Mike: Dad's Eye View

Mike: Dad's Eye View

Your eyes are not deceiving you! Mike Schaffer is here to provide our first-ever male breastfeeding perspective.

He and his wife, Marisa, a TV production executive, are expecting their first child this summer and have decided to attempt to breastfeed. Neither of them were breastfed, so they are anxious to go through this process together.

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You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

It was just under a year ago when I was presented with the opportunity to write for Bravado and be the first male breastfeeding blogger.

Here’s how much my life has changed since then:

When I received the offer, my wife was about half-way through the pregnancy. Now, my daughter, Hava, is seven months old and cuddling next to me as I write this farewell.  So if there are any typos, blame the baby.

(We also bought a new house and a new car, but those changes seem so insignificant right now.)

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12:14pm on Friday February 3
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Dates, Work Trips and Breast Milk – OH MY!

Anyone thinking about having a child should know one thing. (Well, there are obviously MANY things to know, but only one pertains to this blog post, k?)

You will be a parent first – and everything else second.

Love spending quality alone time with your partner? Enjoy random nights out with friends? Do you go on frequent trips for work?

Every one of those items is much more difficult when you have a baby.

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12:12pm on Thursday January 26
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Four Rules of Post-Pregnancy Eating

During pregnancy, expectant moms are hammered by books, TV shows, magazines and especially friends and family, to watch their eating.

Sushi? Off limits.

Alcohol? Not a chance.

Deli meat? Slice extra for Dad, none for Mom.

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8:59am on Wednesday January 18
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Exercise in a Post-Baby World

Back when, my wife and I loved to exercise together.

Leading up to our wedding, we took an early morning “boot camp,” in addition to a calorie-burning Sunday afternoon workout. It was so easy, since we lived literally half a block from the gym.

And we also walked our dog separately and together at least once a day around Washington, DC.

It was a good time in our lives – but a lot has changed since then.

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9:00am on Wednesday January 11
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The True Meaning of Hanukkah

Hanukkah is the least religious of Jewish holidays. Seriously.

But I find it among the most inspiring.

The story goes that King Antiochus gained control of Judea when his Syrian forces defeated King Ptolemy of Egypt over 2,200 years ago. At the time, the Syrians believed in the traditional Greek gods of Mt. Olympus.

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2:23pm on Wednesday December 28
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Dads, Step-Up This Holiday Season

The holiday season is an awesome time.

Between treats and trips, gatherings and parties, it’s a hectic, yet fun, part of the year.

Toss in a baby, let alone a breastfed baby, and busy becomes challenging.

Dads, this is a critical period for us. We can either step up or stumble. And mom will remember what we do, trust me.

One of the best ways to raise your game is to provide major emotional support.

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9:00am on Wednesday December 21
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Translating Holiday Traditions

Over the course of our relationship, my wife and I have created a bunch of holiday-season traditions. Some of them come from my side, some come from her’s – and now we are trying to figure out which ones will continue now that we have a child.

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9:00am on Wednesday December 14
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12-Step Holiday Survival Guide

Let’s face it, the holiday season is a stressful time.

It’s a WONDERFUL time, too. Apparently, nothing makes us as happy or stressed-out as spending time with our families.

Add a new baby to the family and the show is over, friends.

In the spirit of the season, here are 12 steps to survive the holiday season. Read one a day, or all of them at once:

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9:00am on Wednesday December 7
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5 Ways New Parents Can Beat Sleep

My baby sleeps.

These are the greatest three words a parent can say.

And, for the most part, I’ve been able to say them for several months now.

But defeating the need for sleep is a tremendous challenge for all new parents.

Here are my top 5 tips to beat the need for sleep:

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9:00am on Wednesday November 30
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Feeding Amongst Family

When Hava was first born, we had dozens of extended family members and friends come in and out of our house.  (I should also mention that we moved into a new house less than a week before she was born. It’s been a crazy year. For the full story, read the archives here!)

When it was time for Hava to eat, and, to be honest, when she was first born, it was ALWAYS time for her to eat, my wife had a choice to make. Would she feed in the common areas of the house, surrounded by friends and family, or go into the bedroom?

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9:00am on Wednesday November 23
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Thankful Experiences

‘Tis the season to be grateful, right?

As I look back on what I’m thankful for over the past year, it starts and stops with our baby.

It’s been a truly great year that has seen me take on many new roles and titles. Homeowner. Suburbanite. A director of my company.

But none of them mean as much to me as the title of “father.”

There have been two key transformative moments over the first few months of Hava’s life that have truly made me appreciate everything I have.

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9:00am on Wednesday November 16
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5 Questions Every Travelling Parent Must Answer

Everybody wants to spend time with our baby.

It’s no longer about us – nobody really wants to see me and my wife.

They only want to see little Hava during the holiday season. We’re just the ornaments on the tree that is our baby. (We’re Jewish, so if that analogy doesn’t quite fit, please forgive me.)

With family in two different areas of the country, that leaves us with some tough decisions to make – not just this year, but every year.

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9:00am on Wednesday November 9
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A WONDER-ful Halloween

Halloween is a big deal in our household.

My wife and I love doing “family costumes;” the bigger, the better!

Last year, we were Chilean coal miners, and our dog was a canary. We’re funny, no?

The year before, we were Newlyweds – she wore a wedding gown and carried a knife, while I had a stab wound.

We’ve even been part of a massive Ghostbusters group costume, too. She was a Ghostbuster, I was the epic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

So our daughter is being born into some heavy tradition.

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9:00am on Wednesday November 2
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Seasons Change

Did we have a summer this year?

Since Hava was born in June, life has been one gigantic blur.

Instead of a summer filled with trips to the beach and other such fun activities, we spent the past several months surrounded by burp rags and dirty diapers.

Not that my wife and I are complaining.  Hava has made every day more fun and awesome than the one before.

But we are in the midst of a bit of seasonal whiplash at the moment.

There is something about this time of year that just works for me – the cool temperatures, the Halloween/Thanksigving season and traditions, Fall TV season…maybe the combination of them all?  I can’t put my finger on it.

One potentially-negative thing we will have to deal with is the shorter days.

You see, when there was nothing but sunshine in our lives, days still flew by.  To-do lists kept growing and there was seemingly no way to handle the growing amounts of feedings and laundry.

Those challenges have somewhat eased as we’ve settled into our new role as parents, but the lack of natural light in our Mondays through our Fridays is going to throw a wrench in our plans.

We’ve promised to set a good example for our daughter by eating well, exercising regularly and living a generally active lifestyle.

Coming home from work in the dark, for me and my wife, at least, is a motivation killer.  All we want to do is curl up, order delivery and watch TV. 

That feeling is not conducive to all the things that need to get done – laundry, shopping, cleaning, cooking, quality time with our daughter.

Honestly, I’m frightened by the next few months.  Just like breastfeeding made us think hard about every aspect of our life, from clothes, pumping, storage, and more, adjusting to this season will require us to change. 

We will be forced to plan more intricately, push ourselves when we want to rest, keep each other motivated…and still find time to jump in large piles of leaves.

What advice do you have for parents delving into their first Fall?

9:00am on Wednesday October 26
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Enough Bonding Moments?

Can I be a bit of a potential downer here?

Like, not a TOTAL downer.  Maybe a bit selfish.  Is that ok?

I want to share something that’s been on my mind.

Breastfeeding is awesome.  Just peruse the archives of my blog and all of my fellow bloggers and you’ll find hundreds of reasons why it’s incredible.

Nutrition, bonding, reflexes – the whole thing.

But when you make the decision to feed directly from the breast as much as possible, there is something missing.

Between feedings at home and daycare, I don’t get to give my daughter a lot of bottles.  We have made a conscious decision to let her eat direct from the breast as much as possible.

You hear all about how breastfeeding is a wonderful bonding experience between mother and child. And it is.  

However, with fewer bottles to be given at home, I’ve been largely outside the feeding sphere.

Let me be clear that I gladly support my wife in feeding activities.  This includes things like doing nearly all of the burping, playing a daily role in the pumping/storing process and packing up all the bottles for daycare in the morning.

Instead of bonding with my daughter, I’m reinforcing my role as husband.  I dig that.

But I miss out on a lot of those feeding-related bonding moments.

This hit me the other day.  My wife was on a business trip and I was taking care of the baby in the morning.  

We snuggled on the couch as she had breakfast and it was awesome.

I loved the constant eye-contact as I cradled her with one arm.  It gave me some quiet moments where I could just think about the past few months and my journey from expectant dad to a father holding his daughter.

I know I’ll have more bottle moments down the road.

And I know that there are other dads that may think I’m crazy for WANTING to give more bottles.  Am I trying to mess up a good thing?

Maybe.

But I can’t imagine disliking something that lets me spend more time with my daughter. 

9:00am on Wednesday October 19
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Protecting the Stockpile

Of all the things that could affect breastfeeding, would you believe that electricity is one of them?

In our neighborhood, the power goes out regularly.

And with the wave of hurricanes, earthquakes and tornados hitting the East Coast recently, the threat of outages has never been higher.

You see, we’re collecting a stockpile of breastmilk so my wife can reduce and then stop feeding and pumping in a few months, but still have the good stuff available for our daughter until she is at least one year old.  We’re already a third of the way to our goal and our freezer is more packed every day.

Months of pumping, bottling, bagging and storing can go to waste if the power is out for just 24 hours, as the frozen milk will thaw and spoil. 

Thankfully, despite all the natural disasters that have come our way, we haven’t lost power for more than a few minutes…yet.  But we have come up with this emergency plan for keeping the milk frozen.

Step 1 – Prep a cooler.  We begin by bagging ice from our freezer that pad a cooler, should we need to transfer the milk out of the freezer.  Naturally, make sure all freezer packs are frozen, too.

Step 2 – Arrange a back-up freezer.  We have friends and family in nearby areas with more stable power grids on-call before a storm hits.  If we lose power we can throw the milk in the prepared cooler and make it to one of our back-up freezers before anything thaws.

Step 3 – Keep the freezer closed.  Unless you are ready to load milk into a cooler, keep the freezer door shut!  Every time you open a freezer, you let out cold air.  When the power is out, that cold air isn’t replenished.  So keep that door sealed shut.

Bonus – For extra credit, get a small generator and a can of gasoline to power the freezer until the electricity comes back on.

Losing power is scary, and the threat of three months of food going down the drain is even scarier.  A little preparation can ease those worries.

9:00am on Wednesday October 12
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Daycare Separation Anxiety

It’s funny.  I went back to work just a few weeks after Hava was born and I didn’t feel what I’m feeling now. In just a few days, my baby girl is starting daycare and I’m having a tough time dealing with it.

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9:00am on Wednesday October 5
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The Sound of Silence

Imagine this peaceful world:

No crying baby. No strange noises coming from the breast pump. No soapy water in the sink.

It’s deafening – the sound of silence.

I doubt Simon and Garfunkel were thinking about new babies and breastfeeding when they wrote that song, but it works here.

So many movies and TV shows stereotype parents as people that crave literally SECONDS of silence and serenity. We’re not talking hours, or even minutes. Just a few quiet seconds here and there.

I never expected to be that guy – and my wife never thought she would get excited about breastshields being available at Target. It’s a season of surprises!

You may think I’m referring to solitude, but I’m not.

A quiet moment with me and Hava is priceless.

Our Daddy-Daughter time is so important to me, especially when she doesn’t need soothing.

I love those moments where we can snuggle on the floor…or when she falls asleep on my shoulder, her little arms wrapped as far around my shoulders as they can go.

My favorite quiet moment is when she’s wide awake, but so calm. If we’re by a mirror, I’ll try to contort my body so I can catch a glimpse of her face in the reflection, content in her daddy’s arms.

For new parents, there isn’t a ton of feedback you get from the baby. Your infant can’t say, “Nice job wiping my tush, pops!”

And when babies are true newborns, they don’t really respond to all that much. They just eat, sleep and poop!

Why are these moments so special?

Breastfeeding moms have built-in bonding time in their day, 10-30 minute chunks of time where they can concentrate on their baby and vice versa.

For us dads, we have to fight for that time and create our own opportunities. We’re victims of our biologies!

It’s not something I’m bitter about, since I would NOT want to trade places with my wife.

Instead, I use it as a badge of pride and a motivator. I’m proud of the work I’ve put in to maximize those quality moments, to create that bond with my child.

Of course, I definitely appreciate the true quiet times – when everyone but me and the dog are asleep, when I’m on the train home from work, when I’m mowing the lawn (which is NOT quiet).

But there is something about those quiet times I share with my daughter…they are filled with love.

9:00am on Wednesday September 28
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Dad & Baby: Back To Life, Back To Reality

It was a hectic summer, capping off a super-hectic year. And now that Labor Day has come and gone, we are settling into a somewhat normal routine. Hava is sleeping longer at night, which allows my wife and I more time to rest, which is helping us be more focused at work during the days. Taking Hava to daycare everyday has been so much easier than I anticipated. A few weeks ago, I discussed how sad I was about starting to let her “go.” That aspect of my emotional set has not changed one iota, but getting to know her teachers, her fellow babies and their parents has eased the transition. Leaving her in the mornings is bittersweet, but my train ride home, knowing I’ll get a full report on her day from the daycare as I squeeze her tight is 20 minutes of happiness. Both my wife and I have started back with work travel. Before Hava’s birth, we were on the road a lot. From January through early May, we probably combined for 40-50 nights away from home. But we shut down our travel about a month before she was born. As business trips resume, we have instituted a family policy: if we have to go somewhere, we are either going to go for the shortest time possible, or make sure a longer trip is worth being away from home. For instance, I was scheduled for a two-day trip to my company’s main offices. My mother-in-law flew in to spend that week with us. With her in town, I extended that trip a few days to get much more done on one trip, instead of taking more, shorter ones. With Hava at daycare, bottle-feeding is now a huge part of her life for the first time. Instead of getting food directly from it’s…ahem…source, there is a bit more distance involved. My wife pumps at least once or twice a day at work, in addition to at least once in the middle of the night. The bottles may be the biggest change in Hava’s life, but perhaps the biggest change for us is bottle washing. Our life is run by bottles. Every night, at least a handful of bottles need to be carefully washed to prevent sickness and bad reactions. While my wife was home, she did all the feedings directly; we probably only gave her less than a dozen bottles before my wife went back to work. In our division of duties, my wife does the vast majority of the washing, which is good for my hands, I guess. But I compensate by doing more of the general household maintenance. One thing that makes us a bit sad is that, at nearly three months old, Hava can finally go places and do things, but now that summer is over, there isn’t as much to do, or nearly the same amount of daylight to get stuff done in. Now that she’s able to interact more, we want to give her regular happy experiences – she won’t remember them, but we love seeing a smile on her face. Overall, we’re like the classic Soul II Soul song: We’re back to life and back to reality. But we’re creating our new life and dreaming up our new reality – since we’re sleeping now! 9:00am on Wednesday September 21
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Season of Change

The past year has had one constant: change.

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9:00am on Wednesday September 14
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Dad the Babywearer

So, new dads, feeling like you aren’t getting a lot of attention around town?  Everyone either fussing over your baby or checking on your wife? Do you want people to look at YOU?  Well, have I got the solution for you! It’s so simple and easy and, for just a short while, it makes you (almost) the center of attention. All it takes is one step and one step only: Wear your baby!

There are plenty of baby carriers on the market, all of which allow your baby to rest comfortably curled up on your chest as you run errands, go for a walk, or even visit friends and family.

I did just that with Hava as we took her first trip to Target a few weeks ago.

We went as a family, but Marisa wanted some time to walk around the store to stretch her legs, since it was one of her first trips out not a) pregnant or b) carrying the baby in nearly a year.

So I volunteered to take Hava around the store and handle all of our shopping.  And the best way to shop with the baby was to use one of those baby carriers.

We stood in the parking lot, as it took both of us to get the wrap tied on properly, as curious people walked by, eyebrows raised, looking at us.  We laughed it off, and Marisa even made a joke about how I could easily pick up women using my baby as “chick-bait.”  

But I was precisely instructed not to do that.  What a buzzkill, my wife! :--)

With Hava properly secured, we had our first Daddy/Daughter Shopping Extravaganza!

Moving from department to department, we attracted double- and triple-takes.  Nobody was used to seeing a man wear a baby, and especially not in the pet supply section of Target.

I kept my head up and eyes forward, but I could hear people, ranging from teenage girls to older women, ooh and ahh over a sleeping baby.  Others chuckled.  And some just walked on by.

I was most intrigued by the ones who chuckled.  I think I would have been one of them until I tried it.  While a man wearing an infant really isn’t something you see everyday, I found it empowering and strangely masculine, as paternal instincts kick into overdrive when your baby is fastening tightly around you.  

I obviously can’t breastfeed and we haven’t started using a bottle, so wearing Hava is our special way to bond… no matter what people around town think of it.

8:01am on Wednesday September 14
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Labor Day Lessons

I learned seven important lessons on our Labor Day earlier this year.

Lesson #1 – Talk to your doctor when you have ANY inkling of something unusual.

My wife woke up in the middle of the night with some light contractions, so we called the doctor, who told us to come on in, despite the fact that this was ten days before our due date and the doctor had just told us the day before that the baby would be at least a week late.

We loaded up the car and went to the hospital, expecting a long day ahead.

The doctor sent us home an hour later, since they weren’t sure the contractions were real (not Braxton-Hicks) and even if they were, it was way too early for us to be there.

They gave us the magic formula of when to come back: When the contractions last for a full minute and are five minutes apart for at least one hour.  It was a Friday…the guessed they would see us again on Sunday at the earliest.

Lesson #2 – Trust your doctor and your judgment, but know that every pregnancy is different.

The contractions increased and intensified throughout the day, but hadn’t hit the target, so we went shopping.

My wife had a 30-second contraction in every aisle of the store!  We got the dirtiest looks ever, but walking eased the pain, so we kept going until the pain was too severe.

We returned home and my wife took a bath to ease the tension.  She felt a “pop” and then went WAAAAAAAY past the magic formula!

Her water had broken and contractions were now lasting a full minute and spread just two minutes apart!  YIKES!!!

Lesson #3 – Dads, be present, calm and supportive.

I expected to panic, but instead I felt a rush of calmness as we returned to the hospital.  “Game time.  Focus.  Drive.  Just drive. And breathe.  Don’t forget that.”  

You know how when you watch a movie or a TV show, there are seemingly a dozen people buzzing around the labor and delivery room, right?

Lesson #4 – Don’t believe everything you see on TV.

After my wife was checked in and well-medicated, we had about 30 minutes to freak out alone, since we still hadn’t processed that our little girl was coming so early.

Then one nurse and one resident walked in and said “let’s get to pushing!”  Uhh…just two people?

The next line caught me completely off-guard.  “Dad, grab a leg!”

Me?  Grab a leg?  This was not something we had discussed in any class before!  What if I held her leg wrong and it hurt the baby?  What if I passed out?  Or threw up?

Lesson #5 – Don’t throw up.

Everything moved so fast, so I just paid attention and did what I was told.  Grab a foot, push the leg back, don’t pass out.  Check, check and check. And I didn’t throw up, either.

Just 45 minutes later (a near record-fast pushing time for a first-time mom!), Hava was in our arms.

Much like the “rush of calmness” earlier, paternal instincts kicked in and I followed Hava to an antechamber where nurses performed a battery tests on her.

Lesson #6 – Always, always, always stay with your baby at all times.  These are some of the greatest moments of your life.

“Hava, it’s your Daddy, everything will be OK,” I said gently.

Her tiny little hand reached out towards my voice and grabbed my index finger.  

That’s the moment I fell in love with my daughter.  

I choked back tears and my exhausted wife smiled from her nearby bed.

Lesson #7 – Everything does change in an instant.

9:00am on Thursday September 8
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My First Night Away

During pregnancy, childbirth and beyond, mothers are flooded with hormones. I’m sure most of you either knew that…or are finding that out now.

Some of these hormones are all about keeping the family together and protecting it.

Dads don’t really get that chemical rush.

However, recently, I felt something similar, as I spent my first night away from my wife and child.

Five weeks after Hava was born, one of my closest friends had his bachelor party in Atlantic City, NJ, just a 3-4 hour drive from suburban Washington, DC.  

Even though I am a groomsman in his upcoming wedding, I debated participating in the party.  Would I feel comfortable leaving my wife and daughter home alone while I was having fun?  Could I handle being away from home?

After hours of discussion and planning, we reached a perfect solution:  I would go up for one of the two nights and one of Marisa’s best friends would come visit that weekend, ensuring she wouldn’t be alone.

Honestly, I debated going, even while I was in the car driving up.  But my wife had given me this opportunity to celebrate my friend’s bachelordom and I decided to enjoy it.

The night wasn’t bad at all.  I was the slightly drunk guy gushing about his baby daughter all over town, retelling stories of new fatherhood and showing my friends the latest Hava pictures my wife was emailing me.

Truth be told, I was distracted much of the night and into the wee hours.  I was roaming the town without a baby to burp or diaper to change.  It was beautiful.

I crawled into bed around 3:30am, a relatively early night for a bachelor party, but cut me some slack, I hadn’t slept in over a month!

When I woke up the next morning, something had changed.

The exuberance of the party was replaced by a strong desire to go home and be with my family.

I quietly cursed my co-partiers for taking showers at the hotel, which added time before I could drive home.  At breakfast, I almost had an anxiety attack while the kitchen took 40 minutes to make a few three-egg omelets.  I drove home safely, but aggressively, taking issue with road work, lane closures and toll booths, which increased the time between me and my girls.

Nothing else mattered, besides getting home and being with my family.

I travel a lot for work (but not since Hava was born) and want to get home from each trip as soon as possible, but that’s not the feeling I had that morning.

That Sunday morning, I felt my brain wiring change.  The party was over…and may never resume the same way again.
I needed to return to my family.

That’s where I belonged.

And when I got home, I kissed my wife, scooped up my daughter and felt the anxiety drip away, replaced with warmth and love.

8:01am on Wednesday August 31
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Breastfeeding At Home

Since Hava was born, our home has been filled with love.

It’s also been filled with people!

My family lives nearby, so they were major parts of our transition from the hospital to our home.  My mom was the keeper of all things baby while we moved (just six days before Hava came!) and she was a champion in keeping everything organized and together and sorted.

Marisa’s mom came from halfway across the country to stay with us for several weeks, and the rest of her family joined for a week-long stay recently.

Besides family, we’ve had friends, co-workers, neighbors, contractors, repairmen, plumbers, electricians and even lawn care providers in our house.

Seriously, who installed the revolving door??

We’ve divided everyone into three main groups, when it comes to breastfeeding:

Group 1 – RUN! These are the people that when they come over, breastfeeding is not done, or is done behind closed doors. On another floor of the house. For the most part, these are the strangers and service providers.  

Group 2 – COVER! This group may be potentially grossed out, but they get to spend a healthy amount of time with the entire family while they are here. Marisa is comfortable feeding Hava while these people are at our house, but she may quietly excuse herself to another room nearby. She will almost always put a loose cover, like a receiving blanket, over her shoulder to  conceal her breast and the baby’s head.  

Group 3 – PARTY TIME! Members of this group better get used to seeing nipple. There are no boundaries for breastfeeding when these people (mostly family) are in the house. It’s fair game for breastfeeding to happen at the dinner table, while watching a movie, while on the phone, you name it.

While we’ve had fun with these groupings, it’s a really serious subject for parents to get on the same page about.
Us dads are often the first and last line of defense in keeping mom and baby comfortable, especially when company is joining the festivities.

Talking to your partner about the expected visitors that day, or even that week, can help you make sure she’s as comfortable as possible in her own home. Breastfeeding, especially in the first weeks, can be awkward and a tired mom, recovering from 6-10 pounds of happiness coming out of her loins, needs help in sorting out who’s coming to visit… and when.

If you have stairs in the house, new moms can only go up and down them a few times each day. So scheduling visitors in a way that limits her stair climbing is tremendous. She’ll appreciate that you’re thinking of her recovery in addition to the baby

9:00am on Wednesday August 24
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Our First Public Feeding

One of the biggest hurdles new parents face is taking the baby out.

And for those of us families who are breastfeeding, in the beginning, another big hurdle is the first time nursing in public.

My wife is exclusively breastfeeding and we are slowly beginning to introduce a bottle, but we are doing that on a schedule, and errands don’t always coincide with the planned bottle-feedings.

So that means she must face some fears and do the dang thing…in public!

While you may think we live in a modest culture, if you look around, there’s lots of skin, and plenty of cleavage. But cleavage is just different than women’s nipples. Just look at the fall-out from Janet Jackson’s nipple making a cameo at the Super Bowl several years ago. Nipples are private. And to breastfeed out in the open means making them, to some extent, public.

Hava’s first long adventure that we knew would require breastfeeding was to lunch at a local diner and light errands around town.

At the diner, just after my wife, mother-in-law and I finished eating, the baby started stirring. We had a choice to make: go into the scorching-hot car or dingy bathroom for the feeding, or suck it up and just do it at the table. Can you blame us?

My wife took Hava out of the car seat and placed a receiving blanket over her shoulder. Discreetly, with dozens of people surrounding us, she began to nurse.

This was met by a giant “ho hum” by everyone who walked by. They either didn’t realize what was going on or just didn’t care.

Such relief!

Nobody seemed to really care, from our waitress to fellow patrons. Those who recognized what was going on were very respectful of our space.

While nursing out in the open like that will likely be the exception and not the rule, it was a very positive experience for all of us. As my wife begins pumping, we will bring bottles with us when possible.

So am I still uncomfortable watching a woman nurse in public? Yes and no.

I think I understand what’s happening much better now.

Seeing my wife feed our child at a restaurant was an enlightening experience. It’s going to take some getting used to as we go along. And I think I’ll always do a double-take when I see a mother breastfeeding.

But baby’s gotta eat.

9:00am on Wednesday August 17
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7 New Breastfed Baby Truths

Our daughter Hava is two weeks old already. I think because we haven’t really slept, time has passed quite oddly. Fans of the HBO show True Blood (SPOILER ALERT) can sympathize with this season’s premiere, where Sookie goes to the Fairy Land and what felt like ten minutes was actually over a year in real time.

There are things that people just don’t tell new dads. Things to expect, survival tips, etc. Let me remedy that situation with these seven truths.

  1. Breastfeeding can cause painful contraction-like symptoms and heavy bleeding as your wife's uterus contracts into pre-pregnancy size. Overnight-thickness maxi or incontinence pads soak it up. Buying them will not revoke your man card. Trust me.
  2. You’ll be frustrated. Since professionals don’t recommend pumping for several weeks, there is not a lot you can do early on to help with the feeding. Your job is to change diapers and run errands.
  3. I know people say breastmilk poops are mild, but, and forgive my candidness, you’ll want to avoid certain squashes and most mashed sweet potatoes for a while. Thankfully, they don’t smell all that bad. Change more diapers than she does for a harmonious home.
  4. Make a snack basket for the bedroom. Your wife is burning up to 600 extra calories a day making that milk and she'll be ravenous. Those middle-of-the-night feedings are good eating opportunities. Stock up a basket with a variety of healthy but delicious snack options she can keep next to the bed. She’ll thank you at 3 am.
  5. Be patient or go crazy. Your partner is sleeping less than you, guaranteed, daddy-o. And she just had a person fly out of her pookie. Be better than you think you can be at all times.
  6. Get used to your partner’s boob making public appearances. Friends, family, strangers, shoppers at Pier 1, most anyone you come across can grab a peek if they try hard enough. I imagine it’s only going to get worse. But baby’s gotta eat.
  7. The whole “sleep when the baby sleeps” thing is a nice goal, but not really feasible in our experience. I don’t know about you, but sleeping during the day, especially with friends and family over to see the baby, is not easy. But do try to sneak in naps when you can. Good luck with that, big poppa.

The first few weeks are overwhelmingly special – but they are in no way easy. And sometimes, not pretty. But hang in there, dad, it’s worth it.

9:00am on Wednesday August 10
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2 comments


The Panel of Dads, Part 2

Welcome to Part II of our Panel of Dads!  (You’ve read Part I, right? No? That's ok - go read it and come back!) 

I’ve solicited breastfeeding advice from three fathers from around the United States to take a look at how different men approach breastfeeding. Joining me on the panel are:

  • Jeff: Father of a newborn from Boston, MA
  • Richie: Father of two (3 and 6) from Fort Worth, TX
  • Michael: Father of two (4 and 2) from Berkley Heights, NY

Here’s what they had to say:

Question 5 – Did you feel left out when your wife was breastfeeding?
Jeff, Richie and Michael all said they didn’t feel left out of the bonding between mother and child that comes from feeding.
I’m liking the solidarity here!

Question 6 – What is your #1 breastfeeding tip for dads?

  • "Make it fun and sing the booby buffet song." – Jeff
  • "If you are grossed-out at the thought/act of breastfeeding, get over it and remember, it's for the baby. As a father and husband, your wants come second to your wife and kids' needs. Period." – Richie
  • "Know that it can be extremely frustrating in the beginning, and most women fear that they will not be able to breastfeed. That, coupled with the hormonal changes after giving birth can make the first couple of days extremely difficult for a new mother. Be patient and be a calming influence to help her through the struggle." – Michael

 

I can’t thank these three gentlemen for participating in this panel.  And even more than participation, I greatly appreciate their honesty here.  They’ve opened up into a world us guys don’t generally discuss.

It looks like I’ve got three different, but equally fantastic, role models for dads.  

So, dads and dads to be – read what they have to say…they’ve got a lot of experience with this!

Moms and moms to be – don’t be afraid to show this to your partner.  Show them that there are real men dishing out real advice about the very real topic of breastfeeding.

9:00am on Wednesday August 3
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4 Easy Tips for Dads to Rock Cluster Feedings

For months now, you’ve read my thoughts on breastfeeding.

But there was a problem – we didn’t have a baby yet.

That all changed on Saturday, June 18, when our daughter, Hava, was born.

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9:00am on Wednesday July 27
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I Feel The Need…The Need For Sleep!

In 2005, the American Film Institute ranked the top 100 movie quotes in history.

Just making the list at #94 was this great line from "Top Gun:"

Maverick (Tom Cruise): "I feel the need…"

Maverick and Goose (Anthony Edwards) together: "The need for speed!"

My wife and I have been having similar conversations lately…but we’re feeling the need for SLEEP!

We are just a few weeks away from our due date and we are just days away from moving to our new house. Yep, we’re THAT family, leaving the big city days before the first baby comes.

Pregnancy should be enough, but toss on a house-hunt, work travel and now packing, and we’re nearly running on empty.

Nights have been more “miss” than “hit” for my wife, who’s been waking up every two hours with a baby on the bladder. Which means I wake up every two hours, too.

So many people tell us we should be storing up sleep now, because we’ll never sleep again. Good advice, I’m sure. But just not possible in our situation.

While we normally would curse this as bad luck, we’re taking the high road.

We’re seeing this period as helping to prepare us for parenthood. The first few weeks and months, with breastfeedings every 2-3 hours, will lead to sleepless nights and zombie days. Getting into this rhythm now, in theory, should make it easier for us when we’re getting up to feed the baby and change her diapers. I think.

In the gym it’s called “muscle memory;” the more you perform an action, the more used to it your body gets, thus making it easier to perform said action.

Are we crazy to be so positive about it all?

Are we just adding more weeks on to the sleep deprivation ledger?

And what tips can you give us to help us maximize sleep in the weeks ahead while still giving regular feedings? All this positivity is making me sleepy.

9:00am on Wednesday July 20
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1 comment


We Need Your Help!

,With two incredible baby showers in the books and the move to our new house just a few weeks away – and the due date in less than a month, my wife and I are finally able to take the time to hammer out some logistics about our new life as parents. We still have a lot of unanswered questions for specifics and need your help!

For several reasons, my wife won’t be able to take a long maternity leave.  We’re looking at just six weeks.  That’s the bad news.

However, her company offers an incredible daycare to employees and we are in a great position on their lengthy waiting list.  That’s the good news.

With our baby at daycare in the same building, it will be easy to breastfeed several times a day – and pump comfortably in her office, as needed. The daycare would be literally a four minute walk and elevator ride from her desk.

Our preference, of course, would be for both of us to hit the pause button on the real world and take as much time as possible with the baby.  Or at least stay home for longer than six weeks.  However, that’s just not an option for us.

Breastfeeding and pumping require a surprising amount of "things."  Special pillows. Special covers for the special pillow. Bottles. Pumps. Burp cloths. Creams.  

And here are our questions for you, experienced parents (please leave answers in the comments section…we need your advice!):

  1. Is it better to lug the "stuff" to and from the office every day, or double-up on certain things and have a set each for home and office?
  2. How did you get comfortable enough at the office to pump or feed?
  3. Did you have any issues with your boss and/or co-workers?
  4. How did your baby adapt to breastfeeding in a new and unusual place?

Naturally, I’ll update you in this space on what we decide…but your advice will go a long way!

9:00am on Wednesday July 13
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4 comments


More Than Meets The Eye

My wife and I both travel for work a good bit.

I spend several days a month traveling to my company’s main office, industry conferences and client meetings.  She jaunts from our home in Washington, DC, to New York, Los Angeles and international events.  

The day after we found out we were pregnant, we went to Costa Rica.  Since then, she has gone to Austria, Germany and France.  (While not as exotic, I’ve been to Nashville and Santa Monica!)

Recently, I drove her to the train station to catch a sunset ride up the coast for two days in New York.  At 35 weeks pregnant, this was the last work trip either of us would be taking for a while.

As I stood with her waiting for the 5:21pm to arrive, I thought about our lives over the past year and how my wife had transformed.

In twelve months, we’ve transformed from blissful newlyweds to a soul-searching couple after a devastating miscarriage to overjoyed expectant parents.

Physically (her) and emotionally (both of us), the journey has been a true endurance test.  Pregnancy definitely ain’t for the weak.

While our miscarriage was early, it was still painful.  There is no guidebook to tell you how to feel.  So we felt lost, confused and damaged.  What if we could never have kids?

We refused to stop trying after one setback, which led to our pregnancy just two months later.

Since that trip to Costa Rica, I’ve witnessed my wife remain remarkably calm as her body was taken over by another entity.  It was like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”  

Her body changed on a nearly daily basis.  Her breasts swelled, preparing for breastfeeding.  Aches and pains kept moving; as soon as one was relieved, it would shift to another area.  Hands, feet, back…   
She had to learn to deal with her constantly-changing body as it pertained to self-image.  Clothes that were once too big to fit became too small.  Being a confident, independent woman with a baby growing inside you takes ever-increasing amounts of trust, grace and determination.  

Her favorite foods soon repulsed her, after several months of sickness where everything repulsed. 

Sleeping became a chore, with countless mid-night potty breaks.  Being several state away from her closest friends and most of her family added more stress.  And this was before our landlords decided to sell our house.

As the pressures and stressors piled on, higher than ever before, my wife adapted to be able to deal with each of them, head-on.  It was like a maternal switch flipped that gave her extra insight, coping mechanisms and problem-solving bandwidth.  

Standing there as the train pulled into the station, mere weeks before meeting my daughter, I had a realization:

While I had sent my wife to those foreign countries over the past year, the mother of my children was about to board.

9:00am on Wednesday July 6
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The Publification of Private Parts

One of the strangest parts of pregnancy that I’ve observed with my wife is that a woman’s body is suddenly of communal interest.  And her breasts are the main topic of conversation.

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9:00am on Wednesday June 29
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The Panel of Dads, Part 1

With my first child coming any day now (seriously, you may be reading this while I am holding her), it’s time to get some quality advice.   As Bravado’s first male breastfeeding blogger, I feel it is my duty to bring you more notes and tips from those of us X AND Y chromosomes. So, I created The Panel of Dads!

Joining me on the panel are three dads whose wives breastfed their children:  

  • Jeff: Father of a newborn from Boston, MA
  • Richie: Father of two (3 and 6) from Fort Worth, TX
  • Michael: Father of two (4 and 2) from Berkley Heights, NY

 

I asked each of them a series of questions and we’ll discuss their responses over the next two weeks.
Let’s roll!

Why did you plan to breastfeed?

All three referenced the health benefits for the baby. Richie mentioned the emotional bonding between mom and baby as a key reason, as well.

On a scale of 1 (nothing) to 10 (expert), rate your knowledge of breastfeeding:

  •   Jeff: 9
  • Richie: 5.5
  • Michael: 7
  • (For the record, I’d rank myself an 8.5.  I aced breastfeeding class.  Boobyah!) 

 

So in the first few questions, we learned that all the dads were interested in the health benefits of breastfeeding and that they all seemed fairly knowledgeable of the subject.

However, this next question is where we start to see that each dad’s personality was part of the overall experience for the family.

If your partner breastfed, how did you support her?

  •   Jeff wrote a little ditty called “The Booby Buffet” that he sang when his newborn son was feeding.  Enough said.  (Note to self: bribe Jeff for a copy of the lyrics.)
  • Richie provided some awesome advice about how breastfeeding impacted his marriage: “[I] gave her space/privacy when she wanted it and remained supportive (and not grossed-out) when it became so casual when she eventually did it in front of me. The thing about breastfeeding is that my wife started to feel less sexy and more like a feeding machine. Men have an important role to be sensitive to their partner's feelings. This may not always come naturally to guys, but it's crucial during what can be a challenging time in a relationship.”
  • Michael became an expert, reading as much as possible.  He also protected his wife as she breastfed at home and in public, while encouraging her as she pumped at the office while resuming her career.

 

I really liked how each of the dads created their role in the breastfeeding process, even though it’s kind of impossible to be one of the two most active participants.  

Next week, I’ll ask the dads for their #1 breastfeeding tips and more!  Stay tuned!

9:00am on Wednesday June 22
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1 comment


Third Trimester Senioritis

I want to talk about “Senioritis.”
You remember that glorious final year of high school. Walking tall down the halls like you OWNED the place. Slacking off because you KNEW what your next step in life was going to be (college, work, military or uncertainty. Yes, even uncertainty could give you confidence in high school!)

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9:00am on Wednesday June 15
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Lime Sherbet

I’m an only child. Growing up, I had no brothers, no sisters.  We had a cat for a while, but that feline was CRAZY. Oh, I did have some fish. I’m not a stereotypical only child, since I did grow up with a “village” of friends and family. But sharing has never been my absolute strongest point.  I’ve always liked my stuff to be my stuff.

Flashback: When I was four, I got a carton of lime sherbet.  I neglected to eat it for a few days (kids… so easily distracted!), and by the time I remembered we had it in the freezer, it was gone!  I reacted as only a preschooler with no lime sherbet could, crying and wailing for hours on end. (My dad still can’t believe that nearly 25 years later, I still remember this event so vividly and have been obviously scarred so badly by it.)

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9:00am on Wednesday June 8
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2 comments


Voltage, Chicken and Premium Gasoline

I love watching the great food debate in the United States right now.

Better-food advocates show statistic after statistic that proves that our food system is killing us. Like, causing obesity, diabetes and loads of other horrific diseases.

On the other side, you’ve got the… ummm… ”screw you” folks that will say that people can choose what they put into their bodies, calorie counts be darned!

It’s a divisive conversation – well-intentioned regulation vs. personal liberty to eat, drink and be merry. Both sides will give you their two cents.



Don’t tell my editors, but I generally don’t go around screaming from rooftops that I’m contributing to a breastfeeding blog. But I am almost always around SOMEONE who knows about my work here, between my wife and co-workers. And, boy, do they LOVE to bring up the topic of discussion at events and social functions!

Which leads to interesting and strange situations, like discussing breastfeeding tips over drinks at a bar. Or, my personal favorite, awkward pauses while people turn their heads 30 degrees to the left and go “hmmmm.” And the list goes on.

During these conversations, mothers tend to give me fantastic first-hand stories about their experiences and difficulties. Non-mothers are fascinated that I understand what’s going on in there.

After about 10 minutes, the same thing always happens: they do a triple-take and realize they’ve just had a credible 10 minute conversation about breastfeeding with a guy.
I know guys that can actually tell you the difference between Regular and Premium gas (beyond $.50/gallon!) and even I can tell you that baseball legend Wade Boggs attributed much of his success to eating chicken before every game. I know the difference between the charger for my phone and the charger for my computer.

So I know what my car, a baseball icon and small electronics need to consume. Why in the world should it be surprising that I’m keenly aware of what my child will be eating?

9:00am on Wednesday June 1
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0 comments


A Pregnant Mother’s Day

Millions of people spent a recent weekend celebrating Mother’s Day; my wife and I were not among them. But I think it was quite appropriate that we traveled from our home in Washington, DC, to my wife’s hometown of Houston, TX, that weekend for our first baby shower.

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9:00am on Wednesday May 25
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A Beautiful Thing

Pregnancy is a beautiful thing, right?

Well, it's also one of the strangest things in the world.

The changes in a woman's body are downright frightening.

From an ever-changing bra size, to extreme acid indigestion, to months and months of nausea, to uncontrollable acne that would make a teenager cringe, it messes with you, mind, body and soul.

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9:00am on Wednesday May 18
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Hold It Like A Hamburger... and 6 Other Breastfeeding Tips We've Received

A coworker of mine told me that the only breastfeeding advice she ever received from a lactation consultant was “hold it like a hamburger.”

I’m assuming she meant the breast, not the baby.  



My wife and I went to a breastfeeding class recently, since neither of us could get help from our parents since we weren't breastfed.

We were "those people."  Each of us filled our own notebook with information, tidbits and some jokes.  I mean, it’s hard NOT to crack a laugh when talking about boobs for two hours!

But here are six other, more specific, breastfeeding tips we’ve picked up along the way:
    •    Watch the baby, not the clock: Yeah, a newborn should be eating, on average, every three hours.  However, the most important thing is to pay attention to the physical signs of hunger from the baby.
    •    Milk production is about nerve stimulation: In the first few days and even weeks, the baby is helping stimulate prolactin hormone receivers by stimulating nerves around the nipples, even if there isn’t a lot of “product” coming out.  It’s OK.
    •    Size doesn’t matter: Who knew?  The size of the breast has absolutely no impact on milk production.
    •    Increase skin-to-skin contact: Body contact actually helps nurture emotional and brain health in the baby and release oxytocin (the “mothering hormone”) in the mother.  Dads can help the baby with skin-to-skin contact, but we won’t get the matching hormone release.  
    •    Dads, know your role: We can help mom feed better by helping manage her pain, relieve her stress and keep her warm.  Ensure she takes any medication she needs (like laxatives or pain relievers) and massage her.  Massaging mom while she feeds the baby is a great family bonding event.
    •    Breast-feed, don’t nipple-feed: A good latch involves much more than just the nipple itself, causing the baby to get better milk flow.  It also helps prevent cracked nipples which can lead to mastitis (breast infection).

We know every mom/baby combination has different challenges and capabilities, but we feel well-prepared.

By listening to as many people as possible, we can make informed decisions that work for us, and adjust tactics as needed.

9:00am on Wednesday May 11
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0 comments


Why We Are Breastfeeding

There are many uncomfortable conversations a child has with their parents. And they all start with questions.

“Where do babies come from?”

“Why can’t I eat my boogers?”

“What’s happening to my body?”

“No, seriously… where the heck do babies come from???”

But one of the most uncomfortable conversations comes when a nearly 30-year-old man asks his mother:

“Was I breastfed?”

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9:00am on Wednesday May 4
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Did I Mention I’m A Guy?

There are a lot of things I’m more qualified to write about than what you will read in this space.

For instance… well… just about everything you could think of is something I’m probably more qualified to write about than what we’ll be discussing here.

You see… I’m a man. Writing about breastfeeding.

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9:00am on Wednesday April 27
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Meet Mike, Dad's Eye View

Today, I'd like you to meet Mike, one of our new parents from the Bravado Designs Breastfeeding Diaries Class of 2011.

Your eyes are not deceiving you! Mike Schaffer is here to provide our first-ever male breastfeeding perspective.

He and his wife, Marisa, a TV production executive, are expecting their first child this summer and have decided to attempt to breastfeed. Neither of them were breastfed, so they are anxious to go through this process together.  While both travel for work quite often, Marisa’s job takes her on the road for long stretches, meaning Mike will have to be extra-involved in the pumping, bottling and feeding process. Planning to breastfeed for at least six months, they know this will require teamwork, coordination and trust.

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9:00am on Thursday April 21
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