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To Cover or Not to Cover? That Seems to be the Question.

25 Oct

I am now breastfeeding my fifth child and have been breastfeeding for 10 years straight.  There are not many places that I have not breastfed- if I am there- chances are I have breastfed there.  I used to be very concerned about breastfeeding in public lest someone see something. Now, I unabashedly “whip it out” when someone needs some milky.

What changed? With more children comes the need to do more things.  It wouldn’t have been fair to make my older kids stay home or leave somewhere early so the little ones could have their milky. This means I either had to pump or get comfortable with breastfeeding out and about.  As the number of children increases the amount of stuff needed also increases, exponentially.  Adding another thing—like a bottle would not help my odds for a successful outing.

Breastfeeding seemed to be the easiest thing to do in these circumstances. But why not use a cover? Do you like eating with a blanket on your head? It is often hot here, and a cover seems to be stifling.  A lot of babies do not like to be covered and getting a baby to latch under a cover and stay under the cover can be like herding cats.  Additionally, a cover would be one more thing to remember to bring.  It is hard enough to remember all of the kids! One of the things I enjoy most about breastfeeding is looking into my baby’s eyes- that locked eye contact is just amazing.

I am not opposed to covers if a mother and baby desire them but I absolutely reject the idea that it is necessary.  Breastfeeding is not sexual.  Breastfeeding is eating.  Breastfeeding is also not like urinating or defecating in public.  Breast milk is not excrement. Breast milk is amazing food for human babies.

When I was getting comfortable breastfeeding in public it was helpful to be with a group of moms (all the better if they were breastfeeding too) like a safety in numbers thing.   I also usually am wearing my nurslings, and often a carrier hides what I am doing.  Really, more skin is showing on expressway billboards.

Breastfeeding, without shame, in public is important.  The more often it happens the more people will realize that it is normal and more parents will feel empowered.  It makes me sad that some moms are receiving negative comments and/or being harassed.  In Illinois, breastfeeding is protected, but standing up for yourself when caught off guard can be hard.  I am always so impressed when mothers, stand up for their and their baby’s rights.

Where have I breastfed in churches, in synagogues, in restaurants, at weddings, at funerals, at the pool, at the park, at a barn, in the woods, at the zoo. Seriously, with 5 kids, breastfeeding in public is almost a necessary skill.  In the style of Green Eggs and Ham I have nursed in the park, in the dark, in a chair, sitting on a stair. I have nursed everywhere.



Elizabeth Handler is a mom of 5 fantastic children, she successfully breastfed them all (sometimes two at a time) even though they were all preemies.  Elizabeth’s main job is to minimize the chaos that comes with a big family.  Elizabeth and her family live in Chicago’s western suburbs with a small zoo of animals.  She also teaches pole dancing for fitness and blogs at 

Life Lessons for Young Mothers: Lesson One

29 Sep

Dear Young Mother,


It is wisely written:

“All you have to offer anyone, ever, is your own state of being.”—Ram Dass

As a young mother, you learn and re-learn this one every single day. You find out that taking good care of yourself is the same as taking care of your children.

If you are coming from a place of weariness, discouragement and depletion, then that is what you have to offer. If you are coming from a place of rest, good nutrition, grateful thoughts, and peace of mind, then that is what you have to offer. Your babies and children have a sixth sense that informs them of your moods and energy levels. They hold the mirror up relentlessly, every day! For their sake, as well as for your own, you need to practice good self care.

I wasn’t so very young when I became a mother; my first child was born when I was 25. Nevertheless, I feel that I grew up with my children. I was being formed, just as they were. I remember the overwhelming love and gratitude I felt for my children when they were small, and how it took me by surprise. But I haven’t forgotten the other feelings: the boredom, the aggravation, the self-doubts. I had days when I felt I just wasn’t cut out to be a mother, and I was sure that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Now I know that those are all normal feelings.

Everything that you are experiencing now with your baby is deepening you as a spiritual, thinking, feeling human being. Just as some aspects of your child are being formed, some aspects of you are also being formed. The happy moments—and maybe even more deeply, the not-so-happy moments– have meaning and depth. Let them teach you and lead you. Trust in the process. Never forget: we all screw up. Forgive yourself generously. Like a child, start each day with hope and high expectations.



Joy Davy, MS, LCPC, NCC is a counselor with a private practice in Hinsdale, Illinois. She can be reached at Her website is

Lactation Professionals Who Rock Our World

12 Sep

Almost daily, we have a mom on the Breastfeed Chicago Facebook group who clearly needs professional, one-on-one lactation help. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know it. We try – we try to convince her it will be worth the money and time, we try to convince her there’s absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out for help, we try to convince her that this investment will save her so much money, pain, tears and heartbreak in the future… but still she doesn’t believe us!

We’re writing a post on how different lactation professionals helped us through the rough spots, so that other moms can see what a *good* lactation professional can do for a mom’s confidence, skill and long-term breastfeeding satisfaction. If you got help from a Chicagoland lactation professional (maybe someone on our list), tell us a quick story about how she helped you. 1-2 paragraphs max!

Who was she? What issue were you having? How did you know you needed help? What did she do to help you overcome your issue? How did she make you feel? Why should other moms consider getting professional lactation help?

Ditching the Pump

26 Jun

Do Not Disturb Door Hanger

So, you’ve made it to your baby’s first birthday and you’re still breastfeeding – take a moment to applaud yourself for all the hard work you’ve done this past year! If you are a working mother, this past year has probably consisted of countless hours hooked up to your pump, something most women are eager to stop.  Your child is probably now eating a wide range of solids and drinking other liquids, but as much as you would like to ditch the pump, you and your little one are not ready to wean completely from breastfeeding.  The good news is you can wean from your pump without weaning your child.  Here is my story!

I returned to work full time at just 6 weeks post partum, so I started out pumping twice per 8 hour work day.  After about 3 months, I was able to drop down to one single session per day.  I continued to pump daily until my daughter turned 12 mos.  A few weeks after our big celebration, I was able to completely eliminate my daily pumping session.  My daughter is now 20 months old, and we continue to breastfeed on demand whenever we are together on evenings, weekends, and the middle of the night.  I’m happy to report that I have had no decrease in supply despite dropping my workday pumping session, which is probably the greatest concern a momma has when contemplating doing the same herself.

If you are looking to wean from the pump, but continue to breastfeed, you should work on eliminating only one session at a time. You can do this one of two ways.  The first way is by shortening your pumping session by five minutes every few days until you are at zero.  The second way is by pushing back your pump time by about a half an hour every few days, until you are at your next regularly scheduled feeding or pumping session. ( CaraChamberlin_0No matter which method you choose, this is a process that should be done slowly so that you avoid leaking, plugged ducts, or mastitis. Be prepared for the process to take several weeks for each session that you intend to eliminate.  Personally, I chose the second method.  I pushed back my pumping time by 30 minutes every 2 or 3 days until I was down to the end of my work day.  The first day I went to work without my pump was so liberating! It is a wonderful freedom to be able to continue to breastfeed my daughter without the nuisance of pumping.

After a year old, your child’s nutritional requirements can now be met with as little as 15 oz of breast milk in 24 hours (, which you can easily provide in just a few nursing sessions per day. Your child will also eat solids and drink other liquids in your absence.  Despite common advice, you do not have to offer cow’s milk if you don’t want to or if your child refuses it.  (

Remember, your milk is still perfectly suited for your child as they transition from a baby to a toddler.   Your milk supply will adjust to the changes, and you will be able to nurse just fine when you’re together.  You will also enjoy being liberated from your pump, while still knowing you’re providing the best for your child that you possibly can.


Heather McMackin is not only a working (now, pump free) mom, but she also serves as a Moderator on the Breastfeed Chicago’s Facebook Group!




Confessions of a Lactivist – Part 2: In which I explain the no formula recommendations policy

2 Jun

To fully understand this post, you’ll probably be better off reading this one first.

So, why don’t we allow formula recommendations on our Facebook group? Let’s lay some of these assumptions and issues to rest.

“Why are you anti-formula?”

We aren’t anti-formula. We are a breastfeeding support organization. Let us do what we do best – help moms with breastfeeding. I have no idea what formula is best for your baby because I don’t know your baby and I’m not his/her doctor and I have not done extensive research on formula. Neither have any of the other admins or moderators. Go to your health care professional to talk about your formula decisions – they are way better equipped to help you through that choice.

“I’m just looking for the advice from other moms who have been through this.”

I totally get that, but can you imagine a new mom going to a breastfeeding support group and hearing a bunch of moms discussing the intricacies of formula selection? Moderating nightmare, let me tell you. Join any other mom group on the internet and you will find that discussion. We also don’t host questions about cloth diapers, vaccinations, circumcision or baby toy mega sales. (I’d like to point out that no one has ever accused me of being anti- baby toy mega sales.)

“What right do you have to control what people say? This is a free country!”

We are a breastfeeding support organization. You wouldn’t join a vegetarian group and ask for advice on the best all-beef hamburger recipe, right? Without being too snarky (though I’m sure it sounds that way), it’s our group and we get to design the focus of the group. There are MANY other places for moms to find information on other topics.

“You’re making formula-feeding moms feel guilty.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down. Last time I checked, I can’t *make* anyone feel anything. Yeah, if I said, “You’re a terrible mother for not buying toys from that mega sale,” that’s a super mean thing to say, but you would just tell me to eff off and go along with your business. Lucky for us, we at Breastfeed Chicago would never call anyone a terrible mother for doing or not doing anything, but for some reason, folks like to conflate things. Supporting something is not the same as degrading something else. We don’t degrade anyone. We never have. The feelings you feel are yours. Own them, and if they are not helpful to you, let them go.

“I don’t understand what the big deal is.”

The big deal is that we know that breastfeeding is the biological norm for us and our children, and we want to encourage moms to do it, to the extent of their ability, situation and interest in doing so. Moms already get negative reactions to breastfeeding from all sorts of places. Formula companies already have insiduous and predatory marketing practices, making hospitals and doctors complicit in their “booby traps.” And the internet is chock full of bad information and advice. We like to think of ourselves as an oasis of positive breastfeeding support for moms, and we’re going to fight to maintain that status.

“But some moms can’t breastfeed.”

That is true. And thank goodness we have milk banks or milk sharing or formula for those moms. Once again, we can’t possibly be all things to all people.

Mamas, let me make this perfectly clear: I support you. I, too, have been in the deepest, darkest holes of motherhood, not sure my life would ever return to normal. Breastfeed Chicago is our way of extending our experience and empathy to you. If we help you, great. If our help is not helpful, we hope that you find a source that is better suited to your needs.

Either way, rock your mama self and give that baby of yours a big smootch for us.kiss

Katrina Pavlik is the founder and board chair of Breastfeed Chicago. She is a mom of two – one received breastmilk through a bottle for a year; one breastfed (and refused a bottle!!!) for nearly 3 years. Both are perfect and imperfect and absolutely amazing in every way. 

Confessions of a Lactivist – Part 1: In which I tell the world that I used formula

2 Jun

I gave my son formula. There, I said it.

As I sit here on my couch, I gaze over at my almost 8-year-old and try to remember the early days with him. They were tough. Really, really tough. We left the hospital with a bag of free formula and a nipple shield. In my head swam the memory of a nurse? LC? rushing into my hospital room, declaring my nipples “flat,” shoving a nipple shield onto my boob and dashing back out the door without a hint of what to do next. The first few days at home were fraught with tears, worry and more tears. I called a couple lactation consultants who refused to come to my southside neighborhood and had no recommendations for me. My doctor hooked me up with some LCs at the local hospital who told me everything “looked” fine. I was in so much pain, I cried every time he nursed. By 8 weeks, he was starting to pull my nipple through the little holes in the nipple shield and I gave up. I pumped for him for a year and it was not pretty/fun/easy, but I did it, and I’m proud of every drop of breastmilk I gave him.

During that time, I supplemented with formula from time to time. I’m not going to justify it. I’m not going to feel bad about it. I’m not even going to regret it. I did what I thought I needed to with the information and support I had at the time.

5 years later, I started Breastfeed Chicago. Sometimes I joke that running Breastfeed Chicago is my therapy – a way to get over the awful experience I had with my first. Actually, that’s not a joke. This is my way of telling the universe that the lack of support I felt sucked. Big time. I believe we can do better as a culture, as a city, and as a community of moms.

So why this confession? Why now?

Today I (and the organization) was called “condescending,” “disingenuous,” “Type-A,” “quasi-natural,” and “elitist.” Damn.

My first reaction was, “Wow! Are the formula companies coming after us with fake moms now?”


This is a joke. Just wanted to make that clear.

My second reaction was, “Have you *heard* my Wisconsin accent???” ‘Cause, really, if you knew me, “elitist” would not be the first thing to come to mind.

My third reaction was, “What the heck is she talking about?”

Apparently, some moms in our Facebook group have taken issue with our policy to not allow formula recommendations in the group. This means that if a mom posts to Breastfeed Chicago asking for advice on what formula to use with their baby, we kindly point them to our policy post, encourage them to talk to their doctor, and delete the post. We do not shame them, berate them, or in any way indicate they are a “bad” mom for wanting or needing to supplement.

Here’s the thing, I personally don’t believe that the policy above deserves the accusations we got. I am, however, starting to notice a pattern. The more we take a stand for breastfeeding, the more we hear the same tired tune in its many variations: “If you’re a breastfeeding supporter, you must be a total raging lunatic that hates anyone who doesn’t breastfeed.” That’s ridiculous. As the old cliche goes, some of my best friends fed their babies formula, and I think they are fantastic people and mothers. Yeah, we live in a polarized country that likes to sort things into black and white, but we all know that motherhood doesn’t work that way.

And sure, there are those outliers who will question a mom’s integrity if she doesn’t breastfeed. They’re jerks, and we all like to ignore them and hope they will go away.

However, true “lactivists” are folks who promote and support breastfeeding. Period. No need to read into it or make assumptions about a dozen other things that may or may not be true about us. (See the adjectives listed above for ideas on what we are probably not.) What we are are mothers, fathers, partners, grandparents, sisters and friends who who want the mamas they love to have easiest route to breastfeeding possible.

We’re not fanatics. We’re not dogmatic. We’re not even hydromatic. (Cue the Grease soundtrack.) We’ve got long and sordid histories just as much as the next mama.

Now, onto Part 2: In which I explain the no formula recommendations policy.

Katrina Pavlik is the founder and board chair of Breastfeed Chicago. 

Navigating Nursing in Public in the Chicagoland Area (or anywhere)

30 May

Nursing in Public (NIP) – for some breastfeeding moms this comes easily, for others this idea makes some extremely nervous. Usually, but not always, it’s the first-time mama or first-time breastfeeding mama who is worried about breastfeeding her babe outside of the home. What it boils down to are two things. One, lack of practice of nursing in public. And two, lack of confidence.

I’ve been there. I’ve been that mom who would run to the car to breastfeed my son, or strategically plan my day around when I thought he was going to eat, so I would be home when he was hungry – this way I wouldn’t have to worry about nursing in public. When I would NIP, I would search for the most secluded spot– if my husband was with me, I would have him be my bodyguard and block me. Then, I would whip out my cover. Meanwhile, I would make sure no one was looking and would then try to latch my son on as quickly as possible before someone could catch a glimpse of my breast. Finally, I’d hold the cover on. If anyone came near us or if baby started to wiggle, I would break out in a sweat. When he wanted to switch breasts, this process would begin all over again. Completely not stressful at all…

Then, I found a friend who breastfed. And, she did it without a cover. AND, she did it anywhere and everywhere, without breaking a sweat. That’s all it took. If Anna was breastfeeding her little guy and wasn’t stressing, why couldn’t I? She even chased after our kids who ran off, continuing to nurse babe – and no one batted an eye. And, so my NIP really began. We would meet up at local parks, play spaces, gymnastic classes, bowling alleys. Our older kids would play and our babies would nurse. I practiced breastfeeding covered and not covered. I gained confidence. Eventually, I could nurse in public on my own and not stress out if I had forgotten my cover. It felt great. And, my baby was happy and fed.


So, how does this help you? How can you feel comfortable nursing in public? Well, grab your baby and try these 5 steps.

  1. Practice. Breastfeed in front of a mirror at home and see exactly what is and what isn’t showing. Have baby latch and re-latch so you can get him on and off the breast quickly (for many, this is the most stressful part because they don’t want to expose a nipple). Practice nursing in a carrier – this is a great way for moms of more than one to NIP. Baby is content and mom can still keep tabs, play with, or chase after older siblings. Don’t have a carrier? Check out Babywearing International (; the Chicago area even has their own chapter:
  2. Find a friend who breastfeeds in public. Watch what she does. Do it with her. Nothing like strength in numbers to boost that confidence.
  3. Remember it’s okay to cover if you want. It’s better than not breastfeeding at all. NIP is not all or nothing. You do it how you feel comfortable and what works for your child.
  4. Purchase or make some nursing friendly clothes. We have a great blog piece on making your own:
  5. Finally, and most importantly, remind yourself that breastfeeding is normal!!! Let me say that again. Breastfeeding is NORMAL. No one should make you feel ashamed of what you are doing, ask you to go somewhere else (especially a bathroom), or talk down to you. NO ONE should ask you to use a cover. And, you DO NOT need to ask if it’s okay to breastfeed your baby. Would you ask if it was okay to bottlefeed? Don’t let them have that power. You are nourishing your child. You are comforting your child. You are being a mom. Every time you nurse in public, you are normalizing breastfeeding. And, for that YOU ROCK! So, NIP ladies, NIP.

For those mamas who want to give NIP a shot, we’ve compiled a list of some cozy places to nurse around the Chicagoland area. Print it out, keep it handy. Who knows, you might see a fellow BFChicago member nursing in that same spot and make a new mommy friend.


Art Institute – Family Room, extra good if you have older kids with you because they can play while you nurse (and it’s usually pretty quiet)

Field Museum – there are benches everywhere, but on the top floor by the DNA exhibit there’s a bench by the movie that plays continuously – a nice private area to nurse; nursing room downstairs (it’s small, but quiet)

Kohl’s Children’s Museum – lots of different nursing areas

Children’s DuPage Museum in Naperville

Oak Lawn Children’s Museum – it’s small enough to not lose your toddler and there are plenty of benches to sit on and nurse

Aquariums and Zoos:

Shedd Aquarium – benches in front of the Belugas on the bottom floor (everyone is watching the whales and babies like the movement of the water, plus it’s dark – perfect combo to peacefully nurse) and a private nursing room, if needed.

Brookfield Zoo – Hamill Family Zoo (if you tell them you need to breastfeed your baby and aren’t a member, you get free admission to the area). There are lots of chairs throughout plus a quiet private nursing room with a comfy couch; nursing by the Snow Leopards, Giraffes, and the bench in front of the Rhinos; underwater dolphin view; any of the cafeterias or picnic areas

Lincoln Park Zoo – splash pad area in Children’s Zoo, let your older child splash about while you breastfeed baby; also nice benches outside of the bird building

Malls and Retail Stores:

IKEA Schaumburg – anywhere but the room in the bathroom!! The 3rd floor family room with rocking chairs, seating and toys for siblings. Can even turn off the overhead lights and turn on a lamp; or, any of the displays with comfy couches or chairs; they even offer complimentary diapers!! The Poang chairs are great for laidback breastfeeding (Bolingbrook store also has family rooms)

Target stores – in the café

Hawthorne Mall- family area, it’s tucked away, but it’s awesome! Nursing stations for mom, tvs, and toys to keep older kids entertained. Lower level by JC Penney

Buy Buy Baby – they have a changing station, too

Anthropologie – fitting rooms are great, their couches are huge and comfy and their sales girls are super nice. Can hang with friends while they try on their clothes!

Macy’s on State Street – very friendly

Babies R Us – the gliders are nice to nurse in

Chicago Ridge Mall – has a couple of nursing rooms with chairs and curtains for privacy

Any restaurant or mall – the comfy chairs at the mall are the best!

Fashion Outlet Mall – nice chairs and couches outside the 2nd level restroom, they have a private nursing room, too

Nordstrom’s – fitting rooms, women’s lounge (not the bathroom), cafe

Any of the Westfield Malls and Bolingbrook Promenade

Van Mawr – 2nd floor sitting room next to bathrooms

Water Tower – mother’s room in the 4th floor bathroom that locks if you need to pump


Eataly Chicago – 43 East Ohio Street Chicago 60611

Cracker Barrel restaurants – the rockers on the front porch

First Slice Pie Café – 4401 N Ravenswood Ave, Chicago 60640 can also go to the back to the art studio and nurse on the couch

Downtown Chicago:

Palmer House Hotel – mezzanine level (there is dim lighting and couches, no one bothers you at all)

Navy Pier –Crystal Gardens, tons of benches to choose from and it’s so serene watching the water jump…unless you have a super easily distracted baby; Children’s Museum on the 2nd floor there is a nursing room with toys to keep your other kids busy while you breastfeed

Millennium Park – all over!


Botanic Gardens – anywhere, but they also have a private first aid room if you need to pump


 NIP articles and helpful resources:

Breastfeeding State Laws:

Huffington Post article Why I am glad Someone Told Me to Stop Breastfeeding in Public

Kellymom article on NIP:

LLL link on breastfeeding in public:

Free e-course by The Badass Breastfeeder about empowering yourself to nurse in public:


A special thanks to my friend, Anna Mohallim for being that mom who inspired me to NIP. And, a HUGE shoutout to all of the members of Breastfeed Chicago who submitted their favorite place to nurse in and around Chicago. Thanks for normalizing breastfeeding in Chicago!!

Jennifer Adams is a mom of 3 who pumped for her first and breastfed her second and third.  She is a CAPPA Certified Postpartum Doula, Certified Lactation Specialist, and serves on the Board of Breastfeed, Chicago! Jennifer wants to normalize breastfeeding in Chicago and beyond. 




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