Donating Breastmilk: Tips for Stay-home Moms

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’ve signed up to be a milk donor with the Columbus milk bank. I’ve got 50 ounces of breastmilk on ice so far–25% of my 200-ounce minimum donation!canisters of frozen milk

Because I stay home with my younger two kids, I’ve been finding it challenging to find time to pump spare milk for my own freezer stash, let alone spare milk for the milk bank. I’m not separated from my baby, so I don’t have a regular pumping schedule like I might if I worked outside the home. I wanted to share some tips that have worked well for me.

Enlist a friend. I have 3 sons, and they are spirited guys who just don’t like it when I sit down, let alone sit for about 20 minutes hooked up to a breast pump. I have a wonderful friend who comes over to visit in the afternoon sometimes, and she occupies my older boys while I pump.

Enlist the older kids. My boys, rowdy as they might be, love to help. So I invent ways for them to help me set up the pump. Sometimes they are actually helpful–they can each slip the tubing on to the pump motor and the oldest kiddo can plug the pump into the outlet. I try to get them to sing along to the pump motor or otherwise engage them in the process so they don’t run off and start hitting each other. We even look at the bottles together and make bets about which breast will express the most milk.

Take advantage of naps. This might seem obvious to some moms, but this is my first baby who actually sleeps. Neither of the older boys would be put down for an hour at a time, let alone sit happily in their bouncy chair while I pumped milk. My youngest baby does nap, and so when he’s been asleep for about an hour, I take advantage of this time and pump.

Keep supplies in the pump bag, ready to go. As soon as I wash the flanges and valves, I assemble them with the tubing and keep it all hooked up and ready to go. I even screw the bottles on to the flanges. This way, when I do find I have a few spare minutes to pump, everything is all ready to go and it takes less time.

Know your body. Most moms have the most milk in the mornings, but mornings are crazy hectic at my house and I’m just not going to be able to sit and pump milk when I’m packing lunches. The best time for me to pump is while my middle son is taking his afternoon nap. The baby is usually awake during this time, but he’s pretty content to hang out next to me while I pump.

Note that I could never have done such a thing with my older children–their temperaments just wouldn’t stand for it. So now that I have an actual chill baby, I understand exactly why I found pumping to be so frustrating with my other kids! Sometimes it would take me a week of daily pump attempts to get enough for one bottle for date night. With my older kids, when I was pumping I had the best luck right after my husband came home. That way he could hold and soothe the baby if he got fussy and I could pump without worrying that my baby was frantic.

Lots of stay-home moms pump the opposite breast while baby is nursing, but the logistics of that boggle my mind. I think I would need a third arm! Part of the problem for this method, for me, is that I have a very large bust and so I use both arms to hold baby and breast.

Have any of you managed to pump while staying home with your nurslings? Leave us a comment to share your best tips.

A (Pretty Good) Day in the Life with 3 Wee Ones

4am The baby wakes up to nurse and poop, but then we both fall back asleep.

6:30am The big boys have “slept in” but are now up and want to watch Curious George. We think this is a great idea, because it buys the rest of us 22 more minutes of sleep. We hear our eldest slide open the freezer to dig out waffles, which the kids eat still frozen while watching “Monkey George.”

6:52am the episode is over, so the older kids start to cry about something. My husband goes downstairs to make them more food while I take a shower. Without an audience! The baby continues sleeping.mother with 3 kids and a beer

7:15am I sit down to a plate of scrambled eggs I did not have to cook myself. The older kids are only moderately insane, have only splashed a little ketchup on the table, and agree to let me wolf down my food while sitting. The food is hot! While I’m eating it!

7:30am The baby has woken up and I’m nursing on the couch while trying to tell the older two boys to stop hitting each other and brush their teeth. I’m trying so hard not to yell or get impatient. Eventually, the oldest one goes upstairs to get dressed and brush teeth. His younger brother copies him.

8:00am All my sons are dressed, fed, and the ones with teeth have had them brushed. I tell my oldest he can play with the iPad before the school bus, but he gets distracted and both my big boys are playing Lego. I hurriedly load the dishwasher and toss laundry in the dryer before the baby stops being interested in staring at the wall from his swing.

8:32am We are jogging down the street, hoping the bus is running late today. The toddler is not happy to be buckled in to the umbrella stroller, the baby is zonked in the wrap carrier, and my kindergartener has anxiety he will miss his bus. But not enough anxiety to walk faster. We cross the street and trot down the hill, and the bus is running late, so the big boys walk in a circle around the stop sign pole until they feel dizzy and fall down.

9:30am I got the toddler and the baby loaded up in the minivan with snacks and spare diapers (but no wipes) and we’ve gone to the toy library to play for the morning. I find another mom willing to run across the street to get coffee for all the moms, but the espresso machine is broken at the coffee shop. I power through my disappointment by changing two dirty diapers using paper towels and tap water.

11:45am En route home from the toy library, I have been gifted a double car nap by the universe. I’m able to transfer the toddler to his bed, still asleep. I haul in the baby in his bucket car seat and park him by the couch, still asleep. I decide to eat lunch with two hands, make a phone call, and read one page of an article about maps in Smithsonian magazine.

12:03pm The baby is up and nursing, but I’m able to feed him quickly and he’s content while I fold laundry. So much laundry.

2:00pm For once, I don’t have to wake the toddler in order to pick up the kindergartener! He wakes on his own, in a good mood, and agrees to eat some food. Only two bites, but he’s eating! We color with markers and talk about elephants until it’s time to get big brother. I’m able to color AND nurse the baby, which I didn’t know before this day.

4:00pm All my sons are home and crying, because it’s 4pm and everyone cries at 4pm. I use television to get them to stop crying and I realize I have, for once, remembered to turn ON the crock pot filled with our supper! After serving the supper to the starving children, I’m informed that this food is disgusting. They run away to play something in the back yard. I take the baby with me to the basement, where I put him in another baby swing and I manage to use the rowing machine for ten minutes before my absence is discovered.

 5:03pm My husband comes home from work and convinces the big boys to sit and pick at their dinner. I sit on the couch with a beer my friend has brought over for me! I’m quickly discovered and my children join me on the couch. All of them. Life seems pretty good. 

How to Nurse (or Pump) at a Formal Function

I’ve been nursing for 5 years straight now, and have been to a few formal affairs in that time period. It always seems much easier in theory than in practice to nurse a baby (or pump milk for the baby) while surrounded by black ties and sparkly gowns. Pumping is way more of a pain, for me, because I had to totally leave the party to pump in a private room, whereas I’ve always felt comfortable just nursing my baby among the action whenever he felt hungry.

Since I went to 2 weddings in a row with my newborn this autumn, I noticed a few things that made the whole experience a little easier for me.

Would you ever guess this is a nursing/maternity dress?

Would you ever guess this is a nursing/maternity dress?

1. Find the right nursing bra/tank. Judy, renowned bra whisperer, hooked me up with this inexpensive nursing tank in black. I felt hesitant that something like this would support my 34 G (or maybe I’m an H right now?) bust, but it was perfect and the seamless tank had a low profile that made it work well with a number of different dresses. Supportive enough to dance in, it also had a wee bit of padding that concealed any leakage. Plus I could work the clasps with one hand.

Not local to our store? Try a virtual fitting to help you find the right underthings for your fancy party. The cost of the fitting goes toward any bra you might purchase!

2. Find the right dress. There’s nothing like sitting down to pump and realizing you need to remove your entire dress to make it work. Many women aren’t even aware that there is such a thing as a nursing dress. There are, and they aren’t all florals or paisley as you might fear! There are dresses designed specifically for nursing, so there’s no need to stretch the neckline or finagle a “regular” dress. A Mother’s Boutique carries many dresses perfect for casual or formal events. Each has nursing openings that make it easy for you to discretely nurse or easily hook yourself up to the breast pump as needed.

3. Find the right chair. I generally need arm rests to nurse comfortably. Those awful folding chairs at weddings and fancy dinners just don’t work well for me, especially if I’m getting snagged in the tablecloth while I move my baby into position. I usually walk around the venue with my baby (great for soothing!) and locate the very best chair. Then I keep returning to it each time I need to nurse. Often I find the most comfortable chairs are in hallways next to decorative mirrors. This is usually helpful for me because my baby is less distracted a little bit removed from the action. If there aren’t any comfy chairs, I make do in the folding chair at the table and lean on my husband!

As I’m on my third child now, I can nurse standing up. With the right dress, nobody can even tell what’s going on. I nursed standing in line at the cupcake truck at my sister’s wedding and chatted up a bunch of single 20-somethings, who had no idea I was feeding the baby when they asked to hold him. It’s more comfortable in a good chair, though.

4. Call ahead. With my last nursling, I went to a wedding without him when he was seven months old. I didn’t want to bother the bride when she was already swamped, so I called the reception venue to ask about a private room where I might pump during the wedding. I asked who I should ask for when I got to the reception, and that person showed me to a great room with a table and outlets and a television. The bride had no idea, but I made sure to tell her later that her vendors were so wonderfully accommodating. If I weren’t pumping and I felt modest nursing at the party, I would have used the same strategy to locate a room to nurse my baby.

Other things that worked well for me if I was pumping at a formal party were to snag spare ice from the bar. I used plastic bar cups in a pinch to nestle around the bottles of my expressed milk in my cooler. I also brought spare Ziplock bags and burp cloths to deal with any spills or leaks.

Have you nursed your baby or pumped your milk during fancy parties? Leave us a comment to share your best tips. 

Self Care for Mothers

I’m not the best at self care. I’m not alone in this–many, many sources discuss self care and how mothers aren’t taking the time to practice it. We’re so busy caring for everyone else in our families! But it’s so vital that we care for ourselves, fill our own tanks so we have enough gas to keep up the work that’s so important to us. meditating woman

For me, self care is often a big mental hurdle. I have to mentally prepare to even risk making a phone call to schedule an appointment for myself. Will my kids shriek in the background? Will I mishear the time of my appointment? It seems so insignificant, but making phone calls during business hours with three young kids at home is no small feat.

Then there’s the actual going to the appointment. Provided I’m able to schedule, say, a chiropractor appointment to address my searing hip pain that’s been plaguing me since pregnancy–provided this appointment falls in the magical window between nap and school pickup, I have to deal with all the car seats and parking while I go to this appointment. I have to pack a bag of snacks and diapers and toy vehicles. It’s exhausting.

But I’ve been making the effort to go and to do it, because I can’t chase my boys on scooters if my hip hurts. And if my boys can’t scoot, we’re all in the house yelling at each other and that’s miserable.

I realized last week that my chiropractor is always running 25 minutes behind. Always! Because of this, I intend to stop going to that office after my last appointment. Even realizing that was so freeing– that I could simply find another provider who had better availability and fit into my schedule. (Now, somebody pester me until I actually make an appointment with the new provider!)

I wanted to share a few things that have helped me eke out some self-care, because I know it’s so hard!

1. Find child-friendly providers. There’s a difference between “oh. Yes, I suppose you can bring your children to appointments,” and “sure! We love kids here. Please bring them.” Does the waiting room have toys? Does the office have sharp or dangerous things on low shelves? Is the staff actually cool with children or are they just tolerating you and your minions? Finding providers who really support young families makes a huge difference in my ability to continue self-care.

2. Declare your intentions out loud. If I sit and marinate the idea that I should really do something about the painful skin tag that’s grown right along my bra line, I’ll find a million excuses to postpone treatment. If I actually verbalize to my husband that I’ve got this painful thing happening to my body, he will respond, “You’ve got to do something about that.” Much as I would tell him if he revealed a painful tooth or similar! Saying it out loud, for me, means I have to do it.

3. Put it on the calendar. Self-care looks different for everyone. The thing you need to fill your tank can vary, but one of the most restorative things for me is exercise. I’m not trying to go crazy here, 8 weeks post surgery with a bum hip. I’d like to use our rowing machine for ten minutes, though, and work up to longer workouts each day. If it’s on my calendar, not only will my phone beep to remind me to do it, but my husband also sees it as an appointment, as time that has been claimed. For me!

What has helped you to care for yourself? Leave us a comment to share your ideas. 

Introducing Oren

I shared earlier that I was attempting a vaginal birth after 2 cesareans. I gathered up a super-supportive birth team who all knew what I wanted, that I had educated myself and weighed my options carefully and felt natural birth was the best choice for my baby and my body.

Prenatally, I exercised when . . . → Read More: Introducing Oren

Sleep Like an Actual Baby

For years, I’ve thought the phrase “sleep like a baby” was some sort of mean euphemism. My two older boys still don’t sleep very well at 5 and 2 years old. The oldest one basically sleeps through the night now (unless he has a potty accident), but for about two years, he slept 90 . . . → Read More: Sleep Like an Actual Baby

Different Tools for Different Kids: Babywearing Takes a Back Seat

I have never been a stroller person. When we just had one kid, I think I used the stroller a total of five times. My son seemed to need to be worn all the time, was never happy unless he was pressed right up against a parent. Then, once I got large and pregnant . . . → Read More: Different Tools for Different Kids: Babywearing Takes a Back Seat