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.


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


Day 30: Another pumping win and a quick run

Today got off to an early start, again, not my idea, but I’m not the boss anymore, I suppose. Dan and I decided to switch things up so instead of having a spirited conversation at 3am about what to do about Sweet Pea, which is oh so much fun and does great things for our marriage, we made a plan before we went to sleep. Between us, we have ten years of college, we have read hundreds, maybe thousands of books, and have travelled to dozens of different countries and nearly every state in the Unite States. Why such a simple idea was so elusive up to now, I can’t say. Despite waking up at a ridiculous hour, it was nice not to have to come up with a game plan in a delirious state.

I went to a professional conference all day and am pleased to report I am now three for three in finding success when needing to find a private place to pump in a random public place. Just like last time, I called the hotel hosting the conference the day before, I was put in touch with a real live person who could help me, we talked, and I knew I would have a conference room all to myself where I could go to pump whenever I needed to. Bonus: There was a bathroom adjacent to the conference room, which meant not only was it very easy to rinse my pump parts, but I also had access to MY VERY OWN BATHROOM. This was fabulous, as my profession, occupational therapy, is 99% women, which normally makes for extraordinarily long bathroom lines at events like this. So I was loving my VIP bathroom status.

After the conference, I arrived home to see the babysitter holding a bouncing, smiling, waving Sweet Pea in the window to greet me, which was ridiculously cute. I was kind of sad to hang out for a half an hour, only to make a mad dash to get out the door for a four mile run before it got dark/Sweet Pea’s bedtime, but that’s what I did. I had a surprisingly awesome run in the perfect kind of cold- enough to be refreshing but not brutal enough to be numbing.

What I wondered while I was running was how/when I would work out if I were working full-time. I thought perhaps during lunch, or I would skip lunch to get it done at the end of the day maybe. Or more likely, I would do it after we put the baby down for the night. It’s hard to say, but I think it would be very challenging to carve out the time. Do you work full-time and work out regularly, in addition to parenting? How do you schedule it??

During my run, I also thought about the fact that when I was really into the very time consuming sport of road biking, (most of my 20’s), I noticed there were practically no women with children on any of the evening or weekend group rides I routinely joined. Back then, I thought maybe you just didn’t get to do things like go on three hour rides when you had kids, and so maybe I didn’t want kids, ever. Actually, I thought that right up till the second I birthed Sweet Pea and held her perfect, slimy, tiny body in my arms. (Shhhh).

I realize now, that certainly there were (and are) serious female athletes who have young children, and they probably didn’t have time to be dicking around waiting for everyone to show up for a group ride, hanging out at a gas station while 20 people purchase a Gatorade and line up for the restroom, or waiting at the top of a hill for everyone to catch up.

I realize a lot of things I never understood before, first and foremost, why in the world you would want a baby at all.  If I met my 25 year old self, I would try to explain that someday I wouldn’t even mind caring for a baby instead of going for a long ride in the mountains. I would try to explain that after a great run- a run when your legs feel like powerful pistons, when a fast pace feels easy, when the air is dry and crisp, when dusk is setting in and there’s a blue haze over the Flatirons as a bright moon rises- there’s still more joy to be had when you return home and see your husband holding your baby who is giggling at you through the window.

Mission Accountable Day 23: An Underthing You Won’t Find at Victoria’s Secret

I went to work with a cabbage leaf in my bra. Not just any cabbage leaf; one that I stuffed in hastily in the grocery store parking lot. Let me back up. On Wednesday I made a mental note to confirm with the babysitter for Friday. Wednesday came and went and I was still trying to remember who I’d lined up for Friday. Thursday I reminded myself once again to confirm with the babysitter. But by the time I got around to looking at my planner to figure out who the babysitter was supposed to be, it was 4:30pm and I realized… there was no babysitter scheduled. Great. So I called one of our favorites… she was a little confused and asked me, “Are you asking me if I am scheduled to babysit, or if I am available?” Uh… both? The answer was no, and no. I called another fave, (ps it’s ok to have multiple favorites. Did you know I have at least three BFF’s?) who was available, but only till 2:15… I could make that work… If I could get up at 6, be at work by 7, and do a ten minute lunch, I could be home by about 3:30, and Dan would able to come home from work for a bit to cover that hour. Done and done.

Except when I was just about to leave the house, travel mug in hand, I noticed a suspicious soreness in my breast. Yeah, I said breast. (I can’t wait to see what kind of Google search terms lead people to my blog now). I feared it was a clogged duct, the precursor to what could easily become a very nasty, painful breast infection. Eeks.

It’s a good thing Sweet Pea is always up for another drink (must run in the family), because I thought nursing her again might help.  But I was still sore. So I pumped, but no milk came out. The minutes ticked by and my plan to get to work super-early was in the toilet. I stopped at Alfalfa’s to pick up an herbal remedy. I Googled “clogged duct herbal treatment” at a red light. What did people do before smart phones? I suppose under normal circumstances I would have called my mom, but she was in flight on her way back from Europe.

I got to the market and found the herbal aisle devoid of sales associates. A cute, friendly 20-something guy stocking the mineral water case asked if he could help me. I sincerely doubt it. I asked him if he worked in the herbal section and he said no but what could he do for me. Really, nothing. Well, he asked… Sure enough he didn’t have any answers for me, but he called for assistance without even blushing, much to his credit.

So I left Alfalfa’s armed with an herbal tincture and a head of cabbage, which makes an excellent cold compress. Not the whole thing, just a leaf at a time, in case you were visualizing that wrong. (If I was going to use the whole thing, I would have had the good sense to get two. Duh).

And, poof, there went all my plans… See, in addition to getting work as early as I could, I also had this big idea to bring an extra lunch, a surplus of snacks, a work outfit, plus extra bottles for expressed milk so that I could arrive at work again on Saturday by foot. I was going to run to work! Genius, right? Everyone thinks of bike riding as the best alternative to driving. But, running!? It was pure brilliance. Why had I never thought of this before? It just took some extra planning, but it was totally do-able. I would not have to take anything to work on Saturday, I could run there, and take the bus back. But fighting mastitis means laying low and running to work is the opposite of that. Boo.

Typically, I follow this Sickness Workout Rule: If symptoms are from the neck up, it’s ok to work out at an easy level. But if the symptoms are below the neck, skip the workout. My present ailment obviously falls under the “below the neck” category. Plus, a cabbage leaf in a normal bra is one thing, but in a sweaty sports bra? Homey don’t play that.

The good thing was it ended up being a much shorter work day than I anticipated. I even had time to stop and get some things at the store, including more herbal tincture (Happy Ducts by Wish Garden, in case you were wondering. It works!!), and a bar of Chocolove (Best. Chocolate Bar. Ever.) for the babysitter who kindly said yes at the last minute, and arrive home by 2:15, when said sitter was supposed to turn into a pumpkin.

After pounding dropperfulls of Happy Ducts all day, taking a hot bath, resting, and nursing more often than usual, I think I have this thing under control. I thought I would call out sick tomorrow but it looks like (knock on wood) I just might go into work after all. I hope to get in a ten miler on Sunday, but only if I am 100% back to normal.

In other news, my mom finally returned from her European vacation. I didn’t realize how much I rely on her until she was un-reachable. It seems she became my 24 Hour Baby Crisis Prevention Hotline without me even realizing it.
She cried for thirty minutes, then she slept for 20 minutes, now she’s crying again. What do I do?
She’s spitting up. I thought they weren’t supposed to spit up anymore. What do I do?
She woke up from her nap at the wrong time and she is supposed to go down in an hour but in an hour I planned on heading to play group. What do I do?
Her cheeks are red, she’s crying, her nose is stuffy, and I think she might be teething. Is she teething? What do I do?
She was sleeping through the night, but now she’s not. What do I do?

Et I can’t believe she hasn’t started screening my calls cetera…

So I survived 14 whole days without my guru. Phew.

Now go hug your mom if you’re lucky enough to be able to!

Mission Accountable Day 9: A Day Off

Today I didn’t work out. I generally take one planned rest day per week and this was it. I woke up at 6am anyway, totally disoriented. You know when you stay in a hotel with room darkening shades in a new city and you wake up, and for a minute you’re like “Where am I? What day is it? Where are my glasses???” I was all discombobulated because at 6am I was waking up for the first time all night and it took me a minute to wrap my head around that. I haven’t slept an entire night in a while. I think it’s been since sometime in August but I can’t be sure.  Anyway, I nursed Sweet Pea and then boogied down to Denver, where I took a day course on assessment of visual dysfunction in persons with neurological impairments, which was fascinating. I’m not being snarky, I really found it interesting. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m a dork.

The Denver DoubleTree Hilton gets a big shout out (do people still give shout outs anymore? I don’t even know) for giving me a hotel room for the day, where I was allowed to pump. The lady who gave me the key card for the room was just as friendly and helpful as the lady who I had spoken to on the phone to arrange having said room. The lady I spoke to this morning told me about how she nursed her two children and had to pump in some very uncomfortable places (I was dying to know where they were, but she didn’t say, and I didn’t ask), and so she was happy to make this convenient for me. I was extremely grateful for having access to the empty hotel room all day. And yeah I got a solid seven consecutive hours of sleep the night before, but that doesn’t make up for all the rest of the nights. It took everything I had to be professional and have lunch with some of my colleagues. I was DYING to go in that room, take my boots off, put my feet up, order room service, and take a nap.