Category Archives: breastfeeding

Why It’s Never Appropriate to Interrupt a Breastfeeding Mother

There’s not much not to love about Target. It’s my go-to one-stop shop for everything from diapers to anti-mom jeans for $14. But this morning as I was trolling through my news feeds I found one thing not to like: It’s seemingly inconsistent policies on how to handle breastfeeding mommies.

So, today’s news story has a familiar plot line: Breastfeeding mommy starts nursing in the store. Store employees ask mommy to do something–cover up, move to a different location, or stop breastfeeding all together–out of a so-called respect for their other customers. But rather than just rant to her friends about it, the most-recently offended momma is mobilizing other mommas from around the country for a flash-mob nurse-in at Target stores next Wednesday, Dec. 28.

But what I want to know is what employee actually wants to be the person who says something to a breastfeeding mom about what’s appropriate and what’s not when it comes to breastfeeding? Let’s just ignore the fact that breastfeeding in public is a protected right. There have got to other disciplinary or corrective measures for employees to take that would ultimately be more beneficial to the store than harrassing a breastfeeding mother. What about teen shoplifters? They probably need to be followed around. Or what about the weirdos who trash the family restroom? That certainly could be better monitored. I just don’t get why it would even cross someone’s mind to even interrupt a breastfeeding mother. Obviously she’s cool and comfortable with whatever she’s doing, wherever she’s doing it, so just leave her alone.

Seriously, how disruptive could a nursing mother actually be in a Target store? The only people who really linger around, hitting every department and cruising up and down every aisle are moms. I’d venture a guess that the rest of the shopping population goes into Target knowing pretty much what s/he wants, picking up a few impulse buys along the way. Those people are in and out of there in like 20 minutes whereas a mom might spend a good 45 minutes checking stuff out. So, again, why would you even bother saying anything to a nursing mom? Chances are she’s there at least once a week and has spent at least $50 bucks at every pass.

I’ve been trying to figure out if there’s any time that it’s appropriate for someone to engage in a conversation with a nursing mom. Other than for health and safety reasons–hey, lady, that’s going to fall onyour kid’s head!–I can only find one. And that’s to inform, not suggest, a mom that the establishment has a nursing lounge. And I don’t mean a back supply closet with a folding metal chair; I’m talking about a proper nursing lounge à la Nordstroms, where there are comfy chairs and a changing table.

And for those mommas who haven’t made great use out of the mothers’ lounges at Nordstroms yet, here’s what you can expect:

Obviously this is a little plush for your local Target, but I think a scaled-down version would be a fantastic idea. And could there be a better opportunity to showcase some of the products the retailer sells than to have Target for Home furniture in a setting like this? And as far as maintaining the facility, it could be as simple as getting a key from the service desk. Let’s just hope that Target management can recognize an opportunity to turn a bad publicity event into an opportunity to better serve a core customer.

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Filed under breastfeeding, daily life, feeding, infants, lactation, shopping

When Your Kid Quits You Cold Turkey

Baby is going to turn one next week. It’s definitely cause for celebration, but part of me has been wishing it wouldn’t come so soon. I’ve been doing okay as a baby momma, but I don’t know about a toddler momma.

Aside from the bittersweet-ness of such milestones and my somewhat irrational fear of being unable to handle the challenges of a toddler, one of the things that I’ve been stressing about in hitting the 12-month mark is what to do about breastfeeding. Stop or keep going?

I never really pictured myself as a breastfeeding mommy. And I’d venture a guess that most of my family and friends are still shocked that I’ve lasted this long. I started out just wanting to make it to three months. Then three became six, six became nine, and all of a sudden I’m at the end of the year and still breastfeeding.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking more and more that I’m done. Not to mention that my husband is pretty much just weirded out by the idea of breastfeeding any longer; at 9 months, he thought baby looked too big and strangely out of place in my arms for a feeding. But more than that, I’ve been feeling like I want a little bit more of my life back. I’m tired of staying up an extra half hour at night (or worse, getting up a half hour early) to pump, traveling with a cooler, and always feeling self-conscious when nursing in public.

But I was also feeling a little sad and perhaps even guilty about stopping. Breastfeeding is not only such a healthy thing for the baby, but it’s such a special bond between baby and mommy. Nursing forces you to take the time to slow down and hold your baby close. And you can’t do that without always seeing your baby for the special little jewel that he (or she) is.

Turns out my anxiety over this was perhaps a little overblown because for as much as I was weighing my choices, I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. Last Friday baby up and decided he didn’t want to nurse and that was it. Dumped. Kicked to the curb. Dropped like a bad habit. For however many ways there are to say it, he was over me.

I’m not going to lie. My feelings were hurt.

I couldn’t believe that this was the end of breastfeeding road for baby and me. I tried for two days after that to get baby to nurse–unsuccessfully as it turned out. Baby was not going back on his decision no matter how tired, hungry, or upset he got in those two days. (I have to admit I admire his conviction.)

Maybe part of him knew that I was feeling ready, so he just decided to make things easy for me. I like thinking that, that we have been so in synch with each other that we were actually growing and changing together. But it’s also hard not to view it as a critical first step in his independence.

I keep thinking about something I read somewhere recently about how parental love is the only relationship where loving means growing apart rather than together. I wish I knew the exact quote because it’s so true. Being a parent means loving your kid enough to give them the skills and strength to go out and do their own thing. How simultaneously beautiful and heartbreaking is that irony?

And that’s why I can still manage to shed a couple of tears over the fact that I’m no longer a breastfeeding mommy, even though I was ready to quit in the first place.

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Filed under babies, bottle feeding, breastfeeding, daily life, emotions, feeding, first year, formula, infants, lactation, moms, nursing, parenting

The Joys of Being a Breastfeeding Mommy (and Other Misadventures)

A random text from a mommy friend inspired me to finally write this post that I’ve been meaning to write for awhile. Like me, she’s a working mom who’s trying to balance her work responsibilities while breastfeeding her infant daughter (and take care of a toddler!). Her note, typed from the airport, went something like this:

I have redefined “hot mess.” I’m in Newark (dirtiest airport in New England). My meeting ran over so I did not get to pump before I left the office. My boobs are like rocks. I paid $100 to upgrade to first class so I could skip to the front of the security line. There’s no “family” bathroom, so I stand in line in this filthy bathroom, go into the handicap stall and start pumping. The battery on the pump dies after about two sucks, so now I’m committed and in pain. I stand in the loo, change the batteries while holding pump to boobs (no luck) for 30 minutes then hand pumping with milk dripping on the floor and my clothes, sweating, because who puts A/C in a public bathroom. I’m not able to touch anything because it’s unsanitary to say the least–for 4 blessed ounces of white gold and the elimination of stripper boob. At least it only got on my pants and not my white shirt. Happy Tuesday!

Days like that are ones where you are amazed that you even made it through. Fortunately you can always curse your husband for not being able to help you and then text a mommy friend and finally begin to see the humor in it all.

For as much as traveling with an infant poses some challenges, traveling without your infant when you’re still breastfeeding brings up a whole other set of issues.

First of all, it screws up your efficiency. I’m an efficient traveler to begin with, but when I travel for work, I’m super streamlined. Checking a bag is never an option. In fact, I get annoyed when the airlines make me check my bag planeside. So, the fact that as a nursing mommy you have to bring along a cooler of some sort and your pump really kind of throws your equilibrium off. Business travelers and boob bags don’t really mix.

But somehow you figure out how to make it doable even if it’s not ideal. During my last business trip, for example, I ended up bringing a smaller cooler that was able to be tucked into a larger carry-on bag. The smaller cooler meant fewer bottles and fewer bottles meant that at some point during my trip I had to dump some of my precious white gold. It was tragic–a mommy friend likened it to throwing a piece of heirloom jewelry in the trash–but it was a price I was going to pay to not have to pay to check a bag or waste time waiting for my bag at baggage claim.

I also bagged bringing gym clothes–who was I kidding anyway? Any free time was going to be spent pumping–and found a way to get away with a single pair of heels in order to fit my pump and its accoutrement in my suitcase. Of course, for all my carefully packing, I forgot essential work equipment like my camera and batteries for my Flip cam, but that wasn’t the end of the world either.

The other thing I made sure I did was book at a nicer hotel so that I could be sure that I had a mini fridge in my room. Out went the mini bottles of Smirnoff and Johnny Walker and in went plastic bottles of white gold. And being at the nicer hotel also had an additional perk. Rather than spend  my time running back and forth from the convention center, I just booked nearly all of my meetings in the hotel’s restaurants and lounges, which meant I had an executive-worthy venue to have my meetings and could easily hop the elevator up to my room to squeeze in a pump between meetings.

The pump part that was out to get me

But for all this willing to make being a working and lactating mommy work, there are always these mishaps akin to what my friend experienced today. For me, the small plastic piece that connected the pump to the tubing somehow got chipped in my bag during my travels. That meant that my only hope of using the pump was if I stuffed my thumb  into the hole to create enough of a vacuum to get the thing to suck. And at that point only one tube was operational, so it was going to take twice as long to pump every time I had to pump. Again, not exactly an ideal situation, but workable.

I did that for a day or so before I got the brilliant idea that if I stuck a piece off gum in the hole, I could plug it up and get the pump to work and also free one hand to at least type an e-mail or change the channel. Let me just say bad idea. After that experiment failed, I was left with a pump that was totally useless. And there was no time to order replacement parts from the manufacturer. By the time I paid the gazillion dollars for expedited shipping, I’d be on my way home. Plus, what was I going to do in the meantime anyway?

At this point I remember there being a section in my breastfeeding bible, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, on hand expression. Of course I didn’t read it, but I do remember there being a line in the book somewhere about how every nursing mother should learn how to hand express. I remember thinking, “Why in the heck would I ever need to do that?” Apparently I’m either not very forward thinking or very imaginative (or both) because suddenly I found myself in Orlando on a business trip needing to teach myself how–or end my career as a breastfeeding mom.

So, after a little trial and error, I figured it out. It’s really not that hard, but

The back-up plan

the process definitely made me feel more like a cow than I felt before. That didn’t seem possible at the time, but it was so very true.

But like most of the other setbacks I’ve encountered as a newbie mommy, I survived after having learned a thing or two the hard way. My advice? Go out and buy a hand pump to take along with you. I bought an Evenflo SimplyGo manual pump so I’d never be stuck again.They aren’t expensive and are surprisingly efficient even if your hand can get tired.

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Filed under babies, breastfeeding, daily life, feeding, lactation, travel, working mom

Nursing Mothers Unite!

Last Friday, baby and I ventured out of our neighborhood into the ‘burbs of Northern Virginia to go to an inaugural get-together with this group called Bonjour Les Amis. A friend had sent me the link to the group’s Meet Up site, which was a new group that was forming to promote French learning for children (infants to five-year-olds).

This whole random mommy-and-me group thing is a new concept for me, but baby and I went despite my ridiculous cold. The whole experience is totally worth a separate blog post, which I promise I’ll get to soon enough, but I’ll just say it was pretty cool. Totally awkward at first, but a pretty positive experience overall.

But the best part… While I was there I met this woman with whom I had a lot in common. She was an American but had lived in France for a good amount of time and spoke excellent French. She was married to a Czech man and they have a seven-month-old son. As we were nearing the end of the play date, she whips out her nursing wrap and begins to nurse. All of the mothers in the room basically tell her that there’s no need for modesty with them.

She then begins to tell us about a woman from Rockville, Md., who was nearly kicked out of a museum in downtown D.C. for breastfeeding in public. The news of the incident spread like wildfire through D.C. metro mommy networks, spurring some mommies in the area to organize a “nurse-in.” This one particular woman was planning to go to show her support.

Hell no, we won't go!

This was all news to me, so of course I went home and at the first free moment started Google-ing the event. The story is that roughly 100 mommies showed up at the museum last Saturday morning with their wee ones and, at the stroke of 10 o’clock, executed a synchronized unsnapping of the nursing bra and latch on. The whole point being to remind the public of all mommies’ federally protected right to feed their children in public.

Now, as a breastfeeding mommy, I’m personally not all that comfortable with basically whipping out the boob in public–nursing wrap or not. That’s of course not to say that I wouldn’t ever if my kid was in full meltdown and I had no other option. But I just personally feel awkward. I think it’s because I like my nursing time with baby to quiet, relaxed, low key–pretty much just about me and baby. And that’s not exactly the environment you get when you’re out at some place like Buffalo Wild Wings, watching the football game with a bunch of friends on a Sunday afternoon. Even if all your friends have their own babies in tow.

Honestly, I think if I had been the woman at the museum to whom the security guard said she had to move her nursing to another area like the restroom, I probably would have complied with the request even if there wasn’t a convenient nursing area. I can so see myself contorting in a bathroom stall just so I can get a little privacy while I give my baby enough food to get him to stop crying. Oh wait, I’ve done that before. Foxy’s bathroom last summer. As we were waiting for our bill, baby went into a code red meltdown and it was the only option other than listening to him scream bloody murder from Fishers Landing to Clayton.

But I do think it’s awesome that there are women out there who feel so strongly about their right to feed anywhere, anyhow that they will make enough of a stink about it to remind the public of their legal mommy rights. Not only good for them, but good for me. I appreciate their “lactivism.” I mean, breastfeeding is hard enough–I’m still amazed I’ve gotten to this point–that it’s nice to know that other mommies have got my back (or chest, as it would seem) if and when I ever need it.

Photo: Courtesy of The Washington Post Online

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Have Infant Will Travel

With all my recent travel, I’ve received a number of notes from mommy-friends looking for a little advice on how best to prepare for their own travel adventures with baby. So, here’s how baby and I roll when we’re on the road–or should I say tarmac…

First, when we fly, we arrive ungodly early. It’s painful for me because I’m typically the type that arrives about 1 hour before the flight and carry on or bust. But now that I’m a mommy, I plan on being at the airport 90 minutes early if it’s a small airport like Savannah or Syracuse and at least 2 hours early if it’s a big airport like Atlanta or Baltimore. (I haven’t flown with baby out of Dulles yet, but I have to say that I might plan on being there 2.5 hours before my flight just because that airport sucks in more ways than I can count. But I digress.)

Baby gets wheeled through security, to the gate, to baggage claim, and anywhere else we may need to go in his car seat, which is clipped into the Snap ‘n’ Go stroller base. I’ve seen people with babies in those front carriers, but generally they are still pushing a stroller so it just seems like the carrier is just more thing to lug around that I really don’t need. I mean, no matter where you’re going you need the car seat, so you’ve got to take the stroller base. But the carrier? If you really think you’ll use it wherever you’re going, throw it in the bag that you check. (And no matter how much you hate paying the luggage fees, check the darn bag; you’ve got enough to carry onto the plane. )

I’m sure that it’ll come as no surprise that going through security with a stroller, infant, and other baby accoutrement takes a lot more time than you’re probably used. (I’ll get to more on security later.) So, just try not to stress. You’ll have to take the stroller all apart and put it on the conveyer for X-ray or someone will come and whisk it away and give it some wand action. In the meantime, you have to hold the baby as you walk through the metal detector. Grabbing your stuff off the conveyor and setting up the stroller while holding an infant on one hip is a challenge, but if you take your time, you’ll get through it.

Once you’re to the gate, definitely take advantage of your priority seating status. It takes more time than you think to deconstruct the stroller and get into your seat and settled. But basically, you’re going to just gate check the car seat and the stroller base. Leave them with their pretty pink tags at the end of the jet bridge. I’d recommend putting the car seat in a plastic bag, but I forgot mine the last time and we survived.

Now for carry-ons… I use this rather large shoulder bag to lug most stuff and then I bring a small purse-like thing for my pump, mini cooler, and extra bottles. I figure if my luggage gets lost, I have the things I really need. In my big bag, I throw in: a gallon ziplock bag with a thing of wipes and a bunch of diapers; a full set of clean baby clothes (not just an extra onesie because inevitably you will have some sort of inopportune diaper blow out that will make the pants baby’s wearing unwearable); a sweater/sweatshirt for baby; this plastic container thing that has 3 sections, where I put formula, rice cereal, and oatmeal; a bottle of water (buy it once you get through security); 3 rattles; one small stuffed toy; two large, thin receiving blankets/giant burp cloths (one to lay down on whatever baby changing table you find in the airport bathroom); a washcloth; and then my stuff (wallet, ID, phone, and that was pretty much it). If you’re traveling in the winter or on an overnight flight, I’m guessing you’ll need an actual blanket, too.

If baby happens to be traveling on your lap (although I would seriously recommend parents cough up the cost of an extra seat if you’re taking more than a 4 or 5 hour flight), I’ll just tell you right now that you won’t need the normal stuff you travel with (Kindle, iPod, book, etc.). The baby will sleep, but you’re going to have your hands literally so full for a lot of the time, keeping baby entertained and quiet, that I really think it’s overly optimistic to bring all that stuff. However, if you are going to be on a longer flight, you might want to bring something if you think the gazillion movies they’ll play won’t be enough. I just wouldn’t burden yourself with lugging all that stuff around the airport when you can throw it in your checked bag.

As for baby food… You can bring as much breast milk as you can carry and you can even put it in the big 8oz or 9oz bottles. When you go through security, they’ll pull you over to the side and make you open every single one of them as they wave this vapor stick over them. This takes also takes up more time going through security, but at least there are no restrictions. You’ll also want to pack some formula, even if you’re not feeding baby formula regularly. You don’t know what kind of situation you’re going to be in—maybe the dude sitting next to you completely creeps you out and you don’t want to whip out the boob when you run out of bottled milk or maybe your flight gets cancelled/delayed or maybe the top comes of your boob milk and spills all over the cooler. These are all things that have happened to me, so you want to be prepared.

If baby is into solids, I recommend throwing some of the Gerber Nature Selects in the rectangular plastic containers into your bag as well. They are foil sealed and also have a plastic top if you need to re-close it. This last time I flew back with some jars of baby food Ian’s mom bought me and they made me open those but not the plastic containers.

As for keeping baby quiet and comfortable during takeover and landing, my secret was feeding him. I would try to hold off on actually giving him the bottle until we had pushed away from the gate and were taxiing to the runway. He’d be gulping away as we sped down the runway and then would be asleep by the time we’d reached our cruising altitude. I think the swallowing motion did a lot to relieve the pressure than can build up in the ears when taking off and landing. Same deal with the landing. If he was asleep, I’d just let him be and if not, I’d feed him until we were on the ground.

The only problem I had was at one point he just refused the bottle—either boob milk or formula. He’d never done that before. So, I had to pull out the boob for a couple minutes before he crashed. I was completely uncomfortable, but I figured it was a few minutes of self consciousness versus a crying baby.

Now, as far as seats go, I think I’d recommend mommies opt for the window seat. Although I do think on a long-haul flights, there could be some advantages to having an aisle seat; you might want to get up and walk baby at some point and having an aisle would make that much easier to do.

There’s also some row considerations. I got put in a bulkhead seat (you know the ones behind the business/first class and economy divider) once, and I didn’t like it at all. There was more legroom, but I didn’t like not having my bag with all of baby’s gear within arms reach. (I actually switched seats with someone.)

However, one of my girlfriends who also has an infant and will be traveling to the Philippines says that’s where she and her family will be sitting because the flight crew can attach a bassinet of sorts for the baby. For overseas travel, you might call the airline to find out if that’s a possibility because being hands free even for a little bit on what is sure to be a crowded flight would be awesome.

So, the last word: It’s definitely exhausting traveling with a baby, but it’s not impossible, even if you’re by yourself, if you’re organized.

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Filed under babies, baby travel, breastfeeding, daily life, feeding, formula, infants, moms, newbie parents, nursing, organizing, travel

Tit for Toque

Nothing says hilarious like a boob hat. Seriously check this out from Etsy. Thank you Pregnant Chicken for pointing tit out.

As if you couldn't miss them...

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Filed under babies, breastfeeding, infants, lactation, moms, newborns, nursing, post-pregnancy

Man vs. Mastitis

Life has a funny way of knocking you down to size when you start feeling just a little too comfortable or a little to confident. Point in case: After four months of rather successful breastfeeding, I developed mastitis last week. And boy, I don’t wish that on any newbie mom.

For those who haven’t experienced the misery of mastitis, it’s a boob infection, plain and simple. And like most infections, it sucks. Not only is your boob super sore, but it can be swollen (mine was) and have crazy red lines on it (mine fortunately didn’t). And you feel like absolute poo. Not like oh-I-have-a-cold-and-don’t-feel-good kind of bad, but like I-can’t-get-out-of-bed-and-I-think-I-might-be-dying kind of bad.

In my case, a clogged milk duct was the root cause. I’d had a clogged milk duct before, back in the first couple weeks of breastfeeding, but I was able to get rid of it pretty quickly with some firm massage while nursing and pumping. But this time, no dice.

I pretty much knew I had crossed over into mastitis territory when it was 90-something degrees outside and I was in my house wearing jeans and a cardigan sweater and was still freezing. I had a temperature of 101 degrees and was experiencing periods of shivers and chills followed by the sweats. At one point, my face was on fire, my shoulders and arms were cold, my legs were hot, and my feet were ice blocks. I also felt somewhat nauseated at times.

My doc prescribed antibiotics and assured me in a couple days I would feel better. I would say that within 36-hours I was feeling remarkably better in that I was no longer sprawled out on my bed, eyes half rolled back in my head as I panted out of one side of my mouth. But I still had a lot of tenderness and was swollen, which were adding to my fears that I was going to develop a breast abscess and need surgery.

I tried loads of things to try to unplug the stubborn duct:

  • Constant nursing followed by pumping
  • Varying nursing positions
  • Hot compresses
  • Cold compresses
  • Massaging the affected area in a hot shower
  • Cabbage leaves (hot and cold)
  • Increased water intake
  • Pain medications from ibuprofen to acetaminophen
  • Herbal salves

I would feel some relief when I applied nearly scalding hot compresses or got into a super hot shower and I think the ibuprofen worked to help take down some swelling, although my so-though brilliant idea to down a couple of aspirin to try and thin out my blood and presumably milk didn’t do much to speed the clearing process.

Despite the engorgement-alleviating success stories, the cabbage leaves were more a less a bust, especially when I microwaved one. Turns out you want to be sure you remove the entire stem or risk burning yourself. And it made my kitchen stink. Now I have to figure out what to make for dinner that would call for an entire head of cabbage.

One mom-friend suggested that I boil some water with ginger in it–ginger has some known healing properties–and then soak a washcloth in it and apply it as a compress. One mommy blog that I had consulted suggested doing something similar with a rosemary infusion. So, I thought why not combine the herbs to concoct my own medicinal miracle?

I can’t say for sure that the ginger-rosemary-infused hot compress solved my problem, but the swelling and tenderness went down the following day. It could have just been the antibiotics kicking in or the combination of all my home remedies finally taking hold, but the timing was noteworthy in my book. And my kitchen smelled good, although my compress cloth was temporarily stained.

If my symptoms hadn’t started to clear, I had two more options on the back burner. One was investing in a mini hand-held electric massager. Granted, I think this would have been a painful exercise, but maybe it would’ve gotten things moving more quickly.

The second was to try yet another homeopathic remedy called a fenugreek seed poultice. Basically you create a type of paste out of the seeds, slather it on the affected area, and put a hot compress over it. Of course, in my version, I was going to break open my fenugreek capsules rather than boiling and mashing the actual seeds. How much fenugreek can one lady have anyway? I wasn’t about to go buy more of it when I was already worried that taking it–fenugreek is an herbal supplement that purportedly helps moms maintain their milk supply–while having mastitis was going to exacerbate the clogged duct by stimulating more milk production. I’m not sure it works that way, but that’s the logic I was following.

So, it’s been a week exactly since I first noticed some initial soreness and I feel totally back to normal–hallelujah–although I have quite a few more days of antibiotics to go. In retrospect, I think I could have avoided this whole thing if I’d been just a little more careful, more respectful of my body.

See, breastfeeding hasn’t been a bad experience for me. For as much as I stressed about all the things that could go wrong, when it came down to getting started, I really got rolling without too many bumps. I don’t know if it was because I was adequately educated–I took two classes and read a number of books and articles on the subject–or whether my baby and I just figured out what to do quicker than some, but once we were over the initial period–that can be painful but it doesn’t last long–it was working out for us.

And that was just it. I treated it like no big deal, like my body could handle whatever stresses I put it through with impunity. But one long weekend later and I got my painful reminder. Turns out seven-plus hour drives up and back to Rhode Island, little sleep, lots of rushing around, not enough pumping, some booze, and a new bra (I had to have one that worked with my dress) is a nearly lethal combination for nursing mom.

To be able to continue nursing as successfully as I have been, I realize that in situations like that, I really need to reorganize my priorities. At home, breastfeeding is a major part of my daily life and I learned, extremely painfully as it turned out, that it has to be that way on the road, too. Breastfeeding, even when it feels like old hat, is a delicate balance. And when you upset that equilibrium–be it for a wedding or whatever–there are consequences, as evidenced by the current scoreboard: Mastitis-1, Sarah-0.

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Look, Mom, No Hands!

So, I’m into Week 3 of working out of the home office–a.k.a. my dining room table–and I feel like I might be embarking on a new career as an efficiency expert.

It’s a lot to juggle–an infant and a job–so I’ve got my mornings planned and organized right down to the minute so that I can take care of baby (and husband and animals) and get my work done. I know exactly in which order to do my morning tasks so that it takes less time to do them. For example, I always throw a load of laundry in the washer when I feed the cats or take the dog out for his walk through the back gate so I can take the recyclables and trash out.

So, in my quest for efficiency and efficacy, I started thinking about the time I spend pumping. This is usually a 30-minute, twice-a-day activity, during which I do nothing more strenuous than press the “next page” button on my Kindle. (Incidentally, the Kindle is the greatest thing to make the time pass when pumping or nursing; I’ve read more books in the past three months than in the past three years.) In addition to the Kindle, I generally have my Blackberry right next to me so I can check my e-mail. (I wasn’t kidding when I said I was all about efficiency.)

Now, responding to any messages with a more than a one-line answer  was a little awkward since I only could type with one hand. The other hand was basically useless because I needed it to hold the plastic flanges tight to my chest to keep the suction going.

That’s not bad multi-tasking, but I thought I could do better. So, I busted out this hands-free pumping contraption that a friend of mine gave me. She never used it, but thought I might give it a whirl. (I’m not sure if that says anything about me or not…)

At any rate, this thing is called the Pumpin’ Pal. First off, seriously? Who names these products? Ranks right up there with the My Brest Friend nursing pillow in that there’s nothing cute about the name or the product.

But I digress. Basically it’s made out of this cord-like material that reminds me of what older people attach to their bifocals so they don’t lose them. You pretty much put the cord around your neck and in cats-in-the-cradle-like fashion it attaches to a skinny, antennae-like flexible stick that holds the pump’s flanges place.

Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to do.

Let me say that my first attempts at using this thing were a little rough. My husband came downstairs one morning to find me at the dining room table with my shirt off and this thing twisted around my neck. I was hunched over with my forehead nearly on my keyboard, trying to get the flanges to stay suctioned so I could sit back with comfort and go through my inbox, as promised on the packaging.

It wasn’t a pretty start to the experiment, but I persevered and finally got to the point where I was more or less hands free. A piece of advice for soon-to-be and newbie pumpers looking to try this at home: The trick is to hold on to the flanges in the contraption until there’s about an ounce of milk in them; the milk gives them some weight, which helps them suction on for the long haul. Also sitting straight up and pushing your chest out definitely helps, too.

Although I finally achieved success with my Pumpin’ Pal, I started researching to find out if there were other hands-free aids that might be more secure. There are, but I don’t see them as any less disturbing than what I’ve got. It’s a case where fashion and function will never meet.

A Picture of Perfection?

Take for example, this model, pictured at left. Oh, to count the ways that this photo is perturbing. I saw this and was trying to imagine myself using this while trying to maintain a shred of professionalism. I mean, who would actually try to make or answer a phone call while pumping? The sound of the pump is more of a groan than a whisper, so there’s no doubt in my mind that the person on the other line could hear it doing its job in the background. (Curiously, the one I use sounds a little bit like the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons–wanh whan, wanh wanh, wanh wanh…) How awkward would that be to explain?

“Excuse me, could you repeat the question? I didn’t hear you. There’s some background noise. Are you driving or at a coffee shop or something?”

“Uh, no, it’s just my breast pump. I’m multi-tasking.”

The other issue I have with the photo–besides the fact that the woman is also smiling–is her outfit. I don’t see any bra, camisole, or tank top scrunched up around her neck or pulled down around her waistband, where mine usually are when I’m pumping. So, this begs the question: Does she wear this thing under her sweater or does she just wear the sweater with  nothing underneath? Because the idea of leaving mom boobs unleashed might be as troublesome as the idea of wearing this thing as a full-time undergarment.

Of course, I’m not full time in an office anymore, so I probably shouldn’t really worry so much about the logistics of using one of these things when wearing anything nicer than jeans and a t-shirt. But probably more important, I should just come to grips with the fact that short of someone inventing a Bluetooth for boobs tomorrow, I’m going to have to just take a timeout from my to-do-list of a life if I need to pump. I was getting pretty good at one-handed typing anyway.

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The Bottomless Pit of a Baby: Part II

As a newbie mom, I have not stopped worrying about whether baby is getting enough to eat. This is of course ironic because I’ve got a baby that qualifies as a chunker on my hands.

Tomorrow baby turns three months old, and although I don’t know exactly how much he weighs, I know he’s a load. At last check–his two-month check-up–baby was encroaching on the 15-pound mark. And judging by how tight some of his onesies are across his belly, he’s not slowing down. A week ago I was amusing myself by doing shoulder raises with him and the next day (sadly) I was sore.

Whereas during his first few weeks of life, I stressed about whether I would produce milk period, these days I’m worrying about whether I will be able to keep up with the eating machine that is my son. So far so good, but every time I’m in the formula aisle at Target, I wonder if I should pick up some formula just in case. And then I think, “Just in case of what?” At this point, nothing seems to be broken, so why am I trying to fix it?

But there’s this little fear in the back of my mind that I’m not going to be able to keep up with his rapacious appetite. All it takes to remind me is watching baby suck down a 4 oz. bottle in what feels like record time. Left up to him, he’d prefer to take it in one fell gulp. At three months of age, my baby actually gets annoyed with me when I try to remove a bottle from his lips before it’s empty and he’s sucking air.

An Impulse Buy

So, the other day, I did it. I actually bought formula basically out of fear. I bought four 8 oz. cans of Enfamil Premium Lipil. What that means, I don’t know. All I know is that these cans were the only ones on the shelf that didn’t list high fructose corn syrup (or solids, which is even freakier) in the ingredients. (Two mommy-friends warned me about this; otherwise, I wouldn’t have even bothered to look.)

And even though they’ve been sitting in my pantry for the past week–and probably will sit there for many more weeks to come–somehow I feel better. I have no intention of using them, but there’s security in knowing that I’ve got back-up.

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The White Gold Rush

We’re nearing the end of World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, so I figured it’s probably an appropriate show of support to post an update on how my own babe-to-boob experience is going. If it’s any indication, we now refer to breastmilk as white gold.

I’ve passed the two-month mark and as you might guess from my lack of recent posts on the subject, no news is good news. It was a bit stressful in the beginning because quite simply I didn’t know what I was doing. But it wasn’t too long–maybe a couple weeks–before I hit a stride that I was comfortable with.

For me, that meant going against everything I’d read and introducing a bottle early–like within the first week of bringing baby home. I felt kind of guilty about it for some crazy reason, but it wasn’t too long before I realized that pumping and bottling totally enhanced the quality of life for me with the wee one. I felt more mobile–all I needed was my mini cooler pack full of breast milk and I was good to go. And it felt like I got more free time (if there is such a thing once you have a kid) in between feedings where I could get essential tasks like paying bills, doing laundry, and getting myself together done.

The best I can figure on that one is that baby eats more from a bottle in a single sitting than from the boob and, therefore, sleeps a bit longer. In fact, I credit the two 4 0z. bottles that baby downs around 9pm every night for getting him to sleeping through the night. (As an aside, that’s been so wonderful. So wonderful that I’m afraid that it’s too good to be true. The thought of going backwards is really depressing.)

Now, just to clarify, I’m not pumping exclusively, although I’m fascinated by the couple of mommies who I know who’ve gone that route. (Sometimes pumping  feels so time consuming.) I still nurse, but only for a few–usually two or three–feedings a day. The rest of baby’s feedings are given by bottle because they’re given on the go, anywhere from a park bench to a parking lot. (Turns out having a baby hasn’t slowed me down much; I just carry more luggage.)

But the one thing that comes with pumping is a heightened sense of how precious whatever expressed milk you have is. The first time you open up the mini cooler to find out the top to one of your bottles wasn’t screwed on tightly sucks, plain and simple. You feel so cheated because you worked so hard to produce that milk and it’s gone but baby didn’t benefit from it. (You get the same feeling when you have to pump and dump, only it’s worse because you feel intentionally wasteful.)

And there’s always this worry that you won’t have enough bottles to keep baby satisfied while you’re running around doing your thing. That’s a real concern if grandma is babysitting, but it’s really not that big of a deal if you’re busy with baby; after all, you can still nurse at any time, even if you’d prefer not to in public. In the case of a wailing baby emergency, it’s nice that you’ve got that option.

For newbie moms considering going this route, here are a few things that I’ve learned that have totally helped me out:

  • Start early. So-called nipple confusion, the idea that baby will never take the breast once the bottle is introduced, is largely a farce. However, there is now more evidence that mommies can wait too long to introduce an artificial nipple, making for a rough go down the road. For me, I introduced the bottle very early and have found that my wee one goes from breast to bottle seemlessly.
  • Go slow flow.Milk comes out faster from a bottle than the boob, so you probably want to go with a slow-flow nipple that’s made especially for newborns. The slower flow best simulates breastfeeding, forcing the wee one to suck pretty hard. Not only is this good for developing the mouth muscles and reducing dribbles, but it helps babies switch from breast to bottle a little easier. However, you really

    Baby's Favorite Bottles

    need to check out the packages to make sure you’ve got the right nipple. For example, I use Avent bottles. (I love them, by the way; they’re PBA free, reasonably priced, and you can buy a converter kit that works with just about any pump, allowing you to pump directly into the bottle from which you’ll feed.) The newborn nipple is labeled with a 0+ versus a stage 1 nipple, which is good for 0 to 3 months. I’ve noticed similar labeling issues with other bottle manufacturers.

  • Pump en primero. This is by far the best piece of advice I can give pumping mommies–pump before you nurse not after. I had started experimenting with this technique when a friend of mine mentioned it as a great way of building up a milk supply, especially when returning to work. When I pumped after a feeding, I was able to get out maybe a couple of ounces per boob after what felt like forever. When I pump before I nurse, I end up with double that stored up in about the same amount of time. And baby’s not suffering for it. Turns out that babies are impressive little suckers and are able to out milk a breast pump. And if I was ever in doubt, I could check for a mini milk moustache on baby when nursing. (He never disappointed.)

Those are by far the best tips I can give any mommies going for the bottle in the near term, but I saw a few more in the article “Breast & Bottle” in the August issue of Parenting. Check it out here.

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