Friday, January 24, 2014

We are all Moms- Can't we all just get along

I have had to opportunity to experience the best (and the worst) of both worlds when it comes to working or staying home with children. With my first child I had to work. At first just part-time then I went to full-time later on. Then with my second child, I couldn’t afford to work. I know that sounds silly, but when childcare for two children costs as much as I was bringing home, it didn’t make sense for me to work just to pay for childcare. So here I am now as a stay-at-home mom.

But until you have experienced firsthand both worlds, you cannot possibly and reasonably understand the challenges that they each bring.

Have you heard about the “Mommy Wars”? Well if not, it’s basically that other Moms have been outwardly judgmental towards others moms because they chose to do things differently. Working moms judge stay-at-home moms and vice versa. Both do it without fully understanding what the other life is like.
I have had enough of this crap. So I am taking a stand and I am going to explain some of the Pros and Cons of each lifestyle. My goal is to hopefully enlighten someone about moms who have made the decision to either stay home with their kids or return to work. As I said, I have done both. I have experienced them both firsthand.



You get more adult social interaction without having to join a group or go out searching for friends. You probably have at least one person at work that you can talk to and gossip with. Believe it or not, it’s good for your health! And it doesn’t take much effort. You both are already there and you already have something in common, your work.
You will hopefully have a little more income to work with. Having two incomes can make things a lot easier, even if it’s just a little bit. It makes it easier to stretch your money until the next payday. Especially if you get paid on alternating weeks as your husband.
Your child/children will learn important social lessons if they go to daycare or even family member’s house. Children need to interact with people other than their parents and siblings. They need to learn how to take directions from other adults to prepare them for school. And they need to learn how to deal with kids as well.
Your life may be a little more organized. You make not always think it is. But just having an actual routine and schedule you have to follow helps so much. It makes you prioritize your time so that you can make sure that everything gets done.


You will have to find someone you trust to take care of your child while you are at work. And not only to they have to watch your child, but also feed them, and hopefully teach them things, too. That can be so hard to do. Especially with all of the stories you hear of babysitters or even family members causing harm to the children.
 Childcare can be so expensive, too. If you don’t have parents or a family member willing to do it for free or cheap, you could be spending a few hundred dollars a month on childcare. For my two kids to go to daycare full-time it was going to cost me over $900/month! And that wasn’t even the high end fancy daycare. That was a day care that many lower income families used.
Children will also learn things from daycare and other kids that you may not want them to know. They will learn words and behaviors that force you to have a “lesson” with your child about why it’s not ok to say that or act that way. They also get sick ALL THE TIME! People don’t want to stay home with their kids when they are sick, so then your kid gets sick. And if you’re like me, you actually take the time off and stay home with them.
You may feel like you’re always in a hurry and that you don’t have time for anything. You may feel like you never get to rest. You go to work and then you may have to come home and cook and clean and then get everyone fed and in bed. Sometimes you want to pull your hair or runaway for a couple days.



You don’t have to go to work and deal with a boss, co-workers and all of the drama and crap that comes with having a job. You don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn (hopefully) and get ready. You don’t have to deal with all of the idiots of the world if you don’t want to leave your house!
You get to spend every day with your kids. You get to watch first hand when they learn something new or reach a new milestone. You can also be able to be the one to teach your child like a daycare would.
You learn to be creative with kids, money, and everyday life. You learn how to make crafts with the random items you have around your house. You figure out ways to make household items last longer and not waste anything or you may learn how to make some things yourself.
You get to wear whatever you want! No lame uniforms or dress codes to follow. Hello, yoga pants! And if you’re having a “blah” day or you’re not feeling well, you can stay in your pajamas all day if you want to.


You don’t have someone telling you what needs to be done and when, so it is very easy to procrastinate and not get anything done. You have to be a self-motivator if you want anything to get done. Otherwise you will end up on the couch all day and you and your kids won’t get dressed until 4 PM or not at all. You have to be the one create a schedule and force yourself to stick to it.
You don’t get any time off unless you make time for yourself. There are no breaks or lunches and your shift literally never ends. You don’t get to leave and just forget about work until the next day. You are always there and you always have to take care of the kids. So if you don’t schedule out time for yourself away from home and the kids you will go insane!

You may feel very disconnected from the world. Unless you make an effort to get out and connect with other people, you can become very lonely. That is why you hear about and see all of those mommy groups. You won’t get much time away from family so it is important to find other moms with similar interests and ones in a similar life stage.

Because you are a stay-at-home mom, everything related to the kids and the house becomes your job. All cleaning is your responsibility. You are in charge of feeding, dressing, bathing and getting the kids to bed. Making sure they have enough mental stimulation other than the T.V. all day long. And believe it or not it is actually quite difficult to keep a house clean when you and the kids are home all day every day.   

These are just a few things about each life style. I could go on and on about how each one is just as good but also just as hard as the other. But the point is, that no matter how you do it, being a MOM is HARD WORK, PERIOD!!!
As moms, it is our responsibility to do whatever works for our own families. What works for my family will not be the same as another family, and I am OK with that. It’s never alright to judge another mother for how she has to support her family. Whether that means going to work and putting her kids in daycare or staying home with them. You never know if it was really a personal choice or one forced on them by circumstances. As I said earlier, I did not have a choice with either of my kids. 
I hope this helps at least one woman realize that we all work hard for our families and that we need to support each other instead of demean and criticize each other.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

How to Successfully Exclusively Pump for Your Baby

It is definitely true that “breast is best”, but it’s not always the easiest. In fact, it is rarely ever easy. But if Mom and Baby are able to succeed, the benefits make it all worthwhile. Baby gets milk made just for him. It’s always warm and ready to go! Mom and Baby get to experience a bond that only they can share. And Mom gets the benefits of having her uterus shrink faster, burn more calories (so an excuse to eat a little more) and no monthly visits from Mother Nature until you stop, if you’re lucky!

However, not all women and babies are able to nurse. Whether Mom is unable to make any milk, or baby cannot or will not latch on properly, sometimes it just won’t work.

And that is alright.

You have not failed!!!

Trust me, I know. I have experienced it firsthand myself. I had to start my first baby on formula after 6 weeks. I couldn't keep up with the demand after going back to work. But I promised myself I would do everything I could to make it work with the second baby. Formula was a last resort for us after going from living off of two full-time incomes to just one income. We simply couldn't afford for it not to work.

Unfortunately our Big Boy decided he was not going to go along with our plans.

After almost three months of constant struggling with latching, then a nursing strike that kept getting worse and lasted about 2 weeks, I gave up. The stress was making me dread nursing and I knew at that point is was not good for either of us.

However, we still could not afford to put him on formula. So, after thinking about it, and I mean really thinking about it, I decided to Exclusively Pump (EP) for my baby.
Now, I did not come to this decision lightly. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, either. And I know that if I had been working, I most certainly would not have been able to do it. I was already pumping more than he was nursing so the transition wasn't super difficult. But, I knew there was a lot I still needed to know. So I started searching for tips online and came across this website that had everything you would need to know about every problem you could possibly face while either breastfeeding or pumping. This website became like my bible in the first couple months. That website was Seriously, if you are nursing or are planning to nurse, take a look at this website!!! 
So thanks to some tips and tricks I learned from there I am happy to say that I am still EPing for my Big Boy.

I will share some of my tips and how I have made it work for me.

First off are the supplies you will need. Now this goes for Moms who are pumping and nursing or just pumping. Either way you will need these things!!!
     Double Electric Breast Pump
This one needs to be a good high quality and reliable. If you are EPing or even going to be pumping every day at work, you’ll need a pump that can not only handle that much use, but also do it efficiently. They can be a bit pricey, but compared to formula, it will pay itself off within just a month or two. I think a lot of insurance plans will pay for you to get one, too. Some may require a RX, but if you just call and ask, you could save money on that as well!!! I lucked out and received this Medela one from a family member

Storage Bottles and Bags
You will obviously need something to store the milk in, right? I use the Medela bottles to pump in to and I store it in the fridge until I’m ready to either use or freeze. Then when I want to freeze the milk I just dump it in a Lansinoh storage bag, write the ounces and date, and lay it flat in the freezer. Once frozen I put them in a large gallon freezer bag and write the date range of milk and put it in the basement freezer. I used to use the Medela bags but they just don’t hold enough. They were only marked for 5 oz but I have had issues with them leaking after I thawed them. The Lansinoh ones are bigger and cheaper! And I have never had one leak on me yet. I have bought both of them on Amazon and with my prime membership I get a discount and free two-day shipping!
     Nursing Cover
You will still need this if plan to leave the house at all, or even have guests over. I usually try to time my pumping times around my outings but sometimes we are out all day and that is not possible. So a nursing cover makes it easy for you to pump outside of your home without showing anything.

Hands-Free Pumping Bra
I started out my pumping adventure without one of these and it was a pain to hold both bottles. Especially when you need to massage the milk down occasionally. I found this one for a great price on Amazon and I cannot live without it now. It makes things so much easier. I can type my blog posts while pumping, or sit on the floor and play with my kids. If you happen to get a more portable pump you could even do some cleaning or something as well. I have read some women cook dinner or even drive while pumping if you have a portable pump. It could also be great at work. If you work at a desk, just slip this baby on over your bra (I also recommend having a nursing bra for convenience) in the bathroom then put your cover on and hook everything up. You can pump while you work!!!

Manual Hand Pump
This has been the best thing I have bought. It’s a cheaper portable pump that works just as well as an electric pump. The only drawback is you can only do one breast at a time. I use this one a lot in the car when someone else can drive. Also a great option to take to work if you don’t want to haul your big loud electric one to work.

Extra Pump Parts
If you can, purchase extra pump parts so that you can always have one set clean. I have not had the extra money to do this but I really wish I could. It would make things a lot easier, especially if you will be pumping at work. To make it so that you don’t have to wash the parts every time you use them, you can just rinse them with hot water after every use and then store in a plastic baggy in the fridge. It will keep whatever milk is still on the parts good until the next pump. I am able to wash my parts two to three times a day, instead five or six. This is especially helpful at work where you may not have the time to wash them. You could also wipe them down with some pacifier wipes and then store in fridge if you cannot rinse them.
     Lanolin Nipple Ointment
Your nipples will be sore in the beginning until you get used to that much pump use! But if you use it before and after pumping, it will not be as bad. I now only have to use it maybe once a week if that. I actually had to use it more when I was nursing! But this stuff is a life saver in the beginning.

Here is a list of tips to make Pumping as easy as possible

     Make sure you are comfortable- If you are not comfortable, it will affect how much milk you will be able to get. Sitting straight with support for you back, feet down in front of you is the best position. I have a spot on the couch that works great for me. But a rocking chair would great too. Whatever works for you that is near an outlet.
     Drink plenty of water- This makes such a difference. If you are not drinking plenty of water, you will get dehydrated quickly. And, if you are dehydrated, your baby will be too! If I ever notice that my milk production is going down, I can usually just drink a couple extra cups of water and that will fix it most of the time. Plus, I get so thirsty I have to drink water while I’m pumping!

     Relax and think about your baby- To activate a let-down, I have found taking a deep relaxing breath and picturing my baby helps. For some women, looking at a picture or smelling something of their baby’s helps when they are not at home. Do whatever works for you but relaxing is definitely the key.
     Massage and gently squeeze the milk out- As you are pumping, gently massage your breasts with your fingers in a downward circular motion (like when doing self breast exams) all the way around the breast. Also gently squeezing for a couple seconds at a time will help get all of the milk out of your breasts. It can also help encourage more let-downs.
     Pump as often as possible- When first starting out and building up you milk supply you will need to pump at least every two hours for 20-30 minutes. I know that seems like a lot but it will set you up for long term success. Once you have done that and have built up your production enough and you feel comfortable with it you can go to every two to four hours. But try to aim for 6-8 pumping sessions in a 24 hour period for the first couple of months. I am now on month four of EPing and have been able to reduce it to every 6-8 hours for 30-40 minutes. The fewer times you pump the longer you need to pump for to get it all out! But if you try it and notice a decrease in milk supply, go back to every 4 hours for a couple days and then slowly extend the amount of time until you are comfortable with the amount you are getting.

        Don’t expect to fill the bottle every time- Even after I go 8 hours I won’t always be able to fill both bottles. That is completely normal. I have been lucky and have been over producing milk from the day it came in, but not everyone is like that. I wasn’t with my first baby. So if you only get a couple ounces, just know that is normal. Don’t give up. The best thing is to keep going. The more you pump the more milk your body will make. Supply and demand. It may take a couple days to notice an increase so just give it time. I always try to freeze any extra milk so that if I ever start to lose some I can have a backup until it comes back. That leads me to the next tip.

         Freeze any extra milk- If you have four or more full bottles and you know your baby will not need all of them before your next pumping session, freeze some. That way you can start building up a freezer supply just in case. My goal is to have enough in the freezer by the time he gets to be 9 months that I can decrease my pumping to about 2-4 times a day. So far I have about 5-6 gallon bags full.
     Support from family and friends- If your family and friends don’t support you, it will make things difficult. Especially your husband. You need him to be on the same page when it comes to breastfeeding and pumping. Luckily that has not been a problem for me. But I have heard of mothers or friends or even husbands telling women that it’s disgusting or annoying. It doesn’t matter what they think. You are Mom and it is your decision, so do not let anyone tell you anything different.

As you can see, deciding to Exclusively Pump is not easy. It takes a lot of and dedication. But once you get the hang of it, it becomes like second nature to you and your family. I have a four year old daughter, and she knows that when mommy is pumping she can’t do certain things that need me to help her. I also try to time my pumping so that it’s done while the baby is asleep. He rolls all around now and is learning to crawl so I have a hard time being connected to a machine with him awake. But do whatever works for you. Some like to time it around feeding their baby so it is done at the same time.

If you decide to try it, but find it is too stressful for you and your family, then just do what you feel is best. If you think you and your family would be happier using formula, go for it! It’s OK if that is what will make everyone happy. And it is alright to feel sad about it at first. I felt horrible when I decided I couldn't continue trying to nurse. I felt like a total failure as a mother and like I had let everyone including myself down. I allowed myself to feel sad about not being able to have that special bond with him anymore. Then I started to remind myself that at least he is still getting my milk and everyone is happier. Because it is so true when they say “If Mamma isn't happy, nobody’s happy!”

Good luck to you in your breastfeeding and pumping adventures. If anyone has any other tips or encouragement please share! And if you have any questions I would be happy to do my best to answer them if I can, or lead you to a source that can help. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

8 Years Ago....Our Family's Nightmare

It's been 8 years.

8 years, but I can still remember that day like it was yesterday.

The knock on the door that woke me up at 7 am on Saturday, January 14th 2006.
Walking down the stairs while hearing crying and screaming.
I saw my parents holding each other. That was where crying was coming from.
I remember the two police officers standing by the door. They noticed me first before my parents did.
I sat down on the steps, just watching. I think deep down I knew, but my mind refused to acknowledge it.
Until they told me.
Until my Dad told me, my brother was gone. He was never coming home again. He would never walk through that door with his contagious smile and a smart ass remark at the ready.

I remember my Dad hugging me, and then I asked how it happened. A car accident, someone said.
Then the next thing I remember is sitting on the stairs by myself, watching my parents sobbing. Hearing the words, "Not my baby, no not my baby" over and over again.

Everything after that is now a blur. But one thing remains clear. The pain. I can still feel it when I allow myself to think about it.

It was like someone punched a whole in my heart. I couldn't breath, I couldn't think. I just sat there with my arms around around myself, and cried.

My parents made me go to school that following Monday. At the time I thought it was the cruelest thing they could have done, but now I know it was the best thing for me.
It was so hard though. I had to go through my normal daily routine, except that he wasn't there to take me to school anymore, like he had been doing every day for the last few weeks.

I only told a couple of my teachers what had happened. I tried my best to just be normal, but I know they knew something was wrong. I didn't learn a thing that week. If I wasn't staring off trying not to burst into tears, I had my head down on the desk either sleeping or crying quietly.
My friends were so great. I would not have made it through that week without them. They kept me going, tried to make me smile and think about other things.

I remember the funeral service was so crowded with people they were lined up all along the sides of the room standing. Even out into the hall.
He had touched so many lives in his short 23 years here. Everyone loved him. He was the life of the party and the one who brought our family together.

He is missed by so many and will always remain in our hearts and minds.

R.I.P Brian Jack Jones

I love you and miss you so much.