Saturday, September 27, 2014

Making Travel Easier for Breastfeeding Mothers

Have you traveled while breastfeeding, or more specifically, while pumping? I have a few friends who have and I give them huge props for being so organized! Having to remember to pack clothes, toiletries, and work items, in addition to a pump, storage bags, and a cooler makes my head spin just thinking about it. Wouldn't it be so nice if there was a special hotel package that took all this into account and catered to breastfeeding moms? Ladies, your prayers have been answered!

The Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago knows how difficult traveling without your nursling can be, so they created a package with you in mind. For an extra $30, the Hard Rock will provide you with everything you need to keep that liquid gold for your little one. The package includes a hospital-grade Symphony breast pump, everything you need to clean and sanitize it, nursing pads, breastmilk storage bags, ice packs, and a cooler bag. They will also make sure your room is equipped with a mini fridge and a microwave. In addition to all that, the concierge is available for anything else you might need, such as additional supplies or help shipping milk back home. The concierge team is trained on how to properly ship milk, and would be happy to help you get it back home without having to tote it through airport security.

The idea was launched on Mother's Day in 2013 and was the brainchild of Hard Rock Chicago's General Manager, Carrie Meghie. Meghie felt that this was important for breastfeeding mothers and, after doing research, was surprised to find no other hotels (at least in the US) offer a service like this. The icing on the cake? All proceeds collected from the additional fee for this package will benefit the families of local kids in the NICU. Now that's a win-win!

I think it's so great to see something like this and I would love to see more hotels follow suit! Who knows, maybe the Nursing Mother's Package will take explode in popularity and be available at hotels nationwide.

Share your thoughts with us. Do you like this idea? Would you pay extra for this package?

Information provided by The Chicago Tribune and Child Mode.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Tale of Ten Toes: Newborn Screening

Photo by Susan Holstein Photography

Ah, yes. Ten fingers and ten toes: the universal signs of a healthy, sweet-smelling, squishy little newborn. Just look at those darling little feet, all curled up in contentment after his first meal of mama's milk (Okay, colostrum at this point, but milk sounds so much nicer....)! What a peaceful, perfect little human. I would move mountains for him. I would fight a grizzly bear for him. I would....


This was basically my reaction when some poor beleaguered nurse came in to do a "foot stick" on my baby for his newborn screening test. Yes, it's just a little pinprick, but that that point I pretty much only thought in terms of "You're making my baby cry, NOOOOOOOO....." My protective instincts were in overdrive, and watching someone squeeze my wailing newborn's blood onto an index card did not exactly fit into the idyllic picture I'd had of his first hours.

Fast-forward to a couple of days later. We're home from the hospital and my milk has come in, but our son is crying again, and this time it's my fault (or at least that's how I saw it at the time). I couldn't figure out how to latch him properly and the poor child was screaming as though he would rather someone prick his foot 10 more times than spend another moment at my breast.

Unsuspecting little burrito....
How I wish I knew then what I know now.

Now I know that while I was struggling to establish a nursing relationship, that little card with my son's blood was being analyzed for:

Cystic Fibrosis
Metabolic disorders (ex: PKU)
Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID)
Sickle Cell Anemia

And many, many other conditions, some of which are life-threatening and all of which seriously affect the quality of life for a child. Since K's blood came back negative for all of these, I don't really know exactly what each one entails, but for many parents, these disorders and their consequences are all too real.

But here's the good, the wonderful, the GREAT news: though your hospital or birth center may not have robust lactation services, and while they may send home formula in a goody bag, and while your doctors may or may not be knowledgable about breastfeeding, every baby can be screened for these serious conditions. While it's not compulsory in every facility and in some cases, you might need to request the screen, it's quick, free, and available to every family in the US.

As hard as breastfeeding and the newborn phase is, THANK GOODNESS at least one thing you can do for your baby's health is easy!

And the heel stick doesn't last long, although poor K did cry through the whole thing. With my next baby, I plan to be nursing while they perform the test. I didn't quite understand the power of magic boobies to keep a baby calm last time, but now I do and look forward to putting that superpower to good use!

To learn more about Newborn Screening or to learn about what tests are performed at hospitals in your state, check out and Baby's First Test!
I learned about Newborn Screening through our own Christa of Little Us and The Baby Ladies! Did you know about the Newborn Screening test when your first was born? Do you have a child who tested positive for any of the conditions covered in the screening? Share with us in the comments!
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Mythbusters: Pumping Output as an Indicator of Supply

It's one of the first things a breastfeeding mother tends to worry about: "Do I have enough milk to feed my baby?"  It was only a few weeks into my now 19 month breastfeeding journey when my mom asked "Are you sure he's getting enough?  He wants to nurse all the time."  Of course I began to panic and wonder the same thing.  I was so lucky to have amazing and knowledgeable women supporting me as I pushed through those early months but, unfortunately, that's not always the case.

I'm a member of several online breastfeeding support groups and am involved in my local breastfeeding community as well.  I cannot tell you the number of times a woman has come seeking advice, often in a panic, because she didn't think she had enough milk to feed her baby.  Often she states that she can only pump "an ounce or two at a time - even if it's been a few hours since a feeding."

I'm not sure where this idea that a pump is a good judge of milk supply came from but ladies, hear this, IT'S NOT TRUE!!!  A pump is just a device that extracts milk from your breast.

And while technology is good, it's not good enough to really replicate the stimulation a baby at your breast as for your milk production and extraction.  There are so many things a pump can't duplicate such as the feel of you little one at the breast, the sounds he/she makes right before and during nursing and even the scent you baby has that bonds the two of you.

Just because you're only getting an ounce or two when you pump does NOT mean that is all your baby gets when he or she nurses.

If you are really concerned about your supply because of slow or  no weight gain or not enough wet/dirty diapers please contact an IBCLC to do a few weighed feedings.  That is a much better indicator of exactly how much your little one is transferring.

Also, it's important to note that as you move further and further into your breastfeeding journey, your ability to respond to a pump my decrease significantly.  Again, this does not necessarily mean your milk is "drying up."  As before, your little one is the best measure of an adequate milk supply.  And besides, the milk you produce for a toddler is much different than the milk you produce for a newborn and they often take much less as they get older and a variety of solids are introduced.

So let's stop this myth right now:  A pump is NOT a good indicator of your supply.  Listen to your baby and not an electrical device when trying to determine if your making enough milk to feed your little one!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dinner for Two?

Lots of questions have come up in my mind as I try to plan for the arrival of our newest nursling. I'm fairly certain C will jump right back on this milk train and I'm totally fine with that but then I remember how difficult it was trying to get the hang of nursing a newborn. I figure I have two options:

1. I can use it as an opportunity to teach my oldest some boundaries
2. I can get creative, toughen up and enjoy the only time I will get to
nurse all of my children at once :)

If we go with door #1, I imagine Dad will have to help out a little more and be my wing man. Unfortunately, he has to work, too so I will still need to be a little creative. How can I distract him from boobies (Is it really possible to distract a man of any age from them, I mean - come on?!) without him feeling rejected? How can he still feel special even though he isn't getting a lot of extra snuggle time with mommy?

  • Busy Box - Have a box of toys, coloring books or other special things that he will only get to play with when mommy is nursing sissy. Maybe this way, he will look forward to my nursing sessions with her instead of dreading them.
  • Double Up With Story Time - Use nursing time to read him a book or two...or four.....depending on how long we are nursing and what his attention span can handle. I figure with this method, maybe he will feel like he still gets to share time, he's still close to me and sissy and he can feel more involved instead of maybe isolated or turned away.
  • Big Boy Snack - Give him a special snack like organic fruit snacks or sweet roasted chickpeas that are healthy but sweet and something that he wouldn't normally get to snack on unless we're nursing.
  • Mommy's Helper - Even at 18 months, my little dude is pretty good at following directions and helping out. When he's two, hopefully this won't magically go away, (pretty please, Lord...let it remain!) and he can bring my boppy, water, granola bar or whatever else mommy might need. This, in addition to being borderline child labor, may make him feel like an important part of the process.
If we go with door #2, while it may not be practical, my heart may actually explode from all the cuteness and love I will experience at once. I have always and I mean it...always,  from the first time I walked into a patient's room in L&D and saw her nursing her one hour old baby and her three year old, always wanted to nurse my newborn and my toddler together. There is just something so special about quite literally pouring out so much love at one time. Now, I always said that I wasn't sure if there was enough food in the world to nourish me pregnant and nursing. Come to find out there is. I also wonder if there is enough food in the world to nourish me nursing two hungry babies at once. I guess we will find out. Yes, realistically, if all things go as planned, we should find out. Will I be sore? Probably. Will I be beyond exhausted, absolutely. Will I have this moment to look back on for the rest of my life and even if we don't succeed for long, be able to be a witness to other mothers who doubt if they could do the same thing? Yes, yes, yes. 

I'm sure there'd be benefits to both and we may will not be able to see all sides until we are faced with it and deal with whatever may come. As much as we sometimes fight our children finding their independence, it may be a good opportunity for C to learn how to share more, to help more and to know that mommy doesn't love him any less just because sissy is here now. On the other hand, what better way to bond with your sister than to hold her hand while snuggled on mommy's chest? What if my princess is a slow gainer like C was? It may not hurt to have him boosting my supply by increasing that demand and creating a more substantial supply of hind milk for her to bulk up with. 

As it has been all along, C is the boss of our breastfeeding relationship. It seems like every time I think it's over, he proves me wrong. Every time I have wanted to give up, he gives me a reason to trudge on. Time will tell and I'll be here to share the adventure.

Til next time, mamas.
Keep Calm and Nurse On
~ Jessica

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Maxi Dress Nursing Look

Maxi Dress Nursing Look

I don't know about you, but I LOVE Fall, and especially Fall fashions! Even better is this brief time between Summer and Fall, when it's still warm enough to wear your lightweight staples, but you can have fun with layering and darker colors.

This would be my ideal nursing look for right now: The maxi dress is simple and flattering, with boho crochet detailing and a surplice neckline that makes quick and inconspicuous nursing a breeze! Cover up with a chambray shirt, either left open or tied at the waist, and add details in cobalt, cognac, and leopard. And remember, comfort is key!

What are some of your favorite current fashions? Any tips for a cute and functional nursing look? Share your ideas in the comments, and let us know what you think of this outfit!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

...But You Can't Make Him Drink

Yesterday I shared some things I've learned about asset based community development (ABCD). I told you a couple stories. I took you to Honduras and brought you back to Ohio.

So what in the world does this have to do with breastfeeding? Well, please take a moment to read yesterday's post first, then hop back here to find out.

If you've read anything on this blog before then it's likely you know that breastfeeding in the US is the exception, not the rule. Incidents pop up in the news every few months about breastfeeding moms who are chastised for nursing their babies in public. Here in Ohio, only 21.6% of moms are breastfeeding their babies at all at 6 months. It doesn't take more than a few conversations with other mom friends to hear about advice they were given from their pediatrician or OB that doesn't align with current best practices for breastfeeding.

This is the bottom line: our culture is impoverished when it comes to knowledge, passion, and compassion regarding breastfeeding.

Please please don't hear me wrong. I'm not saying an individual mom is "poor" because she doesn't breastfeed. I'm simply saying that anecdotes and news articles and statistics show us that we are a culture that doesn't value this practice. We believe myths about it. We compare it to defecating. We don't understand it, and in some cases maybe even fear it.

When there is poverty, do you remember what works? Asset based community development.

Yes, there is a need for systemic change. Better education in WIC programs. More baby friendly hospitals. More lactation education in med schools. ABCD can be implemented at those levels. But as I go down this list, I can tell you pretty quickly that I have next to no pull in any of those fields. My sphere of influence consists of my friendships with other moms.

Change will come from grassroots efforts manifested in real relationships. I am passionate about advocating and educating and rallying around the breastfeeding cause, but like I shared yesterday, sustainable change will come when I am willing to let go of that cause long enough to grab onto a close relationship and hang on tight.

I'm digging in for the long haul, just like my wise friend Tracy. I'm not trying to dispense advice or dispute myths in every conversation. I'm striving to be a better listener and evaluate what my friend is showing me she needs instead of starting with what I have to offer. I'm ready to acknowledge that sometimes my friend may simply need to be heard and cared for instead of admonished or corrected. Instead of focusing on everything she doesn't know about breastfeeding, I'm going to simply be present so I can notice what a great mom she is and how much she loves her kids and tell her how much I respect that.

And after listening, after building trust, after I've spent time focusing on her instead of me, I will be ready if she asks me for help. I will be there for her as a collaborator instead of a teacher.

The way I can make a difference in our impoverished breastfeeding culture is by investing in true friendships because I value individual moms. And the payoff is way bigger than the freedom to nurse anywhere in public without criticism, or having bosses who are knowledgeable about your pumping needs, or L&D nurses who understand how crucial it is to have baby at your breast soon after birth. No, these are possible offshoots of this change, but they aren't the ultimate goal.

The victory will be evident in the community we will have cultivated. Moms who are empathetic and truly care about each other's tears, triumphs, and tatas. Moms who value each other not because of a breastfeeding cause, but simply because people matter.

Monday, September 1, 2014

You Can Lead a Horse to Milk...

Today's post ambles a bit. I know it may seem at first glance that poverty alleviation work in Honduras and Ohio don't seem to be related to breastfeeding, but if you're willing to keep reading, I'll get there. I promise.

Homemade corn tortillas?
Yes please!
Four years ago my husband and I took a trip with a ministry called Heart to Honduras. Since then we've made it a priority to learn more about healthy ways to get involved in community development. The too-quick summary of asset based community development (ABCD) is twofold:

1. Poverty is about broken relationships, not just about money. This means every single one of us is impoverished in some way in our lives.

2. Healthy, sustainable, long-term development starts with looking at assets and working in partnership to build on those assets.

Before my first trip to Honduras, I went to the doctor for a check-up. When I told him about the trip we were planning, he scoffed. "Honduras?! To build a house? For crying out loud. People go down there all the time year after year to build houses. And there's always more to build. Why do these people still need us to build houses for them?"

At the time I was incredibly offended by his insensitive remarks. But years later it's clear that his frustration makes sense. If I continue to throw money and time at a problem and it isn't resolved, wouldn't that indicate I need to try something different? What kind of message am I sending to people I'm "helping" when I say: "Hey, just take a step back, I'll be able to fix this wayyyyy better than you can." What am I believing then about that person's value or their competence?

Kaleb and Naun slashing that grass
Since that first trip I've been able to spend time in Las Lomitas, Honduras, not fixing or building or teaching, but simply being and learning. When I was simply present I learned how to grind corn into cornmeal and make tortillas. My friend learned how to mow the soccer field with a machete. Roasting delicious, fresh-picked coffee beans, crafting jewelry from trash, maintaining a clean home with only erratic running water... Once I stopped scratching the itch to always be fixing it was so much easier to move from a deficit focus to an asset-based one.

I've learned a lot about ABCD over the past few years, but time and again I'm reminded of how much I have yet to learn. Recently I overheard a conversation a friend of mine, Tracy, was having with someone in our poverty alleviation group here in the states. Let's call this other person Andrew. Andrew was venting about an issue one of his kids was having at school. It was clear he was frustrated with the teachers there. In fact, it seemed like he was frustrated about a lot of things. Tracy gently asked him if he had considered talking with the school counselor. "She doesn't help with stuff like this," he replied shortly. Tracy responded with sympathy and continued to listen.

What!? I exclaimed in my head. As a former teacher I knew that the school counselor would, in fact, help with this issue. I can't believe Tracy isn't telling Andrew how to contact her! I mulled that conversation over in my head for days. How on earth did she have the patience to sit there and listen when she knew the solution to the problem? More importantly....why?

I played out an alternate scenario in my head. One in which I kindly corrected Andrew and gave him some advice about how to approach the counselor, as well as a few other resources on the issue at hand. In this hypothetical conversation, I even shared a personal story about a student I'd had in second grade who had dealt with this very situation and how I helped the family resolve it.

Believe it or not, the scene didn't end in my head with Andrew showering me with gratitude for sharing my wisdom. It didn't end with him contacting the school guidance counselor.

It ended abruptly when he politely listened to me ramble, then completely shut down. As my imagination moved forward, in the future weeks he would greet me every Tuesday night, but wouldn't ever share what was really on his mind. He wouldn't ever again trust me enough to be vulnerable with me.

And it dawned on me: Tracy had played this scene out in her mind before. Heck, maybe she'd even made a few mistakes along the way and lived it out: the dispensation of advice, the taciturn response, the loss of trust. Tracy knew this wasn't true development.

Tracy listened and empathized because she's in it for the long haul. She's patiently backing up far enough to see the whole picture. She's not trying to fix one problem today, she's trying to be a small part of sustainable development in a person's life over time. She recognized that Andrew didn't need advice at that moment.

He needed a friend.