Pumping as a Stay at Home Mom

Most stay at home moms will end up leaving their baby with someone for one reason or another and need expressed milk for while they’re away. When Peanut was a baby, I was going to school in the evenings and leaving her with her dad. It was a horribly stressful time in my life and I remember being constantly worried if there would be enough milk for while I was gone. There were multiple times when I left her not knowing if I’d come home to a screaming, starving baby because I only left barely enough if that. It got to the point where I basically stopped attending my classes because I was so stressed out about leaving.

I read everything that was supposed to help me with pumping, but it seems like most tips are geared towards moms who pump more often. If you’re pumping while you’re at work for 8 hours a day, it’s different than when you’re pumping at home. There are obstacles in both situations for sure, but they’re very different obstacles.

Partially because of this stress I experienced last time, I’ve avoided leaving Twig with anyone for more than 45 minutes (and even that, only a handful of times). Though chances are we will end up needing expressed milk sometime in the near future, so I decided to start building up a store in my freezer. I’m surprised at how much easier it is this time, so much so that I decided to compile a list of the reasons why I think it’s easier in hopes of helping some of you out there who want to store a bit of milk.

5 Tips for Expressing Milk as a Stay at Home Mom

1. Start ridiculously early. I think that I started pumping a week or two before I was supposed to start school when Peanut was a baby. I figured I would just do it and get the milk and it wouldn’t be that difficult. For me, it was that difficult (hopefully these tips make it not so difficult for you!). If I would have had a head start, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal to take some time figuring things out. Instead, I constantly stressed about getting milk, which in turn made it more difficult to get the milk. Vicious cycle. So, if you’re at all able, start a month or more before you’ll need to use any milk. Milk lasts a long time in the freezer, so don’t worry about it going bad. With our recent illness, I stopped pumping all together. It wasn’t a big deal for me to do that because I have plenty in the freezer and plenty of time to get even more.

2. Try before you buy. Don’t buy a pump just because your friend says it’s wonderful or even because it has great reviews on Amazon. What works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you, which is the reason why La Leche League doesn’t endorse any particular pump. Look for a breastfeeding store near you and see if they have a try before you buy type program. One that’s about an hour from my house will let you try as many pumps as you would like for $50. If you buy a pump, the fee is waived. You obviously have to throw out the milk you get, but it’s not like you need to do a full pumping session to decide if it’s working. I was amazed when I figured out that the pump that worked best for me was actually a hand pump, which I hadn’t even considered because everyone said it’s so annoying to have to pump it manually. Also consider hand expressing. I’ve heard many women say that hand expression works better for them than any pump.

3. Pump while you nurse. One of my problems when I was pumping for Peanut was that I could never get a real letdown. Letdown just means letdown, not letdown on the side that you’re currently nursing on. Those little round “Hey, I’m a nursing mom!” stains on your shirt can attest to this. Nursing while you’re pumping means that you pretty much can’t handle anything else, but really, it’s kind of nice to take a break from checking my phone and reading and all the other things I do while I’m nursing. Obviously if you’re gone from baby and need to express milk, you can’t pump while you nurse, but hopefully that’ll be easier too because you and your body are used to the pump when there’s the extra help.

4. If possible, do it daily. This won’t work for everyone’s schedule, but if you’re able, pump every day at the same time of day. Make it a time that you’re not to stressed out (e.g. an hour before dinner time is probably not the best time to relax and pump) and that you’ll be home most days. Breastfeeding is a supply-demand system, so your body will quickly figure out to produce more during that time of day. Driving home from Peanut’s preschool today, I realized that I really needed to nurse on both sides. That’s because my body is used to making lots of milk right after Twig’s morning nap, which is when I’ve been pumping.

5. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get much, especially in the beginning. First off, it will take your body a day or two to realize that you need more milk every day at that specific time, so if you don’t get much in the beginning, don’t worry. Also, never take how much milk you’re expressing as a sign of how much baby is getting. Babies are exponentially more efficient at getting the milk out that any pump, so they’re getting much more than you can get out. If you’re not getting as much as you’d like, just continue for a few minutes longer than when the milk stops. Even if you don’t get another letdown (there are multiple letdowns in each feeding, so it’s normal for the flow to pause or decrease and then start up again), you’ll be teaching your body that it needs to produce more. Again, supply and demand.

6. Try to get baby to top it off after you’re finished. Even if you only nurse on one side per session, this is a useful thing to do. As I said in the last tip, babies are more efficient at getting the milk out. So even if the pump can’t get any more out, your babe milk be able to. Again, this is teaching your body to make more milk, so maybe you’ll be able to get out more next time. If your nursling doesn’t feel like nursing more, don’t worry about it.

It’s important to note that milk expression can be so different for everyone that this is far from an inclusive list. These are just some things that have helped me and I’m hoping could help you. If you’re having troubles with pumping, keep trying new things until you figure out a system that works for you.


My Chore List

A while back, I wrote this post about how to clean your house with small children. There was a comment from Leah (thanks for the comment Leah!) about doing certain chores on certain days. I had thought about doing this before, but just never got around to making a system. Then, when my friend Shal posted this blog about her cleaning routine, it gave me that extra push to actually do it. Today, I’m sharing with you my chore list!

I tried to make it pretty comprehensive. It’s not meant to be a list of all the things I have to do that day, just a list of all the things that I could need to do that day. For instance, maybe I don’t feel the need to clean the tub Every. Single. Monday. Rather, I can look at the clean the tub checkmark and think “Oh, I did that last week. I don’t need to do it this week.” Or sometimes I don’t accomplish the room that’s planned for on that day. Maybe I’m having guests on Wednesday, so rather than doing the girls’ room, I clean the living room where the guest will be sitting with me. It’s pretty flexible.

It’s nice though, having all of it written down. I used to keep a running list in my head of all the things that I needed to do. The toilets need to be cleaned, the dishwasher needs to be unloaded, the downstairs needs to be vacuumed, etc. The problem that I never realized was a problem until I changed it was that I felt like all of those things needed to be done now. Whatever was at the highest priority in my head, say the toilet needing to be cleaned, would constantly nag at me. Every time I sat down to knit or play with Peanut or anything that wasn’t “accomplishing” something, I’d think about that dang toilet. Now with the list, I realize I’m going to clean that toilet Monday, so I’m not worrying about it on Saturday and Sunday. It’s actually freeing.

It also helps me to do the things that I want to get in the habit of doing. Like I’d like to run the dishwasher every day and keep a mostly dish-free sink. I’m still working on that, but seeing it there on my list makes me accomplish it more days than I was before (because I hate doing the dishes, so I would always push it off to the bottom of the priority list in my head until it was to the point where I absolutely had to do the dishes). I’m even using it to try to remind myself to shower. I’m sure some of you know how it is with kids and trying to remember self-care. Yeah, I have a hard time with that. I need to remember to put myself first, at least some of the time.

So here is my chore list. It’s obviously going to be much different from what you would have at your house, just because our houses are different. We also have different priorities. Things that need to be done that aren’t on the list get put on a To Do list on the whiteboard where I used to write all of my cleaning to do. Mostly that list ends up being repair and yard work. I’ve had to edit the list a few times (and you can see some current edits on the list) over the month or so that I’ve been doing it. I forgot things, had typos, wanted to change the dates for things, etc. It’s a work in progress. Hopefully though, my list with give you some ideas for your list if you’re looking to make one.

Where it hangs on my fridge, in a sheet protector, ready to be marked with a dry erase marker.

My actual list.

Do any of you have a chore list? Do you clean things on certain days or just keep a running list? Any tips or tricks for someone, like me, who is just starting out with their list?

The Stay-at-Home Feminist

Image from Strawberry Mohawk

Growing up, I thought that being a stay at home mom meant you weren’t a feminist. It meant that you were suppressed. When I heard about the fight for women’s rights in our country, I was outraged. I became more outraged as I heard more about women earning less and getting less promotions. I was convinced I would rise above all that. I would put family last on my long list of things I wanted to accomplish. I would work outside of the home when I had kids long after my career was in place. I would break the barriers. Life obviously had other plans for me.

I think that a lot of people have that same opinion–that stay at home is somehow anti-women’s rights. Every once and a while, I come across a Facebook post from one of my friends saying they feel “so 50’s housewife” because they cleaned the house and had dinner on the table when their husband got home.

We’re told as we grow that we can one day have it all. We can have a career and a family and everything will be happy and hunky-dory. We will be fulfilled from our careers and happy from our children. We can be executives that work 60 hours a week and come home to happy kids and a clean home and even volunteer on the weekends. We’re never told that this is the best case scenario. That if you’re working 60 hours a week, it’s hard to find time to see your children, let alone clean your house or get in some “me” time. I remember being thoroughly insulted when a representative from some school came into my medical anatomy and terminology class in high school and told me that I could possibly be an OBGYN because I wouldn’t actually be into my career until I was 33 and how would I possibly have kids?

Of course I don’t speak from experience, but based on what I’ve heard from other moms, working away from home isn’t exactly a piece of cake. You have all of your deadlines and expectations at work, then you come home to kids who haven’t seen you all day and so they want your attention and a house that needs cleaning. Something’s gotta give.

Back to feminism.

Feminism is about choice. There were days when every woman, by default, had to do what I am doing right now. Staying at home to take care of the kids and clean the house and feed the husband. Those of us who wanted something different weren’t given the option. All of the leaps and bounds we’ve made are so that women can have that option. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to work outside of the home. Just as there is nothing wrong with wanting to work inside of the home.

I am lucky to have the choice to work outside of the home, but I’m not working against the cause when I choose to stay at home. I am not somehow a lesser woman. I can still be fulfilled. It is a feminist choice to stay at home, because it is a choice that I am allowed to make.

Cleaning House with Small Children

All the books say not to worry about cleaning when you have small children. One of my favorite books, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, has this poem as a tear sheet:

Babies Don’t Keep

The cleaning and scrubbing
Can wait ’til tomorrow
For babies grow up,
I’ve learned to my sorrow.

So quiet down, cobwebs.
Dust, go to sleep.
I’m nursing my baby,
And babies don’t keep.

It’s a lovely poem I definitely agree. No one expects for you to have a sparkling house when you have little ones running around un-cleaning everything you’ve just picked up. You shouldn’t expect that of yourself either–it’s just setting yourself up for failure.

You do need to clean though. Yes, you can put off the laundry for a day or two, but eventually everyone is going to run out of underwear. It’s just an inevitability of life that you will have to vacuum before you baby starts ingesting more hair than the cats that shed it. With that said, it’s not always easy. Some days I feel like leaving the house just to avoid the mess. So I came up with some tips for how to keep your house clean with little ones. It’s far from a complete list. Some of them may just not work for you at all. For me though, they’re things I wish I would have known 3 years ago when I was just starting in the business of being a stay-at-home mom.

So here they are:

Tips for Cleaning House with Small Children

  1. Make a to do list. It can be in your head or it can be a physical list, up to you. Towards the end of my pregnancy and shortly after Twig was born, I found it helpful to keep a running list on my white board so I wouldn’t forget everything in my pregnancy- and post-baby-foggy brain. And you don’t need to keep them in order of priority unless that’s helpful to you. For me, that was too much of a hassle. On Monday changing the cat little box could be just something that needs to be done, but by Wednesday, it’s number one of the list. Things change too much to try to keep an order.
  2. Multitask. Accomplishing anything when you have a baby is difficult. It gets, in ways, more difficult when that baby becomes a toddler. How do you get around this? Multitasking. I frequently wear Twig on my back while I vacuum because she’s crabby and I know it’ll help her go to sleep (or at least stop crying while the vacuuming is going on). Peanut helps me push the laundry basket downstairs. Sometimes I’m getting a bit of me-time by watching a show and folding the laundry at the same time. When I’m waiting for dinner to finish simmering, I can unload the dishwasher. Life just can’t be devoted to just one task at a time when you have little ones running around.
  3. Keep projects quick and small. One big thing I’ve learned: if I do one load of laundry every day, I never have huge piles of laundry all over my living room waiting to get re-dirtied by Peanut throwing them around or Twig spitting up on them. When I’m walking upstairs to change a diaper, I take the books that need to go upstairs with me. When I look at my family room and it’s a mess, I pick up all the things that should go in the bathroom and take them with me when I’m heading up there anyway. When the toilet absolutely needs to be cleaned, I can clean just the toilet rather than the whole bathroom. I’ve always thought of cleaning as something you do all in one big spurt and be done with it. While that works for some people, it just doesn’t work for me. I couldn’t tell you how many hours a day I clean because I’m constantly cleaning, but it just ends up being 5 minutes out of the hour every hour rather than 2 hours straight.
  4. Enlist in some help. It was really difficult for me to ask my husband for help when Peanut was small. I always thought of the housework as part of my job as a stay-at-home mom, whereas his job was to go away for 40 hours a week and make money. Now I’m starting to realize that, for us, the bulk of the effort is still mine, but it’s alright to ask him for help. Beyond that, he’s happy to help me. Now we’ve gotten into the habit of him asking me every night after we read books to Peanut what needs to be done. I’m not going to make him spend his whole night scrubbing the tub, but he can definitely do the diaper laundry for me. Which brings me to my final tip:
  5. Decide your priorities. For some people, I’m sure dusting is high up on the list. For me, not so much. Meaning not at all. Why does it matter if the top of the picture frame, which I can’t even see, can go ahead and stay dusty. Same goes for scrubbing anything until it sparkles or cleaning the walls. Well, maybe I do occasionally clean the walls because they have spaghetti splattered across them. 😛 For me, it’s all about functionality. If I can’t walk 3 steps without hurting myself on a toy, I need to pick up that room. If I can’t find a burp rag, I need to do laundry. So on and so forth. If it’s not something you particularly care about or care to do, go ahead and stop doing it (or do it less often, if it is something that truly needs to be done). If you hate folding laundry, stop doing it. If you don’t want to clean the toilets, don’t scrub them until they shine daily.

Budgeting Hurts my Brain

Our current envelope system. I’m going to change it for envelopes that have zippers to keep change in and change gas (which we do through debit at Costco for cheaper) to entertainment (which I forgot to include).

I’m serious. My actual brain throbs. It doesn’t make sense, but I swear the feeling is there.

So, as I’ve talked about in the past we’re doing the debt snowball method to rid ourselves of debt, I’m awful with money, blah blah blah. Everything kind of got put on hold with having a baby. I didn’t even track our spending for a month after she was born, which is something I’ve done for the last two years. It felt like we were back at that place where we were a few months ago where we couldn’t put a full tank of gas in the car for fear of not being able to buy groceries before the next paycheck. It’s not a place that I like to be.

So I decided to do something about it. I never did start up our cash envelope system that everyone recommended. I still didn’t start it until the 20th of last month (one of the days my husband gets paid). I kept thinking that if I took our income and subtracted the bills, we’d have a number for spending and we’d just put it where it needed to go at the time. That just wasn’t working. Every. Single. Paycheck. we’d end up spending into the next before it came in. I was constantly worrying if we had enough. I was avoiding doing the math on my tracking sheet because I knew that we’d be in a deficit when I did it. Something had to change.

That’s when I saw this post by That Mama Gretchen. Probably nearing a year ago, when I finished reading Total Money Makeover, I made copies of all the sheets at the back of the book that you’re supposed to write your money information on. I put those copies on my desk with the plan on filling them out in the near future. I’m living proof of why that first page where you say when you’re going to finish each page is important. I just never did them.

After reading Gretchen’s blog post, I finally decided to take the plunge. Wow. Some of those numbers were terrifying. Seeing on paper how much we’re “worth” was horrifying. Even if you don’t count in the mortgage, it was an awful number. On the other hand, some of the pages were amazing, like the one where you take your expenses over a year in categories where you’ll end up paying a lump sum and divide it by 12. How did I never know to do that?!? I feel like I’m budget illiterate. It amazes me that this sort of thing isn’t taught in schools. I need this much more than I’ll ever need algebra (though I still think we should learn that too).

An example of the ledger I keep in the envelope to tell how much we’ve spent and where.

The most important form, in my opinion, is the monthly cash flow plan that Gretchen mentions in her post. It was difficult determining exactly what we needed where. And I’ll be honest, I’ve messed up in multiple places. I forgot my student loan payment (since I took spring semester off and one of my loans is through a different company with a weird policy, I didn’t have a grace period) for April, thinking that we wouldn’t pay it because I was starting school again and therefore would get deferment again. Yeah, school doesn’t start until May. I also didn’t expect to make some money from selling diapers and one of my secret shop companies. I also entirely forgot to put spending money in our entertainment category. Like that’ll happen!

So things have been modified along the way. I’ve had to take money from one envelope and move it to another. I’ve been wrong on how much we’ll need in one category from this paycheck versus the next paycheck (obviously you can’t put all of your cash into your envelopes at the beginning of the month if you’re paid multiple times a month). Things have been changed around a lot. I’ve gotten frustrated a lot. I’ve literally called my husband near tears telling him I can’t figure out where such-and-such money went. With work and determination though, it’s worked out.

I’m proud to say that we lived through a whole pay period without overspending. Beyond that, some of the envelopes still had money in them. We made it through two weeks without overspending. It may not be much of an accomplishment to some people, but it is to me. And we managed to pay an extra $155 to our credit card as part of our debt snowball too.

I’ll continue sharing our financial journey with you all. I know that budgeting may seem off topic for this blog, but it’s an important part of parenting. Other moms often tell me that they could never be a stay at home mom because they need the income. This world is truly not made for one income families anymore and I understand that. It’s a battle every day to make ourselves survive on less and, beyond that, thrive on less. For our family, it’s important that I’m the one here raising our children. I know that not every mom has the ability or want to do that and I have no problem with that, it’s just a priority for our family. It gives me the opportunity to do many of the things that I talk about on this blog, such as breastfeeding, gentle discipline, and so on. I also know that working moms can do a lot of those things too. That’s not my point here. My point is that budgeting does fall in the realm natural parenting because in my world, part of natural parenting is surviving on one income in a two income world. So I’ll continue to share in hopes that it helps some of you out there thrive on less money.

Mothering in Second Place

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about mothering through breastfeeding. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!

There are many benefits of being a stay-at-home parent. One of which is not favoritism. I go to school in the fall and spring, but in the summer I am a full-time SAHM. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it. If I weren’t setting back my education by years and consequentially going into repayment of my student loans, I would stay at home 100% of the time all of the time. One of the downsides to staying at home is that I am no longer the preferred parent. When my husband leaves for the day, she’s following him out the door crying. When he gets home at night, she’s ecstatic. Most of the time lately when I ask her to say “mama” she says “dada” instead.

Daddy is the favorite—except when it’s time to nurse.

When it’s time to nurse, she is all over me. She wants me and only me—daddy simply will not do. Daddy can’t even distract her for a few minutes. She. Wants. Mama. NOW! When I’m sitting down preparing myself, she comes running across the room squealing. When she’s nursing, she wants to play with me. She loves me to kiss her on the forehead. She laughs the hardest when I tickler her while she’s nursing. Nursing is probably her favorite thing in the world right now and I am glad for it.

Sometimes on days when I feel like all she can do is whine at me, I nurse her and feel the rush of happiness hormones and suddenly forget my bad mood. Sometimes I nurse her just because I need to sit down for a minute instead chasing after her. Sometimes I nurse her just because I want to play while she’s doing it. Often, I just nurse her to reconnect.

There are many reasons why I started to nurse her. There are many reasons why I keep nursing her. There are many reasons why I plan on nursing her as long as she’ll let me. Within all of these reasons, there is one resounding theme—breastfeeding makes mothering easier.


 Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

Staying at Home in a Two Income World

I choose to be the one that raises my daughter. Don’t get me wrong—working moms are not bad people. As I’ve said many times before, you choose what’s right for your family, I choose what’s right for mine. In this particular case, staying at home with my Peanut is what’s right for me. I’m all for working outside of the home and plan on doing it one day when she doesn’t need me so much. My problem is the fact that I’m practically forced into working just to survive.

My husband and I are looking into buying a house. We’ve been living in my in-law’s basement for over a year and a half now and while I really struck it rich when it comes to the in-law lottery, you can only live with people for so long before things start to go downhill. We need our own place and I think that’s a reasonable thing to ask.

Originally we were planning on renting, but a local money fair turned us to the idea that it may be better to buy a home even if we only live in it five or so years before selling it. There are tax benefits and of course the equity and honestly the idea of calling something so immense ours really strikes my fancy. So we dived in and started the house search.

We searched much lower than what we were approved for (well actually, what my husband was approved for because the bank man decided that there wasn’t a benefit of putting a non-working spouse on the application… grumble grumble) and we put an offer on a house yesterday. Only after we did the offer did we actually sit down and work out our new budget with the house payment and utilities in there.

Oh my.

As a pretense, my psychologist said that what we went through was a pretty common thing called “sticker shock” where you say “ZOMG I’m buying a house I can’t do this!!!” Now we’re thinking that we can probably figure things out, but it’ll be tough for a while.

Anywho, we did our budget and were actually in the deficit with buying a house and barely making ends meat if we rented instead. Of course we’re paying a lot less for living space at the moment, but really that much less? How does this work out? How can we afford a house? Do I have to get a job? I don’t want to be away from my Peanut!

Of course we’re budgeting as much as we can and we’re going to be spending less on things like going out to eat, but really I think we’ll pull through this. I’ll continue to go to school (which is already too much time away from Peanut IMO) and I don’t think I’ll have to get a job. We’ll have to decrease our food bills, but I won’t do it by buying crappy, unhealthy food. I’ll buy things in bulk and make things from whole foods which I’ve already been doing. We’ll figure this out, but why do we have to fight so hard just because I want to be the one to raise our children?

I’m all for feminism, but it’s backfired for the women who don’t want to work outside of the home. Since all the women went out the work, prices of things inflated accordingly and now it’s impossible to survive on one income. How is this fair? Why do I get punished because I want to be there for my Peanut’s milestones? Why do I get punished for being the one to teach my daughter the ways of life rather than some stranger?

Simple answer: life isn’t fair.