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6 min read

Interview by Editor, Callan

In part three of our series with Beth Iovenelli, an RN & lactation consultant, we chat about getting creative while traveling and how important it is to listen to your instincts as a mom.

Beth Iovenelli is a Registered Nurse and Board-Certified Lactation Consultant with nearly 27 years of experience in the field of maternal child health. She has worked as a labor and delivery nurse, postpartum nurse and patient educator in the hospital setting and as the coordinator of newborn services and lactation in a pediatric office. Beth has taught thousands of parents and provided staff training and development for nurses, doctors and nutritionists.

Q: What is a good expectation of how much you should be getting out of each pumping session and do you have any tips for increasing efficiency? 

A: I think every mom is very different. Many times, when moms are at work, they will feel like they're a little bit under the gun, like, “I've got 15 minutes, I've got to pump.” That stress can sometimes decrease the flow. So do whatever you can to help yourself feel relaxed. Some moms like to look at a picture of their baby. Some moms have a little video of the baby. That visual and auditory connection with your baby can really help flip a switch for mommies to kind of connect that way. For how much you should pump, it depends on the way that your body responds to pumping and where you are in the day. Typically, over the course of a day, babies take about 30 ounces. 

By the time a mom’s back to work, the baby's taking three or four ounces, sometimes even more. But again, it depends on where you are in the day. Earlier in the day, moms tend to get more. If you're a mom that works an evening shift, it may be a little bit more of a struggle. The thing that's interesting, though, about when you're pumping less milk in the evening, breast milk is generally higher in fat. So despite the fact that there's lower volume, there's higher fat. You definitely can't compare a pump at 8 PM to a 5 AM pump.

Q: What are your tips for pumping while traveling? How should moms be preparing for a trip, especially what to do with the milk while you're away from baby?

A: I think that takes a little bit of planning. There’s at least one company that I know of that has a service that will send a kit to the hotel that you're staying at that has dry ice and will pick it up and FedEx it so that your milk can be shipped back home. And again, it depends on where you're traveling to and what the facilities are like. Are you going to be going to a conference or are you just doing a meeting with one person? If it's a driving trip, obviously, you can just bring your own cooler and ice packs and keep it on ice. If you're traveling by airplane and you're going to be trying to bring it back, that's something that you really have to speak to the airline ahead of time about. There have been instances of moms struggling, trying to bring this fluid through airport security. So you have to talk to each airline ahead of time to find out what their policies are for traveling with breast milk.

Most moms can get their companies to pay for it. It's not cheap, but if part of your job is requiring you to travel and it's taking you away from your child, they need to be able to support you in that process. Also, go back to another woman in your company that's done traveling before that was also pumping. What did she do? There was a mom that I worked with a long time ago and she said she would find dry ice at a bait and tackle shop. Women get creative.

Q: Do you have anything else that you would just want to share? Any best practices or words of wisdom that you give to every mother? 

A: So many moms I work with come into sessions kind of terrified and overwhelmed and are very smart and well-researched. They Googled everything. They've read every book and by having so much information, it almost flips off their intuition switch, and so they get very in their head. They lose that "even though this is my first baby, I think I know what to do" mindset because they're so afraid to break rules. I encourage women to really begin to trust themselves and to trust their babies. For instance, knowing when you're in the hospital and you had five people say the latch looks great, but the mom says it doesn't feel good, trust that you know that something isn't working. I think we Google everything and answers that you find maybe apply to one mom, but your baby and your situation are completely different. Maybe your baby was born five weeks early. Maybe your breasts are different than hers. Maybe your whole journey is different. I think that's why it's important to seek support if it's not clicking. And to find people that you jive with, find people that you click with, find people that feel flexible because if there's no flexibility, then all you feel like you're doing is breaking rules. 

I know that in my practice, I'm completely flexible. My perspective is: what are your goals, not what do I want to teach you, but what do you want? What do you want to achieve from this? And what is your biggest fear? And how can we talk about it? How can you learn that the things that I'm sharing with you are not rules, but they're guidelines? There's room to go back and forth. Trust that maternal instinct that's in there. And when you feel like you can't hear your own maternal instinct, find someone that can help support you in finding that confidence. 

Q: Perfect, I love that. I think that was the “aha” moment I had in breastfeeding and I was like, everybody told me to do this, but this is what feels good so it's what I'm going to do.

A: The number one thing I hear from parents is conflicting advice. Sometimes in the postpartum mommy foggy, tired, overwhelmed brain you can feel like, well, she told me to do this on day two and I've got that in my head. And I wrote it down and I'm doing it. But a baby that's three weeks old is very different than a baby in the first week. So, there can be conflicting advice because you don't treat babies the same way at different stages of life. But there also are a lot of different perspectives and approaches to things. It’s about quieting down all the noise, all the different things that are coming at you from Google, from your mother, from your sister, from your cousin, from Instagram, from wherever - and taking little bits of it and distilling it down. You have to do a little bit of this and a little bit of this and a lot of this… just getting into your heart.

Q: It can definitely be confusing.

A: Very confusing, very confusing, and that's half of what I do is dispel myths and say, forget that, forget that, forget that. Let's get down to the heart of what's happening. And usually what we say are the two most important things: the baby has to get fed and mom has to get stimulated in order to make milk because it's a two-person operation. So, the baby needs to get fed, mom has to get stimulated, and you both have to be happy and comfortable and pain free. Bottom line, that's it in a nutshell right there. And if baby's not growing and not latching well and you're having pain, neither one of you are getting what you need.  



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