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Lactation Room Etiquette

Some “Do”s and “Don’t”s when in the office lactation space. At my office there are two cubes in our room, so that set-up does influence some of these tips. Some of these things may or may not have happened to me or fellow co-workers of mine.

“DO” say hello to your fellow lactating mama when you enter the room and one of the cubes is already occupied. Signs of occupation include: the light in the room is already on, the sound of a pump is present, the “occupied” sign is flipped on a cube, etc. Saying hello lets your fellow pumper know that you are female and you respect the other female in the room.

“DON’T” wonder in to a cube to make sure it is unoccupied. “DO” vocalize your question instead: “Hi. Is this cube occupied?” or “Which cube are you in?” Walking in on a co-worker pumping could be awkward.

“DO” feel free to engage in cordial conversation with your fellow pumper. “DON’T” continue to attempt engagement if the other person in the room clearly doesn’t want to communicate which is generally demonstrated by either their one-word answers to your questions or not answering your inquiries at all (maybe she has her headphones on or something). Pumping is an intimate act and not everyone wants to talk while hooked up to the machine. (I actually like a little conversation as I find pumping a bit boring, but it seems that most of my lactating co-workers are a bit more introverted.)

“DON’T” use the lactation space if you aren’t pumping, such as escaping your desk to take a nap, call your sister, cry about your last meeting/meager pay/insensitive office mates/etc. “DON’T” use the pumping space if you’re not a lactating mama.

“DO” feel free to multi-task while pumping, including eating lunch, reading blogs, checking email, etc.

“DON’T” make phone calls from the lactation room. It is perceived as an invasion of privacy by your fellow pumper. And it’s generally weird. Do you make calls from the bathroom? Well, you shouldn’t. Gross. (And I’m not AT ALL saying the bathroom and the lactation room are the same because they ARE NOT but the privacy etiquette required is similar for both places.)

“DON’T” leave your lunch/breakfast/snack leftovers in the lactation room fridge (prompting a “Why does my breast milk smell like onions?” at the end of the day) and “DO” clean up your crumbs.

“DO” clean up in general after you are done pumping. Breast milk is awesome but no one wants someone else’s milk (or my own milk, really) all over the table they are about to use. It can get sticky. And just generally gross. Clean up includes any spots impacted by milk spills, should they occur, including the floor base boards (ours are speckled with milk, ew), chair, cube walls, etc.

“DO” say “Bye!” or “Have a nice day!” to anyone else left in the room when you leave. This lets the other person know for sure that they are by themselves again.

“DON’T” turn off the lights in the room when you leave if someone is still in there. “DO” turn off the lights to save energy if you know the room is empty. “DO” double-check the occupancy status of the room with a quick, “Hello?” or “Is anyone still here?”

“DON’T” assume others in neighboring offices can’t hear you singing at the top of your lungs while you pump. This is distracting to co-workers.

“DON’T” talk about fellow pumpers habits in the room with anyone else, be they a lactater or not. That’s just rude.

“DO” respect others, protect privacy and positively support your fellow lactaters.

Six in One Hand, Half-Dozen in the Other

Baby2 has really come into her own this sixth month. Her personality shines through in everything she does. Her face still looks very much like her brother’s but also more like other family members; she’s coming into her own unique “look.” She’s quickly becoming more and more independent (for a six-month-old; independence at this age does have its limits).

As we have already seen in the proceeding months, Baby2 is such a happy girl. When she catches our eyes her whole face smiles with joy. When we have a dance party together she laughs and squeals with excitement. She bats her eyelashes and shields her gaze when you smile back. Her little cheeks puff up when she smiles and her dark blue eyes sparkle.

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Look at those faces! Mr. Handsome and I believe they are the two cutest faces we have ever seen (although I know every parent says that!). Kiddo1 at six months (ish) is on the left and a pic of Baby2 from the other day is on the right. They could be twins! But I think Baby2 has a more feminine look. That’s good, considering she’s a girl…

Baby2 has grown so much! Now that I have had two children and they have similar growth patterns I can safely determine that Mr. Handsome and I simply do not have big babies. Baby2 is just now doubling her birth weight, for example. But our pediatrician certifies that she’s super healthy. We also saw a heart specialist last week (to proactively check out a supposed heart murmur that was not found by the specialist and is said to come and go in young children) and that doctor said she is “in picture-perfect health.” I feel incredibly fortunate to have such healthy children.

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She is mobile already. Last month she would roll from side-to-side but now she’s rolling clear across the floor. I put her down, turn around to grab something and she’s already like 10 feet away. Time to get the power strips and tiny Lego pieces off the floor I suppose. Oh baby-proofed house, how I’ve missed you (insert sarcastic face here). She will usually start on her back playing on her little “ocean” thing there but she’ll escape it and roll away in a flash!

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She wants to do things for herself. We have started giving her solid foods and she already wants to hold the spoon, mostly because she wants to grab at anything in front of her. We are giving her whole foods: we started with avacado, mashed with a spoon and mixed with a bit of breastmilk. She wasn’t too fond of the avacado and I can’t blame her – this recipe is no guacamole, folks. It’s pretty bland. Yes I tasted it. We are on bananas now. We just scrape a bit of banana on a spoon and serve it up. And then I eat the rest of the banana. Yum! She loves the banana. She probably eats twice as much of it in one sitting than the avacado. So like two-peas-size worth instead of one. She has a tummy the size of her fist and she’s already full of breastmilk when she’s fed a solid, so I’m not expecting much yet. Mr. Handsome says her poo is already more green though. This will be our cloth diaper test I believe. Stay tuned.

As for me, I’m feeling pretty fantastic. I’m back down to my pre-pregnancy weight and I don’t feel the “squishness” in my midsection that I had felt even just last month (just feeling my normal squishiness now). I recall that after Kiddo1 was born it took a good six months before I felt “normal” again. Seems like six months is my adjustment period, which is just fine with me. If only I could have taken a six-month maternity leave, eh? However normal I feel, though, I still have my linea negra and I still have not had a period (and I’m pretty sure I’m not pregnant) so I’m just patiently – very, very patiently – waiting for the last piece of “normal” to fall into place. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it just never came back?!

Speaking of patience, Kiddo1 is getting better at connecting with his sister. He started actually acknowledging her at Christmas. Now he will sit at the table with her in the morning, eating his breakfast and not complain too much that she is staring at him (she loves to look at him!). He even picked up her toys when she dropped them to the floor the other day. We call this the “drop-pick-it-up game” in which the baby drops a toy over and over while someone picks it up for her every time. Kiddo1 invented this game so to see him play with his sister is pretty sweet. He was reluctant to play but he did it! They’re taking baby steps toward playing together.

I can’t wait to see what the next six months bring!

Breastfeeding Milestone 1

In my mind, I have set three big goals for breastfeeding at six, nine and 12 months. At each goal point I am to re-evaluate how breastfeeding is going and decide for myself if I want to continue. So here we go… Time to work this one out!

How is it going? Well, as I see it and in my situation there are three main facets to this. First, there’s actually breastfeeding. This constitutes the time that I’m with Baby2, baby to breast, the good old fashioned natural stuff. Second, there’s actually pumping which is the time spent with my trusty pumping machine. Third is breast pump maintenance: time spent on cleaning, boiling, transporting and whatever else involves my pump except for the act of and time spent pumping. Let’s look at each category…

Actually breastfeeding: OMG I love you. Convenience, bonding, no cost, limited clean-up (just bottles for when I’m at work), etc. Breastfeeding is the most wonderful of wonderfuls.

Physically pumping: I can stand you. We’re okay. Cordial but not over-friendly (seems odd to be saying that about something as intimate as a breast pump though). Getting some engorgement relief is great; if I go past like 10 am without pumping (even on the weekends when I’m home) I’m a-hurtin’ so thank you Veronica for some sweet relief. (Hmm, that’s an odd sentence fragment.) Also, knowing that not only my baby but other babies out there benefit from my pumping makes pumping with it. AND it doesn’t hurt at all for me. So score there.

Pump maintenance: I FUCKING HATE YOU PUMP MAINTENANCE!!!!! Lugging that god damn pump bag back and forth through the work parking lot and through the building every day is inconvenient at best. Washing and boiling the pump parts every damn day is time-consuming (and I have already reduced my boiling times to once a week AND I don’t even wash my pump at work I just store it in the lactation room fridge between my two pumping sessions). Also, worrying that the god damn thing is going to break on me again is giving me grey hairs.

So to recap, I love breastfeeding and pumping is worth it but I hate pump maintenance. Therefore, it’s worth at least another three months of FUCKING PUMP MAINTENANCE.

But I’m having trouble staying motivated. Pump maintenance is really dragging me down you guys. So here’s a list of the 10 things I love most about everything breastfeeding. I shall refer to the list when I am cursing while cleaning my pump for the fifth time this week.

10. Helping the other babies. Did you know there are babies out there that literally cannot process formula? On our Arizona trip I donated milk to a mama of an adopted baby girl who had seizures, SEIZURES, after eating any kind of formula (she listed off some types that I had never even heard of) but when she started a consistent breastmilk diet all that changed. No seizures, started gaining weight regularly, meeting developmental milestones, etc. AMAZING what some boob juice can do.
9. Baby2’s comfort. I know that sometimes she isn’t hungry she’s just pissed or in pain (teething, shots, that one time that I let he fall on the floor while practicing sitting up) or tired but she stops crying or starts sleeping when put to the breast.
8. Health benefits for Baby2. You know, like she’s less likely of having diabetes and junk. We’ve all heard the enormous benefits before, no need to repeat them here. My fingers are tired from all this typing already.
7. Health benefits for me. Less chance of breast cancer, etc. Plus I’m burning more calories which is awesome.
6. It’s free. Well, I did have to buy the pump and some nursing bras but that’s it. Certainly better than spending hundreds of dollars on formula each month.
5. Breastfed baby poops don’t stink… too bad. They really do smell a little bit sweet. They dissolve nicely in the washing machine. Of course, now that Baby2 has started solids we’re in new poop territory, but we’re still seeing the benefits of breastfed baby poops. (Wow that would sound weird out of context.)
4. I have provided all the nutrients she needs with my boobs ALONE. That’s pretty cool. And empowering. Even now that she’s eating some solids she still gets the vast majority of her nutrients from me. It’s like a pseudo pregnancy and that’s absolutely wonderful. Because I love being pregnant and I love providing for my baby’s needs.
3. There is nothing more convenient! No bottles to fill, warm, wash and store (well, except for the one or two bottles Mr. Handsome uses during the week while I’m at work). No need to remember to bring a bottle when we go out, no need to keep track of it. No warming bottles in the middle of the night. No waste from the formula manufacturing or packaging. Nothing going into my baby that I don’t control. No recalls!
2. Did I mention the cost savings? I like saving money. A lot.
1. Bonding. Even when I’m pumping, I feel connected to my baby. And let me tell you, this week I really need any connection I can get. I’ve been working late a few nights. Sometimes I get home just before or right after Baby2 goes to bed. Some days I only get sleepy feedings in the middle of the night, no good daytime ones. And that sucks. A few times I’ve felt like she’s pushing the breast away, like she’s rather have a bottle. And then just thinking about all the time we’ve spent trying to get her to take the bottle and all and then to think that she might prefer that? Ugh. Luckily I know that’s not the case, but still, the mind wanders.

And everything, EVERYTHING, that I hate about pump maintenance is completely forgotten when I’m nursing Baby2 and she looks up at me with those dark blue eyes and she smiles, then goes right back to nursing. Or when she can tell that the boob is about to come out and her little arms shake with excitement and she opens her mouth and roots into anything – my hand, her hand, my shirt, etc, and makes the cutest rooting noises that I can’t even describe but I hope I remember for all time. How could I possibly give these things up because I have to clean my pump every night and carry it to work and back every day?

Yes, at least three more months of all this is just fine with me.

Holiday Wrap-Up

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The 9YL family wishes everyone on the internet a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Ours was fun but exhausting…

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Unwrapping at home

We spent Christmas Eve and Day at home just hanging out. Baby2 discovered a love for wrapping paper. As we unwrapped her gifts with her she stared with wonder at the paper. Even after her gift was uncovered she reached for paper first every time.

Kiddo1 got the 3DS XL that he’s been wanting and saving up for. Mr. Handsome wrapped a box in a box in a box so Kiddo1 had to unwrap a few boxes to get to it. Although I don’t agree with the practice it was fun to watch Kiddo1 get a little frustrated and then SO excited when he saw the actual gift.

Kiddo1 had some, what I’ll call, “milestone” interactions with his younger sister as he handed her presents and said things like, “this one’s for you, [Baby2],” and said them while looking her in the face. This is a milestone as he doesn’t tend to acknowledge her much. I really need to write a whole post about this subject because it is interesting how Kiddo1 makes little baby steps toward interaction with his sibling. I have heard that it can take most kids (and I’d think especially older kids) at least six months to start really acknowledging the new family member. I’m trying not to pressure him too much because I don’t want to do any damage but at the same time it’s like, dude, she’s not going away get over it already. But that’s not fair. Ugh, I could really get going but I’m saving it for another time.

Anyway, Mr. Handsome and I spent the rest of Christmas Day preparing for our annual trip to Phoenix to visit family. My parents and his parents live there, as well as my only living grandparent, my only brother and one of Mr. Handsome’s two brothers, although none of us is actually from the area (Kiddo1 was born there though). It’s always good times seeing our family, and this year was especially sweet to re-introduce people to Baby2. Babies change so much in such a short time; she’s so different now than when they saw her as a newborn!

This was Baby2’s first trip away from home and logistically it was great. We traveled with cloth diapers and I gotta tell ya, it was super easy. I don’t know if cloth diapering is so easy for us because I pretty much refuse to acknowledge that disposables exist at this point or if we’re just really lucky. Baby2 still being exclusively breastfed probably helps a little, too. We took about 15 diapers with us and did diaper laundry three times during our five-day stay. My carry on bag (backpack) was about half full of diapers, but honestly there’s not much else I need except for my wallet and water bottle.

Of course breastfeeding simplified things a ton because we never had to worry about when Baby2 was going to eat or how she would get fed. One less thing to plan for us to worry about, thank goodness. I did take my pump with me and I’m glad I took the whole big electric pump instead of just my manual one. I worried about putting it in our checked luggage (what if it got lost?! Or damaged?? The horror!!) but everything turned out fine. I strapped it in our checked car seat for some extra security. I was able to donate all the extra milk that I pumped during our trip so I didn’t have to hassle with bringing it back and I met another very sweet mama of an adopted baby girl who was grateful for a little extra milk.

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She loves the peanut packets!

Baby2 did very well during her first trip. The flights were fine (direct on the way there, one connection on the way back) and the altitude change didn’t seem to bother her sweet baby ears at all, although she was eating during take off for each flight so I hope that helped. She made what she probably considers the greatest discovery of her life so far when she saw the airlines packets of peanuts. I’ve never seen her so excited or grab an object so quickly. We asked for extra on the flight back and we now have a couple sitting around just in case she needs a major distraction. They’re shiny and crinkly! What’s not to like?

Kiddo1 is a seasoned traveler and was not at all phased by the extra family member during this trip. He’s been handling his own bags for years so we were free to manage everything else. There’s one of the major benefits of having kids several years apart – you really only have one “wild card” kid at a time. Baby2 could (potentially) freak out at any moment but Kiddo1’s behavior is fairly constant at this point.

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Baby2 watches Mr. Handsome play in the water from her warm and dry Ergo

Wearing Baby2 through the airport and during all our “site-seeing” worked wonderfully. We had hands free in the airport to mess with bags and check in. You don’t have to take off your baby carrier when you go through x-ray which was great (although they do an alcohol-swab test on your hands for explosives which only takes a second). We could walk through the tiny terminal stores and restaurants without getting stuck – a stroller would never make it through some of those spots. My mom  had bought a stroller for us to use while we were there (even though I asked her not to) and we didn’t use it at all. Anytime we went somewhere we either held Baby2 or used our Ergo. It worked out quite well.

All in all it was a good trip for everyone. We were super grateful to return on New Years Eve at around 11 so we made it home and snuggled in to watch the ball drop just before midnight. We counted down the seconds left of 2012 and cheered in the new year together. Then we finally had a good night’s sleep in our own beds. I’m sure I can speak for everyone in the family when I say it was so very wonderful to sleep in our own beds again.

Happy 2013, internet!

Milk Matters

A few weeks ago, I started donating my breast milk to a family I met though my local “Human Milk for Human Babies” facebook page. It started because I got frustrated while organizing my stash in my chest freezer: there was so much milk stored in there that we didn’t have any room for actual grown-up food! I had to take out all the frozen meats to make room.

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Milk stash quickly taking over my chest freezer

Plus I still had milk dating all the way back to July so I knew I only had a couple months left to use it or it would expire. So I connected with the facebook group and found a great mom of adopted twins who is driving all over town collecting milk from six different women in order to feed her precious babies the best stuff on Earth.

Think about that for a second: no matter what our struggles with breastfeeding are, I think they pale in comparison to someone not only wants to give her babies breast milk but drives all over town all week long to collect that milk! She and her husband willingly do that work for their babies. How amazing!

The first time she left my house with my milk I felt super weird. I mean, first, that’s MY milk! It came from me! I didn’t realize how attached to it I was until someone came and took it away. Weird. Then I had a mini freak out as I started to think, what if her babies react poorly to my milk?! What if it’s like blood – some types just aren’t compatible with everyone? But my donatee – what a sweetheart – texted me a few hours after she left to say one of the babies just gobbled up a couple ounces of my product and was looking quite content. Ah, sweet relief.

Side note – I almost feel like I’m doing something shady, because every Saturday I text her to tell her how many ounces I have for her and to arrange pick up. “Yo yo yo I gots 50 for ya this week.” If someone was reading our texts they might raise an eyebrow…

So there’s that. And it’s going really well! I give up about 50 ounces a week, which unfortunately only feeds those two babies for about a day. I only wish I could give more, but I know that my 50 ounces are better than zero. I do reserve about a dozen ounces for my freezer to keep just in case (what if I have to go away for a couple days or something? Not that that would happen but I like to be prepared for it).

My donee mama and I are fb friends now which is great because I can follow how the babies are doing. They have such an amazing story. The babies aren’t exactly twins – their mama calls them “twiblings.” One was adopted and the other was born via surrogate after 8 years of trying. Somehow both pieces fell into place at once and the babies were born a week apart. Amazing!

If you’re breastfeeding and you have more milk than you know what to do with, I encourage you to donate! Breast milk is the perfect food for babies. Some babies have allergies to formula and some just need that extra boost the breast milk provides. I’ve found facebook to be a great resource to connect with parents looking for milk. I looked into an “official” milk bank but most of the time you have to give in large amounts (usually 100 oz+) and the milk is pasteurized which does zap some of the sweet enzymes (or so I’ve read). Connecting directly with parents in need provides SO much more flexibility!

Now I love giving up my extra milk each week. It gives me just that much more satisfaction and motivation to keep breastfeeding!

Book Review: Breastfeeding Made Simple

PhotobucketBreastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers is by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC. This is the first breastfeeding book I’ve read by actual lactation consultants and, let me tell you, I can tell the difference! So much of what I thought I knew or what I have been told about breastfeeding was clarified or even dispelled by this book.

The authors explain information they’ve gathered into seven natural laws: things that are inherent in every breastfeeding baby, mother and, thus, the breastfeeding couple. What’s so great about this book is all the information about the baby’s perspective. Babies are hard-wired to breastfeed (that’s one of the “seven laws”) so they come with a whole set of instinctual movements and behaviors to facilitate breastfeeding. A touch on the chin will cause their mouth to open wide, a touch on their feet will cause them to push themselves up to the breast, etc. I’ve never read about these things in any other breastfeeding book, and they really can make or break some of those first sessions together! For example, if you’ve got baby’s feet pushed up against something and he or she keeps pushing out of position, that could get very frustrating if you didn’t know why!

Based on some of the baby instincts I read about, I started making just a small change to the way I held Baby2 when feeding her. Suddenly she went from eating five minutes at a time to at least 10, sometimes 15 minutes. I’m not sure if she’s getting more milk (hopefully she’s not just being less efficient!) but I feel better that she’s eating in longer stretches. All I changed was just to pull her belly in tighter to my chest. Her belly was always facing me but we weren’t really smushed together. Now if she slows down or stops eating, I just pull her close again and she gets back to business!

There were only a couple things I didn’t like; one, there were numerous mentions of babies needing to make several “stools” a day. That freaked me out because, at the time, I was in the midst of Baby’s first dry spell (she went five days without a poop!). It is unusual yet completely normal for breastfed babies to go longer between bowel movements (my pediatrician keeps reassuring me). I wish the authors would say that several stools a day is normal but as long as your baby is gaining weight and all other healthy indicators are present, breastfed babies can go up to two weeks without a poop. Baby2 now poops about once every other day (and it’s a whole lotta poop when she goes!).

Also, I think that, while each of the laws are explained in good detail, to a mother who is really struggling with breastfeeding it may seem like an over-simplification of sorts. The authors have an underlying theme that anyone can breastfeed, no matter what, which isn’t always the case. There are a couple ladies in my moms group who have seen half a dozen lactation consultants and nothing is working. So the authors’ assertion that simply obeying the natural laws will solve all their problems may be a little off the mark. I think these two moms I know would find this very frustrating.

But it is great that some of the standard mantras that doctors give nursing mothers are explained and usually clarified as untrue. For example, feeding every two to three hours doesn’t make sense, at least in the first few weeks because milk production is at its peak in the morning and slows at night (which is why so many babies cluster feed in the evenings). That sort of schedule also does nothing to help build supply in the first month, when baby should be eating as often as possible so that the breasts know how much milk they should make. Did you know that supply is generally set as of baby’s one-month birthday? And that babies will eat about the same amount of breast milk at six months of age that they ate at one month of age? I had no idea!

I only wish I had read this book while I was still pregnant, but it’s never too late to learn more about breastfeeding. I feel like I’ve been able to apply the knowledge I’ve taken in order to strengthen Baby2 and my breastfeeding relationship. I’ve been searching for the go-to breastfeeding book and I really feel like this one is it. Highly recommended!

Next review: Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin

Book Review: The Milk Memos

This book was recommended to me by fellow new second-time mom and blogger, The E is for Erin. Thanks Erin! After reading Nursing Mother, Working Mother, I was looking for more books on the topic of breastfeeding moms working outside the home.

http://www.milkmemos.com/The Milk Memos is about a group of moms who work at IBM and pump their breastmilk. This real group of women kept spiral notebooks in their “pumping palace,” as they called their lactation room. They wrote back and forth to each other and encouraged each other to keep pumping and somehow stay sane in the endless search for work/home balance.

I identified so much with the women in this book. I returned to work six weeks after my son was born and pumped breastmilk several times a day. I recall the struggle to leave my baby at such an early age. Luckily I left him in the capable hands of Mr. Handsome (which I will do again after this maternity leave ends) but that hardly takes away the separation anxiety that a new mama feels upon returning to work. The women in this book felt the same things I felt then and will feel again when I return to work in September.

What’s great about this book is that the women are like characters in a story that is woven through a practical breastfeeding book. These women suffer through everything that typically plagues working mothers of infants: separation anxiety, struggles with milk production, faulty pumps, “mama brain,” unsympathetic bosses and co-workers and finding balance between a job you love and a baby you adore more than anything in the world. I very much enjoyed reading about their real lives and how they overcame real struggles, struggles that I’m sure I will have once I return to work.

Like I stated, this book is also a practical breastfeeding manual, covering the typical sub-topics but also giving them a working-mom slant. There’s great advice on buying a pump, storing milk, reheating milk, educating care-givers about handling breastmilk, finding an appropriate childcare solution, dealing with sleep deprivation, and on and on and on.

Also, the idea of keeping a notebook to write to other pumping moms in the company is complete genius. When you work in a big company (my office contains several hundred people), it’s hard to find co-workers in a similar situation. Having the notebook in the room not only helps to find like people but also encourages support and sharing within those people. I’m inspired to bring a notebook to my company’s lactation room so that I can try to find something similar to what “the milk mamas” had.

This book is well worth the read for any breastfeeding mama working outside the home!

Next review: Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC