Julia Merrill is a retired board certified nurse practitioner.
It’s no secret that the amount of sleep you get each night directly impacts the way you feel during the day. The National Institutes of Health explains that sleep is also important to your physical health, as well as your ability to remain safe throughout the day. Sleep is imperative for children, as getting a good night’s rest is vital to academic performance. However, creating a cozy and comfortable environment in which to sleep is expensive — or is it?
The answer to that question depends on the amount of work you’re willing to put into your bedroom and your ability to hunt down a bargain.
Sleep and Exercise
One of the best things you can do for your body is exercise. Not only does it keep your muscles strong, but just 30 minutes of physical activity during the day can also help you wind down at night, according to Johns Hopkins Hospital. And, fortunately, exercise is free. From yoga to swimming, there are plenty of no-cost ways for both children and adults to get moving.
Your physical activity levels are not the only things that determine whether you can reap the benefits of restful sleep. Another major contributor is your environment. If your mattress is old and outdated, consider upgrading.
Light is another major issue when it comes to getting a restful sleep, especially for children. The New York Times reports that children are more sensitive to bright lights than adults. This is due to the way light affects melatonin production, which can drop by 90 percent with exposure to bright lights prior to bed. Blackout curtains are an exceptional way to block outside lights and can often be found online for less than in-store. Many retailers offer a wide selection of competitively priced bedroom decor including room darkening shades, moisture-wicking cotton linens, and pillows for every type of sleep.
Notes on Nutrition
There is a reciprocal relationship between food and sleep. If you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to crave sweets and carbohydrates. If you have a diet comprised of mostly junk food, you’re less likely to sleep well. On the flip side, however, certain foods and drinks can actually help you and your children enjoy sounder sleep. A warm cup of caffeine-free tea, a handful of fresh cherries, and a small glass of milk are excellent options. Cherries, specifically, are one of the few foods that naturally contain melatonin, the hormone your body secretes that helps you fall — and stay — asleep.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s possible to enjoy a diverse range of nutritional foods, even if you’re on a budget. This Vox article offers some great advice on how to do just that, including buying frozen fruits and replacing your high-priced juice and soda with plain old tap water. You can also look for grocery coupons using sites and apps like Ibotta.
You don’t have to lose sleep or overextend yourself financially trying to create a cozy, comfortable, and restful bedroom environment. With a little research and a few habit changes, your entire family can reap the benefits of rest.
You’re invited to attend the First Annual Superwoman Summit in Portland, Oregon October 20-22, 2017. The Superwoman Summit is a three day experience dedicated to the professional advancement of strong female leaders.
All individuals committed to the leadership development of women are invited to attend. This is an all-inclusive event.
I’m honored to be speaking at the first breakout about my favorite topic…. Balance is Bull***!
We are going to deep dive into your relationship with work and how you can shift your mindset, define livable priorities and reinvent work/life integration!
I’m honored to be Tina’s inaugural guest on her Third Thursday’s Interview series. We talked maternity leave and how supporting new moms is good for business! Tina is my soul sister who is a fabulous interior designer who specializes in pump rooms and wellness spaces for corporations. How amazing is she?!
Please go over to YouTube and give her some likes!!
I’m thrilled to be a speaker on this FREE online summit! Cathy has brought together all the right women who can Shifting the conversation from Momma Illness to Momma Wellness. The focus will be on self-care, prevention, and how new moms can take-charge of their own postpartum health!
Empowered Mama Live
In my interview we covered maternity leave planning, how to define your “new normal” as a mom and how to deal with the overwhelm of motherhood.
What you can learn from the interview series:
How to spot the warning signs when what you are experiencing is more than just the baby blues, and how to get the right help
Time management tips and preparing for the transition back to work for working moms (including ‘the pumping conversation’ with your boss)
How to rediscover yourself after the new mom identity crisis
Mindfulness tools, self-care practices, rituals, and ways to prioritize your own needs not only for yourself but also for your beautiful baby
Tips on how to best plan for the postpartum and experience ease in the 4th Trimester!
One of the biggest questions I get from new moms in the Return to Work After Maternity Leave workshop is how the heck do you travel for business and pump! So I had to reach out to Jessica Shortall again. Hope you appreciate this Q&A as much as I did. Jessica’s book Work. Pump. Repeat is available for pre-sale and is available Sept 8. Oh and check out the Back To Work Survival Kit from from Milkitkit. They are so cute. My fave baby shower gifts!
Pumping while Flying Q&A with Jessica Shortall
1. Is it REALLY worth the all the hassle, security checkpoint interrogation, temperature-controlled paranoia to pump while traveling by air?
I’ve got three different answers for this one:
Answer 1: Yes. Because when you land wherever you’re going for your business trip, you are going to be BUSY. Picture getting to the hotel or client office or conference center, and then you have to figure out where to pump THERE. Why not get a jump on things and pump when surrounded by complete strangers whom you don’t need to impress? Also, depending on length of flight(s), you really don’t want to land engorged and in pain.
Answer 2: Also yes. You don’t want to pack that pump into your checked baggage. What if it gets lost? I mean, yes, keep a single-boob manual pump in your carry-on, but do you really want to arrive at your business trip destination with no breast pump? MAYBE you can check your pump on the way home. Maybe.
Answer 3: Still yes, although I get that it is a total hassle to bring milk through security (presumably on your way home). But bringing home whatever you’ve produced will help you at least partially replenish your stash at home, ahead of the next trip. But if for some reason you have to dump all of it, or it doesn’t make it home with you: don’t panic. This feels like the end of the world, but it is not.
2. Give us the low down on planning: what to bring, timing it out and how the hell do you get all the white gold back home?!
Business travel means carry-ons, and pumping means even more carry-ons, especially on the way home when you are lugging milk with you. Some women get around the “one carry-on and one personal item” rule by telling TSA that the pump is “medical equipment.” If you can do this, more power to you, but TSA is such a crapshoot—everything depends on the agent you get at that moment. It’s a good idea to pack as if this were not an option, just in case you encounter an agent who doesn’t believe in the “medical equipment” thing. So plan to give up your purse for the flight. Pack it into your suitcase and put the essential purse items into your pump bag.
When packing, mentally prepare for the cooler bag of milk you’ll be bringing home (a reusable, lined lunchbag will work for a 1-2 day trip; something longer requires something that could (and hopefully will, one day) hold a six-pack. This cooler bag, if you can’t fit it into something else, counts as a carry-on, so practice filling it with bags of frozen or liquid milk and cramming it into the top of the pump bag or your other carry-on. Even if you have stuff spilling out of the top, if you can make it look like two bags of the appropriate size, you’re fine.
Bring more large, slider-top Ziploc bags with you than you think you’ll need, plus a manual single pump, a battery pack with fresh batteries for your pump, a nursing cover or large shawl, a lot of breastmilk storage bags, and a pack of wet wipes.
Finally, in preparation, put all of your pump parts into Ziploc bags before you get to the airport. Some TSA agents will insist on taking everything out of your pump bag, and you do not want them touching your pump parts after they’ve just patted down their thousandth traveler of the day.
3. Pumping on a plane. That smelly dude sitting next to you won’t mind, right? Is it possible?
Of all the places I’ve pumped, this is one of the weirdest, but it’s doable. When I say “doable,” I don’t mean “comfortable,” “fun,” or “something I’ll look back on fondly later.” It is none of these things. But what we are shooting for is doable. After all, you’re in an enclosed space miles above the ground, with very little room to maneuver. The bathrooms are impossibly small just for the act of peeing (who has sex in these things, and why?). You are packed into a tiny space with a lot of people, none of whom you want seeing your boobs. So . . . how do you do it?
•Book a window seat, and try to get an empty row. Do not book a seat next to your coworker, unless you’re really comfortable with that person.
•Wear layers to allow for easy access. A good combo is a camisole with a shirt and cardigan on top.
•Bring that big shawl.
•Buy a bottle of water after you clear security.
Pumping in the airplane bathroom is your more modest option, but it’s also much less comfortable. Find a friendly flight attendant and make him or her your ally. “I’m a new mom and I’m traveling without my baby, and I could really use your help,” is a good way to start. Tell this person that you need to pump breastmilk in the bathroom, and that you didn’t want them to think you’d fallen in or something. And then get in there with your battery pack and your bottle of water. Sit on the toilet with the lid down. Balance the pump on your knees or put it on the minuscule counter (which is probably wet). You will know how to do the rest. Afterward, rinse out the pump parts with your bottled water (don’t use the sink water), cap your pump bottles, and clean up any spilled milk with the wipes. Worry about a full wash of the pump parts once you’re on the ground.
Pumping in your airplane seat is your other option. I don’t imagine anyone will do this on their first rodeo, but many veteran business-tripping moms totally go there. Throw your travel shawl over yourself, set everything up discreetly, and pump while watching a 30 Rock rerun on the seatback TV. The white noise of the plane does a great job of masking the pump sounds. No one will notice, or if they do, they probably are not going to make a thing of it. Once you’re done, you can still go into the bathroom and wash out your parts with bottled water, or just throw them in a Ziploc bag and deal with it on solid ground
4. We know Alyssa Milano has something to say about it but how much milk CAN a mom travel with? Do you pack it in a carry-on?
In the United States, you are allowed to bring as much breastmilk through security as you want, so I always carry it on. Regardless of whether your baby is there, it is categorized as “liquid medication.” This means that it is exempt from TSA’s 3-1-1 rule about liquids, so you can transport breastmilk in containers larger than 3 ounces, and you are not limited to only one quart-sized plastic bag. It also means that you can ask for the milk not to be put through an X-ray machine—but if you do make this request, they can subject it to “further inspection” (no further explanation is given, leaving the question open for argument, which is never a good idea with TSA). Because of the “medication” designation, you can bring ice packs to keep it cool.
Unfortunately for Alyssa, and countless others, this is not always the case in other countries, so you really have to do your homework if traveling abroad. (Also: use a battery pack, not the plug, abroad. You do not want a power surge or different voltage to fry your pump in a foreign land.)
I always pack my breast milk in my carry-on; too much risk for my anxious self of the bag getting lost, or the flight getting delayed and everything sitting somewhere hot. I’ve traveled home with a week’s worth of breastmilk in a carry-on – most of it frozen, which makes things easier and less messy (but I still double bag everything in hefty Ziplocs).
5. To dry ice or not to dry ice? I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
If you want (or need) to ship your milk home, the very best how-to comes from a badass former Navy mechanic, RN, and IBCLC Robyn Roche-Paull, who literally wrote the book, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, for active-duty military breastfeeding moms. Robyn says that dry ice can be used, but isn’t actually necessary in most cases. Check out her step-by-step at: http://breastfeedingincombatboots.com/faq/deployments/shipping-milk/
6. Are there different things to consider when doing a quick rager in Vegas (i.e. napping by the pool for 2 days) vs. a longer trip like 5+ days?
The biggest thing to think about is cooler size. But of course, there are Wal-Marts and Targets nearly everywhere, so you can always run out and get a bigger soft-sided cooler if you need to. On business (or just away-from-baby-for-fun) travel, it’s really the beginning and end that are the most stressful: making sure you pack everything, getting through security, pumping in the airport or on the plane, getting where you’re going and negotiating for a fridge or freezer; and then doing the whole thing in reverse on the way home, but with milk in tow. The middle, however long it is, is pretty standard.
7. Tips on how to maintain supply while away from baby?
This is a tough one. A lot of working moms see a temporary supply dip from work travel. Maybe you don’t eat or drink enough, or you drink a lot of alcohol (dump the milk if you pump it while you can still feel the buzz!). Maybe you don’t get as many pumping sessions in, due to the stresses of a busy schedule. Don’t let a little supply dip freak you out – you can usually recover from that. But DO call ahead to your hotel and any client office or conference center to make arrangements for where to pump and where to store milk. Get individual names and cell phone numbers so you can find those exact people when you arrive – because they are sure to not have relayed the message to any co-workers. And pack healthy, high-protein snacks!
8. Any gear, tips or any encouraging words we should know?
I swear by the replacement flanges (the horn part of the pump) made by a little company called Pumpin Pal. They are angled, so you can sit back while you pump, which means less back pain and less spilling. And their shape is more natural, so you have less discomfort while pumping. And no, I’m not being paid to say this!
In terms of encouraging words, the best I can do is share the mantra that got me through two kids, 22 total months of breastfeeding, and literally circumnavigating the globe with a breast pump:
Your worth as a mother is not measured in ounces.
Breastfeeding was a HUGE priority to me, but I struggled so much with it. Anxiety out the wazoo. There were times when my ability (or lack thereof) to provide my babies with breastmilk seemed to define my success as a mother. Clinging to those words really got me through. Providing your baby with your milk is nothing short of amazing. But the only way to get a gold medal in the Mom-Lympics is to love your baby and love yourself. That’s it.
Jessica Shortall is a mother of two with a career dedicated to business and doing good. During her breast pump years, Shortall was the director of giving for TOMS. She holds an MBA from Oxford University.
Work. Pump. Repeat. The New Mom’s Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work book is available for pre-order.
Whenever I struggle with feelings of overwhelm I make three columns on a paper and write at the top “stop”, “start” and “help.” These three questions can help you sort and prioritize your busy life, I promise
It’s important to list the crap you gotta stop doing before you commit to starting anything new. As busy mothers we do too much, we take on too much, we schedule too much, we stay up late too much…we need to commit to STOP doing so much!
Alright now tell me, what is going in your STOP column today?!? #timemanagement #newmom #weeklyplanning #organized #workingmom #toobusy
In a recent workshop party I realized how much my tip about how to get calm BEFORE starting another phase of your busy day is resonating with mamas. So I made a quick video directly from my favorite place to find some stillness… my swagger wagon! I hope you enjoy.
Leave a comment below with how this is helping you recharge your mom battery!
In comparison to some serious tragedies that parents endure, our health scare over the weekend with our 5 year old was minor. But in our little world, it was major and I got rocked. Her lung tore and air got out around her heart and airway. She wasn’t able to breathe fully so her oxygen levels were way down. It’s uncommon but thankfully totally treatable.
I feel that this experience happened FOR me so I could grow my ability to feel empathy for other parents. So I’m going to share with you my experience and my recommendations. Everyone is different but hopefully you can take something away.
What happens to mom:
I couldn’t think straight. I noticed that I was in fight/flight when my brain didn’t process words. All I heard was “get to her”, while my husband and I had to figure out childcare for my little one and car keys. I knew I was not processing what he was saying yet so I tried to remain calm and repeat what I heard.
I was shaking but keeping it together. My survival brain kicked in and it was fascinating how instantly I knew to grab some water and protein snacks (in case the ER didn’t have food). I was shaking from adrenalin and fear but if you looked at my face I was calm as a pickle.
I found time to cry after. Stuff moved so quick that I didn’t have time to freak out. But somewhere around 3 am between her breathing treatments I had a sleep deprived cry. It felt good. I was still processing my emotional trauma from seeing my kid suffer but also I was processing my own mom-guilt. Did I wait too long? Who knows, she was sleeping soundly but I wasn’t.
Empathy for the medical staff helped easy my anxiety. After the ambulance ride (oh joy cross that off the bucket list) we were at the ER and time for the dreaded IV catheter placement. Thankfully I was a Product Manager for an IV catheter so had seen hundreds started on patients. I intellectually knew the techniques the wonderful medical staff were doing. I understood why the first stick failed and why they struggled with the valve-y kid. If I would not have had that exposure I’m sure I would have been frustrated with them. Instead I was grateful it was them and not me. That is a HARD job ya’all!
Morphine is funny. Beware kids often don’t express when they are in pain. She was just not coughing to avoid the pain for hours and we didn’t know it. We didn’t realized this until her voice started to raise in pitch because the escaped air pockets were putting pressure on her airway. Like she was sucking on helium. So by the time they gave her morphine to ease the pain, we were all ready for some relief. Dude, she was slurring her words and signing God knows what. We said, “hey Aubrey, how are you doing?” She looked over her left and right and said in drunken sailor voice “you talking to me?” We needed that!
How to take care of mom when her child has an emergency:
These are my recommendations based on my experience so use your mom intuition and do what you feel is best for your friend and their situation. Also this is not a slam on the heaps of wonderful help and support our friends and family gave us while it was going on. I feel so blessed to have you all in our lives and you did help to make it better.
Don’t take my non-response as a bad sign.I got so many loving text messages but I could not answer them all. Plus I didn’t know what was happening in the beginning so I didn’t want to answer. Facebook was a good way to share progress and hear the wonderfully supportive things.
Food is good. Much like right after having a baby, a casserole is always welcome. We had been away for a day or so and we were low on food. So a wonderful friend did a quick drive-by for a few minutes with a nice meal and bonus bottle of wine!
The same day is too soon. The hours in a hospital are the longest hours ever experienced. And when you finally get home late in the day you just want a shower and have a good sleep. It’s too soon to talk about it. It’s too fresh and I feel like I had to relive the story every time I told it…which was a lot of times.
It isn’t over the next day. I was way more affected then my daughter and I took a day off to sleep, chill and get a massage. I felt proud of myself that I took time for some self-care.
Don’t compare your story to mine. My story feels like the worst thing ever (in my world). When you ask to hear my story and then proceed to tell me about your kid’s horrific story, it doesn’t help. You are well intentioned but I don’t have enough in the emotional bank to know what to say. Some loving words of encouragement is all you need to give.
Thanks to this community for allowing me a platform to transform my challenge into a way that will serve more mamas.
What do you think of my recommendations? Leave a comment below and let me know.
P.S. She was completely healed and back to her sassy self 2 days later. We made the best of during our “hospital sleep over party” as she described it.