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My Journey to Homemade Solutions

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For a LONG time, I’ve been the person that said, “I want to use more natural products. I want to save money and make my own stuff (when it’s easy!).” But I’ll be honest – I’m lazy and just never got around to it. Well, the time has come, friends! I recently bought homemade body butter and lip balm from a friend, and that was the nudge I needed.

Since then, I’ve ordered my first set of doTERRA oils (I was using essential oils before, but they were the cheap ones from the grocery store); stocked up on washing soda, Borax, coconut oil, and shea butter; and made a trip to the store for bottles and jars! I’ve already made laundry soap and oil rollers for arthritis and calming (for us and the dogs!). I’ve also just made a new bottle of calming spray for my dog, and I’ve ordered the necessary ingredients to make baby wash for my son. When our dishwasher soap, hand soap, and other household cleaners run out, I’ll be making those too!

I’m excited for the benefits of all-natural solutions, and I’m excited for the cost savings. And truth be told, because I’m a total nerd, I’m also a little excited about getting all of my stuff organized and labeled! I’ll be posting my recipes and stories as I go, so check back often.

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Exclusive Pumping: 4 Months Down the Road (and How Goat’s Rue Worked for Me!)

Awhile back, I shared my story of exclusive pumping and the struggles that came with that and postpartum depression. I was just re-reading that post when I decided it was time for an update.

I’m now over four months postpartum, and I’m happy to say I’m still successfully pumping exclusively. One note on that: our pediatrician has stocked us up with formula at every doctor’s visit, so we mix bottles about 3:1 breast milk:formula to help build up a freezer stash.

In the beginning, I pumped 7-8 times per day to mimic my son’s feeding schedule. This signals to the body that you’re feeding a newborn, and that signal helps you make enough milk. If you read my last post, you know I was producing barely enough to cover the amount he was eating per day. After trying all of the many recommended things to boost my supply, someone recommended Goat’s Rue.

I had never heard of it, but I was willing to try just about anything. From what I’d read, most women develop new milk ducts during pregnancy. That’s why your breasts get bigger–often a size or two larger than pre-pregnancy. For me, that never happened. I didn’t think anything of it, but I later learned that might be why I wasn’t producing very much; I just didn’t have enough ducts. Goat’s Rue is an all-natural herbal supplement that actually helps you grow new ducts. Crazy as it sounds, it’s even used by farmers to get cows to produce more milk. I was intrigued, so I ordered the Mommy Knows Best brand on Amazon:

Within just a few days of starting the supplement, I noticed a slight increase in supply. I mean, it wasn’t enough to get excited, but it was enough to think it was working. About a week in, my supply had increased measurably! Before I started taking Goat’s Rue, I was producing somewhere in the ballpark of 24 ounces per day. With the Goat’s Rue, my daily production went up to 30-34 ounces per day (sometimes even 36-38). I was thrilled! I was finally able to start getting a good freezer stash going.

I continued the supplement until it was gone (I had purchased a month’s worth), and then I didn’t know what to expect. Did I need to keep taking it to keep the supply up? Was my supply now “established” and therefore steady? By this point, I was 10 weeks postpartum. In theory, your supply is established at about 12 weeks. That means when you get to 12 weeks postpartum, you should be able to cut back on the number of pumping sessions per day and still yield the same amount.

I was still pumping 7-8 times per day (I pumped whenever he ate since I was still able to be home with him all day), 25-30 minutes per session. Now I know that sounds like A LOT, and believe me, it is! I was so worried about losing my supply, though, that I felt I had to tell my body to keep producing.

When we got to 12 weeks postpartum, I decided to experiment a bit with dropping pumps. I dropped down to six pumps per day (still 25-30 minutes per session) for about two weeks. My supply stayed the same, so that was a good sign. Then, when I was pretty sure I wasn’t losing supply, I dropped to five pumps per day (now going a full 30 minutes each session). Again, a couple of weeks later, my supply was still the same. Then came the big experiment–dropping to four pumps per day (still 30 minutes each session). I’m happy to say my supply still maintained! By this point, I was up to 32-36 ounces per 24-hour period.

Then I got a bit greedy and decided to try three pumps per day. After several days, my supply not only dipped a little but continued to fall. After five days of three pumps per day, I had dropped to about 28 ounces per day. That was two days ago. That’s when I decided three wasn’t going to work for me.

They say every pumping mom has a “magic number,” a perfect number of pumps per day where the output is its highest. For some women, they even produce more at this number than they did when they were pumping one more session. For me, my “magic number” is evidently four and not three. Ha! Live and learn.

A few days ago, I went back to my schedule of four pumps per day. So far, my output has not increased. I’ve gotten 28-29 ounces per day over the last several days. My understanding (and hope!) is that it can take 5-7 days to see your output return when adding the pump back in. I ordered another bottle of Goat’s Rue, and my husband offered to make some yummy lactation cookies. Fingers are crossed!

With my first son, I failed as an exclusive pumper. Maybe you read that story already. When I decided to pump exclusively with my second, then, I really wanted it to work. I did a ton of research–reading any forum or article I could find. I joined an awesome Facebook group, and I was determined to be successful. Looking back now on my first go-round, I know I did literally everything wrong.

With my first exclusive pumping journey, I didn’t pump often enough or long enough. I didn’t drink enough fluids. I didn’t eat the right things. I know now why it didn’t work. You’ll find tons of info out there to help you be successful should you choose the exclusive pumping route. If you want a few tips from a successful exclusive pumper, read on:

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Get the right equipment.

The Pump: Breastfeeding moms who want to pump between feeds don’t need a great pump. If you’re pumping exclusively, though, the more basic, inexpensive pumps won’t hold up to that much use. Get a hospital-grade double pump. I have a Spectra S1 and love it though now I wish I’d gotten the S2. They’re the same, except the S2 has a rechargeable battery. I have a pumping station set up at home, so that’s not a big deal, but it would certainly come in handy when I’m away from home. I ended up buying a car adapter to pump on the road, and I just have to be aware of outlet locations when I’m pumping somewhere else. Cordless would be nice.

Hands-Free Bras: If you’re holding the flanges, you won’t get anything else done. As I mentioned before, I pumped and fed my little man at the same time (and still do when our schedules jive), so I needed my hands free. Invest in a few good hands-free pumping bras, so you don’t have to hold the darn things. I have this one, made by Rumina.

Get the Right Size Flanges: Your pump will come with some standard size flanges, and they very likely won’t be the right size for you. If you’re using flanges that are too big or too small, your output will be lower, and you’ll get sore. The right size is key. You’ll find lots of pictures online to show you what the right size looks like, and ya know what? They didn’t help me at all. What did help me was to actually measure!

  1. Pump for about five minutes (your nipples will continue to swell as you pump, so it’s important to measure at the right time).
  2. Turn off your pump, and remove flanges.
  3. Use a tape measure to measure the diameter of each nipple (they may be different sizes) in mm.
  4. Be sure to measure just the nipple and not the areola.
  5. Use flanges that are 3-5 mm larger than your nipple diameter. Again, you may need different sizes for each side.
  6. Note your size may change over time also. I recommend re-measuring monthly to ensure you’re still using the right size.

Note: your pump brand very well may not have the actual size you need, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. NeneSupply has tons of size options for lots of different pumps. I just searched on Amazon for my pump brand (Spectra) and the size I needed and found a compatible part.

Replace your membranes monthly.

Regardless of which pump brand you’re using, the membranes (aka duckbill valves) should be replaced monthly if you’re an exclusive pumper. Over time, these little parts will wear and stretch, and that will decrease suction. I use the NeneSupply brand with my Spectra, and they work great (and are far cheaper than the Spectra originals). Side note: as I mentioned above, NeneSupply is a great brand for “after-market” parts and accessories for your pump. Check out everything they have.

Don’t wash pump parts every time.

Pump parts only need to be washed once a day. If you’re washing every time (especially in the beginning when you’re pumping 7+ times per day), you’ll get tired of it by day two. You don’t even need to rinse them. In between sessions, toss the parts (I leave mine assembled) into a container or bag, and store them in the fridge. Wash them in hot, soapy water once per day. The necessity of sterilizing is debated, but I sterilize mine a few times per week if for no other reason than to get the milk fat out of the hard-to-reach places. Just boil the parts for five minutes, and allow them to air dry.

Understand letdown mode vs. expression mode.

With my first son, I had a Medela pump. When you first turn the Medela pump on, by default it starts in letdown mode. This mode is fast and is designed to trigger the letdown reflex, so your milk starts flowing. Once the milk is flowing, you switch to expression mode. This mode is slower to help express the milk out. Well the Spectra starts the opposite way, and I had no idea! The Spectra by default starts in expression mode, so you have to manually switch it to letdown mode to begin (that’s the button with the three wavy lines on it). Then, when your milk is flowing, you switch back.

It’s absolutely possible to get multiple letdowns (and thus more milk) per session. When your milk flow slows to drips in the expression mode, switch back to letdown mode for a couple of minutes. Then go back to expression mode. Switching back and forth will trigger more letdowns increasing your output per session.

Use your hands while you pump.

Remember how I said you’ll want your hands free while you pump? Some of that is to allow you to do “hands-on pumping.” Once you get into expression mode, use your hands to squeeze and massage your breasts. This will help get the milk moving and flowing. Move your hands around a bit to ensure you get all sides and up toward your collar bone and arm pits.

Faster and stronger isn’t better.

Pumps (especially hospital-grade pumps) will go pretty darn high for suction and speed. A common misconception is that faster and stronger suction will yield more milk. While I suppose that could be true for some women, it was absolutely not true for me. I produce more on slower speed settings and lower vacuum.

In letdown mode, I use 70/2. That means my pump sucks 70 times (or cycles) per minute, vacuum level 2 (out of 5 in letdown mode). When I go to expression mode, I use 38/4: 38 cycles per minute (ranges from 38-55), vacuum level 4 (out of 12). If I try to go higher on either number, it gets uncomfortable, and my milk flow slows. It’s important to experiment with the many different settings to find the right levels for you. It absolutely should not hurt or even be uncomfortable. If it is, turn it down.

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Exclusive Pumping Struggles and Postpartum Depression & Anxiety

If you read my previous post about my first son being raised mostly on formula, you know I’ve struggled with breastfeeding. (Read it here if you’re interested in hearing my story.) When my second son was born (now just over five weeks ago), my success wasn’t much better. This time, he didn’t go into the NICU, but I still had trouble with latching.

I gotta start by saying, the first 24 hours were pretty awesome. His latch didn’t hurt, he seemed to be getting something, and he was overall pretty darn content for a newborn. Sadly, it took a downhill turn not long after. That second night in the hospital was a struggle.

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It was about 2 a.m. when I woke up to him crying in his bassinet. I quickly scooped him up and prepared myself to start feeding him, but this time was different. Regardless of the hold we tried, it was painfully uncomfortable for me. Plus, he would latch for just a few seconds before screaming again–like nothing was coming out.

I finally did get him to latch (mostly pain-free), and then he kept working at it for 40 minutes! Yes, 40 minutes!! At the 40-minute mark (and really, way sooner), I couldn’t handle it anymore, so I made him stop. The instant I removed him, he was screaming again. I absolutely couldn’t take letting him latch again, and I was about in tears from the pain and frustration.

I sat there for a minute or two not sure what to do. Finally, I pushed my call button. When the friendly voice asked me how she could help, I asked for formula. My nurse quickly came to the rescue with a 2-ounce bottle of formula in hand. She got it ready for him and handed it to me. When I gave it to him, and he happily gobbled it down, I felt myself sigh with relief. He was eating, he was happy, and I wasn’t in pain.

For the rest of our hospital stay, we gave formula. By that point, frankly my nipples couldn’t handle even trying anymore, so I gave myself a much-needed break. The nurses were awesome and stocked us up on formula before we left. They also gave me tons of info about meeting with lactation consultants to help with his latch and/or to help with pumping should I choose to go the exclusive pumping route again.

When we discharged and got home, the first thing I did was pump. That initial pump didn’t yield much, so feedings were primarily formula mixed with what I was getting. The good news was pumping didn’t hurt.

After a day of just pumping, we tried breastfeeding again. I was immediately in pain, and it wasn’t long before the tears came–from me! I immediately felt like a failure. This is what moms are made for–feeding their babies. I had heard and read so many times about how you just have to grin and bear it for the first few weeks and it gets better. I had also heard and read (equally as many times) that if you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t hurt. So there I was…was I doing it wrong? Did I just need to buck up and deal with it?

No matter the answers to those questions, I knew I couldn’t do it. My husband quickly swooped in and took our son. He had a bottle ready for him. He told me I was doing great and all I could do was try. He told me not to cry and that he would feed him. He told me how proud he was of me. Have I told you all how INCREDIBLY AWESOME my husband is? Have I told him? Note to self: tell him more often.

So here we were, back to this idea of exclusively pumping. What does that mean? It’s exactly what it sounds like. You don’t breastfeed, but your baby gets breast milk because you’re pumping ALL. THE. TIME. It feels like it anyhow.

Most moms who struggle with breastfeeding are led to believe their only option is formula, but that isn’t true. If you’re able (and willing) to do it, there’s a mysterious third option called exclusive pumping. Ideally, you pump as much as your baby feeds. So if your baby is eating every two hours around the clock, that means you’re also pumping every two hours around the clock to mimic that. That’s what tells your body to keep making milk.

Of course, that’s all in theory. My understanding (I obviously have no personal experience) is that a baby is far better at emptying your breast than a pump. If the pump isn’t fully emptying your breast, your body might not make enough or might not produce as quickly. So far, that’s been my experience. While I feel like my breasts do get fully emptied with the pump (they’re soft and free of lumps when I’m done), I don’t feel like I’m producing as much as I need to.

A couple weeks ago, I downloaded an app to start keeping track. I record when and how much the little man eats, and I record when and how much I yield pumping. For the first few days, I was making about 3-4 ounces more than he was eating daily. I was able to freeze some, so that’s a good feeling (especially since I stopped producing with my first son at six weeks). Over the last week or so, though, my production has been–at best–exactly the same as he’s eating. Often times, I’ve had days with lower output than what he was eating.

Before I even noticed the production dip, I started the common recommendations:

  • Eat and drink enough. If you’re not getting enough calories and/or drinking enough fluids, your body won’t be able to produce enough milk. Most folks recommend eating at least 1800 calories per day and consuming at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day. Admittedly, I’ve struggled with both. With a two-year-old, a newborn, and a pumping schedule, it’s hard to get in enough food. And, I hate water. I do not like it one bit. I try to drink lots of other fluids to compensate.
  • Take Fenugreek. Fenugreek is an herbal supplement that is supposed to boost your production. Most people say you should take 2-4 capsules three times a day. I’m up to three capsules three times a day, and I’ve yet to notice a change.
  • Make lactation cookies! Remember that incredibly awesome husband I told you about? Well he loves to bake, and he baked these awesome cookies we found on Pinterest. Let me just say they’re delicious, and I was happily scarfing down 3 or 4 or more a day! Did they make a difference? Again, I didn’t notice one.
  • Last resort: prescriptions. When nothing seemed to be helping, I asked my doctor for a prescription for Reglan. My understanding is that Reglan is actually prescribed for acid reflux but has a side effect of boosting the hormone in your body responsible for milk production. I’ve been taking it about a week and haven’t noticed a difference. **Also: one of the side effects is depression, and let me tell you–that kicked in over the last couple days! Like a new mom isn’t already riding an emotional roller coaster! Last night, I started to have panic attacks (I suffer from anxiety, so I know what these are like) seemingly out of the blue. I’ve decided to discontinue taking it.

So now here I am…producing less than the little man is eating, struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed. Thank God for my awesome neighbor!

Yesterday, in the midst of a near-breakdown, I called her and asked for help. She quickly came over and helped take care of our little guy so I could pump in peace. Bonus, she also has some excess breast milk in her freezer and brought some over for us (she also gave us some a few weeks ago).

Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to ask for help! As a general rule, I’m terrible at it. But, I knew I’d reached a point where I needed another person to help me.

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Fed is Best

When our first son was born (he’s now 2.5), he went into the NICU right away. I had a bit of a fever during delivery, so they took him as a precaution. The downfall was they did formula and pacifiers right away. As an adopted kid, I had no problems with formula since I was raised on it, but I wanted to try breastfeeding. We weren’t able to get much skin-to-skin time, and he was so far away in the NICU!

Needless to say, when I did try to breastfeed, we didn’t have much luck. By that point, he was used to a free-flowing bottle, and I of course didn’t offer that. He had a hard time latching well, and I’m a huge wimp, so it was super painful. I know–it gets better, right? But I’m such a wimp that I simply couldn’t take it. I had decided to pump exclusively instead. That way, he would still get breast milk, but I didn’t have to be in pain.

We ended up having to mix formula and breast milk for the first few days, but when my supply came in after several days, it went well. Everything was great until POOF–week 6 came, and I just stopped producing. Looking back, I did nothing right. I wasn’t pumping often enough, I didn’t drink enough fluids, and I didn’t try any of the helpful supplements. From then on, we mixed what little I had stashed away in the freezer with formula, and it wasn’t long before we switched completely to formula.

Again, let me say: I have NO problem with formula, but dang it’s expensive! When he got to 11 months old, I purchased my last tub of formula. I remember coming home and posting an excited update on Facebook: “We just won the lottery. I bought our last tub of formula!” All jokes aside, I was ready to save the money and start switching to cow’s milk.

Rewind to my followup with my OB at six weeks. By the time we went to that appointment, I’d stopped producing for several days. When she asked how pumping was going, I told her I was done. She told me I should’ve said something sooner; there was a prescription she could’ve given me. Who knew?! Obviously, I didn’t. Well shoot.

Looking back, I have absolutely no regrets. Our son is perfectly healthy, and formula is not the poison some people might lead you to believe. Do I think breast is best? No. I think fed is best. Breast milk is ideal, yes, but formula is great too. And if you’re getting through each day, taking care of yourself and your little one, and feeding that little creation you just cooked up inside you, you’re doing great!

Fed is Best

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Working from Home with a Newborn

Wow, it’s been almost a month since my last post! Our newest little man joined us on May 16, 2018, and it’s been a whirlwind since. Even though our older son hasn’t yet reached three, I somehow forgot how demanding and tiring a newborn can be.

A couple of months before the new dude was born, I put together a blog schedule for both of my blogs. The schedules were broken out by week, with two post topics (for each blog) scheduled for the week. The plan at the time was to work ahead and have several scheduled. While I did a great job (right up until the week before he was born) writing and posting the two topics for each week for each blog, I never really got ahead.

Needless to say, when Coulson was born, everything halted, and new content stopped coming. Looking at my awesomely planned out schedules now, I see I’m four weeks behind! While I likely won’t get completely caught up (ever, probably), I will do my best to get back to a good schedule going forward.

As you may (or may not) know, I own two home-based businesses, and I teach part-time at Southeast Tech here in Sioux Falls. Both of my businesses include blogs that I (theoretically) keep updated, and they both have clients/customers to take care of. My teaching schedule and course load varies from term to term, and I do teach year-round. For this summer term, I am teaching just one online class. Although that means I don’t have to be in class in person, I still have a good deal of prep, grading, and email replying to manage. Those three jobs plus a newborn and a toddler make for a fun schedule!

As a general rule, I’m admittedly a bit of a procrastinator, but I’m also very good at scheduling and time management. Don’t ask me how those two extremes even go together, but somehow it works for me. While our new son is home with me all day every day, our older son is going to daycare 15 hours a week. That’s not a huge chunk of time, but the goals were simple:

  • Give me some time to work without a high-energy toddler to tend to
  • Allow me to focus on the newborn and all the tasks associated with him
  • Keep the toddler in a structured, engaging environment throughout the summer months

As I’m now looking at the workload that I’ve somewhat neglected over the last 3.5 weeks since Coulson’s birth, I know my scheduling and time management skills must be put to work! Since my husband works long hours, leaving early in the morning and getting home well passed the bedtime routine, it’s important that I find a schedule that works for me and that I STICK TO IT!

So here I am on a Sunday night, writing this post and putting together my plan. When will I work? What will I do when? When will I tackle the household chores of laundry, dishes, yard work, etc.? When will I run errands? When will I sleep? Here’s my plan going forward: schedule it out one week at a time–because we all know things will change, and I’ll have to roll with the punches.

Every Sunday night, I’ll sit down and look at what’s ahead of me that week. What school work do I need to do? What blog posts do I need to prep and write? What tasks do I need to complete for my customers and clients? What do I need to get done around the house and out and about? I figure I should also take into consideration the weather, so I know when I can mow, when I’ll need to water, and when I can take care of the garden and the flowers. I’m not suggesting it will work out perfectly, but it certainly has to be better than no plan!

Wish me luck!

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Ditch the Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softener: Use Dryer Balls!

We used to use dryer sheets like they were going out of style. I liked how they left my clothes feeling soft and smelling great. Then I learned a bit more about them. In case you weren’t aware, as dryer sheets tumble around with your clean laundry in the dryer, they coat everything with what I can only describe as a chemical-filled film. This film helps to soften the laundry and leaves it smelling pretty.

But what’s in this “film”? The sheets themselves are coated in a fabric softening chemical and (usually) various fragrance chemicals. Some of these chemicals are toxic, and at the least, many of them are known allergens. Plus, dryer sheets aren’t even essential to our laundry. That means it’s just an added expense and exposure to something potentially toxic for no reason.

When we first ditched dryer sheets, I’ll admit my laundry struggled. I didn’t care about or even miss the nice fragrance, but we had some major issues with static. Plus, it was the dead of the winter when it was dry and cold–that didn’t help my cause. I headed to the internet to do some research on how to reduce static.

Reducing Static Cling

The first thing I discovered was that I needed to be air drying certain fabrics rather than letting them tumble around in the dryer. These particular fabrics are the biggest culprits for creating extra static. For us, that meant (and continues to mean of course) air drying fleece and polyester especially:

  • Fleece–blankets, pullovers
  • Polyester–mesh shorts, most other workout clothes, most of our polo shirts

When it’s nice outside (or when my indoor drying rack has the space), I also like to air dry much of our other laundry as well. It saves energy from running the dryer and helps clothing and other things to last longer.

I also read that dryer balls were an excellent way to reduce static AND reduce drying time! You can certainly make your own (do a quick Google search, and you’ll find directions everywhere), but I found these on Amazon and ordered them in a jiffy. Dryer balls are simple to use. I keep all six of them in the dryer and let them tumble with each load. They last for thousands of loads and contain no toxic chemicals!

Some folks recommend adding a few drops of essential oil to each ball before each load if you like a fragrance boost out of your dryer. Personally, I’ve found the fragrance to be faint, so I don’t bother. However, if you want to freshen your sheets before making your bed, for example, 3-4 drops of lavender on each ball is nice.

Fabric Softening

The other thing you might be wondering about is how to soften your fabric without dryer sheets. Sure, you could go to the store and buy liquid fabric softener for your washing machine, but then, that would defeat the whole purpose of ditching the dryer sheets, right? Well, I have a solution for you!

A simple, nontoxic alternative to fabric softener is distilled white vinegar! It’s inexpensive (especially when you buy it in the huge jugs at Costco like I do), and it works great. And I promise it won’t leave your laundry smelling like vinegar. I keep a quart-size glass bottle (originally a Heinz vinegar bottle) in our laundry room and refill it as needed. I find it easier to pour from than the big gallon+ jug.

To each quart, I also add 15-20 drops of lemon essential oil (optional). You’ll want to shake it gently before each use, as the essential oil will separate from the vinegar. Simply add it to your fabric softener compartment before each wash, and your laundry will be softened–just like that. As an added bonus, vinegar is a great stain and odor remover, so you’ll get a nice boost with each load on that front as well.

Oh, and if you’re looking to remove even more toxic chemicals from your laundry room, check out my post on homemade laundry soap! You’ll not only be happy with the natural ingredients, but your pocket book will thank you as well!

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Home Remedy for Muscle and Joint Pain

When I was in high school, I remember my left knee getting awfully sore and swollen during my senior year–particularly after physical activity. As a show choir member (we did lots of dancing if you’re not familiar with show choir) and golfer, I was fairly active. As a right-handed golfer, specifically, my left knee took the majority of the turning and follow-through weight. With summer fast approaching, marching band was coming, and I was the captain of the colorguard. Let me just say we did A LOT of running, often wearing shoes or even strappy sandals with no support.

I finally decided to get it checked out at the doctor. I was told I had bursitis. If you’re not familiar with bursitis, it’s the inflammation of the small, fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that lubricate and cushion your joints. My doctor recommended a compression sleeve whenever I was participating in physical activity, followed by a rotation of heat and ice to ease the pain and swelling.  Though basic home treatment typically clears it up in a few weeks, it’s not uncommon for recurrent flare ups to happen.

After high school, I’ll admit I was fairly lazy and not nearly as active, so I didn’t have many issues for several years. At the ripe old age of 32, I decided it was time to get into shape. I started with Insanity at home. For the record, Insanity is indeed insane. Works great though if you stick to it! After I finished that, I thought it sounded like a good idea to become a runner. I always liked the idea of being a runner, but I’d never done it. Why not start in your 30s with no help?

I’ll tell you why not: your body isn’t ready for it, and proper shoes are ESSENTIAL. I went into it cold turkey and picked shoes I thought were cool–Five Fingers. While I loved the feeling of nearly shoeless running, I quickly learned it was a terrible idea for me. When my left knee started to get sore just minutes into a jog, I knew something was up. Back to the doctor I went. He diagnosed me with a sprained MCL, due to overpronation. He also suspected a bit of flare up of bursitis.

I was told no running for 2-3 weeks, and when I was ready to start again, I needed different shoes–shoes that better supported my gait and would minimize overpronation. I also incorporated a compression sleeve with side braces when I started running again to help stabilize my knee. Though all of these things helped, my age wasn’t on my side, and I still had some minor discomfort following runs, volleyball games, and sometimes even lawn mowing. That’s when I turned to essential oils for the last bit of relief.

I made a roller bottle that I would apply after any sort of physical activity, and let me say it helps a ton! It includes the essential oils of copaiba, Deep Blue (a doTERRA proprietary blend), and frankincense. Let’s first talk about why I chose those three oils:

  • Copaiba is a powerful antioxidant known to reduce pain and inflammation*.
  • Deep Blue is a doTERRA proprietary blend containing the oils of wintergreen, camphor, peppermint, ylang ylang, helichrysum, blue tansy, blue chamomile, and osmanthus. This combination of oils has an amazing cooling effect and provides great relief to achy muscles and joints*.
  • Frankincense is often referred to as the “king of oils” for its many health benefits. It has a warming and soothing effect that nicely counters the cooling effect of Deep Blue. (Think Icy Hot.)

Become a doTERRA wholesale member today to get the absolute best pricing on certified pure therapeutic grade essential oils available!

The last ingredient you’ll need is fractionated coconut oil. I love Molivera Organics, and I typically order it on Amazon. The especially handy thing about this particular bottle is that it comes with a pump top. That makes it easy to fill your roller bottle! Get it here.

For storage, you’ll need a 10-mL roller bottle. For ease of application, I prefer a steel roller ball vs. a plastic one; it just rolls more nicely. Additionally, I like to store mine in cobalt or amber glass to prolong the life of the oils. When not in use, keep your roller bottle in a cool, dark place. Need roller bottles? Get a 6-pack here or a 24-pack here. Okay, now we’re ready to make your roller bottle!

Ingredients:

  • 15 drops Deep Blue essential oil blend
  • 7 drops copaiba essential oil
  • 3 drops frankincense essential oil
  • Fractionated coconut oil

Make It:

  1. Add essential oils to your roller bottle.
  2. Fill the bottle with fractionated coconut oil.
  3. Cap and shake gently.

To use it, simply roll it on as needed to your achy muscles and joints. When possible, allow to dry before covering with clothing.

Don’t want to make it yourself? Buy it now.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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Benefits of doTERRA Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon essential oil is known for its cleansing, purifying, and invigorating properties. It is one of the most versatile EOs available, and it’s doTERRA’s top seller. When folks are just starting their journey with essential oils, it can be overwhelming because there are so many oils out there. Lemon, lavender, and peppermint are often the first three I recommend due to their versatile uses.

Cleaning

My top use for lemon is cleaning. Who likes to clean? I certainly don’t. When my son started moving around and putting seemingly everything in his mouth, I quickly realized just how toxic our everyday household cleaners are. Go ahead–grab a bottle of a cleaner in your house, and read the ingredients. Now imagine your kids, grandkids, or pets crawling around after using those cleaners.

Plus, I had a different bottle for everything–the bathroom, the kitchen counter, the stove top, glass, you name it. Lemon is so versatile that it can be used for all of these things! One simple bottle of cleaner will tackle your bathroom, kitchen counter, glass, stove top, microwave, and more!

Lemon essential oil is an excellent cleaner and purifier. Add just a few drops to water, and you have a purifying, disinfecting cleaner that is all-natural and 100 percent safe. It’s the perfect cleanser for every inch of your home. And, it will make everything smell lemony fresh!

I also use it in many of my homemade cleaning products including dishwasher detergent tabs, laundry soap, and all-purpose cleaner.

Diffusing

Lemon is a great oil to diffuse! Diffusing lemon can help cleanse the air and eliminate odors. It is also uplifting and energizing and has been shown to improve mood when diffused.

Taken Internally

Do you like lemon slices in your water? I’ll admit–I don’t. If you do, though, try adding just 1-2 drops per 8 ounces of water. You’ll get the same great lemon taste, PLUS it can help *detoxify your body and open up your respiratory system!

I also struggle from seasonal and cat allergies (and we have two indoor cats). Lemon, lavender, and peppermint are thought by many to be the *allergy power trio. I used to take allergy medicine daily to help relieve my symptoms. I am happy to report that I haven’t needed it for well over a year now. When my allergies flare up, I instead take two drops each of lemon, lavender, and peppermint internally in a veggie cap, and it does wonders for me! I also will diffuse this combination, and I have an inhaler made with these oils that I can take with me on the go if needed.

Please remember that not all oils are created equally, and many (if not most) of those available online and in stores are NOT recommended for internal use. That’s because they’re not 100 percent pure–EVEN IF THEY SAY THEY ARE. The FDA only requires essential oils to be 5 percent pure to be labeled as 100 percent pure. If you would like to take oils internally, I only use and recommend doTERRA oils. Contact me today to purchase them at a great discount!

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Other Great Uses

Lemon essential oil can be used in so many ways that I could never even tell you all of them! Try some of the ways listed below, or comment with your tips!

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Easy Homemade Hair & Body Wash

Ya know what I love most about homemade hair and body wash? I can customize it in any way to suit my needs. Plus, since I know what’s going into it, I know it’s all-natural and free of artificial additives, chemicals, and preservatives. That means it’s better for my skin and hair. It’s a win-win!

What’s in It?

The recipe calls for just five ingredients–and one of them is water! The other ingredients include Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile liquid soap, carrier oil, essential oils, and xantham gum (a thickening agent).

Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile liquid soap is organic and vegan. It is a wonderful moisturizing soap, and since I use the unscented one, it’s gentle enough for babies, kids, and folks with sensitive skin. Carrier oils have various benefits depending on your needs. Certain carrier oils are ideal for things like dry skin, oily skin, acne-prone skin, dandruff, and more. Check out this post for more information on choosing the right carrier oil for your skin type and this one on choosing the right carrier for your hair type. Like carrier oils, various essential oils can also have benefits for different needs. Choose the best ones for you by visiting the links above.

Remember also that not all essential oils are created equal. The FDA only requires 5% purity for an essential oil bottle to be labeled 100% pure. I know, right?! Just because the label says it’s pure doesn’t mean it is. Do your homework on the companies and their testing practices to ensure you’re getting pure oils. I only use and recommend doTERRA oils. If you’d like to order doTERRA oils, click here for more information.

The other things you’ll need to make your own hair and body wash are a blender and a 16-ounce dark glass (amber or cobalt) pump bottle. I like these bottles from Amazon. Why dark glass you’re wondering? Essential oils can degrade over time when exposed to light. Storing them in a cool, dark place prolongs their potency. They also have the ability (citrus oils especially) to eat through plastic over time. Plus, glass bottles can be washed, sanitized, and used again and again! Plastic bottles would need to be replaced with each new batch.

Ready to make it? Click the links in the ingredient list for purchase info if you don’t have them on hand.

Ingredients:

Make It:

  1. Blend water, carrier oil, and essential oils in a blender on low for 3-5 seconds.
  2. Add xantham gum, and blend on low for 5-7 seconds or until thickened slightly.
  3. Add liquid castile soap, and pulse (do NOT blend) 2-4 times to incorporate.
  4. Pour into pump bottle.

You’ll likely notice this recipe doesn’t get as sudsy as your typical shampoo or body wash. Without the artificial ingredients that produce the bubbles, that’s completely normal! Rest assured, though, it’s still doing its job.

Don’t want to make it yourself? Buy it now!

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Detoxing Your Armpits: The How and Why

A while back, I wrote an article about why you should make the switch to all-natural deodorant. If you’re like me, you understand the risks of anti-perspirants as well as the benefits of natural deodorants. But another issue I ran into was creating an all-natural deodorant that worked.

My first recipe included baking soda, and it worked great for me. For some, including a friend of mine and my husband, though, the baking soda was just too irritating for the skin. Although the odor control was great, they both struggled with red, itchy (almost painful!) skin. Believe me when I say it wasn’t pleasant for either of them!

That led me to more experimenting to get rid of the baking soda altogether. Let me just say that next recipe stunk–pun intended. My husband and I both used the new recipe, which included NO baking soda, and we both found it essentially worthless. Within just an hour or two of applying, we were both pretty stinky to say the least.

My next attempt was a “meet in the middle” recipe. I used about half the baking soda of the original recipe. For both me and my husband, we found the odor control to be “meh” at best. It did okay for a few hours but didn’t last the day. Oddly enough, I also started to get some irritation with this recipe. It wasn’t terrible, but it was noticeable.

Next I tried a roll-on deodorant that used milk of magnesia, baking soda, arrowroot flour, and essential oils. This one was a disaster. Not only did it fail at odor control (despite people claiming they got 48 hours of zero odor!), but it irritated my skin terribly, and I felt like it never fully dried. I tried a similar roll-on with just milk of magnesia and essential oils as well. That one didn’t irritate my skin, but it also didn’t deodorize, and it again never felt dry.

Then, I started reading more and more about detoxing our armpits. At first, I thought it was useful just for folks that were getting the irritation, but I later learned it also helped for people using natural deodorants that found them to be less than effective. Luckily, I had all the necessary ingredients on hand, so I mixed up a small batch.

Ultimately, I switched back to my third recipe (the “meet in the middle” recipe) and incorporated a regular detox. I am happy to report I am now stink-free and irritation-free! For the first week, I used the detox paste daily before showering. Now, I use it once or twice a week. Before we get to that, though, let’s talk a bit more about why we detox our armpits.

Why You Should Detox Your Pits

If you find natural deodorants irritating or ineffective, a regular detox will help to balance you out and fix those problems. Even if you’re not having irritation and your natural deodorant is effective, though, a regular detox has LOTS of great benefits!

You’ll remember if you read my article on why you should switch to natural deodorant in the first place that conventional deodorants and anti-perspirants include a number of chemicals and artificial ingredients. For anti-perspirants especially, the ingredients literally block your sweat ducts, stopping your body from doing a very natural and necessary thing–sweating.

All of these different ingredients mess with the productivity of your lymph nodes, which can also inhibit your immune system. Additionally, many of the ingredients have been linked to various diseases and other medical concerns like Alzheimer’s, infertility, allergies, breast cancer, and (again) a weakened immune system.

A regular armpit detox can not only help your body adapt to natural deodorant more quickly, but it may also pull some of these toxins out of your body that have been stored up after years of anti-perspirant and conventional deodorant use. It’s a win-win.

How often should you do it? Great question! When first making the switch to natural deodorant, I recommend a daily detox for at least 7-10 days. Beyond that, it totally depends on you! For some, a weekly detox is a great way to keep the natural deodorants working well. Others find a monthly detox to be sufficient.

How to Do It

The “pit detox paste,” as I like to call it, calls for just a few ingredients and is easy enough to mix up and store. The primary ingredient is bentonite clay. Personally, I love the Molivera Organics bentonite clay; here’s what they have to say about it:

Bentonite clay produces an electrical charge that attracts and absorbs the toxins, impurities, chemicals, and heavy metals that can build up in and on our skin. It detoxifies the skin, leaving it clear, with smaller pores, and feeling better than ever. It also heals and regenerates skin tissue, improving scars and wrinkles. Bentonite clay improves blood circulation and replenishes minerals in the skin, giving you a youthful, radiant glow. It also clarifies and softens hair, giving you that manageable and touchably soft hair.

As you can tell, it’s of course great for far more things than just your armpits! I have some mild eczema, and I like to use it for that as well. You can also use the same recipe below as all-natural facial mask, skin healer (great for eczema, rashes, and more), or hair mask. For dry to normal skin, let sit 5-10 minutes before rinsing. For oily skin, let sit 10-20 minutes before rinsing. For your hair, let it sit for 15-30 minutes before rinsing.

The only other ingredients you’ll need for the recipe are apple cider vinegar and filtered water. *Note: bentonite clay can react with metals, so be sure to mix and store your paste using a glass or ceramic container and wooden or silicone utensils.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp bentonite clay
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2+ tsp filtered water

Make It:

  1. Mix bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar together in your jar or bowl.
  2. Add water and continue mixing until you reach a creamy yogurt-like consistency. I never actually measured the water; I simply kept adding little bits and stirring until I reached a good consistency.
  3. Store in a cool, dark place.

Use It:

  1. Apply marble-size amount to your underarms using your fingertips.
  2. Allow to sit for 5-15 minutes.
  3. Wash and rinse with a mild soap and warm water.

*I recently discovered some tips on incorporating bentonite clay right into your homemade deodorant to get a daily detox along with the deodorant. I’ll be trying this with my next batch, so stay tuned for results!

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De-stink Your Dogs, Naturally!

One of our dogs is a German shepherd mix, which means she has a medium-length, thick coat with an even thicker undercoat. She also LOVES to swim! One dip in the lake, and her smell will send you running for days! That coat just traps everything in. It takes a long time to dry, and the lovely lake smell just lingers in there.

Dog groomers recommend you bathe your dog no more than once every 6-8 weeks. Why not? Over-bathing can quickly lead to dry, dandruffy skin and excess shedding. So how do you manage the stink between baths? Use this great deodorizing spray! Simply spray into coat, work in with your hands, and allow it to air dry. For heavier, thicker coats, two or three applications may be required to fully deodorize.

Now I know you can buy all sorts of waterless shampoos and deodorizing sprays at the pet store, but I would encourage you to read through the ingredient list. Most of them include all sorts of artificial ingredients and harsh chemicals. Those ingredients typically just mask the smell, and they often dry out the dog’s skin and coat as well.

This recipe uses only filtered water and certified pure therapeutic grade essential oils. Essential oils are unique because they can actually alter the chemical compound of other things. That means they can change what’s causing the stink and get rid of it completely. Now, be sure to use only pure oils–I ONLY use and recommend doTERRA oils (get yours here). Certainly don’t use the oils available at your grocery and box stores; most of them aren’t pure…even if they claim to be.

If your dog has dry, itchy skin to begin with, you can also replace half the water in the recipe with pure aloe juice (get it here). Aloe is widely known for its soothing qualities and can be quite beneficial for dogs with dry, irritated, or itchy skin.

Additionally, you’ll need a glass spray bottle for storage. Pure essential oils are quite potent and can eat through plastic bottles over time. Cobalt or amber glass also maintain the purity of the oils for longer periods of time than clear glass. Get them here. Store your spray in a cool, dark area when not in use.

The recipe below is for a four-ounce bottle. You can of course adjust quantities as needed for smaller or larger bottles. If your dog has especially dry, irritated, or itchy skin, you can also add 2 drops frankincense to the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • Filtered water
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 3 drops Roman chamomile essential oil
  • 2 drops peppermint essential oil

To make it, simply add essential oils to your bottle, fill with water, cap, and shake. Shake before each use. Then, spray over the dog’s coat, work in with your hands, and allow to air dry.

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