World Breastfeeding Week by jen geigley

** Today, I'm revisiting a post I wrote for Baby the Great on breastfeeding last year. I never published it here on my blog, so I'm posting it here today in honor of World Breastfeeding Week. ** 

Breastfeeding. It's an act of motherhood that seems so simple, beautiful and natural ... and easy. And it is definitely a beautiful, wondrous thing!

But the truth is ... it's not for the faint of heart.

I nursed two babies and I learned so much. Every kid is so extremely different. It's such a unique experience for every mother and baby. Here are my stories.

I became a mom for the very first time in February of 2007 when my baby girl was born during an ice storm. I had read the books, seen the videos and taken the classes and I was ready for this. I was going to breastfeed, and my baby and me were going to be an unstoppable team! My husband and family were extremely supportive and we were all set. Off we went, on our lovely journey.

(Sort of.)

I knew what a perfect latch was supposed to look like, and my child was born equipped with the suction of a Dyson. It was frightening. We were trying. But we could not get it down. We could not get it together. A lactation consultant visited us briefly after delivery, but she did not stay long and by the time she left I was still feeling totally in the dark and pretty bewildered. I thought I knew what I was doing! I had no idea what I was doing.

I did not expect this part of motherhood to be such a challenge. I anticipated that this would be something that would come so naturally ... but it was so very hard. My tiny baby was figuring things out and so was I. She was a hungry little thing, but did not seem to be super excited or happy with the whole idea of nursing. It was a struggle. Also, I did not know that for some moms, breastfeeding can be painful. Like, deep down inside your chest painful. And that's what it was like for me, even with a proper latch. My chest felt like it was being stabbed with knives during milk letdown. It was so painful that I would sometimes have to look away from my sweet baby with tears streaming down my face for a few minutes until the pain eased. It was such a weird experience for me and this was not at all what I had envisioned. Along with the rush of postpartum hormones and emotions that come with lack of sleep, I felt sad, guilty and selfish. My breasts felt huge, hot and out of control. I felt enormous pressure to continue on, even though we were off to a rough start. I found myself dreading feedings because of the pain they caused. I wanted to quit. But pushed on.

Looking back, I have no idea how we made it through those first few weeks (and months) but somehow, we did. It got better. People gave me advice, I read everything I could but most of all, through trial and error I started to feel like I knew what I was doing. I knew what was best for my baby and me, and I trusted that. The pain eventually lessened. My out-of-control brand-new nursing breasts regulated themselves and things became more manageable. We found our groove. I took it all in ... breathing in the smell of my baby's hair, looking into her eyes and waiting for that little smile. I could breathe again. I began pumping and using pumped milk in bottles, and despite what I had been told, my daughter had no problem going from breast to bottle and back to breast again. It saved us. I continued nursing for nine months until baby girl decided that she had had enough of the nursing and gradually weaned herself over the course of a month. I had prepared myself to be a little bit sad when we were finally through, but to be honest, I was completely okay with it. No more guilt for this mom. I was just proud that we had made it this far. I finally realized it wasn't a contest to see how long you could breastfeed; nobody was keeping track of how many bottles she drank and I wasn't going to get in trouble. She was a healthy little girl and all was right in my world.

In 2012, I gave birth to my second February baby. A sweet little boy. And let me tell you ... this time, I was pretty apprehensive about breastfeeding. What was it going to be like this time? (The knives! The stabbing pain!) But you know how it goes. You give birth to a tiny miracle and you hold them in your arms, and boom – the worries vanished. This time, it was different. I would chalk it up to two things: 1) Each baby really is different. This kid was ready to nurse and took to it in a completely different way than my first baby.  2) I had more experience this time around. I wasn't quite as nervous or cumbersome or afraid. We just did it.

This time around, the lactation consultant came in for her visit and watched me feed my son. She just stood there for a few minutes and said, 'Good latch, your milk has come in nicely, breast tissue is moving ... Yup, you've got it! You won't be needing my help.' She left. I was shocked. But I knew she was right. We were going to be okay.

Since then, I have been relieved to find that the stabbing pains have completely gone away. My little guy has become a champion nurser and I enjoy our quiet moments together so, so much. I know these sweet times won't last forever, so I'm soaking it all in. I am currently still exclusively nursing my 14-month-old boy and plan to keep going until he's ready to stop. Whenever that is.

I love both of my breastfeeding journeys, different as they were. I'll never forget all the late nights I spent holding those tiny newborn bodies close. And as I look back, I realize how much I've changed along the way, too. When I gave birth for the first time back in 2007, I was extremely nervous about breastfeeding in public. Or even around family. Back then, I hadn't yet been embraced by the huge support system of mom-friends that I have now. I was so new to everything. I didn't know how to go about wrangling a tank top/cardigan ensemble in the middle of a busy shopping center to nurse a wailing baby. Some of these things come with time and experience, and some come from the wise words of friends who have been there.

With my first baby, I stayed hidden away. At family gatherings, I would hide in a bedroom to breastfeed. I don't think I ever nursed in public. Maybe once in a bathroom stall. One time. Otherwise, it was always at home.

I have no idea how I did that.

This time around, I was so much more comfortable. I breastfed in all sorts of public places on a two-day roadtrip to Florida. I nursed that baby up and down the coast and across six states. I nursed him on the beach, where a man who was on a walk shouted out 'Good job, momma!' as he passed by. I have breastfed at birthday parties and pool parties and camping trips. I breastfed at the state fair and at Disney World. I have breastfed in ice cream shops and theme parks and restaurants. I have breastfed in front of my parents and my husband's parents. And possibly most importantly, I breastfed sitting next to my daughter, who is now six years old. I didn't want to ever hide from her. I wanted her to see and learn that breastfeeding is a normal and wonderful thing. It's how babies eat, and it's how I fed her when she was a baby. She has had lots of interesting things to say about this, but I'm glad that she'll grow up remembering this time in our lives. After all, someday she just might want to be a momma, too.

momlove: me (and happy Mother's Day!) by jen geigley

In celebration of Mother's Day, I've been posting a series called momlove: guest blog posts by the best of the best. I've invited some of my very favorite blogger moms to share a little bit of their wisdom and experience here. (A huge thanks to all of my friends who contributed to this series – read their wonderful posts here.)

I'm always intrigued about what life is like for other moms. We're all equal parts weird and normal, and I think we find comfort in that. What is motherhood like ... in my world? It's quite possibly everything – and nothing – like I thought it would be. That's kind of how I remember feeling in the beginning.

It's finding out that no matter how careful you are or how much you try to keep everything under control, almost everything is out of your control.

It's realizing that no matter what time of day you finally get to sit down to have something to eat, your baby knows you are relaxing. And will start crying and will need something urgently. At that exact moment.

It's trying not to freak out while keeping things running smoothly. Goodbye to that old, spontaneous 'you' ... because now someone has to keep things in line.

It's taking the time to color in a My Little Pony coloring book when you have ten million emails and deadlines hovering over your shoulder. Hovering. While you color a picture of Rainbow Dash.


It's trying to teach new words to a toddler who only says dadadadadadada all day long. 
'Airplane? Truck? More? Eat? Um, Mama?'  ...   'Dada.' It's waking up at 4:00 a.m. to a screaming baby or patiently listening to your new reader (ever-so-slowly) sound out a new book. When you are oh-so-very tired. Clinging to the very edge of your cliff of tiredness. It's driving the kids home from the library when the 'ideal outing' you had in your mind turns out to be anything but.

It's pretending not to be scared when a storm rips through your neighborhood and a tree crashes down across your power lines, knocking out the electricity to your house. Acting like everything is great, even though your heart is pounding. 'Everything's fiiiiine, you guys! We'll just have a camp-out in the dark. Um, flashlights are fun, right?' ('Where are they...?')
It's taking care of sick kids around the clock while being completely down and out with the flu, with no nap in sight. For any of you.


It's trying to remain calm when you suddenly realize that your one-year-old probably has a peanut allergy and you have to decide what to do next. It's getting a call from the speech therapist at school after determining that your child may have some form of a stutter.

It's trying your very hardest to raise children who will be good people. To give them a good foundation and hope with all your heart that they turn to you when they reach high school and shit gets real. Like Tina Fey said: 'when the crystal meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half and stick with beer.'


But for now, for me ... it's wiping tushies and putting on pajamas and brushing teeth and giving baths. It's reading and listening and singing. It's a whole lot of 'eat your dinner' and 'time for bed.'

It's also waking up to tiny smiling faces that somehow resemble both your husband and yourself. It's watching them grow out of all of their clothing in one season and marking another notch on the wall, an inch higher than the last. It's the laughs and the smiles and the hugs and all of the sweetness in the world, too. Because, damn ... kids are amazing, life-changing, earth-shattering little beings. I sit back and take note of how special these times are, every day. I know it will go fast and this ... right here, right now ... is an amazing time.


I'm not special. It's not any harder or easier or better or worse for me that it is for you. When you talk to moms, you quickly realize that every one of us has done so many of the same things. We're all different and yet so much the same. And that's pretty cool.


We live in an age where it's easy to feel like you have to do it all. It's hard to ask for help or lean on others, but everyone needs a break. Really. Hopefully, you can let yourself be okay with finding that balance. (And guess what? If you didn't know this already, it's totally okay.) Carve out some time for yourself and take your victory lap. Smile at those babes and know you're doing your best and it's all so worth it. Love them harder and more fiercely than you did yesterday, than you did ever before. Do your thing, momma ... do your thing. Today, I'm spending part of Mother's Day with Bo and the kids and a potential picnic. But after that? I'm meeting up with some of my best girlfriends on a patio for a beverage or two. It's our own little celebration of motherhood that has nothing to do with changing diapers or making snacks or picking up toys.

Motherhood is beautiful (and so are you.) Happy Mother's Day.

momlove: tina by jen geigley

In celebration of Mother's Day, I invite you to indulge in a little momlove, a series of guest blog posts by the best of the best. I've invited some of my very favorite blogger moms to share a little bit of their wisdom and experience here.

Meet my friend Tina. 

Having just returned from a short trip to Portland, I have to say the best advice I can give as a WAHM in the creative field is to take time for yourself and go discover something new. 

I'm always reluctant to travel myself, leaving my 2 1/2 year old son home with my husband. I felt a terrible guilt about taking a trip that was close to being out of our means and even guiltier for leaving my family behind. Yep, good ol' mommy guilt. Even after I landed in Portland, the guilt stayed with me. I missed them terribly. But after settling in to my hotel room and enjoying a good cup of jo' with my friend who I met down there, I was ready to discover the sites + sounds that PDX had to offer. I also had another mission while reunite with my mom who I haven't seen in over 20 years. I covered a lot of ground on my trip, physically and mentally. Overall, it was one of the best trips I've had and I'm so glad I didn't let my guilt deter me from enjoying myself.

I came back a better mom, wife, creative and most importantly, a better me. It starts within us...the secret of being a good mom. We have to be alone with our own thoughts, free from those daily distractions like the sound of Nick Jr playing in the background while you hear "mommy, mommy, mommy" for the millionth time that day. We give so much of ourselves every day...every moment. It's important to replenish that so we can continue to give our children what they need and deserve and that's a happy mom. 

Yes! So good and so true. I love this and I love Tina. She is always an inspiration to me, as a friend and a mother and human being. Tina and I are Dares girls. She's talented as can be and I'm always in awe of her photography and design work. She's honest and real and since we're separated by many many miles (she lives in Alaska) I love reading what she's up to on her blog and via our sporadic 'hey, how are you doing/what's new?' emails. She is awesome and I hope we can get together for a 'taking time for yourself' getaway again soon ... the last time we hung out was in L.A. a few years ago and I'm definitely ready for more hangout time with this girl. (Mom-guilt free!) Read more about life with Tina on her blog, Life.Love.Paper.

momlove: bergen by jen geigley

In celebration of Mother's Day later this month, I invite you to indulge in a little momlove, a series of guest blog posts by the best of the best. I've invited some of my very favorite blogger moms to share a little bit of their wisdom and experience here.

Meet my friend Bergen.

Before I had my daughter, Johanna, I swore to myself that I would not change after we had our baby. I have always been fiercely independent, and it was important to me to maintain my sense of individuality and not to get lost in motherhood. I would not just become Jo’s mama – I would also maintain my identity as Bergen.  

Jo is 18 months old now and so much in my life has changed. My relationships with others have changed. My social activities have definitely changed. I have changed in many ways. I’ve also stayed the same. It’s like saying everything is different – and nothing is different. 

Of course, I’m still me. Still fiercely independent. Still deeply creative. Still extremely motivated. But being a mother has unlocked something in me. Having Jo has changed me in so many ways that I never would have expected. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

And all of a sudden as I write this, I’m weeping. My mama has said that Jo did that to me. She says that Jo has softened me. Taken the edge off. Not that I was super hard before Jo, but I definitely had walls up. My experiences as a mother have peeled away layers that make my emotions so much closer to the surface. It’s not that I feel more, but I feel everything differently. I’ve also learned to be less judgmental. I have more patience – with myself and with others.  Motherhood has opened me up. 

And I’m going through something right now because of where we’re at as a family that might never have happened had I not become a mother. Something is happening. Something really really good. 

I cut all my hair off recently, for one thing. Not huge in the scope of life, but a big deal for me since my hair has been long for most of my adult life. It’s been important to me. It was a part of who I was. And now that it’s gone I feel lighter, refreshed, and renewed. It’s as if my energy has shifted just because of that one simple change. 

On a larger scale, the big news is that I’ve decided to quit my job. I’ve been working a fabulous job as a community manager for the past 4 ½ years, and now I’m ready to move on. I’ll still be working, but I’m going to be putting my energy and time and commitment into my passions: my daughter & family, my theatre company, my acting career, and my Etsy store. It’s a big risk, but one that I feel is the right move for me, and more importantly, my family. And it’s pretty damn exciting. 

So yeah, I guess I have changed. And I’m still the same. And I couldn’t be more excited to see what opens up next. 

Bergen and I went to high school together and she was a grade behind me. I didn't know her very well then, but we have sort of found each other in recent years through the loveliness of the internet. These days, I am proud to call her a long-distance friend. She's a creative force, an incredible mother and a true inspiration. And her openness here? That made me a little weepy, too. Read more on Bergen's blog, Ashland and Winona. And while you're at it, you must check out her fantastic Etsy shop, Lilla Barn, where she sews the most adorable baby/toddler clothes you've ever seen.

momlove: elise by jen geigley

(Photo credit - Ashlee Gadd Photography

In celebration of Mother's Day later this month, I invite you to indulge in a little momlove, a series of guest blog posts by the best of the best. I've invited some of my very favorite blogger moms to share a little bit of their wisdom and experience here. 

This post is by my mom-to-be friend, Elise.

This is my favorite passage from the book "Great with Child" by Beth Ann Fennelly. It's just awesome and makes me so over the top excited to welcome a little one into the world.

"Tommy and I took Claire to a magic show, and although all of the five- and six-year-olds were into it, she wasn't impressed – she stared level-eyed at the levitating lady with only the slightest bit of wonder, my not-quite-three-year-old cynic. Later it occurred to me that perhaps she's too young to be impressed by a magic show because to her every day is a magic show – she thinks she can levitate and fly, too, or will tomorrow. Perhaps what I mistook for cynicism is merely her belief in a world without gravity or logic.

...Claire lives in a world where markers are really magic, where there's a woset in her closet, where blue and yellow paint swirl to form a green she'd never have predicted, where an apple cut one way reveals a star, and cut the transverse way reveals the face of an owl. So the faraway black-suited man pulls a rabbit from his hat, so what? She could pull a swimming pool, or a T. rex, if they'd just pass her that hat."

Beautiful words, and a great reminder of how incredibly brand new every single thing in this world is to a child. (Sometimes, I forget that!) Elise and I are blog friends who have followed each other through various life events and craft adventures over the course of several years. She is expecting a baby girl in June and I just know that she's going to be an incredible mom. I'd like to wish Elise a very happy first Mother's Day and the very best of luck on her journey into motherhood. I can't wait to see photos of that tiny baby girl very soon! Follow Elise's crafty projects and baby-making progress at enJOY it.

a pullover for Bowie by jen geigley

I finished knitting this sweet pullover sweater quite awhile ago for little Bowie and after hunting down the perfect buttons for it, I finally took the time to have him try it on.
The pattern is Basic Pullover by Candi Jensen, from the book 'Knit in a Day for Baby.'
It's a pretty simple and straightforward knit, and I made it a size larger so he can wear it this fall. It think it may fit just right by then!
I used Cascade 128 Superwash Chunky in charcoal and summer sky. It's super soft ... and washable. Which is a big deal.
You can find more project details here. (So, what are you working on these days?)

The Unofficial Harajuku Mini Metal/Rock Band Font Breakdown by jen geigley

Back when the Harajuku Mini/Gwen Stefani baby clothes line first came out at Target, I sort of freaked out a little bit. Over this fabric in particular. I couldn't find this exact one-piece playsuit where I live and couldn't get it online, so I asked my friend Vee send it to me from the East coast.
But then I became obsessed with the fonts/logos they used all over this pattern. If I could sit down with Gwen, I would ask her all about this because clearly it was intentional. I flipping love it. I found myself sitting on the couch holding my baby, wondering ... 'Is that green font supposed to be Poison? Nope. Def Leppard? Yup.'
And so, I bring you ... The Unofficial Harajuku Mini Metal/Rock Band Font Breakdown. In case you were wondering what all of those fonts were, too. It took some time but I think I have accurately matched them all up. (If you disagree, let me know.)
 'Thanks for clearing that up, Mom! People were losing sleep.'
 'I have to admit though, it's a little embarrassing sometimes. Who takes the time to do this? Making diagrams in Photoshop? Why can't you be normal like the other babies' moms?'

the drive by jen geigley

In case you missed my last post, I'm doing a little re-cap of a road trip we took as a family to Florida with our five-year-old daughter and four-month-old son. I'm sharing the details, which I realize may be TMI (listen to me talk about our family vacation!!) for a couple of reasons. Maybe someone out there is wondering if it's a good idea to take a long road trip with a baby. Or a preschooler. Or both. Obviously, this is going to be a different experience for different families, but it's always nice to hear someone else's story. This was also our first family trip to Disney World, which I'll share about tomorrow. So maybe you're curious about that. It's quite possible you don't give a hoot about any of this, which is fine by me, so hit that 'next' button on your blog reader. Just hit me up again next week when I promise to be talking about something un-Florida related. I swear.
So, the drive. We drove for two full days, each way. We averaged 12-14 hours each day, including breaks. Lunch breaks, dinner breaks, snack breaks, gas breaks, late-night ice cream breaks and of course, milk breaks. I nursed that baby up and down the coast and across six states. 
Lo got a real education about just how big the world is. She saw mountains and rivers and bridges and sunsets and the ocean and everything in between, which was pretty cool for all of us.
On both trips, we drove during the day and stopped about halfway, just outside of Nashville to sleep for the night. We had considered driving overnight, but for us it worked better to stick to the daylight hours. Plus, it's always fun to stay overnight at a hotel where you get to make your own waffles for breakfast. Exciting!
Lotus did not sleep at all in the car – not a single nap! Except for one night that we drove until midnight, when she slept for about an hour at the very end. Whew. This kid doesn't like to miss a thing.
So ... how did the kids do on the trip?
Lo watched movies, played games on our iPad, listened to an iPod with headphones, ate Pringles and granola bars, sang songs, talked our ears off ... and watched more movies. (I'm pretty sure she watched 'Madagascar' at least 8 times. Thanks, Grandma Carol.)
I had secretly packed several little sticker and activity books that I surprised her with along the way. These served as a little reward each time she was extra patient or well-behaved, especially toward the end of each trip. 
All in all, she did incredibly well with the drive. She is five years old and did not complain one single time about how long we were in the car. I kid you not. 
She is also really good at giving us fair warning when she has to go to the bathroom, which was extremely helpful. We made sure to make lots of stops for snacks and meals so she could stretch her legs. One break at a rest stop turned into a mini skateboarding sesh, since it was 'go skateboarding day.' We tried to keep it fun.
Bowie, on the other hand, slept a ton. Just as we had hoped. The car ride put him right to sleep and he would often take three to four-hour naps between feedings. The few times that he did get fussy, I squished myself into the space between the carseats in the back seat and played with him or gave him a pacifier until he was chill again. 
I still cannot believe how good he was on this trip. I think we totally lucked out by taking him at such a young age. If he had been more mobile, there's no way he would have been this content with staying in his carseat for so long. We did take lots of breaks when we took him out of the car, changed his diaper, let him stretch and play for a bit while we ate and what-not. You have to take breaks to keep everyone happy. If he needed to stop, we stopped.
The only problem we ran into with the little guy is that he slept so much in the car. When we'd stop at a hotel for the night, he would be wide awake. I ended up staying up with him quite a bit at night, which was cool because I'm used to doing that. Bo and Lo slept right through us playing and talking at 4 a.m. and we got a little bit of quality time while they snoozed. 
So that became the plan. I took the night shifts. Bo got enough sleep to keep driving our little family to our destination. It worked.
Once we got to Florida, Bowie was back on his normal schedule. He slept through the night like he usually does. This whole weird sleep/driving thing was totally okay with us, because the littlest member of our fam made it through the drive without any trouble. That was our goal. Whatever works with the least amount of tears is cool by me. Sleep away, little dude, sleep away.
So. I must say that when Bo suggested that we should drive and not fly, I was like 'Hell to the no.' It took me some time to come around to this whole road trip thing, but now I'm convinced that it was the way to go for us. We had a ton of baby gear to deal with. Strollers for both kids. Car seats. All of the extra crap. I know that you can check everything at the airport, and I've done that in the past, but this time it felt easier to pack everything up in the car and just drive. We saved quite a bit of money on travel expenses because we drove a hybrid. We didn't need to worry about a rental car when we got to our destination. It felt pretty stress-free. I'll admit it – I'm a convert. I'd do this again.
Bo told me to relax. I tried to do that. Even though it goes against my nature. I tried my best to go with the flow of my little family and stay positive. There were definitely times when things got hairy, but they didn't last long. I felt like we had more freedom by driving instead of flying this time around. We were able to take a quick detour to check out Cocoa Beach on our way home. I'd never been to St. Louis to see the arch. We didn't have to catch a flight or rush to an airport. It was good.
(And I had so much knitting time.) 
Tomorrow! I will post about the next part of our adventure. The part where Tropical Storm Debby enters our lives. You know ... right when we're supposed to go to Disney World. (Eff.)
Oh, Debby.
 This is how we felt about Debby. More tomorrow.  :)

from the west coast, with love by jen geigley

Once again, a crafty California friend hits me up with a surprise in the mail. My talented pal Amy Tan sent us this adorable little hand-stitched t-shirt and I'm in love. Yo!? Could it be more perfect?
But hold on. Just when you can't stand the cuteness ... she also embroidered 'Bowie' on the back. It is too good.
 Thank you so very much, my friend! Bowie is definitely the cutest baby with the cutest t-shirt on the block.