You guys, I have FOUR days of work left! FOUR. I am so excited and ready to turn the page to having only one job (mom) rather than two. I’ve written before about my breastfeeding struggles and how grateful I am that I succeeded despite the obstacles. This is sort of another prideful post because I have survived almost 5 months of working full-time as a teacher and breastfeeding as well. I’ve learned A LOT in the past 5 months, so for Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday this week, I decided to share some of it with you.
From your comments, it seems that most of my readers are stay at home moms, so I’m not sure how necessary this post really is, but I feel the need to write it all down while it is still fresh on my mind, and I hope it will be useful to someone out there. So here they are, my Top Ten Tips for Breastfeeding and Working Full-Time.
- Invest in a good pump. It has to be a double electric. I’m a fan of the Medela Pump in Style personally, but whatever it is, be sure it’s effective.Yes they are expensive, but so is formula.
- Before you head to work, get lots of milk stocked in the freezer. For most of us, the pump pulls less than the baby does, especially over time. There is also the occasional growth spurt or hungry day that the baby will experience while you are away at work. Stocking up lessens the possibility that you’ll have to use formula for supplementation. I had about 50 ounces stocked up, and it was gone after about 3 months of working.
- Set a goal. Stick to it. For me, I said I didn’t care how much I hated pumping or even how little I got (if my milk supply dwindled) but that I refused to stop before Jude was 6 months old. For you it might not be 6 months, it could be longer or shorter. The point is that if you set a concrete goal, you won’t stop. Plus is feels so gratifying to meet that goal.
- Insist on a space and time. A lot of people told me that there was no way I could continue breastfeeding after I went back to work. Teaching is a job with NO privacy at all and no free time or chosen schedules. I was determined to prove them wrong and I ended up (with the help of a nursing friend) securing a room for this purpose. In a building full of 2,500 people that was actually built for 1,900, this was hard to come by, but we sort of insisted. As far as scheduling goes, I am late for a class everyday so that I can pump. For me, it is Yearbook/Journalism with 23 responsible girls, so it’s no big deal. Without this luxury, I would have had to insist on a little help from colleagues or a change in schedule, I guess. Depending on your state, there could be a law insisting that employers offer you a place to pump. It’s also in the new healthcare bill! Three cheers for that!
- Yes you should be insistent, but make the best of what you’re given. Have humor. I was given a room, and I am grateful for that. It is, however, a dusty supply closet in a location where I have to walk through another teacher’s class to get there. I was also walked in on my a male coworker who got a nice clear view of my boobs; it was hands-down the most awkward moment of my life. The copy room line can still be a little awkward when I stand next to him, but we moved on; you just have to have humor and be happy with the time and space you get. Make the most of it. As a side note to this one, you don’t have to rinse out your pump parts after every pumping. An LC told me to carry a hand towel to wipe them down and then just wash them every night when I get home. My pumping room is nowhere near a kitchen or a sink, so I rely on a packed towel and a cooler with an ice block, and we have no problems at all.
- Get used to people thinking you’re crazy. Breastfeeding is not a popular choice, nor is it an easy one when you work full-time. I work closely with 5 other women who all have children under 14 months. I am the only one who is still breastfeeding. One is kind and supportive and fabulous while the rest think I’m nuts and tell me so with their eyes. And occasionally with their voices. At this point, I’m used to it and somewhat entertained by it. I know this is the right choice for my family right now, so I just move right along and avoid dwelling on the judgment.
- Don’t obsess about the number of ounces. I was really bad about this in the beginning, but I’m getting better. Some days you will have lower output than others. It’s just the way it is. Every Lactation Consultant and every resource I read told me that the baby is more efficient than the pump, and it’s definitely true for me. In late March, I ran out of freezer stock and started having to use the occasional bottle of – gasp! – formula. I freaked out at first until I realized that A) when we were together on the weekends or over spring break, it is not problem and he is satisfied without supplementation and B) if 2-3 small formula bottles a week keep me breastfeeding for a year, it’s worth it for sure. Some days I make enough. Some days I don’t. Just do the best you can and don’t obsess. I’ve also found that I can pump a couple of hours after he goes to bed and get 2-3 ounces a night. That helps.
- When you and baby are together, throw out the bottles. Nursing your baby as often as possible helps boost and maintain your supply. Plus who would want to get out that pump when you are tied to it all week? Jude and I never use bottles when we’re together. They are for workdays and sitters only.
- It’s all in how you look at it. It might seem like locking yourself in a closet for 10-12 minutes three times a day is a ridiculous and boring waste of time. For me, I have learned to welcome the few minutes of quiet and privacy away from my desk and rowdy students. I even grade papers in there sometimes! My students would be repulsed by that image, but hey, it gets the job done. Well two jobs actually.
- Don’t skip out on pumping sessions. This is probably the hardest part of it for most of us. You have to be fairly militant and determined to NEVER skip a session. For me, I feed Jude at about 6am before we leave. At work, I pump at 8:15 just before my first class, around 11:30 between classes, and then again during my planning period at about 2:15. In the past 5 months, there have been three times I have missed a session because of morning meetings. Three times won’t hurt, but if I made a habit of it, my milk supply would certainly be affected. It seems like a chore at first, but it will soon become a routine part of your day.
Above all, know that you can do it! It’s not the most popular choice, and there are moments you’ll want to quit, but the rewards are numerous, and there are lots of women out there who continue to breastfeed while working.
For more Top Ten Tuesdays, head to Oh Amanda!
I spent last Saturday evening at my supper club with some close college friends, and the subject of blogging came up. We were talking about blogs we love to read and why we love them, and one of my friends just doesn’t get the blog thing. Not that she was being patronizing; she definitely wasn’t. But she just expressed an honest curiosity as to why people read blogs and what is it all about anyway. On the way home, I was thinking about her questions, and they make sense. I mean here we are writing about our [somewhat boring] lives and reading about each others similarly simple tasks. So why blog and what is there to like?
- Gives Me Inspiration – Sometimes I get the blahs and look around my house or my life and feel pretty lackluster. Then I pay a visit somewhere and suddenly I have a million ideas of things to improve my house and my daily life. Feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, and disorganized? I head to Small Notebook. Wondering how to compile memories for Jude, I spent time looking at this fabulous photo book and left with a million ideas.
- Grants Me Validation – Parenting leaves you making lots of decisions, and God knows we all research and think and pray we do the right thing. These choices are not the same for every family, and you have to do what’s right for you. Sometimes our choices are uncommon. From the big things (laboring unmedicated) to the little things (cloth diapering), I don’t always know a lot of people “in real life” who chose to do the same things as I do. On the blogosphere, however, you are sure to find a person out there with a parallel view. Deep down we know inside that these decisions, no matter how varied they are, are right for our particular families, but it sure is nice to hear someone else say, “I do that, too!”
- Presents A New Perspective – I tell my students at school all the time that the true value of literature is that it exposes us to perceptions we might not attain otherwise. The world would be a lot better off with a little more empathy. Blogging does this. There are issues I have never experienced before, but thanks to blogs, I truly empathize and understand. Dooce’s story of postpartum depression changed my understanding of the disease. Kelle Hampton’s amazing birth story altered my perspective of birth and motherhood and special needs children forever. Her blog actually expands my perspective all the time as she encourages me to be grateful for the things around me, and every single one of you should read it, but that’s another story! The point is that there are a million different voices out there and a million different ways to look at life, and the internet is one huge shelf of autobiographies.
- Lets Me Chronicle Daily Life – Days become weeks. Weeks become months. Months become years, and life races past you so fast. Even if it’s details of the seemingly mundane, blogging is a way to mark the way I felt and the things I encountered. I know they are things I’ll miss one day, no matter how inconsequential they feel now. I usually blog at night after Jude’s in bed and they day is quieting. I look forward to this time as it allows me to write and reflect.
- Share Ideas and Advice – To say I don’t know everything is a ridiculous understatement, but I will say that I feel like I have learned A LOT since Jude came along last October. When I was experiencing my own breastfeeding struggles, stories of women who succeeded despite similar challenges really encouraged me. Now on the other end, it’s all I can do to hope that my breastfeeding story will do the same for someone else out there. Sharing ideas and advice with other mothers is invaluable. Blogs are like one HUGE parenting support group!
- Gives Me Product Reviews – If I am going to buy something, the best way to make a good decision is to hear reviews from other people. Blogs are invaluable for this. When I first decided to try cloth diapering, I was SO confused with too many choices. The Cloth Diaper Report and The Cloth Diaper Whisperer gave me great ideas and shed light on all the options. It’s not just diapers though. There are honest reviews on everything you can think of.
- Enriches My Kitchen – You have not lived until you’ve spent a lazy weekend morning eating homemade sourdough pancakes with bananas foster sauce. Would I ever have discovered this joy without blogs? Nope! Scott and I are trying so hard to cut down on the processed foods and eat better. Kitchen Stewardship and The Nourishing Gourmet are basically my online cookbooks I consult every single week when I plan my meals. Passionate Homemaking’s advice for healthier living is simple and encouraging and allows me to feel like I can do it.
- Makes Me a Better Mom – I mean have you even seen the stuff at No Time for Flash Cards, Unplug Your Kids, or Impress Your Kids? I can’t wait until Jude is old enough to do these things together.
- Provides a Sense of Community – This is where non-bloggers think bloggers are weirdos, but you really can find a community of people through the blogosphere. The funny thing is that I’m finding that most of the blogs I read daily also read the other blogs that I read daily. Does that even make sense? You all seem to “know” each other and we read the same things. Reading great blogs allows you to find other great blogs, too. It’s a circle of women who all care and have some really great stories, ideas, and resources. We can follow each other’s little happenings and everyday stories. Andi and I met through book blogs, for instance, and we kept up via Twitter even after I quit blogging. I had a baby 6 months before she did and now we can commiserate through Twitter about our lack of time to take a shower or the funny things Greyson and Jude do.
- Lets Me Keep Up With Real Life Friends – I have a few real life (meaning before blogs) friends who blog regularly. I love keeping up with Tami, Amanda, and Jenna among others. Life gets busy, and when else would we see each other to share about that time we had to resuscitate a baby chicken?
So what about you? What do you like best about blogging. If you don’t blog, you are obviously reading one. Why do you like reading blogs?
For more Tuesday Top Ten fun, head over to ohAmanda’s.
If weeknights at your house are anything like weeknights at mine, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have the time or the energy to stand over the stove and make dinner. Usually Jude’s whining by this time and gearing up for bed, my feet hurt from a long day at school, the house is a disaster, and the dogs are running hyper circles excitedly from room to room. I try to relax but, to quote Mary Shelley, it’s often like the witching hour.
In truth, I usually want a cocktail more than a nutritious meal, but there’s definitely something rewarding about sitting down to a table of good food , even better if it’s easy-to-make good food. Here, in no particular order, are my top ten weeknight meals. I’ve linked to the website I found them from if it’s available. Most of these are healthy, fast, and easy clean up!
- Black Beans with Onions, Ham, and Greens – I’ve done lots of variations of this recipe, depending on what greens I have on hand. This is especially a favorite when Scott is gone on business. I can quickly make my own dinner and have some for lunch the next day. I only use 2 cans of black beans though. 3 sounds like a lot.
- Kale, Tomato, and Mushroom saute, served over polenta – This is another wholefoods.com recipe. I fell in love with pre-cooked polenta as a result of this one. (It’s sold in a container like a sausage or something, and you simply slice it off and brown it in olive oil.) We add extra mushrooms, too. (Kale is said to be the healthiest vegetable, by the way. We try to eat it a couple times a month when it’s available.) I sometimes add bacon to this at the beginning of the recipe. That probably cancels out a few health benefits but it’s yummy.
- Black Bean and Ravioli Casserole – This is something that might not sound like it would be good. (Mexican and pasta?) Let me assure you though… it’s yummy! I’ve never had a Southern Living recipe I didn’t like. My only complaint is that it can be a bit expensive as it requires a whole bag of frozen ravioli.
- Marinated Salmon – We always have salmon stocked in our freezer. Combine melted butter with a touch of lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, and apple cider vinegar. Sprinkle with parsley. Yummy. We usually eat with a baked potato and a fast vegetable like asparagus or broccoli – whatever’s in the fridge or freezer.
- Vodka Pasta – I love love love this recipe. It has a little bit of a kick.
- Quesadilla with Fresh Guacamole – Alone quesadillas seem boring, but some mashed up avocados (Jude’s favorite food!) combined with a spoon or two of salsa makes for some delicious impromptu fresh guac. I usually stir-fry onions and mushrooms and place them on the tortilla with some shredded cheese for our veggie quesadillas.
- “Real Food” Hamburger Helper – Good for you (compared to the boxed, plastic-tasting one at least). Fast. Filling. Comforting.
- Trader Joe’s Mandarin Chicken – Okay this isn’t homemade. It’s seriously good though! The added bonus is that you can pronounce all the ingredients on the package, and it’s made of whole, real, normal ingredients. That’s hard to find in the frozen aisle. We saute and serve it over rice at our house. Tastes like take-out but cheaper! I know Land of Lovings likes it, too. We ran in to each other buying it once at the local TJ’s!
- a previously-frozen casserole – Most casseroles can be frozen. When I make them, I often do a double batch and use it on a hurried weekday.
- Cuban Beans and Rice – This is such a healthy dish, and it’s made from absolute scratch, so there are no worries about additives or preservatives. We like it with crusty garlic bread. It does take a long time to cook, but you get it started and leave the rest to the stove. Really easy!
So what about you? On a hurried weeknight, what dish can you rely on to fill your belly and restore your sanity?