Blog

Breastfeeding Beyond Six Months

A CANDID CONVERSATION WITH LACTATION CONSULTANT, KRYSTAL KEY, IBCLC, OF KEY LACTATION IN PORTLAND, OR.

Key Lactation
image borrowed with permission, keylactation.com

This might be the post I am most proud of – because I got to interview my lactation consultant, Krystal Key, IBCLC, who saved my breastfeeding life.  Like many new mothers, breastfeeding did not start off on an easy path for me.  Well, I guess it started off kind of easy – I pre-produced colostrum about two-thirds into my pregnancy and had an abundant milk supply after my son was born.  I recognize that I was very lucky for this because so many mothers struggle with milk supply.

The problems for me came soon after I brought baby home – from painful vasospasms (it was cold in January and my body was still recovering from major surgery, which can keep the body cold, according to Chinese Medicine – thus the nipple stays cold and the tiny ducts can be excruciatingly painful); to thrush (a yeast infection in baby’s mouth and, thus, mama’s nipple, which is also excruciatingly painful and takes a long time to kill off the yeasts that are literally everywhere in our environment – this is a common issue for mamas/babies of C-sections because of the antibiotics); to engorgement  – needless to say it took months before nursing was pain-free.  I swore I was finished with breastfeeding until my doula introduced me to Krystal.

The lactation “consultants” provided by the hospital totally failed me.   Krystal saved my breastfeeding life.  She came to my home and helped me heal from the various issues and pains I was dealing with, and then she helped improve our latch so that we were soon onto smooth sailing.  I haven’t looked back!  Krystal is, to me, a medicine woman healer, a boob shaman, and an invaluable resource for all things regarding breastfeeding health and wellness.

Every woman’s decision to nurse or not to nurse is a personal one.   Most communities lack the kind of expertise and services Key Lactation offers.  I’m lucky to live in progressive Portland for the outstanding women’s healthcare available – and that really extends beyond traditional medicine where a team approach of service providers make for the healthiest experiences, especially for new moms.

While breastfeeding is a personal choice, there’s so much evidence based research supporting healthy breastfeeding practices and the benefits for both baby and mama.  Right now, as we are in the midst of a worrisome pandemic, I nervously researched the safety of breastfeeding.

The La Leche League International offered a helpful resourse for nursing mothers regarding Coronavirus.  It’s amazing to me how breastmilk of an infected mother will naturally produce “specific secretory IgA antibodies and many other critical immune factors in their milk to protect their nursing infants and enhance their infants’ own immune responses… at this time, these immunologic factors will aid their infants’ bodies to respond more effectively to exposure and infection.”

I actually interviewed Krystal several weeks ago, before the coronavirus outbreak.  My questions were geared towards nursing beyond six months – where mothers offer breastmilk not just for nutrition, with solid food becoming increasingly important to supplying your infant’s nutritional needs, but also for comfort and for supporting a healthy immune system.  We didn’t talk in depth about the latter, but I know where Krystal stands regarding breastmilk as medicine (and preventative medicine) for your baby.

Krystal is a fair and balanced lactation consultant and cares for the individual mama without judgement.  There’s no room for judgement with motherhood!  I encourage pregnant or nursing moms to reach out to her at any point of the lactation journey.  She truly is a miracle worker!  Here’s some of her incredible wisdom regarding nursing older babies.

 

Interview with Krystal Key, IBCLC, Key Lactation, LLC:

Leah: 
You know, many mothers feel guilty for breastfeeding their baby for comfort or as they drift off to sleep. So we’re looking at nursing, not newborns, but nursing beyond six months. And so just nutritional nursing, but now there’s also comfort nursing, other reasons for nursing. So what do you think about that?

Krystal:
For someone worried about going against their natural instincts in that way.
If comforting your child through nursing makes sense to you, I think that it’s a good thing. And part of where we come at it as a society is (A) we’re definitely a society that is uncomfortable with breasts outside of the context of sexuality. So the idea of letting our children to use the breast for comfort. That’s seems Really, really out there to some people. You know, we don’t talk about it as a society, we just don’t see it as normal yet. The other thing is, it is really actually very, very important to get off the bottle by around this age, because of oral development and dental development. And a lot of people don’t understand that the bottle and the breast are two extremely different things where the bottle can be really detrimental for development. As far as like, like the essential stuff, oral development, airway development, the breast is  actually very, very good for those things. Like we often will see or hear about you know, bottle rot, so you know, babies with their first teeth are getting cavities because the milk is going in their mouth as they suck on the bottle. The breast doesn’t do that. And as long as you know, there’s good brushing habits in place, breastfeeding is actually very, very protective against cavities. So It’s actually not a bad thing for babies and toddlers to nurse at night. Yeah, pending that otherwise, you know, the dental hygiene is happening.  There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation around that, and we’re making assumptions as a society as well – we’re not supposed to do this so we probably shouldn’t do that either.

Leah:
First of all, it’s fascinating. I had no idea about the dental aspect of it. But it makes sense.

Krystal:
Even a lot of dentists who really should know better don’t confirm bottle rot is an issue.
So breastfeeding may be an issue out there and when it comes down to it, it’s once again the difference of treating milk as a living substance.

Leah:
So now I’m kind of like wiggling into the sleep training thing.  Because that kind of introduces nursing at nighttime, making that choice to not use a bottle, bottle rot is an issue, among other things. Personally, I found that my baby gets the best sleep when I nurse him to sleep. And, it’s a choice that my husband and I’ve made knowing that the sleep training camp calls it a crutch. So many pediatricians, sleep experts – they discourage that practice claiming babies need to learn to self soothe and not rely on the crutch.  And I’m just curious, as a lactation consultant and expert, what is your advice regarding nursing baby to sleep?  Is it really a crutch when they’re this little?  Will a child eventually learn to self soothe or do you need to do it now? Right away?

Krystal:
Really, you know, everyone eventually learns and develops their own self soothing or coping mechanism. And so, this idea that we need to withhold this form of comfort so that they can develop them.  It’s kind of ridiculous. That’s not really how we work as humans.  And we see it backfire all the time that when we don’t develop healthy coping mechanisms, we end up latching on to unhealthy ones. And I mean, by taking away the breast, but being like, okay, now we’re going to have you sucking on a pacifier or sucking your thumb. We know that messes with the way their jaw and airway develops. So why would nursing to sleep, which is actually a natural palate extender be a bad thing? And I’m thinking about these things as habits, not necessarily good habits or bad habits,  but just habits that we have, certain sleep associations. And if nursing is one of them that works, why on earth are we intentionally telling people they can’t use that, especially when it’s something that really doesn’t have a drawback as far as safety goes. 

But honestly, a little part of me is a little bit snippy about you know, sleep experts saying like, don’t use this thing that works really, really well for you. Because it’s like, well, their business is built around helping you figure out other ways of doing that, so, of course, if they tell you to take away the easiest, most straightforward most, you know, imprinted into our biology. It works in their favor. Yes. Same goes for books that tell us that we’re supposed to do things a certain way, and pediatricians in general and you know, they’re really their birth all the way to 18 years old and so they know a little bit about a lot of stuff, and it totally makes sense, but you know, they may not always be as up to date on different things. And of course, everyone brings their own bias to their profession, you know, we all have our moments where we think things should be done a certain way because you know that power world view has been changed.  And there aren’t a lot of pediatricians out there that would encourage families to continue with bed sharing and nursing at night and things like that. They’re just a little bit harder to find because it goes against our mainstream culture.

Leah:
Well, sleep training often leans on the cry out method to tire baby out and eventually fall asleep. And I’m just curious, how is that a better way for a baby to soothe, then, you know, like you said, having something like breastmilk that you has all kinds of benefits including melatonin.

Krystal:
Yes, melatonin – and oxytocin production helps facilitate the sleep hormone, as well.  Because it’s definitely that brain gut connection.

Leah:
The point is I’m looking at two different chemistries – crying it out there’s been evidence, you know that some people go as extreme in saying there can be brain damage if you just let a baby cry and cry and cry.  I don’t think that’s what most people are doing with crying it out. They’ll go like three minutes. Sometimes we’ll even take the Montessori approach where you stay in the room in a chair and eventually work the chair out of the room.  But there still has been research or findings about the hormones that are involved when a baby cries like that.  I’m just curious.  Is it better to have that kind of chemistry going on in a baby versus the natural soothing-calming chemistry that they get from breastfeeding?  Let’s talk about just the science – chemistry – is it safer to do one versus the other? Or does it not matter? 

Krystal:
The overarching research around crying it out is when crying it out is done in a reasonable same way where it’s not like okay, good night, my child be by yourself and cry for hours – we know that’s not safe.  When people talk about cry it out being dangerous, oftentimes what they’re referring to is a study based on orphans in, I think, Romania (I might be wrong about that), where they didn’t get soothing contact – it was it was eerie. They made no noise and they were very, very complacent that but it is because they had shut down there was no contact. They were just so outnumbered with their caregivers that it just wasn’t possible.  And so when people talk about cry it out being dangerous, that’s the study they’re referring to. And that’s not what happens when people are talking about cry it out. That’s negligence.  That’s borderline abuse.  You know, what we do is cry it out in this society is generally for most people, I want to say and I want to believe that it’s people at the end of their rope. It’s people that have tried to do everything they can and that they’re either at a mental place of total exhaustion where something has to give, or people that are misinformed and think that this was just a milestone of parenting. That crying it out was just something you have to do. And, the reality is, you don’t have to do anything as a parent as long as what you’re doing is safe.   And I definitely over the years met and known, even as a parent, raised kids, that I thought (1), that will nurse to sleep and conk out in like two minutes and then will be anywhere from you know, 2am all the way through the night and then seek out comfort. And then the other one, we had one really, really rough night when she was about six months, where we cried it out that one night just out of desperation. And then she starts sleeping through the night with no crying whatsoever on her own from that point on. And so I do think that there really is kind of a middle ground where there are some kids that are totally fine with that, and there are some kids that it just wouldn’t work no matter what you do. And I think we would see and encounter that all the time when we talk to parents, because there’s always parents that are like, Oh, yeah, we did this and it was the best thing ever. And I’m so glad we did it. And then the parents are like we tried it, and we couldn’t, we couldn’t do it. We couldn’t hang in there. It didn’t work for us. So I don’t think that it’s fair to anyone to say that you either have to do this or you have to do that.  And there’s a judgment side of things.  It’s okay that something works for someone that doesn’t work for someone else.

Leah:
Well, I think what I’m hearing in some ways is that it goes to pretty much everything you learn once you start having children – that every baby is different. So what might work with your first child, the second one could come around and it’s a completely different story. You have to come up with a different tool.

Krystal:
Exactly. Yeah, that’s 100% true. Definitely, especially with sleep, it’s one of those things where sleep is very, very important. We, we just we can’t function as humans without a decent amount of sleep. And I’ve been friends with parents of babies and toddlers as far as development goes, they need sleep. And so whatever it takes to get sleep, and whatever, you know, gets you there with making a relationship feel as good as it is. And, you know, for some families, you know, bed sharing is the dream, you know that that works really, really well. And everyone feels well rested. And everyone is, you know, thriving.

Leah:
That’s a nice segue, because that was a question I was going to ask is that, you know, at what point is it – or can it be problematic to share a bed with a baby while you’re still nursing at night? You know,  are there pros or cons to that? I mean, because we’ve considered that and, you know, we’ve heard against people like, no, at this stage, don’t do it. And I’m like, Yeah, but you know, both of those work, you’re tired and sometimes you just don’t want to be in an uncomfortable chair in the nursery.

Krystal:
Even for a family where both parents are working outside the home – sometimes the most snuggle time you get with your kid is in bed at night.  That’s part of your connection, that’s part of your bond.  And so for families where that works for them, I think it’s absolutely cruel to tell them they’re not supposed to do it.  When it comes to bed sharing, ultimately, it’s about making sure they’re sleeping safely. There definitely are “rules” you know, safety wise, we can’t just blanket statement bed sharing is right for everybody.  But we have decades of research that shows that when bed sharing is being done intentionally and that it is following those rules, it’s a very, very safe option. And so, as far as the timing of it, the older the kid gets the safer and easier its gets.  Bed sharing a little baby, even when you’re doing everything right is little bit nerve wracking but you know, venturing with a toddler, on the one hand, you know, it doesn’t feel dangerous but on the other hand it can be dangerous for the parent – you can get a foot to the face (laugh). We sleep alongside other adults and parents and couples. So why would we deny that for children like, obviously we’re hardwired for safety in numbers and so it makes sense that our small children that are, you know, essentially vulnerable are going to seek out our comfort and seek out our protection at night – and if it works for a family then there’s no reason not to – and every bed sharing family I’ve ever known that, you know, now has older children or adult children – they eventually leave the bed. They eventually sleep in their own space, you know, for it to be a detrimental thing there, has to be some other like, big picture red flag stuff going on. For a typical family, of course bed sharing can be a safe and fun and reasonable option. And it’s one of those things that in the grand scheme of things these years are so short, that you know, if you’re a working parent and the time that you get to spend with your kid involves snuggling them to sleep at night, you’re not going to look back on that and regret it.

Leah:
That’s a good point. I’ve been reading a lot about this and how it relates to mothering, you know, and not just snuggling and nursing when they like roll over and just want it if it’s there.  And I was reading about the Montessori methods – including floor beds in the toddler’s room, and the many reasons to make sure toddlers are able to sleep – whether they are or are not in their parent’s bed.  I also read recently, when I was kind of just googling and researching some stuff, just for fun, that there was an interview, and this is where I’m starting to now look at the anthropology of this, like how have we evolved as a society,  because I tend to feel like our society is just mean to mothers and mean to babies, in general. And so I feel like everything that you think is supposed to be supportive of the family and, in some ways, I feel like we’re being lied to, you know, like I feel like it’s a kind of conspiracy.  I’m a little jaded, and maybe it’s coming out of my own personal experiences, but, there was this interview with an indigenous woman from Guatemala where they not only bed share but they nurse well on into early childhood, whatever age that might be –  maybe four years old, and, obviously the practice is not the same way you would nurse a newborn or young toddler, and I think that’s the thing people think – that you’re just giving your baby the breast all day, that it’s a kind of creepy behavior.

Krystal:
Exactly.  It’s just another area where our society, really, is so far off the mark. You know, a lot of people think that nursing an older baby is like nursing a young baby. When we look at it statistically when it comes to breastfeeding, and here in the U.S. about 80% of parents initiate breastfeeding over all – but here in the Pacific NW that number is closer to 90% where we have a little more support structure set up. But when we look at you know, by the six month mark about half a babies are still being breastfed. By the one year mark only about a third of babies are still being breastfed. So we have a lot of exposure and understanding about what nursing little babies looks like. You know, we all know someone that’s had a baby, but a lot fewer people are nursing older babies. And so our point of reference, of what we know and understand about that is super, super skewed that people just don’t know what nursing a toddler looks like because a lot of people don’t do it. And especially looking at, you know, with a two year old, like by that point most people aren’t nursing in public because you don’t need to, you can tell them that they need to wait until you get home – or, for a lot of people, by the time they’re two years old  they nurse when they wake up and they nurse when they go to bed. Or you nurse just a couple of times a day at intervals or whatever works right for you.  Whereas for newborns, you know, they’re the ones that should be dictating the schedule because they’re the ones that know what they need for growth and development.

Leah:
You kind of just went right to the question I was at when I asked if you find most mothers are reluctant to nurse beyond six months? What are some of the misconceptions about nursing past six months or reasons why they stop and quit? And I think you, you pretty much addressed it with we just don’t see it – well, I’ll let you continue with that. But, people don’t see breastfeeding outside of the home with toddlers so they don’t necessarily know what that looks like.  Are there other misconceptions or reasons that cause mothers you know or work with to stop and quit?

Krystal:
Oh yeah.  Well…as I mentioned – here in the Pacific NW we’re very much a pro breastfeeding bunch.  Somethings that, as a professional, I have heard people say is… I’ve heard of doctors telling families that breastmilk loses its nutritional value after X amount of time. I’ve heard three months, I’ve heard six months, a year, which is ridiculous. It’s like saying broccoli loses its nutritional value after a certain point. It’s food and it’s always, you know, custom made for your child wherever they’re at developmentally.  A lot of people don’t know or don’t realize the difference between the early milk, colostrum, and mature milk – is basically water content. And so, you know, in our society we hear a lot about that baby has got to have that colostrom becasue it’s so good for them and blah, blah, blah. It’s because it’s really concentrated breast milk.  And so as they get older and they start dropping those feedings again, guess what happens to the milk? It gets really, really concentrated again – toddler milk and colostrom have a lot in common nutritionally. And so this idea that, you know, they turn a year and all of the sudden your milk turns to water, or something stupid like that, is so scientifically inaccurate, it’s doing such a disservice to families. I mean, anyone that’s ever been around an 18 month old – they live on goldfish crackers and air. So we have nature’s multivitamin that’s gonna provide the nutrients and it’s gonna provide them antibodies, and help with growth. Why would we not do that?  Why would we not encourage that?  So there’s a lot of misconception coming at us from healthcare providers that don’t understand about human milk – which I mean, generally speaking, most doctors in the entirety of med school, residency, get about two hours of lecture on breastfeeding education – and that’s it.  Even the doctors we would expect to be knowledgeable – like ob’s and pediatricians – the knowledge piece is just really kind of missing.  There are a lot of gaps within our society and then a lot of parents, you know when, when the kid gets older, we find that we hit our stride with breastfeeding but it gets easier. But there’s still issues that come up later. You know, they get teased and sometimes they try to use you as a teething device and that’s not cool – that hurts. And a lot of people don’t know that you don’t have to push through it or just quit. You know, you can help teach them not to do that.  What it comes down to, you know, some kids ask for it like a thousand times a day that can be really annoying. Some people feel like the only thing they can do for that is to ween – and it’s like, no, you don’t, you can establish boundaries and limits and your kids will learn some really good rules about body autonomy by doing that.

Leah:
Well, I think the even the bigger picture of that kind of behavior – of being afraid of your child – so you have to cut something out.  It’s like the child is now in charge, not you. And not that you have to be in charge, it’s not a control thing.  But at the same time, you’re the parent, you’re the one who should be driving the ship.

Krystal:
Always.  It’s your body.  As a nursing parent, it’s your body, it’s your choice.  As long as it is working for you – keep going. And if it’s not working for you, you can make shifts, you can make changes. You can put in limits, you can put in boundaries – and not only is that going to be really beneficial for your kid because it’s gonna help preserve your breastfeeding relationship – it will be beneficial for your kids because it’s one of the earliest lessons in consent and about body autonomy and all the things that our society is really pushing for in the last decade or so.

Leah:
Okay, so, we kind of already talked about this, but do you think breastfeeding beyond six months is supported enough in our society? You know, we’ve talked about the challenge and some of the cultural professional, you know, their moms like who we have more families where both parents are working and some pump and, you know, one of those parents that I decided not to pump. But I had the flexibility to do that. And I understand that that’s not the case for everybody.

Krystal:
On the one hand, I don’t want to say, yes, I think that there is enough support for it. I think there’s a really, really big push for it.  But I think that the push without the support of how to actually make it sustainable. I think that’s one area that our society really, really falls short. Because, for a lot of people, even if they are back at work, and they’re pumping further and further out, and so a lot of people find that, you know, they feel like they’re losing their milk supply when they get around eight, nine months.  I mean, even when you’re not pumping, you’re just exclusively nursing, a lot of people find that they struggle with that, too, because you’re seeing nursing an older baby is different than nursing a little baby. So, oftentimes, you know, by the time we hit that three month mark, a lot of people are saying, they’re nursing every three hours, eight times a day and the stuff that you do, you nurse where you let the baby decide. But for a lot of babies when we get closer to the six month mark and you introduce solid foods that can interfere with if we don’t know that we should be nursing before and after we’ve had solid food.  And, so if we’re not nursing frequently enough, there is a diminish in milk supply, and then around six months to a year, kids will start to stop night feeding because they’re sleeping through the night, and that can have a negative impact on milk supply also because when they drop those night time feedings, they need to make up the difference in nursing during the day. And so a lot of families really actually need to have more of a parent nursing relationship – offering the breast every two to three hours depending on if the baby is sleeping through the night or not. And because so many people don’t know that, they’ll accidentally be nursing like six times a day, when they’re nine months, and then all of a sudden people are going I lost my milk and I don’t know what happened. And it’s like, we just don’t know what the normal system looks like – and that’s not the parents fault.  It’s a symptom of our society.  We don’t see it enough, we don’t know what it looks like.

Leah:
It’s interesting.  I’m about to make a blanket statement here.  I mean, it seems like as a society, and in some cases, maybe it’s the  parents, and depending on their schedule, knowing every family dynamic is different, but, it seems like, culturally,  we do want our babies to conform to our needs versus, you know, maybe sucking it up for two plus years, hunkering down and committing to making the baby’s needs the priority, not the other way around. 

And again, that’s not intended to be a judgment statement, but looking at this  issue from an anthropological examination or observation, it seems like, culturally, so many things, whether it’s nursing, sleep training, etc., so many choices are directed toward our desire to have our babies immediately conform to our lifestyle versus recognizing we brought in this new human into the world, into our home and their needs are going to trump our needs, we have to adjust ourselves to the baby.  And again, not a judgment I feel this just happens a lot in American, perhaps even Western society, because some of the things I’m reading – I’m reading a lot of mommy blogs that are not necessarily based on science or facts – but just opinions and thoughts. A lot of what I’m reading is about how new moms are just trying to get baby on track. And I’m seeing that a lot and it’s making me pause because I didn’t think about any of this before.  And I did study a lot of anthropology so I’m wondering about our intentions as new parents.  What do you think, as a professional? Do you kind of see that happening with our society and, if so, are there ways to kind of help retrain the parenting roles, to not hurry baby to conform to our immediate needs? 

Krystal:
I don’t see that as an individual failure.  I think we have a really interesting paradox being given or bombarded with “you have to put baby first” while also being bombarded with “you have to take care of yourself.”  And I think that’s really where we kind of see this kind of coming to a head. You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t.  There’s a lot of competition with the older the baby gets. Especially if you’re back at work or if you have other commitments.  And even if you have the luxury – even though it’s not really a luxury to be a stay-at-home parent, but we get bombarded with this message that we’re not good enough, that we’re not putting our kids first, etc. But then we’re like, simultaneously drowning as we’re trying to do that. Constantly trying to put baby first, is the other extreme where you then need to put yourself first or else your snap.  I don’t see that as an individual failure, it’s a societal thing.

Leah:
I was gonna ask you if that might have to do with support systems, too, I mean, I think a lot of families are not necessarily staying in the same core place where their parents are, or their siblings, etc.  Families used to live within a block, you know.

Krystal:
It takes a village.  It’s so true.  You know, if you’re two adults and one kid, you’re still outnumbered (laugh).  It got hard because as a society we don’t take care of families enough.  You have the choice of either give up  income and really struggle, or go back to work when you’re probably not physically ready for that, but also emotionally. The thing that’s really sad about that, and it really, really makes me angry, especially as a working parent, is the idea that you have to sacrifice getting to see the first time they rollover or seeing the first time that they crawl, or the first time they walk, the first time they say words.  As a working parent  you have to say to the nanny or daycare provider – when they do this don’t tell me because I want to believe that I got to see the first time.  It’s incredibly sad and it sucks for us as parents.  And on the one hand, having lots of different care givers can be really, really beneficial for children. But we should do that out of choice not out of necessity.  And so for families and just the structure that we have, we just did this because the support just isn’t there, it’s really sad because, you know, like, you mentioned, you’re looking at, other countries, and we have to ask ourselves questions like why don’t we have paid leave like every other country?  In Europe, for instance.  In Scandinavian countries their rates are really really high compared to ours. At the same time, when we look at the UK’s rates, they’re not as high as you would expect. They’re pretty close to ours in a lot of ways.  And so it’s like, what are we seeing in the bigger picture? What is going on culturally? What is going on with our society?  It’s not just about having the support piece but how do we make it through the first two years?  It’s also how do we support this, how do we use it? How do we value this? It makes a really big difference, because even though someone wants to breastfeed, if they don’t have access to knowledgeable providers, if they don’t have support from their families and their friends, if they don’t have support from their healthcare provider, it’s hard.  And that’s a really, really common thing that we face in the US.  Most pediatricians say they encourage breastfeeding – when breastfeeding is going well, they’re all for it; but as soon as we see it’s not where it should be, they don’t work with lactation consultants – they’re like “here’s your can of formula.”  Which, if someone wants to formula feed that is more than okay, that is absolutely someone’s choice. And every person has the right to treat or feed their body.  But if someone wants to breastfeed, that’s a huge blow. Like that’s really, really not fair to them. And especially because we put doctors on pedestals in our country – it really sucks because if no one’s telling those parents that there are lactation consultants – and some are better than others.  Then it’s the family that suffers.

Leah:
We’ve talked about some of the benefits – the obvious benefits – of nursing a baby beyond six months.  Let’s talk about mom.  I mean, we know that when you nurse a newborn, there’s a host of benefits to the mother, like, maintaining a healthy weight, producing oxytocin, you get the same exchange.  For me, it started out a little tricky, as you remember.  It took me a while to find my breastfeeding zen – it wasn’t all roses for me at first.  But once we got through the many challenges, and once breastfeeding became easy for me, I have to say, it’s the closest thing that I’ve experienced to meditation where I’m just completely present. My thoughts don’t go anywhere. I don’t know how or why it happens like that. But I literally don’t think about anything I’m just snuggled in and I’m completely present. And that to me is like that’s why I don’t want to give up nursing quite yet – selfishly! What can you say to that? What are the benefits to a mom once past six months of nursing?

Krystal:
Oh, absolutely. I mean, besides the obvious of having those moments where you get to really be more checked in in with your little one, there are so many health benefits to what people refer to as “extended nursing”.  With breastfeeding, basically the way it shakes out is it’s using your body the way it was designed to be used, and it has a positive impact on all of the “big bads” – when it comes to heart disease, diabetes, reproductive cancers. All of that. There are study after study after study that show that the longer a person breastfeeds in their life time, even if it’s not back to back, even if it’s broken up over a number of years between different children, the better the impact on overall health, the better we see with outcomes around, you know, all the scary health things we worry about and we try to keep in check as we get older. And so when it comes down to the fact that we don’t talk about the benefits for the mother as much as we talk about the benefits for baby,  in my opinion, I think they’re equal. Yeah, you know, all the things that nursing does for a baby or a child, we often see the benefit for a parent.  It really boils down to, you know, epigenetics, and, you know, altering or happening the way that it does – it makes a huge difference on how our bodies are able to function and able to do things. And it’s more of a thing that right now, even though we’re finally starting to study it, we’re not nearly where we should be in understanding and how and why. And I am really actually really, really excited about and hopeful for, by the time my kids are old enough to be having kids, what we’ll will know and understand and hopefully, the changes and the benefits that will be around all of that.

Leah:
I don’t want to get like woo-woo-out-there, but I really do feel some kind of sort of metaphysical, like, mind-body-spirit connection that’s going on that’s beyond just the biological. Do you know what I mean?  I’ve experienced it. I don’t know. It can feel very sacred. I mean,  I had no idea that would be the kind of experience I could have coming out of really difficult first few months.

Krystal:
A lot of people have that experience.  The thing where I mean, to be totally honest and totally fair, it’s not like that for everybody.  Some people don’t enjoy breastfeeding and they do it because they know the health benefits, and they do it because they’re choosing to which is really huge sacrifice. It’s the one thing to breastfeed because it works for you and you like it. It’s another thing when breastfeeding can be hard.  That’s beyond.  That’s like merit badge or gold star parenting.

Leah:
I’ve been on both sides of that because I almost gave up.  I mean, I really did. I was really set after a few months like it was so hard with the cold and the vasospasms and then thrush and, and one issue after the other. I was like, screw that – this is too painful. And I just didn’t expect there to be so much pain involved. You know, I had enough pain going through labor and recovery. I didn’t expect there to be more constant pain in this and it was emotionally draining for me. But once we got over that hill, and it really hasn’t been until like now like I’m talking like the past month and a half two months where I’m having this experience where it reminds me again I’m not trying to get woo-woo but like you know we know about the chakra system but I get the same sort of sensations like when I get acupuncture – I don’t know what it is and/or why, so I don’t have the understanding to name what I’m what I’m experiencing, but I’m experiencing something and the closest thing I can say it comes to is the mind-body-spirit connection I get when I’m getting acupuncture.

Krystal:
Yeah. And I one hundred percent agree – as for myself – between my two kids, I think I’ve nursed probably eight years or beyond. When it comes down to it, like especially as they get older,  it’s really interesting because there are times when it’s like, man, I can’t wait to be done. Like, y’all, you need to wait five more minutes, I have to go do this thing. Especially with an older baby. There’s a moment where that connection and you just try – it’s almost like a meditative state – where things will slow down and it’s that reminder it’s that checking in with the universe of like, okay, this moment is fading and we’re not gonna have this back.  Even though you’re so so big, you’re still so little.  And it’s just, it’s a peace moment and this has been going on physically and because so many people do experience that – and yet sometimes nursing a toddler is really, really annoying.  There’s got to be some kind of biological pay off to keep us going with that. 

Even if you have a toddler that is all about nursing, if it wasn’t at least somewhat of a positive experience, you know people would not keep going. And, from an anthropological point of view when we look at ourselves as mammals and we take out, you know, society and culture, what we think about nursing, and we know that as a species, we are designed to nurse each child for upwards of two to three years – it’s pretty average worldwide. And even in some cultures, upwards of seven years.  So I mean, we’re kind of the weirdos in the U.S. for weening our babies as early as we do.

Leah:
That article that I read about the Guatemalan woman from the indigenous tribe – not only were they talking about just how long they breastfeed, but in this interview with a couple of Guatemalan women, the interviewers were explaining to them that here, in the U.S., most parents will put their baby in a nursery in a crib by themselves.  Sometimes they cry it out – they explained the ways American parents get their babies to go to sleep. And these indigenous women look horrified. They’re like, wow, these poor babies! They were so horrified and scared for these babies. And when I read that piece in the article, I thought it was just very interesting because I came into being a parent with no judgment and no idea what I was doing.  I mean, I have great parents, and you kind of learn from them. But once it’s yours, o
nce you have a child, it’s a whole new world, and you’re learning as you go.

So I read that, and again, this is pulling me back to when I studied anthropology some 20 years ago, it’s really making me look hard at my choices. Now, again, this isn’t about judgment. It’s just being maybe more aware of what we are doing.  What are we putting out in the world versus other places that we think are “third world countries” that are, in many ways, way more civilized than we are!

Krystal:
I totally see and identify with that, you know, how does the way we raise our people, how do we interact with our children, how does that impact all of the bigger picture and downfalls of our society? You know, how is all of that connected – because it’s got to be. How would it not be, the way that we fundamentally raise and treat and teach our children to interact with others by the way that we model after them, by the way we interact with them. It’s really, really fascinating and you can be the most attachment oriented parent in the universe, and this is a moment where you lose it and you yell at your kid – and having to kind of find we’re what we want versus our reality – it’s hard.  It’s hard to rectify that sometimes.  We carry a lot of guilt in our society, and even the fact that, you know, throughout the conversation. Yeah, we’re both acknowledging and saying so many times that you know, “I don’t mean this with the judgment, I don’t mean, you know, I’m not trying to shame anyone” – the fact that we all kind of carry that around, that we all are still hyper vigilant about is someone judging me and am I being judgy?  In addition to teaching classes and working with families one on one, I have been facilitating the parent support group for five years. I know I can’t think of a single time I have ever encountered a parent that was full on like, out there like judging another parent in the room. And I mean, I’m a young, no-holds-bar, and definitely, nothing’s off the table kind of person – and we talked about everything.  So there were lots and lots of opportunities for judgments to come into play in those scenarios. And we’re also all just doing the best we can with what we’ve got. And we all want to do right by our kids. And so the fact that as a society we’re so hyper vigilant and aware and careful at not stepping on each other’s toes – that’s a whole other can of worms about how we view parenthood, about how we view child rearing.

Leah:
You brought something up that I don’t think I wrote it down as a question, but I think it is a good question in certainly the context of all this. So what about now you have one child, now you’re going on to potentially having a second baby. So there’s all kinds of you know, lots of questions about nursing.  Can you still nurse baby one while you’re getting pregnant – like my doctor told me because of my age – “Oh, if you’re trying to get pregnant now you need to wean him off immediately or else you’re gonna have a miscarriage”.  I kept wondering – are you just telling me this because of textbook studies or, like, is this really gonna happen?

Krystal:
One of my favorite, in the most sarcastic, irritated kind of ways, examples of the misinformation that doctors inadvertently, I want to believe, are spreading around breastfeeding – you’ll be six weeks out from birth and they’ll be like – you have to get on birth control or you’re gonna get pregnant even if you’re breastfeeding.  And, yet, you know, when you’re six months out and you’re talking about, well, I think we might want to have another baby now rather than later, and then it’s like all of the sudden you’re not gonna be able to get pregnant if you’re still nursing.  And that’s just not how the body works.

Basically, the way breastfeeding works,  as far as birth control goes, is about – if you are exclusively nursing, meaning no bottles and no pacifiers, and if you are nursing throughout the night and throughout the day you’re not separated from your child basically ever, then in that case, unless your child is under six months or they’re not getting table food, then you’re pretty darn protected against pregnancy – your body knows that you have a young child that’s dependent on you so it’s not trying to make another child.  But as soon as they introduce any of those components, fertility can return.  A lot of people absolutely get pregnant while they’re nursing.  We see in here you know all the time. “Oh, well, my Aunt Kathy’s cousin’s best friend got pregnant while nursing.” Because everybody is different, different people are going to experience that fertility threshold coming back at different points. And so that’s not to say that yes, you need to ween in order to get pregnant. Or because, you know, because nursing releases oxytocin for someone that is, you know, susceptible to miscarriage. Sometimes it is necessary to ween when you’re pregnant. You know, it’s not a hard and fast everyone must do it this way.  There’s so many people that nurse throughout pregnancy and go on to tandem feed those kids for years.

Leah:
What does that look like to a family that, let’s say they have one child, now a year old, and they’re actively trying to get pregnant, then they find out they’re pregnant (super excited!).  How does that change how the mom breastfeeds? Does that change breastfeeding? I mean, I know there’s no one answer. There’s probably different dynamics to that.

Krystal:
Oh, pending on the healthy mom, healthy pregnancy, for most people milk supply is going to drastically drop off once the placenta is fully formed and starts creating hormones.  I recommend if you’re intentionally trying to get pregnant wait until your kid is pretty darn close to a year in case you do lose your milk supply, nutritionally speaking you want to make sure that you’re first kid is going to be all right. And then, once those ducks are in a row, then take it one day at a time because one of the first signs of pregnancy is breast tenderness and so a lot of people that in that state of pregnancy just change their minds.  You have the intention of doing one thing, but, in the reality of it, you may decide to do something else.  And so, be flexible, be open.  And if nursing through the pregnancy works, great, and if it doesn’t, that’s okay, too.  And a lot of kids will ween during pregnancy because the hormones change the way the milk tastes and the supply reduces.  And when it’s a child-led weening experience, it’s usually lot more pleasant for the family, overall. So, if that’s how it shakes out, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s totally fine.  If you’re nursing through pregnancy and working, a lot of people, when colostrum comes in at around 16 to 20 weeks, nursing gets markedly improved.  So it’s one of those things where it’s like, once again, not knowing what normal looks like, it messes with us!  If you’re nursing a 10 month old and you’re pregnant, and it’s miserable, and you don’t know that it’s gonna get better again, then why would you stick with it?

Leah:
So, when you are pregnant, and let’s say you are nursing, occasionally, said child, you still produce colostrum right before the second one is born, right?

Krystal:
Yes.  Most people start producing colostrum about halfway through the pregnancy – and toddler and older babies can absolutely eat that.  Colostrum does have a laxative property to it.  So, parents deserve to have that on their radar – if it feels like your toddler has diarrhea when your classroom is coming in, it’s not that they’re sick, it’s that their body’s adjusting to the superfood your body is making.  In the long run, colostrum has a lot of benefits as far as antibodies and nutrition goes.  It’s definitely not harmful and then once milk comes in, there’s a biological feedback that happens between the breast and the baby’s saliva. And so even if you’re nursing two kids at once, you’re milk is still going to have a personalized special recipe, that perfect mix for each kid.  Your body is freaking amazing!  You know, when, as a society or as a culture when we think that it loses nutritional value or that formula is just as good – that’s not how the human body works.  We are mammals.  We are literally made for our ability to feed our children with our bodies.  So why on earth would anyone question that or think that it’s not amazing?

 

I want to thank Krystal Key for taking the time to chat with me!  For more information about lactation services in the greater Portland area, and beyond, please visit Krystal Lactation, LLC.

This interview was recorded using otter.ai recording app and services.  Teleconference recording is not a perfect art, so, the editing of this interview was done listening to a rough cut.  

Leah Jorgensen does not endorse a “breast-is-best” for everyone philosophy and recognizes the many nuances of motherhood.  We all do our best to make the best choices for ourselves and for our dear families.  Leah is a client of Krystal Key and joyfully shares her experiences and wholeheartedly endorses Key Lactation, LLC.

Before the Ides of March…

Ncov spreading concept, Earth and virus models

 

It’s Saturday the 14th of March following a full cosmic and looney tunes week that included turning the clocks forward on Sunday, March 8th (thank you very much for the lost hour of sleep), a full moon on March 9th, the end of a Mercury Retrograde on March 10th, with the week ending on a (insert horror film music) Friday the 13th.

The most obvious course of energetic chaos is centered around the planet’s state of emergency during the ominous coronavirus pandemic – with the US having declared a state of emergency on Friday as public life in the country has come to an alarming halt leaving an eerie feeling of an apocalypse.

What the hell is going on?

I’ve been trying to take all of this in with an open mind and genuine curiosity without stoking the fires of my anxiety.   Meantime, I’m nurturing my OCD tendencies to wash my hands beyond religious ritual – to the point of requiring a good therapeutic dose of Bloody Knuckles.

I am not certain how important chronology is when reviewing what feels like cosmic phenomena, but, I’ll try to sequence things for my own understanding of the big stuff, the matter of where we are in the universe.  This isn’t astrology because I don’t know how to predict anything or read into any of it.  This is a look at traditions and energy.

Sunday, March 8th – Daylight Savings Time 
The idea behind DST was to make the most of sunlight during the summer months.  Farmers hated the concept of DST.  In the 1920’s opposition from dairy farmers repealed the law.  DST didn’t come back until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the US had entered WW2.  The idea of the new DST was to save fuel and energy.  Energy Policy rules DST today, though farmers organizations still oppose and continue to lobby against the practice.  The “cost” of DST is that millions of Americans experience disrupted sleep.

This is a time of major energy shifting – which can feel bonkers.   Amiright?

Monday, March 9th – Full Moon / Worm Moon & Supermoon
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the name “worm moon” refers to the earthworms and grubs that tend to emerge from winter dormancy at this time of year, marking  sure sign of spring.  It’s also considered the last moon of winter.  It’s also the first of three supermoons in 2020.  So, we got to experience a bright Super Worm Moon!  On a positive note, this is considered a time that’s especially beneficial for winter retreat. Notice the return of robins (looking for those worms!).  Native Americans also call this a “crow moon” and the crow represents “justice, shape shifting, change, creativity, spiritual strength, energy, community sharing, and balance,” (Cherokee Billie, Spiritual Advisor).

According to Cherokee Billie, this is a time of “reflection and revising your journey in life. In the grand flow of life, these inward moving energies are conducive for fine tuning and helping to bring greater clarity, awareness, and focus… Use this extra Full Moon energy to make the necessary changes in your life.”

It’s also an important time for spring cleaning, including clearing your own energies, cleansing your spirit, clean out clutter, deep clean your home.

This has been an important message while we practice public distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.  Many advisors have touched upon the importance of not only washing your hands and practicing good personal hygiene, but also practicing good cleaning and sanitizing practices at home.  No better time than spring cleaning!

Tuesday, March 10th – End of Mercury Retrograde
The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains “[in Mercury Retrograde]… times in particular were traditionally associated with confusions, delay, and frustration.  Think email blunders and frazzled travel plans.” (Catherine Boeckmann, Feb. 3, 2020).

Mercury Retrograde is chiefly aligned with communication breakdown.  Boeckmann reports, “this is an excellent time to reflect on the past.  It’s said that intuition is high during these periods and coincidences can be extraordinary.”

This explains a lot for me, personally.  Especially around my logistical planning and execution of Spring Bottling – when I bottle my white, rosé and small lots of reserve wines.  But, on the global stage this is bananas.

Communication breakdown – there’s a lot of criticism around President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.  The delays can potentially harm millions.  Frazzled travel plans?  Well, yes.  Confusion and frustration?  Mmm-hmmm.  Yup.  The question is now that this particular Mercury Retrograde is over (there are 3 scheduled for 2020), how will the recovery phase work out?  Will things suddenly become clear?  Will fears and anxieties subside, along with frustration around shutting down our communities and… waiting.  Here’s to hoping for better communication and understanding around this pandemic.

Friday, March 13th – Bad Luck?
The Old Farmer’s Almanac has all of the answers to everything under the moon here for this blog post!  OFA writer Heidi Stonehill addressed this particular Friday the 13th.   She answered the big questions – why this day is often associated with bad luck and what’s the meaning of Friday the 13th and how did this superstition even begin?

This is all from her March 11, 2020 report:

According to Stonehill, “Friday the 13th occurs one to three times each year. In many countries around the world, this date is considered unlucky and tied to misfortunate events.”

“The fear of the number 13 and the fear of Friday likely combined around the late 1800s into this new phobia; no clear mention of it had been discussed in published works before then.”

“According to Norse mythology, a dinner with 12 of the Norse gods took place excluding one God – Loki – who, known as a trickster and trouble-maker, showed up anyway.  Fighting ensued and a popular god (Baldur) was killed that day.”

“The predominant 20th-century theory suggests that Friday the 13th bad luck stemmed from an event that had occurred on Friday, October 13, 1307, when thousands belonging to an influential religious military order called the Knights Templar (officially, the Poor Knights of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon) were arrested for blasphemy and other affronts at the command of France’s king, Philip IV. Many were later tortured, coerced into making false confessions, and executed.  When the knights were burned at the stake in Paris, the order’s leader Jacque de Molay cried out, ‘God knows who is wrong and has sinned. Soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death.’ The holy warrior’s curse and wrongful death put a hex on Friday the 13th through the ages.”

“Another superstition associates Friday the 13th with the Last Supper, attended by 13 people—Jesus Christ and his 12 disciples. The number 13 is associated with 13th disciple, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Christ shortly after that Last Summer. Christ was handed to Roman soldiers the next morning and crucified on Good Friday.”

“No matter how the phobia came about, superstitions abound concerning it. On Friday the 13th, some people refuse to cut their hair or nails, dine out, buy a house, start a job, conduct business, marry, or participate in any event. Other folks are so terrorized that they fear even crawling out of bed or going anywhere on this day (including Winston Churchill, who considered traveling on Friday the 13th unlucky).”

“Fun Friday the 13th Facts”

  • The horror novelist Stephen King is a triskie. He’s also a friggatriskaidekaphobe.
  •  Franklin Roosevelt had such an irrational fear of Friday the 13 that he would avoid traveling on Fridays.
  • Alexander Hamilon died in a dual with Aarono Burr on the 13th of Friday, 1804.
  • Jack the Ripper claimed his final victim on Friday the 13th in 1888.
In conclusion, I’ll let the dear reader draw their own conclusions about this crazy cosmic week ending on Friday the 13th.
I can only ponder, what lies in store for us tomorrow on the Ides of March?  Will we return to some semblance of balance and peace by March 16th?

New Tools in My Toolbox

These Are the Best Things I’ve Discovered to Help Me Live with More Intention, Precision and Vision in 2020.

Grandfather's Tools

 

It’s only February and I’m already exhausted in 2020.

I want more naps.  I need to cut back on my caffeine dependency.  And I needed to hire a life coach who works specifically with new moms to hep me get my life back on track after my first year in a postpartum fog.

There are certain things missing from my life that once gave me endless energy and laser sharp focus before baby.  I exercised a lot.  I was a runner, hiker, golfer, tennis player, and occasional yoga student.

Now-a-days, to maintain energy, I drink a lot of water and take supplements.  I chase after a toddler.  I consider the steps I take when grocery shopping to be an equivalent to the first mile a marathoner runs.  I take it one step at a time.  And I often break off a small piece of a 75+% dark chocolate bar stashed in my tea cup cabinet, an indulgence and medicine all wrapped into one bittersweet energy boost.

I found my life coach on one of my favorite sites – Motherly.  Her business is called Mother Nurture.   My intuition pushed me to write to MN owner, Katelyn Denning.  We each have a son born a couple weeks apart (January babes) and I just felt like this woman had the tools I needed to help me get my energy back, to help me focus and to help me get things done.

After just one session with Katelyn I already feel better!  I have hope.  I have vision.  And possibly a renewed sense of self appreciation needed to actually put my vision into action and fruition.

I’m learning all kinds of new things from a new mom lens.  I think [hope] it’s making me a better person.  I have found some short cuts and detours and little breaks of inspiration that keep me going and help me to stay focused and energized – tools that I either didn’t have or didn’t use in my toolbox until now.

I’m happy to share them here.

TIME TO USE A TIMER.
What a revelation!  My life coach gave me a few assignments to work on with the instruction to use a timer to keep me on track [and also to prevent me from not using my time wisely – getting distracted or lost in thought].  Having a timer made me accountable for my time!  Imagine that!  I now use a timer on my phone for all kinds of projects and assignments I’m working on, as well as other activities that can suck up time like using social media.  I’m saving time, reclaiming time and owning my time!

MAKE TIME FOR MEDITATION WHENEVER/WHEREVER YOU CAN.
Mindfulness, mindfulness, mindfulness.  It’s been one of the top buzz words for over a decade.  It’s been named “word of the year” off and on since 2014.  It’s even been considered by the New York Times as having a “muddied meaning” (April 2015).  Still you find mindfulness everywhere – on coffee mugs, water bottles, probably even on shampoo bottles.  There is something to the concept of quieting the mind in this day and age of mental noise and mindlessness.  Gurus lecture about it on podcasts and Tedtalks.  It promises something healing, revitalizing, and grounding.  Personally, I have never had much success at quieting the neurotic voice in my head!  In yoga classes I would be anxiously sorting through too many to do lists, re-hashing conversations, and trying not to forget things that aren’t on my to do lists.  I would try to meditate at home but then the cat would sit on me or I’d get the giggles.  Since I now have a baby in my home, I have found myself in these woozy, subconscious, thoughtless moments that I have come to love.  I’m talking about the quiet time when I’m nursing my son.  He often dozes off and I often space out.  I think of nothing.  I’m not asleep, but I’m not awake either.  I just am.  I am quiet and happy and at peace with this sweet babe nestled into me.  I never contemplated the quieted mind that came about with nursing as anything other than checking out from sleep deprivation and new-momness.  I allowed myself to be tired and to relax into this time.  There was nothing else to be done while I was nursing.  The function of feeding my child took over.  It’s a gift.  It is the consummate lesson of letting go and being present.  Nursing, for me, is meditation.  And in emptying my mind in these moments, I am able to be more mindful when I need to come back to whatever else is going on.

FINDING EXERCISE IN THE MOST UNCOMMON PLACES.
This kind of feels like cheating, but it’s not!  I have found ways to be present with my son while simultaneously exercising some much needed self-care.   I used to work out a lot.  I don’t work out at all anymore.  I know this is just part of my transition from pre-baby self to mama self.  So I’m being gentle and kind with myself.  Instead of running, I move around the house like a rabid racoon putting stuff away, cleaning up after my toddler eats, running up and down the basement stairs to do laundry, etc.  One of my favorite new mom exercises is setting myself into yoga positions while my son plays with his favorite non-plastic toys (shout out to Melissa & Doug and Hape!).  But, yeah, he has some classic plastic ones, too.  Anyway.  Back to me.  My favorite yoga position while also playing with my lil boy is… shavasana, or corpse pose.  Yup.  It still counts.

LIGHT CANDLES.
I was never really all that into candles in my pre-baby life.  But now I light up for all kinds of mom-sense nonsense.  Doesn’t matter.  It makes me feel better.  It even helps to energize me.  I love clean, sustainable, aromatherapy candles that smell like real things – not artificial chemical toxins.  Wellness candles are my jam.  I already wrote about my “Grounded” candle a couple posts back.  I light it up every time I need to feel my feet on the ground, to feel like I am still able to walk about without falling off the face of the earth – because, let me tell you, sometimes as a new mom I feel like I could fall off at any moment and drift off into a black hole.  So burning a fresh, clean candle that has grounding properties within it really, really helps.

PODCASTS & PLAYLISTS & BLOGS, OH MY!
Okay, it’s not water, or exercise or crack cocaine.  But I really do get energized by certain media material.  I’m a non-news junkie!  I love new mom and parenting podcasts.  Right now I’m listening to Mom and Dad Are Fighting on Slate.  I listen to a lot of moms talk about mom stuff on TED Talks.  I really like the suggested list of best TED Talks for mothers on fatherly.com.  Reading various parenting blogs has been a life saver – Scary Mommy is saved as one of my top favorites.  And I listen to a bunch of different playlists on YouTube.  I just got bored with Pandora.  Right now I’m listening to a Girl Power playlist with the likes of Katy Perry, Alicia Keys, Lizzo, Lady Gaga.  You know the songs.  This Girl is a Firecracker on Fire, Good as Hell, and She was Born This Way!   Whatever.  This playlist gets me fired up.

BE BOLD & LEARN NEW TRICKS.
I’m not the most tech savvy person.  But I really want to learn how to do certain things.  Sometimes I can teach myself how to use a new app and I’m stunned at the results.  Proud of myself!  I wouldn’t say I have mastered Canva – but I make some pretty cool marketing posts for Instagram, in particular, using this creative app.  I love it.  I have a TikTok account but I still don’t get it.  I set up an app to manage my nanny’s payroll – Nanny Pay Advisor – and I feel like a real boss!  I discovered Otter and now record interviews and conversations I want to save and even transcribe!  This has been a revelation!  I will showcase my Otter skills in an upcoming post about breastfeeding after six months – so stay tuned!

This is just the beginning.  I’m learning how to be a better version of me, the new me, the new mom me.  And I’m starting to feel pretty good about myself again – more energized, more clear!

I’d love to hear how other moms are getting their groove back, evolving and getting re-energized!

 

 

The New Mama Re-Set: Managing the major life transition after baby

Tired woman sleeping on the table in the kitchen at breakfast. Trying to drink morning coffee

My therapist once told me there’s a difference between failure and fear of failure.

Before baby my professional life was challenging, yet rewarding.  But now with baby in tow, being a mompreneur of a wine brand feels like I’m a failure with a capital F.  I dropped the ball on my business for the entire first half of last year.   I just couldn’t…

By the fourth quarter  I was barely getting through my company’s wine grape harvest, let alone running the business operations.  It didn’t seem right bringing a baby to a wine production facility with busy forklifts, loud machinery,  CO2 and SO2 in the mix.  It was crazy difficult for me each day I arrived at the winery with my baby.  Even with my entourage of nanny, mother, and trusty hired cellar hand I was overwhelmed and anxious.

My anxiety ran the gamut from caring for my baby; [not] caring for myself; failing my child; failing by business; experiencing an identity crisis; not caring about my work anymore; contemplating a business shut down; and feeling exhausted, depleted and incapable of the work I accomplished before I was a mother.

I knew I needed to address these feelings.  I wanted to feel like I was in control again.  I wanted to feel like I got this!  I wanted to feel motivated, inspired and excited by my
work again.  I just didn’t know how to be me anymore.

So I leaned into a bunch of books and resources.  I literally had an Amazon Prime binge and Google overdose.  But here’s what I initially found in my search for the answers to my new mama problems:

Breathe Mama Breathe:  5 Minute Mindfulness for Busy Moms by Shonda Moralis, MSW, LCSW

The Empowered Mama:  How to Reclaim Your Time and Yourself While Raising a Happy, Healthy Family by Lisa Druxman, Founder of Fit4Mom

Self-Care for Moms:  150+ Real Ways to Care for Yourself While Caring for Everyone Else by Sara Robinson, MA

Warrior Goddess Training:  Become the Woman You Are Meant to Be  by Heatherash Amara

Motherly.com

Parents Magazine, especially the Special Edition “Balancing Your Life:  Family. Career. Love. You.”

It seemed like a good start.  I pride myself in being able to reframe relatively easily.  And yet I wasn’t able to shake these feelings of inadequacy, exhaustion and anxiety.  I didn’t recognize my old badass self.  She was left behind in the delivery room – hiding from a traumatic birth.  The new me was barely getting by – a doe in headlights.

Everything I learned from my research to understand my new mama self came to the conclusion that I’m a different person now.  So, now what?

On one particularly dark wintry Pacific Northwest afternoon, just after my January birthday, I ran another Google Search about finding a life coach for new moms who work.  I came across a Motherly article entitled “If I had my way, every working mom would have a life coach” by Katelyn Denning, a regular contributor.

I cried my way through the article and followed a link to Katelyn’s website:  Mother Nurture.

“Don’t just survive motherhood.  Thrive.”

I decided it was time to commit to something bigger than a mini library of self help books for new mamas.  While I appreciated the books I selected and read – and they all helped me in some way or another – I just felt that I still couldn’t…

Until I picked up the phone with a professional.

After my initial phone consultation with Katelyn I knew that I had a real support person available to me who I would pay for three months to see me through this challenge.  This meant I would be accountable for doing the work my coach assigned.

It was time to shift from this major upset to a RESET.

I agree with Katelyn.  If I had my way, every working mom would have a life coach.

 

 

 

These Were A Few of My Favorite Things in 2019

My Top Ten Self Care Products That Got Me Through My First Year Postpartum

 

When I decided to write about my “top ten of anything” to wrap up 2019, it was very clear that my top ten would be related to the birth of my son.  His arrival dominated my year!

I have written extensively about my postpartum experience because I think it’s really important to be open, candid and honest about what really happens when you are recovering from having a baby.  While every woman has her own unique experience, there are many unspoken aspects of recovery that make the process challenging, both emotionally and physically.   More and more women are speaking up about those things.

Among the most important messages, advice and wisdom I received during this period of my life was to make time for self care.  It sounds easy enough.  It wasn’t!  Caring for a newborn and yourself at the same time is not easy at all.  Especially if you have more recovery needs than the average new mom.

I simplified.  Self care would sometimes be as simple as taking a shower and using products that made me feel like a queen.  I compiled a list of my favorite self care products that were especially nurturing and luxurious!  These products made a huge difference in my emotional recovery – not only are they healing to the body and soul, but these businesses share high ethical standards and use the most natural, clean ingredients available.

It’s the little things that really aren’t little at all.
Screenshot_20191228-205004_Instagram

10

BEE LUCIA WELLNESS CANDLE
I brought home the “Grounded” wellness crystal-infused candle with labradorite crystals. I would light this candle any time I needed to get grounded.  Simple as that.  Its delicate but soothing scent is all about relaxation and getting centered and to create a meditative environment.  Each candle is crafted around a specific intention, made with toxin-free beeswax, organic coconut oil, therapeutic grade pure essential oils and natural crystals.  When you burn your Wellness Candle negative ions are emitted to bind to toxins and help remove them from the air.  I write about the benefits of negative ions all of the time!  You’re not just getting the benefits of aromatherapy – but negative ions, too!  Note:  negative ions are beneficial particles for the human body while positive ions are harmful; negative ions are found in highest concentrations in natural, clean air and are abundant in nature – especially around moving water like waterfalls, ocean surf, at the beach or after a storm and especially in mountains and forests.  Take this candle home and you can create a similar soothing environment!  A local family-owned Portland, Oregon company
Screenshot_20191228-204345_Instagram

9

URBAN MOONSHINE CALM TUMMY BITTERS
I have long used bitters for digestive relief.  I studied holistic nutrition and have made recommendations for many clients to use natural herbal bitters to help soothe digestive diseases.  I discovered Urban Moonshine at Portland-based market New Seasons.  I love the Calm Tummy blend because it has a strong yet gentle balance of chamomile and ginger – perfect for pregnancy nausea and postpartum tummy aches.  Urban Moonshine has an incredible website with pages like an online classroom – super informative!  A woman-run company based out of Burlington, VT.

 

screenshot_20191228-205115_instagram.jpg

8

SHEA MOISTURE GROUND COFFEE SCRUB
This is another product I found at a New Seasons store in the greater Portland area.  The nutritionist working in the personal care section highly suggested this product.  I explained that after having my baby my arms and legs were dry and a little bumpy.  I tried a few approaches, unsuccessfully.  This scrub healed my arms and legs, leaving me with soft, smooth skin like my baby!  I love the texture and fresh ground coffee smell – a natual wake- me-up with my morning shower.  I will say you need to rinse out your shower after using this product – it can get a little messy.  But, well worth a brief clean-up for such luxurious natural medicine!  Shea Moisture was founded by Sofi Tucker a woman who started selling shea nuts at the village market in Bonthe, Sierra Leone in 1912. By age 19, the widowed mother of four was selling shea butter, African black soap and her homemade hair and skin preparations all over the countryside.  Her grandchildren run Shea Moisture, Sofi’s legacy.  This business has pioneered fair trade through Community Commerce at home and abroad.  A woman-founded fair trade company from Sierra Leone, Africa.

 

screenshot_20191228-205312_instagram.jpg

7

PACHA SOAP CO.  SWEET HONEY ALMOND FROTH BOMB
I’ve never been into bubbles, froths or bombs in my bath.  I prefer basic epsom salt soaks – sometimes with a little milk and honey infusion for an added indulgence.  I received a Pacha Sweet Honey Almond Froth Bomb at my baby shower with some other self care items for new mamas.  I put the bath bomb on the shelf.  About the time my son was six months old, and I was done with the sitz baths, I decided to try the froth bomb.  It was a revelation!  The ultra luxe gold shimmer entices.  Once added to hot water, this lovely froth opened up all of my senses with its warm honey-almond fragrance.  The delicate froth turned the bathwater silky and didn’t leave residue on me (or my bath!).  Instead, the all- natural ingredients kissed my skin and gently softened my elbow, knees, heels.  I didn’t want to get out of the tub!  The ultimate self care!  Read about Pacha’s incredible mission on their website.  Pacha Soap Co is another global-conscious company spreading goodness through good causes.

 

screenshot_20191228-204745_instagram.jpg

6

EVAN HEALY TULSI FACIAL TONIC HYDROSOUL
I get compliments on my skin all of the time.  I have been blessed with my grandmother’s excellent genetics.  But I still take great care of my skin.  I’m a little OCA (obsessive compulsive Advantage!) about it.  I use Evan Healy products for my morning and evening skin care regimen.  When I was diagnosed with celiac disease back in 2007 I became more mindful about not only what I was putting in my body, but what I was putting on my body.  I had to read labels for gluten ingredients, often hidden, like triticale, wheat germ, barley, and so on.  Once I began reading labels I quickly saw ingredients that I didn’t want to put on my skin.  I adopted the philosophy “if I can’t eat the ingredients then it won’t go on my skin.”  Your skin is your largest digestive organ – it absorbs everything you put on it, as well as other unseen things in the environment.  To lessen the toxic load, I decided I had control over what I would put on my skin.  Evan Healy’s products are fine to eat – not that you would, but, there are no harmful chemicals.  Her products align with my philosophy.  Just as I practice holistic nutrition, holistic skincare is nutrition, too. 

I love the Tulsi (Holy Basil) Facil Tonic HydroSoul.  I mean, I love all her products.  But, this was a standout for me in 2019.  It was especially restorative and therapeutic during my postpartum year.  Plus, it has an amazing spicy, sweet clove-like fragrance.  In Hindu tradition it’s believed that Tulsi is a goddess embodied in an herb and is revered as the holiest of all plants.  In the wisdom of Ayurveda, Tulsi exhibits anti-oxidant, purifying, awakening, grounding benefits to skin, respiratory passages and psyche.  This is more than a skincare product.   It is medicine.  Another great website to educate and inform.  A woman-run company based in California also involved in ethical projects as well as the American Family Farm Revival.

 

screenshot_20191228-204505_instagram.jpg

5

WELEDA WILD ROSE PAMPERING BODY OIL
Weleda has long been a pioneer in natural products and even has its own certification for sustainability and environmentally friendly practices.  The mission is to create products that naturally work with your body’s own systems.  I only recently became a fan of rose oil or rose water.  This particular product is pure luxury.  I apply it from neck to toe as soon as I get out of the shower.  It has warming properties and just feels lovely.  I picked this out just at a time when I was going through some postpartum depression and I was going through the typical new mom identity crisis feelings.  This lifted my spirits.  Turns out, I learned in a healing Mayan abdominal massage treatment that I also needed work on my heart chakra, which is associated with balance, calmness and serenity.  Rose oil is associated with the heart chakra.  I was intuitively applying medicine.  Though global, Weleda still cultivates its own biodynamic gardens and work in fair trade agreements with small farmers and gardeners to source the best raw materials.

 

20191228_203944.jpg

4

WILD CARROT HERBALS WANDERLUST FOOT CREAM
My feet hurt a lot during my third trimester.  I had a bit of edema and my high arches were pushed nearly flat from the weight of my baby.  Even months after I gave birth to my son my feet hurt.  They sprang back to their normal high arches, which, I think exasperated the pain.  I just wanted my husband to squeeze my heels as hard as he could for relief.  My feet were also very dry from hormone changes and during harvest (I’m a winemaker) after being on them for grueling hours they’d often get wet and stay wrapped in damp socks for hours.  My feet needed some love.  I found this foot cream, thanks to the lovely new packaging.  It drew my attention!  I applied this indulgent cream immediately – the night of purchase, right before bedtime.  As the website promises – it’s perfect for slathering on weary feet, cracked heels and dry legs, and uses Oregon-grown peppermint oil to help revitalize the skin and restore the spirit.  It definitely softens and hydrates.  My feet felt completely renewed and restored.  A woman-owned company based in the beautiful Wallowas Mountains in Oregon.

 

20191228_204644.jpg

3

BADGER PREGNANT BELLY OIL
I started using this soothing belly oil during my third trimester.  I continued to soothe my healing tummy skin during my postpartum year.  It’s that rose scent again – but with vanilla.  Jojoba and coconut oils blend to make a super luxe, non-greasy oil that absorbs immediately and leaves a light scent.  Lovely!  Feels so good on stretching, stretched and stretch-marked skin.  A family-owned company with healing products, a healthy business and a mission to make a difference.

20191228_204912.jpg

2

KUU BOTANICALS GINGER & WILD ROSE INFUSED CASTOR OIL
Unfortunately, there isn’t a website available for this product.  I found it at a pregnancy and postpartum wellness center in Portland, Oregon.  This roll on castor oil was the perfect medicine for my c-section scar and scar tissue.  It can also be used for menstrual cramp relief.  It’s every bit soothing and warming with a delicate ginger and wild rose aroma.  A gentle application with the roller ball – and heat can be added like a traditional castor oil pack.  This product was ultra nurturing for me during my postpartum year. A local woman-owned Portland, Oregon company.

 

screenshot_20191228-204207_instagram.jpg

1

EARTH MAMA ORGANICS PRODUCTS.  ALL OF THEM!
I am naming ALL of the Earth Mama Organics products as my number one self care products that got me through my first year postpartum.  I received many of these products as a baby shower gift – probably the most nurturing gift for my self care regimen.   Let’s face it – mama is often forgotten after baby comes along.  But Earth Mama Organics takes care of both baby and mama.  I could not have survived my immediate postpartum days and weeks without the herbal sitz bath, herbal perineal spray, skin and scar balm, nipple butter and milkmaid tea.  The diaper balm is by far the best we’ve tried – our baby has gone almost diaper rash free as a result of this balm.  I can’t praise this line of product enough!  The website is a wonderful resource for expecting moms to visit – with a “Birth Plan” category and other really useful information – I recommend all expecting mamas read the section on “Postpartum Lying-in Plan”, a practice we implemented that has made all the difference for both my recovery and my child’s comfort.  A local woman-owned Portland, Oregon company.

 

Seeing Clearly in 2020

BCF 2020 Label Art
Preview of our 10th Vintage Blanc de Cabernet Franc label.

 

2019 was an enormous year for me and my family.  Giving birth to my first child was the biggest blessing of my life.  And yet I wasn’t prepared for the many challenges that would come along with my long and painful recovery.  I was unable to properly manage several aspects of my life and my business suffered the most – so much so that I nearly lost it.

I feel like I was under a veil of brain fog, depression and anxiety for the first half of the year.  Pain was at the center.  My family was far away and I felt the agonizing isolation that so many new mothers feel.  I was a deer in headlights and I had no idea how to get things back on track.  So I just focused on taking care of my baby while healing and trying to regain my strength – and I hoped that would be enough until I could manage the rest of my life.

I knew I needed more support.  Eventually, I hired a part-time nanny.  I then hired a marketing consultant to help me get organized.  I then hired someone to help me in the cellar to get me through harvest.  I had no idea how I would afford all of this help when, for so long, I managed to do the majority of my work by myself.  There was never a budget for staff.  My business is not yet profitable so I need to reserve all net sales for the cost of production.  There’s no line of credit and no current investor – no real financing.  Up until now I managed to make it work.

Becoming a mother changes everything.  Until you find yourself in it – you really have no idea what that means.   Beyond the shock of the injury, recovery and postpartum depression that came at the beginning of my mother journey, I had to reevaluate how I would continue to work as a mom and how I would develop into a mompreneur.

As soon as harvest completed and I had time to process my life and my work – it became abundantly clear that I needed to address my challenges on a deeper level.  I bought a bunch of books that tackled the struggles of a new mom.  One especially helpful book, The Empowered Mama:  How to Reclaim Your Time and Yourself While Raising a Happy, Healthy Family by Lisa Druxman, gave me exercises to do some important self work and self care.

One of the first assignments was to come up with your top ten values picked from an extensive list of empowering words; from there you narrow it down to your top three values, and then finally your number one value.  I put my complete list of top ten values up on my wall in my office, highlighting the top three.

My top three values were easy to identify:
3)  Integrity
2)  Generosity
1)  Resilience

Resilience to me often manifests as simple “reframing” from a negative situation or outcome.  It means your place in that negative situation or outcome is not permanent.  You have the power to change your experience.  It is a skill that I believe I have cultivated over many years.  I needed this skill now more than ever.

As I began to explore my new identity as mompreneur I considered all of the challenges that have come my way since I brought my son into the world and looked deeper into my experiences in relation to those challenges.

I love winter.  It allows for the quiet needed to self reflect.  I worked diligently in my home office and discovered some new truths about me and my business.  I explored the dread and resentments I felt regarding my business.  It was time to get real.

A little bit of self reflective work opened up the gates to the visionary work I was meant to do.  I had been stuck in the minutia.  Deep breathing and a little more kindness to myself helped.

I am proud of my business.  I am proud of the wine I make.  But there’s so much more that I want to do!

I’m not going into all of those details here and now.  It’s a work in progress.  But I am excited about the vision I have for my business, for myself.  I am working on the framework of that vision.  I am more centered and focused on the ethos of my work – what is really important to me to put out into the world?  We should always explore our gifts and reflect on how we can best use our gifts to make the world a better place.  We should also be inspired, impassioned and empowered to do the real work we are meant to do.

For a little preview – I am evolving the wine business.  It will have a cosmic make over with an exciting plan that will be cutting edge and will make for a lasting legacy for our grape growing and winemaking plans.  It will be epic!  I am manifesting everything I need right now to transform this business into something that better reflects my values, curiosity and big picture vision.

I will also be working on some other projects that tie into my nutrition background and interest in lifestyle and wellness – and motherhood.  Big and exciting work to be done!  Not to mention some amazing collaborations that have me so inspired and ready to roll up my sleeves and get to this important work!

As for my wine business – 2020 could not be more auspicious!  I’m launching a celebration for my 10th Vintage – that’s right!  2020 will be my tenth vintage!  20/20 is perfect vision and I am just about to launch a campaign to honor this incredible milestone.  The whimsical girl on my label holds a telescope and looks into the cosmos.  It is foreshadowing…

Fans can order special 10th Vintage t-shirts with this anniversary edition design (see above) on charcoal gray.  Stay tuned!

What a way to wrap up 2019 – a year full of blessings and challenges and a vintage that most certainly closed the decade in a memorable way!  This might be the best vintage on the books for Southern Oregon.  I can’t wait to release these wines and hold on to many of them in future celebration of my son’s birth year.

So we’re looking ahead to 2020 with hope and faith in the many miracles that can and we believe will happen.  It will be a game changer year and vintage – I can feel it!

 

 

 

A Little Story About How the World’s Greatest Cabernet Franc Changed My Life

cab franc wines
My wines lined up with my hero wines, including Clos Roche Blanche and Clos Rougeard

When I was new to the wine business – nearly twenty years ago (gasp!) – I worked for a distributor in Washington, DC.  We sold a portfolio of incredible wines from all around the world.  We also happened to sell the wines of New York wine importer Louis/Dressner Selections.  The wine company was founded in the early 1990s by Joe Dressner and his wife, Denyse Louis.   They championed wines from France’s Loire Valley and Beaujolais regions.

If not for Joe Dressner I doubt I’d still be in the wine business.

I was very green when I first started slinging wine.  But I was a fast learner.  I’d watch the seasoned wine guys in suits, who loved to show how much they knew about wine, running their gums ad nauseam to wine buyers all over the city.  Which translated, to me, to just memorize wine information sheets about a wine’s origins, maker, technical information and so on.  That would help me get the placement.  Or so I thought.

When I would listen in, these sales guys would mostly talk about what they liked about the wine, what they tasted and smelled, what they thought of the wine.  They weren’t sharing any helpful wine information at all.

This got me very nervous.  I felt reluctant to share my personal tasting evaluations and thoughts regarding the wines I had to sell.  We had hundreds of labels in our book – I hadn’t yet tasted them all!  How would I possibly sell them based on my experience with them when I had no experience with most of these wines?

It wasn’t clear to me, yet, what method would actually help me sell wine:  regurgitate a bunch of wine facts or dish out my opinions.

I started working in wine at an interesting time.  In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s there weren’t very many women sales reps beating the pavement in DC.  The few that were around were mostly middle-aged and looked a bit beaten down – you could see in the burgeoning lines in their faces that they had to do this the hard way.  Not the “old boys network” way.  Harder.  They had to earn respect in a painful way that the young Gallo boys would never have to.  This era was ripe in nepotism and cronyism – and building young men to be the next wine industry champions.

The other type of woman in the market was the young, skinny girl with giant breast implants that went from selling Budweiser to selling cheap “grocery store” wines to restaurant accounts.  They were called the Budweiser Girls.  They were not hired for their wine knowledge or expertise.

When I first started out in the wine business I was very aware that I was a unicorn.

I was young, conservatively dressed and thirsty to learn about wine.  I went to all of my accounts early and waited.  I would have to wait for hours for some of my buyers to see me.  Sometimes, after waiting a couple of hours, the buyers would tell me they were too busy and told me to come back the following week.  So I would.  This would go on for weeks.  Months, even.  I didn’t have a clue that I should just give up.  I naively thought this was the initiation process of being a new sales rep.  In some cases this was true.  But then I’d see new guys in neckties wait it out for a couple weeks and then they’d eventually get their big break in front of the buyer.  Just like that – they were in.

It was clear that I wasn’t going to move to the head of the line or get anywhere with many of these buyers.  Skinny French guys with long ponytails and suited Gallo types seemed to run the town.

Instead, I had to worry about whether or not I was showing enough boob.  I wish I was kidding.  I was young and a graduate of a woman’s college, which meant I was a feminist, which was kind of a dirty word even in the early 2000s!  I wasn’t about to show any of these dirty old sons of bitches (sorry, mom!) cleavage.  There had to be another way.  I don’t even want to get into the tragedy of how I had to sit on one of my buyer’s lap every Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. in order to take his weekly wine order while the French ponytails and Gallo boys would snicker.  I would retreat into my car and cry.   I wish I was making this up.

I had sales goals that I had to meet each month and I was nowhere near my numbers.  I was legitimately worried that low cut blouses were my only way in.  I didn’t own any and loathed the thought of spending money, the little I had, on low cut blouses that weren’t my style.  So, to my demise, I refused to expose my peaks and valley and kept dressing like a chic librarian.  I continued to struggle to show wine to many of the buyers on my route.

Part of the job of a wine sales rep is to host suppliers (ie. a winery sales rep or an importer) for a day’s work.  The industry calls this a “ride with” or “work with”.  You pick up the supplier in your car and then you take them to scheduled appointments at your accounts.  The supplier shows the wine and hopefully makes placements on your on-premise customer’s wine lists or on your off-premise customer’s shelves.  You politely make introductions, pour the wine, then let them work their magic.  Work withs can be great if you can schedule a full day.  If you get a last minute work with, it’s a nightmare.  The supplier expects a full day with your top accounts and often you have to scramble to get at least a couple decent appointments secured.  It can be very stressful.

I had my first supplier “work with” with Joe Dressner in the spring of 2002.  I had enough top accounts that would allow me to schedule a full work day of appointments.  Luckily my boss gave me plenty of time to book solid appointments.  Truthfully, the accounts didn’t give a rat’s ass about me.  They all wanted face time with Joe.  At the time, I had no idea how cultish and amazing most of his wines were.  I was just happy to get confirmed appointments!

I picked up Mr. Dressner in my Honda Civic.  I was ten minutes early.  He was waiting for me which made me feel like I was fifteen minutes late.  When he got into my car he looked like a stern English Professor about to quiz me on Keats, Shelley, Tennyson and Pound.  I was intimidated.  In his New York manner, he looked at me with indifference and said, holding up a bottle of wine with an indistinct white label, “if you can’t sell Cazin in every account today, you have no business in the wine business.”

And that was the start of our day.  I felt sick.

What I soon learned was one of the most important lessons of my career in wine:  you pour the wine and then you shut up.

I would respectfully pour samples of wine in the buyer’s glass and wait to see what Joe was going to do.  At the fist appointment he chit chatted about some guy he knew in France who the buyer knew and they laughed about the guy’s horribly mismatched toupee or something like that and then got very serious about the said guy’s wife who had recently passed away from cancer and how the son didn’t want anything to do with the vineyard and what a shame it all was and how the said toupee guy would likely sell.  In that exchange wine was poured and Joe neither regurgitated a bunch of wine facts nor did he dish out one opinion.

They returned to the wine in the glass, which had nothing to do with the toupee guy.  The buyer ordered three cases of Cazin Cheverny.

It was a similar story in each account we visited that day.  Joe would strike up some conversation about something else and he’d let the buyers share their knowledge about the wines and then dish out their opinions with very detailed tasting notes.

That was the a-ha moment:  let the buyer be the expert he or she is and the buyer will buy.  

It was that simple.  If the wine was very good, as these wines were, they spoke for themselves.  The wine buyers typically knew everything under the Tuscan sun about  iconic and esoteric wines, they built their programs on being able to share quality treasures with their customers.

Distribution sales reps too often make the mistake of trying to tell the expert what the expert should already know.  Every now and again I’d bring a wine that a buyer wasn’t familiar with and, still, I would refrain from over-sharing.  I’d let the buyer taste and ask the questions and I was prepared to answer in short and concise sentences.  I never offered an opinion but asked the buyer what he or she thought of the wine.  That was part of my education – because I learned a lot about wine from these long-time old school buyers.  Yeah, you pour the wine and then shut up and listen.

And that was how I learned to kill it as a wine sales rep.  I passed the French ponytails and Gallo boys in line and started selling wine like a boss.  I guess I have Joe Dressner to thank for that, for helping me keep my job!  And I never had to waste my money on low cut blouses!  So I got to keep my dignity after all.

The Louis/Dressner wines were my everything.  We had so many wonderful brands to sell in our book.  But I always found myself playing favoritism.  Because these wines spoke for themselves.  I was most captivated by Clos Rougeard and Clos Roche Blanche.

It’s sad.  All these years later, the two Louis/Dressner wines that not only shaped my career but helped inspire my own wine label are no longer in production.  And in 2011, the year I made my very first wine from Cabernet Franc, Joe passed away.

I remember him telling me that Clos Rougeard was arguably the greatest Cabernet Franc ever produced.  It was a cult classic.  Tiny production.  Two brothers.  And I had the privilege to sell those wines in a very important food and wine city.  How lucky for me. And what an education!

I’m looking outside of my window now, here in Oregon, years and miles away from Washington, DC.  The trees are nearly bare with lingering red, gold and brown leaves.  My fermentations are nearly complete and I will soon press off the Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Gamay grapes.

It’s quite something to consider where I’ve arrived since my days of worrying about whether or not I was showing enough cleavage to sell wine to an older wine institution in our nation’s capitol.  Many subsequent years of sales, marketing and cellar work have positioned me to make my own wine.  For me, it was always about Cabernet Franc.

My “Loiregon” wines tell the story as best as they can.  Oregon is a different place than France.  But we can make connections.  When I talk about the subduction off of the Oregon coast that took place 250 million years ago and left behind in Southern Oregon a treasure trove of ocean bottom material, including blueschist rock, ancient marine fossils and mollusk shells, and the largest fan of high grade limestone in the state – you can make connections to that of the Loire Valley that was under a tidal basin 100 million years ago.  You can deduce why the same grape varieties thrive in these similar soil series.   You can feel why these wines might be kindred spirits or even kissing cousins!

I chose Cabernet Franc from Southern Oregon because the best Cabernet Franc in North America grows in these soils.  I believe arriving in Oregon was my calling.  My father is from Oregon.  I have roots here.  My Nordic family arrived in the wild west as farmers and makers.  Sometimes we get pulled far from our roots and part the process of healing our ancestral wounds is simply returning home.

If Clos Rougeard was arguably the best Cabernet Franc wine ever produced, perhaps there’s a chance I can make something special, too.  I would never claim to make the best Cab Franc anywhere.  But I am not just making wine for the fun of it.  I’m not interested in any “rock star” status, in fact, I tend to hide in my comfortable shell from public wine tastings and spotlights.   I do believe I have my work cut out for me and I’m determined to make a statement, even if in my own introverted way.

I chose the name “Clos Rogue Valley” for my reserve Cabernet Franc.  It was a kind of  respectful nod to the Foucault brothers, the founders of Clos Rougeard.  I love puns and word play and look how beautifully the word Rogue plays on the eyes alongside Rougeard.

ROGUE / ROUGEARD

There are many stories in the pipeline I’ll eventually tell about making Caberent Franc.

This memory piece is about how I learned how to sell wine and that it didn’t require me to lose my dignity by showing my assets in a time that expected me to do just that – and how this was connected to certain wines from the Loire Valley that changed my life.

That said…

I wonder what Joe would have thought of my wines.  I would like to think that he would have approved of my decision to focus on Southern Oregon Cabernet Franc.  I sometimes think about sending his wife a bottle.  She doesn’t know me.  There were so many sales reps selling their wines over the years.  If she were to come across this post, I would want her to know how much respect and gratitude I have for her family’s business.  As far as I know, Joe could have thought I was just another idiot sales rep he had to go along with for a work with.  I never even asked if I passed the Cazin test!  LOL.  I didn’t really sell a single bottle of wine that day – the wine sold itself!  I’m assuming that was Joe’s humor to lighten the pressure of working with a supplier.  I didn’t know him well enough after one work with to know his humor.  But I do get a good laugh out of wondering…