January 18, 2011

Cloth Diapers for a Working Mom: Perhaps at Daycare Afterall

So... I mustered up some courage and took advantage of our most recent monthly Parent Call at our Daycare to ask about cloth diapers again. I sent an email to the director, who hosts the call, ahead of time to ask if that was the appropriate forum for such a question. I wanted to probe for any definite no's first. I also included a few links to some of the types of diapers we were using from the website we ordered from. I am not sure that she looked at them, but she replied to my email saying that I could bring it up, but she was pretty sure that the state of NC didn't allow child care centers to use cloth diapers. I replied by saying that other facilities in the same chain, in our same city were using them right now.

So I did log into the call later that day. At the end of the agenda, I got my chance to ask if the center had reconsidered their stance on cloth, restating that other centers in our area were using them. The director again said that for a fact, NC had outlawed them in the past, but that she would look back into it. One of the other moms said that another nearby center ONLY used cloth, and changed kids into them when they got there, and would put on a disposable to go home in, if the parents wanted. Wow!

Also, one of the other staff said that a possibility in the meantime would be to pack one cloth diaper for our little one to change into as his last for the day, to come home in. At first I thought this wasn't really only a drop in the bucket, but that to show that I was interested I should at least make the effort. And the next day, his teacher had no problem with it, and said that in fact at least one other baby (and her older brother before her) did the same thing. I felt relieved, and excited that this was catching on! And later I realized that he is only going through 5 or 6 during the day there, so 1 more to be cloth would be a 15-20% improvement. And what a great way to see if we can keep up with laundry every other day.

AND to top it off, while we were discussing this during pickup, one of the other moms asked, "Oh are you doing cloth?" which sparked a conversation about how we were doing them "after hours", and how she had bought some before her daughter was born, but hadn't really gotten around to using them yet.

Needless to say, I feel relieved, and not like a crazy hippie (at least not the only crazy hippie). And actually a little hopeful that we can do this more. We have at least a year's worth of diapering to go (or two, if my mother is right about boys and potty training...) so that would at least break even. I am shopping around for deals now!! I am going to need some of those travel wet bags...

January 10, 2011

Learning to Breastfeed in Public - the Mommy Group

About the third week home, I decided the baby and I were ready for our first field trip. The hospital where we delivered offered a mommy group that met once a week, to let moms bond with each other and compare notes, and to ask questions to the lactation consultant and pediatrician that also attended. I was pretty stoked to get out and about. I didn't have any questions, but I was dying for (adult) human contact. It took us pretty much all morning to both get dressed, pack the diaper bag and car and to almost make it on time. We planned to blend in with the wallpaper and just listen to the others speak. But of course, the little guy was due to eat right in the middle of the meeting. This was a mom-and-baby-only (no men allowed) so that detailed questions could be asked, but also so breastfeeding could go on, uninhibited. I wouldn't fully appreciate this aspect until several weeks later.

I first was mortified that my baby was crying and "interrupting" this meeting. I immediately started to get hot and flustered. New mothers everywhere: do not feel embarrassed by this. Especially newborns, whose cries are nothing compared to what comes later. Especially not at a new mom's meeting offered by your hospital, where the fully expect such behavior and where you will not be the only one in this position in the room. I tried to be super-covert as I tried to position him on my lap, lift my shirt, undo my nursing bra, get him latched on (and at this point we were still using a nipple shield, so this was yet another thing to try to orchestrate), and all under the cover of a lightweight swaddling blanket so, God forbid, no one saw my breast. This was an utter disaster (no pun intended). I felt so embarrassed! One of the facilitators came over and offered me some pillows to get more comfortable. I thanked her, but really couldn't handle trying to manipulate one more object. I was literally sweating, and luckily my guy figured out how to latch on long enough to get some milk and be satiated and quiet. I really have no idea what the topic of conversation was that day.

I tell this story because 1) it really wasn't as big of a deal as I was imagining it to be at the time, so if you find yourself in a similar situation, please know that it really is OK, and absolutely nothing to be embarrassed by, and 2) these meetings are the perfect place to learn how to breastfeed in public. I assumed you already have the hang of feeding your kid in the privacy and safety of your own home. There you can walk around all day with no shirt on and feel perfectly normal. Not to mention you have a handy dandy Boppy pillow, and a comfy rocking chair. If you don't, though, these meetings are great to ask questions about how to do this better, too. Really, its why they even bother holding them in the first place.

Our second outing was a La Leche League "cafe". This was an informal meeting at a cloth diapering boutique in town. Similarly, there were several new moms and babies in attendance. There was prime emphasis on babies and chatting, and some highlighting of the official LLL stance on the answers to some of the questions going around, and no pushing of the boutique's merchandise, whatsoever. Here is where I got over the initial breakout of sweat and embarrassment and started watching what the other moms were doing. I was fortunate that my little guy slept through this whole meeting, and another mom was feeding her daughter lunch. I watched how she nestled her baby's head in the crook of the elbow of one arm, and used the other hand to aim her breast into the baby's mouth. Baby's bum rested in her lap. Aha! To cover it all she had this nursing cover, which is really just a glorified cooking apron, sans strings. If you have any sewing talent at all, make yourself one before you have the baby and save yourself $30. If you don't, just add it to the registry, because its pretty danged handy. While you're at either this meeting or the hospital-sponsored one, ask all the questions you can think of. Invaluable resource. And once you go back to work, you'll likely not be able to attend these anymore :(

So, once you have found a couple of groups to frequent, keep going! Practice your new skills. Trust me you'll learn many more tips from the other new moms and you'll give yourself plenty of opportunities for dealing with other new challenges, including 8 ways to recover from a poopy diaper explosion. Our son pretty much only has two poop speeds: not pooping, or explosion. You'll become a regular James Bond making due with pieces of outfits or swaddling blankets in the bottom of the diaper bag (because you have already used the 2 actual outfits you'd packed). Or you can practice eating your lunch while holding a baby. Or practice entertaining baby while carrying on a conversation. Or at the very least, it is practice for trying to get somewhere on time, with a baby in tow. And of course, getting comfortable with breastfeeding in front of someone other than your husband or mother. I begged for suggestions on how to get good at this, and I actually got several responses telling me to just give up on it, and give the kid a bottle (of expressed milk, but still!!), since at some point he'd have to learn to take a bottle anyway. I quickly found this to be a ridiculous suggestion. Sure, maybe in the middle of a wedding or funeral isn't the best time to whip it out, but nearly all other options are OK (in my opinion) And hiding out in the car to nurse is always an option, if you need a little privacy. Why forgo the convenience of carrying your baby's food around with you everywhere? I promise, you will soon tire of having to think ahead to pump a bottle, and then give your kid said bottle, when you can just skip the middle man and nurse him. With a little practice, soon you'll be able to do this at tailgates and restaurants, so nonchalant-ly that folks will hardly realize you are even doing it!

Let me mention two more things: 1) my husband was resistant to breastfeeding in public at first. He wasn't fond of the idea that my boobs could be in plain view to the public. However, as I practiced, he got more comfortable with my skills, and confident that said boobs would remained covered. 2) There will be times where it is worth it to pump milk instead of nurse. This includes the night shift. If you get good at squeezing in a pumping session for your freezer supply, you might keep an extra bottle in the fridge to give you baby in the middle of the night, if s/he needs it. This way you don't always have to be the one to get up. And this will then leave you with some extra milk in the morning, that you can then pump and save. Its a nice cycle.

Freezer Stock

If you are breastfeeding, it is true that it is pretty handy to have some back up milk in the freezer.

If you ever plan to be away from your baby for more than a few hours (let me just say that if you don't plan to get away some, you will likely go insane, so just plan on it now), someone else will have to feed your kid. And if/when you are going to back to work, get sick, going on vacation, any of these things can disrupt your schedule (and your eating/hydration schedule, too) and might cause your milk supply to dip, so its great to have some backup on hand, of for nothing else, then peace of mind. Not to mention if your baby hits a growth spurt and you haven't enough fresh milk on hand to keep up. Our little guy hit a spurt right around 3 months, which is when he started at daycare and I started back to work. Trifecta for us. I took some pressure off myself because I had a pretty good supply in the freezer for just this case.

OK, OK, you say. So I'll get to work on my freezer stock... but how? I wondered this myself. When I was about 6 or 7 months pregnant, I recall asking one of my new-momma friends how she ever "got ahead" to be able to build up a freezer stock of milk. She thought back to her first "daze" on the job and said, "you know, I don't remember". So I made a conscious effort to pay attention. At first, you do not work on this supply. Depending on how well breastfeeding is going for you, you just work on that, and bonding with your baby. Once you start to get the hang of things (maybe a couple weeks? You'll know because you'll have a split second to think: wow, a free moment - what should I do? If you even think you might be tired, though, just take a nap instead.), I suggest pumping sometime after the first feeding of the day, maybe when the little one goes down for their first nap, maybe for 15 minutes or so. There always seems to be extra milk in the morning. And I would wager that this is a good strategy to up your supply in general. Lactation is all about supply and demand, so keep demanding. The supply built up because until the baby was 3 months old, I wasn't away from him much at mealtimes, and I was getting an extra few ounces of milk nearly every day.

I read in a couple of sources that folks recommended freezing milk in one or two ounce portions, so that this was more flexible for you to use. But I just found this wasteful. Once you thaw one of those little baggies, there is all kinds of milk still clinging to the sides, so why do this 2 or 3 times just to get a full bottle? By the time I was pumping to freeze, my guy was drinking 3-4 ounces per feeding anyway, so I reasoned that there was no reason to freeze any less than that. Now that he can down an 8 or 9 oz bottle, I only freeze in 6 oz portions. In both cases would just top off whatever I'd thawed with refrigerated milk, and voila, a full bottle is good to go.

January 7, 2011

Pumping at Work

In case you didn't know this, I am an Industrial Engineer by background, which means I am always trying to streamline processes, even in my personal life. Now that I have this new baby, it is more important than ever for me to optimize my time. And this is especially true at work, since I look forward to 5:00 when I can run to daycare and snuggle the little one as soon as possible. This being said, I am also still nursing said little one, which means I am also pumping at work. For any other mama's planning to do the same, I would like to offer a few tips:

 First and foremost, make sure your employer is aware of your need to pump and what this means. You will need a clean private place to do this, and some flexibility in your day to take breaks to do so. It doesn't mean you won't be working during these time periods, but it may, even if you have the best of intentions of staying productive. Know that if you have a desk job, it is likely that you can still get some things done while utilizing a hands-free pump, but you may also need to focus on getting yourself in the "baby zone" (see below) or have some technical difficulties to contend with that might preclude work during these pump breaks.

Secondly, as you are planning to be out (and for sure before you return) go ahead and block out some planned pumping time on your calendar.  This prevents you (or others if they can see this calendar) from over-scheduling  you. Its not fool proof: of course there will be those meetings that  you really can't negotiate. So you'll have to adjust forward or back some. Don't stress about this too much. Your milk will still be there. And if you can at all have a store in the freezer before you come back, this takes the pressure off, too.

How many breaks per day should you plan on? Ideally you should pump when your little one will be eating (with the caregiver you have entrusted). Before I had the baby I envisioned that would get it all in with only two breaks per day, but by the time I was actually returning to work, I figured I'd better play it safe and go with 3 (and occasionally he was actually eating 4 times!). This proved to be successful. I did find that the first pump of the day (after having only nursed on one side in the AM) yielded the most and the other two, significantly less. Eventually, as the little guy's feeding schedule changed, I dropped down to two pumping sessions.

So what should you bring with you to pump?
You'll probably find your grove after a while, but initially I would plan to pack the following:
A really good, reliable, hands-free pump I am loving my Medela Freestyle. I am not sure of any other truly hands-free competitor out there. I really struggled with my decision, though. I felt guilty about spending so much $$ on a pump, when there were several options out there that were less expensive. I even had a friend that used one and said it worked "just fine." The one she had wasn't hands-free in-and-of-itself, she used one of  those hands-free bras. I just wasn't 100% convinced that would work, so I went this route, and don't have a single complaint. And I feel totally justified after I discussed the price of formula with another new mommy. This pump, as expensive as it was, paid for itself in just a couple months.  Until a friend asked me about it recently, I didn't realize how passionate I really was about my pump. But you go with what makes you feel comfortable.
...all the pieces that attach it to you, whether that means the straps and clips for the Freestyle, or a hands-free bra.
Burp cloth. I find this serves several purposes: it can be that thing that smells like your baby, if you need the reminder to put you in the lactation mood; it can be your pumping placemat, where you can lay out all your equipment, and still protect your workspace from potential drips or spills; and also it is great to wrap up the "horns," as some call them (the parts that attach to you, and might have milk still on them), and  put them back in your bag for next time.
Empty collection bottles (and lids!) If you do go with the Freestyle, know that Gerber bottles are compatible with the pump as well (which can really save some $$$ as those Medela sets are not cheap!). I also recommend looking into several sizes for milk collection. We were pumping from day one, since our little guy needed some time to learn to latch on. We started with some teeny 1 oz containers at the hospital, which really cut down on the intimidation factor of the 9oz bottles we had waiting at home. Just starting out, there was a pronounced progression from the 1oz, to the 2.5 oz to the 4 or 5 oz, and finally the 9oz-ers. each subsequent size really felt like an achievement for me, and a milestone for the little one. And if you are using the Medela cooler bag that comes with the pump, it neatly fits 4 of the 5oz bottles, but also two 5's and one 9oz (tilted sideways) and a full milk storage bag, when/if you get to needing that combination.
And while you're packing these, go ahead and slap labels on them. Our daycare requires that we use a specific color tape to label our bottles, and that we write our child's name, the date the milk was expressed, and when it will "expire". I go ahead and and label at least the first two when I pack them before pumping.
Wipes I keep these in the bag for wiping off the pump parts, but I honestly don't use them all that much. I went to a moms' group hosted by a La Leche League rep while I was on maternity leave. (I highly recommend mommy groups while on leave for a variety of reasons, by the way...). They really talked about the almost magical powers of breast milk, such that a thorough washing and sterilizing is not required between each use throughout the day. I do rinse the "horns" every evening during the week and let them air dry on my counter, and I sterilize them once over the weekend.
paper towels/napkins These are the mainstay of what I use to clean up after the pumping session. I usually grab a handful from our break room in the morning and keep them stashed in a desk drawer. As I am disconnecting myself from the horns, I have a napkin handy to catch any drips, and to wipe out the cup before I detach the collection bottle, so it doesn't drip on me. I do tilt it back some to see if I can get any of that milk to go into the bottle, but usually I can't, and be careful that you don't pour milk out of the backside of the bottle if its really full.
hand sanitizer I keep a pump of this at my desk and sanitize before opening my pump bag to pull out all my equipment. I am not a super-germaphobe, but its probably not a bad idea when handling my kid's food.
milk storage bags You will definitely need these if you are trying to rotate your freezer stock to keep the milk less than the recommended one month old. I also try to keep a few extra of these in the pocket of the pump bag. You never know when you are going to have a really good pumping day and need a little extra space for stashing milk. My favorite were the Nuk brand ones (I found the lansinoh bags to leak when I defrosted them... sad sad)
permanent marker for labeling the storage bags
nursing bra maybe this is obvious (because the hands-free attachments for your pump will clip to it, but just in case. Also make sure the ones you buy are compatible with said attachments. All of them are not. And you may not need one if you are going with the hand-free bra + not-so-hands-free pump option. One I love is the Bravado seamless silk.
cooler bag and ice pack(s) for storing pumped milk until you get home to the fridge
A/C adapter plug just in case the battery on the pump dies on you. Plus, its nice to keep all of the pump stuff together, so you don't have to hunt it down if you want to pack it for vacation, etc.
photos Or in this age of the Internet, have access to your personal web or Facebook page (via smartphone, computer, etc.) to view all those cute photos your are sharing with friends and family. Your baby's smiling mug will do a lot to get you in the mood for lactation.

Don't forget to also pack plenty of (healthy) snacks for the day, and drink lots of water (or milk, as I was advised by my child's pediatrician) to replace all those calories you are pumping out!!!

January 5, 2011

Homemade Baby Food

Very exciting, but bittersweet. My little teeny baby is growing up!

At 5 months he isn't going off to college or anything yet, but still... Also, at 5 months, he's going for the gusto a little earlier than usually recommended by pediatricians, so if you are out there reading this, be sure you check with yours, and check the million checklists that are out there to see if you think your kid is ready.

So far we started with about two weeks worth of rice cereal. My first thought was that it didn't sound very nutritious, but the Pediatrician assured me that it was really for more of the practice, but also that it was fortified with iron, which babies are in need of at this age, particularly if they are breastfed (ours is).
We started with a tablespoon once a day, to two, then three tablespoons once a day, and then we added a second meal at two tablespoons, then three. (Quick aside: we saw food being recommended in increments of tablespoons, but I wasn't sure if this meant the flakes or the mixed product. The hubby and I decided "they" meant flakes) of organic brown rice cereal. We went with this brand of cereal because it was organic, and because it came in a resealable bag, which was a good call by the husband. This stuff is pretty inexpensive, even organic, so we decided just to purchase this. If you make it yourself by pulverizing rice into a powder, it still requires cooking. So between the labor and the cost, I figured purchasing was the best route.
Don't let the packaging fool you: we didn't find that adding rice to his diet affected his sleep whatsoever, so if you are thinking of starting early so your little one will sleep longer, I would still say check with your doc first.

After getting to two meals a day, we started a third: breakfast. And this time it was with a "real" food. That we made ourselves!!

Sweet Potato
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1/4 c water

Place cubes and water into a microwave (and baby!) safe container, and nuke until soft. It took us about 4 1-minute intervals. Puree until smooth (we used a stick blender or Magic bullet). Add water (or formula/breast milk) to the consistency that makes sense for your baby. I think I initially made this too thick and will add a little more liquid with his next meal.

A website for reference: WholesomeBabyFood by Momtastic (this link points to food suggestions for -6 month olds).