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A Mother Will Overcome {I Am Strong}

A Mother Will Overcome {I Am Strong}

A short and sweet story of a teenage mother, or just a mother, this is Jada’s story:

I am strong because I found out I was pregnant at 17, two months into a relationship, and decided then to keep the baby.

I am strong because I decided to end the relationship, because I wasn’t happy anymore.

I am strong because during my pregnancy, I went through the worst depression in my life a month before my son was born.

I am strong because I had my mother and my aunt in the birthing center room to support me while I went through with my natural birth, which showed me just how strong I was.

I am strong because I pushed for an hour (which felt like only five minutes) and gave birth to a 8 lb. 8 oz. healthy boy and picked the name of my son when I met him for the first time.

I am strong because despite the criticism on bed-sharing, I am proud to say I have slept beside my son every night since he was born, and have no plan to stop.

I am strong because I overcame my fear of breastfeeding in public despite my overwhelming social anxiety, and plan on weaning when he is ready.

I am strong because I suffer from postpartum depression and am raising my son, alone, the way I feel is right for the both of us.

I am strong because I am going through with getting my high school diploma so my son and I can have a good future.

I am strong because now, at 19 years of age, I am where I want to be and have great plans that I see myself accomplishing in the future.

Brandon

Homebirth Filled with Patience and Love {Water Birth & Cord Burning}

Homebirth Filled with Patience and Love {Water Birth & Cord Burning}

On Friday, April 18th, your daddy, sister, and I were leaving the house for dinner.  I had just stepped outside when I felt a small gush. I joked with your dad that maybe my water was leaking. We went about our evening and had a lovely dinner and then went for a short walk. As we got home that evening, I felt another small gush of fluid.  I decided I’d sit down for a while and then stand up and “bounce” a little to see if I leaked more. Sure enough, I did!

I quickly called my midwife and asked her what to do.  She told me there was an amino-swab in the birth kit and to test the fluid with it and to call her back with the results.  I used the swab and it confirmed that, yes indeed, my water was leaking.  I started to feel anxious and excited, and I was worried about now being put on a time limit. I had been Group B positive for most of my pregnancy, and the longer I went without going into labor, the higher the risk that you might be exposed.

I called my midwife, Sunshine, and she told me that she felt comfortable with waiting a while to see how things progressed.  A week prior to my water leaking I was given antibiotics for an infected tooth (coincidentally, the same pregnancy safe antibiotics they would use in labor for Group B at the hospital). She told me to rest and that we would meet each other in the morning to start me on labor inducing herbs and check on you, but that maybe we would see each other sooner than that.

Meanwhile, your sister was buzzing with excitement about your arrival.  She ran around the house yelling, “Mama’s water broke!  The baby is coming!”  I went to bed that evening, my mind racing with anticipation, and kept telling myself I would wake to labor at some point that evening.

I woke that morning as the sunlight flooded the bedroom. I was having no time-able or painful contractions.  I made myself some breakfast and watched TV until Daddy and Cecilia woke up. Once it was a reasonable hour, I decided to try to find an acupuncturist that could see me that day.  It was Saturday, so most acupuncturists were not available.  I finally got a hold of a woman from the Birth Point Acupuncture group that was able to see me that afternoon.  We met Sunshine before heading to the appointment.  She checked on you and you sounded great!  She then gave me black and blue cohosh and castor oil.  We shared our concerns about waiting with ruptured membranes and I told her I was worried about being transferred to the hospital.  She told me that she was OK with waiting a while longer and trying to get things started with the herbs, castor oil, and some acupressure techniques that an acupuncturist had taught your dad the day before.

We went to drop off your sister with Grandma Donna so that we could spend some time that evening focusing on helping you drop lower. We headed to the acupuncture appointment and I had a very intense session.  The acupuncture was bringing on some contractions, but once the needles where out they stopped. The women told us to go home and rest for a while, then head back at 4pm for a second round if I wasn’t in labor yet.  We went home and Daddy and I cuddled and took a nap.

We woke to find Grandma had brought us a breast pump we could use to try to stimulate labor. We headed back to the acupuncture for another session and once again contractions stopped once the needles were taken out.  We headed to pick your sister up from Grandma Donna’s house and headed home. Once I was home, I texted Sunshine to let her know I was still not in labor and we made a plan to meet around noon on Easter Sunday at my fathers house to check on you.  Daddy, Cecilia and myself went about enjoying what we thought might be our last evening together as a family of three.  We watched a movie as I pumped and Daddy got the herbs and castor oil ready for me. I cuddled your sister a while then she was off to bed.  Daddy and I stayed up for several more hours working at the acupressure, herbs, and castor oil.  As I laid down to sleep that night, I envisioned laboring with you, the contractions coming strong, feeling you drop lower, and finally you being born into the water into your father’s hands. I envisioned this over and over again until I drifted off to sleep.

I woke once again as sunlight began to fill the bedroom. I laid still for some time and felt the sun against my face praying you would decided to be born that day. I finally got up, got myself some fruit and found a comfy spot to sit and pump and watch TV until everyone else was up. The contractions were coming while I pumped, but once I took the pump off my breasts the contractions faded like they had the day before. I waited for Daddy and Ceci to wake up so we could get the day started. The morning went quick once everyone was up. We made a light breakfast, sister enjoyed all her new gifts, and dad and I went about doing the herbs, acupressure, and pumping. Soon it was time to go to my fathers for Easter lunch. I was looking forward to this meal because that evening I would be taking the castor oil for the second time.

Once we got there we talked with the family, enjoyed the sun, and ate probably one of the best meals my dad has ever made! Cecilia hunted for her eggs, and daddy did more acupressure on my hands and feet. Sunshine came over right after we had finished eating, she checked your heartbeat which was perfect, then we talked about taking a bigger dose of castor oil and meeting that evening to do a membrane sweep. I texted my acupuncturist early that morning to see if there would be anyway for me to see her today and she responded at lunch saying she could meet at 3:30. We enjoyed a little more time with the family and decided Cecilia would go to grandma’s to swim while we went to the appointment.

The acupuncture appointment went well. I talked to you while the needles where in and told you not to be afraid, that we could do this, that you would be born at home but I needed you to decide to come soon and that we where all very ready to meet you. The contractions started to have some discomfort, but they faded again once the appointment was over. Daddy and I decided to take a walk on the cliffs above the ocean before picking your sister up. We walked hand in hand enjoying one another talking about who you would be and what you would look like.

The waves were massive that afternoon and so strong when they hit the cliffs it misted salty sea water all over us. I rested my hand gently upon your home and told you to come as strong as the waves. We walked back to the car and went to grandma’s. We visited with Cecilia for awhile, I cuddled her on Grandma’s bed, and we decided it would be best for her to stay with grandma that night to give daddy and I some more time getting you to come. After saying our goodbyes to Cecilia we made our way home, stopping along the way to get a few last things for the birth.

Once we were home, I started pumping and waited for Sunshine to get there to do the membrane sweep. She arrived around 7 that evening and we talked about everything. Daddy was starting to feel nervous about the chance of infection the longer my water had been broken. Sunshine also started to feel a little outside her comfort zone. I told them both that I knew you were OK, I knew I was OK, and I knew that you would be born at home. Sunshine was willing to let me go until tomorrow afternoon to see if labor would begin.  I did not want to be in the hospital giving birth and I was very confident that you were perfectly fine, and that you would come before then. Sunshine did the sweep and told me I was 3cm but my cervix was mush. Sunshine left and daddy and I spent some much needed time cuddling and being close.

We drifted off to sleep for the night, but I woke in the middle of the night to some contractions and decided to spend some time pumping. They started to fade, so I went back to sleep. I woke again right before the sunrise. I spent some time envisioning your birth, the contractions coming strong, your head pressing against my cervix, you coming lower and lower until you where born into the water then into your fathers hands.  I was having no contractions when I woke up and went back to pumping.

I woke daddy up at 6:30 and asked him to make me breakfast and spend some time with me.  I was beginning to feel defeated. I started to fear that I wouldn’t be able to bring you earthside the way I so badly wanted and needed to.  By 7:30am I called Sunshine and told we needed to do something more to get things going, so I asked her to come over and sweep my membranes or break my waters completely.  She agreed and said she would come at 9AM. That hour and half felt like forever!  I laid in bed and cuddled our kitty Luna.  She had not been very interested in me or my belly this pregnancy, but that hour she felt like cuddling right on top of you.  I think she knew it was almost time to meet you.

Daddy sat next to me on the bed playing guitar.  9AM came and Sunshine arrived.  She checked on your heartbeat and told you that today would be your birthday.  She proceeded to break my water, starting by stretching my cervix.  I went from 3cm to 4cm and once she had broken the waters I was at a 5cm.  We talked a little more about waiting longer and we decided that if I was not in labor by the next morning we would transfer. Sunshine left and I went back to pumping.  Contractions started to come strong and they started to have some discomfort to them.  After about 20 minutes of pumping I realized they where not stopping!  So I told daddy to start reaching out to the family & childcare, and to start getting things ready. Before we had made any calls, Grandma Donna called us saying Cecilia wanted to come see me.  Once daddy was off the phone and they were on the way I got my birth playlist going, put on my labor gown and sent Sunshine a quick text saying that the contractions where coming more frequently.  I began working through the contractions by sitting at the edge of my bed and bouncing on my birthing ball.  I was having a hard time finding a comfortable place during to labor, and soon went to the floor and sat in the doorway of my bedroom.  I began to make noise as they passed and rocked my hips back and forth.

I heard Cecilia and grandma arrive so I rolled my ball into the living room and visited them.  I was still able to talk and move when I was not contracting but needed to focus on them to cope with the discomfort.  I started to feel like I needed a quiet place, so I went to the bathroom leaned against the counter, rocking my hips back and forth. Daddy came in to check on me, and I asked him to draw a bath and bring me a drink.  The water felt amazing, but the bath was just to small for me to get into a comfortable position.  Soon I was out of the bath and heading to my bedroom.  Bouncing on the ball was not helping anymore, so I went to all fours and leaned over a pillow tower on my bed.  I was starting to really need to work through the contractions and knew it was time for Sunshine to come back.  I quickly called her to check in and then put my focus entirely into working through the contractions.  Cecilia and Grandma Donna were still home, and daddy and I had made plans for our friend Tona to come by and take your’ sister out to play at the park until I knew you were ready to come. Tona arrived right away, giving me a hug and taking Ceci quickly out to play.  Grandma went to rest in Cecilia’s bedroom and daddy began filling the birth tub.

By the time everyone had left I was on all fours in the living room.  At quarter till noon Sunshine and Angela had arrived.  I remember saying, “Thank goodness, you are here” as they walked through the door.  Angela helped your Dad with a few things around the house and set out all the midwife supplies while Sunshine tracked my contractions and offered encouraging words.  I was really having to vocalize through my contractions and began making a low Om noise. As soon as the tub was filled I asked if I could get into it. The water felt amazing.  I was able to be on my hands and knee without gravity weighing me down.  I was having back labor so Angela massaged with black pepper oil for pain relief on her hands Angela applied counter pressure to my sacrum.  Daddy got into the water as soon as I was positioned comfortable.  He stood behind me, rubbing my back between contractions.  I tucked my feet under his shins and leaned over the tub.  The pressure he applied wasn’t helping much with my back pains and I remember yelling, “Do whatever Angela was doing!”.  Angela showed Daddy how she applied the pressure and I went back to focusing on the contractions.  Angela needed to check your heart rate, and it took a lot for me to move into a position she could hear you at.  I was contracting while she listened to you with the Doppler and needed her to stop more than once so I could moan and breathe through my contractions.

Soon the contractions were coming so strong and fast that my whole body was shaking.  I kept the low Om noises going but they began to grow louder and louder, and I was no longer in control my body.  It had taken over and I was now in Laborland.  I began to feel doubtful and told Sunshine I didn’t think I could do this anymore.  She told me with a smile and a nod that I was doing it, and I leaned over the tub and began to tell my say, ” I am doing it, I am doing it!”.  Daddy says I was smiling as I repeated those words.  I think this is when the change happened for me.  Not only was I feeling intense pain, but I was also feeling pleasure. When the contractions started to release it felt good!  I started to make low pitched “Oh” noises and smiled as I felt myself coming down from the peaks of the contractions.

I remember looking up at my birth flag and being drawn to the word “Flow” someone from my blessing-way had drawn for me.  I started to vision you flowing from my body, and that is when I think I hit transition.  Bob Marley was playing in the background and Sunshine sang the words to the song under her breath.  I remember shouting out that if what I was feeling wasn’t transition than I was ready to go to the hospital.  All I got back was a quiet and knowing “mhmm” from Sunshine.  That was her cue to check me.  She came over to the pool and asked me to float my butt to the top of the water (which was not a easy task).  Once I had gotten into position she checked me and told me I was 10cm! She asked if I was feeling pushy and I said no, but then my whole body started to feel like it was splitting in two and I so badly wanted to close my legs but couldn’t.  A contraction came after that that had two peaks and that is when I felt you move under my pelvis.  I remember saying, “Come baby boy, come.”

The desire to push began to take over and I told them my body was starting to push on its own, I then leaned back into your father’s lap and he whispered sweet words to me.  He told me that I was strong and that no one would ever be able to tell me that I was and that if they did I wouldn’t have to believe them, and began to cry.  I started to feel the “ring of fire”.  Sunshine asked if we were ready to meet our baby and daddy and I reached our hands down to feel your soft mushy head starting to be born.  We were the first people to ever touch you, and it’s something that I will never forget.  Soon your head was born and Sunshine called out “Oh!  There’s an ear!”  After what felt like eternity your shoulders emerged.  Sunshine slipped her hands under your arms and I quickly slipped my hands under hers and we pulled you up together.  You where born at 12:40pm from water right to my chest.  I remember saying “oh my goodness” a few times then peeking to see if we had a son or another daughter.  I leaned back into daddy and softly told him you were a boy!  The excitement from him and midwives filled the room.

water birth

 unnamed

About 10 minutes after you were born I birthed the placenta and made my way out of the tub.  I was having a hard time standing so Angela made me a spot on the living room floor and you where handed to me there.  Your sister and our birth photographer, Paige, got to the house at the same.  Your sister came quickly over to check you out.  We gave each other love and then I told her you were a boy.  Oh, what love was in her eyes when she met you for the first time!  Once I was able to get up I made my way to the bathroom to get into a night gown and you, Daddy and Ceci went to the bed for some skin to skin time.  Once we were all settled in we nursed for the first time.  You took right to it!

We were waiting until your’ grandparents got there so we could all share in the burning of your umbilical cord.  We wanted everyone that cared for us during this sacred time to share in process of detaching you from what nourished you all those months.  Grandpa Steve and Grandma Donna arrived first and Grandpa Steve was so very excited to learn you were boy that he gave Daddy a big high-five!  Then Grandpa Mike arrived and we started the cord burning.  It took about 15 minutes to burn the cord and each of your’ grandparents, Ceci, our midwifes, and Daddy and I all got to be a part of the process.  Grandpa Steve and Daddy finished off the burning together.  Soon the grandparents were leaving and the midwives were finishing your’ exam.  Tona took Cecilia out for a little while so we could get some rest.  Sunshine and Angela left shortly after and Daddy, you and I settled into our first evening together.

cord burning

cord burning

placenta

From the time Sunshine broke my water until the time you were born was just 3 hours.  You listened to me.  You came as strong and fast as the ocean waves and you where born with love and in bliss at home.

Thank you, my beautiful son, for taking me on a journey like no other.  Thank you for showing me patience.  Thank you for teaching me to trust myself and for showing me the most blissful side of birth.  Welcome to this beautiful, wacky family.  May you forever feel the love we have for you.

A Breastfeeding Mother’s Will Knows No Bounds {I Am Strong; Anxiety, SNS, Donor Milk}

A Breastfeeding Mother’s Will Knows No Bounds {I Am Strong; Anxiety, SNS, Donor Milk}

I am strong because after 5 hours of intense labor I gave birth to my beautiful 7lb 13oz baby girl without any pain medication. My daughter had difficulty latching but was able to with a nipple shield.

I am strong because I suffered from severe postpartum anxiety and didn’t feel connected to my daughter.

I am strong because after a week of breastfeeding I got mastitis. I was running a fever of 103.8 and attempting to take care of my newborn. The antibiotics I was given weren’t working and I needed stronger medication. This new medication made both me and my little one sick but we kept breastfeeding.

I am strong because I continued to nurse through excruciating pain.

I am strong because when my daughter was 2 weeks old she and I both got thrush. My nipples were cracked and bruised. It felt like sharp daggers were going through my breast. I cried every time I nursed her. I begged my husband to let me give up but he continued to encourage me.

I am strong because at 3 weeks old my little one still had not gained back her birth weight. She was nursing every hour for 45 mins around the clock. I only had 15 mins in between each session. I was exhausted. I wanted to give up. I felt like I couldn’t do this anymore. All she did was cry all day long.

I am strong because I reached out for help and saw a lactation consultant. At 3 1/2 weeks old my daughter was diagnosed with a posterior tongue tie. I needed to start supplementing so she could gain weight. I tried pumping but wasn’t able to get enough to feed my daughter.

I am strong because I battled low supply issues related to her tongue tie for weeks. I used donor milk to supplement until my supply came back.

I am strong because on Christmas Eve I took my daughter to have a tongue tie revision done. I returned to the lactation consultant 5 more times to help get her to latch. For three weeks I did tongue exercises and continued to supplement using an SNS.

I am strong because I nursed with a nipple shield for 6 months until she finally learned how to latch on her own.

I am strong because at 8 months postpartum we are still breastfeeding. I have never fought so hard for something I felt so strongly about ever in my life. I would rather give birth a hundred times over than go through that again. And yet I’m thankful for the struggles I had, because without them, I wouldn’t have stumbled across my strength.

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Breastfeeding and the Workplace

Breastfeeding and the Workplace

***When I wrote my piece on community support and its effect on breastfeeding, we had a huge request for a follow up piece about breastfeeding and the workplace. So mamas – here it is!***

Breastfeeding in today’s social climate is sometimes an uphill battle. Not only do we encounter booby traps from the media and cultural cues but we also have to avoid traps set by our care providers and hospitals and even from our loved ones and friends. Now, if we avoid all those negative influences, have proper educational sources, and hopefully some positive social support we have a decent chance of reaching our breastfeeding goals. But then the majority of us need to return to work. What is a mom to do? What are our rights?

Simply put, breastfeeding works easiest (usually) when the baby can be at the breast on demand and without interruption. That is how nature designed the system to work. Nature never expected us to live in a society where it takes two people working 40+ hours a week just to make a decent living. Our breasts simply don’t have that sort of knowledge, expectation, or wiring. Luckily the invention of the breast pump came into our lives.

pump

Mothers who work and continue to breastfeed, be it directly (baby comes to work or comes to visit) or through pumping, deserve major respect and kudos. I know as a stay-at-home-mom that I have it easier in many respects when it comes to maintaining my breastfeeding relationship. A working mother has to figure out not only the logistics of making sure her supply is maintained, but also the logistics of making sure her rights as a breastfeeding mother are respected.

Because of the many changes to the law, varying laws in some states, and the newest changes to insurance and breastfeeding coverage, I wanted to create one easy resource with all the information in one place. After all, you are a new mom and you have a baby on your breast (a lot) and you only have two hands and so many hours in the day. So let me do the leg (or rather mouse) work for you.

Starting at the federal level, I am going to look at the United States Department of Labor and what they say about nursing/pumping and the workplace. The basis of the federal law has to do with changes from the Affordable Care Act:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. The break time requirement became effective when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010.

To break this down a bit further, there is a specific fact sheet HERE. Some highlights include a note that the number of breaks, duration, and frequency will likely vary from mother to mother. The location made available to the mother must NOT be a bathroom and must be private with some security from coworkers walking in. It does not have to be a dedicated space just for pumping, but needs to be available to the mother when she needs to pump. [As an example, some businesses will offer an office to use that has a lock.]

Now the cravat (and where many businesses fall through the loophole) is that if a business has less than 50 employees they are not required to provide pumping time or space if it would cause “undue hardship” to the employer. [Never mind undue hardship to the mother and baby I suppose.] They do have to demonstrate to the Labor Department that it would cause the hardship to the business. You are also not covered by this if you are exempt from Section 7 protection (however, State laws could cover you). The break time also does not have to compensated (unpaid breaks). These federal standards do not override any higher protection given by states in which the woman lives.

They provide a PDF of a handy card to carry with your rights on it HERE, and if you need a file a complaint you can do so HERE.

Looking at the state level, additional rights vary. An overview of state laws and links can be found HERE at the National Conference of State Legislators. While 45 states have laws ensuring mothers can breastfeed in public and 28 further protect that public feeding from indecency laws, only 24 states have laws related to breastfeeding and the workplace (along with D.C and Puerto Rico). Those states are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming, [As an authors note: I am happy to say that my states protects breastfeeding mothers in public, from indecency laws, and at work!]

I wanted to see which states go above and beyond the current federal protections, since some of the states listed above simply reiterate the federal standards. Those states include:

  • Colorado: the federal standards are extended to TWO years after the birth of the child, and the Department of Labor in that state provides a list of ways for employers to accommodate nursing mothers.
  • Hawaii: specifically prohibits an employer from denying employment, withholding pay, demoting, or in any other way discriminating against a lactating employee. Another plus for Hawaii: they also give any mother who is discriminated against at work or in any public place the right to a private cause of action against the person or business who infringes on her rights. This actually gives the public breastfeeding law there some “teeth” to protect the mother with more than words.
  • Indiana: any state or political places of employment must provide PAID breaks for the expression of milk. Any employer with more than 25 employees must make every effort of accommodate a mother to federal standards and also to provide a refrigerator for storage of milk.
  • Louisiana: state-owned buildings, educational institutions, and certain office buildings must all provide suitable areas for breastfeeding and lactation. (While not specific, this seems to imply that a lactation room is needed in these locations)
  • Maine: provides for a mother to provide milk for her child at work for THREE years after the birth of her child. They also specify they the mother cannot be discriminated against in the workplace for her choice to pump milk.
  • Montana: specifies that a storage location (fridge) must be available to mothers who express milk.
  • North Dakota: creates the term “infant friendly” that can be used on employment information if an employer complies with certain policies such as adequate break times and work patterns for expression of milk, safe and convenient space to express milk, and a fridge to store milk in within the work place.
  • Oregon: allows for a 30 minute break every 4 hour shift for the expression of milk (though some businesses can be exempt).
  • Puerto Rico: allows for women to have the opportunity to nurse their baby directly for 30 minutes during each full-time work day for up to one year.
  • Texas: creates the designation of “mother friendly” for businesses to use if they make efforts to accommodate working nursing mothers.
  • Vermont: provides protection of pumping right for up to THREE years after the birth of the child and creates a task force to encourage and improve workplace pumping policies.
  • Washington: also uses the designation “infant friendly” for employers, similar to North Dakota (above).

Any states not listed above all must still follow the federal guidelines. These above states simply have specific laws giving extra protections.

Now this next bit is where I will admit, I get confused. You might too. Insurance issues are swampy in this country (well, for American readers) due to the massive variety of coverage levels, copays, etc, etc, etc. Health insurance is enough to give me a headache. However, I am going to try to pry what I can from the changes at the federal level (though from what I have heard from mothers, some insurance plans or providers can still wiggle around; for instance plans that were “grandfathered” in).

On this fact sheet we see that breastfeeding and lactation services and products are mentioned. It states that pregnant and postpartum women be given access to coverage for lactation consultants and counselors from trained providers and have coverage for breast pumps and related supplies. They state that non-grandfathered plans must do this, but that they still have the freedom to decide at what level they will provide coverage and what they will cover. This leaves things very murky.

The HealthCare.gov page doesn’t really clear things up much either. The pump can be covered before or after baby gets here, at the insurance companies discretion. The pump covered can be rented (for a certain period) or yours to keep. It can cover a manual or electric pump, single or double. Again, this is all up to the insurance, not on you and your needs. Sometimes a recommendation from your doctor can override the basic coverage of a policy. For instance, many women report that a “prescription” from their doctor for a pump or pump rental allowed the insurance company to cover what they needed. Medela*** provides a helpful little list of list for figuring out your coverage. One thing that does seem to be clear is that for non-grandfathered plans, a lactation consultant should be covered with no co-pay.

The bottom line with insurance coverage for pumps and lactation help is to be proactive and get on the phone with your insurance company. Don’t take “no” for an answer – talk to as many people as you need to. Sometimes the person you first connect with won’t know the answers but might not admit that – they may just give a generic answer and hope to satisfy you enough to get you off the phone. One thing I have learned from my mom (an insurance-company-phone-talking whiz) is to write down each call you make. Write down the person’s name and extension, what you ask and what they say. That way if you call back you know everything you were told and don’t get flustered. It is also a good idea to write down your questions before hand.

The bottom line for navigating the workplace and breastfeeding and pumping rights is to know your rights and be prepared. Your employer may not have dealt with this before, so you don’t necessarily have to go in with guns blazing. But be ready to stand up and help educate them not only on the law, but also on the benefits for the workplace that come with your baby getting breastmilk. Working on preparing both your workplace for postpartum and pumping and navigating your insurance before the birth of your baby will make the start of your breastfeeding relationship smooth and less stressful.

Breastfeeding and Benefits for the Employer (further reading):

 Pumping Tips from the Pros (aka, other mamas!):

  • Having a picture or video of baby is helpful for letdown. You can focus on your little one and let the oxytocin flow.
  • Get a good pump. This will vary from mom to mom, but generally a double electric pump is the fastest way to get the most milk. However, some moms have better luck with single pumps, manual pumps, or hand expression.
  • Consider two pumps – one for work and one for home, that way you don’t ever forget your pump.
  • If your job means you are mobile, keep a manual pump with you in your purse or consider a battery operated pump or car adapter.
  • Relax for a minute or two before pumping. Take that time to have a drink of water, think about baby, and just unwind. Tension makes letdown harder.
  • A hands-free pumping bra can be a life saver. You can also “diy” one, just check out pinterest/google for ideas.
  • Try to pump at the same times each day if you can, it will help your body regulate and prepare for a good letdown.
  • Know what your employers breastfeeding/pumping set up and rules are before you have baby. You want time to negotiate for what you need.
  • Nursing at night can help bolster supply. Night feedings give the strongest cue to make more milk and provide the most fatty milk of the day.
  • Never hesitate to seek help or guidance if you feel supply is low or you need help with your pump.
  • Pay attention to flange size – if the flange is too large or too small it will not get milk out as well.
  • A little olive or coconut oil around the inside of the flange can help with soreness.
  • Be sure your child’s care provider is not over-feeding. This is a common problem for breastfed babies who also take bottles and will kill your freezer stash. Kellymom has a great guide HERE. (there is a PDF link as well)
  • There is a handy milk calculator to see how much your baby should need while you are gone HERE.

950 oz

***Birth Without Fear is not affiliated with Medela or any breastpump/breastfeeding supply company, nor do we promote any one company. This list was just a helpful source found for this article.

Breastfeeding After Cancer {A Spiritual Journey of A Mother}

Breastfeeding After Cancer {A Spiritual Journey of A Mother}

My name is Angel, I have four equally amazing children, I am so blessed. I’ve experienced hospital birth, birth center birth, a home birth overseas and a home birth at home, all wonderful experiences! My children are my biggest teachers and I have learned a lot.


Kids, babies, birth and breastfeeding is my life! Our family had a big year last year. Just one week after my youngest son turned big number one I was diagnosed with stage 2 cervical cancer that was spreading. I had my check up every two years and it was missed, this came as a huge shock.  Everything that I had defined myself as a mother and as a woman I felt was going to change. I was given two choices a terminal diagnosis or a radical hysterectomy to save my life and unfortunately bitter sweetly lose my fertility (yes, we still wanted to have two more children!) This was the most confronting thing that I have ever experienced in my life.

I found an amazing oncologist who was happy to help me beat my cancer, but also equally as happy to honor my breastfeeding relationship with my baby, we were very blessed. After a three and a half hour surgery to remove all of the connective tissue in my pelvis, my fallopian tubes, my uterus, my cervix, my ovaries relocated to my abdomen to be safe from chemo which I thankfully have not had to have, my pelvic lymph nodes removed, even the top two cm of my vagina removed, I took minimal pain relief and only medication that would not have harmful side effects on my baby, it was tough but it was worth it. And now a year after my diagnosis, we are still breastfeeding and we both love it.

I need to mention here my husband who is my super hero, my soul mate, my love, he has stood by my side, held my hand and my heart throughout this whole journey, supporting every decision that I made. He always made me feel safe and never left my side and always made me feel whole. And our supersonic, awesome little children, our four little beings of hope that helped us get through this. My room was and still is filled with sunny pictures, flowers and poems, treasured gifts from my strong babies.

I took spiritual counseling before going in for my surgery to be in an emotional position to offer my womb to the universe as a gift of life for my family, to not hold on or feel bitter about the experience. I was surrounded by so much love, light and support. I am using yoga, qi gong, meditation and green juices daily to keep my body healthy. I have a precious human life. My family and dear friends held me and my children when I could not and coming up to the anniversary of this experience I wanted to share a little of my journey, I’m still breastfeeding, I’m still learning, I’m still a mother, I’m cancer free and my fertility lies now not within my womb but within my heart.

angel breastfeeding after cancer 2

angel story pic 1

family and cancer

I Am Strong {Breastfeeding in a Modern World}

I Am Strong {Breastfeeding in a Modern World}

I am strong because at 39 weeks and 1 day my son, Brendon was born.

I am strong because I endured 24 hours of labor, and only dilated to 5cm and he still hasn’t dropped into the birthing canal.

I am strong because after knowing I refused to have a cesarean section, my doctor told me it was the only option.

I am strong because while in the operating room, we found out my son’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.

I am strong because we heard his cry even before he was taken out of my body.

I am strong because I am still exclusively breastfeeding, despite how difficult the world makes it.

I am strong

A Cesarean for Breech Baby, Jaundice and PND

A Cesarean for Breech Baby, Jaundice and PND

At our 19 week scan, the sonographer found that our son, J’s, nuchal fold was more prominent than it should be. She also found the left brain ventricle to be larger than the other. These, we discovered, were soft markers for some chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, and it may have indicated J having fluid on the brain.

I remember I picked up the scans on a Friday afternoon. My next appointment with my GP/ob was not until Monday and I had to work Saturday morning. The first thing I did when I got home with the scans was read the report (of course!). It had a lot of big words that I didn’t understand, and I did the worst thing possible. I turned to Doctor Google. I was in tears when Tobi came home. He said I was being silly, and there was no point in panicking and dwelling on this until we had heard it in laymen’s terms from the Doctor. I went into work Saturday morning, determined not to think about those horrible long words in the report. I stepped into the office, where the boss was sitting, to grab my keys and name tag, and the boss asked me (completely innocently) how I was. I took a deep breath and burst into tears! He took one look at me and sent me home. He is the biggest softy when he wants to be.

We were booked for another scan at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide at 22wks, just to double check the measurements. It was at this point it was highly recommended to have an amniocentesis to confirm whether J had any chromosomal abnormalities. Tobi was adamant it was not a risk worth taking. I needed a little more convincing, but with a 1 in 200 chance of miscarrying, it was not something I wanted to risk. We also agreed, that whatever the outcome, we would still want J, regardless. The doctor we saw also told us that a termination was still an option, right up until 26-ish wks, when “it would start to become a little difficult.” NO! NOT an option!

I felt devastated. I hated being in limbo, not knowing whether our baby was healthy, whether he would be ‘normal,’ or whether he would even survive. Tobi was my stronghold. He never wavered in front of me. He knew nothing was wrong and that we would have our perfect baby with us. I should have trusted him. I later found out from a family friend that he wasn’t ok, and had gone to him and completely broken down. I had no idea! He is so brave for being strong for me. He doesn’t need to be, but it is nice to have a rock to lean on.

For 10 weeks we continued on. I still worked, the world kept revolving. We headed back to Adelaide at about 32 weeks for another scan to check the measurements again and to see whether I could birth our baby back home, or whether (because of the possibility of fluid on the brain) I had to be in the city. There would still be the possibility of a chromosomal abnormality, but our local hospital would be more than capable of ‘handling’ that. The scan took forever. Two different people did the ultrasound. We then waited for the results.

They came back all clear!

There seemed to be no fluid on the brain. It was just a random thing that happened every now and then. The possibility of having a Downs baby, or some other abnormality flew out of my mind. I was just ecstatic that I was allowed to stay home and try for the birth I was so desperate for. Oh, and it was also at this scan that we found out baby was measuring nearly 5wks ahead of dates at 36+ wks!

A bit of history – my first son was posterior. I had always had in my head that I wanted a natural birth. I envisioned walking around, laying in the bath, nice warm showers, not birthing on my back… but after 3hours labour at home, I was crying to Tobi to take me to hospital. Within an hour of being there, I had screamed for the gas. NO, the pethidine. NO an EPIDURAL! I had just got the epidural in when the midwife leant down on the bed and said, “ah… I’ve just read your birth plan… ummm…” to which I replied “I don’t care, it doesn’t matter!” while still waiting for the epidural to kick in! Anyway, 18 hours later, and about 1 hour of pushing (and third degree tearing), we welcomed L into the world.

I was determined that I was going to have my natural birth one day, or that I’d at the very least, better myself. I research and educated myself on natural birth, and found myself a student midwife to help support me. From about half way through, J decided breech was the best position, and stayed there until birth. So I also researched (extensively) about vaginal breech births and had spoken about this with my midwife and OB. My OB was all for trying a vaginal breech birth, but wasn’t confident, and was recommending I see another OB as well to discuss options. I was to make an appointment with him at about 37 weeks. In the mean time I was spending a lot of time inverted or on my hands and knees to try and get him to turn. It must have been hilarious watching me!

On a Wednesday night, at 36 weeks and 2 days, I finished work with MAJOR cankles! It was hot, I know I hadn’t drank a lot of water and I had been on my feet at work for 9 hours that day. I took myself up to the maternity ward as I had never had an issue with swelling before, and it was starting to feel really uncomfortable all over. I was monitored and had my blood pressure taken, but all seemed normal, so was sent home and told to put my feet up. I was planning on finishing work that Friday, and was really looking forward to a week or two off before baby made his entrance. Later that night I thought I noticed some fluid leaking. But I wasn’t sure. I had no pelvic floor muscles left by that point and baby seemed to be sitting right on my bladder for the last 4 weeks, so I assumed it was just wee.

Friday, as I’ve finished work, I’ve noticed my pad is pretty soaked, so again, I trot myself up to maternity to get myself checked out. With my first son, my waters broke after the epidural was in, half way through the day, so I didn’t know what to expect. Tobi came up with me and we sat around for a while, while I was being monitored again. The midwives check the fluids, and yes, it was amniotic fluid. My pelvic floor muscles were better than I gave them credit for! Coincidentally my OB was on the roster that night and she came in to see me. She explained that yes it was my waters. They hadn’t broken, it was just my hind waters. As I had no contractions in the 2 hours I’d been laying there, the (more senior) OB might do an ECV if asked. This was one of my options, as a breech vaginal delivery was NOT a favorable option to most of the hospital staff.

Unfortunately, the OB who was on call, was not one of the local guys. He was an OB from Adelaide and he was driving down (5hours) and still ½ an hour away. He was not aware of my birth plans and didn’t seem to want to hear them.

I overheard my OB was on the phone to the visiting OB explaining my ‘situation’ and, bless her; she was such an advocate for me to have this baby preferably breech, or at least try an ECV. She came back in to see Tobi and I with a sullen look on her face. She reiterated that the other OB did not want to try and ECV, and it was far too dangerous to try a vaginal breech delivery. He had said to book an operating room immediately and prep me for a cesarean.

For the second time this pregnancy my heart dropped. Having a C/S was so far from my mind. For me it was a very last resort. I was devastated. I wanted SO bad to try a natural birth and this person I had never met had just stripped it away from under me. When he finally waltzed in, he sat on the bed and would not listen to a word my OB and I were saying to him. He would not do an ECV as my waters had broken and there was not enough cushioning for the baby. It was far too dangerous to have a breech delivery, it is safer to have a cesarean, especially at 36+4wks. I just wanted the option. I wanted to try. I wasn’t even in labor for God’s sake! The visiting OB stated his reasons, said “hmff” and put the consent forms on the bed. Through tears, I signed the consent for to be prepped for the operating room. To this day, hubby still doesn’t seem to understand why that was so hard for me. Why a cesarean was such a bad thing. For me, I think, it was more the lack of choice. This doctor who didn’t know me from a bar of soap, strode in, told me what to do and expected it. I did not like that one bit.

At some point I was moved from the delivery room I was in to the maternity ward across the hall. Tobi and I debriefed a little and let it sink in that we were going to meet our ‘troublesome’ baby finally! I then did a little panic because we hadn’t chosen a name! It was literally on the way to operating room when we finally agreed on the baby’s name. We didn’t bother thinking about girl’s names as we were almost positive that this baby would be another boy.

So I was prepped for the most relaxed ‘emergency cesarean’ they’ve had for a long time and I got wheeled away. The anesthetic seemed to take forever to work. I swear I could feel them pricking me with something the whole time they were testing. They ran ice over my belly (apparently) and then they were ready to start. Funnily enough, as they cut into me a massive gush of fluid came out all over the Ob saturating his shoes. That made me feel a little better (no fluid or cushioning left, really?). It felt so weird to be tugged and pulled at. My Ob explained everything as it was happening and Tobi took photos over the curtain. It’s cool looking back at the photos, I must admit! I had to have a longer cut than normal as J was footling breech and had his feet were well engaged. Finally they pulled him out and showed him to us. He was perfect. Jackson Eli was born!

breech c-section photo

breech c-section photo

They whisked him away to be checked and I started shivering. Tobi freaked out a little me shivering, but the anesthetist assured him it was normal. It wasn’t long before I was stitched up and moved across to a bed. Still in the operating room, I was given Jackson and we had some skin on skin time and (tried to) breastfeed in recovery.  I think he was born about 9:30pm (that sound horrible doesn’t it, that I can’t remember, without looking at his book!). We got back to the room and J was weighed at 8lb 15oz, or 4.04kg (I think!). The question was floated as to whether we thought our dates were right, but after a couple of days, the nurses all agreed, because of his mannerisms, that J was definitely early.

We had a rough few days. J ended up becoming jaundiced and was under lights. Thankfully he was able to stay the room with me the whole time. Because of his jaundice, he was tired and he struggled to attach properly. I was pumping and expressing like mad and using a syringe to drop colostrum into the side of his mouth while he sucked on my finger. I was determined for him not to have a nasal-gastric tube and he was not having formula. We continued like this for about 3 weeks before he finally seemed to get his latch right.

On day two, the visiting OB came in to see me. He looked at our chart and saw I had been expressing and syringe feeding J. He told me that it babies don’t in fact need colostrum, it’s pointless really. People in such and such a country don’t give it, that’s why milk can take up to a week to come in. So don’t expect your milk to come in until next weekend. My milk came in that afternoon, before 48 hours were up. Just let me mother my baby! Just to add to that, not long after he left the (horrible) midwife on duty told me that J had lost too much weight and needed a formula top up and nasal-gastric tube. I asked why? My milk hadn’t come in, it was less than 48 hours after birth, give us a break! She begrudgingly left saying well, if things don’t improve, we’ll need to do it by the next morning.

I don’t remember when, but somehow J ended up with a tube thing “just in case.” Tobi wasn’t around when they did it and he wasn’t happy when he came in and saw it. He was just about ready to rip it out himself. I was already doubting myself and would’ve agreed for the midwives to give him top ups if it weren’t for Tobi and my friend. Kylie came in that day, and had the same reaction as Tobi. Kylie was an ABA counselor in training and was just about finished her nursing degree. She checked our chart and my colostrum supply in the fridge and said that J didn’t need that tube in. That settled it for Tobi – he marched J down the hall to the nurses and demanded that the tube be taken out. Tobi isn’t one to be messed with. He’s 6ft+ tall and built solid. You wouldn’t want to say ‘no’ to him! J came back without the tube in.

breech c-section first feed

A week after J was born, with his jaundice levels going down, we decided to leave the hospital. I was going mad, and the midwives and my OB told us his jaundice wouldn’t necessarily improve any faster in hospital, than at home. But they kept telling us, ‘just one more day, just one more day.’ By the Friday, we’d had enough, we discharged ourselves against medical advice and lo and behold, J was fine!

breech c-section

I was diagnosed with mild PND just before J’s first birthday. I think a lot of it has to do with his birth and the lack of choice I had. We are now talking about trying to conceive baby #3 and I am arming myself with even more research and knowledge. My OB and I are more confident and although I have still been recommended to see a senior OB, she and I seem to be on the same page more often than not and is more than happy to support a VBAC this time.

Why Mothers Measure In Months

Why Mothers Measure In Months

So often, I see memes like this:

meme

And you know what, they bug me. A LOT. Normally these are posted by people who are not to the point of having children yet, which makes it even more annoying.

Basically any mother will tell you that from one month to the next, our children learn and change drastically. During the first year it is the most drastic, during which time it is still “acceptable” to refer to your child’s age in months. But for some reason after that first birthday people like to make fun of referring to a child’s age in months instead of years or “1/2” measurements. This especially comes up in reference to full-term breastfeeding.

First I have to ask the masses, why does it bother you if I refer to my toddler as “30 months” instead of “2 and 1/2 years old?” Are your math skills not up to par? Does it take too much brain power? Does my reference to months actually effect your life at all? Some commenters and meme makers like to take it a step further, insisting that referring to our babies in terms of months is just a way to cover up our inability to let go of them being a baby and rationalize our child still breastfeeding/sleeping in our bed/being carried/[insert parenting issue here].

I simply have to assume these cynics have never paid attention to the development of a child, especially when that child is your own. For instance – my son at 12 months could not walk – at 13 months he could. What a difference a month made! At 29 months my son was still breastfeeding, at 30 months he had self-weaned. Again – the difference a month makes! At 18 months he had learned to jump down off the sidewalk at the park without falling. That month he also chose to go down the slide on his own for the fist time. He was 32 months old when his baby brother was born, I will always remember him singing Twinkle Twinkle at their first meeting and his avid interest in the placenta.

stairs

These are all moments after the first year that are in my memory at a specific time and place. To me the month it happened is important. It is a milestone, a special moment. It is something scribbled down in a baby book or documented in a photo. In my mind he was not “2 and 1/2” or “almost 3” or “a year old”.

23 months

One day when I am not living in this moment, in this day-to-day rapidly changing world, I will probably tell him “You were 2 and a 1/2 when you weaned,” or “You walked just after your first birthday”. But today, those vague time periods are not specific enough. They are not important enough to describe that exact moment he learned something new, that moment he became his own person a little more than the day before.

32 months

So next time you hear a mother say “He is 22 months old” don’t roll your eyes. Smile and know that this mother is simply relishing in this fleeting time in her life as a mother. She is giving homage to the breakneck pace at which her children are growing and learning.

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