Tuesday 24 February 2015

Breastfeeding and Working

Almost two months ago I went back to work. Baby Girl was 3 months old and exclusively breastfed. We weren't having any issues breastfeeding so I had no intentions of stopping and luckily my work has been extremely accommodating. I have my own little mini-fridge to store milk in during the day and access to a private room only I have the keys to so I can express during the day.

Even when you have a cooperative work (legally they have to be!) you are going to need some additional things to express while at work. This was all new to me but after a month I think I've got a good system worked out. Here are the products that make breastfeeding and being a working mom work for me.
First and foremost my Medela Freestyle Double Breast Pump. I literally could not be back at work with out it. Since I'm separated from Baby Girl while I'm at work I need to express to remind my body to keep producing milk and so she can have milk to drink when I'm not around. The Freestyle is small and compact with a rechargeable battery and comes with a complete set for the storage, cooling and transport of breastmilk. The 2-Phase Expression Technology is based on the natural sucking rhythm of the baby: Short, stimulating patterns are followed by longer ones, ensuring an optimal milkflow. Its faster let-down and maximum milkflow reduces pumping time significantly and you can express more milk in less time.

I've used the pump now at home, at work and even on a train. The Freestyle comes with a specially shaped freezer pack that will keep breastmilk cold while you are travelling. The bottles are BPA-free and can be used to store milk with the provided lids or with the Calma teat to feed your baby.

This is the only breast pump I have ever used but is the only one I'd want to use. You can adjust the suction to the strength that works best for you and it holds a charge for a really long time. I didn't need to charge it while I was away for a day for work in London and  I only really need to charge it once a week when I'm using it at work. I've had so many friends complain about their breast pumps but I couldn't be happier with the Freestyle. If you are going to be expressing on a regular basis I really suggest the Freestyle as it's sturdy and reliable.

Also it's worth noting that Medela's customer services team are amazing. If your pump malfunctions or a part breaks they are quick to help you sort out the problem or provide you with a new pump part as needed. Considering it's an essential (and expensive) bit of kit it is great to know they have you covered.

With my Freestyle I use a Simple Wishes hands free pumping bra. My best-friend recommended this pumping bra to me and I'm so glad she did. It means I don't have to hold the pump and can check emails and use my hands while I'm pumping. It has a velcro back and an extra zipper panel so it will fit any size. I was a bit dubious since I'm a 34J (I know it's ridiculous) and my friend is a 36B but it really is adjustable. It's not something you'd wear all day long but it makes such a huge difference when you are expressing two to three times a day. I personally can barely sit still staring into nothing for 2 minutes let alone 15-20 and it really helps that I can read work articles or check emails, too. I like it so much I got one for my sister who just had twins, too.

Once I'm done expressing I need the wash everything so I'm ready to go again later in the day. I got a large tupperware box from TK Maxx which has been invaluable. It is how I store and transport my pump parts, but is also what I wash them in. No offense to my office mates but I'm not really comfortable washing pump parts with everyone's dirty plates. I fill up the tupperware box with soap and water and then use a bottle brush I also got at TK Maxx and keep in my mini-fridge. I put paper towels on the lid of the box and set parts out the dry and then dry out the box and put everything back in. Parts then go in the fridge (a tip my BFF taught me again so you don't have to sterilize at work) and are good to go for your next session. I was able to wash my bottles and parts on the train down to London using the same technique--it's a sink and storage box in one.

Most days I wear my "normal" bras to work but if I know I'm going to be going straight to get Baby Girl and will need to feed her I wear the Anita Underwire Nursing Bra. As I mentioned before I'm up to a 34J so traditional nursing bras don't provide the support I really need. I have a really comfy Bravado bra I wear to sleep in at night, but it doesn't provide a very flattering shape. The Anita gives me the support I need but also means I can easily feed Baby Girl in public. I really struggled to find an underwire nursing bra so I was happy to learn about Anita. 

Finally I have to mention Freida's Pantry Feeding Food bars. Needless to say working full time with a 5 year old and 4 month old can be a bit stressful. Depending on what my week is like my supply has suffered. I've had friends who bake cookies that up your supply or make special oatmeal but honestly I just don't have the time. Luckily Freida's Pantry make bars that not only increase your milk supply but are easy to toss in your bag and eat on the go. When I read the ingredients and I saw fennel I honestly thought I'd hate the bars but they are actually quite tasty and most importantly they work! I've been lucky to have a fairly good supply but the bars have helped me keep that up even when I'm stressed and busy.

I've only had one problem breastfeeding while working (more on that in another post) and I really think that is down to having a good system in place. I'm grateful to my BFF for her recommendations and tips as well as having a pump that works efficiently and effortlessly. Did you breastfeed while working? What are your top tips?

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Transatlantic Blonde were provided some items for review but all opinions are our own.

Monday 9 February 2015

Hidden Egg Challenge Allergy Testing

Blondie Boy was diagnosed with an egg allergy just shortly after his first birthday and he's been having yearly allergy tests at Yorkhill children's hospital since then. This year he tested positive but his reaction was less than previous years so we were referred for a hidden egg challenge. I'd never heard of a hidden egg challenge or read anything about it so I thought it might be useful to other allergy parents if I shared our experience.

A hidden egg challenge sounds like a cool Easter egg hunt but it is really just an extended form of allergy test. While his yearly tests consist of a droplet of egg being placed on his arm, this would use cake to see if he could handle well cooked, hidden egg--things like cakes, cookies, dried pasta, etc. It was almost two month from the allergy clinic giving him a referral until we got had his appointment for the challenge. Of course we woke up to the most snow we'd had in years the morning of his appointment but after really bad road conditions we made it.

The test itself took place on a ward in the hospital; Blondie Boy was weighed when we arrived and given a hospital bracelet and was not allowed to leave the ward until the testing was done. It was the same ward he had his original testing in over 4 years ago. After asking us some initial questions and listening to his chest (he had a cough and they needed to check it wasn't in his chest) we started the challenge.

First up he got cake plastered to his arm:

BB was actually a bit anxious about this but I told him the worst that would happen was his arm might get a bit itchy and he was a lot better. The nurse literally stuck some cake on his arm and covered it with a clear dressing. Then back to the waiting room where there were all sorts of toys, colouring in pages, a full size play house and more. Blondie Boy was also offered a Nintendo DS to play with and could have watched a DVD on a portable player if he wanted (bad Mom and Dad forgot the iPad in all the snow craziness) as well.

He didn't have any reaction on his arm so we moved on to the next stage which consisted of the nurse rubbing cake around his mouth:

Why is it that boys always have the darkest, longest lashes? It's not fair but I digress. It seems so silly but it is what is done. He continued playing with a mucky face until the nurse came back to check and again he had no reaction so we moved on.

From here he was given small bits of cake to eat in increasingly larger portions. I don't have any pictures but all the bits of cake could fit on a spoon. I'd say he probably had 4-5 rounds of cake on a spoon but I can't say for sure because I was alone with BB (who was a super star) and Baby Girl (who was not) so I didn't take notes.

After he had the last bit of cake (and by this point he didn't want any more) he was allowed to eat and drink as normal and we entered a 2 hour observation period. They gave him a cheese sandwich, yoghurt and crisps (again bad Mom and Dad forgot the lunch we were supposed to pack). The two hour wait is rough; it probably wouldn't have been so bad if it was just me and BB or if NBH had been with us the whole time but alone with a cranky 4 month old it was rough.

There were a few other children having testing at the same time for different allergens; one little girl had a reaction and basically if that happens they give your child their medicine, you have to wait for an hour and then you're done for the day. At one point one of the nurses thought BB had had a reaction but I was convinced he'd just scratched his face. Luckily they retried him with the same amount and he had no reaction so the test kept going.

It's a long five hours but the staff at Yorkhill are all really lovely and being a children's hospital they are set up to cater to children. There is a whole huge closet full of games, toys, markers, DVDs--all sorts of fun stuff to keep your child entertained so it wasn't that big of a deal when we forgot to bring the iPad. Also the nurses were really nice and showed me to a room when I wanted to breastfeed Baby Girl and there was baby change facilities in the disabled bathroom.

Since BB had no reactions at all he is now allowed well-cooked egg; 48 hours after testing you are allowed to introduce two new items at a time like cakes, cookies, pastries brushed with egg, dried pasta, Milky Way bars, etc. He is still allergic to eggs and can't have egg but that he can now have a bit of birthday cake at a friend's party is just amazing. I'm really hoping this is a sign he is growing out of his egg allergy.

We let him choose his first hidden egg treat and he's a boy after my own heart--he went with a chocolate donut. When you've not been allowed one for 5 years it is perfectly acceptable to eat it in the car on the way home.

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