Free Grocery Store Childcare? Sold!

One of my favorite days as a parent so far was July 17, 2012–the day my oldest son turned 3 and, thus, eligible for the free childcare at our grocery store. This happened about a week before my laptop on a deskneighbor’s youngest child turned 3. She painted a picture of grocery shopping I still fantasize about: I ran through the aisles, totally alone, buying only things I wanted and taking time to read the labels.

Today, our local schools are closed due to extreme low temperatures. My younger children go to daycare while I work, but my oldest doesn’t have a spot. So what did we do? Bundled up and headed to the grocery store, of course! He’s settled in their playroom and I’m camped out in the cafe using their wifi to get some work done. Drop-off, free childcare spots like this are an amazing resource for young families.

We also have one at nearby Ikea, but they only give you an hour and they don’t have wifi in the store. Still, though. An hour to myself sounds pretty nice on a day I’m home alone with my small people for many hours!

Apart from the intended purpose of peaceful grocery shopping, I’ve used (or plan to use when my youngest turns 3) grocery store childcare in the following ways:

  • Backup childcare for work. I’ve even met a client here in the past!
  • Meet up with other moms. It’s still nice to chat even if we have our babies with us. The big kids are entertained, and my friends and I can drink coffee or even shop together.
  • Date night! This is my grand fantasy. With 3 kids, date night childcare usually ends up costing more than my dinner. As soon as our youngest turns 3, my husband and I plan to drop all of them off and just sit and stare at each other in the grocery store cafe. Maybe we’ll order a deli sandwich, but mostly we’ll just sit and breathe and hold hands.

Do you have any drop-off childcare options near you? Leave us a comment to share your ideas for making the most of it!

Do You Ever Dream of a Vacation?

This morning, when I went to the bathroom, my kids became so frantic looking for me that the five-year-old proposed making a map to find me. Also? It’s February and -5 degrees F. Today, dear readers, I’m fantasizing about a vacation.

And not a vacation where I take my nursling along, either. While that was lovely, I’m thinking of something more peaceful. Just adults! Maybe even just meCinque Terre, Italy

Right now, I’m remembering a trip my husband and I took for our first wedding anniversary. We explored northern Italy, and went to a place called Cinque Terre–five colorful towns clinging to a mountain above the Tyrrhenian Sea. We got off the train at the most magical station in all the world, with the ocean dropping to our left and this fragrant hillside to our right. We ate fish, we hiked, we drank wine.

Doesn’t that sound amazing?

Where would you go if you could sneak away for a few days? I’m torn between beach and mountains. I would go someplace like Cinque Terre and enjoy both at once.

Leave us a comment to share where you’d go if you could.

Coping with Colic: Tips for Mom

I spent my first months of motherhood pacing barefoot around my neighborhood, bleary with exhaustion. Does he have colic, people used to ask when my first son was born. It seemed like such an understatement. My baby cried all the time. Around the clock. Every minute of every day.crying baby with mom

Who the heck knows what was going on? We certainly went to the pediatrician enough, desperate for a specific thing to be wrong so we could try to fix it. Three babies into my parenting journey, I’m now convinced colic is the word for “we don’t know why the heck your baby is crying all the time, but he sure is miserable.”

And he surely was a miserable newborn. Whether we held him or set him down. Whether we bounced him or rocked him, bathed him or massaged him. Whether we walked him around the block by the light of the moon or visited a chiropractor. What I learned was that spending 24 hours a day with a baby I was unable to soothe drained me in all possible ways. Here are a few things I did to get through that period of time:

1. Step away from the baby
Make a list of all those well-meaning friends who say, “Let me know if you need help with anything.” Then call one of them, hand over your screaming child, and leave the house. Even if you are nursing, you’ll have about a 90-minute window after a feeding. Go get your hair cut, get your lip waxed, walk up and down the aisles of the grocery store eating a chocolate bar. Let this be the one segment of your day where you are not agonizing over your wailing wee one.

2. Sleep in shifts
Even if you have to go to the basement with a sleeping bag and earplugs or a white noise machine to escape the crying, pick a four- to five-hour window each day and use it to sleep. Side-lying nursing doesn’t really gain mom more rest when a frantic baby is screaming and flailing…if you are nursing, you can make pumping a priority so there is milk to tide the baby over during your sleep shift. Then, let your partner have the next four or five hours. It is absolutely essential that your body experience some delta sleep if you want to make it through your baby’s colic period as a healthy human being.

*this particular tip was suggested by the therapist I started seeing during this time period, who helped me realize that I could take better care of my baby if I took care of my own basic, essential needs first

3. Say yes to everything
People offer new moms all kinds of things, and sometimes the hardest part of parenthood is learning to say yes to this help. When your baby spends hours upon hours screaming in your ear, you are going to need every ounce of goodwill thrown your way. If someone offers to cook you dinner, say yes. If people offer a general “Let me know if you need help,” call and ask them to do a load of laundry or wash your dishes or gather your trash for trash day. That’s five more minutes you get to spend focusing on your high needs baby.

4. Make a fantasy jar
When you play white noise around the clock, something as simple as listening to the news seems like a far-off fantasy. Don’t just sit on the floor and mourn the lost days of pooping sans Mei Tai wrap. Write down everything you wish you could do on scraps of paper (eat dinner with two hands, read a magazine, watch Heroes–the small stuff here that makes you feel like you again) and put them in a jar. Then, once a week, make one wish come true. Small reminders of “normal” life can help you keep perspective and remind you that there is an end in sight. Plus, your weekly wish time gives you something to look forward to as you are rocking away at 3:30 in the morning!

5. Hang in there
This won’t last forever. You’re doing everything you can. You’re the perfect parent for your baby and it’s ok to want to throttle all your friends from your due date club whose babies sit peacefully in a bouncy chair while mom makes actual food for supper. This doesn’t last forever. It really does pass! And forever afterward, whatever your kiddo presents you with seems dinky in comparison.

An earlier version of this post originally appeared on Rookie Moms.

Did your baby cry incessantly? Leave us a comment to share how you made it through this tough time.

Breastfeeding Without Birthing: Changing Plans

Christine Barker was still nursing her third biological child, a toddler, when her family began looking to adopt a fourth child. Barker had had no issues nursing her first three children and was serving as a La Leche League leader. She felt well-informed, committed to breastfeeding, and it never occurred to her that her milk supply would not adjust to meet the needs of an adopted newborn.

Her family got a call to bring home baby Anna at 6 days old, a baby who was withdrawing from drugs and alcohol and had a lot of challenges. She was a fussy baby, needing a lot of extra love and nurturing. Exhausted, Barker discovered that her supply was not increasing to meet Anna’s baby breastfeedingnutritional needs. She realized she needed to change her plan.

In an effort to keep Anna at the breast, Barker tried a LactAid nursing trainer, but Anna balked at the tubing. Despite many efforts to nurse her through nipple shields, baby Anna refused anything except the bare breast, and Barker was not producing enough milk to meet Anna’s nutritional needs.

At that point, Barker made the decision to feed Anna bottles of artificial baby milk while still offering the breast for comfort. “It was nice,” says Barker of offering the breast, even for non-nutritive needs. “That was a way to really help me bond with Anna.” This solution worked well and Anna was able to comfort nurse until she was two and a half years old, when she gradually weaned. “She just kind of stopped asking to nurse,” Barker says. “It was nothing I was actively trying.”

Four years later, the Barkers decided to add a fifth child to their family and looked to adopt again. The agency they worked with gave them an estimated wait time of 9 months for a baby, and this gave Barker enough time to research her options for induced lactation. She began following the Newman Goldfarb induced lactation protocol, taking a high-estrogen birth control pill (Yasmin) for six months and ordering Domperidome online, taking this medication to increase her prolactin levels.

Barker started pumping a few months before getting the call for her fifth baby, getting 5 ounces per day across several sessions. “In the last month, I even started waking once at night to pump and stimulate that supply,” she says.

The family got a call about a baby one weekend, but the adoption fell through. Barker kept pumping through this emotional time and Wednesday evening, her caseworker called to let her know about a baby girl who’d just been born. The baby’s parents were both mentally disabled, and medical staff suspected the baby would have special needs as well. Barker realized all four of her other children were born on a Wednesday. It felt serendipitous that she got this call right after another opportunity fell through and they welcomed their newest daughter, baby Wednesday Barker, into their home 8 days later.

Even though Barker had built up a full supply of milk for Wednesday, the tiny, 5-pound baby had no suck reflex. Nursing proved extremely challenging. Working closely with several lactation consultants, Barker tried both the LactAid Nursing Trainer and the Supplemental Nursing System. She spent hours working to improve Wednesday’s suck reflex, using her finger in the roof of Wednesday’s mouth in between nursing sessions that took hours. She soon found that she spent the majority of her waking hours in a chair in her bedroom working in various ways to feed Wednesday.

This was a wrought time for Barker, because “breastfeeding is one way that I parent, one way that I bond with my children,” she says, and she felt caught off guard by the challenges she met inducing lactation for her adopted children.

“I felt really prepared to nurse Wednesday and was not expecting to have the struggle I did.”

Between the pumping sessions to maintain her supply, the needs of a newborn, and the four other young children at home, Barker came to a crossroads again. “I needed to choose something to give, and for me that was the pumping.”

Knowing this would mean the end of a full milk supply, Barker decided to wean from the Domperidone, eat oatmeal to boost her supply naturally as much as possible, and offer the breast for comfort. “Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing,” Barker says.

By this point in her parenting journey, she had gathered a village of supportive mothers and she was able to acquire donor milk to feed Wednesday for 15 months.

The Barkers live in a small town in Connecticut and found many donors eager to give small amounts of milk, plus 5 donors who regularly provided enough milk to fill an entire chest freezer. She says, “I used to drive to Rhode Island to make a pickup from a mom who was exclusively pumping. She was getting 64 ounces per day! She pumped with the big bottles on each breast. I had to take multiple coolers.”

Barker’s advice for adoptive parents planning to induce lactation? “Go in with a goal of being flexible.” She says, “If your goal is nursing and bonding with baby through nursing, I think that’s a wonderful expectation.” She cautions against making an assumption about what your experience will be using previous nursing streaks (or lack thereof) as a gauge, because each baby is so different.

Wednesday nursed for comfort until she was 2 years old, when she gradually weaned, the same way all her siblings did. Four years after weaning, Barker laughs that she can still coax a few drops of liquid gold from her left breast.

Did you induce lactation to nurse an adopted baby? Leave us a comment to share your experience!

Scheduling Pump Breaks at Work

As a freelance writer, I enjoy a very flexible schedule. This is fantastic in terms of pumping milk for my baby during my work day. Ordinarily, I just set my timer to pump, put down my work, and hop to it every few hours.

Recently, I took on an exciting assignment. The only downside? . . . → Read More: Scheduling Pump Breaks at Work

What Is Domperidone, Anyway?

In the past few weeks, we’ve been blogging about mothers who have induced lactation and used Domperdione to help do so (see here and here). Other mothers we’ve been in contact with have used Domperidone to help boost their own milk supply, while still others have been asking us what the heck this Domperidone . . . → Read More: What Is Domperidone, Anyway?

Breastfeeding Without Birthing: Exclusive Pumping

Angela Soo Hoo gave birth to her eldest sons, Nicolas (11) and Landon (7), and breastfed them without issue. She and her husband, Luke, planned to adopt a third child. For Angela, breastfeeding is beyond the “best” choice for a baby–she feels very passionately that breastmilk is the optimal food for babies. Since she . . . → Read More: Breastfeeding Without Birthing: Exclusive Pumping