Baby & Toddler · Pregnancy · Tips and Tricks

Tips on Pumping

Yes, I know: strange coming from me, who hated pumping (then again who doesn’t) and stopped breastfeeding when Georgia was 9 months old. But I’ve found myself in the odd position of helping others who’ve struggled with pumping and low supply a lot recently, even though I myself tried everything and had pretty spotty success. So I decided to write it all down, in case you can benefit, too.

At least I had a constant companion in Tasha to cheer me up.
At least I had a constant companion in Tasha to cheer me up.

I’m certainly not encouraging anyone to skip breastfeeding. By all means, do it and pray for an easy time — I want that for you. But let me be the one to explicitly tell you: it IS possible to try everything the lactation consultant, pediatrician and mom blogs tell you, and still not make it to a year (or longer) nursing. I don’t know who set that deadline, but I can’t tell you the hours of undue stress it caused me (and my husband) when I felt I was “falling short.” And trying isn’t just OK, it’s downright heroic. Because you grew a child in your body, and you are continuing to give it life today, whether that’s with breast milk or formula.

Nursing 24/7 and having the doctor tell you your baby isn't growing properly: devastating.
Nursing 24/7 and having the doctor tell you your baby isn’t growing: I’m not sure there’s a worse feeling.

Formula, though not ideal when compared to Mother Nature, is quite literally life-saving for some babies. I’m aware of all the things people don’t like about it, and I am definitely troubled by statistics showing that only 16% of women nationwide are able to continue exclusively breastfeeding by the time their babies are 6 months old. But I think the solution will come via national change at the policy level, when this country decides to support all mothers’ and  babies’ health by providing high-quality prenatal, postnatal & pediatric care (plus lactation consultants and dual-phase, double electric breast pumps), at least 6 months of paid maternity leave for all parents, and access to high-quality, affordable child care. It’s shameful that one’s race, finances or address have anything to do with breastfeeding outcomes, but this chart has the latest data and it’s pretty damning:

breastfeeding_who

breastfeeding_where

breastfeeding_numbers

Personally? As a mom to a baby labelled with “failure to thrive” just two weeks home from the hospital, I feel like a freakin’ champion to have lasted 9 months. I know breast is best, but I won’t apologize to everyone I meet for not being able to “EBF” (exclusively breast feed, for those of you with better things to do than follow internet mom jargon). My breastfeeding experience is not the totality of who I am as a woman. Plus, where does this debate leave adoptive parents? Or gay dads? I could go on. But I won’t; I’ll just cut to the chase and give you my tips.

Tips on Pumping

Tools of the trade

First, you’ll need (ahem) a pump. Call your insurance to see what Obamacare will provide to you for free, then order it from an approved vendor. Or, ditch that route and do what I did — get the one you want on Amazon. In my case, that was a hands-free, double electric, hospital quality pump from Medela (affiliate link). I used and loved the Freestyle, but the Pump In Style is another great option (key difference is that the Freestyle clips to your clothing so you can walk around, whereas the Pump In Style is built into a tote that you carry and sit with. Both have multiple speeds and shield sizes and are relatively quiet and fast).

Second, you’ll need a hands-free breastpump bra. I tried and returned a lot of these. Thanks to friends, I finally settled on this one by Simple Wishes. Women of literally any size can wear this thing, because it’s so adjustable, which helps as your boobs change size gradually; it’s also extremely easy to put on and to fit the pump flanges into, and the seal is really secure.

For a basic introduction to setting up and using a breast pump, check out this step-by-step video by FitPregnancy.

Some other things that help:

  • Extra bottles. I got another set of the Medela bottles that came with my pump, so it wouldn’t be as problematic if I left full bottles at work or clean bottles at home accidentally, but they are small. So you may have to transfer the milk to a larger bottles for feedings, or get extras in a bigger size if your supply is really high and you fill these really quickly (alas, not my personal case, but I suppose I have other talents). You can also use special freezer bags if you’re pumping enough to put some away for later. These store flat and can be marked by date so you don’t let them expire, and are great if you travel for work or go away for the weekend. Most day cares will take either bottles or bags, as long as they’re clearly labelled.
  • Bigger nipples as baby gets older. You can get faster flowing nipples for the Medela bottles (or whatever brand your pump requires) so that your baby doesn’t get frustrated trying to drink from a tiny newborn opening. This helped Georgia a lot. We couldn’t seem to overcome nipple collapse, however, because Medela bottles (as well as Dr. Brown’s) share a nipple design that just didn’t work for her (and in my opinion, looks nothing like an actual boob!) To work around this, I only used breast milk straight from the Medela bottles at bedtime, when she wasn’t as ravenous and thus didn’t drink so forcefully, which caused the nipples to flatten or cave into the bottle.
  • At least one ice pack. My pump came with a reusable cooler pack and a contoured ice pack (meaning it could fit in between four round bottles) but it couldn’t hurt to have a spare in case you lose or forget it. There was a point, before I realized I just wasn’t going to be one of those women who could pump enough to replace three 8-oz. bottles during the workday, that I considered getting a mini fridge or an extra freezer for our basement, since the fridges we have at home and at work are pretty tiny.
  • Cleaning supplies. You can use any number of products to clean your pump in a hurry, but I always found that it performed best when I took everything apart and washed it with good old fashioned warm water. Then you just dry it with some paper towels and pack it up for next time. Other options: wipes and steam bags. I had access to a microwave and a sink near my pumping room at work, so I tried all three methods.
  • A nursing cover. This comes in handy if you have to share a nursing room with someone else at work, or pump in your own cubicle/office discreetly, or in the car. It’s good to have on hand if you’re headed to a meeting or conference where you don’t know what pumping accommodations can be made (it never hurts to call ahead). I have one by Bebe Au Lait but I’ve heard good things about Udder Covers as well.
  • You might also find hand sanitizer, extra makeup for touchups, spare napkins for spills, and nursing tea plus a mug to be helpful items to keep around. I also found that breastfeeding made me really thirsty with very dry skin and lips, so I stashed lip balm, hand cream and bottled water in my diaper bag and pumping tote.

Getting set up at work

I was very fortunate. My company set up a privacy room for nursing mothers to use two years ago, and then expanded it when we had a bit of a baby boom. With a solid computer terminal, a full-length mirror, a rocking chair, fridge and plenty of locked cabinet storage, it had essentially everything you needed to pump while working or resting. The only thing it lacks is a private sink to wash the pump parts, but with a bathroom and kitchen down the hall, those resources were in close proximity. What companies are obligated to provide varies by state and workplace size, but it can never hurt to ask for more. That’s how we got an improved setup at my place!

I was also lucky that my workplace offers nursing mothers extra breaks or unbilled time in the day during which to pump, which is crucial to being successful at breastfeeding, no matter how much supplementing you’re doing at home. The main challenges I encountered? Rescheduling meetings around my pumping time, without extending my workday beyond 9 to 5; people texting me questions while I was pumping, so as not to “bother me” by phone; having to eat lunch while pumping because I had no other time to fit it in; eating and drinking enough before pumping so my supply didn’t drop; and keeping the stress of work problems at bay so they wouldn’t affect my letdown or my yield. While the pumping room was awesome, fitting in the actual pumping in a workplace that values long hours, no lunch breaks and tight deadlines was beyond tense.

What to wear

At home, this was easy: leggings or a stretchy skirt plus a nursing tank top. Drop the front panel, attach pump, and go! At work, this was harder to figure out. Some days, I simply made a nursing camisole my base layer under a blazer, sweater or cardigan, and then took off the top item to pump; other days, I wore a dress that unzipped in the back instead of going over my head, and that was equally comfortable. It turns out that dresses make great wardrobe staples for busy mornings with crazy toddlers, too, since you don’t have to think about matching separates. Thus, I continue to build my professional wardrobe around them, and hardly ever wear pants anymore at all. I found it helpful to keep a pashmina or other soft scarf in my office in case it got cool in the nursing room at work.

Taking care of you

Not getting adequate sleep (ha, HA!), drinking too much caffeine and too little water, stress, and exhaustion can all drastically reduce your supply. Same goes for waiting too long to eat lunch, or not eating the right things. Sound like anyone else’s typical day at work with a newborn at home?? Right. Do the best you can not to guzzle an XL coffee or engage in a tense discussion with your boss before pumping, and block out enough time for the full phase of expression on your pump to get what you need (for me, this was the full 30 minute cycle just to get 2-3 ounces per side, so the whole affair took a solid hour after setting up the pump, disrobing, cleaning the pump in another room, rearranging myself and storing the milk). If you have to pump more than once per day, which is very possible, then I suggest doing one when you first get in and another in the late afternoon so you’ve eaten a meal before each session and you don’t go so long between nursing that you get engorged on the way home. Other moms I know had better luck pumping at home while they were getting ready for work, or just before bed, in addition to once during the workday. It all depends on your supply and your baby’s appetite!

Eating right

Good foods to eat: oatmeal, soup, lactation cookies (seriously!), granola bars, good fats like nuts, olives and avocados, and cold-water fish rich in DHA such as salmon, shrimp, catfish and crab. Fenugreek is a supplement that several lactation consultants suggested I take to boost my supply. Keep a reusable water bottle at work wherever you pump, so you can’t forget to fill it every time. As a general rule, have healthy snacks on you at all times. And keep taking your prenatal vitamin.

Bad foods to eat: salad, unless topped with any of the foods mentioned above to round out the meal; too much alcohol, which enters your breast milk and can affect your let down; excessive caffeine, in the form of coffee, tea or energy drinks; any soda; and anything that may irritate your baby via the bottle, such as garlic, beans, onions, peppers and broccoli, all of which can cause gas and fussiness. The last thing you want to do is pump all that milk and have baby refuse it (been there — Thai takeout, we cannot be friends until baby is weaned).

Here are two helpful charts to help you meal plan while pumping:

food chart breastfeeding

chart breastfeeding

Overcoming hurdles

You know, I wish that all women were as supportive as some of my friends and family. At one point, when I really felt like a failure for all of this nursing business not going the way I had planned (so what else is new with babies), Mark just turned to me and said “where are you feeling all this pressure from? It’s not me. It’s not our parents. It isn’t even Georgia’s doctor. So what is it?” And I didn’t know what to tell him, except that I spent my entire pregnancy being indoctrinated that breast is best so intensely that I never even considered the possibility it wouldn’t turn out to be so simple. I know I was lucky to give birth at a hospital that didn’t give formula in the nursery after birth, and that made so many lactation consultants available in the first few days. That coaching was invaluable. If you’re running into problems with nursing, pumping, or both, I would highly encourage you to reach back out to your OB, or your child’s pediatrician — that’s who connected me with my local LCs, when Georgia was a few weeks old and we were really struggling — or search online using the International Lactation Consultant Association’s web tool. Insurance is obligated to cover these services now. And, please, never hesitate to reach out to me directly. When I confessed how much trouble I was having nursing over social media, loads of women reached out….but what killed me was how many said I could never tell anyone  about it, because they had lied to their own families and friends about supplementing!

This madness has got to stop. Surely there are better things women can be doing than judging one another for this crap. Do you know what’s actually important? This.

Georgia and Dad

Now on to a few reasons you might pump (other than to make bottles). Even after I stopped pumping at work, I used my Freestyle to “pump and dump” after I’d had migraines that required medication Georgia couldn’t safely ingest through my milk. Because I continued to nurse her before and after work and on the weekends, I had to pump off any contaminated milk that resulted from taking my migraine medication. The same would go for having drank too much alcohol (generally one glass of wine or beer is considered safe while nursing) or for any other non-nursing-safe meds. Of course, you could also keep a simple hand pump around for times like these.

You might also want to pump just to “take the edge off” when your baby first sleeps a good long stretch at night, until your body gets used to going 6+ hours without nursing. Within a couple days, your body should regulate, just like it will as you gradually wean (whenever that happens). I’ll never forget pumping for 10 minutes while blow-drying my hair on the way out the door just to make sure I wouldn’t leak during the opening night of my husband’s show last fall. The things we do.

If all else fails

I practiced pumping between feedings in the weeks before I returned to work, so I’d get used to it, and so my supply would ramp up. I pumped twice a day when I got back to work full time. My supply fell bit by bit every month until eventually, no matter how many times I pumped or what I ate and drank, I was only getting an ounce or two total — and my baby was drinking three (!!) 8-ounce bottles while I was away. So, I made the decision to stop pumping when she was 6 months old, right after we went to Florida, and then two months later she started to refuse nursing at the two remaining times I offered every day (6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.) I continued to offer her the breast until it became clear, between 8 and 9 months, that we were done. Apart from nursing her for comfort when she had two bouts of the flu at the end of May, that’s been that.

Do I miss it? Not really. She’s not an infant anymore, and by 9 months she was standing, crawling and investigating her world, not cuddling up to me for hour-long feedings. Also, I got my body back. The last pregnancy pounds dropped off, I had freedom to go running early or take yoga late, and I didn’t physically “belong” to someone else anymore. I could reconnect with the greater world again. No more rushing home to do bedtime or risk my milk drying up, or going into work late on those days Georgia decided she really missed me and needed an extra-long nursing session in the morning, or hiding in someone’s bedroom during a cookout or family gathering. Nor do I miss having to craft my outfits around half-undressing at lunch to put on a pumping bra in a cold office every weekday.

But, not knowing whether or not we’ll have more kids, I am sad that I may never again have the lovely feeling of nursing a tiny baby to sleep, or of smelling that musky scent they get after eating, or have a tiny hand reach up to stroke my cheek when it’s just the two of us in the wee hours. Those things are really, really, profoundly special, and I’m blessed that I got to experience them at all.

My boobs shrank back to their previous size (sigh) and I’ve packed away all my nursing tanks. There are days I can’t believe it’s over, and then there are days when I trip over my pump — still sitting in my office at work — and wonder how the heck I did that for so long. And I know so many with babies Georgia’s age who are still going! It’s an individual journey, ladies, and no two experiences are the same. If I have another baby, I guess I will see how it goes for me next time… for now, I’m simply enjoying my perfect, beautiful, precious joy-filled miracle of a baby.

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‘Later ta-tas, it’s been real.

Psst: If you love data and can’t get enough breastfeeding stats, you can read the CDC’s full 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card right here. Other great web resources for pumping and nursing in general are KellyMom.com and La Leche League. Special thanks to the staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Melrose-Wakefield Hospital for critical coaching, literature and support. And, of course, my friends who sent supportive Facebook messages, texted advice, drove me to lactation consultant appointments with a screaming, hungry newborn in back, or recruited me into local breastfeeding support groups. It’s mind-blowing that some women have to go this alone, and I am thankful every day that I don’t.

Baby & Toddler · News · Pregnancy

Why don’t doctors talk to pregnant women about toxic chemicals?

I recently read something that I think most mamas would find disturbing.

Boston Globe via iStock

Acoording to the Boston Globe, reducing pregnant women’s exposure to environmental toxins was recently deemed ‘critical’ by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to prevent birth defects and other fetal health problems. But a recent survey of more than 2,500 physician members of that group found that fewer than one in five ask pregnant patients about any exposure they have had to unsafe levels of toxic chemicals.

“It’s not surprising that they’re avoiding these discussions,” said Dr. Alan Woolf, director of the pediatric environmental health center at Boston Children’s Hospital, who was not involved with the study. “Very few doctors feel comfortable in their knowledge of this issue to discuss it.”

A 2011 study found that pregnant women are exposed to at least 43 chemicals known to affect fetal development including pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), and phthalates that interfere with hormones.

For this reason, ACOG recommended last year that its physicians “identify specific types of exposure that may be harmful to a developing fetus” during the first prenatal visit. Doctors should be asking about workplace exposures — such as chemicals used in a lab or factory — and whether a patient lives in an older home, which could contain harmful lead paint, or has undertaken do-it-yourself home renovation that involves toxic agents. (And a Huffington Post story about this study pointed out that many women are at increased risk for exposure during pregnancy precisely because it’s a time when many families move or undertake renovation projects to prepare for baby’s arrival.

Yet half of the obstetricians-gynecologists surveyed in the new study said they rarely take this kind of environmental health history.

“Doctors told us they have so many more pressing issues to talk about,” said study leader Naomi Stotland, an associate professor of obstetrics-gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco. “Their patients may be cigarette smokers, drink alcohol, or eat fast food every day, which they need to deal with first.”

But those who serve highly educated populations often find themselves flummoxed by questions from pregnant patients about which cosmetics, cleaners, and sunscreens to use.

You can read the rest of the article here. In it, doctors went on to say that they don’t want to “stress their patients out” by mentioning environmental exposure issues, and that there are other concerns they’d rather focus on — such as getting more women to eat the “good” kinds of fish that are free of mercury. But some of the things that should be no-brainers during pregnancy, like avoiding aerosol room fresheners or antibacterial soaps and products containing triclosan, just aren’t on most women’s radars.

Here’s a helpful guide to avoiding environmental toxins at home. You can also visit the Environmental Working Group website for more resources.

On one hand, I can see the doctor’s point of view on this. Americans do seem to be riddled with so much extra anxiety around pregnancy and childbirth, and to be seen as adding to that — especially when so many patients deal with poor working conditions, food choices and home lives that are beyond their control — must be stressful for OBs. But I think lots of people aren’t worried about the issue of environmental toxins because they assume the government is protecting us from harmful ingredients, when the reality is quite the opposite. As consumers and as parents we have to be so careful about what we bring into our homes and bodies, and our income level shouldn’t preclude us from being empowered to make educated choices. It sounds to me like the doctors in this study who suggested enhanced training to equip OBGYN’s to discuss toxic exposure are right on the money.

How about you — did your doctor ever discuss this with you? What do you do to avoid contaminants in your food, cleaning products, home life or workplace?
Baby & Toddler · Beauty & Fashion · News

Monday musings

I hope everyone had a nice Mother’s Day!

Us? We were in the throes of baby flu all weekend: high fever, snot, throwing up, the works. But luckily Little G is on the mend, and took a trip out with daddy today on his day off. Look how big she’s getting!

 Thanks to Auntie Diana and Uncle Brian for my awesome Georgia onesie:)

I’ve got major spring fever now that it’s warm out finally. Who can work in an office under these conditions? I just want to go get a pedicure, apply some self-tanner and sit outside reading. 

Naturally, I’m obsessed with warm-weather clothes, and in particular I am dying to go shoe shopping. How beautiful are these from JCrew:

equestrian slingbacks, $148. available in light brown, dark brown and navy. 20% off with code SOGOOD

 I also just picked up this one piece bathing suit from Old Navy, which I just love. Can’t wait for a beach day:

I also discovered a new website that I’m a fan of for buying hard-to-find makeup. It’s called BeautylishI almost had a meltdown last week when it seemed as if Korres had discontinued its mineral makeup line (which I can’t live without). Sephora stopped carrying it, and the sales rep in the Burlington store told me the entire makeup line was no longer being made. MERDE!

Thankfully, it’s not true. It’s just that Sephora is no longer carrying it! I asked @KorresUSA about the rumor and they reassured me their natural line of cosmetics is still being made, so I ordered two packages of the Wild Rose foundation just to be safe. If you’re interested in their environmentally-friendly, plant-based, certified organic product line, I also love their anti-aging primer (which comes in a matte version as well), refreshing pomegranate cleansing wipes and petrolatum-free lip butters.

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Fellow mamas who lost a lot of hair postpartum, I’m wondering: did you ever try Living Proof hair products, which claim to have some special science behind them? They were developed at MIT and some people swear by them. I got a sample recently and I’m not so sure I’m sold, but I’m willing to try anything for my still-thinning locks. I only tried the shampoo and conditioner, so I may try some styling products as well and see what I think.

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Finally, on a less superficial note, I read about an inspiring crowd-funding platform called Kangu, which provides newborn care and a safe birth for women who lack access to adequate healthcare. Get matched with a mama and baby and potentially save a life. In addition to high-quality healthcare for the mom, you can also donate toward immunizations for the wee ones.

Have a wonderful week everyone 🙂

Baby & Toddler · Pregnancy · Tips and Tricks

Maternity Fashion

Now that I only have a couple weeks to go, I’m realizing that I am really going to miss being pregnant. Don’t get me wrong: I’m anxious for the foot swelling, heartburn and frequent potty breaks to stop, but there’s also a part of me that can’t believe my baby will be here any day, that I have to learn to breastfeed, and that pretty soon I won’t have a little buddy kicking, hiccuping & rolling over inside my belly all day!

36 weeks.
36 weeks.

I really enjoyed shopping for maternity clothes, too, so when I finally had to stop buying them in order to focus on nursing wear and baby’s layette a couple months ago, I felt bummed. I like to think I’ll be pregnant again someday, but one never knows what life has in store!

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37 weeks. Mid-heat wave.

I’ll do a post soon on what we learned while registering for baby stuff, but for now I want to share the tips I picked up over 9 months of pregnancy while shopping for maternity wear. Obviously I’m very focused on what works for petites, but a lot of my advice goes for any mama-to-be. And, as always, I LOVE hearing your comments and ideas.

First trimester

It took ages for me to “show” in an obvious way, but somehow I put on what felt like a spare tire the instant I took a positive home pregnancy test. I felt pudgy immediately, so all my skinny pants went right to the back of the closet. Then, once morning sickness kicked in around 7 weeks, anything constricting made me doubly nauseous and had to go. So, to feel more comfortable, I transitioned to leggings, jeggings and dresses/skirts very early on. As I got closer to 12 and 13 weeks at the end of my first trimester, I phased in some (borrowed) pants and dresses one size larger, since I needed the looser waist but not a full belly panel yet. Two helpful things at this stage: a belly band, so you can stay in your “regular” jeans without letting everyone know you had to unbutton the waist to sit down, and maternity hosiery. Yes, hosiery.

The BeBand. Helpful in the first trimester, and I’m told post-partum as well.

Everyone laughs at me when I talk about preggo pantyhose, but they were a total lifesaver for me when it was still cold enough out that I needed to wear tights or nylons every day to work but couldn’t suffer through the tight waistband without getting sick. They helped me eke a couple more weeks out of my regular (one size larger) skirts and dresses before I had to give ’em up for maternity clothes.

Two recommended brands for maternity hosiery: Assets, the lower-cost version of Spanx (made by the same company and sold in Target and on Amazon) and Motherhood Maternity. I bought a couple full-length hose in black and nude for winter, and then shorts like these were helpful for smoothing out the bumps under lighter-weight dresses come summer.

I also found that I outgrew my regular bras extremely quickly. This was due in part to my cup size changing (woohoo! I’ve always been a 34A!) and also partly to the unexpected way your rib cage broadens ever so slightly during pregnancy (boo, that makes me feel fat). I wasn’t prepared for that physical change, which made most of my button-down work shirts impossible to wear past 8 or 9 weeks. Also, having been smaller-chested my whole life, I hadn’t ever dealt with needing meaningful support for the twins … but pregnant boobs are a whole other matter, and they can’t handle a flimsy bra. Sore, achy and expanding, they need a bit of help and TLC. I lived in sports bras, especially overnight, and then started wearing the Genie Bra, which was a godsend. I’m still wearing them at 38 weeks.

I bought mine at Target, but later found even better prices (3-pack for $19.99) at Burlington Coat Factory.

KEY ITEMS AND TIPS FOR MONTHS 1-3

  • Buy maternity stuff early and often so the options are there as soon as you need them. Sign up for every free e-mail list and/or store credit card available for places you like. I carry a Banana Republic credit card, which can be used at Gap & Old Navy too, and I got on frequent-buyer lists for those stores plus Destination Maternity. Do it and watch the coupons flow into your mailbox.
  • Be aware that smaller sizes (4 and under) sell out extremely quickly when it comes to maternity wear, so if you see something you like and it’s available in your size, just buy it. Be further aware that “petite” maternity clothes are usually just sizes 0 through 4, not clothes tailored for petite bodies like you might expect. So be prepared to get a few things hemmed.
  • Grab plenty of sports bras for sleep & sturdier bras for everyday in a cup size larger. Buy these as soon as you find out you’re pregnant so they’re on hand the minute your girls need extra support. The swelling and soreness can be staggering.
  • Leggings and jeggings. Maternity options (I liked Old Navy’s, both under- and over-the-belly) are great and cheap.
  • A couple of skirts and dresses one size larger than you normally wear.
  • That said, buy maternity clothes in your regular size. Don’t listen to sales people and relatives who tell you that you need to “go a size up.”
  • 1-2 elastic waist sweatpants/shorts or fold-over yoga pants for lounging (and exercise, if you’re feeling up to it). Fold-over yoga pants can take you from week 1 to 40 and into post-partum.
  • Long tanks and shirts for layering & covering any pooch.
  • Invest in some new, comfy underwear. You’ll find yourself wanting things that are seamless, with good coverage, and which aren’t too flimsy or tight or stringy. Cotton is best. Plus, you don’t want to stretch out your nice stuff! My absolute, hands-down favorites: these from Gap, with a couple close runners-up from Destination Maternity and Target.

  • A belted trench is expandable in front and conceals the belly for quite a while. This is good for keeping things mum, but bad when you’re on the subway and just wish everyone could tell you’re pregnant so they’d give up their seat before you throw up all over them.
  • Don’t be afraid to move into maternity wear, especially underthings, as soon as you need them. You’ll be a million times more comfortable. There’s no correlation between gaining too much over the entire pregnancy and needing maternity stuff early on. I had to shift into maternity jeans and pantyhose even before 12 weeks, but I’ve gained a healthy 20 pounds so far with just a couple weeks to go. Just avoid tops & dresses with side ruching if you’re keeping the news under wraps at work.
  • If you have bad morning sickness like I did, diversions are your friend. Think textured and fun-colored tights, pretty scarves, long necklaces and lip color that pops. These distract from a sickly pallor.

Second trimester

Truly, this is the golden time. You are finally showing, so nobody thinks you’re just eating too much pasta anymore, and you probably aren’t so big that things such as bad balance, swollen ankles and heartburn are plaguing you yet. You’ve likely stopped making a million trips to the bathroom and thus are sleeping better, so your “glow” is in full swing & maternity clothes are looking GREAT on you. Enjoy it while it lasts.

This is when I really started rocking my full maternity wardbrobe, and was glad I’d bought most of the pieces early. Here’s my punch list of essentials:

  • Jeans, skinny and boot-cut
  • Dress pants, at least 1 pair black (I got 2, one tailored for heels and one for flats, plus a gray pair)
  • Leggings, at least 1 pair black
  • Tights, 1 black and one sheer
  • 1-2 tunics, ideally 3/4 sleeve for versatility
  • 6+ shirts (cover the basic colors, then go for stripes or patterns)
  • 5+ tanks (I like these and these)
  • 6-8 dresses that can be layered with sweaters and cardigans in winter and spring, then worn alone in warm weather
  • At least 1 pencil skirt (Gap makes a nice one) that works for office or casual (I needed more for work, so I bought blue, gray and black).
  • 2 or 3 maxi dresses (they look adorable with denim jackets, they hide cankles and they conceal inelegant seating positions)
  • Exercise tank, pants & jacket
  • 2-3 pairs of shorts (I got denim and white; gray or khaki would have been my next choices. I only really needed 2 because I only wore them on weekends).
  • Use what you already own when it comes to cardigans, jean jackets, belts and coats, unless you’re hitting your third trimester in winter. The “maternity versions” are not cut that differently.

Third trimester

It’s here before you know it. Suddenly you’re more awkward than you bargained for, and outfits are less about what’s pretty than what’s easy to put on, easy to sit in, and comfortable for puffy legs, sore backs and itchy bellies. Demi panels probably aren’t too comfortable for you anymore, but full panels may irritate your stretched-out skin. It can be a battle. Sometimes under-the-belly options actually start to feel better. My recommendation is to wear whatever is comfortable and don’t try to hold yourself to any pre-pregnancy standard (or even what you could wear in the second trimester). And take seriously any doctor’s recommendation to put your feet up, wear compression socks, etc. Probably the worst part of this trimester won’t be looking bad, but having to work hard to get dressed every day. You won’t be able to bend over very well, and clumsiness will have reached new levels. Check out this ingenious product one woman designed to overcome this awkward phase:

Undergarments you can put on lying down!
Undergarments you can put on lying down!

Work

3-4 skirts, 6-8 dresses and maybe 2-3 pairs of pants should give you enough outfit combinations if you’ve been stocking up on accessories, tanks and cardis all along. That may sound like a lot, but by waiting for markdowns or buy-one-get-one sales, I nabbed several of my dresses and skirts for $10 or $15 each. I picked up a few more chic pairs of flats since I found heels uncomfortable once I started showing and my balance went off, and again I made good use of maternity nylons and compression trouser socks underneath it all. Since I was pregnant December through August, I relied on long sweaters and flowy blouses early on, transitioning to maternity skirts and pants by February and then mostly maternity dresses from April onward since I was always running hot. Other than when we had a series of heat waves, running hot was kind of nice after years of toting a pashmina everywhere because I’d always be cold! Key for me was making sure I had one “public speaking” dress for days when I had to give a presentation, teach or otherwise get up in front of people. For me, that was this Gap dress:

Exercise

I already did an extensive post on prenatal fitness, but I’ll just reiterate that there ARE good maternity exercise clothing options out there, and they aren’t pricey either. I made good use of my existing elastic-waist pants until I was about four months along, when they started to roll down in the middle of Zumba class (oops!) Then, I picked up a full-panel pair of capris from Motherhood Maternity, plus a couple maternity tanks made of moisture-wicking material from Old Navy. Leggings rounded out my fitness wardrobe for gentler classes or at-home yoga & walking around the neighborhood.

Shoes

Don’t push it here if your back is hurting, no matter how far along you are. Things can go from bad to worse really quickly if you ask too much of your body or ignore what it’s trying to tell you. With pregnancy, there’s no such thing as “powering through!” I thought just because the shoe still fit on my feet, it wouldn’t cause problems, and learned the hard way that this is how pregnant women end up with hammer toes, calf cramps and blisters. Key pieces:

  • Roomy walking shoes/sneakers
  • low work heels
  • plenty of cute flats
  • flat boots for winter/rain
  • If summer, pretty sandals with room for your feet to grow a bit. Make sure the heel isn’t too high (like a low wedge). I love Bare Traps.
  • some micro liner socks for when your feet get bigger and start to rub the inside of your existing shoes.
Some of my favorite purchases: Bare Traps (top), Payless flats (left), sock liners from DSW, and Skechers GoWalk slip-on sneakers (no socks required).
Some of my favorite purchases: Bare Traps (top), Payless flats (left), sock liners from DSW, and Skechers GoWalk slip-on sneakers (no socks required).

Sleep

Want to know what I did? I got some hospital scrubs at a uniform supply store (Army-Navy outlets will have them, too) and just let the waist out bit by bit as I got bigger. They can be tied anywhere that’s comfortable for you, which cannot be said of some other pajamas that will pinch right where your full bladder is. I also used my husband’s undershirts to sleep in (granted, he’s 6’4″ so they’re like a nightgown on me) or just stuck to under-the-belly cotton shorts and a sports bra. Pregnancy turns you into a furnace and our bedroom already runs hot because of the way our house is built, so there were no footy fleece PJs for me. If you’re struggling with heartburn or back pain, invest early in a full-length body pillow made for pregnancy. For $50, it will change your life.

Weekend

In the winter, I wore leggings and jeans with flats or low boots. My favorites were my skinny pair from Old Navy, a versatile boot-cut pair from Gap, and these black leggings with a full panel, which had great support and smoothed out the bumps nicely. In the summer, I wore a few non-maternity skirts that had foldover waists, as well as shorts, and this fabulous Old Navy bathing suit for beach days.

Things I didn’t have to deal with

  • Special occasions. I’m not sure how I got away with not having any weddings during this gestation, but boy do I feel lucky!
  • Winter. And thank God — maternity winter coats are hideously expensive.
  • Travel. Because instead of a babymoon, we had to remediate mold from the inside of our bathroom walls. However, A Cup of Jo has some great tips on planning your babymoon, from picking a location to packing well.

PREGNANT BEAUTY

And by this I mean, “shortcuts to getting ready when you need 12 hours of sleep” and “minimizing your routine NOW before the baby comes.”

Moisturize. Not just your belly and your chest, which are so prone to stretch marks, but the rest of your body and your face as well. Hydrating your face well can help keep hormone-induced breakouts at bay, and slathering lotion on the rest of your body is a good habit to get into so you aren’t caught off-guard by the intense itchiness that can come on without warning when your baby decides to have a growth spurt. All that stretching can make you want to scratch yourself to death, and it can show up overnight!

Eucerin’s smoothing repair lotion has a pregnancy-safe AHA in it, which promotes moisture retention while gently exfoliating. It’s also fragrance free and extremely soothing. I used it all 9 months and didn’t get a single stretch mark.

One thing that just came on the market which I should have tried: sprayable lotion. When I think of all the acrobatic maneuvers I performed every morning just to get cream on my legs when I couldn’t bend over anymore…..

Try dry shampoo. Most likely, your hair will be thicker, so you can get a second or third day out of a blowout. I used this tactic to grab some extra sleep!

Pay for pedis. Eventually you’ll have no choice because you won’t be able to reach your toes, but I found that this $25 worth of pampering made me feel a zillion times prettier. Just don’t get the massage part in your third trimester because rubbing the pressure point between your heel and ankle can bring on contractions.

File nails daily. They grow so fast, you really have to in order to keep them looking neat. Or, do I what I did occasionally — get a manicure and have them trimmed very short with a polished, pretty nail color, so you get a break from all that maintenance. This helps keep a good shape to your nails, too. I liked having a manicure to feel professional whenever I had to get up and talk in front of people and knew the bump was distracting.

Invest in a good razor. You’ll be shaving a lot more often, if you’re like me! I ended up getting those razors with the shaving cream built in, like Schick Intuition. It was just easier.

STORES

I was willing to shop anywhere that had stylish clothing that fit me, within my budget. I saw no need to pay full price for anything when you can sign up for friends & family programs for free at almost every store on this list. There’s always a sale somewhere if you wait a day or two!

My favorites:

Old Navy. Always having a sale at some point! Their rewards rack up really fast, and their prices are super reasonable to begin with. I got several dresses here that could switch between work and play, plus my two favorite lightweight sweaters. I know I said to just use your regular cardigans, but every now and then you’ll have a day when you want to be able to pull something cozy around the belly. Here is that cozy something:

Also comes in black; I have both.

Motherhood Maternity. People criticize this store for being lower quality than they’d like. I disagree — I had no issues with their stuff, got great compliments on their dresses (most of which are priced below $40) and was actually able to find professional pants in several colors, hemmed for my height. When it got hot, this is where I went for cute shorts that didn’t break the bank.

$34.98

Gap Maternity. In my opinion, great for basics like tanks, leggings and jeans. Prices can be steep for non-sale dresses and skirts, especially since similar styles can be found elsewhere (Old Navy, Target) for less.

Not bad

  • Ann Taylor Loft Maternity. Styles offered were great-looking. But everything I ordered from here went back — why? Three reasons: 1) Pricy. They had the worst sales of all the retailers I shopped. 2) Small sizes (4 and under) sell out instantly — and I mean by 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning when new inventory comes in or a sale is on. 3) Poor fit. Their so-called “petite” maternity items are no such thing, and the one pair of cropped black pants I purchased from here required $20 in hemming to fit properly. I shouldn’t have bothered for the limited use I got out of them.
  • Liz Lange for Target. They don’t carry a lot of variety at any given time — maybe three dresses, two styles of tank top in a few colors, and a handful of shirts and pants — but when you hit on something flattering, it’s good quality and priced well. I got my workout jacket here as well as a couple work dresses.
  • Asos. I just wish I’d discovered this website earlier in my pregnancy. Very reasonably priced for on-trend stuff.
  • Baby Depot/Burlington Coat Factory. Their stuff is pretty cheap, I’m not gonna lie. But for weekend t-shirts or lounge wear, you can’t beat it. They carry a smallish selection of maternity wear right next to their baby department, which is worth a look as well.

Didn’t have much luck

  • Consignment stores. They almost never get in a good selection of clothes for sizes 0 and 2.
  • H&M Maternity. Cute stuff, all of it way too casual for what I needed.
  • The plus-size department. Obviously. Why do sales people suggest you look here when you ask if a department store carries maternity clothing? Mark and I could never get over this.

Throughout my 9 months of pregnancy, I shared my favorite preggo finds on a Pinterest “maternity fashion” board. Check it out and follow me!

Pinterest copy

If you want a chuckle, check out this article on the 12 things you miss most during pregnancy. One thing on the list that I definitely agree with is the ability to wear cute shoes. Even before my feet got too swollen to fit into any of my shoes (seriously — I literally have been wearing black Old Navy flip flops for two months straight) I found that heels were too totter-y, anything strappy cut off circulation, and half the rest just looked different (a.k.a., unflattering). It remains to be seen how much my feet will shrink back down to normal size after I give birth, but I’ll keep you posted. A wise husband (mine) once said, “don’t worry if your feet are permanently bigger. Won’t it be exciting to get to buy some new shoes?” CHA-CHING!

Baby & Toddler · Pregnancy · Tips and Tricks

Beating Morning Sickness

If you hadn’t guessed that I’m pregnant by now, especially with the dearth of original recipes from December through March on this blog, consider the cat officialy out of the bag! We are having a little girl in August of this year, and we could not be more excited to meet OrganicBaby 🙂

BabyLinehan_Sonogram_Facebook

First things first: this post has a completely misleading title, because it implies you can win against severe morning sickness. You can’t, and the sooner you start seeing morning sickness as Step One in My Life Has Changed Forever Because of this Baby, the better off you’ll be. I went down in flames in my fight against morning sickness day after day for 20 weeks. When people ask how you can get through that much nausea and vomiting, I always say it becomes your new reality and you learn to cope … so that’s what this post is about. None of the pregnancy books or websites did me much help, so I decided to compile my own tips to share with you for when things get really bad. If you have ideas to contribute, by all means, leave them in the comments below.

I wish I could have called this post “natural remedies for morning sickness,” but the truth is that I relied on lots of junk when things were dire, and that I was heavily medicated for more than two months just so I could go to work for 8 hours a day (if that) before sleeping for nearly 12. I’ll share several natural coping strategies for mild sick days or simple nausea, but if you get one takeaway from this post, it’ll be this: nobody gets a medal for enduring debilitating morning sickness, and you could be putting your own health and that of your baby at risk. So don’t be a hero. Just call your doctor before you end up in the hospital. (Second and third takeaway: morning sickness frequently lasts all day, and very often lingers past your first trimester, so start prepping psychologically for that by adopting a stance of acceptance now).

In no particular order, here are my tips for coping with morning sickness.

If a particular food stops being appealing to you, don’t try to force it. Most people who know me know that I abhor wasting food. I’ll eat boring leftovers all week just to avoid throwing away extra food, since the statistics on food waste in America are so alarming. I had to get over this. No sooner will you get home with a steaming plate of Pad Thai than realize it suddenly lives on what I call “the no-fly list.” In this case, my husband was only too eager to eat double his takeout portion, but I can’t tell you how many times this scenario repeated itself, even with foods I usually adore (like Italian) right after I’d told our friends or family a certain restaurant was safe. I had to get used to ordering something only to find it revolting when it arrived on the table, and I took home a lot of uneaten portions that Mark ate later — or not.

Outsource your grocery shopping, cooking & dish washing, ideally to the person who knocked you up in the first place, and don’t even think about reading a food magazine or watching cooking shows. In fact, look down whenever a restaurant commercial comes on screen, too. Why risk it? One minute you’re watching The Biggest Loser and the next you’re hanging over the toilet bowl like an actual loser, just because you didn’t have the good sense to turn away when Red Lobster started hocking some butter-drenched lobster. <<shudder>>

While you’re at it, outsource the toilet bowl cleaning, cat box scooping & anything else involving chemicals to Baby Daddy, too. Not only are many conventional cleaning products unsafe to be around while pregnant (to say nothing of the hazards of cat litter), you’ll be in no mood to encounter whatever germs, smells and hair are clinging to the surfaces of your home once morning sickness strikes. And if you DO get sick and find the sink, shower or toilet in non-pristine condition, you won’t be able to stop. Don’t get sick 10 times when you could leave it at 1 or 2 just because someone doesn’t like to mop.

Leave a snack next to your bed and eat it AS SOON AS you wake up, like before your feet hit the floor. And then, if you need to, just lie there for 5 or 10 minutes to let your stomach catch up. I built in time to do this every morning so I wouldn’t run late. (While you’re at it, keep some Tums on your nightstand, too). The bedside snack will also come in handy if you wake up nauseous in the middle of the night after hitting the bathroom for the second (or third, or fourth) time.

Sleep on your left side. This not only quells nausea quickly, it can lessen heartburn as well. I was shocked at the difference I felt between lying on my right side versus my left.

Don’t leave home without a granola bar. Or whatever your safe food seems to be. Ditto for water. Unlike when you have the flu, water may help you move past a bout of sickness due to baby, and will keep you hydrated — extremely important for your baby’s development while your body’s blood volume is doubling. Other things that worked for me: baby carrots, rice crackers, Cheerios, fruit smoothies (especially, in a pinch, these from McDonald’s), mashed potatoes, bagels and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. Having hot water with lemon in the morning also proved extremely soothing, and I found that most drive-thrus (such as Dunkin’ Donuts) will sell this to you for 50 cents or less. What did I avoid? Unfortunately, an awful lot — my aversions were WAY stronger than my cravings. I couldn’t be around eggs of any kind, bacon, shrimp, black olives, coffee, melted cheese, pepper, the smell of booze, ground beef, sausage, Thai and Chinese food, and pretty much anything fried. I also learned to indulge the rare cravings very carefully. You might think you want a whole jar of candied jalapenos, but really one or two will suffice — and if you overdo it by one spoonful they’ll come right back up, making them immediately repulsive from that moment onward.

Find the least-foamy toothpaste you can. Brushing my teeth was just insulting: the paste would make me gag, which would make me sick in the shower, which meant I had to clean the tub so my husband could use it next, AND I somehow had to get my teeth clean again without getting getting sick. My dentist had a good tip: if you really can’t take the toothpaste in the a.m., which I truly couldn’t for a few weeks there, just brush as best you can at night, and then brush with a bare toothbrush after rinsing with a good mouthwash in the morning. And don’t forget to floss, even if your gums are bleeding for the first time in your life thanks to all those hormones. You can really develop some serious problems if you don’t take care of your teeth while you’re pregnant.

Don’t take your prenatal on an empty stomach. If you are having trouble getting it down at all — either because it makes you nauseous when it hits your stomach, or because the act of swallowing a pill makes you gag — talk to your doctor about other options. When I had gone almost a week without being able to get mine down (or keep it there), I got the green light to switch to these chewables, available at Target or online via Amazon.

Graze, don’t stuff. Not only will you be shocked at how full “full” really feels when you’re newly pregnant, over-eating will make you nauseous and potentially cause you to vomit too … and all you can do is wait for digestion to take its course, barf bag in hand. (Related tip: if you’re getting in the car or going on the subway, don’t leave home without packing a barf bag in your purse. They actually make stylish ones, believe it or not).

If something works — for example, waffles for breakfast, lunch & dinner — just go with it. I found things with sugar helped stabilize me so I could at least leave the house (canned fruit, cranberry juice, waffles with maple syrup, etc.) but I’ve heard just as many people say sugary things made their nausea worse. Personally, the usual upset-tummy trio of toast, peppermint tea and ginger candies made me MORE sick while pregnant, so don’t be surprised if your go-to cures feel like the opposite as well. There’s no right or wrong (unless you’re thinking Brie, white wine and espresso are your go-to remedies).

Wear loose clothing and don’t be afraid to transition into a bigger size or a maternity outfit earlier than you planned to, aka before you’re really showing. Button down shirts, tight jeans, nylons and even your favorite underwear may just pinch too much around the middle now, and you shouldn’t feel silly going into clothes that are one size larger or switching to maternity hosiery (what’s that, you say? Well Spanx makes a line of nylons for moms-to-be that will change your life. Check ’em out and order liberally! Just try not too laugh too hard at the photos while you do so.)

I plan on doing a post soon about my top maternity wear recommendations, since it can be so challenging to find a) petite preggo wear and b) work-appropriate attire that’s fashionable, professional and comfortable.

PS: Need a laugh? When all else fails, visit the PregnantHusband Tumblr blog and I promise you, your day will improve. (Not that it can go downhill much when you start with your head hanging in a toilet).

Things that worked great for me

  • Getting to bed early
  • Starting each day with a carb-heavy meal (like a bagel)
  • Sipping broth (like Matzo Ball soup or chicken noodle)
  • Avoiding perfume and other strongly scented products
  • Dressing in layers to prevent overheating, which often led to nausea
  • Keepings baths & showers lukewarm
  • Keeping a sliced lemon in a Ziploc in my purse for counteracting offensive smells
  • Packing applesauce and granola bars in my purse for emergencies

Things that didn’t work for me, but worked for others I know:

  • Peppermint tea
  • Ginger candies
  • Saltines
  • Taking an approved sleep aid to prevent overnight sickness

Other tips from friends that I didn’t try:

  • Acupuncture
  • Seabands (motion-sickness wrist cuffs, available at any drug store or Amazon)
  • Vitamin B6
  • Sleep aids

Final words of wisdom: Your baby will be fine no matter how much (or how little) you are eating. My typical day included a bagel in the morning, a bag of Cheerios that I nibbled on all day, ginger ale or lemon water in my hand at all times, and mac n’ cheese or soup and toast for dinner. If I could muster it, I ate an apple and a granola bar for a snack. It was seriously lame and nutrient-deficient. But you know what? You can make up for the lack of vegetables, iron, legumes and Omega-3’s later in your pregnancy. Don’t worry if you can’t fit in much exercise, either. You can get back on board with physical activity after your morning sickness fades, so just take care of yourself and get lots of rest in the meantime! Baking a baby is hard work, and there’s no shame in getting the rest you need. And click here for a helpful prenatal wellness & nutrition guide from the hospital where I’m delivering in Boston.

See how Tasha is coping with the news.
How can I forget Tasha? Click the photo to see how she is coping with the news.