Taking the Aversion Out of Bottle-Aversion: Step-by-Step Bottle (Re)Introduction

A return to work, a medical procedure, visits at Grandma’s, date nights, a shred of autonomy… there are countless reasons why a breastfeeding parent would need to introduce (or re-introduce) Baby to bottle. The problem: bottle-aversion is not uncommon and, man, it’s a pain!

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Two of my three children were bottle-averse. Like any sleep-deprived, anxious mom, there were times I worried and wondered if they’d ever accept a bottle. But, in time, they did accept the bottle. All it took was a step-by-step process of introduction. This same method has worked like a charm for friends, fellow pumping moms, and milk recipients with whom I’ve shared this.

If you have tried (re)introducing the bottle to your baby but it’s just not working, take a few steps back, regroup, talk yourself off of the anxiety ledge, then see if this process works for your bottle-averse babe. It’s worth a shot!

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STEP 1: CALL IN BACK-UP.

What you’ll need:

– A caregiver who is not the breastfeeder

What you’ll do:

Ideally the non-nursing parent or another caregiver would be the one to introduce Baby to bottle. Mom and her much-preferred breast buffet should not even be in the home during the introduction. Mom can go for a mini-stroll, nap in the car, sit on the front stoop… just not immediately available. Babies are smarter than we give them credit for. Heck, if someone handed you a plate of reheated leftovers while holding a tray of freshly made food, which would you pick?

Take the fresh meal out of the equation and make the leftovers (aka: pumped breastmilk) the only option. Of course if another caregiver is not available, the following steps can absolutely be employed by the breastfeeding parent; it just might require a bit more stamina.

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STEP 2: PUMP IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz freshly expressed breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

When introducing the bottle to Baby, start with just 1oz of freshly pumped breast milk (we’re talking milk that is still at body temperature.) Limiting the introductory amount to 1oz lessens possible waste, because any pumping mom knows crying over spilled breast milk is totally acceptable. While pumping, submerge the bottle nipple in a mug of warm (not hot) water. This will help make the bottle nipple more like the warm, supple human nipple as opposed to a cool, rubbery manmade nipple. Just before feeding Baby the 1oz, remove the bottle nipple from the warming mug and dip the warmed nipple tip into the expressed breast milk. The fresh milk on the warm bottle nipple acts as a “MILK IN HERE!!” flashing arrow sign for Baby. Then try calmly feeding Baby the bottle. If it doesn’t work, relax. Redirect Baby’s attention briefly and give it another attempt or two, but never make the process stressful or unpleasant for Baby. We want this to be a comfortable, cozy, enticing experience.

Once your baby has grown to accept the freshly expressed milk in a bottle, move to step 3.

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STEP 3: CHILL IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz refrigerated breast milk (no more than a day old)

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

Repeat the same process of warming and dipping the bottle nipple as noted above, but this time add 1oz of warmed, previously refrigerated expressed breast milk (aim for no more than a day old so that milk is still somewhat fresh.)

This transition may take a bit of patience, but keep at it. Be sure to maintain the goal of a positive, peaceful introduction though.

Once Baby accepts previously refrigerated breast milk in a bottle, move to step 4

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STEP 4: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. WARM IT. DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

– Patience

What you’ll do:

Now that Baby has begun tolerating previously refrigerated milk, it’s time to try previously frozen milk. Pour 1oz of thawed, warmed, previously frozen breast milk into a bottle. Repeat the same bottle nipple warming and dipping from steps 2 and 3. Then, just as before, introduce the bottle to Baby in a comfortable, calm, peaceful manner.

This may take a few attempts. That’s ok. Be patient.

Once previously frozen milk is a go, move on to step 5.

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STEP 5: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. WARM IT. DON’T DIP IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

– 1 mug of warm (not hot) water

What you’ll do:

Since Baby now accepts frozen bottled breast milk, let’s take things up a notch. Let’s ditch the nipple dipping and see if Baby still goes for the milk.

Just as in step 4, you will thaw, warm, and bottle 1oz of previously frozen breast milk. WARM the bottle nipple in the mug of warm water but do not dip the nipple tip in the milk before serving Baby.

In all likelihood, this should be an easy test by comparison since, by now, Baby is aware that bottle nipples like lactating nipples are milk portals.

Once this step is successfully accomplished, move to step 6.

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STEP 6: FREEZE IT. THAW IT. SERVE IT.

What you’ll need:

– 1oz frozen breast milk

– 1 baby bottle with nipple

What you’ll do:

So by now Baby will take any kind of breast milk provided: straight from the tap, fresh and bottled, previously frozen and bottled. Now let’s see if we can ditch the nipple warming.

Thaw, warm, and bottle 1oz of previously frozen breast milk as you have in prior steps. Now, without any bottle nipple prep, see if Baby accepts the bottle. This should be a low-key endeavor, especially if dropping the nipple dipping was an easy undertaking.

Once this has been accomplished, move to step 7.

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STEP 7: TAKE A BOW!

Seriously. You did it!! Go you! Your baby is now able to gain sustenance from human and faux nipples. Congrats!

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Snapshots of SAHM Life

Being a stay-at-home mom is draining and priceless, stressful and fun-filled, chaotic and routine. It’s overwhelming and unglamorous, messy and lonely, but it’s all I ever wanted… to spend my days raising my children and experiencing their days, their fleeting childhoods. To be there.

Still, days as a stay-at-home mom often involve lots of this.

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Caffeination on the go

A bit of this.

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Multi-tasking (with now-cold caffeine)

Too much of this.

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Toy mayhem

And always this.

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The insurmountable and ever-present, Mt. Laundry

Your days may also involve this.

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Grocery shopping and babywearing

Some of this.

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Nursing

And a bit of this.

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Playdate fun

Then, of course, there’s this.

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Mid-errand tantrums

This.

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Bizarre mishaps

A lot of this.

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In-cart public meltdown and sibling brawl

And, what day would be complete without a touch of this?

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Self-dressing drama

After all of that, you get this.

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Quirky cuddles

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Family time

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Simple fun times

Because you’re there for it all, you also get to witness this.

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Proud parenting moments

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Proof of your hard work shining through

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Love between your children

And this.

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Hard-won skills blossoming

And it’s all worth it. All of it.

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Strong Is Beautiful

I grew up in a matriarchal extended family with a thick military heritage. As the able-bodied eldest sibling of a brother with involved special needs, I had a somewhat unique upbringing. There were rules and consequences, expectations and protocol, duties and obligations. Inner and physical strength were prized. Beauty and emotional expression were afterthoughts. To be strong, to be able to withstand and persevere, to be resilient and sturdy was paramount. To shoulder any burden and smile beneath the weight was ideal.

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I recently told my 5-year-old daughter that being a female member of the family means she is strong; stronger than many. I told her that feigning frailty or valuing femininity over strength is not ideal. “Sometimes you’ll need help. Sometimes you’ll cry. That’s ok. You can like feeling pretty. You can have your feelings. That doesn’t mean you should intentionally act or choose to be weak. You can do more than you think. You can handle more than you realize. You’re strong. Remember that. Being strong IS beautiful.”

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Today on the beach my nearly-30lb toddler nursed himself into a nap. So, I stood rocking his sleeping body for 30 minutes. His limbs limp and heavy, the ocean hush lulling him further into slumber, my back supporting him, my arms cradling him, my heart was full. My muscles strong.

I breathed in his sand-dusted hair, listened to his gentle snore, and felt his comforted weight. I was grateful. Grateful for this moment. Grateful for my upbringing. Grateful for my strength. Without it I would not have this effortless, loving moment. Without it I would lament physical strain instead of savoring the experience.

Because of my strength, I could soak in this memory. Because of my strength, I brimmed with love. Because of my strength I could be the mother I dreamed to be.

Pressing “Play” Instead of “Fast Forward”

Sleeping through the night, rolling over, sitting up, eating solid foods, crawling, talking, walking, potty-training, riding a bike, tying shoes, starting school… we move through our children’s childhood with eyes forward. Some parents with more vigor and ambitious competitiveness than others. We look ahead to the next stage, achievement, or development. Being forward-thinking is positive except when it causes us to lose sight of the present.

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Yesterday, I sat in my 1.5-year-old’s darkened bedroom rocking and nursing him before his nap, just as I have every day for the last 19 months. In the dark quiet I began lamenting my lack of freedom, my breastmilk tether. To be able to go out to lunch, volunteer at my older children’s schools, exercise, or go to appointments without navigating naptime, which doesn’t exist without a pre-snooze nursing session, seemed lovely. To be able to go out with my husband or friends and not worry about getting home to nurse my littlest before bed seemed refreshing. To not have to remain home after my littlest’s bedtime in case he awakes, as only nursing can return him to slumber, seemed freeing. The longing for freedom was overwhelming. I craved the next stage.

I began contemplating when to wean to a bottle or sippy cup, at least for naptime. It was new territory. I’d worked part-time from 4 months postpartum with my first child until my first trimester with my third child, so my eldest two children learned early on how to find sleep without the breast. My littlest, though, never needed to welcome rest in any other way but in my arms. I chided myself for not introducing a nursing-free naptime sooner. What had I been thinking?

Then, my toddler placed a sweaty, sleepy hand on my cheek. I looked down at his blissful nursing state and realized that soon this season would be over. He will not nurse forever. He will not always need or want me to cuddle him in his dim bedroom each day and night before sleep. He will not always look to me for nourishment and comfort. “You’ll have your whole life to be free,” I thought to myself. “Savor the present.”

Like the tween sneaking into an R-rated movie or the teenager preening to look older, I was wishing away my present. I was being impatient with a fleeting precious stage in the hopes of reaching the next phase sooner. But getting there sooner doesn’t mean a thing since arrival is an eventuality. If anything it cheapens the journey and is fodder for regret.

And so, as I lie here now on the playroom sofa at far-too-early-in-the-morning after 2 hours of sleep and reading many baby storybooks by the light of “Max and Ruby” due to toddler insomnia, I feel his finally-asleep weight on me and I smile. Sure, I’m tired. Sure, I’ll have to dig deep tomorrow to delve into the Monday routine with 3 kids 5 and under, but it’s worth it.

These hardships, these swift sweet moments, these gems amidst the craggy rocks are what parenthood is all about. If we keep our eyes forward we miss the beautiful details of the present and there’s no getting them back.

We will get to that next stage eventually. No need to rush it. Just enjoy the ride.

Needing to Break the Routine

It’s 5:30am. My littlest, who cosleeps from his nighttime wake-up until morning, is half-asleep nursing. I feel my 5:45am alarm approaching: stress!

Knowing I would remain fully awake now and not wanting to disturb my husband or nursling, I turn off my alarm carefully trying not to disturb my littlest. I feel stress bubble up inside me. “I NEED to be up in 13 minutes.” I think to myself. I begin contemplating whether I can sneak out of the bed without waking my bed partners. But my toddler is a boob barnacle, so sneaking out is a non-option. “Do I just wake him up and take him downstairs before he’s ready?” I ponder. I dash that thought knowing full well how rocky a morning that will be.

“But I NEED to get up!” I mentally moan. I carefully lift my head to look at the clock without disturbing my littlest’s latch: 5:35.

“Wait,” I think to myself, “my preschooler is on Christmas break. My husband is dropping off our kindergartener for her last day of school before break. All I’m doing is going to the grocery store, doing chores, and driving school pick-up this afternoon. I don’t ‘NEED’ to wake up right now.” That’s when I realized what I really needed to do: slow down.

I needed to pull up the covers and cuddle my little one. I needed to feel his soft skin and pudgy hands. I needed to etch in my mind the feeling of his warm little footsie pajama’ed body against mine. I needed to savor.

Sometimes I get so lost in the to-do list, the routine, and the stressors that I can forget what I actually NEED to do. Slow down and savor for this all goes by too fast.

 

Personal Style Crisis

It happens every time. Some time around when Baby starts walking, I have a personal style crisis.

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The problem is I have certain wardrobe demands: function (nursing-friendly and washable), flatter (highlights the right parts and downplays the other parts), and fit (not too short, too tight, too baggy, too restrictive… basically not “too” anything.) Boob access is still a requirement, as my 1-year-old still nurses on demand, so that rules out most dresses and many tops. I’ve lost the baby weight, so my postpartum wardrobe of roomy tunics and tummy-smoothing leggings are unappealing. However, I have a new body shape after having grown, carried, delivered, and nourished another human. It’s like being a teenager learning to dress all over again, but this time with a c-section scar and leaky breasts. I’m lost.

I hit up online stores — because shopping for clothes with my troublesome trio is more chaotic than constructive — and peruse Pinterest. I pin with abandon. Striped t-shirt dresses topped with jean jackets, skater dresses and motorcycle jackets, jeans and Ts with military jackets… cute and comfy but not exactly nursing-friendly (lest I stretch out every hem and neckline.)

Every morning, I reluctantly enter my closet. I feel utterly underwhelmed by my heaping mishmash of clothing sizes from 4 to 12. The clothes archive where I’ve been in size and life season — newlywed young adult, corporate cubicle-dweller, working mom, pregnant mom, newly postpartum mom, breastfeeding mom, exercising mom, socializing mom — but it doesn’t quite define me now.

Those dark wash flare jeans three sizes too big, those business-casual trousers, those tummy-flattening leggings… not me. The corporate blouses, the exercise tanks, the billowy cotton tunics… nope. The suede flats, the towering wedge knee-high boots, the platform heels… ha!

So, I consider hauling up my bin of old stand-bys. The plastic box labeled “Caitlin’s Non-Nursing Clothes” full of Gap v-neck Ts, Target tank tops, neutral sweaters, and striped boatneck tops. The style equivalent of a sigh.

“What in my closet makes me happy?” I ask myself. My vibrant Flying Tomato maxi skirts. Without a doubt, they are my favorites. Still, one can only wear them so often.

Part of me wants to overhaul my closet. Raze the mass of unflattering, unfitting, unsuitable fabric and start fresh. But what would I wear in place of it all? How would I possibly afford to replace it? Three printed skirts and a handful of nursing camis cannot a wardrobe make.

Back to Pinterest I go. Maybe I’ll find myself on another’s Pintrest board. Until then, I’ll feign an intense daily exercise regiment by donning active wear.

 

My Breastmilk Donation Journey

For one year, I have pumped three times daily for donation. That’s roughly 730 hours of pumping, predominantly to feed others’ offspring.

In the sleepless early months when supply was unregulated and ever-flowing, pumping three times daily was pure relief. My growing baby couldn’t possibly gorge himself enough to alleviate my oversupply. I also needed to deplete my reserves to manage my heavy letdown. If left unattended, engorgment would lead to clogs which would easily give rise to mastitis. (The dreaded “M” word… no one wants mastitis!) My heavy letdown caused my baby to choke and sputter, cry at the breast, and become gassy. So, I pumped.

I had entered into this third nursing relationship knowing I wanted to donate my surplus. I had discovered milk donation six months after having my second child. I had an overflowing freezer stash and needed to do something with the excess pumped milk. So I began researching and came across peer-to-peer milk-sharing.

I read through request posts on my state’s Human Milk for Human Babies and Eats on Feets Facebook pages. I discussed the possible venture with my husband. Then, I responded to a milk request.

At first, I had a recipient from a distant corner of my state who would occassionally retrieve milk. Then, I discovered I had a dairy allergy, and began donating every-other week to a local mom who required dairy-free donor milk. Once her daughter was weaned, I regularly shipped my milk to another recipient who lived in a bordering state four hours away. On occassion, I’d help a friend or acquaintance by giving 40-100oz. I also regularly donated milk while on vacation. Sharing breastmilk became akin to lending a cup of sugar to a neighbor; I had extra, she had none, so why not share?

This pattern continued until I was 19 months postpartum and very early pregnant with my third. Pregnancy has, thus far, been the only thing that dries my supply. As sad as I was to step away from donation, I knew wanted to rejoin the journey as soon as I could. So I did.

One week postpartum from my third child, I began pumping again. I wanted to start donating immediately, but I knew I needed to build a back-up milk stash, just in case. Three months and well over a thousand ounces later, I perused Human Milk for Human Babies’ page again. I posted an offer, received many responses, but one tugged at my heart so clearly I knew I’d found my milk baby. And so began my renewed journey of donating breastmilk.

Every few weeks my husband drops everything to help me ship breastmilk to my recipient. It is a lot of work but it’s a calling. On occassion, a friend traveling near my recipient will kindly agree to transport milk for me. Alleviating the stress, cost, and risk of shipping milk is always welcome.

Over the course of my donation journey, my surplus milk has fed 20 babies. To have the opportunity to help nourish so many children is a gift for which I’m immensely grateful.

As exhausting as it can be, I love being a breastmilk donor. Over 39 gallons of donated milk and one year later, I have yet to see a distinct endpoint to my path. As with everything in milk-sharing, it will be as it’s intended.

 

 

Breaking Boob Curfew

I was at dinner with a fellow mom-in-the-trenches when we both realized it was nearing my witching hour. It was 7:06 and I needed to be in #3’s room, in the glider, boob out, and ready for bedtime nursing in 9 minutes. Crap!

Signing the credit card receipt, I flashed back to three months ago when I arrived home just moments after boob curfew. It was utter chaos. #1 and #2 fighting in the tub, #3 wailing, Hubs about to lose his mind. It was not a good scene.

We bolt home. I drop off my friend, who thankfully lives just a few doors down from me, and I repeatedly push the garage door button from halfway down the street. I know full well it doesn’t work until I hit the driveway, but I’m blindly hoping to somehow speed my entry. I race in the door, hear children fussing, kick off my shoes mid-stride, untie my sundress halter as I take the steps two at a time, and arrive in the master bathroom ready to accept my penance.

Then I realize the actual scenario before me. Two of the three kids are half-naked. Hubs is filling the tub. #1 is lamenting the possibility that the bath suds may ruin her pedicure, #2 is moaning about having to go potty before entering the tub, and #3 is dancing while holding onto the tub ledge like a drunk guy shimmying at the bar to “Sweet Home Alabama.”

Everything was fine. I was not needed. Hubby looked at me in shock. “What was all that?” He asked, referencing my stampeding entrance. “I thought he was going to be freaking out,” I say, motioning to #3. #3 grins at me with his lopsided jack-o-lantern smile, and I realize that being a few minutes late is not the nightmare it used to be.

At nearly a year old, #3 is growing up. He still needs me, just not with the fierce dependence he used to. He’s more human and less leech these days.

I scoop up #3, praising him for the lack of belated-boobie bedlam. Put him in his pajamas, and nurse him into a sweaty, milky sleep. He’s still my baby.

 

Mom-friendly Swimwear Search

Swimsuit season is upon us! If you’re like me, breastfeeding has increased your bust size beyond reason. It’s like puberty all over again, navigating how to dress this new body type. And swimsuit shopping when you have multiple motherhood-related variables to factor into your swimwear quest… it’s five o’clock somewhere, right?

I searched various websites and stores for bra-sized swimwear that fit my measurements, allowed for nursing access, and existed in that non-matronly yet not uncomfortably revealing middle ground. That’s when I remembered Bare Necessities. I love Bare Necessities for undergarments and now I’ve found success with swimwear too.

For my newly large cup yet small band size, the brand Pour Moi offered attractive, supportive, comfortable, and wearable swim separates that allowed for nursing access. I particularly liked this brand because the underwire is widely curved so it doesn’t put unwanted pressure on my milk ducts. There are also non-halter options, which I like since — though I adore the look of them — halters hurt my neck and make me cranky.

Some of my similarly proportioned friends enjoy Panache swimwear too. I found the underwire too narrowly curved for my nursing needs, but not everyone is as clog-prone as I am. Both brands are available on Bare Necessities’ website.

Amazon is also an option, with free returns and faster shipping (unlike Bare Necessities.) The selection of bra size swim separates was more limited though. If you’re within a more standard sizing range, Amazon may be your best bet.

In previous years, when I existed in a standard bra size, I easily found great suits at Macys. I was able to try them on and buy them right there in the store. Now, though, that is no longer a feasible option because shopping with three kids is stressful — and bathing suit shopping doesn’t need any additional negativity tacked on to it — and my size would be pretty darn hard to find in a department store.

Good luck, mamas! I wish you the best in your swimwear search. Throw on that suit, silence your mind, and enjoy your summer. You deserve it!

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In a World of Killer Vegetables

In a world in which even frozen vegetables could kill us, I say choose your battles and keep it moving. We’re guaranteed to seem reckless, overprotective, uneducated, paranoid, lazy, over-achieving, or misguided to someone no matter what we do. There will be studies and articles and blogs and soothsayers that will oppose our every step. So, go with your gut and do your best.

Wearing sunscreen can be lethal, but not wearing sunscreen is also deadly. You should get daily doses of vitamin-D through unprotected time in the sun, but the sun is a cancer-causing fireball of death.

Mosquitoes are hazardous, yet bugspray is poisonous. And don’t even consider pesticides… SAVE THE BEES! Weed-killers are for Earth-haters but the “wild meadow” look has yet to be sanctioned by the HOA. Plastic is toxic but glass is toddler-unfriendly (and dowright hazardous to us accident-prone folks.) Tampons can kill you, yet pads are anything but “green” and menstrual cups are downright unsanitary. Whatever you do, though, don’t you dare go free-bleeding! “Breast is best” or is “formula fairest”? No matter what, hide your nipples and cover that cleavage because boobs are for porn and Victoria’s Secret ads only.

Screw it!

I’ll just be over here in a deadly sun spot wearing my Earth-hating disposable nursing pads and coating myself in the last of my poisonous spray-on sunscreen (because it was on clearance, dammit!), as I maniacally eat my lysteria-soaked frozen vegetables out of a reusable cancer-causing plastic container while swatting at murderous mosquitoes and dodging allergenic endangered bees in my weed-adorned yard. Thanks!