9 Tips to Having More and Better Sex After Baby

by Jeremy Martin-Weber
This post is a partner post to one Jessica wrote, 16 points about sex after baby, on beyondmoi.com and a giveaway for Newport Beach MommyCon on November 1, 2014.  Find the giveaway information and widget to enter at the end of this post.

Running the risk of sounding like Cosmo, or Marie Claire, in honor of Valentine’s Day and all the men out there making strategic plans, hoping that their romantic equations will guarantee that they’ll get lucky, I’d like to offer a list of my own.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but my list is the product of 17 years of trial and error with my wife, and I can personally attest that as long as I stick to it, she simply can’t get enough of me.  Seventeen years and six children, and sex just keeps getting better, and we both want it more than we ever did before.

#LoveBeyondMoi The Leaky Boob Beyond Moi Valentine's Day giveaway

You too can have a better sex life; it’s not over just because you’re parents.  If you’re looking for ways to make her (or him) want to drag you to the bedroom, rip your clothes off, and have hot, steamy, sex with you all night long (that’s how those magazine covers read, right?), then this list is for you.

1. Help around the house… but not for sex Everyone loves a partner who is involved, who takes time to help out with household duties.  Way back when we were first married, I first heard the notion that if I took the trash out, my wife would find that act so sexy she wouldn’t be able to help herself and would have to have me right then and there.  I thought that sounded rather strange and hadn’t noticed that effect on her before, but I really started paying attention the next few times I took the trash out, and here is what I noticed: she appreciated my help, but didn’t think it was anything extraordinary.  And that made sense.  But I also noticed that when we were both paying attention to the ways the other was helping out, we both appreciated the other person for doing so, and we felt closer for noticing, and feeling closer can easily lead to sexual feelings.  See how it works?  But it won’t work if you help around the house just to have sex.  There is no magic there.  My advice: do the dishes, help out with your kids, fold and put away the laundry, by all means take the trash out, and for extra credit, thank your partner for those same things and all the other tasks they do.  They may argue that they don’t do it for you, and don’t need to be thanked, but they’ll still appreciate you noticing.  Noticing is sexy. That first tip isn’t just for parents, I admit, but it may be more relevant to parents because prolonged lack of sleep so effectively scrambles your brains that even very simple relational things can get sucked into that black hole (or driving your children to all of their extracurricular activities – that can scramble your brain too over time).  It’s very much the same for this second tip.

2. Get physical… but not for sex Touch your partner.  Often.  Every day.  We can get so determined to get it on that we forget the thrill of simple touches.  You know how physical relationships are compared to a baseball diamond, each base representing more intimate acts of physical expression, ultimately culminating in sexual intercourse when you get to home base?  We can be so goal-oriented, or sexually frustrated, that all we focus on is getting to that home plate.  When Jessica and I were first dating, even the simplest of touches was thrilling because it carried so much meaning.  Caressing each other’s hands communicated love and care, romantic intention, and sexual desire all rolled into one.  A kiss was a gesture of commitment, a desire to be close, to be real and vulnerable.  Sure, at other times, a kiss was an expression of sexual desire, full of passion and wild abandon. But that’s exactly the point.  Physical expressions weren’t all just a means to a steamy, naked end.  Because of their variety, their commonality was clear: a communication of love.  And when I feel loved by my wife, I feel safe, trusting and sexy.  And I know she feels the same way.  And do you know what that leads to?  Great sex.  My advice: kiss your partner at least every morning and evening, wrap your arms around her, hold hands, maybe even take a few dance steps together, and savor each of those physical moments for their simplicity.  Because touching to communicate love is sexy.

3. Distance makes for sexier reconnection Now that we’re all ready to touch our partners more, I offer a word of caution: it has to be the right moment.  Unfortunately, most of us have to find out through trial and error; that’s for both partners.  Jessica and I have both had to learn about ourselves how and when we like to be touched, let alone what our spouse likes.  If you try to touch your partner and you are rebuffed, don’t jump to the conclusion that they just don’t like your touch or don’t want sex (touching just for that end is already a big libido killer anyway).  Pluck up your courage, control your urge to scream and cry (if you actually have feelings, of course), and ask your partner about it.  The way our schedule works, one of us is often home with children most of the day while the other goes out and works at a coffeeshop.  It doesn’t matter which one of us it is, some days at home leave us wanting to find a dark, quiet, corner where we can hug our own knees and twitch for awhile as our brain tries to reboot, and our body relaxes from being touched all day long.  It’s not that we don’t love being home with our children, it’s that it’s not the easiest job in the world.  If you walk in the door and see a frazzled, bleary-eyed partner with a blank expression on their face, that is probably not the time for dipping your partner and a fervent I-missed-you-so-much-wasn’t-today-great kind of kiss.  If ever you’re unsure, I have the simplest solution: ask.  And follow it up with an offer to give them some space.  Ask how you can help before jumping in.  And then, by all means, jump in!  Find ways to give your partner a break on a regular basis.  Sometimes 20 minutes is all it takes to center ourselves.  Sometimes it may take a whole morning, or an entire day, but trust me on this: sex is way better with a centered partner.  Because getting time away is sexy.

4. flirt more… but not for sex I think that every healthy, sexually mature human being likes to feel sexy.  One way to feel sexy is to get a good idea of what real sexy people look like by gazing at magazines, watching music videos, or checking out the latest blockbuster film, then looking in the mirror and saying to yourself: “Damn I look good!”  If I just described you, then this whole post probably isn’t for you at all.  For most of the rest of us, feeling sexy is deeply tied to feeling desired.  When Jessica gives me a sultry “Hey sexy” I feel a boost in confidence, my day gets brighter, and I feel sexy.  Granted, I have to fight off the destructive voice in my head giving me a 5 reasons why you’re not on the sexy list, and just trust that my wife is calling it likes she sees it.  This takes practice, but when I do it regularly, that vile voice in my head gives up and must go into hibernation or something.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone that when you feel sexy, you’re more inclined to have sexy thoughts, and… you know.  So my advice to you is to give your partner a reason to silence that voice in their head.  All the time.  Okay, don’t be obnoxious about it, or you’ll come across as pushy.  Flirt, wink, do the Magnum P.I. eyebrow thing (if you don’t know what that is, well, then, never mind), make subtle suggestive comments; whatever communicates to your partner that they are desired, and desirable.  But don’t have your heart set on sex.  Because flirting is sexy and is an end in and of itself.

5. Spend quality time together… but not for sex.  Developing togetherness has been foundational to our relationship and affects every part of it, including our sex life.  I realize that this concept may definitively put me in the hapless romantic category, but I don’t care, I am an unabashed hapless romantic who has great sex with his wife of 17 years so there.  We have this notion that relationships are living things, and they are constantly evolving, just as each person in the relationship is growing and changing daily.  This means that being static (not changing) is not possible.  You are either growing closer together and developing stronger bonds, or you are slowly drifting apart – unless you are a stone statue of a couple, and even then erosion does take its plodding toll.  So we intentionally find ways that bring us closer together.  There is no reason why you can’t still be as into each other as when you first got together.  Actually, we believe that you should cultivate your relationship keeping being into each other as a worthwhile goal.  Find common interests, and/or try new experiences together.  Play games together.  Make music together.  No, those aren’t references to sexual activities.  Cook together.  Hike or bike together.  Visit museums.  Go out for coffee or a fancy dinner.  Any activity that you will enjoy together, preferably with lots of eye contact, and with no electronic devices or screens (after you’re done reading this you should try it).  Because when you spend time being into each other, you end up wanting to explore all the ways you could be into each other.  (that was a sexual reference, by the way…).

6. Talk more… and I don’t mean about sex (and I don’t mean talk dirty more) Spending time together, being more and more into each other, involves a lot of communication, and most of that will be through actual conversations.  With words and sentences and all that.  If you’re really getting into each other, developing that sense of togetherness that I mentioned in the previous point, then you’re going to want to communicate that you care about your partner’s life, about their day, every day, and that you’re interested in the details, the little experiences that you missed out on.  This may seem obvious, but you’re going to want to communicate that you missed your partner.  Because being missed is sexy.  And giving a damn is really sexy.

7. Help get the kids to bed, and again after midnight.  So finally a practical tip!  I suggest that you don’t gloss over the relational mushy-gushy stuff that I took nearly 2,000 words to write about.  That’s the stuff that really leads to more, and great, sex.  The practical logistics of making sex happen won’t cut it by themselves.  Getting obnoxious distractions (i.e. children- only obnoxious when you’re hoping to make some whoopie) out of the way is essential to hooking up with your partner.  Bed time can be exhausting and time-consuming, and, depending on the age of your children, can burn a parent out and render them huddled in a dark, quiet, corner, hugging their knees, etc.  Or fast asleep before the kids.  It’s much better with two parents.  That way you communicate that you give a damn, that you want to do this together, that you’re willing to help, not to mention demonstrating to your children that you are there for them and their other parent.  Ways to make it more fun: text each other once the bedtime routine is finished but your haven’t extricated yourself from your children’s arms and legs.  A fun texting game we’ve played is where one of us sends the other a random emoticon, and the other has to guess what it’s supposed to mean.  Oops, now everyone knows: we’re dorks.  Dorks that flirt and have great sex.   This may or may not lead to sexting, by the way, which is always fun but possibly awkward and ill-advised if you’re still helping kids settle.  Getting kids to bed once may not be enough.  You may have to commit to moving a sleeping baby, 1 or 2 or even 3 yr old back to their bed after they have sweetly sought out your comforting cuddles around midnight and fallen asleep in the bed where, damn it, you were hoping to have sex (or just cuddle with your partner, or sleep on separate sides of the bed, depending on how grueling the bedtime routine was and how long you each need to huddle by yourselves in the dark, etc.).  Because a kidless bed with just you and your partner is sexy.  (This isn’t to say cosleeping damages sex lives, it doesn’t and we do cosleep, we just also have a “bed” for the cosleepers that they visit for us to have alone time in our bed.  And, if you don’t have teenagers around, there are plenty of other, though less comfortable, places in a house to utilize.)

8. Change the sheets! Those of you who have known us for a little while know what this means, so feel free to skip this tip.  For those of you who don’t, I’ll let you in on our little secret: clean sheets are sexy.  Clean sheets are so sexy that my wife has this irresistible urge to sleep naked in them.  If it weren’t for the sheer logistics of children seeking cuddles, 8 of us in a house with one washing machine, and having to work and feed our family, I would probably wash our sheets every day.  Quick disclaimer: I have learned that just because my wife is naked in bed does not guarantee that we will have sex, or that she is logically interested in having sex.  You would do well to heed these words.  That being said, clean sheets may increase your odds; they certainly increase mine!  Also, mind-blowing as this may sound: sleeping naked together is sexy, and an end in and of itself. And finally, if you’re still with me, the #1 thing you can do to have more sex as parents:

9. Stop asking for it.   There is nothing quite like a whiner to kill a mood, or destroy any chance of there even being a mood to get into in the first place.  Asking for sex, or demanding it, damages your relationship with your partner.  Asking for it communicates only one thing: you think you have to have sex, that you deserve it, or that it is some kind of need.  It is not a form of flirting, it is not flattering, it is not sexy, it doesn’t communicate that your partner is desirable, it does not bring you closer together, it does not communicate that you care, or give a damn about anyone but yourself, and most of all, it communicates a lack of love and respect.  It is gross.  Even if the sheets are clean.  And if you helped around the house, and you flirted, and did your part in getting kids to bed, and spent time listening to every little detail of your partner’s day, and watched whatever stupid movie they wanted to, and this somehow means that you deserve sex, that they owe you sex, then you know nothing about what a healthy relationship looks like, and I would further venture to say that this is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to an abusive relationship.  Talk about it but in a carefully, respectful, and concerned conversation.  “I miss having sex with you” means a lot more than “We never have sex any more.”  And if you mention your sexual needs, like it’s some kind of basic human need, you should be slapped.  A basic human need is one where the human is at risk of dying if that need isn’t met.  Like eating, or drinking water.  Are you at risk of dying if you can’t have sex?  No.  And if you’re that horny and you feel like you just can’t keep it together without a release, then I’m sure your partner would appreciate you using your capable hands, rather than pressuring them or guilting them into letting you use their body for your own pleasurable end.  Because guilting your partner into sex is NOT sexy.  And pressuring your partner into sex will not lead to more and better sex, before or after baby.  Also, consider getting therapy.  Therapy can be sexy too.

There is one thing that effectively sums up my 8 tips to having more sex after baby (because that last one wasn’t really a tip, was it?): focus on your relationship with your partner.  All the rest will take care of itself.  And no, that’s not a sexual reference.

~ The Piano Man (aka: Jeremy from BeyondMoi)

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Join us at MommyCon Newport Beach on November 1, 2014 where Jessica is talking about Breastfeeding and Healing sponsored by Motherlove Herbal Company, and Jeremy and Jessica are leading a workshop on Sex After Baby sponsored by our friends at Arm’s Reach Cosleeper. For a chance to win a pair of tickets, use the widget below: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The Romanticized Myth of What Constitutes Successful Breastfeeding- An Apology

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Dear Leakies,

This is my 5th version of this letter. I’m going to finish this one.

But first I’m going to do something I’ve never done here before:

To hell with the WHO Code

That’s a picture of Sugarbaby receiving a bottle. A bottle of my milk. Taken 2 years ago by my wonderful husband, I love this photo. So much love and pride captured in this moment. A vital moment in me reaching and achieving my breastfeeding goals. And that bottle wasn’t even kind of a “booby trap” to my breastfeeding goals.

Still, I never shared it with any of you here, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Why haven’t I shared this or images like it with The Leaky Boob community before now? Why is this my 5th attempt at this letter? It’s simple:

Shame.

Yep. I have harbored shame. Not shame that my babies have received bottles, no, I have absolutely no shame that I’ve fed my children as I needed to. No, my shame came from using a bottle made by a WHO Code violating company. (To learn about what the International Code of marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is, go here.) Only, that’s not really the shame I’m holding either, do you know how hard it is to find a bottle that’s not made by a WHO code violator? Nearly impossible.

No, my shame goes way beyond even the WHO Code, bottle feeding, or supporting a WHO Code violator.

My shame is that I haven’t cared about the WHO Code for 3 years, but felt I had to in order to be a “good” breastfeeding supporter.

My shame is that I played along, even became a part of the self-appointed WHO Code policing brigade for a time, even though I knew all along, deep down in my heart, that the almighty WHO Code was creating barriers.

My shame is that I felt righteous supporting the WHO Code. The original purpose of the WHO Code was so pure, so right, so good, how could I not support it?

My shame is that I upheld an artificial picture of what it looked like to successfully breastfeed and called it supporting the WHO Code.

My shame is that my actions supported the WHO Code more than they supported women, babies, and families.

But my shame is not that my babies were fed, not that they were loved, not that they sucked on an artificial teat.

To hell with the WHO Code

Look at that big sister love and pride!

Screw shame. I’m done. And I’m sorry. I’m deeply sorry that it has taken 3 years for me to find my courage to take the stand I live but never shared here.  I’m sorry that I’ve not been honest.

Because this is what successful breastfeeding has looked like for me:

To hell with the WHO Code

And so is this:

to hell with the WHO Code

For every single one of my 6 beautiful children, bottles and breast have been a part of me reaching my goals. And not just because I had to go back to work. I choose to go back to work, I love working and am a better parent when I work, but even when I didn’t work outside the home, I elected to partially bottle feed my milk to my baby. This was a positive thing for me as I get physically stimulated very easily and as an introvert found the need to create some space for myself. I did better mentally and emotionally, which meant I was in a healthier place mentally and emotionally to parent my children. It was the best healthy choice for us. I have never, not once, regretted it. Today, with a breastfeeding 2.5 year old, I also don’t believe it ever interfered with our breastfeeding nor did bottles have a negative impact on me reaching my breastfeeding goals.

In fact, I firmly believe that without bottles, I would have quit breastfeeding early on.

And see the big child in this photo bottle-feeding her baby sister my milk?

to hell with the WHO code

Do you see that eye contact? *melt*

She was mostly formula fed.

I don’t have any shame about that either. In fact, I’m damn proud that when the time came I could make the right decision for us to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula. The regret I have felt about that has been artificial and circumstantial, never true. It took a lot of courage for me to make that decision and it was the right one. I would make it again if I had to. I will support you if it’s the decision you need to make as well. We’ve been vocal here that breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing to be successful, I just haven’t been visible with that reality for myself.

Through The Leaky Boob I have contributed to a beautiful yet often unattainable depiction of what it looks like to breastfeed. In my attempt to normalize breastfeeding and provide support up what breastfeeding looks like, I have held up at the breast breastfeeding as being more beautiful, more important, more viable, more worthy of sharing and discussing and promoting than any other infant feeding methodology.

I support people before I support a feeding method.

to hell with the WHO Code

Sugarbaby’s big sisters loved to give her a bottle

I look at these photos of my baby receiving bottles and I see a beautiful, important, viable feeding worthy of sharing and discussing and promoting. Normalizing breastfeeding (bottle-feeders will tell me they feel that is normalized) and normalizing bottle-feeding(breastfeeders will tell me they fell that is normalized) shouldn’t be in competition with each other. What really seems to need to be normalized is caring for children. Parenting. Without it being a contest or a platform to boost how we feel about ourselves.

Feeding your child is real, no matter what they are fed or the mode of delivery. It’s real, it’s important, it’s complicated, and parents deserve support as they navigate this terrain. I am sorry that The Leaky Boob has, at times, failed to communicate that. I a sorry if instead of being a part of building your confidence, I’ve been a part of tearing it down. Deeply sorry.

I know there are those who will tell me I haven’t failed and I appreciate that.

I also know there will be those that will tell me that I haven’t failed until now. I appreciate that too.

But for the last 4 years as The Leaky Boob I have not been entirely honest with you. As a public voice in breastfeeding support, I have contributed to a mythical image of breastfeeding. I wish I could say it wasn’t intentional but it was and of the 4 years I’ve been doing The Leaky Boob, I have wrestled with this for three years. Motivated by fear, I allowed myself to present a picture of my breastfeeding journey and an idealized image of “successful” breastfeeding that simply wasn’t true. Well, not true for me anyway and likely not true for many of you. And I know holding that ideal up was damaging for some and a sort of betrayal for others. It wasn’t that I overtly lied, it was more of an omission of truth. I was wrong to do so and I am sorry.

A few weeks ago I was sitting with a friend of ours, a new dad who was bragging about how his wife and son had worked so hard at breastfeeding and just the day before, at close to 8 weeks old, had fed directly from the breast for all of the feeds. He said something that struck me: “you know, I think they’ve been breastfeeding, we’ve worked so hard but it’s not like you ever see pictures of breastfed babies getting bottles. Our lactation consultants were great but it’s a lot of work, a lot of time, a LOT of money, you know? The work you do is so important, we were on The Leaky Boob all the time and we have found a lot of help and support there but we still felt alone. I mean, it feels like it’s not as real if we’re giving a bottle, nobody ever talks about that. Does anyone else go through this?”

I was confronted with the reality of my failure on my couch.

to hell with the WHO code

Babies feeding babies here. So much big sister love!

Leakies I am sorry I never shared images of my babies and other babies receiving bottles. I was wrong to only ever present a side of my infant feeding journey that was safe for me as a public breastfeeding supporter. Anxious that I would be inviting drama and attacks from other breastfeeding supporters, educators, blogs, organizations, and my own readers, I didn’t want to risk being accused of being a WHO Code violator by posting pictures of my babies with their bottles. Specially since I do make some income from The Leaky Boob, I was concerned that if I ever even showed bottle feeding some would think it was sending the wrong message.

But message or not, this is the truth: my babies, all 6 of them, got bottles. One got mostly formula in her bottles. Back when I was attending women as they had their babies, often I was helping a new mother and baby pair with their first few feedings while my baby was at home getting a bottle of my milk. And every single bottle my babies have received was manufactured by a WHO Code violating company. I’ve never once regretted that, never once felt guilty for it, never once wished it was another way. But I did feel afraid to show it.

My incredible husband, Jeremy, The Piano Man, has never had a problem sharing these images though and not because he doesn’t understand the WHO Code or is unaware of the barriers women face when it comes to breastfeeding. When he came home one day with a new bottle and I stressed about having a WHO Code violating bottle in our house, that it couldn’t be posted anywhere online, and that I felt sick giving money to a Code violating company, he simply looked at me and calmly said “I thought this was about feeding our daughter.” I sterilized that bottle and moved on, knowing I wouldn’t post any photos of the offending bottle. But he did. And the very first comment on the photo was this:

WHO Code

E bottle feeding A copy IG bottle feeding comments redacted

I understand where the commenter was coming from and she wasn’t giving anyone a hard time but it’s true, because of the half truth I had shared, it was strange to see one of my baby’s drinking from a bottle. But it wasn’t strange that she was receiving one, it was actually a part of our normal infant feeding routine.

Bottles were an important part of me reaching my breastfeeding goals. Without bottles, I’m not sure I would have made it as far as I have and I’m pretty certain I would never have even started The Leaky Boob. I have talked about using bottles and formula feeding my second daughter, but I never shared images and I carefully couched sharing those experiences as safely as I could so as not to invite controversy.

I have let go of my shame and my fear.

By intentionally keeping that part of my breastfeeding journey quiet, by not sharing images of my baby receiving a bottle, by just sharing images of my babies feeding only at my breasts, and by neglecting the real life bottled-up aspects of the breastfeeding journeys of others, I perpetuated a romanticized myth of what constitutes successful breastfeeding.

I am sorry. Please forgive me.

With all my love, sincerely,

~Jessica

bottle feeding and breastfeeding The Leaky Boob Sugarbaby

Do you use bottles? How do you feel about using bottles? Do you share pictures on social media of your baby receiving bottles? Need help bottle-feeding your breastfed baby? Check out this articleFacebook page, and this book.

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Feeding Echo, Part 2- Solids, Vomit, More Pumping, Donor Milk, and FPIES

By Carrie Saum Dickson

This guest post shares the feeding journey of 16 month of Echo as told by his mother. A breastfeeding, pumping, allergy story of a little boy with a bright spirit and a mom and dad with steadfast hearts and commitment. Their story is beautiful, inspiring, challenging, humbling, educational, and so very raw. Be sure to go on to read part 1 and part 3 of their story as well.

Echo eating solids

We began introducing solids when Echo turned six months old. My career focuses on healing the body and restoring vitality through nutrition, and I was excited to begin this work with my son.   I was ready to share the burden of feeding my baby with the rest of the food-eating world, namely organic fruits, veggies and properly-raised protein.

I was already planning a pump burial ceremony the day after Echo’s first birthday. My enlightened, supermom-self felt extreme gratitude to be able to exclusively give Echo breast milk for six months, and I could find the grace to pump six more. I know it is a precious gift so many moms are unable to give their babies and I felt genuinely humbled. But with my supply waning and the freezer stash quickly diminishing, I was ready to have help feeding my son. I was also ready for some sort of life again, a life that did not revolve around pumping and keeping up my supply. Plus, my nipples were starting to look kind of horrific, my areolas worn paper-thin in spite of my best efforts to keep them in good shape. My favorite mantra of “I can do this for ONE MORE DAY” felt as thin as my areolas. I was officially over it.

Happiest Echo 8 months

Echo’s first solid food was avocado and he LOVED it. He got it all over his face and hands and in his hair. Then we tried pastured egg yolk with grated grass-fed liver. I’ve never seen such a look of joy on his face. My baby was a total foodie at heart, just like his mommy. He wasn’t a huge fan of winter squash, but that was okay. He liked everything else we gave him.

We traveled to Texas for Christmas and Echo threw up a couple of times. It happened a little while after eating, which was weird, but we chalked it up to travel and maybe a stomach bug.

We came home, gave Echo avocado again, he threw up exactly two hours after eating it. Then he continued vomiting uncontrollably for the next 90 minutes and even threw up bile. We communicated with his doctor intermittently over the next 12 hours, assuming he was allergic to avocado. Echo bounced back in 48 hours, and a few days later we gave him his favorite, egg yolk. Exactly two hours after ingesting the egg yolk, the vomiting began again and this time it was much more severe. Echo became extremely lethargic. We communicated with his doctor continuously throughout the night. I gave him sips of watered-down breast milk and Lance and I took turns soothing and cuddling him.

We saw Echo’s doctor the next day and she brought up Food Protein Intolerance-Entercolits Syndrome, or FPIES for short. She tested Echo’s stool for blood, and it returned positive. We researched FPIES and his symptoms fit exactly, but nobody wanted to jump to a diagnosis. A few days later, Lance gave Echo a carrot to teethe on and precisely two hours after introducing the carrot, Echo threw up. That confirmed it. Our son was allergic to food. I wept unabashedly in front of his doctor on the day we received the FPIES diagnosis. Staring down the tunnel, that watery light of hope ending my relationship with the pump, began to flicker and fade as I realized there was no real end to pumping in sight. Not only that, but my baby was very sick and I could do very little to change that for him. I felt completely undone and powerless. The impossibility of pumping for the next 2.5 years loomed big and the dark clouds of survival rolled back to cover me once more. I would not break up with my pump any time soon. But more than that, my baby was sick. The kind of sick you can’t fix, or treat, or hope away.

We chose to stop all food trials, (with the exception of coconut oil, which has no protein in it), until Echo turned one. Resting his gut seemed like a wise move, and gave Lance and I time to come to terms with our amazing miracle boy who needs meticulous care and consideration. It also gave us time to come up with a strategy for feeding him, and space to deal with the long-term ramifications of FPIES. With each new food introduction, the rules for trialing it are stringent: one food at a time for 18 days in a row, followed by a three day break and reintroduction on the 21st day. No grains, no soy, no cow’s milk, no corn derivatives and no processed or combined foods. All of this in hopes of healing and reducing the strain on Echo’s gut. Eating out, eating in, traveling, playdates, childcare, the zoo, splash pads, children’s museums, playgrounds…they are all latent with food. Our home is safe from Echo’s trigger foods, but the rest of the world is not. Echo even reacts to grass and leaves that he sneaks in his mouth while we are outside playing, which turned us both into helicopter parents. Lance and I both mourned the loss of freedom we all would experience, but mostly the loss of freedom and exploration for Echo.

One More Day Carries Pump Hygeia

At eight months, my supply tapered way down, and no amount of herbs, tea, extra pumping sessions or positive thoughts brought it back. Under the supervision of my doctor, I tried Domperidone as a last resort. It worked for the most part, however, I still needed to supplement with donor milk. This was another hurdle. Echo mildly reacts to specific foods in my milk and I wanted to find a donor who would be willing to follow the same specific diet I do to give my son the best chance at healing his gut. One of my oldest friends, Allison, stepped forward and offered to be a consistent, diet-compliant donor and ship the milk overnight from Texas to Oregon every month.

Allison wasn’t the only person to step forward and help us. My three closest friends have also provided safe milk for Echo’s supplementation. With their help, Echo has remained in the 70th percentile for weight. Our vibrant, close-knit community have all helped us stay afloat. They’ve prayed, rallied, provided meals for Lance and I, given us date nights, an understanding and compassionate place to vent, and most importantly, a safe haven for our son. Company picnics and nanny-shares and beach weekends with our friends are possible because our remarkable little tribe cares enough to share the burden of Echo’s well-being.

Carrie lance and echo

 

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Feeding Echo, part 1- Breastfeeding Trauma, Exclusively Pumping, and FPIES

By Carrie Saum Dickson

This guest post shares the feeding journey of 16 month of Echo as told by his mother. A breastfeeding, pumping, allergy story of a little boy with a bright spirit and a mom and dad with steadfast hearts and commitment. Their story is beautiful, inspiring, challenging, humbling, educational, and so very raw. Be sure to go on to read part 2 and part 3 of their story as well.

skin to skin newborn

It’s 8:30 on a Wednesday night. My husband, Lance, is in our son Echo’s room, feeding him his bottle and reading a bedtime story. Bedtime is later than usual tonight. After working a full day building my practice as an Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor, taking Echo to an early evening doctor’s appointment and cooking dinner for the three of us, time slipped away from me. Echo ate his dinner late, too. We are all tired and cranky from a day that held too much activity and not enough down time.

I’m washing baby bottles in the kitchen when I hear Lance frantically yell through the monitor, “Carrie! Carrie! It’s happening again!”. I slip the bottle I’m washing back into the soapy water and hurry to Echo’s room. Echo, Lance, and everything within a three-foot radius is covered in vomit. I grab a towel for Lance, take our crying one-year old son, and try not to cry, too.

I draw a bath while Lance peels off his vomit-soaked clothes and climbs in the tub. I undress Echo and give him to Lance and go clean up Echo’s bedroom. I strip the double bed, break out the sanitizer and get down on my hands and knees to make sure I don’t miss anything. I study the vomit: color, consistency, quantity, and make notes to share with Echo’s doctor. The details are important.

I go back to the bathroom to get my sweet, smiley and spent little boy, put him in fresh pajamas while Lance showers. We start the bedtime routine all over again. We play peek-a-boo and pretend to eat his toes and we all feel a little better after laughing. I go back to the kitchen, finish washing Echo’s bottles, and sit down on the couch with my trusty pump as Lance kisses me goodnight and heads to bed himself. It’s 10:15. Exhausted, discouraged and hurting, I massage my right breast, which seems to constantly be clogged these days, and allow myself a good ugly cry. I leave the fresh-pumped milk out on the counter so I don’t have to waste precious minutes heating up a bottle in a couple of hours when I’m sure Echo will wake.

It’s 11:00 before I climb into bed, my right breast still hard and hurting with unexpressed milk. I know my sweet little Echo will wake up several times tonight, either from pain or hunger, and I’ll sing to him and soothe him the best I can in those long nighttime hours.

Echo has eaten green beans 10 days in a row now without any reaction, and we began to hope that maybe this would be a Pass. That his diet would expand to something other than breast milk, coconut oil and spinach.   This latest vomit episode signals the end of the green bean trial and one more food to add to the Fail column, of which there are many. And more than that, it means we have to start over from scratch with a new food, and all of the trepidation and hope that comes with it. I fall fitfully asleep worried about my baby, my boobs, and this betrayal of my son’s body called FPIES: The Mother of All Food Allergies.

Echo’s relationship with food has been fraught with difficulty from Day Two. When he was 36 hours old, he stopped breathing while nursing and continued to stop breathing every 10 minutes for the next 16 hours. In the hospital, he received his nutrition through an IV for almost three days. We didn’t know it at the time, but Echo was experiencing non-breathing seizures due to a stroke he suffered sometime shortly after birth. None of the doctors could tell us what caused it, and they chalked it up to happenstance.

Echo stroke NICU Exclusively pumping

My relationship with feeding my son has also been fraught with difficulty. Resuscitating him when he turned blue at my breast brought on PTSD and panic attacks for months. Over a year later, I still feel a faint, tiny, cold fist of fear in my chest when I remember it.

My first experience with a breast pump was sitting next to Echo’s bed in the Pediatric ER while a team of medical personnel worked furiously to keep him from crashing every 10 minutes while my eyes continuously leaked tears of terror and exhaustion. I pumped every 3 hours around the clock, even when I could not hold him for two days as my milk (miraculously) came in. I continued to pump, proud of my body for rallying to feed my baby, in spite of the circumstances and in spite of my fear. My body could do this one thing for my newborn son, and it did it well through bone-crushing exhaustion and fear.

Around four months old, Echo began making great strides in his stroke recovery. The muscle weakness on the left side of his body that affected his latch retreated. We weaned him off one of his anti-seizure meds. He woke up to the world around him, alert and happy and contagious with laughter. He also rejected the breast entirely. We had worked up to three nursing sessions a day and I was sad and frustrated when he wanted nothing to do with it. He looked terrified and scared every time I put him to breast. I told him aloud “we can do the hard things together, baby”, the phrase which I used to affirm us from pregnancy on, and resolved silently to myself as I hooked up my pump, “I can do this for ONE MORE DAY”. Grace always showed up to help me through those difficult early days of weaning and extra pumping.

 

exclusively pumping

I wondered if Echo remembered his first seizure and in my gut, I knew forcing the breast was re-traumatizing him. So, we stopped nursing. Many of the dark clouds our little family had been surviving under, lifted. We enjoyed lots of cuddles and closeness with bottle-feeding and we allowed this breast feeding-free world to be our new normal. I developed an even closer relationship with my pump. It went with me everywhere, even places my baby couldn’t. I tried hard not to resent the extra dishes, the double duty of pumping and bottle-feeding, my miniscule supply of free time, and the total loss of freedom to just take my baby and have a day away from home without first planning how much milk to bring and where I could pump in privacy.

Carrie and Echo skin to skin

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Tips From The Leakies for Breastfeeding and Babywearing

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Breastfeeding in a Beco Baby Carrier Soliel video demonstrating how to position and adjust the carrier, baby, and breast for hands-free breastfeeding:

The Leakies on the Facebook page had some tips to share for breastfeeding and babywearing, no matter your breast size:

  • Don’t wait for baby to be super hungry and upset, it’s easier when everyone is calm.
  • If your carrier has a hood, put the hood up for privacy.
  • Use a lightweight baby blanket rolled up under your breast for support and positioning help.
  • For small breasts, be sure not to drop the waist band too low and don’t be afraid to tighten the straps for better support.
  • If you need baby higher, a rolled up baby blanket under their bum can help.
  • Practice at home before trying to do it in public.
  • Talk to your baby while you position them to help you both keep calm.
  • Stretchy necklines are your friend!
  • It’s important to get comfortable, don’t end up sore or awkward, practice positioning until it works for both of you.
  • Try to have babies head tilted a bit so nose is clear to breath safely.
  • Hip carry options can be easier for large breasts.
  • Baby’s mouth height should be just at/above nipple.
  • Hold your breast for the latch.

_______________________

What tips would you add?

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Heart to Heart Breast Talk

by Jessica Martin-Weber and Kerry Gilmartin

This post was made possible through the generous sponsorship of Bamboobies.

As breastfeeding supporters when it comes to talking about breast cancer it is easy for us to get caught up in talking about how breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer. It’s true that statistically speaking breastfeeding can lower your chance of breast cancer, but it isn’t a be all- end all type of prevention, just one piece. The reality is that breastfeeding your baby (or babies) doesn’t mean you get to dismiss the possibility of breast cancer forever, there is still a risk. The good news is that breastfeeding along with other measures can help reduce your risk and education and support can better support those that do develop breast cancer.

Related post: Reduced Risk Doesn’t Mean No Risk

My paternal grandmother is a survivor of breast cancer. A kind, giving woman with a gentle soul, early detection and aggressive treatment meant she lost her breasts but kept her life. I’m so grateful for the treatments available to fight this threatening disease, without them I wouldn’t have known my grandmother. I will never forget when I was young and she showed me her double mastectomy scars and told me her story. The impact of her experience taught me a lot but it was her gentle warning to take care of myself and to regularly check my own breasts that has continued to ring in my ears. Like my grandmother, I want to be here for my children for a long time still, I’m not about to bank on one risk reducing factor. Instead, I want to be informed and do everything I can to protect my health.

So, aside from breastfeeding, what else can you do to lower your risk of breast cancer? And how can you raise your chances of surviving should you develop breast cancer? We’ve pulled together some simple, accessible tips to get you started. Awareness alone won’t change anything, education and action steps are required to make a difference.

 breastfeeding reduces but doesn't eliminate breast cancer risk

Keep A BreastBamboobies donates a portion of all online sales to the Keep A Breast Foundation to support their efforts in promoting awareness, self-checking and prevention of breast cancer.

 

Know the facts

Breast cancer is an extremely prevalent disease and it is crucial to know the facts, learn about prevention, and perform monthly exams.

  • Besides skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among American women. It accounts for nearly 1 in 3 cases of cancers.
  • Today, about 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Only lung cancer accounts for more cancer deaths among American women.
  • The chance that a breast cancer patient will be alive five years after diagnosis is lower in women under 40. Statistics indicate that tumors diagnosed in younger women may be more aggressive and less responsive to treatment, making early detection key.

Aging, genetics, race, breast tissue, and menstrual periods are all factors that cannot be changed, however, leading a healthy lifestyle, avoiding common toxins that are linked to cancer, and making smart diet choices are all ways in which you can decrease your risk for breast cancer.

Being aware of what you put in as well as on your body are preventative tactics that you are in control of. Knowledge is key, read the labels of the products you buy and when possible avoid products containing, PARABENS, PHTHALATES, 1,4-DIOXANE, NITROSAMINES, HEAVY METALS. Also, make conscious decisions about cleaning supplies you use in your home. Avoid bleach and stick to these alternatives lemon, baking soda and vinegar when cleaning. Lastly, avoid plastic whenever possible as it can slowly leak chemicals into whatever it touches i.e plastic food storage containers, and plastic water bottles.

In young people, obesity and toxicity are the most prevalent reasons for excess estrogen making it crucial to maintain a healthy body weight. Make healthy choices when choosing the food you put into your body and learn about the fruits and vegetables that are part of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 lists. Avoiding pesticides and choosing certified organic produce, when possible, will reduce the likelihood that you will be exposed to dangerous chemicals and hormones.

Getting Started

Early detection is KEY making it extremely important to perform monthly exams, know your body and your breast. Becoming familiar with your breast will help you determine what is “normal” for your body. You can check yourself in 5 easy steps, beginning with a visual exam. When performing your exam, ask yourself these questions …

  • Do my breasts look the same?
  • Are my nipples the same shape?
  • Are there any indentions, bruises or bulges?
  • Is there any discharge coming from my nipples? Are the veins more noticeable on one breast than the other?

It is necessary to note that if you notice any changes you should visit your doctor right away.

*Keep in mind that lactating breasts are usually more dense and prone to lumps from milk than an empty breast. Breast self-exams are still beneficial, try to do them when your breasts are empty.

Check Yourself AppFor more information on how to perform your exam visit Keep a Breast Foundation and download the check yourself app or print out the check yourself card.

5 easy steps

Visit the Keep a Breast Foundation online store  https://shop.keep-a-breast.org/

 

 

 

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16 Signs You’re a Breastfeeding Junkie

Breastfeeding figurine

There are fashion junkies, pinterest junkies, home decorating junkies, birth junkies, health food junkies, exercise junkies, you name it. Anything can become a passion and then sometimes slip over into almost addict patterns. It’s all you really think about, it’s all you want to do, it’s you can’t wait to get back to. There is a point where it crosses over from a normal interest level to practically accosting strangers with information and . Breastfeeding junkies can be particularly enthusiastic and start seeing breastfeeding and boobs everywhere thanks to breastfeeding on the brain, just itching to get back to breastfeeding information, support, and advocacy.

Wondering if you’re a breastfeeding junkie? They say it takes one to know one so here are 16 signs I’ve spotted in myself that may indicate I’m a bit of a breastfeeding junkie.

1. Every outfit you encounter is sized up for it’s Breastfeeding compatability. In stores, online, random women on the street… All clothing is assessed on how well one could get a boob out. That 50 year old stranger’s smart looking outfit you mentally dissed because “her baby would be freaking out by the time she got her boob out of that dress” even though it’s obvious she wouldn’t currently have a nursling.

2. When out by yourself you find yourself checking out where a breastfeeding mom could find a comfortable spot to sit and feed her baby even though you won’t be using it. 

3. If a store or business indicates they welcome breastfeeding moms you thank the person behind the counter for their support even though you don’t have a breastfeeding baby with you. 

4. Without being asked, you are ready to launch into a detailed explanation of the composition of breastmilk whenever someone mentions any kind of milk. 

5. You see what should be a somewhat disturbing nature video of something eating something else that has nothing to do with breastfeeding and think: “you know, what a good latch, look at those flared lips.”

6. You know HAMLET isn’t just a Shakespeare character. 

7. Without meaning to you spot tongue ties in pictures of babies and mentally cringe for that baby’s mom’s nipples wondering if there is restricted movement that led to nipple damage. 

8. Coffee cups, lights, signs, hubcaps, patterns, gourds, melons, you name it, you see breasts every where of everything. Life through boob colored glasses. 

9. Somehow, someway, you always end up talking about breastfeeding. It just works it’s way into every conversation, even conversations with young single men. It happens so often it doesn’t even surprise you any more.

10. Off the top of your head you can cite the recommendations for breastmilk storage including the temperature and duration of storage. 

11. It’s not uncommon for you to get texts, emails, or calls from people you know asking for breastfeeding help for themselves or someone they know. Some of these come from men asking for their partner and new baby and nobody feels awkward about it.

12. You look forward to a nurse-in just so you can spend the day with a bunch of Breastfeeding moms and their babies. 

13. It’s not uncommon for you to cry over and share the breastfeeding photos of others, even strangers, on your social media.

14. There is at least one breastfeeding crush in your life, an IBCLC, doctor, or advocate that you would love to meet and hang onto every word they say… about breastfeeding.

15. For baby gifts you put together a gift basket that includes breast pads, your favorite breastfeeding book, a list of online breastfeeding resources and support groups, phone numbers for local breastfeeding group leaders (you may be one) and IBCLCs, a water bottle for mom, a jar of nipple cream, a breastfeeding pillow, and a note to call any time she needs some breastfeeding help or encouragement.

16. Upon seeing artistic depictions of breastfeeding you pull out your phone to take photographic evidence and share it online because you know everyone will be happy and relieved to see breastfeeding depicted as normal.

If you are a breastfeeding junkie, there’s really not much you can do about it. Spend some time with your kiddos and get out some to distract yourself and find some balance but otherwise, just head over to The Leaky Boob Facebook page and help out all those moms needing the support of a junkie like yourself.

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We’re In Public and My Breastfed Baby is Hungry, Now What?!

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of Bebe au Lait.

 

Breastfeeding in public, at once a basic concept (feed the baby when the baby is hungry and no, moms can’t and shouldn’t just never leave the house) and somehow a complex and controversial issue. As mammals who happen to be higher thinking and social creatures, it’s also unavoidable. Often I am asked by moms how to breastfeed in public or how I became comfortable with doing so. At the time I wasn’t really aware of my journey, I just had to feed my baby. Initially I went some place private and covered (just in case someone came in) but as time went on that not only became impractical for my life realities, the isolation I experienced with a frequently feeding baby made me decide I didn’t care what other people thought. With my second baby I ditched my cover as well and just went about my business of feeding her after a male nurse that played in the worship band I was leading told me that I should just feed my baby and stop fighting with her to keep the cover on because “it’s just boobs, we’ll all live. Just feed her.” It was a progression and with each of my children I became more comfortable and more skilled with feeding in general, feeding in public in particular. What do you do when your breastfed baby gets hungry and you’re out in public? Is there anything that can make this easier for anxious breastfeeding moms? If I had to break it down into the most important tips though, it would be something like this:

Don’t rush yourself. If you’re worried or anxious it may be best to wait until you’re really ready.  Your baby picks up on your stress and you both deserve a relaxed feeding time. 

Get familiar with what breastfeeding actually looks like. Look at images of other moms Breastfeeding.  If you’ve never seen anyone else breastfeed it can be intimidating to feel like a pioneer in your area. But you’re not alone, millions of women all around the world breastfeed in public. Check out the hashtag #BeautifulBfing on Instagram for a stream of breastfeeding photos.

A Leaky breastfeeding in public at a beach.

A Leaky breastfeeding in public at a beach.

There is no should. Whatever makes you and your baby comfortable and helps you accomplish your breastfeeding goals and not being stuck at home is what you should do.  Covered with a pretty Bébé au Lait or a lightweight baby blanket, without a cover at all, finding a private spot, using a bottles of expressed milk, or mixing up a bottle of formula; this isn’t a pass/fail in mothering, it’s just another progression in the parenting journey. Do what works for you and your baby and helps you reach the goals you’ve established for yourself.

Breastfeeding in public with a breastfeeding cover. When you're a model family at an adorable cafe. Thanks to Bebe au Lait for this image.

Breastfeeding in public with a breastfeeding cover. When you’re a model family at an adorable cafe. Thanks to Bebe au Lait for this image.


Dress for success. If you find yourself needing to practically strip to feed your baby, your breastfeeding in public experience could be greatly inhibited not to mention stressful. A form fitting dress with a high neckline, non stretchy fabric, and a zipper up the back isn’t going to work out so well when your baby is hungry. Dress how you are comfortable but make sure you can get a boob out when necessary. Breastfeeding tops or dresses specially designed to make it simple are super easy (see Amamante, A Mother’s Boutique) or try layering a tank- either a regular one with a stretchy neckline or some kind of nursing tank (I’m a fan of Undercover Mama, the Naked Nursing Tank, Rumina, The Dairy Fairy nursing tank, and Melinda G‘s nursing tank) so you can pull your top up and the bottom layer down (demo video here), and necklines that stretch enough to pull a breast out are all good options. If you’re not sure then check and try it at home before you head out the door. 

Practice makes easier.  Like everything else about parenting, there is no “perfect” in breastfeeding so practice won’t make anything perfect but it will make it easier. If you’re uneasy about breastfeeding in public but really want to, practice with a cover in front if a mirror, then without a cover in front of a mirror. See what it really looks like and how much of your body actually shows. Then branch out and take a few selfies of you breastfeeding from several different angles and don’t worry about posting them on social media unless you want to. After that, try breastfeeding while attending your local breastfeeding support group or other gathering where there will be other breastfeeding pairs. From there expand to Breastfeeding in front of trusted friends within your own home, their home, and finally in the general public.

Be informed. Know your legal rights. Find out for sure what the law is where you will be and have it written down and with you. It’s highly unlikely you will be approached but it can help you relax to know your rights and be prepared with that information. And as silly as it may seem, understand the difference between feeding a baby in public vs. taking a dump in public, urinating in public, or sex acts in public.

Be confident. Feeding your child and meeting their needs is not wrong. Even if you have to pretend to overcome nervousness, having a confident air can go a long way in developing your own confidence and could just make anyone that would think twice before messing with you. Don’t be looking for trouble, be all eyes for your baby or cheerfully smile at people you see notice you. If you seem comfortable and relaxed then it’s likely the people around you will be as well.

Get comfortable. Remember that to take care of someone else you have to be taken care of too. If you need support for your arms or your breast while breastfeeding at home, you’ll be more comfortable in public with that too. A diaper bag can double as a pillow, so can a baby blanket or baby carrier and there are some neat portable nursing pillows on the market. Have a bottle of water and a little snack for you and if possible, find a spot with some back support. If you use a nipple shield or must hold your breast as you feed your baby, the more you focus on getting you and your baby comfortable, the quicker you will be through any awkward stage of the latch so try not to worry about what others may see.

If you're comfortable like this at home, you may want to take the pillow with you for out in public.

If you’re comfortable like this at home, you may want to take the pillow with you for out in public.

Focus on what is important. Look at your baby, see how much they need and enjoy being fed. Taking a moment to remember why you’re doing this can help take the pressure of on how to do it and everyone else will think and puts it on why. Your baby is the best reason there is. 

Just do it. While you don’t need to rush and force yourself, at some point you just need to jump in and do it. You may be surprised at the confidence boost you have when you realize it’s no big deal. 

Share the experience. You’re not alone and most people want to see you reach your goals, even goals for breastfeeding and being comfortable feeding your baby while out and about. Talk about it, in person and online, maybe even with photos. You’ll end up getting cheered on, hearing support, and probably encouraging someone else who has been anxious about leaving the house with their baby too. Yes, there may be nay-sayers but they aren’t as common or as loud as it seems, specially not when you can remember all you’ve gone through to get this far for your baby.

Happy breastfeeding wherever you feed your baby!

This and other breastfeeding support and information can be found at theleakyboob.com

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The Purpose of Baby Shows and Parenting Conferences

by Jessica Martin-Weber
This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of The Baby Show.

When my first baby was born I was overwhelmed with the amount of information I needed to learn when it came to caring for my baby. Initially I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult but then I learned I had to be careful how I laid her down, that car seat installation should be checked by a professional (and that there are professionals for that!), that there was a right and wrong way to introduce foods, and that there were products that would help me parent but could potentially harm my baby so Jeremy and I agonized over picking out a bouncy seat, carrier, swing, stroller, and even crib sheets. Let alone how we were going to raise our child.

So when baby number two came along I was relieved I wouldn’t have that anxiety to deal with, I had figured everything out, right? Wrong. Recommendations had changed, even laws had been updated, and some of the products I had for my first I learned had been recalled! Not to mention the things it turns out I never knew and did “wrong” with my first. Then she was born and was such a completely different little person she hated the carrier that my first had loved, our breastfeeding journey was filled with challenges and I needed a better pump, her sleep needs completely upended what we thought we did and had us scrambling for a different solution beyond “more coffee.”

With the third I wondered what could be next and the only thing I was really confident about was that I only kind of knew what I was doing and that everything could be drastically different territory.  I needed a different way of figuring out my options depending on what was thrown my way.

Now, mom to 6 kids, I’ve learned that there are few silver bullet products out there (almost none) and lots of different favorites, nor is there one specific method that will make everything just so for parents. Every child, every parent, every situation is different. Sometimes we can’t get or do the “best” because the “best” changes depending on circumstances. The three most valuable acquisitions I’ve made for my parenting are information, community, and confidence. The last two of which can be very challenging to come by as a new parent.

For years I was uncomfortable with the idea of mom-targeted events. The idea of hanging out with a bunch of moms talking about pregnancy, birth, and parenting, just sounded kind of terrifying. I wasn’t sure how much there could possibly be to say on those matters and it sounded potentially very emotional, competitive, and expensive. But I was wrong. Though I shied away from such events for a long time, eventually I realized I needed to connect with other parents on the parenting journey and hear from those not only more experienced but also more informed as well as those just figuring things out along the way. Information within the context of community was so much easier to absorb, I discovered. Even better when that community was fun and a mix of people with different backgrounds, areas of interests, and access to various professional experts from health care to product functionality.

Which is why now I love events targeted at helping build community amongst parents with information sharing, education, and connecting with brands that prioritize education for parents to be confident in their decision making. As I’ve experienced and learned more of such events, I get excited when I see more and more parents having access to these opportunities. The online support community is incredible and needed but I can’t deny that there is something about being able to touch each other, get hands on help, hear the voices of those on a similar journey, and look into the eyes of someone that understands. Being in a room buzzing with people excited to grow for their children is a bit intoxicating, awakening the power we all already hold within ourselves as the right parents for our children.

Not all events are created equal and not all events are the right fit for every parent but venturing out into the unknown for a real live connection is worth the risk that it won’t be what you’re really looking for as part of your journey.  Even if you’re not sure, taking time to explore your options and figure out how to get to them can be energizing, the actual experience even revitalizing.

I talk often about different events happening in the States because that’s where I am but today I’m excited to share with you an event taking place in Toronto, Canada in just a week, September 27th and 28th.  The Baby Show, Toronto, brings together the parenting community, speakers and workshop teachers, and brands with products and services that support families focusing on the prenatal and baby and toddler stages of parenting.  We tried to work it out for me to be there this time but it’s just not able to happen so I’ve teamed up with The Baby Show to send SIX pairs of Toronto Leakies (value of $30 each prize) to the show to go and give me the scoop. I want to hear all about this event so grab your partner or a friend and head over there and let me know what you think. The Baby Show features workshops and seminars covering a range of topics from sleep, infant massage, prenatal yoga, starting solids, birth and beyond, breastfeeding, mommy baby dance workout, first aid basics for parents, and more as well as entertainment, contests, giveaways, and shopping.

For those that don’t win, there’s a discount code for Leakies as well for $3 off online tickets using the code: LB14

To be entered, use the widget below and for once, this giveaway is open to Canadian Leakies only! Please note that all winners will be responsible for their own transportation and the winners will be announced on Wednesday, September 24, 2014. Good luck!

The Baby Show Toronto, Canada

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Breastfeeding and Ballet, making it work- Sarah Ricard Orza and the Pacific Northwest Ballet

Sarah Orza breastfeeding mother ballerina

Sarah Ricard Orza performing Giselle with the Pacific Northwest Ballet  ©Lindsay Thomas

The first time I saw soloist Sarah Orza dance was as she performed the role of the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty at Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, Washington. She was sublime and the 4 preteen/teen girls I was sitting with gasped and whispered about her extension, her feet, her artistry, and her hands. Their excitement was palpable (sorry anyone sitting near us that may have been disturbed by the energy coming from our row) but mine was more subdued. While I admired her skill and artistry and marveled at her technique and her performance was stunning, I was intrigued by her for other reasons.

Like how does she not leak all over those gorgeous costumes?

By act 2 her boobs must be so engorged.

She can dance on her toes, extend a leg past her head balanced on a piece of paper mache, leap effortless over people’s heads, AND make milk for her 10 month old?

Yes, yes she can. Perhaps even more amazing (can it get more amazing?) was the reality that she could do much of that not only because of her biology, talent, skill, and hard work, but because she is in a supportive environment.

The ballet world is known for rigorous schedules, demanding physical requirements, competitive peers, limited opportunities, body type expectations, controlling dietary habits, short careers, and breath-taking performances of athletic artistry. Nobody has ever thought of the ballet profession as being family friendly. Yet at a time when major corporations are struggling with implementing federal regulations supportive of mothers pumping their breastmilk in the work place, an organization in the nonprofit ballet profession is figuring out how to make it work. In an extremely competitive field where motherhood used to be seen as career ending situation, more and more women are finding they can start a family and continue on their professional track.

Sarah Orza Breastfeeding ballerina

Sarah Ricard Orza and William Lin-Yee ©Lindsay Thomas Pacific Northwest Ballet.

At just 4 years of age, little Sarah was enrolled in her first ballet class. She enjoyed it and was encouraged for her natural aptitude. Around 12 and 13 years of age, with the encouragement of her instructors, Sarah experienced a resurgence of interest. Her devotion and hard work paid off with the opportunity for even more devotion and hard work when she was accepted and attended the prestigious School of American Ballet in New York. At just 18 she received an apprenticeship at the New York City Ballet where she danced her way up the ranks for 7 years. Then, in an unusual move that would foreshadow what was to come in her career, Sarah stepped away from dance to listen to her heart. Burned out and unsure of what she wanted to do next, she worked in jewelry design for a year. In ballet, a year is an eternity, leaving the studio for a year often means you don’t go back.

But not for Sarah, engaged to a principal dancer, she wasn’t far from the dance world and in 2008 moved from New York to Seattle for her future husband’s career. The stage began calling and Sarah asked for an audition at PNB as well, in just 3 weeks of getting back into the studio, she had her audition and subsequently, a job offer.

From 2008-2012, Sarah and husband Seth, a principal dancer with PNB, enjoyed marriage and dance together. Then in 2012 they went into parenthood with careful planning. Looking at the season schedule, they tried to time the pregnancy, birth, and postpartum recovery just right and lucky for them, their plan worked. Sarah’s last performance with PNB before she gave birth was in the Nutcracker near the end of her first trimester. At that point, also enrolled in college classes, Sarah worked in the marketing and communications department of the company as an intern until the home birth of her daughter Lola on May 15th, 2013.

Sarah took 8 weeks to just recover and babymoon. She didn’t even think about returning to physical activity in that time, just respected her body’s need for rest and both her’s and Lola’s need for bonding. When I asked her about that time and how she approached that time and the time after she said “My body created this life, I didn’t really lose the weight at first, I wanted to hold onto it. It was important to enjoy this window of time and my body had already done so much for me as an amazing vessel, I wanted to be gentle with it. I was never going to feel the same again, I couldn’t go back to what my body was before having Lola and maybe that’s ok.”

Certainly her body was changed forever and her desire to breastfeed was one very obvious change for her body. Breastfed herself until she was 3 years old, a year before starting her what would be training for her professional career, Sarah was confident that she would breastfeed her own children. Seth was on board and willing to do what he could to support her in reaching her goals and Sarah prepared for returning from maternity leave by communicating with Peter Boal, artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet, that she would be breastfeeding and it was a priority. While the administrative side of PNB had provisions for breastfeeding mothers in the office, there hadn’t been many ballerinas that required accommodations for pumping. Still, willing to learn and having had some experience with a few ballerinas before, Mr. Boal and the company were ready and willing to support Sarah.

Sarah Orza Breastfeeding ballerina

Sarah Ricard Orza with husband Seth Orza and daughter Lola ©Lindsay Thomas, Pacific Northwest Ballet

When she returned to the company in the fall of 2013 arrangements had been made and flexibility was required of everyone. The community of the company was supportive and not only did Sarah get back in shape, the 2013-2014 season found her cast as a soloist in some impressive and demanding roles including the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty and one of the most demanding roles in classical ballet, Giselle in spite of hiccups along the way. Early on, as she was working on toning and becoming familiar with this new version of her body, Sarah often found herself in a nearby closet during class time pumping her milk and missing out on the grande allegro portion of the class. This impacted her jumps resulting in this strength of hers a temporary weakness. Sometimes the cast would have to wait for her for rehearsals but they would take advantage of the opportunity to work pieces without her. During performances she would pump in the dressing room as needed and the other ballerinas got used to seeing Sarah hooked up to the pump expressing her milk. “I had two full time jobs plus being a mother, pumping and dance, I worked at both of them full time.” With videos and a piece of Lola’s clothing she tucked into her dance bag, Sarah found that she responded well to the pump even with all the demands she put on her body as an athletic artist.

But between the support of her husband Seth, her mother staying with Lola close enough to the theater and studio for Sarah to run home during the day to breastfeed some of the feeds, Peter, and the rest of the PNB family, she was able to make it work, not only being able to exclusively breastfeed (with her pumping when she was away from Lola) but pumping enough to donate. It wasn’t long before Sarah’s jumps were soaring again too.

Sarah made it clear that she knew going into this that she was willing to sacrifice to make it work, her breastfeeding goals were so important to her that she would skip going back to work if necessary. With a mixture of pride and gratitude Sarah explained it didn’t come to that because of the support of Seth as a very hands on dad, support from her mother, her boss Peter as the artistic director of the company, and her coworkers understanding that her lactating didn’t impair her dancing. What kept her going she said: “I’ve kept my eye on the prize, Lola, her health and safety all along.”

Sarah Ricard Orza with daughter Lola ©Lindsay Thomas, Pacific Northwest Ballet

Sarah Ricard Orza with daughter Lola ©Lindsay Thomas, Pacific Northwest Ballet

And it’s Lola that inspires her in continuing to take leaps in her dance. Sarah isn’t done with ballet, at 33 years old she has quite a few good years still ahead of her and she’s working hard pursuing her career goals along with her family goals. “It’s not worth leaving Lola if I don’t push myself. I’m going to keep reaching, I love ballet and I love my daughter, I have to commit myself fully to both to make it worth the sacrifices required. Both Seth and I do.”

Sarah has been a leader within the company regarding maternity policy and breastfeeding. This year three other ballerinas were expecting little ones and there were open conversations about breastfeeding in the studio and dressing rooms. PNB was ready and prepared to have appropriate accommodations in place for these dancers should they need space to pump for their babies as well.

Lola and Sarah are still breastfeeding, Sarah plans to let Lola wean when she’s ready. This next season Sarah isn’t planning on pumping backstage as Lola has taken to solids just fine and is well over a year. But that breastfeeding bond is still special for them right now.

When I got to go back with my eldest to Seattle to see Sarah dance as Giselle this past spring, I was moved to tears by her performance. The grace, strength, and dedication as she played the role of a young maiden driven insane by love lost and then sacrificed herself as one of the mysterious willis dancing all night to keep the man she loved alive, I forgot during the performance that she is also the mother of a sweet little girl. Her dedication and passion for her craft made it so all I saw was the heartbroken Giselle on stage. When I got to hug Sarah following the performance, all I saw was the sweet dedicated mother with a passion for her daughter.

Sarah will be onstage again this year at Pacific Northwest Ballet and I’m certain I’ll be making the drive from Portland to Seattle to be mesmerized by her performance again. To get tickets to a performance, visit pnb.org. You can also find Sarah pictured on PNBs Facebook and Instagram as well as on her own Instagram.

 

Sarah Orza breastfeeding ballerina

Sarah Ricard Orza with daughter Lola ©Lindsay Thomas, Pacific Northwest Ballet

 

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How has your place of employment supported you in your breastfeeding journey? How did your coworkers respond? What do you think would help more women reach their breastfeeding goals while maintaining a presence in the work place?

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