Category Archives: breastfeeding

It’s not that hard: a nursing mom’s dilemma

So, next week I am scheduled to attend a one-day conference not far from home.  When I registered, there was a section about special needs.  I filled it out to indicate that I will need a nursing mother’s room in which to pump.  The conference is from 9am to 5pm, with a two hour drive before and after it.  I will need to pump at least once.

So, today I get an email from the conference organizer, CCing the Director of Catering and Convention Services who, I’m told, “has a suitable room on the third floor of the hotel.”  And whom I should contact directly for specifics.

Below is our exchange.



To:  Director of Convention Services

From: Momma, PhD

Hi Director Woman-

I will be attending the [Conference Name] event next week and will need a private space in which to pump (I’m a nursing mom).

[Conference Organizer Woman] suggested I contact you directly for the details.

Thanks very much for your accommodations.

Momma, PhD



From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

Hi Momma, PhD, I did speak to [Conference Organizer Woman]. We have a large REST ROOM* with a comfortable chair on our third floor. It is private and the door locks. I will be in at 8am on the 3rd. Feel free to ask for me and I can show you the space.

Regards, Director Woman

(*emphasis mine, as in, she wants me to pump milk in a place designed for people to urinate and deficate, and then feed it to my baby.  Is this the space that Federal Law requires them to provide?  Certainly it mustn’t be since that law specifies it can’t be a bathroom.)



To:  Director of Convention Services

From: Momma, PhD

I thank you for your effort, however, a bathroom isn’t going to work.  Is there a guest room I could pop into, or even a conference room with a lock?  Pumping milk in a bathroom isn’t really sanitary.



From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

The meeting space is committed. What times will you need so I can come up with another solution.



To:  Director of Convention Services

From: Momma, PhD

The lunch break is from 11am to 1pm.  Assuming things will run over (as they always do), a 30min period sometime between 11:30am and 1pm would suffice.

In the past, venues have just given me access to a guest room (at hotels) or the employee nursing mother’s room.

Does the [large hotel] not have a nursing mother’s room available for employees?  That would work.



From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

I just spoke to our reservationist we are trying to work out half of a parlor suite. Please stand by.



From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

We will certainly make a reasonable effort to accommodate your needs.* I am not sure if you had seen my last email.

(*Emphasis mine.  Where I come from, this translates as:  “You are a pain in the @ss and I’ve already exerted a tremendous amount of effort to deal with your unreasonable demands, so kiss my behind.”)



To:  Director of Convention Services

From: Momma, PhD

Well, if you cannot accommodate me, please let me know because it will mean I am unable to attend.*

(*Where I come from this translates as, “Give me a flipping break.  You are a HOTEL, full of rooms.  Check out is at noon.  Check in is at 3pm.  I need a room for a whopping 30 minutes anytime between between 11:30am and 1pm.  If I do not pump, my boobs will explode.  Federal law says you should have a room that fits my needs.  Figure it the f^$k out.”)



From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

I am sure we can, I just need to make sure we have an available guest room. Honestly I am not trying to be difficult.*

(*Emphasis is mine.  Heads up- if you are in a customer service profession and have to say this to a customer in need of service, you are not doing your job well)



From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

I will have a room for you but will have to let you know where it is the day of event. The hotel is going into a sold out situation and knowing you wont need the room first thing when you arrive is great information to have.

We will certainly work this out. You can ask for me when you arrive and I will get you to the right place.



To:  Director of Convention Services

From: Momma, PhD

OK.  Thanks.  I appreciate your efforts.  This is my second kid, and I’ve done this for many conferences, and never had it be such a problem for the venue.*

(*Emphasis mine.  Where I come from this translates as, “You are bad at your job and even though you are helping me, I’m still pissed off by your ineptitude.”)



From: Director of Conference Services

To:  Momma, PhD

The issue is we are very busy. Which is good! [insert smiley face emoticon here]


That was the exchange.  How do you respond to a smiley face emoticon?  Is that standard operating procedure for a Director of Convention Services?


Filed under #scimom, breastfeeding, Mother, Scientist

When should you introduce potentially allergenic solids?

Disclaimer:  I may have a PhD, but I’m no doctor.  Please don’t misconstrue what I’ve written here as medical advice, I’m only sharing my experiences and sources of information.  When it comes to decisions about when to introduce solids, and how to handle potential food allergies, no source of information is as important as your pediatrician!

A few weeks ago my mom’s group had a “Mom’s Night In” and several of us were discussing when to introduce solids, in particular, those that are known allergens (eggs, peanuts, shellfish, etc.).

I’ve written in the past about how Mac and I went about introducing solids with Mabel, and now again with Nemo.  Since we have no family history of food allergies, we didn’t hold back on anything (except for honey which is contraindicated because of infant botulism, not because of allergies).

Baby-led weaning in action:  Mabel at 6 months old munching on a Granny Smith apple

Baby-led weaning in action: Mabel at 6 months old munching on a Granny Smith apple

The science on food allergies and how/when best to introduce potentially allergenic foods isn’t entirely conclusive.  There does seem to be emerging evidence that delaying the introduction of foods does NOT decrease the likelihood of allergic reaction, it may even increase that likelihood.

There was an article on Yahoo Health today that did a great job of summarizing the science and the current recommendations regarding introduction of solids (three cheers for the author, Lisa Collier Cool, for linking directly to the journal article she was reporting on!).  To read it, click here.

The take home message:

•Complementary foods can be introduced between 4 and 6 months of age.
•The highly allergenic foods can be given as complementary foods once a few complementary foods have been tolerated first and should initially be given at home first rather than at a day care or a restaurant.
•There are certain situations when consultation with an allergist is recommended to discuss food introduction, including, among others, when an infant has poorly controlled severe atopic dermatitis despite treatment or has a reliable history of reacting immediately to a food. Source.

The original review from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that the article refers to can be viewed here.   It summarizes and outlines the recommendations of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology with regards to breast feeding, restricted diets, and introduction of solids.  It’s organized well, lots of bullet point, summaries, etc. so definitely read through it, even if you aren’t a scientist or doctor!

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A day in the life of a Scientist/Mother (#SciMom)

Curious what a typical day is like for a working scientist and mother (SciMom)?  This is a run-down of a typical Thursday for me.


The Short Version:

Morning at home- wake, nurse Nemo, get Mabel washed up and dressed, get ready for work, kiss hubby and baby, drop Mabel at preschool, and head off to work.

Day at work- try to cure cancer, work on poster for upcoming national meeting, lunch meeting, rush home.

Evening at home- nurse baby, cook dinner, get Mabel ready for bed while Mac takes care of Nemo, read bedtime stories, sing lullabies, say prayers, tuck in Mabel, nurse Nemo, tuck in Nemo, tuck Mabel in again, and again, and again until she’s finally asleep, take 5 min for myself, go to bed.

The Long Version:

This is a typical Thursday.  Wednesdays and Thursdays are my meeting-heavy days.

Sometime between 6 and 7am:  Nemo wakes, bring him into bed and nurse.

7am: Alarm goes off, Mabel storms in (since she has one of these and isn’t technically allowed out of bed until it turns green)

7:40am:  Everyone out of bed.  Get Mabel washed up and dressed for school while Nemo plays.

Playing instead of getting ready!

8am:  Get myself ready for work while Mac gives Mabel and Nemo breakfast.

8:30am:  Head out the door.

8:45am:  Drop Mabel at preschool and head to work (as a scientist at a biotech/pharma company).

9:15am:  Drive around the parking lot praying that someone left at a random time and there is a convenient parking spot, end up parking in the boondocks.

9:20am:  Sit in the car and put on my makeup (crucial, see here).

9:30am:  Sit down at my desk.  Turn on computer.  Check emails, respond to emails, read abstracts from journal alerts, etc.  If there’s time, check my personal email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  Check in with my technician regarding her experiments for that day. Grab a cup of coffee (there is never enough coffee).

10am:  Tumor Scientist Meeting- all the Oncology Department’s scientists meeting with our VP of research.  Mostly these meetings cover research topics in a lab meeting style, and we all present several times a year.  Other times these are administrative, discussing space utilization, equipment purchases, reports on interesting meetings, etc.

11:30am:  (as long as my 10am meeting doesn’t run until noon) Pump.  I’m still nursing Nemo, and I was nursing Mabel when I started this job.  Thankfully there is a well-equiped Nursing Mother’s Room right around the corner from my office.

12:15pm:  Department Meeting- this is a standing lunch meeting for anyone/everyone doing oncology-related research to present their research.  Scientists and technical staff take turns presenting once a year.  It’s a great opportunity to learn what other departments are working on, and get a chance to present to people you wouldn’t otherwise get to hear from.

1:30pm:  Back to my office- read papers, analyze data, plan experiments, spend time in the lab, meet with my technician to discuss results and upcoming data, work on presentations, respond to emails.*

3pm:  Pump again.

3:30pm:  Coffee- either with a colleague in the kitchen, or back at my desk (If it’s at my desk, I might read non-science news, check personal email, Facebook, etc.).  Get some more work done*

5pm:  Start thinking about leaving.  Save documents, print stuff, wash my coffee cup, shut down equipment, etc.  I  don’t actually get in my car to leave until 5:20pm or later.

5:45pm:  Get home.  Wash hands.  Unpack any perishables (uneaten lunch, pumped milk, etc.), nurse Nemo while Mabel climbs on me and demands attention and Mac walks the dog (definitely looking forward to Spring and the time change, which means it’s light enough and warm enough for us to walk as a family).

6:15pm:  Start making dinner.

6:45pm:  Eat dinner.

7:15pm:  Take Mabel upstairs to get ready for bed while Nemo plays and Mac does the kitchen cleanup.

7:30pm:  Read bedtime stories with Mabel.

Bedtime stories.

7:50pm:  Sing songs (under the stars thanks to Santa) with Mabel and then tuck her in for the night.

8pm:  Nurse Nemo for as long as he stays awake.  Sometimes sit holding him for an hour just because it’s the only time of day I get to be with him without Mabel competing for my attention, and because I really miss holding him all day.

8:30pm:  Shower and get mostly ready for bed.

9pm:  Back downstairs for some time on the computer, in front of the TV, with a cup of coffee, do laundry, other chores, maybe check work emails.  Let the dog out one last time.

10:30/11pm:  Brush teeth and get to bed.  Mac and I head to bed anywhere from 10pm to midnight.  We really try to be in bed by around 10:30pm, but that seems to rarely happen.  Once in bed, we’ll read (an actual book) or spend some time on our phones (playing each other in Words with Friends, checking email, Facebook, etc.), turn them off and then have some actual conversation that isn’t interrupted by little kids.

11pm/12am:  Lights out.

12am to 7am:  Get woken up at the whims of our children for pacifiers, trips to the potty, dirty diapers, runny noses, lost blankets, snuggles, etc.  Sometimes the dog gets in on the action too and barks at a random sound or insists on being let out at 3am.  It’s never enough sleep, and it’s never uninterrupted.  Potty training and a little brother (Nemo is in our room in a pack n’ play, so I think she feels she’s missing out being in her own room) have really interfered with Mabel’s sleep- she rarely stays in her bed all night.


So, that’s a typical Thursday.  Some evenings I head out for book club or a Mom’s Night Out, but those are only once or twice a month.  It’s never enough time, it seems.  I miss my kids desperately when I’m at work, and just can’t seem to get enough of them in the evenings.  Sometimes the bedtime routine runs long and bedtime is later and I enjoy it because it means more time with them (other times I don’t enjoy it because I need 5 minutes to myself!).

So, that’s my Thursday- a day in the life a SciMom.

The big question- have I achieved work-life balance?  The answer- it feels like it, for three reasons.

One, most days I don’t get much time with my kids; however, since they are home with Mac, I feel like they are getting all the love, attention, and nurturing they need (or at least as much as I could give them if I were the one at home).  If they were in daycare from 8:30am to 5:30pm, I’m not sure I would feel the same.

Two, Mac takes care of so much during the weekdays, that I can really focus on quality family time when I’m not at work. I know if Mac worked full-time outside the home it would mean our evenings and weekends would be swamped with errands and chores and oil changes and all the other business of life.

Three, my work is pretty flexible (both my company and my supervisor).  There are times I have to go in early or stay late, take work home, etc, but there have been more times I’ve worked from home (in bad weather), used flex time (when Mac has an on-site job), left early (for doctor’s appointments, swim class, or long weekends), or come in late (TThF when I drop Mabel at preschool).  Combine that with my company’s family-friendly events and parties several times a year that means Mac and the kids can come visit me at work, and plenty of paid holidays (hello- week off between Christmas and New Years!!) and it’s not bad.  Have I missed precious moments with my kids to be at work?  Yes.  Was it hard to be away?  Yes.  Is it unavoidable?  Yes.  Is it frequent?  Thankfully, no.  So it feels balanced.

The day to day can seem harried and rushed, but over the long-term, it feels like it’s working out.  I’m lucky to be able to have a job I enjoy, a family I love, and a husband who loves me.


*As I mentioned above, Thursdays are meeting-heavy, with two standing meetings.  I generally don’t plan experiments for Thursdays for that reason.  When I’m not in meetings (seminars, lab meetings, working groups, etc.), the main tasks that occupy my time are: read papers, analyze data, plan experiments, spend time in the lab, meet with my technician to discuss results and upcoming experiments, work on presentations, respond to emails, attend online seminars, administrative tasks (like approve time cards and purchase requisitions, complete online mandatory trainings, etc.).

My company has an open-door culture.  Unless people have to take a phone call or have a one-on-one meeting, doors are always open and people are always free to be interrupted.  Most of the time this is good, but sometimes it can make it hard to get stuff done (I never have more people come to my office than when I’m attending an online seminar!).  So I’m routinely interrupted by my technician who has a question or needs a hand with something in the lab or my supervisor who has something to tell me.

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Who drinks the most coffee?

Have you seen this?

Source. Read more about it here or here.

I’m not really surprised that Scientists/Lab Techs are at the very top.

I fought it for a long time.  I’ve been working in labs for about 13 years now.  It wasn’t until I started my current job that I finally succumbed, and now I crave coffee and drink 1 to 3 cups a day.

What changed?  Well, I could say I had kids, but what it really came down to was accessibility.

My current job (probably because scientists are at the top of that list) has Keurig machines in every kitchen, on every floor, of every building in our complex.  Along with the machines, there are 5 to 6 types of coffees (only 1 is decaf) and 3 kinds of tea.  There is powdered creamer on the counter, along with whole, skim, and half and half in the fridge.  You can choose from sugar, Equal, or Sweet n’ Low.  There’s also 3 kinds of hot chocolate (sugar-free, regular, and mini-marshmallow).  Some kitchens have espresso machines and assorted varieties of those as well.

Before certain meetings, there is a line for the machines.  The facilities staff includes people whose job it is just to keep all of that stocked.  On days the K-cup shipment arrives, it looks like we won a lifetime supply of coffee on The Price Is Right.

Now, while it’s nice and generous of my company to provide these, I don’t think they are being entirely altruistic.  By providing all of this- feeding the compulsion of the scientific staff, they are keeping us all on-site.  No need to make a Starbucks run when you have FREE coffee right down the hall.

I have always loved the smell of coffee, but I was never a fan of the taste.  When I started my current job, the constant smell of coffee was irresistible.  So, I started off slow.  A cup of French Vanilla here or there, not everyday.  Then I tried this Vanilla Hazelnut flavor and that was it.  Now I’m hooked. Last year for our anniversary, my parents even got Mac and me a Keurig.  He uses it mostly just to make hot water (either for tea or for warming bottles), I use it for coffee.

Once I was pregnant with Nemo, I kept it to one cup most days, two cups max (see here for why).  That changed once he was born- my consumption picked up considerably.  (I did not worry about caffeine and the breast feeding- see here for info.)  While I was still home on maternity leave, I had at least a cup a day.  After I went back to work and could no longer sleep in or take a nap, that turned into two cups a day, most days.  Somedays I have a third after the kids are in bed and I can sit and savor it.

As for what kind I drink, that’s changed too.  At work I still drink the Vanilla Hazelnut.  At home I’d mostly kept to French Vanilla that people got me as gifts or Hazelnut Cream I could pick up in the store.  Now I surf Amazon looking for sampler packs of delicious sounding varieties.  What I’m currently working on?  This:

You can find it here if you want.

Caramel cappuccino, delish!

Southern Pecan, yum!

Wild Mountain Blueberry, wow!

Apple Caramel Pie, heaven help me!

I think I have a problem.

During Hurricane Sandy, on the day we were without power, I had no coffee.  I really wanted coffee.  I thought, should I hook the Keurig up to the generator?  Then I thought, no you idiot, you should not use the generator to power your coffee machine!  So, I sent Mac to the Dunkin Donuts up the street (oddly, it was only a teeny tiny portion of our neighborhood that lost power.  Our neighbor backlots had power and I seriously considered asking if we could run an extension cord from his window.)  I told him to get a BIG cup and not to put creamer or anything in it (hi, no power=no refrigeration) so I could stretch it out and reheat it on the stove.  Well, I nearly cried when I put the “supposedly no refrigeration needed/Walmart sold me an expired product” little creamer in my coffee and it curdled.  I though, maybe just that one was bad, so I tried again.  Happened again.  Got a new box of the little creamers only to find they were expired (thanks for nothing Walmart), but since I was desperate, and they’d only expired in September (unlike the other box that expired in February, months BEFORE I bought them at Walmart), I used the more recently expired ones and managed to get one little cup of coffee.  When I realized that the treat Mac had brought be was a fluffy donut (which I HATE) instead of a cakey donut (which I LOVE), I nearly cried.

Can you say “First world problems?”

Let me reiterate, I think I have a problem.


Filed under #scimom, breastfeeding, Mother, pregnancy, Recipes, Scientist

You might be a #scimom if…

Your kid brings a 50ml conical tube to Show and Tell.

Mabel showing off her tube.

Last week Mac and the littles came to visit me at work.  Mac and I got our free flu shots, compliments of the company, and then we had lunch in the cafe (I even nursed Nemo right there in the cafeteria and  surprised myself that I wasn’t more self-conscious about it).

After lunch, we took a walk past my office and lab space so Mabel could see everything.  She potty trained herself a few weeks ago after I told her she could come to my company’s Kids Day next year and do science, but only if she did all her pee pee and poo poo in the potty.  It was apparently a strong motivator because a few days later she announced she wanted to wear panties and that was that.

I didn’t take her into the actual lab, but because everything it very open with lots of windows, she could see in.  I showed her “where the scientists do their experiments” and “all the equipment for doing science.”

We visited with lots of my coworkers, and one offered her a Falcon tube as a souvenir.  Mabel was into it.  So into it that she wanted to bring it for Show and Tell the next day.

For Show and Tell they ask the students three questions:  1) What is it?  2) Where did you get it?  3)  Why is it special?

Mabel’s answers:  1) A tube.  2)  At mommy’s work.  3)  For scientists!

Another coworker had put some Trypan Blue in it for her- which seemed innocuous enough given that we all use it without gloves and it can’t even kill cells in suspension, but when I looked at the MSDS I figured it wasn’t appropriate for preschool.

Mabel didn’t want to leave her ‘solution’ home, but I promised her that I would put it back in the tube when she got home and replaced it with water, per her request.  When I got a Sharpie out to label the tube, she asked me what I was doing.  I told her, “I’m writing “WATER” on the tube, because a good scientist always labels her tubes.”

I also gave the teacher the head’s up.  I didn’t want anyone freaking that the scientist’s kid showed up with some kind of liquid in a tube.

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You might be a #scimom if…

… the luggage tags on your breast pump and milk cooler bags are freebies from AAAS and ECI you picked up at conferences.

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You might be a #scimom if…

… your nursing mother’s room has Nature Biotechnology mixed in with the parenting magazines.

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