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How to cluster pump with an example schedule

How to cluster pump with an example schedule

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of my secret weapons — aka most effective methods — I used to increase my milk supply was to mimic a nursing baby’s cluster feeding.

Just joining us? Discover how I increased my milk supply in 8 weeks with seven simple steps.

In the days before and during a growth spurt, nursing babies usually demand a lot more time at the breast. It may feel like they are nursing all the time! Often, these cluster feedings happen in the evenings or at night.

Milk production, after all, is a supply and demand process. When more is demanded, supply is usually increased to meet those demands.

As a pumping Mama whose baby was unable to nurse, the traditional wisdom of letting baby nurse, nurse, nurse would not work for me and my baby.

So I had to figure out how to make my body think the baby was demanding more milk using just my pump.

This is where Cluster Pumping comes into the picture.

Pumping Mama, be sure you have a good quality, hospital grade double electric pump.

I love my Medela Pump-in-Style, which was used 6-10 times a day for 10 months with my first child and is being used that frequently again with my second.

And a hands-free pumping bra is a great investment, too!

Cluster pumping is when you switch from your normal pumping session of 15-20 minutes every 2-4 hours to do the following:

  • Pump for 10 minutes.
  • Break for 5 minutes.
  • Pump for 10 minutes.
  • Break for 5 minutes.
  • Pump for 10 minutes.

I set the timer on my cellphone so I would remember to take the breaks and return from the breaks.

You might be thinking: “I don’t have time for that!”

Well, I hear you. I did not think I would have the time to do this either. With an extremely needy newborn and a toddler under the age of two demanding my attention, trying to get the 15-20 minute pumping sessions in every 3 hours was hard enough!

But once I started, I actually found the cluster pumping sessions were far easier to manage than my regular sessions! 

That is because, when the baby started fussing, I knew I had only three or so more minutes of pumping before I could take a break and tend to his needs.

Or when the toddler came over crying: “Mama! Mama! Food! Wawa!” or whatever it was he wanted, I could gently say: “When you hear the beep-beep, Mama will get you food or wawa or whatever.” That quickly ended the tears and tantrums, and it became a fun game to wait and listen for the cellphone’s alarm announcing a 5 minute break!

Or when my husband shouted from the back room that there was an extremely messy diaper that he needed assistance with, I could say: “Be there in 2 minutes!” or whatever was left on the timer.

So cluster pumping in this way is possible!

Choose at least three of your normal pumping sessions in a row to become cluster pumping sessions and do these consistently for 2-3 days.

Example Schedule

When I began cluster pumping, I was already on a strict 3 hour schedule with a large gap in the morning for much needed sleep.

Remember to take care of your health, including sleep!

This is an example of what my day looked like when I was cluster pumping:

6:00 am – Normal pumping session
9:00 am – Normal pumping session
12 noon – Cluster pumping session
3:00 pm – Cluster pumping session
6:00 pm – Cluster pumping session
9:00 pm – Normal pumping session
12 midnight- Normal pumping session

I repeated this for 3 days in a row, then took a 2-3 day break where I returned to a normal pumping schedule. Then I would cluster pump again for another 3 days. I saw noticeable results in my daily milk output within a week.

“But,” you protest, “I work! I can’t do this!”

Yes, you can!

You will just have to do your cluster pumping when you are home. So if you work 9-5, you might cluster pumping in the evenings after work. If you work an afternoon/evening shift, cluster pumping in the mornings might work out better.

Make it work with your schedule!

And stay tuned. A future post has resources and tips just for the working Mama!

NOTE: As mentioned in this previous post, sleep is a vital component for your physical and mental well-being. You may have noticed from my example schedule above that I went midnight to 6:00am without a pumping session.

Once I had recovered from five and a half weeks with barely any sleep (only averaging 2-3 hours a night) and was well rested, I threw in an extra early morning pumping session around 3:00 am for about a week to help. Now that my supply is holding consistently (and I’m working full time), I have cut the 3:00 am pumping session out again to make sure I get enough rest.

You may find you have to make temporary adjustments to your schedule, too. Experiment and find what works best for you.

If you are struggling with low milk supply, don’t delay! Start cluster pumping today! I went from barely producing 8oz a day to consistently pumping 32-35 oz in only eight weeks!

Pump on, Mama!
~Jacquelyn


Do you have a low supply? Are you a pumping mama? I want to hear from you! Share your story, your frustrations, your victories by commenting below, emailing me personally, or on my Facebook page.




Steps 5-7: My secret weapons for increasing milk production

Steps 5-7: My secret weapons for increasing milk production

First I shared our struggle with breastfeeding and low supply. In the previous post, we talked about how to properly care for your own health. Before we continue, I just want to restate the importance of making sure you are hydrated, getting enough calories, sleeping well, and managing stress. Taking care of your health is the foundation for what comes next.

Today I am going to share with you my secret weapons. When I implemented steps 5-7, my milk production went from barely there to supercharged!

Now I know the phrase “secret weapons” makes it sound like it is an easy, peasy snap-of-the-fingers fix to the low or dwindling milk supply problem. Let me repeat:

I was able to significantly increase my milk supply over time and with diligence and hard work.

However, it is true that after I added these three steps, the amount of milk I was pumping each day significantly increased. So let’s get right to the good stuff!

5. Eat lots and lots of oats.

Ancient wisdom passed down through the generations says that oats are good milk-inducers. Now, let me be frank with you, I rarely eat oats. I am not an oats person, and the only way I ate oats growing up was in the form of General Mill’s Cheerios.

Then in 2011 I found out that I cannot eat gluten, so it was harder to find oat cereals that were also gluten-free. (Oats are naturally gluten-free, but there is a lot of cross-contamination with gluten-containing grains during harvesting, transport, and production.)

Oatmeal, you say? I cannot stand oatmeal. Even when I was a kid, I literally could not stomach the stuff. I even somehow managed to avoid having to eat oatmeal when pumping for my first son.

But with Pickle, my supply was so low and diminishing so quickly, I forced myself to start eating gluten-free oatmeal. I hated every bite, but I ate it and continue to eat it for my baby. After two months, I no longer mind it… as long as it is Nature’s Path Gluten-free Spiced Apple + Flax. (What can I say? I’m picky!)

Fortunately, General Mills has found a way to extract gluten-containing contaminants from their oats and now most of their cereals, including regular Cheerios, are gluten-free. And to top it all off, Silk now has a probiotic blend of almond and cashew milk with added oats.

There are also a lot of recipes online for oat-packed smoothies and lactations cookies. With an active toddler, a new baby, and returning to work full-time, I just do not have the time for making my own. Our tight budget and my food allergies also limit my ability to purchase ready-made items.

So I took the easy way. Between the oatmeal, Cheerios, and Silk probiotic blend, I am consuming a lot of oats on a daily basis. Within a few days of starting this high concentration of oats, I began to see an increase in my daily milk output. It was about 1-2 oz increase over a 24-hour period, but for me it felt like a huge win.

Click here to download my Seven Simple Steps to Increasing Your Milk Supply

6. Lactation tea is my friend.

Disclaimer: Herbs are drugs and can be dangerous if used improperly. Always consult a medical professional before trying any new herb or drug, especially while breastfeeding. This information is based off personal experience and shared for educational purposes only.

I love tea. I’m a tea drinker.

With my first child, I discovered that there are some herbs you want to avoid while breastfeeding because they can dry you up or can be harmful to the baby. I highly recommend taking a peek at the resource Herbs to avoid while breastfeeding by KellyMom.com.

When I was unprepared for my son’s first growth spurt, I began looking for something to help boost my supply. I discovered lactation tea at a local store and decided to give it a try. I drank one cup of Earth Mama Organic’s Milkmaid Tea daily when increasing my supply and then one cup every other day to maintain. For moms who only need a slight boost or want to maintain their supply, this may be an option you should discuss with your doctor.

With my second child, I first tried herbal supplements like fenugreek, milk thistle, etc., but found that the doses needed to make a difference in my milk supply were too high and caused me to have dizzy spells. Learn from my mistake, do not try these herbal supplements without first consulting a medical professional.

Then I switched to the amazing Pink Stork’s Liquid Gold tea. I drink 1-3 cups of tea a day and saw a boost in my daily production within 24 hours of starting the tea.

What I especially love about Pink Stork’s Liquid Gold is that it is delicious hot or cold, and cold tea is so refreshing here in the desert during the blazing hot summers. I highly recommend this tea for any moms like me who are under-producers and looking for a significant boost in milk production. (Before starting, be sure to discuss this with your doctor.)

Even now at fourteen weeks postpartum when I am consistently pumping between 38oz-42oz a day, I make sure to have at least 1 cup a day… Sometimes two!

7. Replicate cluster feeding when pumping.

If you research increasing milk supply via pumping on the internet, you will find tons and tons of sites and forums tell you to:

  • pump more often
  • pump for longer
  • have a “pump in” over the weekend where you basically pump all the time

Come on. How is this even realistic? I was already pumping every 3 hours on a very, very rigid schedule. I tried making my pumping sessions longer, but it was not working.

My nipples were red, blistery and each pumping session was so painful that I often cried. There was absolutely no way I could do a mega-pump or pump-in over the weekend. (Not to mention, I also had a toddler to care for!)

While pumping, I read a lot and I stumbled upon cluster feeding. Newborns especially but all babies go through periods of dramatic growth (physically and developmentally) at somewhat predictable intervals. (All babies are unique, so some may hit a “growth spurt” earlier or later than others.)

In the days leading up to a growth spurt, babies often switch from a regular eating pattern to what is called cluster feeding. It is when baby, usually in the evenings, eats in ravenous bunches. They may be fussy, hard to console, and consume more milk than usual.

For moms who nurse, they may find that during these periods, baby always wants to be at the breast. This almost-constant nursing by baby triggers the mother’s body to produce more milk. (Think supply and demand. The baby is demanding more milk so the breasts up production.) Babies need this “extra” food to help nourish the physical or development growth spurt.

That is when it dawned on me: us pumping mamas can replicate that cluster feeding and coax our bodies into producing more milk.

Click here to download my Seven Simple Steps to Increasing Your Milk Supply

Here is how I replicated cluster feeding via cluster pumping and dramatically increased my own milk supply:

  • Use a double electric pump. I use Medela Pump-in-Style, available in Tote or Backpack or Metro Bag, but any powerful double pump will do.
  • Pump on a regular schedule every 2-3 hours.
  • Pump 6-8 times within a 24-hour period.
  • Choose 3-4 pumping sessions a day to mimic cluster feeding:
    • Pump for 10 minutes.
    • Take a break for 5 minutes.
    • Pump for 10 minutes.
    • Take a break for 5 minutes.
    • Pump for 10 minutes.
  • Continue for 2-4 days in a row.
  • Take a 3-4 day break (return to your usual pumping routine).
  • Repeat.

Don’t be discouraged. It takes time.

I discovered how to replicate cluster feeding about 4 weeks postpartum. It took eight weeks to go from a daily output of about 12 oz to 32-35 oz.

You have to be consistent in your pumping schedule. This may mean skipping a social event or taking your pump with you. I have pumped in single occupancy bathrooms, the car, the mother’s room at church, and other unusual places. I am no longer shy about saying: “Sorry, but I have to pump.”

If you are a working mom, you may have to get a bit creative with your schedule. Perhaps instead of cluster pumping in the middle of the day, you cluster pump in the evenings and at night before bed.

Many women find that they produce their largest haul in the morning. If you are getting enough sleep, try adding another early morning pumping session in, especially during the days you are cluster pumping, to take advantage of this “extra” milk.

So here are my three secret weapons: oats, lactation tea, and cluster pumping. In the next post I will share about cluster pumping in more detail and provide an example schedule.

These simple seven steps helped me to increase my milk supply from barely 8oz a day to 32-35 oz a day in just eight weeks! Pumping is hard. So whether you are a part-time pumper or, like me, are an exclusive pumper, it can be very hard to ensure that your supply keeps up with your little one’s needs.

It is my hope that these steps will help you increase or maintain your milk supply as they have helped me.

As of this writing, I am fourteen weeks postpartum and I’m consistently pumping 38-42oz a day. I have returned to work full-time outside the home and am building up a freezer stash with about 5-6oz a day!

If I can do it, you can too. Don’t give up yet.

Pump on, Mama!
~Jacquelyn


Do you have a low supply? Are you a pumping mama? I want to hear from you! Share your story, your frustrations, your victories by commenting below, emailing me personally, or on my Facebook page.




10 Favorite Baby and Toddler Products from Amazon

10 Favorite Baby and Toddler Products from Amazon

Disclosure: The links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission for purchases. Learn more. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog.

Our oldest son is just a few months shy of his second birthday and our youngest is now three months. Where does the time go? When you are in the midst of the newborn stage, it may seem like the days last forever, but once you reach the toddler age, it seems as if time is flying by. Peanut, our oldest, is now forming very basic sentences, holding conversations, able to answer questions, and follow simple instructions. Pickle, our youngest, is starting to smile, coo, and try to grab ahold of things like his blanket or bottle.

Over the last two years, we have made quite a few purchases specifically for our children that we absolutely love. To find quality products at affordable prices, we often turn to Amazon. We like that delivery is timely, and we have not had any items arrive damaged. When you are a parent with toddlers and/or babies, ordering from Amazon is often easier and more cost effective than trying pack up the kids to drive to brick-and-mortar stores.

So if you have little ones of your own or looking for gift ideas, I want to share with you ten of our favorite baby and toddler products that we either purchased from or are now available on Amazon.

Boppy Nursing Pillow
We added the Boppy Nursing Pillow to our baby registry at the recommendation of a friend who loved hers. Ours has been used for many, many things but, unfortunately, rarely breastfeeding! (Read Our Breastfeeding Journey and Breastfeeding Challenges, Round 2.) I must say that the boppy pillow was an arm saver during our second son’s extremely fussy newborn stage. I spread a large receiving blanket over the pillow and was able to lay him down on the pillow next to me when my arms got tired. I am so glad that we had this pillow!

 

SwaddleMe Slumber Buddies, Elephant Soother and Sound Machine
When it comes to a soother and sound machine, there are so many choices out there. We saw this adorable elephant soother that plays three different lullabies, the sound of running water, and a heartbeat in addition to projecting the stars and the moon on the ceiling. We have used the music/sounds with both boys to help them fall asleep, and now our oldest also loves staring up at the stars projected on the ceiling.

 

BabyBjorn
If you are looking for a baby carrier, I tried four different carriers and wraps with our first son before settling on the BabyBjorn Carrier Original. We live in the Arizona desert, and in the summer temperatures often reach 110-115 degrees for days (even weeks) at a time. Wraps with tons and tons of fabric was miserably hot for me and our baby. I came close to overheating once! The BabyBjorn also provides a sense of safety and security that the I did not have with the wraps. As for carriers, it is one of the more affordable, especially if you wait for a deal online or find one in good condition at a local secondhand store.

 

Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker
My parents actually purchased this for us, and we are so grateful! This chair was helpful with our first son and a lifesaver with our second! It rocks or locks in a reclined position, and has a nice vibration that helps lulls fussy babies to sleep. Even our toddler likes to climb into it (as long as his baby brother is not already there). I highly recommend the Fisher-Price Infant-to-Toddler Rocker, and it comes in multiple color choices and fabric patterns.

Mom’s Choice: If I had to narrow down my recommendation to just one item, it would be this vibrating rocker. It was tremendously helpful for both of our sons during their infant stage. It is also lightweight and relatively small. We have taken it with us many times while visiting family, especially if we plan to stay all day.

 

Baby Adjustable Head Shoulder Safety Pad
When our oldest started standing, we gave him the nickname “Mr. Wobbles” because he was so unsteady and often fell. After a few hard bonks on the head, we knew we had to find something! We searched and eventually decided to give this adorable head and shoulder pad a try. It worked like a charm! Our son continued to tumble while learning to stand and then walk, but this pad saved his little noggin!

 

 

Tommee Tipee Bibs
We tried many, many different types of bibs, but on the recommendation of our cousins, we gave Tommee Tippee waterproof silicone bibs a try. I absolutely love them! We ended up getting four so both set of grandparents could keep one at their respective houses and we have two at home. These bibs are waterproof, which makes them super easy to clean, and the large scoop shape at the end of the bib catches food and beverages. No kid is ever going to be super clean (Where is the fun in that?) but this does help contain the mess and makes clean up a breeze. Bonus: you don’t have to throw these bibs in the laundry!

Dad’s Choice: My husband absolutely loves the Tommee Tippee waterproof silicone bibs and highly recommends them. He does the laundry in our household and is also a stay-at-home dad, so he understands the value in a fast and easy clean up after meal time! I cannot believe we went 17 months without these amazing bibs.

 

NorthStates SuperYard
If you need some way to contain your crawling baby or walking toddler, I highly recommend NorthStates SuperYard. We initial bought ours after brainstorming what we might need when we were taking our oldest camping for the first time. You can use it indoors or outside! We even put our SuperYard with gate to good use dividing our living room area from the kitchen/dining room areas in order to allow our children a dog-free zone to play. (And to provide our poor old dog some much needed relief from the kids!)

 

 

Eric Carle Bear Backpack, Children’s Safety Harness
I am going to be honest. When my husband first suggested getting our oldest one of those backpacks with a leash, I bulked at the idea. But after our son slipped from my grasp twice and immediately ran towards the neighbor’s driveway and the street, I knew we needed someway to help him learn to “stay with Mama” or “stay with Dada” that would not put his life in danger. Especially when the new baby arrived! So we purchased this adorable backpack. We have used it a dozen times so far, and usually in places where we wanted to allow him the freedom to walk on his own but needed to ensure he stayed close to us for his own safety.

 

Dreambaby Blind Cord Wind Ups
The house we are renting uses old plastic blinds with long cords. Two blinds in particular — one in our boys’ room and one in the living room — pose potential safety risks as our oldest can now reach the dangling cords when standing on his bed or the couch. We knew we needed to get those cords up and out of his reach. Not sure what would work, we gave the Dreambaby Blind Cord Wind Ups a try. Because our cords are extra long, we have to use two of the wind ups per window, but it secures the cords high out of our son’s reach. We just have to remember to pull above the wind ups if we need to lift/open the blinds. Still, for a very affordable price, this safety tool is very useful.

Dream On Me Deluxe Toddler Day Bed
We knew we needed to transition our oldest son to his own big boy bed before the baby arrived, so we searched and searched for the perfect toddler bed at nice price. Eventually, we discovered the Dream On Me Deluxe Toddler Day Bed. Not only is it a good size that he can grow into, but it has a divided drawer underneath. In a house that has very limited storage, the drawer was a nice bonus. Peanut loves his bed, especially climbing in and out of it.

What is or was your favorite(s) baby or toddler purchase? Share in the comments!

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Disclosure: One of the links below is an affiliate link, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission when you click through and make a purchase. I use this product myself on a daily basis. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.

For those familiar with Our Breastfeeding Journey, you already know that we experienced some challenges breastfeeding with our first son Peanut. It began due to his tiny size at birth (only 4 lbs 11 oz) and a very severe tongue tie. To provide breastmilk for him, I pumped from day one and during his growth spurts we had to supplement. He was able to finally nurse on his own by thirteen weeks old, though I continued to primarily pump because I was working full time. I was able to provide breastmilk until my supply dried up on its own at ten months, right around when we conceived our second son.

Our adorable son, Pickle, is now two months old!

I wish I could tell you that this time our breastfeeding journey was easier, but in some ways it was even harder. The first week and half went great. Pickle latched and nursed right away, and his latch was good. Yet when he was a week and half, we started noticing that he would spend 45 minutes on just one breast, fall asleep often during nursing, and would cry hysterically when awake as if he was still hungry. At our two week appointment, we discovered Pickle had not gained any weight. He was born 6 lbs 10 oz, but at two weeks old was 6 lbs 3 oz. The pediatrician was concerned because he had not even regained his birth weight.

We had to start formula feeding right away, and the pediatrician wanted to see him in two days. Two days later, he was 6 lbs 13 oz. We were relieved!

But I was also devastated… again.

Because Pickle latched and we thought he was nursing well, I had allowed myself to believe that this time I would be able to breastfeed and would only need to pump to build a freezer stash for when I returned to work. Unfortunately, Pickle was not draining the milk. This caused two problems: he was not getting the fatty milk to gain weight and my body was getting the signal to make less milk because there was “extra” being left. At two weeks, when I started pumping regularly, I barely was getting 2 oz a session. My supply was almost non-existent!

Baby Pickle at one month old.
Our adorable little Pickle at one month old.

I tried every trick in the book to increase my supply. I pumped long, I pumped frequently, I drank herbal teas, I drank tons of water, I ate foods with oats (and I absolutely detest oatmeal, but I forced myself to start eating it), I even began taking fenugreek tablets and adding milk thistle to some juice. Exhausted and sore, I was still barely getting 2 oz a session. Then I started getting dizzy spells and, after researching, discovered I must be one of the very rare individuals who experience side effects when taking fenugreek. I stopped taking it.

With Pickle not even a month old, I broke down and nearly gave up completely. At this time, Pickle was 90% formula fed and I was pumping so little milk that I came very close to just quitting. Was this torture worth it? Nothing I was doing seemed to be making a difference, and pumping takes so much time and was painful.

You might be thinking: “Why don’t you just let the baby nurse? If he is hungry enough, he’ll figure it out.” When we were forced to introduce bottles, Pickle completely refused to nurse again. I tried many, many, many times, but he completely stopped nursing. Putting him to breast only resulted in him shaking his head from side to side violently and crying hysterically. It was heartbreaking. For my own sake, I had to stop pushing.

In addition to the stress of a low milk supply and him not wanting to nurse anymore, Pickle was not an easy going newborn. He refused to sleep at night and often cried unconsolably for long periods of time. Usually these crying sessions were between 8pm and 1am! And when he did finally fall asleep, he would sleep for only an hour or hour and a half. At the same time, our older son Peanut started getting his molars and was also not sleeping well. There were many days where I barely managed to get 2 or 3 hours of sleep… and not in one nice deep sleep. Oh, no. It was ten minutes here, twenty minutes there, etc.

Due to the lack of sleep, the stress of an unconsolable newborn, hardly producing any milk, a teething toddler, and a few other stressors, I was quickly spiraling towards postpartum depression. But more on that in a future post!

We managed to push through with many tears thanks to the prayers of our family and closest friends and also a shipment of breastmilk from Bradley’s cousin-in-law, whose own baby is a few months older than Pickle. He still needed a little supplementing with soy formula at night, but her generosity ensured that Pickle was getting the benefits of some breastmilk during the crucial early weeks when I was hardly making any at all. Since then, we have gotten a second shipment. We are so grateful!

Then I found a method of pumping that replicates a baby’s cluster feeding before and during a growth spurt and encourages the body to produce more milk. I also ate lots of oats every day in the form of Nature’s Path Gluten-free Oatmeal, General Mills Cheerios, and a new probiotic almond/cashew milk with oats by Silk. (Mind you, oats and I have a love-hate relationship. I have to eat them for milk production, but oats cause me considerable digestive discomfort.) Very slowly, day by day, half an ounce here and there, my supply began to increase.

Pickle at two months. Photo by Jacquelyn.
Pickle at two months old! He tends to be a very serious-looking baby.

At almost nine weeks, I am now pumping 19-20 oz a day on average, though I am still trying to get more since Pickle is eating 35+ oz each day now. At a little over two months old, Pickle eats everything I pump, about 8-10 oz of frozen milk from our cousin-in-law, and 5-10 oz of soy formula a day. During growth spurts, he gets more formula. My prayer and goal is to continue pumping whatever I can until he is ten months old (the same age Peanut was when he weaned), but we just have to take it one day at a time.

So it seems that pumping — as tiring, frustrating, and sometimes painful as it is — is our normal.

Being completely honest, there are times when I want to just throw in the towel altogether. Pumping is not fun, it is time consuming, and it is not convenient.

First, you need to buy a heavy duty double electric pump if you don’t already have one. I personally use Medela’s Pump-in-Style (Tote) but there are many other pumps on the market. You lose precious sleep to pump during the night, and during the day you have to plan every little task and activity around your pumping schedule. Need to run an errand? I have to pump right before leaving and right when we get back or I have to pack up the big double electric pump and find 15 minutes to hide in a bathroom to pump for 15 minutes. Delaying or missing a pumping session immediately affects my milk supply, which means I have to pump twice as long the next time to compensate or risk a blocked milk duct and engorgement. (This is extremely painful!)

So… Yeah. I, unfortunately, am one of those women who has to pump if I want my babies to get any of my milk. I just have to remind myself that it is ok and every little bit helps.

Mind you, this is not an anti-formula post. Pickle gets at least one 5 oz bottle of formula a day, sometimes two during growth spurts. I understand even better now the very valid reasons why some women must or choose to formula feed their babies. Not every woman can produce enough milk on their own, or perhaps they have to return to work at three or six weeks, or maybe their workplace is not accommodating for pumping moms. Some women dislike breastfeeding, it can be painful or emotionally challenging for them.

What I am saying is that all reasons are valid reasons and you are a wonderful mother no matter what path your journey takes. You need to do what is right for you and your baby.

For me, I always wanted to breastfeed so not being able to do so with both of my children is disappointing. A dream has been completely shattered and it takes time to sort through the pieces. What truly matters, though, is that the children are well-fed and well loved. Breastfeeding challenges are not talked about often in our society, but they are actually fairly common around the world! I decided to share the details of our personal struggles to let other women who may also be experiencing challenges know that you are not alone, it is ok whatever route you take to feed your baby, and you are an amazing mother.

Our Breastfeeding Journey

Tofu Noodle Soup

Tofu Noodle Soup

Tofu Noodle Soup. Photo by Jacquelyn.
A brothy bowl of Tofu Noodle Soup.

It is spring, though it feels like the beginning of summer here in the desert of Arizona. Lately, soup has been sounding delicious to me and my family. Homemade tomato soup, lentil soup, vegetable soup, dill stew with rosemary dumplings… All kinds of soup!

Today I am going to share with you an easy recipe for Tofu Noddle Soup, a vegan take on the classic Chicken Noodle Soup. This soup of protein packed, filled with yummy vegetables, and has tasty broth great for sore throats.

Tofu Noodle Soup by Jacquelyn Van Sant

Gluten-free, vegan

Ingredients

5 sticks of celery, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 block firm tofu, diced
1/2 cup of peas
1 bag of House Foods Tofu Shirataki Noodles, Fettuccine Shaped*
1 can navy beans (aka northern beans or white beans)
5-6 chard leaves, sliced
1 or 2 vegetable bullion cubes (Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon with Herbs or similar vegan bouillon)
Salt
Garlic powder
Dill
Green curry seasoning (The Gourmet Collection’s Thai Style Green Curry or something similar), optional

Instructions

Using a large soup pot, add 6 cups of water and the vegetable bullion cube(s). Add the diced vegetables, tofu, and peas and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the bag of tofu noodles, can of navy beans, and additional salt, garlic powder, dill, and curry seasoning (if desired) to taste.

Lower cooking temperature to medium, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables (particularly the carrots) are at the right softness/firmness you desire. Add the chard, stir, and simmer for five minutes.

*You can substitute other noodles but it may change the cook time. I have not tried this recipe with regular wheat pasta noodles nor with gluten-free rice noodles myself.

Servings: 4-6


Allergy Warning

Please check all ingredients for possible allergens before preparing for someone with a food allergy or sensitivity.

The nice thing about this easy recipe is that it is very customizable. You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Soup is also a great way to use vegetables that are starting to get a little old and are beginning to lose their crispness. For us, that is usually the celery. We never seem to be able to go through celery fast enough. Preparation (dicing the fresh vegetables) takes about 5 minutes, give or take, but you opt for frozen vegetables if you are in a hurry. Cook time is between 15 and 20 minutes.

Our 19 month old loves soup, especially soups and stews filled with beans and vegetables. He thoroughly enjoyed this Tofu Noodle Soup, which we ate last night outside on the back patio with a cool evening breeze and gorgeous desert sunset.

What is your favorite soup recipe?

15 Simple Ways to Save A Little Money

15 Simple Ways to Save A Little Money

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission when you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.

Like many families, we made the choice to live — at least currently— on a single income so my husband is able to stay home with our fifteen-month-old son. Our income, after taxes and health insurance, manages to covers our monthly tithes, bills, and routine expenses. Sometimes we even have a little left over for savings. (Praise the Lord, what a blessing!)

Unfortunately, the last few months of 2017 were a little harder on our budget than we had planned for. We had a few unexpected car maintenance issues in September and October that depleted our Vehicle Maintenance Fund and forced us to use part of our Emergency Fund. (I am certain many of you can relate to that!) There was also an eight-day family vacation in November and special events for family and friends (birthdays, baby showers, holidays, etc).

Needless to say, it is not always easy to stay in budget when emergencies happen. We completely understand and empathize with the need for individuals and families to find creative ways to save. So I have put together 15 simple ways to save a little money on the side. You might just be surprised how a few dollars here and there does add up!

1. Make and take your lunch

Whether you work outside the home or not, it is too easy to slip into a pattern of buying lunch. An average meal can cost between $5 and $14 depending on the quality of the restaurant you go to. You also have to be careful of extra expenses for utilizing “convenience” stores and/or vending machines. The cost of microwave-ready meals adds up, too. Making and taking your lunch can save you a lot of money each month.

The lunches you make do not have to be fancy. This is a great way to get rid of leftovers, eat more salads, and help with your health/fitness goals. Invest in a nice microwave dish or mini-crockpot warmer (like this one), a water bottle, and a lunch bag and you will be on your way to saving!

2. Avoid frequent dining out

In the same vein as the previous tip, avoid dining out as much as possible. Yes, dining out can be a lot of fun if you enjoy trying new foods, going to new places, or have a few favorites you enjoy visiting. However, dining out is an expensive hobby! A family of four can easily spend over $60 plus 15-20% in tip at just one meal. Even if you opt for cheaper fast food instead of a finer dining experience, you will find yourself wasting money on poor quality food that will leave you hungry just a little while later.

Save the dining out experience for special occasions, limit the number of times per month you allow yourself to go out to dining (for example: twice a month), or give yourself a very strict dining out budget per week (for example: $10 or $20 a week).

You will be amazed with how much you can save just from eating at home. In many cases — since restaurants and fast food relay so heavily on extra salt and fats to give food flavor — you will also end up make healthier meal choices at home and feeling better.

3. Find cheap or free events/activities for social gatherings with family and friends

Food is often how we interact with family and friends, but it does not have to be the go-to social activity. Check out your local newspaper for free or cheap community events and/or activities you can go to instead. Have a family fun day and picnic at a local city park, take a walk through a nature preserve, go for a hike at a nearby state park, ride bikes around the neighborhood. Look into free movie tickets or discount days at local museums. Take classes, borrow books, rent movies, and more at your public library.

There are so many fun options out there that have nothing to do with food but will make wonderful memories!

4. Drink more water!

Did you know that most American adults are chronically dehydrated? (Source) It may be surprising when you consider how much liquid we tend to consume on a daily basis between all the coffee, tea, soda, juices, etc. Think of all of the money you can save if you cut back on these other, more expensive beverages that are not properly hydrating you anyway and, instead, drink more water. Our bodies function best with good old H2O, which is often free from your tap!

I highly encourage you to have your tap water tested to ensure its quality. It may be worth the initial cost to invest in a water filter or filtration system, as you will be saving money in the long run by not having to buy bottled water.

Or, if you are like us, find a family member or friend who does have a great water filtration system already and see if you can use their water. We visit my parents once or twice a week anyway, so we take empty water jugs with us and fill them up with their delicious, filtered water to use for drinking and cooking. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

5. Shop at dollar stores and discount grocery stores

Have you checked out the dollar stores and discount grocers near you? What about farmers’ markets and ethnic shops? These stores can save you quite a bit each month on your regular staples: breads, cereals, rice, beans, and sometimes even fruits and vegetables. There are some items that you will have to get at the bigger stores no matter what, but look at the local flyers that come in the mail for sales and discounts to know when and where to shop.

If you have a favorite grocery store, see if they have a rewards program that can save you a couple of dollars each trip, send you coupons on items you actually buy regularly, and maybe even give you a discount at the gas pump. I love that our main grocery store, Fry’s (aka Krogers), does all three!

As an individual who has food allergies and sensitivities, I highly recommend reading ingredients carefully and making wise food purchases. In my experience, it is often better to go without something then to risk a handful of sick and miserable days.

6. Make shopping lists and stick to them

This is something we struggle with so I definitely need to take my own advice here! When we make a shopping list — whether for groceries or regular shopping — we do a much better job of buying items we actually need and avoiding the impulse purchases that tend to cause the bill to jump up.

A bonus tip: try not to go grocery shopping when hungry! Your hunger may influence you into splurging on pre-packaged snacks and more items than you really need.

7. Buy used or secondhand

Buying used or secondhand is a great way to save a little money. We like to buy temporary clothes secondhand; for example, almost all of my maternity clothes were gently used from a secondhand store since I only need these clothes for a short amount of time. Likewise, we get most of our son’s clothes secondhand because he is growing so fast!

We also keep an eye out for toys that do not have small parts, are not broken, and can be easily sanitized. Why spend $30-$60 on a set of megablocks when you can get the same number of blocks (or more) in a bag at a thrift store for $2-$5?

8. Cancel unused memberships and subscriptions

Do you belong to a gym but never (or hardly ever) go? Are you paying for magazines that you never read and just end up cluttering your house? Do you have an annual membership to any online sites that you no longer regularly visit? Take a moment to really consider if these and other memberships/subscriptions you might have are truly worth the money you are paying for them.

If you find you do not use the gym, read the magazines, or visit the websites often, then it is time to cancel! While some subscriptions may only be $10 or so a year, others could be as much as $10-20 a month. That is a lot of savings when you do the math. Every little bit saved adds up.

9. Fix things yourself when possible

The toilet is running, a faucet is leaking, the car’s fluids need checked and refilled, the tires are a bit low on air, your favorite shirt lost a button, your socks have a hole in the toe… There are plenty of ways you can save a few dollars when you decide to try your hand at doing small projects yourself.

If you really put your mind to it, many things you can do without having to be a super handy or crafty person. When something breaks, I highly recommend doing a little research online with your favorite search engine or YouTube first to see if it is something you can fix yourself. (Like we did with our $3 Faucet fix!) If you can, great! If you cannot, then at least you tried.

10. Cut your own hair

Ok, so this may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is worth a try. According to the Professional Beauty Assocation, the average cost nationally for a man’s hair cut is about $28 and $43 for a woman’s hair cut; however, the price may be lower or significantly higher depending upon where you live and the salon you visit. If you are not fussy about your hair nor have a complex style to maintain, you could save a little money by cutting your own hair.

For men, it might be as simple as investing in a razor/clipper set like this Adjustable Fast Feed Clipper from Oster. For ladies, a pair of hair cutting scissors and a virtual trip to YouTube can provide you with guidance on trimming bangs or fast and easy ways to do your own layers!

I have been trimming my own bangs and cutting my own hair for about two years now. As long as I am not in a rush, it turns out fine. (Thanks, YouTube!) We did try trimming my husband’s hair at home. Unfortunately, his hair is soooooo thick that even professionals have a hard time getting it right. After two different attempts, we decided it was better for him to get it cut professionally by the one stylist who knows how to do it well.

11. Turn off lights and electronics when not in use

Anyone else feeling a little nostalgic for those childhood days when your mom would constantly remind you: “Turn off the light in the bathroom/closet/bedroom/hall if you’re not in there!” Well, your mom had an excellent point. Turning off lights and also electronics when not in use will save you a little on your electric bill. You can unplug kitchen appliances like toasters and coffee makers to prevent phantom power usage, and also cellphone and tablet chargers in the living room or bedroom.

Always use surge protectors for those electronics that need to stay plugged in, especially your more expensive ones like televisions, computers, etc. There are now such things as smartstrips, like this one from Amtake, that will help you save even more by designing a specific device (like your television) that is a “master”. When it is turned off, all of the other devices associated with it are also powered down (blu-ray player, stereo, etc.).

12. Hang clothes to dry

If you have both a washing machine and a dryer in your home, you may have already wondered how energy efficient these machines are. Depending upon how often you need to do laundry each week, these conveniences may be causing your monthly electric bill to be higher than necessary.

If you want to save a few dollars on your electric bill, hang your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer. Our machines are in a small “laundry closet” in our main hallway. The closet does not have doors so we hung curtains so we can hide the closet when we have visitors. The curtain rod provides a perfect place to hang shirts to dry. We also have a collapsible drying rack we got from a second-hand store that we can easily pop up in any room to dry pants, socks, unmentionables, etc. Ours is much, much older, but here is a similar one. If you can, use a clothes line outdoors to let your clothes to also get that amazing fresh air smell.

13. Run AC/Heater only when necessary

If you live in an older house like we do, then your AC/heater may not be energy efficient either. We never use the heater in the winter, but instead have two space heaters that we use to heat the front and back parts of our house. The space heaters allow us to set temperatures, time limits, and really control where the heat is going to limit the drain on our electricity.

For safety, never let a space heater run unattended. I also recommend buying a new heater, not used, and preferably one with an automatic shut-off if it is tipped or falls over. Use a surge protector. Never place a heater near anything flammable, such as curtains or bedsheets. Watch children and pets around the heater, both to prevent burns and tipping.

In the summer, we wait as long as possible before turning on the AC (and we live in the desert of Arizona where summer temperatures often top 115 degrees). Open doors and windows to air out the house. Fresh air is so important! While my husband and I could probably go longer without the AC, we do have an elderly dog and a young child to taken into consideration.

14. Have a change jar for corralling lose coins

Loose coins. We may not give a lot of thought to these little circular pieces of currency, but quarters, dimes, nickels and, yes, even pennies, do add up over time. Instead of dropping those coins on the kitchen counter or bedside table or letting them accumulate under couch cushions, grab a large jar and deposit the coins in there.

Personally, I like clear jars so I can watch it fill up over time. When it is full, take it to your local bank to have your money deposited in your savings. The last time we took a huge jar to the bank, we ended up with almost $60 worth of coins! What a savings!

15. Pop your own popcorn

This last tip is more for fun, but it could also save you a few dollars. Next time you want to enjoy some fresh popcorn, make it yourself instead of using the more expensive microwaveable kind. A bag of kernels, oil, and salt is a lot cheaper and will last a good deal longer. You can use an air popper, pot with a lid on the stove, or even a brown paper bag in the microwave!

Last year on a camping trip with the youth club my husband and I volunteer with, I experimented with popcorn over a campfire and it was not only delicious, but a hilarious experience. The first batch popped everywhere and the kids were very amused. The second batch stayed (mostly) in the pan. Since then, I have cooked popcorn on the stove at home twice. It is a lot of fun and we still have not used the entire bag of kernels yet!

So here are 15 simple ways to save a little money on the side. There are so many more ways that I did not even touch on. I would love to hear from you! What are some little ways you save money?

The Challenges of Pumping

The Challenges of Pumping

Long before I had children of my own, I knew I wanted to breastfeed any children I might have. I did not know what that would look like in a practical sense, I just figured breastfeeding was natural so it would happen smoothly. I was optimistically naive.

After our son was born, I discovered that breastfeeding is not always smooth. Due to complications, I pumped exclusively for the first three months… Well, almost exclusively. There were two different short periods where we had to supplement with formula and fortified goat’s milk.

Around the time our son was finally able to nurse on his own, I went back to work full time so I continued to pump during the day and nursed overnight and in the mornings.

I am going to be blunt: pumping is hard.

No, seriously.

There is no way to sugar-coat the reality that pumping, whether exclusively or routinely during working hours, can seem to be an insurmountable challenge wrapped in many obstacles and sprinkled with discouragement.

But through it all, I am so grateful I was able to pump for ten months.

I was fortunate in many ways:

1. I had 9 weeks of complete maternity leave and then 3 weeks of part-time before returning to work full-time. Many women here in the United States only get three weeks and any additional days their saved vacation and sick hours might provide.

The wellness room at my office and my Medela Pump-in-Style (Tote).

2. My office has a private wellness room with a lock, power outlet, side table, and comfortable chair that was perfect for pumping, and occasionally when someone else was using the wellness room, I had access to a private unisex bathroom with an power outlet and long counter. Many women do not have a private place to pump and have to make do with storage rooms or their cars. Or the only room available is a long distance from their actual place of work.

3. Most days, unless there were multiple meetings, I was able to pump three times throughout my work day for twenty minutes each. Many women are limited by rigid work schedules and can only use their regular ten-minute breaks (if they get breaks at all) and lunch time.

4. My supervisor was very supportive of my decision to pump and as considerate of the time I needed as a boss could be. On very busy days, I would take a small work laptop with me to the wellness room to continue working while I pumped. On light days, I used the pumping time to relax or doze. Many women do not have supportive supervisors/managers and are pressured into stopping pumping (and often complete breastfeeding) earlier then they intended.

To all of the mothers out there who have chosen to pump in order to provide breastmilk for their infants, you have my greatest respect and sympathies. No matter if it was for a month or a year, you sacrificed many hours worth of sleep, many comforts, and suffered indignities and awkward moments for your precious child. He or she may never fully understand your sacrifice, but let me speak on their behalf: “Thank you!” and “It is worth it.”

To give everyone a small glimpse into what life is like when you are pumping, here are some challenges that a pumping mother faces.

+ Hearing variations of the “You’re not breastfeeding?” question (often accompanied by looks of disapproval) whenever you pull out a bottle of your own milk to feed the baby in public.

+ Trying to avoid the unsolicited follow-up advice on how to get your baby to breastfeed, as if you have not tried everything already.

+ Having to lug a pump and all of its accessories (bottles, caps, cleaning wipes, etc.) around with you every time you leave the house because you have to pump every 2-3 hours to provide enough food for your baby and to keep your supply from dropping.

+ Trying to find a private place to pump while away from the house and feeling very awkward because it takes 15-20 minutes just to pump. Flanges, bottles, tubes, etc. is not as easy to unpack and pack again and require rinsing/cleaning to stay sanitary.

+ Having to spend money on enough bottles and nipples to cover pumping and storage, plus a bottle brush, special soap that breaks down the residue breastmilk leaves behind, and a rack for drying everything.

+ Losing even more sleep than usual because, after feeding the hungry baby a bottle, you have to go spend about half an hour pumping… every 2-3 hours.

+ Figuring out how to even use the pump, what size flanges to use, how low/high to have the suction, etc. Reading tutorials and guides online do not always help and it is often a process of (painful) trial and error.

+ Having to miss visits with family and friends or fun outings because of either your pumping schedule or because you forget an important piece of your pump. Did I mention you have to pump every 2-3 hours? Oh, I did.

+ Using lots of nipple cream to ease the soreness.

+ Experiencing engorgement if you don’t pump often enough, blocked ducts, blebs (milk blisters) and real blisters. Crying into your pillow or in the shower because of the pain.

+ Being forced to skip a pumping session, then suffering from the pressure of the milk building up in your breasts or leaking.

+ Constantly worrying if your baby is getting enough, tracking the milk expressed down to the milliliter or ounce, and fretting when a pumping session results in less milk then usual.

+ Doing tons of research and trying so many things… including herbal teas… every time your milk supply decreases in an often futile effort to reach whatever time goal you had for breastfeeding. And every time you think you can stretch the time between pumps to four hours, your supply plummets and you desperately go back to every 2-3 hours.

+ All those awkward moments: lugging a heavy pump with you everywhere you go, sitting in your car with a small hand pump trying to express milk while your hand cramps and milk spills because you cannot keep it suctioned right, or sitting in the nursery at church trying to pump really quickly so your crying baby can eat and people (including men) keep walking in to “talk”.

 

Every woman’s experience is unique. Some women have amply supply of milk and do not have to pump as frequently. Some women, like myself, struggle with low supply. Some women are able to push through the obstacles and make it to their breastfeeding goals. Others are forced by their circumstances to stop breastfeeding early.

No matter your situation, I want you to know that you are a wonderful mother. Pumping is hard, and yet there are many women who are courageous and selfless enough to face the many challenges, whether due to circumstances or choice.

At least for me, it was all worth it. And I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. In fact, I might have to do it all over again with Baby #2.

Update: Yes, I had to pump again with Baby #2. Read more about our Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two, and How I increased my milk supply in 8 weeks.

To those who have never had to pump, let me just give you a little word of advice: next time you see a mother give her infant a bottle, don’t judge. First of all, you have no idea what the food in the bottle is. It could be expressed breastmilk or it could be formula, and either one is absolutely fine.

You also have no idea the emotional rollercoaster that mother has been experiencing since the birth of her child. One judgmental look or condescending comment can literally be the nudge that pushes her over the edge of discouragement and into depression.

If you really care about that new mother, ask if there is anything you can do to help ease her burdens. Offer to come over to clean her bathroom(s) or cook dinner or vacuum the living room or watch her little one for an hour while she naps. That is how you show you care.

Camping with a baby

Camping with a baby

My husband and I love camping!

We usually camp on our own or with family and friends a few times a year. We also usually camp twice a year with our church’s Pathfinder Club. When our little one arrived last August, we knew that he would start camping with us pretty quickly. We want him to grow up loving the outdoors, exploring, and learning a respect for God’s creation.

Horton Creek in Arizona. Photo by Bradley Van Sant.
Lower Cascades along Horton Creek in Arizona. Photo by Bradley Van Sant.

On a recent Friday afternoon, we loaded up our vehicle, put our little one in his carseat, and drove two hours away to one of our favorite camping spots northeast of Payson, Arizona, and below the picturesque Mogollon Rim for a three-day, two-night camping trip.

This particular campsite is what is call an “established campground”, meaning that it has toilet facilities (little buildings with a hole in the ground but no sinks or showers), has a spicket for non-potable water, designated camping areas with picnic tables and metal fire-rings, and is maintained/monitored by a camp host.

For our first camping trip with an eight month old infant, it made sense to go to an established campground. We had the peace of mind that we were only about 20 minutes away from Payson proper and we could pack up quickly should we have to leave early. We also were figuring out how to pack our vehicle with less available space (carseat!) and more items (baby things!). In the end, we had to leave our canopy behind as it just did not fit this time.

Camping with a baby is easier than we thought it would be, and we were fairly positive about the experience going in. If you have been thinking about camping with your baby, do not be afraid trying it. All babies are different, but if you know your baby well and prepare, you may find camping with your baby is quite fun.

Mommy and baby posing at campsite in pine forest.
My little peanut and I after his first night sleeping in a tent.

As with all aspects of life after a baby, you do have to make adjustments to your plans to accommodate a little one. Here are nine tips based off what we learned while camping with our eight month old.

1. Clothing: Be prepared for the weather

It is always a good idea to know the weather forecast of the location you will be camping at, whether you are taking a baby or not, but with a baby, you need to be even more aware of weather.

Remember, out in nature, night time temperatures can vary significantly from day time temperatures. Babies lose body heat faster than adults, so you need to take the proper clothing for day and night. You also do not want to over-dress the baby and have them overheat. So I highly recommend packing clothes that can be layered.

Pack a hat or cap that fits closely over the baby’s head and, if possible, covers the ears. Hoodies are too lose around the head to keep body heat in. Also consider a floppy or wide-brim hat and sunglasses to protect the baby from the sun. We live in the southwest where the sun, even in spring time, can be quite intense, so sun protection is very important.

Long sleeves and long pants are important to protect against bugs, especially mosquitoes. Depending on the weather, you may need to pack little mittens or a snowsuit or rain jacket. And don’t forget the socks and shoes! Especially if the baby is at the crawling stage or likes to “walk” with assistance from Mom or Dad, you want them to have proper shoes so their tender feet are not getting cut by rocks.

Also remember that babies tend to get their clothes dirty fast. You should pack an extra set or two of clothes just in case of an explosive diaper or excessive spit up, but don’t sweat the little things like good old dirt. It is good for their budding immune system!

2. Food

If you are exclusively breastfeeding via nursing, just be sure to pack extra water and snacks for Mom and a comfortable place to sit (a camp chair) for those nursing sessions that will happen every 3-4 hours. Back support is important to keep the sore muscles away. If your baby is six months or older, try side-lying nursing in the privacy of your tent. In this position, babies have to be a certain size and have some head control to be able to reach the breast and nipple in a way that is comfortable to both of you.

If you are formula feeding, be sure you pack enough formula and filtered/sterile water to cover the usual amount of meals that your little one has during an average day. You may also want to take along whatever is necessary for cleaning the bottles. Hot, soapy water before washing the rest of your camp dishes works and so do the cleaning wipes.

Mommy using a heavy duty baby carrier.
Enjoying an easy Sabbath afternoon walk along Christopher Creek. Photo by Bradley Van Sant.

If your baby is old enough to eat solid food, pack some baby food and a spoon and try to keep on your regular schedule when it comes to how much or how frequently the baby gets the solid food.

For those moms who, like me, breastfeed via pumping, you want to make sure you pack your electric pump. Many come with a battery adapter. My Medela Pump-in-Style uses 8 AA batteries and runs through them very quickly so be sure to pack extra batteries. Or, the option I prefer, get yourself a power inverter (like this or something similar) to run your pump from your vehicle. If you do not have an electric pump, you can buy a less expensive hand pump for your camping trip. It is not as effective at emptying the milk completely as the electric pumps (more on my experience a little later). It can work in a pinch, though. No matter what type of pump you have, it may not always be feasible to clean your pump parts and accessories thoroughly in hot, soapy water. So be sure to pick up some cleaning wipes especially designed for getting breastmilk residue off breast pumps and accessories. Personally, I love Medela’s Cleaning Wipes and always keep a package in my pump tote.

Our son currently eats a combination of breast milk (pumped and nursing), formula (supplemental to the breastmilk when he is especially hungry), and solid foods. He has been improving in nursing on his own, and I thought we would be fine for the three days with the breastmilk I had pumped previously, a few bottles of formula (for emergencies), and the baby food so I took only a hand pump.

I regretted it.

While we had plenty of food for our son, I was in pain and discomfort by the end of the trip. Our little one was so excited that he had a hard time staying focused long enough to nurse (except during the night when he sleep-nurses), and the hand pump was not draining the milk completely. By Sunday morning, I had hard lumps in my breasts and the hand pump had caused some minor bleeding. So, in hindsight, if you are a mom who pumps exclusively or regularly, it is worth the hassle of taking your familiar electric pump with you.

Not draining the breast completely tells your body that demand for the milk has decreased so milk production will start to decrease. For nursing mothers, you can simply add a few extra nursing sessions in when you get home. But for those of us who rely on pumping, it can be a challenge to get our supply back. It is over a week since we returned, and I am only just getting my milk supply back up to pre-camping levels.

3. Diapers! Wipes!

When it comes to diapers, I recommend packing a few more than you think you will need. Our little one ate a little less on our trip and, therefore, had fewer messy diapers. However, it is better to be prepared then to find yourself needing one more diaper and not having one.

If you are cloth diapering, you will have to bring enough water to rinse the diapers and a wet storage bag for soiled diapers until you return home. If you are brave enough and have enough water, you can take soap, wash the diapers there, and let them dry in the sun.

If you are using disposable diapers, please dispose of them properly.

I also recommend bringing a baby wash cloth just in case you need to give the little one a sponge bath after a particular messy diaper or if they end up really dirty playing in the dirt. A plastic bin can double as a small bathtub if need be.

4. Somewhere safe to sleep.

Camping is a perfect example of co-sleeping. Co-sleeping basically means sleeping in close proximity to your child, but most people associate the term with bed-sharing.

Bed-sharing, where the child sleeps in the same bed as the parent(s), is actually only one type of co-sleeping. If you plan to bed-sharing while camping, you will need to be extra vigilant. Sleeping bags can be tight for one or two adults, and adding a little one can pose additional challenges. Sleeping bags can also be heavy so you need to be sure that the baby is not too restricted and can breathe.

However, if done correctly, bed-sharing while camping can be a wonderful experience for you and your baby.

To be honest, bed-sharing makes me a little nervous. Perhaps it is because I am a first-time mom. I don’t bed-share at home very often, and I did not plan to bed-share while camping. When it comes to co-sleeping, I prefer him to be in his own safe bed within arms reach.

Daddy posing with baby in nature.
A little bit of daddy and son time Sunday morning. Photo by Jacquelyn Van Sant.

So we brought the Moses basket from the bassinet we used when he was newborn to 5 months old. It is large, has sturdy sides, and good mattress to keep him off the ground. It also collapses flat! We put the Moses basket right next to my side of the air mattress in our tent.

It was cold at night so even with his super warm pajamas, I did have to swaddle him loosely with a blanket (arms free). He was very comfortable in the basket. I could see him every time I opened my eyes and I could easily pick him up for cuddles and night-time nursing. In the early morning hours, I did end up bringing him into the sleeping bag with me, but I kept him cradled in my arm and only lightly dozed.

If you do not have a suitable place for baby to sleep and do not want to bed-share, research travel bassinets, co-sleeper beds, etc. to find one that will fit your needs.

Just as at home, you need to create a safe sleeping environment and be vigilant with not allowing anything to obstruct your baby’s breathing. Ideally, dress baby in warm layers and avoid soft or heavy blankets, especially if your baby is unable to lift and turn their head on their own yet. Always put the baby on their back and on a firm surface without loose pillows, stuffed animals, or blankets near the face.

5. Somewhere to sit and play.

We were camping in a pine forest so the ground was littered with pine needles, pine cones, and rocks. W planned on stretching out an extra tarp, putting an old duvet cover down, and letting our son play on that with adult supervision. When we reached the campsite, we let our friends borrow the extra tarp and I did not want to put the duvet cover down directly on the dirt. We ended up holding our son the majority of the time. Fortunately, there were plenty of adults around to hand him to.

Before our next camping trip (hopefully next month!), we decided to buy a camping chair for babies. We bought Summer Infant Pop ‘N Sit Portable Highchair, because we wanted a chair that had a security belt for when he is very little, a real tray (not cloth), and that folds up. We will test this out the next time we camp, and I will update with whether or not it worked for us.

Update: We have used the Pop ‘N Sit Portable Highchair many times, including many picnics and another camping trip. It works quite well. The only thing that I dislike about it is that the leg “holes” are rather small but the buckle is attached to these so once our son’s legs were too think for the “holes”, we could not secure him in with the buckles. We just attached the tray and kept a close eye on him to make sure he did not climb out.

A tarp and blanket can work for a play area for younger babies. Our little one has mastered crawling, and he is extremely fast! Even with supervision, he is like a little bullet and he loves getting into everything. (I can just see him trying to eat pine needles and dirt…) So we also decided to invest in a North States Superyard with an easy access door. This “playard” can be used both indoor and outdoor, and we needed something for our living room anyway to keep him from getting himself into trouble while we are doing chores. The nice thing about this particular one is that it folds up and has a carrying strap, so it should be easy to take on our next camping trip.

Update: We love the Superyard, and we actually have it set up permanently to divide our living room from the kitchen area. This keeps the children (two under the age of two) and the dog separate and safe from each other.

As for playing, you do not need to bring a lot of toys to occupy the baby. Just being outdoors, somewhere new, and the regular hustle of camp activity will keep them occupied. Also, do not be too worried about the little one getting a little dirty. There is so much to see and touch!

6. If teething, bring whatever usually soothes baby with you.

If your baby is currently teething, you need to bring whatever it is that you usually use to soothe the pain. If it is teething toys, pacifier, clove gel, extra cuddles with Mom, or even baby medicine — baby will need relief from the pain in some way.

Squirrel sneaking seeds we left out for it.
One of the many squirrels that entertained us around camp. Photo by Bradley Van Sant.

Fortunately, if your baby is at the stage where he or she is alert, they will probably be easily distracted by the camping experience. Our little one was fascinated by everything. He watched the squirrels try to sneak snacks, the birds flittering here and there, the branches and leaves rustling in the wind, and other campers walking their dogs. (He loves animals.) So we only had to give him medicine once, and the rest of the time, he was fine with chewing on his pacifier and teething toys and the occasional clove gel on his gums.

If baby gets fussy, nurse, cuddle, or go for a little walk around the campgrounds to distract them.

7. A baby/toddler carrier

We took two different baby carriers along with us.

I used our BabyBjörn Original for keeping our son close while doing things around camp, for walks in the immediate area, and for a longer hike. He is getting close to outgrowing it, though.

We also tried out heavy-duty baby carrier for hiking. This carrier has a collapsible stand so you can load baby in the carrier before hoisting it to your back. There is a wide waist belt and a strip that goes over the chest to more evenly distribute the weight. It was very useful on one of the longer hikes along the creek, but I did find it was a challenge to hoist this carrier from the ground to my back by myself.

It was also useful as a chair when we were breaking down camp and loading the vehicle, since we did not have anywhere else to put our son when we were doing the tasks that required two people: getting the air out of the air mattress, shoving our double sleeping bag back into its carrying bag, and putting up our tent.

Our son, though, did not like this carrier as much. It could be because he was a tad small for it so he could not see well, or it could be because it was on my back and he has only ever been carried on my chest before this. Either way, this heavy-duty hiking carrier will take a few more times to get used to.

8. Adjust your schedule and activities.

We found that having our son with us meant that everything was done at a slower pace. Someone had to hold or wear the baby at all times and certain activities, like breaking down the tent and packing up the car, took twice as long as before because we had to take turns watching the baby. This slow pace was actually a blessing in disguise because I was able to really relax and enjoy the quiet serenity of the woods. There was no rush to go anywhere or do anything, but at the same time, I had to be a little more aware of the time in regards to how long it takes to prepare food.

Mommy hiking with a baby in a carrier on her back.
We love visiting the pine forests up near Payson, Arizona. Photo by Bradley Van Sant.

When we went for a walk by the creek, we had to make sure he was wearing socks and shoes and protected from the sun with a hat. It is logical, but if you have never had a baby with you on a trip before, you will find that your schedule needs more flexibility. I found myself going to bed and waking earlier than I usually do, even for camping trips.

Also remember that your little one has a routine and try to keep to that familiar schedule. Babies are quite adaptable, but familiarity does help them adjust to being outdoors. So if your baby naps at a regular time, eats at certain times, etc., plan your activities around the baby’s schedule.

9. Important odds and ends

If you are camping, you should always have a first aid kit. With a baby, you should add a few more items such as a nasal aspirator, a medicine dispenser/syringe, infant Tylenol or the equivalent medicine, and a baby thermometer.

Bring plenty of cleaning wipes for hands, faces, and bums — for you too! Mosquito netting may also be useful to bring to keep the pesky bugs away.

Have fun!

Most importantly, relax and have fun. Enjoy this special time out in nature with your little one. Sing! Sing! Sing! Babies love singing anyway, and singing and camping go hand in hand. Do not be shy. Sing away.

The Van Sant baby went camping at only 8 months old.
Our little one’s first time wear sneakers! Photo by Jacquelyn Van Sant.

If you do not sing, hum or tell silly stories. Narrate your activities to the baby. Describe what they are seeing around them, what is making that curious new sound. Tickle and play “peek-a-boo”. Let the baby fall asleep in your arms while you relax in the camping chair or in the tent.

Camping with a baby can be a little challenging but it's also very rewarding. Click To Tweet

Camping with a baby can be a little challenging, but it is very rewarding. At eight months old, our son was at the crawling, standing, and trying to walk stage and that was the perfect time to take him on his first camping trip. He recognized that we were somewhere new and was fascinated by everything: the squirrels eating the seeds we threw out to them, our camping neighbors’ walking their dogs, the rustling of the winds through the tall pines, the crowing of the large ravens, the rushing of the creek over rocks, and so much more!

Was I a bit sleep deprived by the end of the trip? Yes, but it was worth every moment to see his smiling little face as he woke up in my arms, played hide and seek with the camping bag, and then crawled/climbed on his daddy. It made my heart swell with joy when he giggled hysterically. Sunday morning, I set him briefly down in one of the camping chairs, and he threw his head back and howled like a coyote!

Happy baby sitting on the ground in a pine forest.
Our little peanut looking quite dashing on his first camping adventure. Photo by Jacquelyn Van Sant.

We want our son to grow up with a love for nature. He has already gone on a night hike (during the super moon at just three months old), a couple of hikes, and now his first weekend camping trip. We are planning another camping trip next month. It is never too early to teach him to take only pictures and leave only footprints.

Happy trails!

Our Breastfeeding Journey

Our Breastfeeding Journey

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Almost five months ago, our little Peanut was born. (Six month update below.) I intended to breastfeed exclusively by nursing during my twelve week maternity/family leave and then nursing and pumping after returning to work. I did not need to think long and hard about the decision, I just knew that was what we would do. In fact, I was more nervous about picking out a pump then I was about nursing. I figured that mothers’ bodies naturally produce milk and babies instinctively know how to get the milk.

Unfortunately, our breastfeeding story did not go according to plan.

In fact, it turned out to be more of a journey than a story. Some parts are very challenging and others rewarding. So let me take you back to the beginning.

Peanut was born small. 4 pounds and 11 ounces, to be exact, though he dropped down to 4 lbs. 7 oz. after he had his first bowel movement. Though he was a mighty tiny thing — able to lift his head moments after birth — his small size created a challenge to nursing. We tried hard throughout the night and into the afternoon of Day 2 to get him to nurse even just a tiny bit to get the colstrum he needed, but he just could not get his tiny mouth around my large nipples.

Jacquelyn's baby at two days old and only 4 lbs 7 oz.
Peanut at two days old, the morning we were discharged from the hospital.

Around noon on Day 2, we had our first visit with the Lactation Consultant. She helped me position him, tried coaxing him, and then wrapped him onto my chest for skin-to-skin. She said not to worry and try nursing again in the evening, but I was starting to worry. Something just was not right. Babies are supposed to know how to nurse instinctively, right? I tried to put on a cheerful face when Bradley’s side of family came to visit, but when my parents came later, I shared with them my concerns. My mom tried to cheer me up.

That night, after quite a few more failed attempts to nurse, a nurse helped me select the right size flanges and pump the first time. We collected .5 ounce of colstrum and fed it to Peanut using a syringe. The next day, they were concerned that Peanut had not nursed even the tiniest bit. Due to his tiny size, he had to eat just once, even a tiny bit, before we would be given the all clear. If he did not eat and began to lose more weight, he might have ended up in the NICU.

Despite regularly pumping, after that first time, I was not getting enough colstrum to even get into a syringe to give him. Just a drop on my finger.

So the nurse brought us formula.

I was terrified.

Here I was, only three days into being a brand new mother to this tiny little fellow, and I was praying desperately that Peanut would eat something… anything. I barely slept that night. Lying on the bed with my hand in the bassinet to touch his leg, I just prayed. Please, Lord, let him eat a tiny bit, keep his blood sugars steady, and not let him loose any more weight.

I could not get him to eat from the bottle, the Lactation Consultant was able to get him to eat just a small amount, and a few hours later, my mom was able to get him to eat about 1 ounce. I was relieved yet still a little worried. I thought to myself: “Just once or twice on the formula, and then surely he’ll figure out how to nurse.” After all, he rooted for my breast, he put the tip of nipple in his mouth, he was was showing all of the right signs. Was it just his tiny size? Was I too big for his little mouth?

The Lactation Consultant visited again – a wonderful lady – and worked with us some more.

She then noticed something all of the rest of us missed: Peanut had a severe tongue-tie.

He could not lift his tongue nor move it forward, two motions vital to latch on the nipple and draw the colstrum/milk out. Until the tongue-tie was fixed, there would be no possible way for Peanut to nurse. Unfortunately, the hospital did not perform these minor surgeries anymore, and we would have to visit with a pediatrician after being discharged to arrange for the procedure. It could take days, maybe up to two weeks, before the tongue-tie was fixed!

I was disappointed.

Peanut would have to eat formula until the pumping resulted in actual colstrum/milk that I could give him and the tongue-tie was fixed. Now let me share a disclaimer: I know there are many reasons for mothers to formula-feed their babies. Sometimes it is by choice and sometimes it is the only option. I have nothing against anyone who uses formula. It just was emotionally disappointing for me to learn that, for reasons outside of our control, Peanut needed formula because it had been my desire to breastfeed. I had not even imagined a scenario that would make breastfeeding impossible.

On the day we were discharged from the hospital, my parents bought the pump that was recommended to us (Medela Pump-in-Style, though in hindsight I wish I had gotten the backpack one). I continued trying to pump every two-three hours. I was determined to get him off the formula and onto my colostrum/milk was soon as possible. Still nothing. By Day 5, my breasts were engorged as the colostrum began turning to milk but the pumping expressed nothing! I tried the electric pump, I tried hand expressing, I tried hot showers, I tried massages, I tried everything to get the milk to express. Nothing would come out! My poor breasts just kept getting bigger and more painful. It became agony to touch them, agony to move, agony to sleep!

At 3am during one of my unsuccessful pumping sessions, I searched the Internet for any piece of advice for how to get the milk to come out. I was terrified that I would end up with mastitis. Most sites and forums dealt with nursing or formula-feeding, and I was finding very little helpful information for pumping. Then I stumbled on to the Exclusive Pumping section of KellyMom.com and one of the first articles I read recommended ice on the breasts for 20 minutes before pumping to counteract the swelling and allow the milk to be expressed. That day at my parents’ house, I rolled two frozen water bottles all over my breasts for 20 minutes. It was sooo cold and hurt sooooo bad, but I was desperate.

That pumping session, I produced 10 ounces of transition milk and the engorgement was gone. I was so relieved that I cried. For the next five or six sessions, I had to roll the frozen water bottles on my breasts before pumping. Gradually, the milk began expressing without the need to freeze my breasts. It was nearing the end of Week 1, and I was finally producing milk. I was able to feed Peanut on mother’s milk and put the formula bottles away.

Though we saw the Pediatrician quickly, the soonest we could schedule Peanut’s procedure to correct the tongue-tie was at the very end of his second week. I was worried it had taken too long. He had been exclusively bottlefed (first formula and now with my milk), and I had heard of and read about “nipple confusion” where bottlefed babies are supposedly never able to nurse again. Fortunately, one of the nurses at the Pediatrician’s office told me that her son had been born with a tongue-tie that took almost a month to diagnosis and fix, and he went from bottlefed to nursing without a hitch. That gave me hope!

Jacquelyn's baby about a week old.
Little Peanut at about a week and a half old. He was still so tiny and thin, but that adorable smile!

Hope died during Weeks 3 and 4.

I was completely unprepared for the Week 3 growth spurt; I did not even know it existed. Week three rolled around and suddenly Peanut was ravenously hungry! I was not producing enough milk to satisfy him. I was determined, though. I pumped every two hours for anywhere between 20-30 minutes. I literally pumped my poor breasts raw and was in pain from blisters. I tried everything to produce more milk. Despite my valiant efforts, I could not keep up with him.

In the middle of the night, as Peanut cried in his bassinet for milk I did not have, my loving husband gently said: “I’m going to give him a bottle of formula.” He picked Peanut up and walked to the living room. I buried myself underneath the blankets and pillows and wept.

I was devastated.

The one thing that was supposed to be natural for every mother, I could not do. I could not provide enough milk for my baby. I had to resign myself to the fact that in addition to what I pumped, Peanut would need supplementing with formula. We bought a can of a standard formula (same brand as the hospital gave us since he did not seem to mind it). After a few days supplementing, I was growing concerned about using a milk-based formula.

You see, I have a severe dairy allergy.

While I was a little apprehensive that my son might have inherited this allergy from me, what really concerned me was that I was beginning to react to the powdered formula. It is impossible to scoop the powder from the can and get it into the bottle without spilling even a little bit. My hands were starting to react whenever the powder touched my skin (my hands would get red and itchy), and as I fixed a bottle, I noticed that some powder always gets into the air. I was concerned that I would accidentally breathe the powder and have an allergic reaction.

Now my allergy to dairy is not lactose intolerance. It is a severe allergy on the same level as many peanut allergies: even trace amounts of dairy will cause me to break out in hives, suffer bad itching fits, and experience respiratory difficulties (meaning I cannot breathe). This was not something to be taken lightly. I began researching non-milk based formulas, but most of the soy-based formulas were over 50% corn syrup. That did not seem right to me.

I did more research and remembered that my dad, when he was a newborn, could not have milk-based formula either. His parents had to give him goat’s milk, and he is one of the healthiest people I know. So I began looking up goat’s milk formula — extremely expensive and not always available — and found websites that shared how to make your own goat’s milk formula at home.

Since I was still pumping and the majority of Peanut’s nourishment was coming from my milk, I just needed something to supplement with. I gave Peanut goat’s milk and waited. He seemed fine and his appetite was finally appeased. Then my mom helped us mix up a batch of goat’s milk that was fortified with some additional nutrients.

Towards the end of Week 4, my husband also found Milkmaid Tea by Earth Mama Organics. I began drinking it twice a day, and my milk production increased significantly. Soon, we no longer needed to supplement with goat’s milk. A little while after that, I was expressing enough extra milk to start filling up the freezer to use later when I returned to work.

Throughout the first month while all of these things were happening, I was still trying to nurse Peanut. Every other day, I would try to nurse him, but even after the tongue-tie was fixed, he just could not latch. I watched videos and read how to articles. I did everything I could, but Peanut could not latch.

I was an emotional wreck. I was severely sleep deprived. He needed to eat every two hours and it took an hour just to warm the bottle, feed the baby, and pump. Then I would sleep for an hour and have to do it all over again. My amazing husband did so much to help: he would often feed the baby and clean the bottles to give me even just ten or twenty minutes more sleep. He also calmly put up with my emotional outbursts: frustration, fear, self-loathing, fits of crying.

I felt like a failure.

Every time an attempt to nurse failed, every time someone casually said some variation of “Oh, so you’re not breastfeeding?” or “Don’t you know breast is better than formula?” when they saw the bottle of my milk, it was like another nail being hammered into my heart and ego.

Jacquelyn's baby around a month old.
In the beginning, babies sleep a whole lot and they are so cute when they sleep!

After an entire month, one morning I almost lost my temper with Peanut. Even though the logical part of my brain understood that his mouth was just too small to latch and it wasn’t his fault, the emotional part was very close to losing it. Nothing happened, but I was shocked at how close I felt I had come to possibly hurting him, even unintentionally. I laid Peanut back down in his bassinet and called my mom in tears. I told her I had tried for four weeks and I just could not do it anymore. For my sanity and the happiness of our little family, I had to stop trying.

My mom was so supportive and calmed me down. She told me she was so proud of me for trying as long as I did and that I had to do what was best for us. Her words helped get me back in the right frame of mind, and I am so grateful.

That morning, I finally came to terms with something I should have come to terms with weeks earlier: Peanut might never be able to nurse.

Sure, maybe one day in the future, he might outgrow the physical barriers that were preventing him from nursing, but in that moment I had to let go of my unrealistic “dream”. I had to make myself “ok” with the idea that he might never nurse, that I would have to continue pumping to provide him with milk and that, in his next growth spurt he might need to be supplemented again. I had to embrace that reality and let go of my fantasy.

I had to stop treating myself like a failure.

I had carried this beautiful little boy for 38 weeks, gave birth, and was now raising him. I loved him so deeply and would do anything for him. I would gaze at his tiny face while he slept in awe that this precious gift was our son. I was not a failure. So what if he could not nurse? So what if he got his milk from a bottle? So what if sometimes he got a little extra that wasn’t from his mother? He was happy, healthy, and growing incredibly fast.

For all of month two, we did not even try to nurse. We simply lived and were happy. When the Week 6 growth spurt hit, I was producing enough milk that we did not have to supplement even though he was sometimes gobbling up 9 to 11 ounces in one sitting!

At the beginning of his third month, Peanut was rooting around while we snuggled on the couch one morning and so, merely curious, I offered him the breast. To my surprise, he latched! It was a weak latch but a latch! He drank a little bit (not much) but he actually nursed for ten minutes!

At the middle of month three, we introduced the pacifier. He got the hang of it pretty quickly and the pacifier helped to strengthen his sucking muscles. We would attempt a nursing session every few days, but it was very relaxed… nothing like during the first month when I was so stressed out. Just a week after introducing the pacifier, he was strong enough to nurse!

By the middle of Week Thirteen, Peanut was nursing twice a day. We would nurse early morning and once in the evenings. We still fed him a 5-6 ounce bottle of expressed milk before putting him to sleep to help him sleep longer. By then he was usually sleeping 9pm to 4-5am.

Jacquelyn's baby at four months.
Little Peanut around four months. He grew a lot and got a bit chunky!

Today as I write this, Peanut is just shy of five months, and he nurses as if he had been doing so his whole life. I still pump during the day, especially during the week when I’m working, but I try to nurse him before work, after work, and on the weekends. He also is bottlefed during the day and always gets one bottle before bed to help him sleep through the night. He has absolutely no sign of the dreaded “nipple confusion”. He goes from breast to bottle to pacifier and back without even hesitating. Just yesterday, he had his first taste of real “food”. His grandma (my mom) fed him a little bit of oatmeal, and he actually ate it! (It was so adorable.)

Update (March 6, 2017)
Our little one is six months now, and I wanted to share a quick update on our breastfeeding journey. He is still primarily eating breast milk, and he is experimenting with baby food. He loves peaches and applesauce, severely dislikes peas, and has tried tiny amounts of avocado and hummus.

Unfortunately, at the end of December, my menstrual cycle began ramping up again. At four and a half months postpartum while breastfeeding, it was definitely not welcome. I’ve had a period twice since then. While my cycle is not “back to normal” yet, it is causing a lot of problems with my milk supply. The week before my period, my milk supply plummets significantly. So much so that we had to start supplementing with soy-based formula.

It was a decision we made because, unlike before when we used the goat’s milk as just a little “extra” now and then, this time we needed something that would provide for 50% of our little one’s nutrition for two weeks straight. And no amount of trying to boost my supply would carry our little Peanut through two weeks. Since I’m working outside of the home, a lot of the “tricks” that sometimes help are just not feasible like nursing on demand or pumping every two hours. So we found a soy-based formula that is fortified with everything he’ll need during the time my milk supply is low.

Fortunately, by the end of my period, my milk supply goes back up to normal. I’m also trying hard to increase my supply during the plentiful times by drinking more tea and eating more oats. This is hard for me because I cannot stand oatmeal and most gluten-free oat cereals taste horrible. So I’m risking eating Cheerios to try to get the benefits that oats have on milk supply.

Cheerios are not made with certified gluten-free oats, but they now use a process that removes most of the contaminated grains from their oat supply. Unfortunately, every once in a while, I’ll get a box from a batch with just a little too much contaminates; it causes my face to break out and I bloat… the initial signs that I’ve had small traces of wheat/gluten. Still, it is worth it if it helps boost my milk supply for my son.

Sometimes I really feel like everything is against our efforts to breastfeed. If I let the negative thoughts in, I begin to feel like every time we achieve success, something comes along to sabotage us. However, I refuse to let the challenges get me down. I’m still determined to make it to ten months, and when we cross that line, we’ll see if we can make it to twelve months.

Jacquelyn's baby on his third trip to the zoo!
Little Peanut and his daddy on his third trip to the zoo at six and a half months old.

It is my hope that by sharing our long, sometimes painful, breastfeeding journey, I might encourage another mother who is also struggling. My advice is to take all the advice out there with a grain of salt. Some of it is garbage, others might not apply to you and your baby’s unique situation, and some might be helpful. Listen to your maternal instincts. The Lord gave us these instincts and intuition for a reason. And don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help when you need it.

Also get rid of your perfect plans and dreams. The first few weeks after the baby is born is an emotional roller-coaster anyway, do not add even more stress and anxiety by trying to make a dream reality. Embrace whatever path is best for your precious baby. If it is pumping, pump! If it is supplementing, supplement! If it is formula, find the right formula for you and your baby!

You are NOT a failure! You gave birth to or adopted this beautiful, precious little one. You love him or her dearly so treasure those quiet moments with your newborn. They grow so fast and every stage is unique and beautiful in its own way. Don’t be afraid! Don’t worry about the future!

Be present in the moment and be happy!

Oh, and remember that breastfeeding is not synonymous with nursing. While nursing is one way to breastfeed, pumping is another way. In both methods, the baby is eating his or her mother’s milk. One just is from a bottle and the other is from “the tap” sort to speak. Don’t let anyone make you feed less than because you are pumping, whether from choice or necessity.

Breastfeeding Challenges, Round Two

Slow cooker / Crockpot meals

Slow cooker / Crockpot meals

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission when you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog.

When Bradley and I arrived home from work Friday afternoon, we were both extremely exhausted. We barely had enough energy to scrape together a dinner, and then I ended up falling asleep on the couch almost immediately afterward.

Sabbath morning I threw the ingredients of one of my favorite recipes (White Bean and Pumpkin Lasagna) into the crockpot. I turned it on low right before leaving for church, and it was ready by the time we arrived home about two thirty.

The photo of the lasagna above is from the official recipe on Vibrant Life. Mine never turns out this pretty – perhaps it is the gluten-free lasagna noodles or the fact that it all becomes mush.

Mine may not be picture perfect, but it is so yummy! I’ve made it for a few Sabbath afternoon luncheons with guests and friends from church, and always get compliments (and the guests often take seconds).

So we were able to enjoy a relaxing and delicious meal around the dining table, and then we were off to see my sister and brother-in-law’s vespers concert at the Paradise Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church. (Check out Cyiza Music!)

It was a beautiful concert with a powerful message.

After the success of the lasagna on Sabbath, I think I’m going to try doing a crockpot dish most Sabbaths either for Sabbath dinner on Friday evenings or Sabbath lunch on Saturdays. I think I would also like to do a crockpot dish maybe once or twice during the week, too. Anything to cut down on the amount of cooking and then cleaning by hand that I have to do.

You see, the dishwasher in our rental house scares me after it almost caught fire. Seriously, there were sparks flying from the outlet under the sink. A leaky faucet was dripping water right onto the outlet. The ancient and terrifying machine has been unplugged ever since.

Unfortunately, no dishwasher means tons of dishes to hand clean and I don’t have the time or energy right now to keep up on all the dishes. I will spend half an hour in the morning washing all the dishes and by lunch time there will be a mountain of new dishes. I just cannot keep up, because I’m too exhausted or sick.

I think crockpot meals might help, even a little bit. I have three crockpot recipes: the pumpkin lasagna, lentil soup, and quinoa/sweet potato chili. But I need to find more recipes that are vegan and gluten-free or I can easily convert to being vegan and gluten-free. Then I have to make sure we get all of the ingredients ahead of time during our biweekly grocery trips. I would like to try Vegan Jambalaya and Aloo Gobi (spiced cauliflower and potatoes) sometime soon.

If you need a new slow cooker, I highly recommend the classic Cook ‘N Carry by Crock-Pot. I use mine a lot and particularly like that the lid locks down so you can take the slow cooker with you to family functions, church potlucks, etc. without worrying about the lid moving or the food inside spilling. The small Food Warmer, also by Crock-Pot, holds 20 ounces and is perfect for taking leftovers to work or keeping small amounts of food warm on roadtrips. We received two as wedding gifts four years ago, and I use them all of the time!

Do you have any favorite crockpot recipes?