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Pumping at Work

by Meghann on March 4, 2016


Now that I’ve had a couple of months of being a breastfeeding mom who works full time and pumps, I wanted to share more insight about how I make it work. When I was on maternity leave, the idea of going back to work and pumping scared the hell out of me. I found comfort in reading posts from other moms who were successful at doing both, so I want to do the same and share what’s currently working for me in hopes of easing some fears of other mamas on maternity leave who have as much anxiety as I once did.

pumping routine

My schedule can vary day-to-day, but what’s documented below is pretty typical. I try not to go more than 3-4 hours between pump/nursing sessions during the day. I’m pretty flexible with moving my pump sessions around, as long as I’m given plenty of warning ahead of time. There have only been two or three occasions when I was at my 4 hour limit and had to excuse myself from a meeting or conversation to pump. Otherwise everything has been pretty seamless.

Also, the amount of ounces I pump can vary up to 5 ounces per day! It’s crazy what an emotional roller coaster pumping can be in terms of what you’re pumping versus what your baby’s drinking. I always find I get more ounces the day after I eat a milkshake, fried chicken tenders (total guilty pleasure), or drink dark beer. However, I try not to do those things everyday because, if I’m being honest, I would prefer not to balloon out of my clothes again.

My Daily Pumping Routine

6:30 am:  I typically shower as soon as I get up then immediately head to the kitchen to prep the bottles and pump parts for the day. This is generally a threefold process:

  1. Assemble the pump parts and place in a ziploc bag
  2. Screw the lids on the four bottles I’ll be pumping in for the day, then place them in my cooler with a freezer pack.
  3. Prep Annalynn’s bottles for daycare. I typically fill the bottles the night before, then add their labels and nipples in the morning. Annalynn’s daycare requires all bottles be ready to go, complete with nipple and cover. They also require daily labeling with the day’s date and Annalynn’s name. The daycare provides the labels, which are bright red to indicate breast milk.

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7:00 am: Wake Annalynn up for the day (if she’s not already awake) and nurse her while eating my breakfast. She’s super distracted in the morning, so this process is becoming longer and longer.

7:45 am: Derek and I trade off taking Annalynn to daycare. We transport Annalynn’s bottles in the Skip Hop Bottle Bag. She drinks four bottles (each bottle has three ounces) throughout the day. They’re good at feeding her on demand every 2.5 – 3 hrs.

bottle bag

10:00 am: My first pump session of the morning. This is usually my largest pump of the day. I pump in a storage closet that has a “do not disturb” sign I hang up when I’m pumping. The door has a lock, but the IT department also has a key so the sign is to let them know the room is busy. The room doesn’t have WiFi and my phone barely gets a signal so I bring my iPad and usually read while I pump. Depending on how much I pump, I’ll combine both bottles into one or I’ll leave it as is. The bottles will go back in the cooler and the parts are stored in the ziploc bag at the mini fridge under my desk.

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1:00 PM: My second pump of the day. If I need to run an errand during lunch I’ll usually do this pump session in the car. The car adapter I ordered off Amazon months ago has really come in handy. I’m also not shy about pumping in front of female co-workers and have had to pump with them in the car on more than one occasion. When I’m done I’ll combine the bottles into one. The bottles go into the cooler and the pump parts go into the ziploc and then back in the fridge.

4:00 PM: My last pump session of the day. Typically my smallest pump.  All of my pump sessions generally last 20 minutes. I usually still have a tiny bit of milk still flowing, but I can’t spend more time than that away from my desk. When I’m done with my last session, I combine the bottles, put the milk bottle back into the cooler, the parts in the ziploc, and everything goes into the pump bag.

6:30 PM: I nurse Annalynn as soon as we get home. She usually has her last daycare bottle around 5-5:30PM and is ready to eat when I get her. If there’s still a bottle left after 6:00 PM, I’ve requested that they hold off until I get there since it’s easier for me to nurse her at that point.

7:15 PM: Derek or I get Annalynn ready for bed, then I  nurse her to sleep.

7:30 PM: As soon as Annalynn is in bed I wash all the bottles and parts for the next day. She uses the same bottles that I pump into so all I need to do is divy the milk up in the bottles I just pumped in and store them in the fridge for the next day. If there’s any extra milk, it’s automatically bagged up, labeled, and placed in the freezer. I freeze everything flat in our main freezer, then once I have about 15ish bags I’ll stack them in a gallon ziploc bag, label the ziploc with the dates, and move to the deep freezer.

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To help rotate the freezer stash, I’ll freeze all of the milk on Friday (minus 4 oz). On Sunday I’ll move frozen bags to the fridge to defrost over night and mix them with the 4 oz of Friday milk for Monday’s bottles.

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So that’s my day-to-day routine. There have been a few occasions where I’ve had to work outside of the office, which have been interesting.  The best was the time I pumped next to our tent with a makeshift cover on.

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Pro tip: If you need to pump at an expo (or conference, etc), keep asking until you find the right person who can help you. I had to work an expo in the Tampa Convention Center last month and asked 5 different people before I found someone in charge who understood what I needed and was more than happy to find a spot where I could pump. If they offer you a bathroom, politely decline and ask someone else.

I’m sure I’ll have even more stories to share when our season starts next month and I start traveling for work. Gulp.

Also, I’ve blogged about this bra before but I feel like it’s worth repeating because it’s THAT amazing, but the Dairy Fairy pumping bra is seriously a life saver. There’s no way I would be able to pump so effortlessly on the go if it wasn’t for the Dairy Fairy bra. It’s a real bra that I wear as I would any other bra, only there’s two slits for the flanges of the pump. That way I never had to worry about messing with an additional hands free pumping bra, I’m always ready to go.

dairy fairy pumping

Oh, and shout out to MilkBox for helping with my pump-friendly wardrobe. (full review of their service HERE). When the powers of my new MilkBox wardrobe and DairyFairy combine It’s MAGIC.

pumping

 

Right after I went back to work I read Work. Pump. Repeat.: The New Mom’s Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work.  It covers everything from your legal rights of pumping at work to building your stash before returning to work to pumping while traveling, and so much more. The author gives insight from her own experience so breastfeeding both of her babies while working full time and needing to travel internationally for work. She’s also very real and makes sure moms know it doesn’t have to be “all-or-nothing” and we all have to figure out what works for our own family and sanity. Highly recommend.

I also recommend that all pumping moms join the Working Moms who Make Breastfeeding Work Facebook Group. I can not say enough about this amazing Facebook group. These people GET me and I can relate to pretty much every mom’s post on here.

I feel like I could write SO MUCH about pumping and working, but I’ll start with this. Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or anything you’d like me to focus on in an upcoming post. Right now my goal is to make it to one-year of pumping and then transition to just nursing in the morning and at night until Annalynn weans herself. At least, that’s the goal for now. We still have so long to go and anything can happen. We’ll just have to wait and see how everything unfolds.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kelly March 4, 2016 at 1:08 pm

Sounds like it is going well for you! My second daughter is 15 months and still nursing, however we have moved past all the pumping so it’s quite nice! A couple of suggestions after reading your post and a question. First, why do you save 4 oz from Friday and mix on Monday? I always thought it was a no go to mix frozen milk with fresh milk?

Suggestion..put your husband in charge of cleaning the bottles, pump parts, and preparing the bottles at night!!! My deal with my husband was that if I was going to pump all day, then his job would be to help with the bottles. It saved me a lot of time.

Lastly, It looks like you have a decent freezer stash. I would try to rotate it out a bit more. Maybe once a month, freeze an entire week’s milk and use a bag from your deep freeze. Sometimes milk that has been in a deep freeze for months can taste different and babies don’t love it. One of my daughters would not drink milk that had been frozen for months and it was heartbreaking.

Keep up the great work!

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2 Meghann March 4, 2016 at 2:01 pm

Thanks, Kelly. Great advice on rotating the freezer stash, I know I need to be better at that. My LC was actually the one who told me it was okay to mix frozen with fresh. I know it’s bad to mix chilled milk with still warm fresh milk, but the “fresh” I use is the same temperature as the defrosted milk when combined.

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3 Alexis March 4, 2016 at 4:23 pm

I mix frozen and fresh, too! The frozen does taste different, and I find mixing helps. Also only mix same temp milk.

It’s hard to stay on top of your freezer stash!! I try to use at least 4 oz of frozen every day, and still am constantly hitting the six month ‘expiration’. That deep freezer will be awesome for extending the life of your frozen milk.

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4 Elena March 5, 2016 at 5:40 pm

Wow! What a process!

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5 Madeline March 4, 2016 at 2:00 pm

You’ll start to rotate through your milk as you travel for work (the first trip where you fly is so stressful making sure you have everything, but once you’ve done one, you’ll realize it isn’t a huge deal, besides missing your kiddo of course!), so that will help your freezer stash rotation! I loved that FB group too (my daughter is almost 18 months now and just nurses morning and evening so I don’t follow it any more), and I still love the Running pregnant/while nursing- moms run this town FB group!

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6 Meghan March 4, 2016 at 2:43 pm

Thanks for sharing, Meghann! I’ve been so stressed about the emotional aspects of returning to work that I don’t think I’ve been thinking enough about pumping. This is helpful information. I’m lucky that we have a mother’s room at school that I can use to pump in, and that it’s not that far from the area I’m in most of the day. I’m not looking forward to all the bottle washing, but your advice about what you pump into is helpful. I’m trying to decide how many bottles to send in while Olivia is at daycare from 8:30 (when tip drops her off) to 3:45/4:00 (when I pick her up); I just hope that I’m able to pump as much as you’ve been able to once I return.

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7 Cara March 4, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Lot’s of great info! I worked full time when my oldest was born, so I remember all those pumping days. I started out pumping in the bathroom while eating lunch. Gross. Then I asked someone else if there was a better place I could pump, she let me use her office and even bought me a mini fridge to store the breastmilk in. I only pumped for about 6 months , then transitioned to nursing when I was home with her. You are doing a great job mama!
Cara recently posted..My girls

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8 Rachel March 4, 2016 at 4:04 pm

You only get to see Annalynn for an hour before bed!? That must be so hard! I feel for you.

Totally second the above commenter that said to get your husband to help! It’s literally the least he could do 😉

Finally, you have a large freezer stash. It would be amazing if you considered donating the older milk, especially as it doesn’t keep after 6 months in the freezer (some say 12 months but why chance it?) You could literally save a NICU baby’s life with a few donations. I really encourage you to look into it! Just think about if it was Annalynn and how grateful you’d be.

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9 Alexis March 4, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Commenting while I pump at a work conference. 🙂 I’m in a single door bathroom that was set aside for my use all week; they brought in a table and chair and put up a sign.

Advice for traveling- write someone in advice so it’s not a logistical scramble when you arrive, and ask them to take the request to HR. Admin assistants or those who issue invites to meetings/conferences often don’t what to you need, but HR usually will. For this trip, the HR director of this large org actually met me at the door on day one to show me what they had set up.

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10 Meghann March 4, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Thanks for the heads up! My job involves managing outdoor triathlons so more than likely I’ll be pumping in a trailer with my battery pack or outside of a tent on a ground. I refuse to pump in a porta potty so I’m a-okay with pumping outside a tent with a cover on.

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11 Kimberly March 4, 2016 at 4:27 pm

Thanks for this post! No wonder running and exercise has taken a backseat – you are quite the busy bee! I am due in April with my first, and I won’t be returning back to work until October. But I do plan on breastfeeding throughout. Where did you get your deep freezer?

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12 Meghann March 4, 2016 at 5:04 pm

The deep freezer is from Sams Club. Good luck with the new babe. I know a million people will tell you, but it really does go fast!

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13 TLC March 4, 2016 at 5:02 pm

You rock. My husband and I just recently started talking about having children and I would definitely be going back to work. I’ve wondered how moms make breastfeeding work. Great post, thank you!

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14 Carly March 4, 2016 at 6:28 pm

Just curious (I didn’t breastfeed my kiddo so didn’t pump)- what is the problem with pumping in a washroom? Thanks and congrats on your beautiful babe!

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15 Meghann March 7, 2016 at 12:51 pm

You wouldn’t want your food prepared in a restroom, and neither would your baby.

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16 Natalie March 8, 2016 at 1:30 pm

well, sometimes you don’t really have an option. i pumped plenty of times in a bathroom, and my baby turned out just fine.

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17 Carly March 8, 2016 at 9:15 pm

I have to say i am shocked by your rude reply, meghann. not all of us are quite so invested in breastfeeding and no need to shame us for it- it was a legitimate question. you have lost a reader.

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18 Natalie March 9, 2016 at 6:06 am

I just came back to see if there were any other replies to this side discussion, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who was super turned off by Meghann’s response. The smug attitude about breastfeeding / pumping is off the charts these days. Whatever happened to just simply feeding your baby, and having that be good enough?

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19 Amanda March 8, 2016 at 1:35 pm

It’s not the most comfortable, but in a pinch, its really not a deal breaker. I pretty much pumped wherever I was (at work, while driving, in a tent, at a festival, at friends houses, and yes, in a bathroom) and didn’t see the big deal about it.

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20 Kirsten March 4, 2016 at 6:57 pm

This is super helpful! I’m currently pregnant with my first and will be going back to work after my maternity leave. I’m bookmarking for future reference. 🙂

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21 Abbie March 4, 2016 at 7:31 pm

This is so helpful! Thank you, Meaghanm! I’m due in August and already nervous about going back to work. I can’t recall if you covered this, but do you mind providing details and feedback on your breast pump? I am debating what type to get – the standard free breast pump from my insurance company or upgrading to a more deluxe version. I’d appreciate any thoughts as I’ll be a first time mom!

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22 Cindy March 4, 2016 at 7:50 pm

Pumping while traveling for work tips! I did it for 4 months with my first and 6 months with my second. 1. Spring hill suites all have a fridge. Lifesaver vs having to wait for a fridge to be delivered. (I’m a Marriott girl, I’m sure some other brands have fridge as well). 2. Bring a small bottle of cows milk from home and put it in your cooler with the ice pack when you are LEAVING town. For the most part, airports let me bring my ice packs if I could prove that I had my pump and pump parts but once or twice I had to sit outside security and pump 2 oz before they would let me in with my ice packs. So I brought 2-3 oz of cows (or almond or soy or whatever you choose) and poured it in my coffee on the other side of security! 3. On the way back, just declare your milk. Every airport is different. Some scanned every bag, some did random scans, some did nothing at all. Just declare before you go through security and be prepared for a 5 min delay. 4. Microwave steam sterilizer bags! Again spring hill suites also have microwaves and a small sink, so this was an easy way to clean parts daily during multiple day trips. 5. Ice machines to keep the ice packs and milk colder. 6. Use that milk first when you get home vs freezing it. I always felt like that milk had been through enough, it didn’t need to be frozen on top of it. 7. Formula is fine if you need to supplement. ?

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23 Nicole March 4, 2016 at 8:26 pm

Thanks for this post!! I go back on the 22nd and I’m totally nervous about handling it all. Your day sounds exactly how I imagined mine going so that makes me feel better!
Nicole recently posted..Dear Siena – 5 Months

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24 Maria March 4, 2016 at 10:00 pm

Thanks for posting! This was so great to read. I am a full time working and pumping mom too and pretty much do exactly what you do. My daughter is almost 13 months now and I am in the process of weaning during the day so we can just nurse morning and night (easier said than done since she is still very much into it, although she eats all table food in sight too ha). Glad to hear it is going well and love knowing I’m not alone on this journey 🙂

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25 Elena March 5, 2016 at 10:32 am

Wow what’ a process!

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26 Lacey March 5, 2016 at 8:36 pm

Sounds like you’ve got an awesome system! Will your new position at work require less travel/expos?

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27 Meghann March 7, 2016 at 12:50 pm

I will still need to travel. I’m in a weird position where I’m covering aspects with my old position while going full steam ahead with the new position.

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28 rachel March 5, 2016 at 11:20 pm

Meghann, thank you so much for this post. I have been waiting for it! I am going to bite the bullet and order the bra you recommended. I thought I could just hold the pumps, but it’s so annoying!

Do you pump during the weekends? I can’t stand pumping when I don’t need to, but I do want to keep a surplus going so I have extra just in case.

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29 Meghann March 7, 2016 at 12:50 pm

I only pump on the weekends if I feel like I’m going to explode (for instance, if she decides to sleep through the night) or will be away from the baby for 3+ hours.

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30 Jess March 6, 2016 at 9:46 am

Wow I am so impressed you are doing a great job! Sounds like a lot of work and preparation but so wonderful you are able to do that for.your daughter!
Jess recently posted..Lesson in Self Care!

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31 Kate March 6, 2016 at 10:54 am

Thanks for writing this! How did you figure out how much milk she would take while you were away?

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32 Meghann March 7, 2016 at 12:48 pm

There was some trial and error when my husband stayed home with her for 2 weeks initially after I went back to work. However, I will say she naps so much better at home than daycare, so at home she only took 3 bottles during the day, but with daycare it’s 4.

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33 Sarah Beth March 7, 2016 at 12:45 pm

This is such a great post! thank you so much! I only wish you had done it two weeks ago, since I went back to work full time last week 🙂

I totally agree with the necessity for a double pumping bra that you can just wear all day under your clothes. I did one day with the bustier, and got so frustrated at wrangling it on and off! I tried to find the bra you recommended (I had seen it in an earlier post), but it didn’t come in my size. So for any other small-boobed pumping moms, the Simple Wishes Supermom bra is a lifesaver– you can pump in it, nurse in it, and it’s really pretty!

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34 Beckie March 7, 2016 at 1:35 pm

Our little ones share a birthday, so I’m always curious as to how you guys are all doing. I was actually just wondering last night how pumping was going for you since Annalynn is now in daycare. My little guys are up to 5 oz at a time for their bottles and they’re eating every 3ish hours while I’m gone, but they only take 3 bottles (I send a 4th just in case).

You look like you have an amazing stash built up. I’ve been freezing since they were about a week old and add to it every weekend. I have been pulling out 24oz every week since January 4th and I just pulled out 30oz yesterday. How large is your freezer? We are talking of getting one, but can’t do anything about it just yet (our garage is too full and there’s no where in the house for one).

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35 Erin @ LivingEZ March 7, 2016 at 5:26 pm

This is really insightful, thanks for sharing! When I was pregnant, there was only one other mom in my office (of 25ish) and she only pumped for a month or two. I wish I had more role models on how to make it work between meetings and frequent travel. In the end, I didn’t return from maternity leave, but I am really impressed with your schedule. It’s good to know that there are lots of resources for pumping moms, even if I might not see them.
Erin @ LivingEZ recently posted..The Number 1 Way to Ruin a Family Hike

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36 Mrs swan March 7, 2016 at 11:15 pm

Soooo jelly! I am lucky to pump 15ml. It is neat to read about how much others get though.
Mrs swan recently posted..Nicu baby

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37 Samantha March 8, 2016 at 9:27 am

Another tip about traveling through the airport – make sure your freezer pack is FROZEN before going through security. I was traveling home with 4 days worth of milk and TSA wanted to take my blue freezer pack because it wasn’t completely frozen (it had started to unfreeze after I left my hotel room that morning). The agent eventually just let me go after I pleaded with him, but I would have been devastated if I had to toss that milk.

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38 Lauren Schwartz March 8, 2016 at 9:39 am

Pretty random but I always put the ice pack going the other direction in the cooler bag, haha!

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39 Melissa March 8, 2016 at 9:41 am

All I can really say is WOW. I didn’t have to work and pump since I worked from home during my daughter’s first year. But mad respect for you. I’m sure it’s a stress relief to have a system down too.
Melissa recently posted..BeFit Product Review and Giveaway

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40 Ashley March 8, 2016 at 7:02 pm

Another great Facebook group is “precious little sleep”- such a great resource for baby sleep questions and just sympathy for other moms not getting much sleep!

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41 tess March 10, 2016 at 12:02 pm

I am about to become a new Mom and I am SO confused about all this stuff. I work from home, but have to go away for work roughly 2 months of the year (spread out over several weeks here and there.). I have no idea how I’m going to manage it, so that’s one thing. But, would you have pumped if you primarily worked from home, too? I am thinking I want to, mainly just to give some of the feeding responsibilities to my husband. I really feel this should be a partnership, and he should spend as much time taking care of her as I do, so that’s the main reason I feel like pumping. Am I alone in this?

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42 Lisa March 18, 2016 at 1:37 pm

Thank you so much for this. I’ve bookmarked this post!

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