Lesson 49: Whoever said there’s no use crying over spilled milk…

…never applied makeup while pumping milk.

…never spent 80% of 4 months topless.

…never pumped for 45 minutes, only to get 4 ounces.

…never properly stored breastmilk, only to have the bag bust during the freezing process.

…never pumped while huddled under a blanket, riding down the road in the car. With their in-laws in the backseat.

Whoever said “there’s no use crying over spilled milk,” never breastfed.

Lesson 48: How to store breastmilk

If you’re breastfeeding, it’s likely that you’ll need to know at some point or another the best way to store breastmilk. I tried a lot of different methods before I finally discovered (what I think) is the easiest way to freeze and store it. Other ways may work better for you, so tweak it to suit your needs.

1. Always, always, always wash your hands before pumping.

2. While you’re pumping throughout the day, store your baby’s milk properly. Freshly expressed (not thawed!) breastmilk will last for up to 6 hours at room temperature, up to 24 hours in a cooler with ice packs, and 5-8 days in a refrigerator. I found that the easiest way to store breastmilk during the day was in one larger container in the refrigerator. Each time you pump, pour the milk out of the little Medela bottles (or whatever brand you use) into the larger container (like this one) so that it all mixes up. The reason for doing this (other than the fact that it’s easier to keep it contained in one bottle, rather than multiples) is that the consistency of breastmilk is different according to the time of day. It’s thinner in the morning and thicker in the evening. While it’s cool and pretty remarkable that your body personalizes your baby’s food, it really doesn’t help when you’re having to pump. It’s complicated enough to try to make sure you pump enough milk to feed Baby in your absence without also having to make sure he’s fed the right milk at the right time.

3. At the end of the day, or whenever you’ve collected however much milk you want/need to collect, pour it into breastmilk trays and freeze it in cubes. The only problem I ever had with these trays are that the cubes each contain a little less than 1 ounce, which makes absolutely no sense to me.

4. After the cubes are frozen (at least overnight), store them in Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags. I tried a lot of different bags and I found these to be the best of all I tried. They’re really large and sturdy and they’re cheaper than most. It’s tempting, but you really shouldn’t use Ziploc bags to store your milk directly (I do use them to contain the bags, as discussed in the next step). Different plastics are intended for different uses–Ziploc does not make their bags with the storage of breastmilk in mind.

5. Label the bags with dates and store them in gallon-sized Ziploc bags with a date range written on the it (for instance, if you have several Lansinoh bags of milk cubes for the entire week of January 3rd through the 9th stored in one large Ziploc bag, write “1/3-1/9″ on the Ziploc bag). The Ziploc bag serves 3 purposes: it keeps the smaller bags contained so that they’re not floating all over your freezer; keeping them contained and organized ensures that you rotate them correctly; and it provides extra protection while in the freezer.

6. Store the bags in your freezer. It’s preferable to use a deep freezer, but if you can’t, then store them in the center of the freezer, not on the sides or in the door, so that the milk stays completely frozen. Store them so that the older bags are in the front and the newer bags are in the back. Always rotate your milk to avoid having to throw any out because of spoilage. Breastmilk can last for 3-6 months in a standard freezer, but up to 1 year in a deep freezer.

7. When you need to make your child a bottle, remove however many cubes you need (remember with the Fresh Baby trays, each cube is less than 1 ounce, so I typically thawed 3 cubes per every 2 ounces I needed) and plop them right into your baby’s bottle. This method allows you to take out the exact amount of ounces you need, rather than having to thaw an entire bag. In order to do this, you’ll need to use a wide-mouthed bottle such as Tommee Tippee. However, if you’ve found that a bottle with a smaller mouth works better for your baby, the Sensible Lines milk tray should work for you. I always prepared my son’s bottles the night before and left them in the refrigerator overnight to thaw. But, you can always run the bottle under warm water and defrost the milk immediately. Remember, you must use thawed breastmilk within 24 hours–so don’t thaw more than you need! Also, make sure your childcare provider knows that they should never shake breastmilk. The cream separates when the milk is heated, so whoever is preparing the bottle should gently swirl the bottle to mix it.

For a handy little chart on how long you can store breastmilk, go here.

Beer Chicken (Lesson 47: Learn a ton of crockpot recipes)

…because that’s pretty much all you’ll have time for. Here’s one to get you started.

 

All you’ll need is 2-4 frozen chicken breasts, 12 ounces of beer, 1 tsp salt, 1 ½ tsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp dried oregano and ½ tsp pepper.

Beer Chicken 1

Place your chicken, still frozen, in the crockpot.

Mix all the other ingredients together.

Beer Chicken 2

Pour beer mixture over chicken.

Beer Chicken 3

Cook all day on low.

Voila. Anybody has time for that!

Lesson 46: How to increase milk production while pumping

When I first started pumping, I was producing 10 ounces in 10 minutes with no problem. Pumping was a breeze and I always managed to pump twice as much as I needed in one session. I also had a plentiful freezer stash of milk, so I didn’t worry about not having enough food for J in the beginning.

But as the weeks went by and my boobs were seeing more of my pump than my baby, my supply started dwindling. It happened slowly at first, but by the time he was 8 months old, I was starting to panic. My freezer stash was dwindling, and I wasn’t pumping enough to replace it. I knew that in just a few months I’d be faced with not having enough milk to send with my baby to daycare. Yes, I could have supplemented him with formula (and I eventually did), but that wasn’t my goal. I wanted to provide enough breast milk to at least get him through his 1st birthday.

Like I do with a lot of things, I obsessed over it–and the more I worried about it, the more my supply dwindled. Now while I was pumping at work, rather than tuning out the pump and busying myself with paperwork or whatever, I stared at the drops of milk landing in the bottle, watching it slowly climb to the 2 ounce mark. I would sometimes pump for 45 minutes, only to get a total of 3-4 ounces. By this point I had to start supplementing with formula (which was a struggle since he didn’t tolerate it well at first).

So I did what any Type A control freak might do in my position: I researched and I came up with a plan. And I did find a few things that worked for me. I actually managed to increase my production for a little while, but I’m not sure it was worth it. I spent way too much time consumed with the amount of milk I could bring home in a bottle every day.

While I definitely advocate breastfeeding, and I support supplementing to increase your milk production if you want to, I highly recommend coming to peace with the fact that it’s very okay to supplement your baby with formula. It does not make you a bad or less-than mom. Your baby won’t care. I promise.

On that note, here are some ideas for increasing your milk supply.

Nurse and pump. During the times you are able to nurse your baby, pump immediately after.

Take fenugreek. You need about 3500 mg a day in order to effect your milk production. Start on the low end and gradually increase your dosage until your pee smells like maple syrup. Yum. For more information on using fenugreek to boost milk production, go here.

Eat carbs! Eating junk really seemed to increase my milk supply.

Eat a lactation cookie for breakfast. They’re actually quite healthy! You can order cookies from Milkmakers (they’re really yummy!) or you can make your own.

Drink water. You should be doing that anyway, but make sure you’re drinking lots and lots of water!

So yes, there are ways of increasing your supply. And I encourage you to try some of them if you ever need/want to. But I also encourage you to chill the hell out and just supplement with formula if it comes down to it. Breastmilk is great, but there can come a point where the negatives outweigh the positives.

This is my plan for if/when I have Baby #2.

1. Pump early on to start building a supply (but not so early that it causes me to over-produce).

2. Once I return to work, take fenugreek and eat a lactation cookie every day to help maintain my supply.

3. Pump in the morning, right after Baby’s first feeding, while getting ready for work.

4. Pump for 20 minutes every 3-4 hours during the work day.

5. Pump after Baby’s last feeding at night.

6. Despite my best efforts, watch my supply dwindle anyway.

7. Chill the hell out.

8. Supplement with Similac (The ready-to-feed for sensitive tummies worked wonders for us when J wouldn’t tolerate other formulas. I only just discovered that Similac now makes a formula specifically for supplementing. And while I know it’s only a marketing ploy to stay in the game since breastfeeding is picking up in popularity, I was so happy with their product that I’ll definitely give it a try.).

Lesson 45: Never answer the door while pumping at work

Once I returned to work, I pumped breastmilk until my son turned 1-year-old. My husband made this sign for me to hang on my office door at work while pumping:

IMG_1379

It was handy because, since I work in a school, the kids had no idea what it meant. However, the folks I work with knew that when the sign was on the door, they shouldn’t knock (it did not, however, prevent some of them from standing outside my door and moo-ing).

You might think you don’t really need to announce to everybody when you’re pumping. Just close your door and lock it, right?

Well what happens when somebody knocks on your office door while you’re pumping? I found it awkward to yell out, “I’m pumping!” and going to the door was clearly not an option. I also felt ridiculous just sitting quietly, pretending like I wasn’t there. So, I recommend a discreet (or fun!) way to let people know you’re pumping so that they do not disturb you.

You can print your sign here. You’re welcome.

On the plus side, even though you can’t answer your door while pumping at work, you can answer your phone. I verified with my husband that he was unable to hear the WEYOOAH WEYOOAH WEYOOAH of my breastpump over the phone, thereby allowing me to at least use that time to return phone calls. With a hands-free pump, you can totally be productive while pumping at work!

Lesson 44: Tips for pumping at work

When I first faced the task of pumping at work, I had no idea what to expect. The thought of pumping is so intimidating. Intimidating enough, in fact, that while I was pregnant, I considered not breastfeeding at all. Since I had to pump so much in the beginning with J anyway, due to a poor latch, I at least had the pumping thing down before returning to work. I was an old pro at it–at home. Pumping in a work environment, though, was a whole different story.

I pumped for over 7 months at work and figured out a few tricks along the way to make it faster, easier and less intimidating.

1. First, know your legal rights. Federal law does (somewhat) protect your right to pump breastmilk in the work place. One of the provisions under the Affordable Care Act is that employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of time for a mother to express breastmilk in a space – other than a bathroom – that is private and free from intrusion to express milk, each time she needs to express milk.

Unfortunately, this is only required for one year after the birth of a child. So if you plan to breastfeed past your child’s first birthday, you won’t necessarily be able to pump while at work. Is it really necessary to set a time limit? I mean, how many women would actually continue pumping just for the sake of pumping? It’s not like it’s fun.

Also, these requirements do not apply to employers with fewer than 50 employees if it provides an “undue hardship.” This “hardship” has yet to be defined, so I imagine a lot of companies could easily get out of following the law.

And a glaring problem with the law is that employers are not required to compensate you for the time you spend pumping. So if you’re a salaried employee, you’re probably not protected at all. See here for more information.

In a nutshell, you may have rights and you may not. Let’s just hope that your employer is cooperative and supportive so you don’t have to worry about it.

2. Purchase a couple extra sets of spare pump parts. Ideally, you’ll own 3 sets of parts. Keep one set at work (because you will forget to bring a set one day) and alternate the other two so that you always have a clean set.

3. Pack your pumping supplies the night before work. Make sure you have your pump, pump parts, bottles, a hands-free pumping bra, and lids. In fact, keep extra lids in your pump bag. I can’t tell you the number of times I drove home very carefully with an open bottle of breastmilk in my cup holder because I didn’t have enough lids with me.

4. Nurse your baby as soon as she wakes up in the morning. Then, hook up your hands-free pump and pump again while you’re getting ready for work. This gave me an extra 6-8 ounces each day, which was helpful. In addition, plan to pump about every 2-4 hours, depending on the age of your child and how often she eats. A good general rule of thumb for the first 4 months is one hour per month of age. So if she’s 2 months old, you’ll pump every 2 hours. But once she’s 5 months old, you’ll still want to pump at least every 4 hours. If you stop producing as much milk over time (and you probably will, since the body doesn’t respond nearly as well to a pump as it does to Baby), you’ll need to pump more frequently.

5. Wear a nursing bra with either a nursing shirt or something that is quick and easy to take off and put back on. You don’t want to have a 5-minute wardrobe change every time you have to pump.

6. Let your co-workers know that you’ll be pumping and unavailable at certain times each day.

7. When it’s time to pump, make sure your office door is locked and any windows are covered (This is assuming you’re lucky enough to have an office to pump in–if you don’t, then reserve a quiet, clean, preferably window-free space. If that’s not possible, I’d say pumping in your car is preferable to pumping in the bathroom.)

8. Unhook your nursing bra and pull your hands-free bra over it. No need to take it off. While you’re pumping, you can still type or take phone calls or whatever, so it’s not necessarily wasted work time.

9. After you pump, you need to properly store the milk and the pump supplies. As for the pump supplies, I never washed mine between pumpings. I left them all put together, but removed from the pump. Then I would simply throw them in a Ziploc baggy and put them in my personal office refrigerator. I don’t see how any bacteria could possibly grow that way, since it’s just milk on the parts and it’s being refrigerated. That’s personal preference, but it saved me a lot of time and never caused any problems. I always ran the parts through the dishwasher every night on the sterilization cycle.

10. It took me months to figure out this little trick, but I finally found what I think is the best way to store the milk during the day. Buy a 2-quart sized container (like this one). Each time you pump, pour the milk into that one big container so that it’s all mixed up. I did this for a few reasons. For starters, I didn’t like having little bottles of milk cluttering up my tiny refrigerator. This way, all I had to bring was two bottles, one for each boob. So you pump, fill, and combine. Easy.

Second, if I happened to have lots of extra milk one day, I may not have enough bottles with me to pump it all. Third, I frequently forgot to bring enough stupid lids for all the bottles.

And finally, the biggie: your milk consistency is different according to the time of day. It’s thinner in the morning and thicker in the evening. That’s so cool and pretty remarkable that your body personalizes your baby’s food. But it really doesn’t help me when I’m pumping. It’s complicated enough to try to make sure you pump enough milk to feed Baby in your absence without also having to make sure he’s fed the right milk at the right time. If you want to bother with all that, more power to you. I chose not to.

11. If for some reason you miss a pumping session, don’t panic. It’s going to be okay. Your milk supply will not dwindle just because of one missed pumping session. You can pump as close to the scheduled time as possible, or you can just wait until the next time you’re due to pump. Remember that your baby doesn’t always follow the same schedule, so your boobs adjust.

For more tips and ideas, check out KellyMom’s collection of links to pumping at work. (By the way, KellyMom is a great resource for all kinds of breastfeeding questions and problems.)

5 months

Dear J,

You rolled from back to front this month and you also recently decided that you really like to play with your feet!

J

You started daycare because I had to go back to work. I cried for weeks, but you did great! We did a few “trial runs” to get us both used to your new schedule. Our dog, Abbie, really missed you. She sat by your empty crib for hours on the first day you were gone.

Abbie missing J

You tried pears and squash this month and you loved both of them. In fact, you thoroughly enjoy eating!

J

You also started practicing with your own spoon.

J

You’ve become such a big boy so quickly! You even voted for the first time this month.

J

You’re such a sweet little guy, but you are very skeptical of bears.

J

I love you Big,

Mommy

5 months

(8/28/12)

Lesson 43: Going back to work is really hard

Leaving my baby to go back to work was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. People say that all the time, don’t they– “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done!” But this is the only time I’ve ever meant it when I said it. It was really the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I had been warned, but I had no concept of how hard it would actually be.

I work in a school and J was born in late March while I was off work on Spring Break. I was lucky in that I was able to work right up until his birth, take the rest of the school year off, and then spend the entire summer with him. J was almost 5 months old by the time I had to return to work. I feel really fortunate to have had that time with him, as I know many moms have to return to work at 12 weeks or sooner.

My plan after graduating from college was to go to graduate school, travel, start a career, get married, have a baby, return to work. In that order. And I made it all the way up to “have a baby” before I came to a skidding halt. Return to work? No thank you. I was quite content nurturing my little one every day. The thought of sending him off to somebody else every day made my stomach turn cold. It never once occurred to me that I actually might enjoy being a stay-at-home-mom.

We had arranged for quality childcare for our son when I was only 2 months pregnant. So when August arrived and my return to work crept ever closer, I knew he was going to a good place and I knew his teacher had a great reputation. And maybe that knowledge helped, but it did not stop me from having mild panic.

I’m a pretty emotional person, so I don’t know if it’s as hard on every mom. Judging by how hard it was for some of my friends, I suspect it is hard for many. I cried every day for the 2 weeks preceding my return to work. The week before I returned full-time, I dropped him at daycare sporadically so that we could both adjust. J did fine; I was a fruit loop.

Finally, the Sunday night before I was to return to work full time, I just lost it. I sobbed like I have never sobbed before (and here we go again with the eyes filling up with tears just remembering how it felt–God, I am such a cry baby). I didn’t want my child to be “raised by somebody else.” I didn’t want to wake him up early every morning so that I would have time to nurse him before leaving for work; I didn’t want to pump milk 4 times a day so somebody else could feed it to him; I didn’t want to miss his first word, his first crawl, his first steps; I didn’t want to miss a single second of him. All of a sudden, my grand plan to have a career while raising children didn’t seem so grand. All I wanted was to be a mom.

Unfortunately, my bank account didn’t agree with my heart. My husband and I crunched the numbers every which way and it always came down to the same thing: stay home or have health insurance and pay the mortgage. I guess you can imagine which prevailed.

The first few weeks back were pretty hard. I have the most amazing principal (and friend), though, who is also a mom–and always a mom first. She gave me grace when I couldn’t quite seem to make it to work on time while I was adjusting to getting my baby fed and ready before work every day, even though I’m sure she knew that what actually took the most of my time wasn’t the necessities, but the long hugs and kisses goodbye. She let me lose it and cry in her office when I thought I just couldn’t stand it anymore. She gave me grace when I was the first one out every afternoon, just so I could spend 10 more minutes with my son in the evenings. She never made me feel guilty when I needed to leave early to take J to a well-child visit or stay home with him because he was sick. She never minded if I had to leave a meeting or be late to an appointment because I had to pump. She supported me, cried with me, and loved me through it–and by giving me love and grace, she gave my child love and grace. I truly don’t know how working moms without that kind of support manage it all.

I love my job, I love the people I work with and, quite honestly, we need the income and the health insurance my job provides. So here I am almost 2 years later and I can tell you, it doesn’t get easier. It becomes tolerable if you love your job. But leaving your child every morning does not get easier (unless he’s been a real pill that morning–it can be easy on those days).

So for now, I raise my child the best way I can. I miss him every day and I’m eager to get home to him every afternoon. But I also know that I’m doing the best I can for my family. And I know that, above all else, I am Mom first.

Lesson 42: Diaper rash is a pain in the butt

I mentioned in a previous post that we deal with diaper rash by letting J sit in a warm bath with 8 ounces of baking soda mixed in. After his bath, we allow him plenty of “naked time” to let his bottom air dry and to just give him a break from a diaper. When it’s time to put on his diaper, we use Boudreaux’s Maximum Strength Butt Paste. This is our go-to diaper rash remedy for a bad rash and it seems to do the trick.

Boudreauxs and Baking Soda

We swapped to cloth diapers because disposable diapers irritated J’s skin. Because of the cloth, we rarely have to deal with a diaper rash. However, if I see some irritation beginning, I use my own Keiki Diaper Cream. It contains beeswax, coconut oil, and other cloth-diaper safe ingredients.

Keiki Handmade Diaper Cream

I still use Boudreaux for a bad rash. However, you absolutely cannot use Boudreaux with a cloth diaper. So, while it may seem to be counterintuitive, we actually switch to disposable diapers if J breaks out into a bad rash. We use Honest Diapers if we have to use disposables, since they’re chemical free and easier on the skin. We also haven’t had any skin sensitivity problems with the Honest brand.

Lesson 41: Teething bites

Most first-time moms already know that teething can cause a slight fever and excessive drool. But did you know that it can also cause runny poop, explosive diapers, coughing, congestion, diaper rashes, fever and ear infections? Lots of articles and blogs out there say that these issues are caused by viruses and not teething, but I beg to differ. Yes, of course viruses can cause these symptoms. But anytime your baby has excessive saliva and snot (teething snot is clear), it’s very possible for him to get an ear infection. And all that saliva he’s swallowing? It stands to reason that this can cause loose stools (at least that’s my theory on it). And all those loose stools can very easily cause a nasty diaper rash. We also find that all the drool causes our son to have a nasty cough.

Anybody who says teething doesn’t cause these things is either (a) not a parent, (b) had an easy teether, or (c) blamed a virus every time their kid teethed. But you will never convince me that all of the above-mentioned problems aren’t teething-related.

Some babies don’t have a hard time at all with teething, while others struggle. And with the same baby, some teeth are harder than others to cut. A baby can actually have teething symptoms for weeks before cutting a tooth.

J didn’t struggle with all of his teeth. But with many of them, he had symptoms for long periods of time before they would even appear just under the surface of the gums. During the times that he was teething hard (read: irritable as hell), we found a few things that helped along the way:

Medicate that baby! Teething can be really painful, so don’t hesitate to give pain medication when needed. On really bad days, we usually alternate between Tyenol and Motrin every 6 hours, making sure to end up with Motrin at night. I find that the Motrin lasts the longest and helps the most with the swelling of the gums that comes along with teething.

We also use Baby Orajel Naturals to give immediate relief. We’ve used Hyland’s Teething Tablets, but the verdict is still out with me for whether or not they actually work. One day I use them and they seem to work, and another they don’t seem to do anything. If it does work, it’s certainly the easiest medicine to get in him since it’s the only one he doesn’t fight.

Medications for teething

Frozen waffles. Don’t thaw it. Just give it to him straight out of the freezer. It sounds gross, but I’m sure the cold feels good on their gums. Plus, J is always a finicky eater when he’s teething, so at least this way I’m getting some food into him.

Frozen waffles for teething

Frozen yogurt on a spoon. I can’t claim this idea as my own, but I can attest that it works. Take an adult-sized metal spoon and scoop out a big blob of yogurt. Put it on a plate and freeze it for 2 hours. Once it’s good and frozen, hand it over to Baby and she will gnaw all over that thing. It’s messy, but worth it.

Frozen yogurt on a spoon for teething

Frozen washcloth. Oldie but a goodie! Take a washrag, roll it into a cylinder, wet half of the cylinder, and freeze it. The half that you didn’t wet will serve as a handle for Baby, while she chews on the frozen half.

Frozen washcloths for teething

Frozen carrot or celery sticks. Just watch the little ones closely because the carrots tend to break off and the celery is stringy.

Diaper rash often accompanies teething. To try to prevent it, I use my own Keiki Diaper Cream. If it becomes persistent, we let J sit in a warm bath with 8 ounces of baking soda mixed in. After his bath, we allow him plenty of “naked time” to let his bottom air dry and to just give him a break from a diaper. When it’s time to put on his diaper, we use Boudreaux’s Maximum Strength Butt Paste. If you cloth diaper, you might consider using disposables (we mostly cloth, but also love Honest Diapers for heavy poop days or on-the-go) on heavy teething days so that you can use Butt Paste–and also because it’s a much easier cleanup!

Boudreauxs and Baking Soda

The final teething remedy I can suggest to you is a glass of wine.

Wine for Mommy while Baby is Teething

For you, silly, not for baby!