The Past Week

Well I’m on vacation for the next two weeks, but wiped out Thursday night with something head-ache-like that the doctor called “neuralgia”. Ibuprofen seems to have taken care of it but it did keep me from going in on the last day. Littlest will be at the nanny’s this week (except for Wednesdays as usual) so I will be trying to get a lot of work done.

Other than his birthday yesterday, which I’ll write about in its own post, not much is going on here. I did, however, contribute to a crowd-funding campaign for an illustrated breastfeeding manuel. I hope she makes her goal because I would really like to have this book, even though its pertinence is sort of over for us for this round. We’ll mostly be concerned by the weaning chapter (eugh, so many questions and feelings about this).

I also donated to the UNHCR because I can’t emotionally deal with the stories coming out of Myanmar. (I don’t know who to talk to about it because I don’t want to depress anyone else.) I can’t really give much but maybe at some point I’ll be able to make it into a monthly donation.

Here are some other, more lighthearted things:

AIM Was Perfect, and Now It Will Die: From the Atlantic. This writer was a tiny bit after my time, but still, AIM was part of some very formative years for me. I also attribute it with teaching me to type so fast.

Leaving Isn’t Such a Trivial Act, After All From Zhu. This hits home.

Historically, how did a country get a name in another language? From Quora

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The Past Week

Gosh I wish I had something interesting to talk about, but it’s really been all work and playing with the baby around here. J is away for work this week, and Littlest’s first night with the babysitter is this Friday when I’ll be playing a gig. I still haven’t gotten around to buying myself a new iPhone (SE), and may possibly do it this weekend.

So here’s a little bit of a link round-up.

Buzzfeed: Here’s What Sorority Recruitment Is Actually Like: I had no idea.

WHY BOJACK HORSEMAN’S EMOTIONAL PUNCHES LAND SO HARD: I loved this season.

How to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen: I wish this article had been around when I was a freshman in college.

BBC Three: Every Child Deserves the Right to Play: Video about children’s entertainers in refugee camps.

Best Multicultural Baby Books: I’ll take them all, thanks.

Lettre à la future maman que j’étais il y a deux ans: I actually don’t really mind the extra effort it takes to get out the door, but otherwise, this was pretty spot on.

And a couple of things I read/watched this week that made me feel France has let me down in terms of breastfeeding my baby and that it is just a constant struggle to push back in a bottle-feeding culture (even though we have been really successful in the end):

L’alimentation à la crèche après six mois

Global Health Media: Breastfeeding in the First Hours (Warning: There are babies and boobs.)

Sigh.

The Past Week

Eek! Another Past Week post that is really the past ten days and almost two weeks. Such is the rentrée… what’s more this year the rhume de la rentrée (back to school cold) seems to have hit harder than usual and it has caught all three of us in its grips in different forms and at different times. I am current battling the resulting laryngitis and hoping to not miss another day of work tomorrow since I only teach two hours and have ten million photocopies to make (heure de vie de classe will *hopefully* be run by the students… I mean that is the idea… but we’ll see).

Littlest is in good form though in spite of his runny runny nose and the torture we make him suffer when we try to rinse it or just wipe it. He’s enjoying his friends back at the nanny’s to the point of sometimes not taking his morning nap, but if the nanny can deal with that level of exhaustion, it doesn’t actually make any difference to us since he catches up in the afternoon one.

Enough of nap talk. We have successfully found two babysitters which will hopefully allow us to get out a bit more though we do have to figure out exactly how chèques CESU work (anyone know?).

Otherwise it is solidly the train train quotidien here and should be up until vacation in a few weeks. I have another week before I have to single mom it up again and J managed to get his second week of déplacement reduced by complaining loudly about it in writing.

But I did manage to bookmark a few things these past few days that felt shareworthy.

HERE ARE THE TOP 17 MATERNITY BLOGS EVERY BADASS MOM SHOULD FOLLOW: I have not yet skimmed them all, though my favorite  (Pregnant Chicken) is on the list. I’m saving them for future down time.

Best Birthday Cake Recipe: I hope to make this for Littlest’s first birthday, though if I want to make the frosting I have to get my hands on some corn syrup.

American Girl Dolls Ranked By Betchiness: Good for some lols, I mean, I loved American Girl dolls, and this was pretty funny, though I couldn’t really get into the rest of the site.

A 300-Square Foot Tiny House in California: Not your typical tiny home. This house was all the pretties, though seemed completely impractical anywhere but California.

Hot Milk Magazine: A quarterly magazine (in French) about breastfeeding. I didn’t think I’d be a militant breastfeeder until I realized that in France, anything past 3 months is basically militant breastfeeding. I haven’t yet read through the latest issue of this so not sure if I’ll read it regularly or not.

That’s all. I’ll leave you with Littlest’s new favorite word: “BWAH.”

 

The Past Week

has involved…

  1. Finishing classes for the year and getting my new course load for next year. Things are changing a good bit… and I’m excited!
  2. Dealing with the heat wave, which included buying one of these adorable, super light sleep sacks for Littlest: Grobag Baby Sleep Bags. It allowed us to keep him in a sleep sack without him being too hot—and without a sleep sack these days he gets up to all sorts of shenanigans and we find him legs out of the crib, on his tummy, calling for help. In fact the past few nights he’s been in diaper + sack and that’s it. It’s pretty cute.
  3. Also baby-related, signing up for Tinybeans.com to share baby pictures with my family, and the special surprise was that my sister-in-law did as well —> lots of pictures of my nephew!
  4. Reading the full list of 185 cosmetic and bathing products that have been found to have either endocrine disruptors or irritants. I mostly read to see if any products we use were on the list, and have since decided to stop with the baby wipes (even though our brand isn’t on there).
  5. Playing in another village for the Fête de la Musique. J took Littlest out in Poitiers and they danced the (early) evening away, apparently.
  6. Turning 33. Weird.
  7. Various end-of-year meals with different groups of colleagues and ex-colleagues.
  8. Listening to Littlest start syllables (consonant + vowel) and watching another tooth grow in.

Other stuff, mostly about breastfeeding:

Painting of nursing mother wins BP Portrait Award 2017

Comment l’allaitement façonne le visage du bébé

Orange is the New Bac: Characters’ advice for French students

Breastfeeding Experiences, Part 3: “Tu allaites encore?”

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Sweetest of Pies, view from above, at 5 months

Littlest is 7 months old now—how time flies! And breastfeeding has become such a joy. Now that he’s eating solids, what I pump at work is more than he needs, so we haven’t even bought a tin of formula for 6+ months (though we’ll have to this weekend as I’m worried I might not have enough frozen milk for his night at Mamie’s).

The benefits of breastfeeding seem to just keep piling up as I read more:

  1. It creates the “microbiome” (the assortment of good bacteria) in the gut that baby needs.
  2. It helped him learn to suck harder in order to be readier to eat solids.
  3. It introduced him to lots of different tastes, also better preparing him to eat solids.
  4. It gives him my antibodies to keep him from getting sick.
  5. Also because of my antibodies, when I get sick, it keeps him from getting what I have (or at least, he gets it in extremely mild form) and allows me to not wear a mask around him—and continue giving him all the kisses I want.
  6. It has saved us so much money.
  7. It calms him when he’s upset for other reasons, like this weekend when he had some trouble falling asleep at the wedding.
  8. It’s so freaking practical (this past weekend we nursed on the side of the road and in the church during the wedding).
  9. It gives him my melatonin in the middle of the night to help him fall back asleep, though he seems to be sleeping through the night again (when he’s at home).

And though it’s not a scientific benefit, the bond we have while nursing is super sweet. Littlest is pretty wiggly but has started looking up at me with his big blue eyes (yes, they’re still blue!) while nursing and it melts my heart.

Unfortunately, breastfeeding a baby at this age in France seems to already make us abnormal. From as early as six months I started getting the question, “T’allaites encore?” at that point without any inherent criticism. But it shocked me that anyone would bother to ask that question for such a little baby, and the questions have only increased over the past few days when we saw so many new people with Littlest at a wedding.

I can tell it’s going to be tiring responding and educating people. I snapped at a colleague today, though I then explained.

Here’s my question though: WHY? WHY would I stop now? It was so hard at the beginning, and it’s such a joy now.

So if any has any quick and ready answers I can whip out without having to think about it, that would helpful!

Pumping at Work, as a Teacher

Back when I was pregnant I was very confused about how pumping at work could possibly go. I knew employers in France were required by law to give you an (unpaid) hour to pump or breastfeed (if there’s a company nursery for example), but as a teacher, that’s a joke. I mean where exactly in your schedule are they going to slide that hour?

When I got my schedule last summer I immediately calculated which times I would theoretically have enough time to pump, not knowing yet how long it would really take or where I would be doing it. My schedule this year works out pretty well, in that I never have more than three hours of class in a row without a long break.

Here is how pumping, as a teacher in a lycée in France, has turned out.

Supplies

I got a prescription from my midwife the first week of Littlest’s life for a Medela Symphony double pump that I rent from the pharmacy. It’s 100% paid for by the sécu so I pay nothing. I did have to buy what they call the “kit,” which is the reusable plastic bits that hook onto the expensive machine, including two 5-ounce bottles.

I bought two milk coolers from Amazon. They’re really convenient and quite compact, with ice packs that fit in built-in pockets. They’re supposed to stay at fridge temperature for up to 8 hours.

I’m currently putting the milk into Avent brand plastic bags. I go through them quickly at three or four per day, so I’m hoping after the Ireland trip (when I won’t be freezing them anymore) to use mostly bottles.

I also bought a little plastic caddy to carry the kit pieces around when they’re dirty.

Finally, I bought some dish soap and a sponge.

I leave the pump, caddy, bags, sponge, soap, and kit in the pumping room, along with a big plastic bag and a ball point pen (for marking the bags). I leave a tall tupperware container on the counter of the teachers lounge kitchen space.

I also have lots of cute pictures of Littlest on my iPhone that I look at toward the beginning of each pumping session, because they’re supposed to help with let-down. I don’t think I actually need them, but they make me smile.

Timing

I pump three times a day for now, for twenty-ish minutes, during my breaks. Up till this last vacation I had class twice a week from 1:35 to 4:20, which meant I didn’t really have time to fit in a third pumping session before going to get the baby at 5. Fortunately since last vacation my schedule has changed just enough that I now pump in the morning, at noon or 1, and at 3:30.

It does take up a significant amount of my work time—about an hour. Fortunately I’m good at time management, but it’s true that it takes dedication.

Location

I now pump in an empty office near the teacher’s lounge, and one of the secretaries put a schedule on the door for me, so it says it’s reserved at the times I’m typically in there. (If I’m there at a different time, I put a heavy box in front of the door just in case.)

I use the teachers lounge fridge. I’ve got a tall tupperware container marked “Please do not touch” that I put the filled bags in during the day, in the fridge. I put my ice packs in the freezer compartment and leave the empty cooler on the counter where other people leave lunch boxes.

After pumping, I throw all the used plastic bits into the caddy, put them into a plastic bag, and put it in the fridge along with the bag I’ve just filled with milk. I then wash the kit parts in the bathroom sink after my last pumping of the day and leave them to dry on some paper towels in the empty office.

To and From 

So in the morning I arrive with an empty cooler, and put the ice packs in the freezer compartment of the lounge fridge. In the afternoon I take all the filled bags out of the tupperware container in the fridge and put them in my cooler, which I then take to the nanny’s, unless J is picking him up that day, in which case they go to her the next morning (hence the need for two coolers).

I do carry bags of breast milk to and from the teachers lounge and the empty office. No one seems to notice.

I am thrilled with this system and so happy it’s working out. Despite the laws in place to help breastfeeding moms, I think this could have turned out much more difficult. I wouldn’t have been too excited about trucking the pump back and forth every day, for example.

Breastfeeding, 2

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Baby toes, or, as I call them, “toeses woeses”

I wrote about some aspects of my breastfeeding experience back in January before I had gone back to work. I feel like an update is in order.

Littlest is still breastfeeding like a champ at almost five months. I am so happy we didn’t quit at 2 months because it goes so smoothly now, and it gives us some nice cuddles that we wouldn’t otherwise necessarily get. (Littlest is so “tonique,” as the French say, that he’s not that easy to cuddle.) It’s a nice way to reconnect after the work day and it’s also really practical.

1 Formula

We stopped the nightly bottle of formula the week before we went to Spain, because it was finally ten times easier to nurse him. We also started putting him to bed earlier so I don’t mind “waiting up” to nurse him before bed (it’s a top-up feeding, not a full one, but he’s always ready for a cuddle feed before bed even if he’s not really hungry).

He gets a bottle of formula at the nanny’s sometimes when I haven’t given her enough milk (something I’m doing purposefully for now because I want to put a bag per day in the freezer for my trip to Ireland), and when I happen to be out and he wants to eat.

2 My pumping situation at work went downhill.

Turns out pumping in the infirmary wasn’t all that practical because, duh, there were often sick students in there! I was sort of okay with it when it was a girl, since there is a screen I pulled between us, but yesterday it was finally a male student so I went to my boss for help. (I also realized that in terms of hygiene, pumping around sick kids wasn’t the greatest.) My boss talked to her boss who has opened up an empty office for me. I pumped in there this afternoon and it’s WONDERFUL: sunlight, peace and quiet, near the teachers’ lounge… ahhh. I’ll have to use the teachers’ lounge fridge which will mean extra labeling (ie Do not touch) but I am way relieved I don’t have to share the room anymore.

In case anyone out there is wondering, here is the law on pumping at work. (That site is great, btw, I wish I’d found it before going back to work!) Oddly, your employer is required to furnish hot water, but not a fridge or guaranteed privacy.

3 Here are some comical things Littlest does when nursing now.

  • Be not hungry at all, then get set down in front of me on the nursing pillow and PANIC TO BE FED. It’s super cute because he wiggles his right leg back and forth when it becomes URGENT (though he was unaware of this need five seconds before…).
  • Wave his hand in the air while nursing, or grab my sweater or shirt. He was always a big arm-waver, but it’s gotten more targeted since he controls his movements better. He thinks it’s hilarious when I put his fingers in my open mouth.
  • Every once in a while, stop nursing and just look up at me, like he’s remembering that I’m there.