Breast Pump vs Actual Baby as Travel Buddy: A Scientific Review

Babies cry. Breast pumps don’t.

Babies are cute. Breast pumps aren’t.

These are among the various factors you may consider if you are ever lucky enough to be in a position to choose between taking along a nursling or a pump as your air travel companion. I’ve broken down the pros and cons of each option using the most rigorous of scientific methods. I would love for you to join me over at Sammiches and Psych Meds, where I discuss my results and conclusions.


Year in Review: 2013

January: Spend a week in Kona with Dan and Sweet Pea. Pack all three of us in one suitcase. Do not bother to brag about this on Facebook but probably should. Highlights of trip include scoring a free empty seat for Sweet Pea on the flight out, hiking down Pololo Valley, eating at Sushi Rock, unplugging (mostly) for an entire week, dinner at Brown’s Beach House, and the nice lady from Aloha Nannies.

February: Celebrate Sweet Pea’s first birthday. All grandparents, one aunt and one uncle and about 40 friends are present to celebrate. Feel this is the last time we will attempt to feed 40 people without hiring a caterer.

March: Sweet Pea starts to walk. Currently feeling a bit brain dead re: this being only distinct memory from March.  Must resign self to having become what I used to loathe; type of woman who, when asked what is new, gives an update on her offspring.

April: Can’t remember anything noteworthy from April. Must also resign self to having become type of woman who blames poor memory and general mental dullness on motherhood.

May: Boulder’s Listen To Your Mother Show a smashing success. Feel proud to have co-produced this amazing event.  Get a mani/pedi with my mother the day before the show; also momentous. PR in ten mile distance albeit unofficially due to failure to read any of about a dozen emails stating packet pickup would not be on race morning. (See above, re: general mental dullness)

June: Attempt family camping trip and fail; end up at a motel. Travel to Rhode Island for fabulous long visit. Stay at parents’ beach house almost entire time without luxuries of wi-fi or tv which is actually a luxury all on it’s own. Freak out about weaning but do it anyway. Turns out to be not as big of a deal as anticipated. (See also: everything else I’ve ever stressed about).

July: Traveled to Chicago for BlogHer conference without Sweet Pea or breast pump. Newfound freedom reminiscent of being 17 and going away to college only without the awkwardness and insecurity re: being an adolescent.

August: Attempt family camping trip and achieve success. Get first period ever since before getting pregnant with Sweet Pea.  Feel simultaneously relieved and slightly annoyed. Am again reminded of adolescence except am now fully comfortable using tampons.

September: Mark date of likely arrival of period in planner in secret code. (In case planner is confiscated by fertility spies, obviously). Take pregnancy test on said date which is negative. Feel stupid for having hoped. Take another test three days later, which is faintly positive. Feel faintly excited. Take four more faintly positive tests. Discuss meaning of possibly ambiguous results only with select experts such as sister and certain girlfriends who took a lot of pregnancy tests because promised Dan to keep it on the down low for now.

October: Dress up as Mad Men’s Joan Holloway for Halloween. Feel so sexy with large balloons for tatas and signature gold pen on a necklace but realize am about four years too late at Halloween party where no one except one person spontaneously understands costume. Leave party while other guests still arriving. Want to punch said guests in face for nonchalant attitude re: luxury of sleep schedule not being dictated by a toddler yet acknowledge the decision to procreate had nothing to do with them.

November: Feel human again and realize intense fatigue of previous two months was not result of freaky-energy-sucking ways of evil fetus but rather everyday first trimester fatigue.  Summon energy to make pregnancy Facebook Official.

December: Travel with Sweet Pea to visit sister and her new baby. Sweet Pea is enchanted with newborn. Am relieved to see how much she adores the baby. Am astounded by how long it takes to do nothing and everything with a tiny baby. Am further astounded by how easily and quickly all the hard parts of having an infant evaporated from my brain. Also, attend 10th annual Hannukah bar crawl. Reflect on difference between experience of bar crawl as a single 20-something, getting loaded and trolling for guys, versus current year’s experience as a pregnant married lady drinking mostly water and one Guiness with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Despite personal changes am still known among bar crawl crowd  as The Girl Who Ate the Chicken Wing and to set the record straight, in a bar in Harvard Square in 2007 I did not ask strangers for a random chicken wing; rather I was welcomed- no, urged- to take said chicken wing, which is why I ate it.

2013: From this…..

Char 11 mo in kitchenIMG_2294IMG_2267

To this

Hannukah me and Sweet Peamom sweet pea henry 2013Sweet Pea and doll xmas 2013Me at 17 weeks pregnant with baby #2, December 2013Dan and Sweet Pea Dec 2013


My Unsolicited Advice on Breastfeeding: Tips, Tricks, Products, and Thoughts

If you’ve never breastfed a baby and don’t plan to, you’d best be getting clicky on another website. You’ve been warned. Seriously why are you still reading??

All others- welcome to the post where I share what I’ve learned about breastfeeding. Disclaimer: This is based on my experience with a full-term baby who had no latch problems. I had normal nipple pain and chafing but no bleeding or supply issues.

I have been kicking this post around in my head for a while now- basically since Sweet Pea was born but now that my sister is about to have her first baby, the time has come. Because I could tell the whole internet stuff about nursing and get all neurotic, like Oh crap, now they think I’m a know-it-all and I’m trying to be a lactation consultant or something just because I nursed one baby but actually I’m just trying to help! Don’t hate me! Or I could tell my little sister stuff about nursing whether she wants to hear it or not because I’m the big sister so she has to endure me. So this post is dedicated to my sister. (Hi, Liz!)

1. Don’t buy any nursing bras until you actually have the baby. You can’t know how much bigger your tatas will get until your milk comes in. (Breastmilk = Miracle Gro for boobies). Also, you can’t know what will be comfortable and user friendly until the time comes. I bought one nursing bra before I had Sweet Pea and I NEVER wore it. If you’re wondering what you will wear for a bra for the first week or so, don’t sweat it. You can get by with an old, stretched out sports bra, or if your boobs aren’t too huge, no bra at all, just a stretchy tank top or cami would do fine.

2. I’ve heard of some women whose breasts never leaked, but I was not so lucky. You probably will not be either. After a while your boobs get smart and they stop leaking, but in the beginning they might be out of control. You will need some nursing pads. They are like panty liners for your bra. The Johnsons and Johnsons nursing pads are great and they hold their shape which is good if you are wearing a tight and/or light colored top. I tried other ones too, but many of them get scrunched up every time you nurse and then the sticky side is on your skin and that is annoying. J&J were definitely my fave.

Image credit:

3. Get these Medela Tender Care Hyrdogel Nursing PadsThey are like a dip in a cool lake on a hot summer’s day for your sore nipples.  Medela did not pay me to say this. (But Medela, if you want to, that’s cool). They are amaze-balls. You can freeze them and then when you stick them on your sore nips, it will feel like heaven. The only downside is that the baby shouldn’t ingest the adhesive so you have to wash with soap and water before the baby latches on. This isn’t fun in the middle of the night. But nothing about nursing a baby in the middle of the night is fun.
Image Credit:

4. Also, your nipples will love this Lanolin cream. And no, Lansinoh didn’t pay me either, but Lansinoh, my contact info is on the side bar. It’s basically chapstick for your nipples and it doesn’t need to be washed off before feeding time.

Image Credit:


5. Don’t get a Boppy Pillow for breastfeeding. They take up a lot of space and they are not nearly as comfy to use as the Breast Friend. And I’ll just say this one last time, neither the Breast Friend people nor anyone else paid me for anything in this post. When the baby is teeny tiny, it’s hard to do everything at once- hold the baby, lift up your shirt, manage your bra, get out your boob… The Breast Friend helps and it is nice, ergonomically, because it belts around your waist. You can adjust it to fit as high or low as you want, which keeps you from having to lean forward excessively. The baby rests on the pillow, and once she’s positioned, you have your hands free and you’re not hunching forward and straining your shoulders and neck. Also, it has a handy pocket where you could keep your phone.

6. Speaking of nursing and positioning– This was great advice I got from my mom- In the early days, give your baby a chance to nurse while you are sitting up and while you are side lying. That way she will be used to doing it either way, and you will appreciate having the option to do it either way. My mom said some babies get used to nursing only in one position and then they don’t want to do the other position if you wait to introduce it.

7. Let’s discuss nursing covers for a minute. I know my sister and lots of you will totally disagree with me, but nothing screams “I’M NURSING A BABY!” louder than a nursing cover. They come in adorable, fun prints, which only adds to your high profile look.  Once you get your latching on technique down, the baby’s head and body should cover everything to the point where if someone doesn’t expect to you see you nursing, they would probably think you’re just holding your babe.

That said, if you would rather die than let a stranger see the corner of your areola* or worse, an entire nipple, by all means, use your nursing cover happily. If you’re going to nurse, you need to do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable. God knows I would have killed for a nursing cover the first time I nursed in public. I got one a couple days later. I ended up using it about three times (much to the dismay of my beloved lil sis).

8. Nursing babies want to nurse a lot. This is normal and ok.  Nursing nutrition, hydration, and emotional nourishment for these little creatures. This baby was in your body up to now. Being in the world is freaking him out sometimes.  He’d climb back into your womb if he could, but he has to settle for plan B (get it? B? B for breastfeeding!?). Don’t worry about spoiling him. Don’t worry about being a human pacifier. Eventually you will consider about these issues but I think everyone would agree, it is not necessary in the first month to six weeks for the full-term baby. Also- breastfeeding works on a supply and demand principle, so, especially in the first few weeks, it’s important to nurse according to the baby’s demands so you will have an adequate supply.

9. To nourish your babe, you have to nourish YOU. Right after I gave birth to Sweet Pea, I was like “Yessss! I’m a supermodel.” Even though my jeans still couldn’t button, I had lost about 20 lbs. in just 30 hours! Labor was like, the best crash diet EVER! So I was feeling hot until I realized my whole abdomen felt like a giant swath of memory foam and there were angry,  bright reddish purplish stretch marks all along the bottom of which I was previously unaware because looking at your belly 42 weeks pregnant. is like wading in murky water. You just have to hope it’s fine even because you can’t see the bottom.

My midwife was adamant that I not restrict my calories. Making milk for another human requires a lot of metabolic energy.  Upon my midwife’s direction, Dan bought me a dozen flavors of ice cream and made sure I ate some every day, in addition to meals, snacks, and lots of drinks, even though I had little appetite in the first couple of weeks post-partum. I had enough milk for Sweet Pea and although I didn’t drop the weight immediately, I felt ok in spandex for a sprint triathlon at 4 mo. post-partum and I was back down to my normal weight eight months post-partum.

The point is, get some pants that fit and don’t give you muffin top and don’t restrict your calories. Figuring out how to be a mom is hard enough. You don’t need the added stress of getting your old body back on top of everything else immediately post-partum. No one expects you to be perfect. Except maybe you. But no one else does, I promise.

10. Enjoy this special time, especially the first couple of months when the baby wants to nurse nearly constantly. This is nature’s way of making sure you rest adequately to recover from the birth. Whether you had a C-section or a vaginal birth, pregnancy and birth takes a lot out of your body. More, I think, than our culture gives women credit for. It’s ok to sit on the couch and nurse while you catch up on America’s Top Model, read something on your Kindle, talk on the phone, or just gaze at your baby. The house doesn’t need to be cleaned right now. The laundry won’t explode if you ignore it. Your friends will understand if you don’t reply to their emails. Your baby will never be this little again.

11. About pumping– I could write an entire post on pumping, but I will try to be brief. For starters, you should know that the pump is part of the bag. Don’t be an idiot like me and try to extract it from the bag. (I have a Medela Pump N Style, which comes in a black bag so you will not necessarily look like you are carrying a breast pump in public). The pump and the bag are one entity. You will not win.

Also, don’t boil the clear tubing to sterilize it. It will turn black. I might know this from experience.

The best way to clean pump parts is to soak them in a bowl of hot soapy water.

A friend told me to introduce the bottle at 4 weeks. She was adamant that it couldn’t be 3 weeks or 5 weeks but precisely 4 weeks of age. I trusted her because she’s nursed three kids. It turned out great. Sweet Pea was always happy with either the breast or a bottle if I wasn’t there.

And when you’re out in the world and you need to pump, it can be scary to ask a total stranger where you can go, but you might be surprised how nice people are and how willing they are to help.

12. A great resource for all your nursing questions is Kellymom. There’s tons of research based info there and it’s very user-friendly. Also, the Breastfeeding Advice and Support group on BabyCenter is full of info too.

13. ADDENDUM 9/29/13 – For middle of the night nursing sessions, a Nook light or headlamp is great so you can see what you’re doing while the baby latches on (with the light pointed away from baby’s face) with the minimum necessary amount of light. This will allow you to not have to fully wake up and will help the baby get the idea that it’s dark, it’s night, time for sleeping, and will give you sufficient light to get the job done.

If there are any other essential tips or tricks you would add, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

Baby Boobie Hat
I never had the balls to put my baby in this hat. But I love it!! Image credit: Polar Ice Designs Etsy Shop 


*OMG spellcheck does not know the word “areola.” I looked it up and I am definitely spelling it right


I Felt Like a Good Mom Until I Read This

After reading “Bringing Up Bebe”  by Pamela Druckerman, I tried to do everything the French way.  I was optimistic that I could parent more like a French person, which was the goal, because the French way is obviously the best way. “One best way? What kind of horseshit did this book sell you?” you might be wondering. Certainly there cannot be one way for each parent to guide their precious, perfectly, uniquely made offspring. We each must forge our own path in this beautiful journey of parenting, no? No.
Definitely non.

Image courtesy of

French children eat vegetables, and they sleep through the night by 2-3 months of age.  French mothers are serene as pregnant women, they get skinny very shortly after childbirth, and they are granted free, government funded post-partum coochie therapy to ensure the timely return of a vigorous sex life. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You really need to read this book. The French, in many regards, have a cultural bias that lends itself to parenting methods that have enviable results.  This is why I tried the SuperMaman approach.

At first I felt so Euro, so cosmopolitan, so… French. Then I started to feel like a posieur.  SuperMaman lasted about two weeks. I quit the charade when my failings made me feel like a total losieur. According to the book, as a French wannabe, I’d been messing things up since day one.

The French  are not scared of what they can and can’t eat or what they can and can’t do during pregnancy. They just stay chill. I was totally on board with this during my pregnancy. Until about 25 weeks, which was the week I taught a spin class, swam with Masters, mulched and watered the entire front yard, and ended up in the hospital, praying I would not have to spend the remainder of my pregnancy on bedrest (I did not have to, thankfully). My upcoming trip to Mexico was cancelled, (pre-term labor in a third world country, anyone?), and I was careful from that point on, to avoid overdoing it. And when I forgot to take it easy, my hemhorroids reminded me. No one could tell me what I had done wrong, but I suspect I was guilty of not being sufficiently anxious about the pregnancy. One thing the book didn’t mention was what the heck do French pregnant women do at night if they aren’t scouring Baby Center for medical information to ease their worries.
Fail #1: Pregnancy Problems

I had failed my child (and myself) during the newborn months because I didn’t straight up tell her I was putting her down for the night and she better not expect to see my face until the morning. The French tell their babies everything, assuming they can understand. I am on board with this, but when Sweet Pea was a newborn I would say things like “I love you” and “I’m changing your diaper now.” I never thought to say, “See you in eight hours.”

Also, I didn’t know about “The Pause” which is apparently de rigueur among the French. When bebe begins to cry, French parents wait about five minutes before going to check on him. Because the parents do not rush in, the baby learns to self-soothe very quickly.  In no time, they learn to put themselves back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night. I could totally tune out the sound of a baby crying for five minutes.  Someone else’s baby, that is.  Listen to my own baby cry for five minutes? I’d rather peel my fingernails off.
Fail #2: Sleep problems

So I couldn’t undo the damage I had already done in the sleep department, but at least I could work on developing my toddler’s palette. The French expose their children to all kinds of vegetables multiple times. If the kid doesn’t like broccoli the first time, or the fifth time, or the fifteenth time, there’s always the thirtieth time. French restaurants don’t have kids menus because French kids eat everything. I am all for exposing Sweet Pea to different foods as many times as it takes for her to acquire the taste for them. But I also want her to eat a solid meal.  Since I already messed up the sleep thing, if I give her a lot of vegetables for which her desire is questionable, I can be reasonably sure that she will wake up hungry in the middle of the night, which is fun for nobody.  So if she wants two scrambled eggs, that’s what this American mom is cooking.
Fail #3: Food problems

I would have loved to be back at my pre-pregnancy weight within three months. I would also love a pet unicorn. Losing weight fast is hard. It takes work. You have to be committed. You know what else is hard, takes work, and requires an assload of commitment? Mothering a newborn.  I didn’t have the energy to watch my diet in the first few months. Also, I was scared that if I dropped too much weight, my milk would dry up. Not that this was a huge risk, but I ate plenty of ice cream just to be on the safe side.
Fail #4:Baby Weight Problems

I think it’s awesome that the French culture values sex enough that they pay for postpartum pelvic floor therapy. I think sex is a vital part of a healthy marriage, and that sexuality is an important part of being human. I wish Americans, as a culture, were not so repressed.  But all the therapy in the world would not be able to return the natural lube that breastfeeding hormones stole from me. According to the book, breastfeeding is not very popular in France. I wonder if that’s partly because of the collateral damage it can do in the boudoir.
Fail #5: Sex problems

This was by no means a comprehensive review of the book, and you should know that even though it made me feel kind of bad, I couldn’t put it down. I’m not sure what that says about me.

I definitely recommend it. It was well-written, from the perspective of a funny, intelligent American journalist living and raising small children in Paris. “Bringing Up Bebe” exposed a lot of the cultural biases I wasn’t totally aware of (think fish in water). It also made me think about how a culture’s values permeate all aspects of that culture, including attitudes and practices regarding parenting.

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Weaning: It’s not you it’s me.

Here is something I wrote a couple of months ago…

I want to stop but I don’t know how.  One more time becomes one more day. Another day becomes another week and I’m no closer to quitting than I was months ago. Dan is patient with me, reserving judgment or comment. But we both know I need to end it, sooner rather than later.

Nursing Sweet Pea, that is. See, I haven’t had my period since before I got pregnant with her and we want another baby. My husband and I do, anyway. I can’t speak for our toddler, but based on the uncanny timing of her occasional middle of the night crying, and her propensity to stir early from her Sunday afternoon naps, I would have to guess she doesn’t want another baby in the family.

Also, our toddler would buy exclusive rights to my breasts and make them sign a non-compete clause if only I’d let her get her hands my iPhone to contact her lawyer. Just around the age that most of my friends told me their children lost interest in nursing, my daughter figured out how to lift up my shirt and reach down my neckline (sometimes at the same time) to get to her buried treasure.

“No we’re not nursing now.”

It’s hard for her to hear me over her high pitched whining, which is ramping up to full blown crying.

“Now is not the time for that.”

I’m not sure why I bother with words. Her face is turning red. Her long eyelashes are slick with tears. Her mouth is open wide, taking up a full three quarters of her face. I sneak a glimpse to see which of her top teeth are coming in as she arches her back. She is silent for a few beats, sucking up most of the air in our kitchen. Finally, she exhales.


I stay strong.

“No honey. Now is not the time for nursing.”

I scoop her up into my lap. This could either show her how much I really do care, or totally backfire by giving her access to my nipples. She reaches under my shirt, wends her little arm inside my bra and fingers my nipple in a way that is not rough but not gentle either. Mostly, it is annoying. I curse my decision to wear a scoop neck top. Her sobs begin to peter out now that her demand for some mama lap time has been met. Negotiations are far from over, however.

She shakes her head. “No nuh?”

“That’s right. No nursing.”

She leans back to achieve the best angle for manipulation of my nipple in her pudgy fingers while shaking her head and proclaiming, “No nuh.”

I’m sitting at the kitchen table as my coffee grows cold while being groped by my toddler. I consider letting her nurse because afterward, I can at least drink part of my coffee while it’s still warm and complete my shopping list while she looks at her Elmo pop-up book.

Except there’s the thing about wanting another baby (which I’m less certain of with every passing day) and my AWOL period. We’re down to nursing once a day. I need to reduce the frequency, not increase it. So I distract her with a game of peek-a-boo, knowing that we’ll have our chance to nurse before her bedtime. And it won’t be because she annoyed me into it, because I’m desperate to get her to stop crying, or even because my breasts are uncomfortably full of milk.

At bedtime we nurse because it’s just what we do. She nestles into me and struggles to keep her eyes open. I think, if she could, she would tell me she’s just resting her eyes as her heavy eyelids succumb to sleepiness. I stroke the wisps of her thin blonde hair, the softness of her squishy thighs and the smoothness of her back underneath her nightgown. I look at her face and shake my head slowly wondering how in the world I got so lucky. And I wonder how in the world it will ever feel like the right time to give up our nightly ritual.

Weaning- It's Not You, It's Me,


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