Three Family Goals Inspired by Back To School

backtoschool2Every September I get the feeling that a “reset” button was just hit. Despite more than fifteen years since sitting in a formal classroom or going “school supply shopping,” the association of fall, and back to school, seems to give me extra energy and initiates an organizing frenzy in my household!

Here are THREE FALL GOALS my family is focusing on right now. We always try to keep them simple, in hopes we can realistically keep them through the year!

1. Wednesday nights are now FAMILY MEETING night. That means no TV, no work, no mindless time on the ipad or internet. My husband and I set aside this night, after our baby is asleep, to have conversations we put off during the week, tackle home projects that eat up weekends, or simply connect with each other.

2. MAKE LUNCHES IN ADVANCE. My husband brings his lunch to work most days, and it is inevitably a rushed task in the morning or time wasted at night. So this fall, we’re starting to bag everything he needs for the week on Sundays. We put snacks together in the cupboard. In the fridge, we place bin of fruit and cold snacks like carrots and hummus. All this prep on the weekend shaves off about 10 minutes every morning. All he has to do is pop everything into these reusable snack bags and he’s off.

3. DO SOMETHING OFF OF PINTEREST EACH WEEK. I’m constantly pinning fabulous activities to do with my one year old, or healthy new meals to try for the family, yet me actually DOING any of them, is a rarity. This fall though, my goal is to try to do one new things a week from my Pinterest pins. Here is what I’m going to start with Follow along with us on Twitter and Pinterest, as I hold myself accountable there, and I’ll also share my best finds.

While I’m using the back to school season as inspiration to kick start new goals, the driving motivation is the fleeting family time the three of us have together, and wanting to not waste a precious minute of it. With that my ultimate goal, I hope to keep these well beyond the kick off to school!

Share with us your back to school inspired new routine or goal–here in comments, or on our facebook page. As a thank you, we’ll send one of you, drawn at random, our favorite reusable snack bag.




The Best First Birthday Gift You Can Give

josie1I’ve always been a sentimental person. Gift giving, and writing tear jerky handwritten notes for those I love, are high on my list of favorite things to do. While the time to think and create has dwindled to near nothing since my daughter was born a year ago,  I luckily decided on my first birthday gift to her while she was still in utero.

It’s a simple idea really: I’d write a note to her every month that highlighted what we did together, her milestones, her favorite things, along with one full bleed photo to complete the spread.

With the idea sketched, the discipline to write was there when fatigue took over. And then pulling it all together just before her birthday didn’t feel like such an all-consuming task.

Though I debated using a few different book publishers, I finally decided on Shutterfly for their easy chalkboard backgrounds and upgrade options. The lay flat pages and puffy cover really made such a difference and gave it a special occasions feel. To simplify production even more, this is a great template.

Perhaps my book will inspire you, just like Pinterest did for me. More than anything, I recommend keeping a trusty notebook by your bed. It is amazing how time blurs and you forget things so quickly. But even tired chicken scratch will help your memory as well as form the root of a gift that will keep on giving for years to come.

By Christy Mraz
Christy Mraz is mom to an almost one year old baby girl. She’s also the most recent addition to the Mamajamas team. She is the eyes, ears–and typing fingers–behind our social media. A self-proclaimed foodie, she is addicted to cookbooks and Epicurean magazines. Follow us on facebook, pinterest and twitter and you’ll see (or rather read) a lot of Christy.

Healthy No-Bake Lactation Cookie Recipe

harbor (1)These lactation cookies are delicious, healthy, and super easy to make. I hardly had time to shower in those first months, let alone bake cookies!

After a few tries, these came out perfect. They are by far my most requested recipe by friends, and now a go-to treat present for the new moms I know too. Enoy!

(I’d also start off eating just one and see what happens. I felt a big milk boost after eating just one, but got a clogged duct after I over indulged one day.)

1 ½ cups dry old fashioned oats
½ cup nut butter (I found traditional peanut butters worked the best. Barney Butter is a good solution too.)
½ cup ground flaxseed
2 TB brewers yeast
¾ cups chocolate chips (I use the mini Energy Life chips that are dairy, soy free)
1/3 cup honey

Stir all ingredients together until thoroughly mixed. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Once chilled, roll into balls. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes 20-25 1” balls.

By Christy Mraz
Christy Mraz is mom to an almost one year old baby girl. She’s also the most recent addition to the Mamajamas team. SHE IS THE EYES, EARS–AND TYPING FINGERS–BEHIND OUR SOCIAL MEDIA. A SELF-PROCLAIMED FOODIE, ADDICTED TO COOKBOOKS AND Epicurean MAGAZINES, SHE’s very excited about CONTRIBUTING RECIPE IDEAS FOR BABY AND BUSY FAMILIES…. IN the MEANTIME, FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND PINTEREST and you’ll see (or rather REad) a lot of Christy.

Add Anything from the Web to Your Mamajamas List with Two Clicks

Now it’s incredibly easy to make a Mamajamas List and share your baby gear recommendations with pregnant friends and family.

Get the new Mamajamas Bookmark!


1) Simply login to your Mamajamas list.
2) Drag the Mamajamas bookmark icon up to your browser.
3) Go to your favorite baby product’s webpage anywhere on the web.
4) Press the bookmark and voila! You can easily add it to your list.


From Dark to Light: Postpartum in Process

Lilypad; nature scenicAnd baby makes 3.

Of course it is not that simple and yet there is simplicity in the beginning.

But once the oxytocin has worn off. Once the soft warm silent sleeping/eating/pooping bundle in your arms begins to cry and wail and scream. Once you have searched the internet for answers to every inane question only to find a wealth of contradictions. Once your partner, if you are blessed enough to have one, has returned to work. Once you are utterly alone with this being you have created. You may find yourself in a pit. Not every mother falls in, but for those of us that do, it is a dark and silent downward spiral into the sludge and many a nail is lost clawing our way back to the light.

It is not simply a question of identity, which has transformed from whatever it was into Mother, but the mind spins wicked tales of doubt that force the question of sanity. What have I done? I should have never been a mother. I am not meant for this. I am a horrible mother.  I don’t love my baby enough. I don’t know what I am doing. I am failing. I am a failure. I am damaging this little being. What have I done? And the guilt for all these questions weighs heavy. And if you think of suicide or escape or cry constantly then perhaps you take on the label “postpartum.” But if the thoughts are more subtle and the descent more insidiously slow then you may feel beyond the label and go without, without treatment, without help, without understanding, without forgiveness.

You may pretend you are fine, functioning, because you are still able to sauté the garlic a perfect golden brown and vacuum the dog hair off of the Chinese rug and put on mascara and cut the baby’s tiny fingernails without drawing blood. And yet, you are totally detached. You move through the days and nights, which are merely distinguished by the light in the room, like the shadow of a person. And because of the glamorization of motherhood in our culture, the glossy photos in the magazines you once read while waiting for your ultrasound where perfect mommies delighted in baby toes, because it is supposed to be beautiful and blissful and divine and a blessing devoid of hardship, you keep quiet.  You stare at the alien baby flailing on the mat. You stare at your hollow reflection in the mirror – sallow skin and wrinkled eyes. You stare into the endless void that has become your life. You are stuck. That is not to say there aren’t moments of joy, that the first laugh does not tickle you, or that the genuine smile when you come to the crib first thing in the morning does not delight you, but the mind is in a state of disarray, thoughts cracked like shards of glass that whirl about in a chaotic dance and leave you cut and broken.

Ask for help. Reach out. Nurture yourself. So the advice goes. But it seems impossible. Who could help you? Who would want to when you are so terribly selfish and ungrateful and damaged? Who could you share these horrible thoughts with? Even a professional would judge you. But as bad a mother as you feel, you are not ready to hand over this being to some stranger so that you might have time to yourself. You cannot fathom how to nurture yourself when the self you knew has long disappeared… What could possibly make you happy? So you smile and nod at the advice-givers who look at you with that twinge of worry in their eyes. And you continue to do nothing.

No one told you it would be like this. No one told you this is normal, or at least a shade of grey between the white of bliss and black of clinical depression.  There is deep-seated shame around these feelings. It is taboo, almost sacrilegious, to speak any ill of the role of Mother.  You should love your baby with all of your heart. You should feel like your heart has left your body to reincarnate as this being.  You should be grateful, especially if you tried for months or years. You should. You should. You should. There is no room for pain or regret or loss. But the feelings cannot be submerged so you are the one drowning.

It would be flippant of me to tell you to ask for help, reach out, nurture yourself, and yet this advice stands true.

Talk to your OB or your GP or your therapist. Confide in your partner, your sister, your mother, your aunt, or your friend. If you are not ready for that step then take one that feels surmountable.

Seek space.

Slow down.

Step back.

Shift your gaze just slightly enough that you might see a shaft of light in the darkness.

Notice that you are not your thoughts.

Look into the eyes of this little being who has no hatred for you or judgment of you.

Let go of the shoulds.

Feel what you feel without exaggerating the feeling, without making it any more than it is.

Be kind to yourself.

Go outside.

Open up to other mothers because when you do they may surprise you with similar stories when all you witnessed was their perfection – in not wanting to contaminate each other’s experience we only further alienate ourselves. Hold the space for each other to be flawed.

Write, even if you are not a writer. Even if the idea of a pen and a journal or a blank screen and a cursor terrify you. Write as an exorcism. Write to purge, to externalize the feelings. In writing this I made my way that much further out of the pit to truly love this little being in all her glory. Now when she screams I bare witness and open to her rather than bare the burden of fault and overwhelm.  Now when she smiles she lights up my entire being.

Soften your heart.

Remember that from the sludge the lotus is born.

By Eve Kagan
EC headshotEve Kagan is a critically acclaimed actress, international theatre teaching artist, and yoga instructor. She is a Harvard graduate with an EdM specializing in Arts in Education. Eve has a passion for empowerment and empathy. Whether it is on the stage, in the classroom, or on the mat, she finds ways to encourage those around her to delve deeper into the human experience with an open heart. She travels the world with her husband, one year old daughter, and seven year old English Setter.
To see holistic parenting products recommended by Eve, CHECK OUT HER MAMAJAMAS LIST.

A Mother’s Pumping Journey Continues: Back to Work

This is the second of a two part series on pumping. The first covered supply issues in the early post-partum weeks. This one details the post-post-partum return to professional life. 

Pumping Condition #2: You are going back to work.

Milking_MachineI have heard stories of work places that allow women to book a conference room to pump, and know that some women have an office with a door that closes for privacy. I imagine that, if not ideal, these conditions could provide for a sustainable and secure pumping environment. I, however, am a designer that works in a very open office. Thirty of us young-ish, creative things share a large, single room with no doors or private conference areas. We do have two unisex toilets with doors that lock.

Two women had previously attempted the pumping-at-work scenario in my office. The first found a convent across the street. She was not Catholic, but she couldn’t handle the knocking every 2.5 minutes as she sat on the toilet trying to pump with people waiting in line to pee. The nuns were amazing, and they let her sit in a room without a toilet to pump until she was finished. Unfortunately, this situation was not long for the world. It turns out pumping off-site takes you away from work for a long time, especially if you have to thank (very kind) nuns every time you pump. She moved on to an office with a better pumping policy: her home.

The second woman was not worried about the knocking on the shared bathroom door. She printed and laminated a sign that read ‘PUMPING IN PROGRESS’ in bold sans-serif text. She posted it on one of the two restroom doors and no one bothered her. She pumped for 6 months on the toilet with great success. I admire this woman. I am not this woman.

I actually considered bringing my great, gold, rented Medela Symphony breast pump with me to work. I even repurposed a really fantastic (and enormous) leather bag that I bought I Argentina to hoist around the 7 lb machine, knowing that the Pump in Style I had responsibly purchased before giving birth would leave me with less than an ounce of milk within days. But there was no outlet adequate to handle the machine in the bathroom, and I was managing too much at work to take hours a day to sit with the nuns (though in retrospect, I really should have given that a shot).

I did try using my Pump in Style, a really useful little portable pump, for a short period of time. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as a great route for anyone that doesn’t have supply issues. It’s battery operated (you can even pump in the car, which is very entertaining at stoplights), and it’s often covered by insurance if you’ve had a diagnosed struggle with breast-feeding. N.B. to users: The loud whooshing in the background can be distracting on business calls.

My story does not have a happy pumping ending, however. I was not able to retain my supply once I returned to work in spite of my bathroom pumping efforts. I tried breast-feeding again with my daughter two years later. I was prepared with a pre-rented Symphony in my post-partum hospital room, correctly sized nipple shields, and a prophylactic appointment with an amazing lactation consultant named Susan. My daughter latched immediately after birth, and sucked vigorously, but my milk supply was still too low after the first weeks. I lasted for several months, supplementing after the first three weeks and pumping until my supply diminished dramatically. I finally accepted that hugging my baby without tubes and holding my jilted 2-year-old was ultimately more important than pumping.

Although this post may sound like a cautionary tale, it is truly a critique of the industry that surrounds the products available to us during a time of incredible transition in our lives. Even  Wikipedia’s take on breast pumping – which can be backed up by that guy that got stuck next to me at the stoplight while I  was ‘Pumping In Style’ on the way to a meeting – states that a breast pump is analogous to a milking machine used in commercial dairy production. And that is exactly how the products associated with pumping encourage us to feel. Breast pumping products are the overt, physical counterparts to the unmet and largely invisible challenges, such as our cultural procedures for re-integrating mothers into the workplace and increasing awareness about post-partum depression, that make the transition into motherhood more difficult than it should be.

How is it possible that there is not a better way? Is it because we are ensconced in a culture that largely lives in ignorance of the fact that many women, by choice or need, return to work less than 12 weeks after giving birth? Are we more accepting of sub-par products because we’re too busy trying to keep our babies alive? It certainly isn’t because corporations are blind to the trigger of childbirth as the perfect opportunity for customer development and loyalty.

There’s an opportunity here. If you are looking to overhaul the mommy-milking industry, call me. I’ll design for free.

By Elizabeth ChristofOretti
EC headshotElizabeth Christoforetti practices broadly across scales as an architectural and urban designer. She studied religion at Bowdoin College in Maine, designed objects at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received her Master in Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Elizabeth currently holds a lecturer position at Northeastern University, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate design studios. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband and two young children.

Gratuitous Posts of Cute Babies: Part #3

This cutie pie comes to us all the way from Rwanda! Catie and her husband Neil recently built a house in Kigali… and their toddler definitely wins our award for the most global Mamajamas model. Isn’t he a doll? If you’re interested in seeing a Mamajamas list that has a more worldly perspective, definitely check out Catie’s here. It’s great!


The next adorable boy comes from Amanda, who is not only a talented photographer, but also Assistant District Attorney for Suffolk County, Massachusetts. She’s so wonderful and bubbly it’s almost hard to imagine that she deals with criminals for much of the day. I’m guessing her weekend side gig photographing cute babies and weddings must feel like a nice counterbalance to her day job.


Amanda always does our family photo shoots. And you may recognize her little guy as a regular Mamajamas model (yep, that’s his baby photo on the Mamajamas facebook page banner). And Amanda’s Mamajamas list is also one I often send out to people looking for super stylish gear.

So if you live in the Boston area and are looking for a fabulous photographer, who has a sense of justice as well as an eye for style, check out Doubly Happy Photography. Not surprisingly though, she’s a woman with little free time these days, so she books up fast.

One Mother’s Pumping Journey: Short on Milk, Long on Stress

Pumping IconBreast feeding turned out not to be the romp through a spring meadow that I had expected. It was not blissful, relaxing or carefree. My baby was screaming, and the incessant pumping – and cleaning, and pumping again – made me feel like a cow in a commercial milking station. It all seemed painfully “steampunk” with industrial accessories in lovely shades of light pink and pale yellow.

There are two common events that call for the adoption of the more-than-occasional breast pump: there is pumping because you desperately need to increase your post-partum milk supply, and there is pumping because you’re away from your baby but still need to provide sustenance for your child. This is the first in a two-part commentary on my journey through pumping, covering the cascading waterfall of events triggered by my low milk supply in the early post-partum weeks. Back-to-work pumping thoughts will follow in a second post.

Pumping Condition #1: Your baby is not gaining weight in the first weeks of life.

In spite of what some may tell you is impossible, it is in fact very possible that you have found yourself with milk supply issues in the first weeks of your child’s life and are coming up short when it comes to baby nourishment. Whatever the reason – your body’s quirks, your baby’s inability to latch, maybe even the massive amount of stress you feel as a result of the trauma of childbirth – you are now in a MUST-MAKE-MILK post-partum fog. You are doing whatever you can to feed your baby that precious liquid that comes from your own breasts, but it’s a struggle.

Step 1. Pump all the time. Pump between breast feedings and bottle supplements, pump on the road, get up every hour-and-a-half to pump in the middle of the night. For higher efficiency pumping, massage your breasts while pumping. But this requires a hands-free pumping bustier, a product that could use a serious design overhaul. If you don’t already feel sexy in the weeks since you’ve given birth, Google image search ‘pumping bustier.’ I don’t know why these women are all smiling.

Step 2. Check-in with your top-notch lactation consultant (again). Your baby needs a pre- and post-feeding weigh-in to see how much milk is actually being consumed at each feed. Rent a professional grade pump immediately. The Medela Symphony might literally be worth its weight in gold. It looks like gold and it’s really heavy. Luckily, you can rent it for less than $20/month from your local pharmacy or hospital. Be sure to find the correct breast shield size. I recommend buying a funnel a size up. There is no reason at all to squeeze into that smaller size. Trust me. Your already painful nipples will thank you.

Step 3. The SNS (Suplemental Nursing System). Because what you really want now are more tubes. You tape the delicate SNS tubing system to your nipples just above your areola so that your baby can suck and stimulate your milk production, but also receive a dose of much-needed formula based nutrition between pumpings. If you are into outdoor sports, it’s like a Camelback that hangs around your neck with a tiny little tube taped to each nipple so that your baby can simultaneously encourage an increase in milky supply and receive formula-based nutrition. This is another worthwhile Google image search.

Step 4. If your baby is still not gaining weight at the correct rate, you have reached the moment when you now need to supplement your baby more fully with formula and yourself with Fenugreek, an herb that, in high doses, can make you smell like day-old pancakes with cheap syrup. Although your perfume may not be ideal, the Fenugreek does actually work. I did not learn about Fenugreek until 6 weeks into the process, but had I been aware that it was helpful, I would have started on a reasonable dose as soon as I realized there was an issue. Continue to pump with your new hospital grade pump while wearing your light pink pumping bustier and supplementing your baby with organic formula through the SNS that may or may not give them awful gas at each feeding. Do your best to hold and feed your baby by bottle while you are pumping with a funnel and tubes attached to each nipple. I recently attended a performance of Russian circus acts at the Boston Symphony and believe that successful pumping-while-feeding should be considered a feat not unlike some of the more clever Russian contortion acts.

Step 5. Stasis. You eventually find the right balance of pumping and formula to allow your baby to grow, which, if you have guilt over feeding your baby formula, is useful. It’s also helpful to note that the personal pressures many new mothers feel to fully and frictionlessly nurse their children into toddlerhood is not insignificant. Our current mommy culture is not always friendly to the bottle-toting-mommy, the inevitable result of breast feeding difficulties or a return to work. It’s too bad. Our health professionals and larger cultural networks could do more to prepare new parents for the challenges of feeding in the early months, and our cultural awareness of the incredible emotional challenges faced by new families could be increased.

Step 6. Maternity leave ends. Ready the pumping stations for a new challenge. Back to work…

By Elizabeth ChristofOretti
EC headshotElizabeth Christoforetti practices broadly across scales as an architectural and urban designer. She studied religion at Bowdoin College in Maine, designed objects at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and received her Master in Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Elizabeth currently holds a lecturer position at Northeastern University, where she teaches graduate and undergraduate design studios. She lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband and two young children.

5 Ways to Get Your Toddler to Eat Everything


Yep, that’s my 3-year-old digging in to a plate full of octopus tentacles.

I love food.  Some might say that I like it (and think about it) too much. One of my first memories is sitting at a raw bar at age 3 and my parents giving me an oyster. The people sitting next to me clapped as I slurped it down, and I felt so proud.

So I asked my parents recently what they did to encourage me to eat everything (especially since I learned later in life that my mom is actually quite picky). Here is what they said:

  1. Delay the carbs: Children love pasta, bread and all things carbohydrate. So start your meal with protein and veggies when your child is really hungry. If you have a pasta or rice dish, bring it out a little later.
  2. Don’t tell your children what they like or don’t like: I remember this being a cardinal rule when my brother and I were young. My parents would get frustrated when their friends would proclaim their child didn’t like something before even trying it. My parents knew that children’s tastes change all the time. A child won’t eat something for months, and then one day it will become his favorite food. But if a parent says their child doesn’t like something, this negative reinforcement can often solidify a child not liking a food, even if they’ve only tried it a few times.
  3. Make your kids try everything: There was a rule at our house that you had to try everything on your plate. You didn’t have to eat it, but you had to try it. If you didn’t eat it, there was no talk of not liking it. Our parents told us that because tastes change, you had to try it at least ten times.
  4. Involve them in the grocery shopping and cooking: From as far as I can remember, my brother and I were always in the kitchen helping out. My dad also loved grocery shopping and passed that on to both of us by involving us. Recently, my 2 year old started demanding to unload the entire cart himself onto the conveyor belt, so I now clear a space for him inside the cart, plop him in and let him have at it. As young children, we saw shopping and cooking as a fun activity, and eating the foods we prepared was a key part of that.
  5. Make them eat the same food you eat (and eat a variety of foods yourself!): My parents never became short order chefs. We ate what they ate. The same went for restaurants. We never got to eat chicken fingers off the kids menu. They either ordered us half portions of regular meals, or if the restaurant wouldn’t do that, we ate off their plates. My mom’s (mostly hidden) pickiness aside, my parents ate interesting foods themselves, which modeled for us a varied palette.

This is what my parents did (and what I’m trying to do with variable success with my own child). What do you do to encourage your kids to be good eaters?

New Mamajamas “Expert” Lists!

Today we’re launching a couple features that make it easier for you to find awesome Mamajamas lists.

You can now find lists of recommended baby gear from top baby experts. Just look for the yellow bullseye bullseyenext to their name when you’re looking for lists.

Who are our experts? Only Mamajamas vetted professionals working in the pregnancy and child development space or super knowledgable Mamas (or Papas) working/blogging in the new parent space.

For example, you can now find and follow:

Kara Engelbrecht, Amazing Bay Area Homebirth Midwife

Erin Evans, Top Harvard Sleep Doctor

Rachael Fanopoulis, Founder of Mommybites Boston

Lisa Schiavoni, Child Psychologist Extraordinaire

You can also sort lists by popularity, first name of the list creator, and when it was last updated.

And remember, following lists allows you to get notified when they review new products!