Kalliope McAllister is a lovely and powerful mom of four beautiful babies - including 7-months old Marcellus - who lives in Iowa, U.S. She shared some insights on her experience as a mom and how she balanced her work as a nurse with taking care of her son.
Keep reading to read more about her story and the message she would like to share with all new moms.
Kalliope’s Breastfeeding Journey: “You often don’t know what you’re doing”
- Kalliope, thank you so much for agreeing to share your story with the Momcozy community. As Marcellus is seven months old, the COVID-19 pandemic coincided with when you became a mother. How was your experience?
I wouldn’t say my experience has been a lot different from my previous ones. Marcellus is my fourth child, and I’m also a nurse. I didn’t have any quarantine, and I was pretty much always working beside the time I took off with him when he was firstborn. The only real change for me was that I worked more, unfortunately. Different people had Covid-19 at different times, and we had a lot more protective equipment we had to wear. The other change is that I ordered online more - including from the Walmart pick-up option - and I did more Amazon shopping than before. The rest didn’t change much, considering that you don’t want to go out that much anyway when you have four kids.
- Not to mention that each baby is completely different; each situation is different. From a nurse’s point of view, is there any wrongful information that you often see shared around and that you would like to demystify?
Talking about wrongful information, I would say that when you first start pumping instead of directly feeding, you’re only getting a small amount. Don’t think that you should have a ton of milk in your breasts. If you’re only getting an ounce of breast milk, it’s fine and normal. You often don’t get a ton of milk during the first week or so. Many moms think they should be getting six or eight ounces of milk every time they pump. That’s not normal, and babies don’t eat that much, especially breastfed babies. It’s usually a couple of ounces at a time, which is why you should be pumping every two-three hours.
- And how was breastfeeding for you? Did anything change in your breastfeeding journey from your first experience to today?
With my oldest son, I had no idea what I was doing. I was young, and the nurses in the hospital automatically gave me a breast shield because I didn’t seem to be able to get a good latch. They didn’t guide me that much and didn’t allow me to learn how to get a good latch. I ended up using it all the time, and that decreased my milk supply. My son then quit breastfeeding entirely by the time he became six months old. I have learned a lot since then. I used to work in a hospital in labor and delivery, so I learned a ton about latching and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding needs to be a one-on-one thing between baby and mom.
With my next one five years later, I knew a little bit more about how to breastfeed correctly. With my daughter, however, I got a lot more pain and discomfort. I wish I asked for help sooner, knowing that if it hurts so bad, it means that something is not right. The concept of “you just have to toughen up” doesn’t mean forever. My third baby was born with a cleft palate, so breastfeeding for her looked completely different. There was no actual breastfeeding; it was only pumping. It took me a lot to realize that this was still breastfeeding, even though I have to use a bottle to give it to her. It took me a lot of grieving and patience to learn. While with Marcellus, we didn’t have many challenges with him; besides, he wants to be breastfed all the time. I didn’t have sore nipples or any other major problems with him.
- What would be the piece of advice that you would give to your past self or to someone who has just become a mom?
Asking for help is okay, and breastfeeding is not as natural as some people think. Breastfeeding doesn’t just “happen.” It does take practice so that your baby and you both will have to learn how to do it. It’s a learning process, and don’t be afraid to ask for help because you often don’t know what you’re doing, and it’s okay.
- Do you have any other tips that you would like to share with our Momcozy community? Is there a message that you believe is very important, yet it’s not often mentioned when it comes to breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is a lot harder than it looks. People often glorify it, but you can’t always turn around and hand over your baby to your spouse. It is very mentally draining, but it’s very rewarding at the same time. It can be very hard and challenging, but your bond with your baby is a lot worth it. Breastfeeding is beautiful; it’s messy, just as life is. Just like everything else in life, it’s never what you expect it to be.
- So another message is also not to get prepared too much, as so many things can happen or change. You may often think that having another child would be like the previous experience, but it can differ a lot. Every time is completely different.
How to Balance Work and Life: “Organize everything in advance”
- As we all know, many challenges come with breastfeeding. What were some of the biggest challenges that you had to face in your breastfeeding journey?
I would say going back to work, as it was very challenging working as a nurse and still finding time to pump. This was especially hard when I had to pump every two hours. As a suggestion for other moms, I would say talk to your bosses and make sure they’re supportive. Luckily I work in health care, so most of them are very supportive. However, in the place where I work now, I still have to complete my work within that limited amount of time. So I need to find a balance between my work and my pumping schedule. Sometimes emergencies happen, and I have to push my pumping session off an hour. That hurts. Having a pump that allows me to pump and work at the same time has been amazing. Having freedom, mobility, and not being stuck to a wall only pumping has been huge for me.
- You also said that it was hard to organize your schedule as a mom and nurse. Do you have any tips that you would like to share?
It’s definitively a challenge! My oldest child is quite a bit older than my youngest, so he helps a lot. Having everything organized in advance is extremely important. I probably take out of one day a week around six hours to get ready for the whole week. I’d get the kids’ clothes ready for the week so that with the outfits ready, I can grab a new one at any time. Meal planning has also helped a lot because, otherwise, we would have go out to eat three to four times a week before starting to meal plan. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have had anything else to eat before, so we would have to dine out. Since I got started with meal planning, that has saved us a ton of money. All these little things that you may think are for somebody else are crucial. Those 4-6 hours I take every week to get organized have significantly decreased the time I had to spend doing those things before. Just making time to do those things so that you follow through has been huge. Getting that through my head has taken a long time, but it has made a world of difference.
- Still about your schedule, it’s not only hard for moms to find time to do all these little things. It’s even more challenging at times to find time for ourselves. Between balancing work and your personal life, this is already a challenge. So as a mom, you also have the additional challenge of finding time to take care of yourself mentally and physically.
It has been a challenge, especially during the pandemic. My husband has been very supportive, trying to give me an hour or so a day - even though not always every day - to spend some time away from my kids. I know it sounds cliche, but sometimes taking a nice half-an-hour long warm bath sometimes was all it took to feel better. I also started walking with two of my friends that I work with. They’ve helped me handling stress, and we can vent about everything together. Our half-an-hour walks twice a week have been extremely helpful for me.
- Have you ever used the Momcozy breast pumps? How did you discover us?
I think I came across Momcozy on Facebook. I have nursing bras from Momcozy, and those are wonderful. Bras are very important. Having something that you can utilize, feed, and do everything else while not worrying if the bra fits you. Nothing fits the same ever after having children. Bras are a big one, and they’re always changing. What may fit one week won’t fit next week or even in two hours. I want something that it’s comfortable, fits, it’s functional - that is huge for me.
- This is indeed our mindset at Momcozy when we design our products. We want to make moms feel comfortable, so you don’t need to worry about your bra and how it makes you feel. This is important for us.
Kalliope’s Experience: “It’s just you who make your baby’s comfort and their everything”
- What is the part that you like the most about breastfeeding?
I love the bond you get to build with your child and how you’re always able to comfort them. You don’t need to have something else; it’s just you who makes their comfort and their everything.
- As a new mom, it’s indeed very easy to wonder whether what you’re doing is correct or not. Is my breast milk supply enough or too much? Am I doing this correctly or not? This is often a very common concern.
It’s more about monitoring how healthy they are than the number of ounces you can pump out of your breast each time. Even when you’re pumping, you may not be getting the same amount when your baby is nursing. That’s very normal, too. Just because you’re only pumping that much, this doesn’t mean that your baby isn’t getting more than that. Your body just responds differently to a pump than it does to your baby.
- So we should just understand and adjust to our body so that we don’t panic too much.
Absolutely; as long as your baby is making wet and poopy diapers, you’re good to go. You don’t have to worry that much about everything else. As long as the doctors are not concerned about your baby’s weight, everything is going well. Most of the time, breastfeeding is wonderful - I mean, most of the time but not always, of course. Sometimes there are difficulties to face, but the majority of the time, it’s fine. Your body is doing what it’s supposed to do, so don’t worry too much about it.
- This is very reassuring, thank you. Your words will make new moms feel better about themselves. Talking about motherhood, what is your best memory of being a mom?
I have had lots of moments in which I felt blessed to be a mom. One example is in the mornings when he’s waking me up, cuddling me, or snuggling at me. And that goes for all the kids, not just him. It’s the little moments and the little things that get me. I wouldn’t say there are huge moments but rather a series of little memories. It’s not about the big vacations or the big events, but rather the little things of every day. It’s the cuddles, the love, the “I need mommy” moments.
To add up to this, I would say enjoy the moments as they go by quickly. I know it has been said many times already, but there are also many hard times about being a mom. Life is not what you expect it to be, so just roll with it.
- Thank you, Kalliope, for sharing your amazing story with the whole Momcozy community and us! <3