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 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?”


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.


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.


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.


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


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.

Breastfeeding Issues I’ve Encountered in France

When I got pregnant with Littlest I knew I wanted to try breastfeeding, and my initial thought was that I wouldn’t put any pressure on myself to make it work if it really was too complicated. My boobs changed a lot during pregnancy and were the very first sign I was pregnant. I went up two cup sizes by the time my milk came in, though I seem to have settled back down almost a cup size since then. Everyone’s choice about this is personal, but to me it just made sense to put all these changes to the test and ask my boobs to do what they were physically preparing for.

There are a few things that have surprised me with this experience, and they may or may not be cultural, but I think they are somewhat specific to France.

  1. In France your employer legally has to give you an hour to pump every day at work. This is such a joke when you’re a teacher, and I’m sure it’s worse if you’re an elementary school teacher. I scoured the internet for personal experiences from other teachers on forums since the Education Nationale has apparently nothing to say about it. The two other teachers I opened up to and talked to about it had either not breastfed at all or had just quit when they went back to work (at 3 months). So I felt pretty alone in my quest to pump at work until I went to see the school nurse (a former midwife) back in September to talk to her about where I could pump. She was so supportive that I stopped feeling like such a freak for wanting to teach and give my baby breast milk. Maybe I’ll continue to feel like a freak when I’m pumping in the nurse’s room during both récrés and my lunch break… but I hope not.
  2. Out of the five women in my birth classes, only two of us tried to breastfeed. One of the other women is pumping and mixing with formula, which sounds exhausting to me. So even with these ladies (the other one who tried stopped after two weeks), I feel a little bit on my own. My colleague who had a baby last year didn’t breastfeed either.
  3. I chatted a little with some of my colleagues and acquaintances, or they opened up about it on their own, before Littlest was born. At least two women said they either got stressed about the baby not eating enough or didn’t have enough milk for the baby. I took them at their word until I realized people love suggesting to breastfeeding moms that they don’t have enough milk. Okay, maybe that is an exaggeration—but here’s a tip for everyone out there: Never ever say to a breastfeeding mom that she might not have enough milk for her baby, unless you are a certified lactation consultant! I mean wtf? Two of J’s family members suggested to me at completely different times that I didn’t have enough milk based on absolutely nothing. (For the record, I’ve always had enough milk and I’ve never been worried about it.) It’s infuriating and heartless and irresponsible. So many women get stressed out about this and so few of them really don’t have enough milk for their babies.

I get that breastfeeding is a big constraint that some women don’t want to put up with, and there are obviously other personal and health reasons why women wouldn’t be able to or wouldn’t wish to breastfeed. I did actually almost give up at two months because Littlest’s evening feedings were becoming a real PITA, and was surprised at how sad I was to think we were stopping, so so much for that chill attitude I’d hoped to have when I was pregnant. But here are the advantages I’ve found, and I try to remind myself of them when I get the impression that all the bottle-fed babies in the world are already sleeping through the night.

  1. One of my colleagues said she stopped because she stressed about not knowing how much the baby was eating. I LOVE not knowing how much the baby is eating. We give him one bottle every evening (occasionally he takes another one in the morning if I’m too tired) and we never worry too much about him eating a specific amount because we know he got what he needs the rest of the day out of the breast. FREEDOM.
  2. Along those same lines, it’s much easier to pack my nipple shield and washcloth with me when we go out than the formula, bottle and bottled water. (Though I would also love if it he would learn to regularly latch and give up the freaking nipple shield.) Also in the middle of the night there’s no mixing to be done.
  3. Antibodies: babies are protected by their mom’s immune system for the first three months after the birth anyway, but breastfeeding gives extra help, such as last week when Littlest barely got the stomach flu I was dealing with, because my new antibodies were streaming through the breast milk. (My understanding of this is fairly limited, but I think it works something like that.)
  4. I’ve already lost more weight than I gained during the pregnancy (though I think this counts way less than reasons 1-3) and I haven’t gotten my period yet.
  5. Also, Littlest is really cute when he’s breastfeeding. I mean it is a really sweet moment for just the two of us, especially at night.

Anyway, the takeaway for me from all this is that I actually feel pretty alone in breastfeeding among women of my generation, which is weird, because when we looked up the official numbers, the rates are no lower in France than in the States. I do think it picked up later on here than in the States (J and his sister weren’t breastfed, for example), but most women of that generation have since learned about the benefits so other than the careless remarks about milk supply, everyone’s been supportive. So I try to remind myself of the advantages to help feel less lonely about it.

Anyone have any other experiences (your own, other people’s…) to add to this list?