Category Archives: lactation

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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The Science Behind a Sleeping Baby

Sorry to have been out of the loop for a week plus; I’ve missed my cyber mommy friends. But my real job–you know, the one that keeps my cleaning lady and nanny employed–had me down in Orlando for the annual builders’ show. It was my first more-than-just-overnight trip away from baby. There’s lots to say about that experience, but that’s for another soon-to-come post.

So, before I digress totally, I just wanted to turn any mommy friends with infants, especially those who aren’t sleeping through the night, on to a project that a childhood friend of mine, Meg Casano, is working on. See, Meg is a nurse and mom of three, the last of which just arrived in September. She’s also an infant sleep consultant with her own firm, Baby Sleep Science.

Yes, an infant sleep consultant. Honestly, I didn’t even know such a job existed. How does someone even think of becoming one? It turns out that having just one colicky kid can illuminate a career path for the most desperate of moms. Here’s what she said:

As for how I go into this… Four years ago Ella was SUPER colicky from day 1, and I made myself literally crazy trying to get her to sleep. We were all exhausted and I realized there had to be a better way. I started doing my own research and was “apprenticed” by a woman who had her own sleep business and got her start with Dr. Weissbluth who wrote the book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.”   I say “apprenticed” because there is no official sleep certification so you want to be very careful who you read and who you talk to!

When we moved to Boston, I met a woman our age who had her PhD in sleep rhythms and works in the Harvard sleep lab. She and I clicked immediately and she taught me a TON about the science of sleep and I taught her a ton about the medical/psych/RN part of sleep and we created a program of PowerPoint, classroom instruction, and private consults for the Isis Maternity Centers in the Boston area.  Then we branched off to do our own business where we could cover more ground than what we were doing at Isis. So… that’s sort of how I got started in a nutshell!

At that, I was even more intrigued and eager to pick her brain, even though I was blessed to have a baby that started sleeping through the night at about week seven. I figured that the odds were pretty darn good that I could learn something from talking with her that would help me in someway I hadn’t yet considered–or at least some of the mommies I know who would give nearly anything for just one full night of sleep (and by full night, I mean 6 hours.)

For the record, Meg has been a wonderful resource to me over these past 8 months since Baby Pienik arrived on the scene. But before I get into the weeds of what she’s taught me (so far), I just have to highlight her newest project. (Not to worry, I’ll share her best tips soon.)

For this project, the sleep consultant is starting sleep training, as Meg

The Sleep Sage

described it. She’s started infant sleep training with her wee one and is keeping a log of it online with the Baby Sleep Science blog.

The blog doesn’t promise to be a how-to manual for all parents, but it does give a very detailed account of how a professional baby sleep sayer would handle a lot of the issues that arise in the natural course of raising a baby. I really love reading her blog because there’s this clinical, professional element to it and yet she’s super candid about the realities of being a mom and trying to execute on this stuff.

At any rate, if you’re a mom with a sleep angel or, well, the other kind, there’s a lot great info to be gleaned from Meg’s efforts. Happy reading!

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Filed under babies, co-sleeping, daily life, feeding, infants, lactation, naps, newborns, nursing, sleep

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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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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