it to expand, and then push it around some more until it's comfy. It sounds complicated to explain, and it really is just as complicated to do the first several times, at least (well, for me, anyway!).
          When emptying, you have to gently break the suction on the side with a finger so it doesn't hurt to pull it out (if it hurts, stop and break the suction some more!), and then when rinsing, you have to make sure the little holes under the rim are clear or the suction will be affected. The holes tend to get nice and clogged with blood bits, so I sort of fold that part of the cup while rinsing to pop them out. You can also create a vacuum against your palm, I've heard.
          If you feel like you constantly have to pee (or have a urinary tract infection) when it's in, it's likely because it's pressing on your urethra and needs to be spun to a different direction.
          I also had a problem one cycle where it kept slipping down while I was walking and feeling like it was going to fall out. Try adjusting your internal menstrual cup while walking on a busy path! I still don't know what was going on that time, but I eventually got it back in solidly. It really doesn't sit up all that high even when inserted correctly.
          If you feel a pinching or poking from the stem, trim it down. (You're not supposed to use the stem to pull on, anyway, which makes me wonder why it's there in the first place.) I also sanded mine off a bit with an emery board to make sure it wasn't sharp after being cut.
          I know this sounds like the DivaCup is a whole heck of a lot of work, and — well, it kinda is at first. I think you just have to commit to it (the $30 helps!) and resolve that you will find a way to be comfortable. I did, and now I can't feel that it's in at all. It still feels fiddlier to me to insert than the Instead did, but I've gotten the hang of it and don't have to overthink it every time now.
  • The DivaCup is dandy to travel with (it even comes with a cute little drawstring bag that my two-year-old son lurves!), but emptying it is easiest done at home or in an otherwise comfortable environment like your own hotel bathroom, because of the need to rinse it before reinserting. DivaCup does say you can dump the blood as best you can and reinsert without rinsing if necessary, but so far I've just timed my insertions to be when I'm in a private room with clean running water.
  • Because it's reusable, you're supposed to clean it in between cycles and before storing. Fortunately, washing it is easy. I use just water during my cycle, and then water plus a mild soap after the cycle is over. There's a special DivaWash you can buy that promises to be safe and gentle for the silicone over time, though I haven't bought that. You're not supposed to use anything at all harsh, such as bleach, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil, putting it in the dishwasher, etc. The only thing you are supposed to do is boil it for twenty minutes. Yup, boil it. With just plain water. I put this in the cons category, but it could go in the neutral or positive since it's relatively easy to care for your cup and doesn't require anything fancy or expensive. I chose cons, just because I personally always have to try to find a clean pot to boil it in and then sigh because there never is one and then wash a pot and then try to remember that I have a cup boiling without letting it boil down or over, and I tend to put it off till right as my next cycle is starting but then have to let it cool off before I can use it. But that's just me.
  • I think because I don't insert it before the blood flow but after it's started, I have slightly more leakage in the early days with the DivaCup than I did with Instead. It can still be handled by a pantiliner or light pad, but I think the problem is there's already blood in my vagina that comes out past the DivaCup. I'll have to experiment next cycle with really getting it in before the first gush (which means doing the boiling early!). I do appreciate Lunapads' and Arwyn of Raising My Boychick's suggestion of wearing bright red or, in my case, hot pink undies to hide any stains, and I can see just undies working after the first day or so.
  • You have to remove it if you want to have sexual intercourse. Sigh.

My conclusions: Could you make a hybrid, please?

As you might have guessed, I love the environmental friendliness of the DivaCup, enough so that I've switched permanently from the Instead Softcup. But I really loved the ease of use of the Instead and — say it with me! — the fact you could have sex with it in. (I asked Sam, and that was his favorite aspect, too.)

In my ideal world, Instead would get its act together and create a reusable, eco-friendly version (I actually asked them via Twitter and they said they're considering it!), or DivaCup would reimagine a silicone version based on the Instead design. I don't know if it's possible. The little bag hanging down in the Instead is very thin, so maybe a silicone version would be too thick to be practical. Then again, diaphragms! Aren't diaphragms similar? And you can have sex with them in — that's the whole point! (Again with the sex, I know. One-track mind.) So I think it's got to be possible to engineer a marvelous combination of the two, just for me. And Sam. I would so buy it.

Till then, I'm sticking with my DivaCup, now I've got it all nice and figured out.

Stay tuned for another review in this series on reusable menstrual products. Rachel of Rachel's Ramblings is bringing us a guest post on cloth menstrual pad options. I really need to get my game on in terms of cloth pads and pantiliners, so I welcome her expertise! (And any product reviews companies want to throw my way, hint, Lunapads, cough.)

Green Your Period. logo for Hobo Mama

Disclosure: I was not contacted or compensated by 
DivaCup or Instead Softcup for this review. 
I purchased these products with my own sweet plastic 
and just wanted to offer my views.
Amazon links are affiliate links to help 

keep me in reusable cups until menopause.
See my full disclosure policy here.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Calling for submissions for the June Carnival of Natural Parenting!

We continue to be delighted with the advice and stories our Carnival of Natural Parenting participants share, and we hope you'll join us for the next carnival in June! (Check out January, February, March, April, and May if you missed them.) Your co-hosts are Lauren at Hobo Mama and Dionna at Code Name: Mama.

toddler walking on a wet beach toward the ocean for June Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Outdoor funHere are the submission details for June 2010:

Theme: Outdoor fun: What are your favorite ways to play outside with your kids? The summer sun is rising on us here in the northern hemisphere, and we're eager to take advantage of it. Give us one or more ideas for enjoyable outdoor activities for whatever season or weather you wish.

Deadline: Tuesday, June 1. Fill out the webform (at the link or at the bottom) and email your submission to us by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time: mail {at} and CodeNameMama {at}

Carnival date: Tuesday, June 8. Before you post, we will send you an email with a little blurb in html to paste into your submission that will introduce the carnival. You will publish your post on June 8 and email us the link if you haven't done so already. Once everyone's posts are published on June 8 by noon Eastern time, we will send out a finalized list of all the participants' links, to generate lots of link love for your site! We'll include full instructions in the email we send before the posting date.

Please submit your details into our web form: This will help us as we compile the links list. Please enter your information on the form embedded at the end of this post, or click here to enter it on a separate page: June Carnival of Natural Parenting participant form

Please do: Write well. Write on topic. Write a brand new post for the carnival. As always, our carnival themes aren't meant to be exclusionary. If your experience doesn't perfectly mesh with the carnival theme, please lend your own perspective. Please also feel free to be creative within the gentle confines of the carnival structure. If you're feeling so inspired, you could write a poem, a photo essay, a scholarly article, or a book review instead of a regular blog post (though those are welcomed, too!), as long as what you write is respectful of the carnival's intent. If you want help determining that ahead of time, please talk with us.

Please don't: Please don't use profanity of the sort that might be offensive to more sensitive readers or their children. Please don't submit irrelevant or argumentative pieces contrary to the principles of natural parenting. You don't have to agree with all our ideals — and certainly you don't have to live up to them all perfectly! — but your submission does have to fit the theme and values of the carnival.

Editors' rights: We reserve the right to edit your piece or suggest edits to you. We reserve the right to courteously reject any submissions that are inappropriate for the carnival. Please also note that since there are two co-hosts on different schedules and conferring over email, our personal response to your submission might seem delayed. Don't be alarmed. We also reserve the right to impose consequences if the responsibilities of the carnival are not fulfilled by the participants.

If you don't have a blog: Contact us (mail {at} and CodeNameMama {at} about potentially finding you a host blog to guest post. Please write your piece well in advance of the deadline in that case, so we can match you up with someone suitable. But if you really have something amazing to write — why not start your own blog? If you want advice, we find Scribbit's free Blogging in Pink ebook to be a very helpful and down-to-earth guide, for beginners on up.

If you have questions: Please leave a comment or contact us: mail {at} and CodeNameMama {at}

Links to tutorials: Lauren and Dionna have written several tutorials for our participants about how to schedule posts in advance, how to determine post URLs in advance, how to edit HTML — all for both Wordpress and Blogger users. For these tutorials and more, please see this handy summary post at

Stay in touch:

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaShow off: If you are a (former or current) participant or supporter and want our delightful button to put in your sidebar, grab this code and proclaim to the blogosphere that you are a natural parent!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Babies, the movie: A review in four cultures

Babies by Thomas Balmes -- Ponijao Namibia cute smile

While Grandma was visiting, Sam and I went on a date (squeal!). A real, live date, to a movie theater. With greasy popcorn, and hand holding.

On that date, we saw Iron Man 2. (Good popcorn movie, no?)

But a few days later, while Mikko was in school, we went all-out extravagant and saw a second movie in a theater: Babies. We got popcorn again (hey, movies are a rare treat since a certain little event almost three years ago called Giving Birth to a Squaller) with Kernel Season's white cheddar topping (not joking about the name, and which I highly recommend — yum! — and need to get hold of pronto). There was not as much hand-holding, primarily because Sam's mom accompanied us. But, hey, it's all good! We got to see Babies.

I had been looking forward to this movie since first hearing teasers about it on various crunchy blogs. We put the release date on the calendar so we wouldn't forget to catch it when it came out. And then I waited, and waited.

Ah, but it was worth it!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Boys' day out

father and son photo strip from photo booth

Find sites to link up your Wordless Wednesday post
at my new super-cool collection of Wordless Wednesday linkies,
and let me know if you have one to add.
You can also link up a thumbnail from your post below!
Just enter your WW direct link, and then click to choose thumbnail from web
it will let you pick your WW picture that's already online. Easy peasy!
For name, if you want, you can enter your name or the title of your post
or a combination, like "Lauren @ Hobo Mama — My Wordless Wednesday title."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recent posts not around these parts: FeedBurner tips, prizes, and seeking sponsors

I feel like an absentee blogger. My mother-in-law was in town for two weeks (yes, even during the May Carnival of Natural Parenting), and I felt like I kind of kept up for awhile and then just got further and further behind.

Then, this past weekend, Mikko decided (all right, perhaps it wasn't a conscious choice) to get sick. He went from being overly wound-up and pinging off walls from the overstimulation of a Grandma visit to being a complete lump, devoid of emotion or the ability to communicate in ways other than grunting. When he has a fever, he's glued to my lap, and all he wants to do is nurse and drowse. Which is fine, and he's feeling better now, but it wasn't conducive to typing.

This is gearing up for a big justification. Can you feel it?

I was planning on doing this great link round-up post … ummm … like, two days ago. For the sake of getting something, anything up, I will tell you what I personally have been putting up elsewhere, and I'll save my link love for everyone else for yet another day.

Paige from The Baby Dust Diaries was kind enough to write me a guest post (actually, a series!) on taking us step-by-step through setting up a FeedBurner feed for your blog:

How To Use FeedBurner To Maximize Your Blog — Part 1: The Basics

Part 1 will make sure your users have an easy and seamless experience in subscribing to your blog on Blogger, TypePad, or WordPress.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will teach some fancy advanced moves (including tips I didn't know!).

I was able to congratulate a couple winners at Hobo Mama Reviews, which is always a blast:

I'm only sorry not everyone can win!

You might have noticed there's some weirdness going on with the Simplisse experience. You can read my summary of the situation so far there. I'm still waiting to hear back from the company, and I expect to write a follow-up shortly.

In happier news, I have a new fun giveaway up!

SteamPotVille by Steve Ouch children's book

SteamPotVille, by Steve Ouch — an imaginatively surreal children's picture book {6.17}

If you want something different and unique in children's books, check out samples of the phenomenal photography collages in SteamPotVille. Then enter to win your own copy! All it takes is one little comment, and there are plenty of bonus entries available for the overachiever types (like me, like me!). Contest is open to U.S., Canada, and England. (Pretty good, no?)

Please enter and promote this book by a local (to me!) author and ultra-creative artist.

By the way, I'm looking for a few giveaway sponsors in two categories. See the full details on Hobo Mama Reviews, or email me if you're interested in participating or know of a company or product: mail {at} Thanks!

  • A quick-turnaround giveaway for right now: I'd like to get one more giveaway up during the run of the current giveaway, so it needs to be tout de suite. It could be for a product I've already used and liked, or it could be for something that a person I trust vouches is fabulous (like a cloth diaper or maternity wear). Do you have such a product you would like to give away and receive bountiful (yes, I said it! Bountiful!) promotion of your company in return?
  • Travel-related giveaways for the fall: We are taking our first plane ride in over two years this summer. I'm nervous about how our (then) 3-year-old will do, so I'm looking forward to bringing along some travel products baby sleeping in mei tai carrier in the airportthat might help smooth our way. I would then like to do a giveaway event in anticipation of the holiday travel season of the products that made our trip easier. I'd prefer companies and products that are natural, handmade, or otherwise unique. In all cases, they must support our natural parenting. To see all my ideas, click on over to Hobo Mama Reviews and see if you have anything that matches or that you would add.

I also would love to line up a few guest posts on traveling with kids. If you have tips on packing light, tried-and-true ways to amuse children on long flights, distractions to keep siblings from tussling in the back seat on road trips, recommendations of travel products, how to get along with relatives who have different opinions on parenting, or philosophical musings on the easy parts and hard parts of travel when you're breastfeeding, cosleeping, and practicing EC or cloth diapering — send them my way! These don't need to be written till the fall, but you're welcome to sign up for a topic now or even send the article along for me to hold on to: mail {at} Because, obviously, I could use the tips now. Thanks in advance!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Breastmilk as an acne treatment

cluster of acne pimples on a face

All right, I've been suffering for the last two weeks in silence … and all for science.

I've been trying to use breastmilk (my own, squirtable white gold) to combat my adult acne.

Want some background? Sure, let's delve in.

My skin is pretty much the thing I hate most about me. To be specific, the skin on my face. Yes, the face everyone sees. The one I can't, culturally speaking, get away with hiding. (Come on, why have veils gone out of fashion?) It's kind of (excruciatingly) annoying.

Some people think of acne as a teenage thing. Because, for most men and for some women, it is. Men tend to outgrow acne by their early twenties, but for adult women who suffer from acne, women's acne is so hormonally based that it continues on … sometimes till menopause. Joy!

I have gone through almost all the systemic and topical treatments for acne that are out there, and then for several years I settled on the Regimen outlined at and explained in this old post of mine. Basically, it's using consistent and ample applications of a low-percentage benzoyl peroxide. I still support that treatment option because (1) it's cheap, (2) it's considered safe, even for pregnant or breastfeeding women (as far as the available research goes), (3) it's easily procured, and (4) it works.

That said, a year or so ago, I came across a different treatment plan that was supposed to be better for my skin, particularly as I aged. Seeing as I am, oh so hastily, aging, I decided to give it a go. It worked as well as the benzoyl peroxide — not better, but just as well, and I was hoping it was helping protect my skin a bit from aging. I can't decide whether or not to link to the plan or explain it, just because maybe it will muddy the waters (it's more expensive, harder to obtain, not natural, etc.). You can let me know, though, if you're interested. But in short, it involves an acid exfoliator (BHA) along with a product that encourages the dead skin cells to turn over faster (a retinol). Whereas benzoyl peroxide works by suffocating the bacteria that cause acne, this other treatment works by unclogging pores and keeping the skin cells regenerating. Adult acne sufferers, as I understand it, have sluggish skin in that respect.

So, OK, all was well and good until several months ago … I became Elephant Man. To be more precise, I started looking like a burn victim. I don't know if it was the winter dryness, my aging (there it is again!) skin, or just a delayed reaction, but suddenly my completely not sensitive skin started peeling, flaking, and turning raw and bright red. I backed off the medications slightly in response, which meant now I had raw, red, peeling skin — and fresh pimples. Hooray!

Clearly, I needed to try something else. I was torn. Did I go back to my old standby, benzoyl peroxide, which had been waiting so patiently for me shoved in the back of my toiletry stash? What I most hated about benzoyl peroxide was its ability to bleach every piece of fabric within a five-block radius. I put up with it (the splotchy bedclothes, the shirts with rings of white around the collar) when it was all I had, but now I'd been bleach-free for over a year and I really kinda liked it.

I thought I'd take this opportunity, instead, to get funky. Natural funky. I first tried the Oil Cleansing Method. I could write more about that another day, because I actually do like it for the cleansing, but it wasn't enough to keep me from breaking out. Now that I'd stopped all medicine, the pimples were popping up here and there, so every few days to a week I would try just a wee bit of my BHA/retinol treatment to see if I could tolerate it — but, no. Immediately, raw, red, flaking skin, even though it did help hold some of the worst zits at baby.

Then I saw this splashed all over the news:

Face cream 'made from breast milk
could cure teenage acne', study claims

Long ago, I'd heard about using plain old breastmilk on acne through other bloggers, but it was back in my satisfactory treatment days, and I didn't want to go off something that was working effectively to possibly mess up my skin by, you know, just dabbing breastmilk on it.

But, in many ways, it seemed to make sense. Breastmilk has lauric acid, which should help exfoliate. It also has antibacterial properties, which should help inoculate the pests causing the acne. Two birds with one squirt, no?

So, two weeks ago, I'd finally given up on using any of my former harsh medicines but was still torn about going back on the BP, so I thought: Oh, why the heck not? I'll give this breastmilk-as-acne-treatment thing the old college try!

Now, the study referenced in the papers uses a lauric acid-based cream. Lauric acid is also found in coconut oil. So I'm not clear how much breastmilk has found its way into to the bottled product, and human trials are only just beginning. I can't find much information about it other than the same recycled sound bites that are in every paper.

And I don't, alas, have the gold nanoparticle delivery system (swanky!) mentioned in the study, but I do have two boobs and (for now) an ample supply of breastmilk. So I started expressing a little in my palm each morning and night and dab-dab-dabbing it onto my face. I've tried to use a lot, in the interests of science. And I've tried to make sure I use it twice a day, approximately twelve hours apart, just like a real topical medicine.

And I committed to trying this treatment out for a full six weeks, which in my experience was always cited as the minimum time for testing if any particular acne treatment worked.

I resolved to use my breastmilk regimen faithfully and no matter what happened report back to you, my readers, as to the results of the experiment.

Only, it's two weeks in, and I'm wondering if you could spring me early.

Here are my updates so far. Pretend you're reading my little acne-fighter's journal.

Beginning of Week 1:

Putting the breastmilk on is a little tricky because of how runny it is, but I think I'm putting on ample amounts. I know something's working, because my skin is a little tight and flaky from the acid in the milk. It's not bad enough to really irritate me, though.

I'm enjoying having such an easy face-care routine. I don't have to get out any special tubes or do any prep work. I'm not even washing my face except with water, to make sure I'm not tampering with the results in any way — this should be all about the effects of the breastmilk and only the breastmilk.

End of Week 1:

I am starting to break out. I have about four big pimples on my chin (the worst patch of skin on my face), and my forehead is getting tiny bumps. I can feel more large zits sprouting beneath the surface in various places. My shoulders and chest are breaking out again, too, so I've been patting breastmilk there as well.

I'm finding breastmilk slightly drying on my face. It continues to feel tight after I apply it, making me wonder about the recommendations to use breastmilk on cracked nipples. I know body skin is generally not as sensitive as facial skin, so maybe it's fine. But I should remember to tell women who are experiencing extremely cracked nipples to go with something more moisturizing or moisture-sealing, like lanolin.

I'm wondering if I can commit to this for a full six weeks if my face gets worse. So far, it's manageable with makeup and a healthy sense of I'm-doing-this-for-science-dang-it. But the thing is, no one in real life
knows I'm doing it for science, and my mother-in-law's visiting and taking lots of pictures. We'll see.

End of Week 2:

Holy zit face, Batman. It's terrible. I'm 34 going on 14, and not in a good way.

I've got five zits on my chin that are demanding their own zip codes and cell phone towers, plus smaller pimples sprawling in the outskirts of the metropolises; I'm sprouting nice red dots on my forehead that my bangs don't hide (stupid, pointless bangs! do your job!); and my forehead and cheeks are all over bumps, giving me a look like textured wallpaper when the light hits from certain angles.

Not only that, but I leaned in close to the mirror (never a good idea, my friends), and discovered that I have so! many! blackheads! I squeezed a few out, just to make myself feel better, but the rest are stubborn and staying put.

I'm thinking about a few things:
  1. I have not outgrown acne, as I keep hoping against hope.
  2. Zits really hurt. My chin is so tender, and matters are not improved any by Mikko's tendency to poke at all the fascinating pus-filled spots.
  3. Makeup can do only so much when 3-D deformities are involved.
  4. We're supposed to take some formal family portraits this week with Grandma. I will definitely be sitting that out.
  5. Breastmilk, as with the oil cleansing method, might work fine on its own for mild to moderate acne sufferers. Clearly my acne is still severe, despite my having kept it tamped down a bit the past several years (leading me, off and on, to the false hope that maybe I'd outgrown it).
  6. I don't know how much more my self-esteem can take.

So I put it to you, my lovely readers. Would you keep up the trial for the full six weeks, in case the acne I have right now is residual acne from my previous treatment cessation and not related to the breastmilk at all? (It's possible, but it's not looking good, you know? Literally.) Even if you wouldn't subject yourself to such an indignity, would you like me to continue, in the interests of scientific discovery? Do you think I should try to find a different test subject with milder acne, so we can give this a proper go? (Any volunteers?)

I don't think I can go on without a clamoring of support. But if you want to use your powers of support to tell me to stop already, I can live with that, too.

Please vote in my super-special poll as to whether I should continue, yes or no. I decided to keep the poll simple. You can add nuance in the comments if you like.

Thank you! My beleaguered face and I await your consensus.

Photo courtesy Caitlinator on flickr (cc).
No, my face does not look that good, and no,
I'm not interested in posting a photo to prove it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Nice to see a man help around the house

toddler wearing big purple dish glove

toddler cleaning wearing big dish gloves

toddler scrubbing table with sponge

Entirely unrelated, but just a reminder (yes, I'm too lazy to do a whole separate post): Today's the last day to enter to win a Melissa & Doug wooden puzzle from Gummy Lump Toys at Hobo Mama Reviews. If you win, you'll get to pick a puzzle that suits your little puzzler. All you have to do is pop over and leave a comment with your choice of puzzle.

Find sites to link up your Wordless Wednesday post
at my new super-cool collection of Wordless Wednesday linkies,
and let me know if you have one to add.
You can also link up a thumbnail from your post below!
Just enter your WW direct link, and then click to choose thumbnail from web
it will let you pick your WW picture that's already online. Easy peasy!
For name, if you want, you can enter your name or the title of your post
or a combination, like "Lauren @ Hobo Mama — My Wordless Wednesday title."