DIY Easy Reversible Breastfeeding Drape

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I breastfed my babies for about 4 years of my life, and I have nursed my babies just about everywhere. I am a modest person; I am very open about bodily functions (me being a nurse and all), but exposing myself isn’t something I want to go around doing. My go-to nursing drape at that time consisted of the largest receiving blanket I could find (which was never QUITE big enough), a shoestring, and 2 safety pins: not exactly a classy accessory. After I was all done breastfeeding, my daughter’s eczema was just awful and I learned how to sew well enough to make her some non-itchy clothes. I made some breastfeeding drapes for presents at baby showers, nice large stylish ones with adjustable straps, and they’ve been a big hit. I like my design better than any others I’ve found (I don’t like the ones with boning in the front. They allow you to see the baby eating, but they also allow anyone sitting next to you to do the same,) so I’ll share with you how I make them. They are REALLY simple.

Warning: If you are really good at sewing, these instructions will seem way too detailed and simple. I am in no way a professional seamstress, so if you’re a beginner, that’s okay. You do need to know how to cut material, sew a stitch, and put in a button and buttonhole.

Time to complete from start to finish (not counting washing/drying time): 1 1/2 – 3 hrs (depending on skill level).

Supplies needed:

– 2 pieces of coordinating material, 36″X 44″ You want something thick enough to not be flimsy, but thin enough to not make you and the baby hot. Remember, it will be double thickness, and hopefully even a baby born in the autumn will be breastfed through at least part of the summer, so lets not smother the little thing! I usually get a pretty cotton fabric in the quilting section. This pattern needs something that doesn’t have a one-way design but can just go any-which-way. I like to pick a material that is discreet and doesn’t yell, “Hey, everybody look what I’m doing over here” but is also classy and something a lady would wear. I see these as more for the mom than the baby, so I avoid a babyish pattern. But those are just my thoughts. You may want something entirely different.

These instructions make the sides of the drape the selvage/factory edge and the top and bottom the cut edges, so make sure that works with your material’s design.

So here goes.

YOU WILL NEED:

– 1 large button, the bigger the better. At least 1 3/8″ is great. (As you can see here, 1.25″ and less is considered a choking hazard by the Child Safety Protection Act.)

– Thread that either matches or accents with the material. The thread WILL show.

– Velcro, 10 inches long, 1/2 inches wide. I always use the sew-on kind. I’ve been tempted to try the heat-bond kind, but I’m afraid of it coming off at just the wrong time. Nope, don’t want that!

– Sewing-type flexible tape measure

– Scissors

– Straight Pins

– Dull pencil

– An iron

– Something with a right angle, such as a piece of paper or a book

– A straight edge

– A writing pen

– Sewing Machine with button hole setting

IT’S ALSO NICE TO HAVE:

– A Yardstick, or even better, a t-square

– Air soluble marker

Instructions:

1) Wash and dry your material just as you plan to wash the finished product. Use the same washer and dryer settings and detergent so you don’t get any surprises when you wash it later. Iron your material and cut off any threads that have bunched at the edges during washing.

2) Wind your bobbin and thread your machine.

3) Your material probably shrunk in the washing/drying process. That is the point, after all. The length from selvage to selvage, whatever that is now, will be how wide the drape is. You want to leave the selvage as is, make the corners square, and make the 2 pieces the same size. How? Do this. Probably one piece will be slightly smaller than the other. Work with it first. Make the sides and corners of the smaller piece even, straight, and square. This is where a t-square or yardstick will come in handy. If you don’t have those things, use a straight edge of some kind and a square corner (like a piece of paper or a book) to create a 90 degree angle. Leave the selvage uncut. Use it as the basis of your square corner. Use your air-soluble marker (or pen if you don’t have one of those) to mark the edge you want, and cut it out. Once you have one rectangle as you want it, place the other piece of material under it, right sides together, and cut the second to match the first. Now you have 2 nice, even, matching rectangles.

Find the cut edge, not the selvage. Cut off a 3 1/2″ strip of material from the bottom of each of your 2 big rectangles. This will be your strap. Cut off the end of each strap piece so they are each 29″ long. After you are done cutting, you should have 4 pieces of material: 2 big rectangles and 2 long strips. The strips will be 3 1/2″ x 29″. The big rectangles should be somewhere around 30″x40″ but it will vary a little.

4) First we’ll work with the 2 big rectangles, so set the 2 long strips aside for now. Put the 2 rectangles with right sides facing each other, match the edges up, and pin together or baste around the edges. This will be the body of the drape.

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5) Sew around the edge with a 5/8″ seam allowance. (On the selvage edge, sew it just inside where the printing starts. It will probably be a little more than 5/8″. Go all around except leave a 7 inch opening on one side. Use your scissors to cut a small snip in each corner. Be careful not to cut the stitch you just made.

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6) Using the 7 inch opening, turn your material right-side-out.

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7) Using a pencil stuck through the opening you left, poke the corners out so they’re not squared off and not rounded. Do this gently so as not to poke holes in your material.

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8) Press your material with your iron. Put your hand inside the opening and push the seams tight as you iron them. Make the edges nice and crisp. The seam should be at the edge of the pressed material. Don’t iron the opening yet. Of course, don’t iron your hand.

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9) Fold an edge at the 7 inch opening to match the rest of the edges that are sewed, and iron flat. Pin the opening shut.

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10) Now sew a stitch 3/8″ from the edge all the way around, paying special attention to secure the opening you left before.

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11) Now fold it in half, placing the sides (the selvage ends, the shortest sides) together. Place a pin at the top at the 1/2 way fold or mark it with your air-soluble marker. Measure 3 1/2″ on one side and make your buttonhole up and down, perpendicular to the edge.

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12) Now measure 3 1/2″ on the other side of the 1/2 way pin and place the end of the soft, loopy side of the Velcro there, extending toward the side-edge of the drap. Put it just inside the stitch you made in step 10. Pin it in place. Sew as close to the edge of the Velcro as possible while still catching the edge. Take out the pins as you go, not sewing over the pins.

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(My measurements are a wee bit off in this picture. Sorry for that.)

13) Now set that aside and get out the 2 long strips you cut in step #3. As I said before, this will be the strap.

14) Put the 2 strips right sides facing each other, match the edges up, and pin together or baste around the edges, similar to how you did the large rectangles in step #4.

15) Sew around the edge with a 5/8″ seam allowance. Go all around except leave a 4 1/2″ opening on one side. Use your scissors to cut a small snip in each corner. Be careful not to cut the stitch you just made.

16) Using the opening, turn it right-side-out.

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17) As before, using a pencil stuck through the open end, carefully poke the corners out so they’re not rounded.

18) Iron your strap. Put your finger or use the pencil inside the opening and push the seams tight as you iron them. The seam should be at the edge of the pressed material. Don’t iron the opening yet. Again, don’t iron your finger.

19) Fold an edge at the opening to match the rest of the edges that are sewed, and iron flat. Pin the opening shut.

20) Sew a stitch 3/8″ from the edge all the way around, paying special attention to secure the opening left before. Now your strap is sewed.

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21) At one end of the strap, attach the button just inside the stitch.

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(This button is smaller than I like. Get a bigger one for yours to be safe.)

22) At the other end, on the same side of the material as the button, pin the rough strip of Velcro, the side with the tiny little hooks. Sew as close to the edge of the Velcro as possible while still catching the edge. Take out the pins as you go, not sewing over the pins.

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23) Now the strap is done. You are almost finished.

24) Button the strap on the drape. Put the strap around your neck and velcro the other end.

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TA-DA! YOU ARE DONE!

 


Food Allergy Tips for the Newly Diagnosed or I Wish I Had Known Then What I Know Now

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Though I am trained as an RN, this blog is intended to share our personal story, not to give medical advice. Please consult a doctor for any medical advice you may need.

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My 4-year-old daughter had severe eczema that was totally out of control. Her skin would crack and ooze and redden and swell and itch mercilessly. Her practitioner decided to do a round of allergy testing. Since her skin was so bad, they did the blood test instead of the skin pricks. I didn’t think much of it; they had done this when she was less than a year old and she was allergic to eggs and peanuts (and dog, but we don’t eat much dog), but that was all. We had gotten used to the egg and peanut allergies. As she started eating table food we adapted her diet to fit her; she kind of grew with it. Well, when this round of tests came back, she was allergic to EVERYTHING food-wise. Her practitioner picked out a very few foods that she thought were safe, and my daughter basically ate those same foods for about a month. To the list of eggs and peanuts to avoid, we added corn, wheat, oats, tree nuts, shellfish, apples, milk, fish, beans, peas, carrots, garlic, spinach, sesame, and soybeans. Oh, and also she had to avoid eating anything containing these foods, any derivative of these foods, and anything processed on the same equipment as these foods. Feeding her was suddenly very tough. At 4 years old, she didn’t understand what was going on and would sometimes sneak foods she wasn’t supposed to have. (Did you ever try to feed a 4-year-old the same 5 things for a month?) We gradually added in one food at a time to see what her reaction would be. About twice a week we would try a food from the forbidden-food list. Sometimes after eating a food she would get really itchy and break out, so I would pull her back off that food and mark it as questionable. Her skin was so volatile that it could be from the food, or it could be some other unknown. Then I would wait several days and try it again. If she reacted twice, I marked it down as a for-real allergy. We determined, after the whole process of elimination was done, that she was truly allergic to eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, milk, sesame, and soy: a formidable list, but certainly much better than the original one.

Having dealt with her allergies for the last five years, I have learned many things that I wish I had known when she was first diagnosed. Here are some of them:

1) False positives abound – Especially if your child has eczema, the results from allergy tests will probably show lots of things they’re allergic to. They are almost assuredly NOT allergic to all these things, but you must be patient and work the process to find out how she reacts to actually eating the food. One day maybe they’ll have a better process, but for now, this is it. Do as we did: find a few things allowable. Then, every 3 or 4 days try a food on the forbidden-foods-list. If the food doesn’t affect them negatively, you’re golden.

If the test says it IS okay, it probably is. There aren’t too many false negatives. http://drrobertwood.com/beware-false-positives.shtml

2) Become a label reader – Learn what to look for. The Big 8 allergies are: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp, etc.), tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc.), peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. In the US, food companies must declare if a food contains these. However, there are several ways they might do this. For example, if it contains wheat flour it might just say that in the ingredient list.

Sometimes it will be in Bold:

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Sometimes it will not:

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If it contains whey or casein or cheese or any other milk derivative, it should say something like “contains milk” below the list:

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Or it could follow the ingredient right in the list with a parenthesis like “cheese (milk).”

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Some products are wonderful and list it really plain in bold print at the bottom of the list. Some are hidden in a 10-line-long list of ingredients. It’s like extreme hide-and-seek. But they do have to declare it in some way.

Companies do NOT, however, have to declare if the food was prepared in the same facility as one of these allergens. Even if they did, does that mean that it’s in the same building but ½ block away, or does it mean that the same conveyor belt for the “Peanut Delights” candy is used for the “Unpeanut Delights”. (Sing with me now: Almond Joy’s got nuts. Mounds don’t.) Or it could mean that the same conveyor belt is used, but it’s been several days since a batch of peanuts touched the belt and it’s cleaned thoroughly every day. You can see the problem. It does seem from my experience that name brand products are a little better about declaring things more clearly than generic items.

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As always, the best things are fresh, homemade, and simple. My daughter actually eats healthier than the rest of us. If you are still confused or want more information, you can go to http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm079311.htm for more.

3) Anaphylaxis!!! – This is a big scary word for a full-body, multi-system allergic reaction. In other words, if you only get hives (skin), it’s not anaphylaxis. If you just throw up (digestive system), it’s not anaphylaxis. If you only wheeze (respiratory system), it’s not anaphylaxis. However, if any 2 body systems are affected at once in an allergic reaction, it is considered anaphylaxis. Now, to make things a little more complicated, some of the symptoms are not readily apparent (blood pressure changes, for example). Or if you pass out (technically only one system) you obviously won’t be able to know or communicate what else you’re feeling. Take a look at this link because it describes it a lot more thoroughly than my little summary can. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Signs_and_symptoms_of_anaphylaxis.png

Click here to go see a printable “Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan.”  You should ask your doctor to fill this plan out for you so that it is individualized to you.  Make sure you understand the actions for each possible situation.  If in doubt, call 911 while you take a dose of Benadryl, give a shot of epinephrine (click here to read about the different epinephrine auto-injector options currently available), and you’ll get an ambulance ride. Once at the hospital, they will keep you there until the epinephrine has worn off to make sure the symptoms don’t come back. In some states, ambulances do not carry epinephrine, so make sure you keep yours on you at all times. Also, do not leave them in a hot or cold car as it can damage the medicine. I keep one set in my purse and one set at home. (If your child attends school or daycare, you will need to check their policy concerning accessibility, storage, and delivery of epinephrine and Benadryl. Since I homeschool my children, I am not knowledgable in this area.)

4) Restaurants – Most people eat out. To not do so at all is quite unreasonable. In the 5 years since we discovered all these allergies, my daughter has never had a reaction from eating at a restaurant. We don’t eat out a lot, but we do go on vacation and have the occasional fast food lunch or birthday celebration at a restaurant. Here’s what I’d advise. Print up some little business cards (Avery labels from Staples work great) that say “My name is Soandso and I am allergic to: …” and list your allergies.

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If you live in an area with a lot of hispanic kitchen workers you might want to get it translated into Spanish.

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When you go out to eat at a sit-down restaurant, pick something from the menu that you think will work for you, or make up something that you think would be doable for them. Order that, give the waiter the card, and then ask them to double-check the ingredients and make sure it doesn’t include anything on your card. We often ask for a grilled chicken breast with no rubs or seasonings with steamed veggies with no butter. Most places will happily comply. (They don’t want a lawsuit or bad publicity, and they do like big tips. If you leave a big tip to a good waiter you can count on good service in the future and have secured yourself a safe place to eat.) As far as fast food or chain restaurants go, they are actually a little easier than one-of-a-kind restaurants. Almost all chains now have websites with allergy information on them. Check ahead of time and pick out a few things that work. I know at McDonald’s my daughter can have a plain hamburger and chicken nuggets; no fries. At Arby’s it’s a roast beef sandwich with no bun (yep, a sandwich with no bun) and curly fries and cherry turnover. (Arby’s often has all their employees change gloves when you tell them you have a food allergy! Yeah!) If we go by Dairy Queen for a treat, she can have an Arctic Blast. Every great once in a while restaurants will change their ingredients, so re-checking is good. I use an app called Allergy Caddy that helps me when it’s a spontaneous on-the-go situation, but they can’t always keep up with changes. If you discover something wrong, notify them and they’ll update their info. Some places are just impossible; I love little hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop restaurants but they are flat-out dangerous if my daughter is along. The employees of these wonderful little spots often don’t have a clue about what an allergy means. (One time at a little place I ordered “a hamburger, no cheese because my daughter has a milk allergy”. I made it as clear as I could. NO CHEESE! The guy comes out with a burger with a slice of cheese on it. When I said she couldn’t have cheese he just took the slice off and tried to give it back to me. Eye-yi-yi! Scary stuff, right there!) Avoid buffets: you can’t check the ingredients and people switch up the serving spoons all the time. Chinese restaurants are out if you have a peanut, sesame, or soy allergy.

5) People will not fully understand; don’t expect them to – They try, and their intentions are good. Educate if it will do anyone any good. Don’t give anyone a 2 hour lecture about the dangers of peanut clusters or the evils of inaccurate food labeling. Use your noggin in filtering good advice from bad. Be kind. Teach people “Don’t Feed The Bear”, so to speak, and teach your child to check with you before eating anything. An older child can understand, but a little one cannot be expected to “get it”, especially at first. Those closest will have to have a few very basic instructions, but don’t expect them to “get it” either. Somebody has to be the point person who is making decisions and giving orders.

6) You’ll get it – It’s like drinking from a fire hydrant at first. There’s so much information coming at you and so many changes you feel totally overwhelmed. Eventually you will figure out what you’re really allergic to, and you’ll learn to cope with those specific things.

7) There is hope – Many people outgrow their allergies, though not all do. Prepare yourself that you may not outgrow any. Then if you do, it’s an added bonus. My little one just outgrew her soy allergy. Yee-haw! Also, there is extensive research going on for a treatment for these food allergies, and I believe one day we’ll have the cure. Just not yet.

8) Little specific-food tidbits I’ve learned –
For egg and milk allergy, find a health food or natural food store that offers vegan foods. Egg replacer, fake cheese, and even fake ice cream, can all be found there. Just watch out for soy and nuts if those are allergies you also have, because many, even most, of these vegan items have soy and/or nuts.

Even with a soy allergy, most people can have soybean oil and soy lecithin, so some things that say “contains soy” at the bottom may actually be perfectly safe. Do a little test by trying soy lecithin and soybean oil (one at a time) to make sure it’s safe for you, and then read the labels more specifically than “contains soy”. If it’s soy lecithin or soybean oil the label will probably say “contains soy” but you can still eat it. However, be careful because some things have BOTH soy flour and soy lecithin. That’s obviously out. This is one that restaurants do not at all understand. If it has soybean oil or soy lecithin they will say it is unsafe. Ask them to read the actual labels for you, or ask them to bring you the label or make a copy of it.

Corn is similar in that many people with corn allergy can eat corn oil and corn syrup. Again, figure out your allergy and your body, and read labels like crazy.

9) No insult intended, but read “Food Allergies For Dummies“. It is an easy-to-understand primer, a wealth of information, and it’s written by a doctor who is allergic to peanuts, so he’s lived the experience.

Good luck in your journey. That’s exactly what it is. And though it’s probably not a journey you planned or wanted, it can definitely be managed and it doesn’t have to shut down your life.

 


What a Headache!

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Every minute of every day I have a headache. Sometimes it is just below the surface of constant consciousness, and sometimes it is bad enough that I can feel my pulse in my head and hurts to move at all. It tends to get worse as the day goes on. Certain things increase the intensity of it: weather changes, hormone fluctuations, stress, and schedule changes. Obviously, none of these things can be avoided.

I have seen numerous doctors and tried basically every kind of drug and treatment that is available for headaches: chiropractic care, herbal remedies, shots, inpatient treatment, IV medications, injections, nasal sprays, yoga, heat, ice, relaxation, distraction techniques, and even acupuncture. Nothing works. I feel like the lady in the Bible with the issue of blood; she saw many physicians yet grew worse.

My husband is the pastor of Newark UPC and is an adjunct professor at Urshan Graduate School. I am the Director of Children and Youth Ministries as well as the Music Director. I have 5 children, ages 7 to 14, whom I homeschool. I cannot just stop life, and I know that if I did I would become a depressed puddle on the floor.

So what do I do? How do I cope?

I have chosen to live my life. Sometimes it is a choice that has to be made on a day-to-day basis, sometimes minute-by-minute. I ask God that He not allow me to face more than I can bear, but even if He does, I know He will make up the difference. His Word says to take no thought for tomorrow, and I try to live by that when it comes to my pain. If I start worrying about how I’m going to get through the rest of life, it becomes too much. If I can get through one day at a time, that’s enough.

In the midst of my problems God has been so faithful. The 14 years that I have had these headaches have been the best years of my life. I have been blessed with a wonderful husband, 5 beautiful children, and great friends. He has provided my every need, and I know He will continue to be faithful as I live day-by-day. I laugh with my children and my husband. I teach my children how to read and write. I help them with their Bible Quizzing. I love and serve the people at church. I continue to choose to live my life to the fullest.

I know that God is able to heal me; that is not in question. Whether He chooses to do so is in His hands. The faith of trusting God through a problem is as necessary as believing that He can remove the problem. I continue to ask Him for a miracle, but until then I will trust His strength and do the work He has put before me.

I truly can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Originally Published in the July/August  2012 issue of Reflections Magazine.


Of Mammograms and Medieval Dungeons

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Today is my least favorite Dr visit of the year. No, it’s not my annual gynecology appointment. Worse. Yeah, it’s time for my mammogram. I had a scare about 6 years ago, and now I “get” to have one each year even though I’m not old enough to need them by the normal protocol.

So here’s my question : if we can put men on the moon, and a rover on Mars, why can’t we come up with a better mammogram machine? Maybe one that doesn’t belong in a medieval dungeon would be nice. Really, thumbscrews have nothing on this baby. We put our most sensitive parts in a machine to be flattened as much as possible, then the tech gives that one extra turn of the knob so you feel you’re suspended in space hanging by, well, not a thread. And the part that puzzles me is why the tech then says, ” Don’t breathe”. I want to say, “Woman, I couldn’t breathe in this situation if my life depended on it. Otherwise, I would be telling you to LOOSEN THAT KNOB!”

So why do we do it? I learned just yesterday that another friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Hopefully she will beat it like many others in my life. My mother-in-law beat it twice, but only because she didn’t “wait 6 months to see how it develops” like they told her to do.

Yes, I know it’s not the biggest killer of women, or even the biggest cancer killer of women. (That’s lung cancer, by the way. Perhaps if we could take our lungs out and squeeze them once a year…) But it is the most prevalent cancer. So if it’s the most prevalent, why isn’t it the biggest killer? There are many factors, but one of them is the fact that we subject ourselves to the equivalent of a Mac truck running over our breast. And then backing up and hitting the other one, too. And usually I have “just one spot” that the Dr needs a different angle and better magnification of, so I get to repeat the whole thing again at different angles. But I continue the tradition once a year because I’d like my breasts to not kill me.

But whoever invented the epidural, that amazing person who deserves both the Nobel Prize for Medicine and the Nobel Peace Prize, could you next please work on a better mammogram machine?