Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra

Pumping can be a huge part of a breastfeeding mother’s life.  I pump at work and occasionally at home to maintain/boost supply with our little Peanut.  When Pickle was little, I pumped for the first five months while her mouth grew big enough to be able to nurse.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours attached to a pump over the last five years – but both as a mother of two and an employee, I don’t have the time to just sit and devote time to pumping.  I have to be able to multitask while I am providing that nutrition for my child. 

When I was pumping with the Pickle back when she was a baby, I tried and ordered a very simple halter-style pumping bra.  It was a lot like a sports bra that had a halter strap that goes around the neck, and a cloth band that goes around the breasts, much like this.  

The practical problem with this is that I usually try to, you know, wear a shirt to work.  In order to use this bra, I had to take off my shirt (and usually my nursing bra) to wear it, or had to wear it underneath my clothes all day – and since it rides so high on the back of the neck, it was always visible.  As such, I ended up only using it a few times before giving up and just holding the flanges.
Now, I’ve been lucky enough to try the Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra (LINK)  It is a bustier-style pumping bra:

The first advantage of this is that I could simply pull up my shirt, put on the Simple Wishes bra over my nursing bra or tank, and still be warm (and as modest as possible while pumping) – no more stripping down.  I know this sounds like a small thing, but the pumping room at my office is freezing, so this is a huge benefit!

A really huge benefit of the Simple Wishes hands free bra is how it is sized.  The company provides a great tutorial video on how this works (LINK).  In essence, the back is similar to a regular bra, but it has Velcro instead of hooks, so that it can be resized up to ten inches to accommodate a wide range of sizes.  You can also resize it as you go through the course of nursing – changing breast sizes is a common issue as your supply adjusts and engorgement wanes, and you don’t have to go out and purchase a new pumping bra if/when it happens with this product.  There’s also a removable zippered panel in the front – this is great for if your breasts are closer together vs. further apart.  

My favorite part of the Simple Wishes bra is very basic – it gave me back time.  I had two hands free to work while pumping, or to hold/care for my little ones if I was at home.  I wasn’t tied down to the pump like I was in the past, I could type or read, use my phone, and so on.  I think that one of the big reasons that women discontinue pumping (and, in turn, breastfeeding) is just that they hate being stuck helpless while pumping, and this bra can really help avoid that from happening.

I washed this before wearing it, and had absolutely no issues while doing so – I just followed the instructions, washing it on cold and hanging to dry.  It’s been soft and comfortable, and not constrictive.  It’s done a great job at supporting the pump flanges – I’ve used both the standard Medela flanges and the Pumpin Pals flanges with it, and both have worked great.

I’d strongly recommend this pumping bra – for less than $40, which is less than you would spend on a single bra at Victoria’s Secret, you get a great pumping bra that should easily be able to last you the whole time you breastfeed/pump.  The company also has a great 30-day money-back guarantee, which is rare for such a product.  All in all, a great buy!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Arm's Reach Mini Co-Sleeper

When Pickle was born, we started bedsharing around 6 weeks or so – it was the only way she would sleep.  I read up on all of the literature, and found ways to make it work safely.  I’ve been a little nervous about doing it with the Peanut, though.  I don’t know if he just seems littler, or what it is, but I’ve had anxiety about bedsharing.  But, due to breastfeeding, I wanted to have him close to me at night, so I didn’t want to put him in his nursery in a crib yet.  I wanted a safe, separate space where he could sleep that was close to the bed – because, let’s be honest.  I’m lazy.  I don’t want to get up out of bed fifteen times a night to nurse him, I want him to be close by.

Enter the Arm’s Reach mini co-sleeper (LINK).  We received ours as a gift from family, but they currently run about $169.  There is also a larger size, but I wanted the smaller one so that I could still easily get in and out of bed around it after my C-section.  

The Arm’s Reach has two modes in which it can be used.  It can be set up as a free-standing bassinet, totally separate from the bed.  We’d used it that way for the first six weeks of Pickle’s life, and it worked well –but I still had to get up and out of bed to soothe or nurse her.  I knew that I wasn’t really looking for that with Peanut, so we instead set it up in the co-sleeper mode.  To use the co-sleeper mode, one of the sides of the sleeping area rolls down for easy access from your bed.  In order to ensure that the baby does not roll out and into a gap between the co-sleeper and the bed, a tether is provided that you use to attach the co-sleeper closely to the bed – it goes between the top mattress and the box spring, and has a plate that you attach on the far side of the mattress.  Thus, the co-sleeper is securely attached right beside you for easy access to the baby in the middle of the night.

At first, we had some issues with the height of the co-sleeper, as we have a tall bed.  The co-sleeper was shorter than the bed – this made me paranoid that somehow a blanket or something would fall into the co-sleeper from the bed, since there was a drop down.  I went to the Arm’s Reach website, and got some leg extenders (LINK) - they worked great.  They raised the co-sleeper up to the appropriate height, and there’s no danger of anything falling into the baby’s sleeping area.  I could hold Peanut’s hand or soothe him when he needed it without having to even stir from where I was sleeping.

He loves to prop his feet up on the side.

The sides of the co-sleeper are mesh, so they are breathable if the baby gets too close to them.  There are also pockets on either end – these have been invaluable.  Each night before bed, I load a bunch of diapers in there, as well as one of the smaller sized packs of diaper wipes, some diaper cream, a changing pad, and a peepee teepee (don’t judge, I have a pee-er).  I don’t have to even get out of bed to do a diaper change, which really accommodates my middle-of-the-night laziness.  

As the sides are fairly shallow, you want to change to another sleeping surface when the baby starts rolling.  We found a crib that converts to a daybed, and have put that in a side-car setup attached to the bed so that Peanut still has a safe surface, but I can still nurse him with maximum ease.  There was no difficulty of transition, since he was already used to a similar setup with the co-sleeper.  This is a great short-term solution to facilitating easy sleeping arrangements with a newborn, I would strongly recommend it.  There are now similar products on the market, and I’d imagine that they’d work similarly well.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pumpin Pal flanges - review + giveaway!

Pumpin’ ain’t easy.  It’s a never-ending job that you do out of love for your child, but that takes time and attention away from the rest of your day.  It might be your job that you’re having to put on a quick time-out, or even time with your child(ren) being disrupted.  Neither is fun!

So, if it’s painful to pump, that makes an already daunting task even less inviting.  The standard flanges that come with most commercial pumps are not exactly shaped for comfort – they’re sort of shaped like a megaphone, with the part into which you put your nipple going straight back.  This isn’t the most efficient – you have to sit straight up for fear of milk dribbling out the bottom, and since your baby usually isn’t being held directly out in front of you but down a little ways, it’s not the same angle at which a baby nursing would suck.  That would be at more of a 45-degree angle downward.  This weird angle can cause chafing and discomfort during the pumping process.

Enter the Pumpin Pal.  (LINK)  These are a set of flanges that are designed to mimic the baby’s mouth.  The base of it is angled downward, which is similar to the angle at which your breast would be in a nursing baby’s mouth.  Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two flanges:

You get three different pairs of flanges when ordering – a M, L, and XL.  The reason for this is because your breasts will undergo changes during the nursing process, and you might need different sizes at different times.  Or, you might need one size on one breast, and another on the other.  (Don’t judge, it happens!)  Since the flanges are more similar to the suction a baby’s mouth provides, they are much, MUCH more comfortable.  I’ve used them for the past ten days, and have had the same amount of output with much less pain.  I’ve found that going down a size from what I expected has also had a slight amount of help in my milk output, which was a wonderful surprise!  

I’ve been able to tailor which flange I use for the amount of engorgement I have, which is really nice – and I can switch out the flanges in the middle of a pump session to get more contact with the breast when some of that engorgement has been relieved.  Another benefit of the angled neck is that you can actually lean back in your chair without worrying about getting milk all over your lap!  

I liked the Pumpin Pal flanges so much that I bought a set to give away.  Checkout and “like” our Facebook page to enter: 

We’ll draw for a winner on 1/12/15!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Aden + Anais Muslin Swaddling Blankets

We’ve never really been able to swaddle either Pickle when she was young, or Peanut now.  Both of them have slept from Day 1 with their arms over their heads as if they were being placed under arrest – and if you tried to swaddle their arms to keep them in place, they fight their way out and into the same pose.

So, I was a little skeptical to ever try the Aden + Anais muslin swaddling blankets.  Spending between $35 and $50 for four blankets that I wouldn’t use as designed seemed a little silly.  With Pickle, I avoided purchasing them – I just worked with the Carters and Gerber flannel and thermal blankets we had.  We just made a little baby burrito of her with those (keeping her arms out).  It worked, even if it was a little overly thick and bulky.

It was sort of a pain, though, and they seemed a little too warm for this past summer for our new arrival.  So, I decided to pull the trigger and buy some of the “Aden” line of Aden + Anais blankets.  (LINK)

I washed them before Peanut was born, and started to fold them.  I was amazed at how big the blankets were in comparison to the blankets we’d used with Pickle – they were about twice the size.  They were also very soft – the muslin was breathable but soft to the touch.  

We started making our baby burrito of Peanut the day he got home – unlike with the flannel and thermal blankets, we were able to use just one blanket to accomplish the job.  He was warm and cozy, and didn’t lose body heat, but he also didn’t overheat like he might have if we’d used the same blankets we had before.  I was also amazed at how handy these were as a nursing cover, due to their size.  I used one in church, and the usher had no idea I was even feeding Peanut.  

I also keep one of the four in the diaper bag all of the time.  This came in handy when we were getting Peanut's newborn photos done - I had the swaddler laid out on the floor for a diaper change, and our photographer thought it would make a great addition to some of our photos.


I became an Aden + Anais convert.  I’ve since purchased them for two friends as shower gifts because they’re one of those things that you might hesitate to buy yourself, but that is indispensible once you own it.  I think that our little man will likely be using his Aden blankets as loveys long after he uses them as an actual blanket.  I think my only problem now is that I'm not sure I'm saying "Anais" right - and there are some ways to get it really, really wrong.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ella Alana Pump Bags

Due to the Affordable Care Act changes to the health insurance industry, the way breast pumps are sold and purchased has changed a great deal.  The pump bags that used to be included with the bags is no longer covered by insurance – so the price of the ones from the pump manufacturers has skyrocketed.  Due to all of this, I did a whole bunch of research on other pump bags on the market before our Little Dude was born early this fall.  In my research, I came across a wonderful work-at-home mom, Amy Schendel of Ella Alana.  (https://www.etsy.com/shop/EllaAlana )  

Amy had a business already designing and making diaper bags, changing pads, and more for mamas when she was approached about making a pump bag from a customer, as there were so few on the market.  Her product is unique in that it can be entirely tailored to the individual customer!  Amy will quote customers for extras, since each bag is custom made for you, but here are a few of the customization options:

  • Messenger flap or zip top
  • Seat belt-style carrying strap is standard, but softer ones can be added.
  • Possible to get extra bottle pockets on the inside of the bag.
  • A sleek outside bottle pocket is standard, but an expandable one is available.
  • A laptop sleeve on the inside is optional – which is great for multitasking in your pumping room at work.
  • An outside back pocket is also available for your tablet or iPad.

I met with Amy, and she showed me bags with these different options.  She also showed me the incredible supply of fabric she has so that your bag can look just right – you can select exterior fabric and a complimentary interior fabric to get a fun look.  

I chose a grey fabric for the exterior, and a bright turquoise fabric for the interior, for a bright pop of color.  I have the exterior back pocket that I use for my iPad.  You can get an optional cooler from Ella Alana for your milk that is flexible, so it can be shaped to accommodate most bottles and can fit right next to the pump for storage. 

I have a Medela Pump In Style Advanced pump, which fits easily into the standard pocket of the Ella Alana bag – the Medelas have Velcro on the top that attaches right to the Velcro inside of the bag.  However, some other pump brands would need the pump hole area to be made taller, so that’s something to communicate during the purchase project.  It’s another added bonus of getting a custom bag rather than one off of the rack, that it can be made perfect just for your needs.

The bags are made of home d├ęcor fabric, so they wash really well (tumble dry low or hang dry) and are very sturdy.    I can’t possibly see needing to get another bag.  The quality of the workmanship is amazing – the stitching is perfect, and very strong.  As you can see from the photo below, it’s incredibly roomy – I could easily use this as our primary diaper bag if I were exclusively pumping and had to take my pump with us other places than to work and home.  (Amy also has bottle coolers, changing pads, and more available for purchase through her store.)

I’ve had the chance to compare this to some other pump bags, and this is easily the best pump bag I’ve encountered.  It’s the most fun and functional bag available, with countless customization that will make the bag work perfectly for anyone.  It’s fashionable yet totally practical.  Pumping at work and elsewhere is a lot more enjoyable when your bag streamlines the process!