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Nursing at Keyboard (NAK): How to give boob and type too. 

In my delurking post yesterday, quite a few people said that they don't usually comment on my blog because they are nursing at the keyboard (NAK) when they read it. On breastfeeding and other parenting message boards, the acronym NAK is understood to mean: I'll keep this short and I may make typos, because I'm typing it while nursing my child.

When my kids were little, they nursed a lot. A LOT. They were both evening cluster feeders, which meant that my options for the evening were to sit on the couch and watch TV or read a book, or I could NAK. Nursing at the keyboard was often the best choice for me. Television was sometimes too loud and the Internet was just too compelling. But as someone who has mastered the art of typing, trying to type messages one-handed while nursing a baby quickly got old. Something had to be done about it.

So I worked out a system.

I would sit down in my office chair and put a regular pillow on my lap. I would then put a boppy pillow on top of the regular pillow. Then I would push my chair up to the desk so that edge of the boppy pillow was just slightly overlapping with the table and ensure there was no gap between the pillow and the table. Next I would put my baby on the boppy pillow, get him (and later her) into position to nurse. I could then stretch my arms over/around the baby and type at my keyboard. I could switch sides as needed and keep typing (I did better with the baby's head on the left, so usually aimed for that to be where he would fall asleep).

I often spent hours this way in the evening, either doing work, posting on message boards, talking to friends on facebook, and eventually starting this blog. My babies would sleep for stretches on the boppy pillow and nurse as needed. I didn't have to run upstairs to resettle them over and over again because they kept waking up.

Here is a picture of us in that setup:

There is a green coloured regular pillow on my lap, which you can see next to Emma's head poking out from under the boppy pillow. In this picture, I was doing some scrapbooking (which is visible in the picture) and just to the right of the scrapbook (but not visible on the photo) is my computer keyboard. I took this picture when I was chatting online with my friend and former kellymom co-moderator, Lori from Lori's Nursing Necklaces. She asked what I was up to and I said scrapbooking, nursing, and posting on kellymom and was able to immediately download and share the pic with her.

There you have it. I hope you find that useful and I hope that cuts down on the excuses for not jumping into the conversation around here! :)
« Wordless Wednesday: A hint of things to come... | Main | Delurk! (or in other words...please say hello) »

Reader Comments (77)

Ha! That's still my #1 reason for not commenting on blogs.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

I used to do something similar, but my problem as my sons got older (our computer was broken and not replaced during the time with my daughter) was the flailing arms. Plus they were all fairly sensitive and the sounds of the keyboard tapping disturbed them. Even the sound of book pages turning disturbed them. Strangely enough, TV didn't - I think as it was a continious noise . . .

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDara

Love this!
I couldn't breastfeed hands free though - my breasts are too large to facilitate that. I'm going to have to learn to type one-handed on my Touch if I have another bub - that way I can do couch-nursing and internet at the same time.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSpilt Milk

At the risk of sounding like a real bore, and a lead balloon, I believe babies deserve our undivided attention while they are nursing. I don't think babies should be multi-tasked. Feeding a baby is a naturally intimate moment together -- a time to look in each other's eyes and connect. We waste those moments of intimacy when we ignore the baby.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjanetlansbury

When they are awake and their eyes are open, that is great advice Janet. But when their eyes are closed and they are falling asleep, it doesn't really matter if I'm staring at their eyes or not.

Also, for a lot of moms in a lot of situations, it just isn't practical to stare into their baby's eyes all of them time when they are nursing. Newborns can nurse up to 12 times per day and if you have older children to care for, housework to do, errands to run, etc. you can't spend every feeding staring into your child's eyes.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I typed one-handed forever while NAKing. :)

Currently I using my Moby to hold C in in place while I'm on the keyboard --I'm using it as a ring sling with knots instead of rings (yes, very improvised). I wouldn't feel safe walking around like this, but it is great for sitting at the desk.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

ha! agreed, this is great. i spent have spent many an hour nursing at the keyboard, having made it through law school with one and the bar exam with another (took the bar exam when my 2nd was 4 mos old). for me, what worked when they were little was a sling - usually a ring sling, so I could cinch it up high. the sling gave me full use of the two hands for typing, and if babe fell asleep they were right there on me. took me a while to get my system just right, though; I remember many a night trying to type one-handed with the first one.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteramy

Sure, it's ideal to bond and gaze into each other's eyes and bond and connect, but there was only so much of that I could do -- especially when he was drifting off to sleep and dream nursing. My son was a marathon nurser -- he'd go 45 minutes on one side and snooze for 10 minutes and then a half hour on the other. I watched a lot of West Wing re-runs while we did this.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPamela

That is pretty much how I spent my daughter's first year. She now naps on her own (in "the big bed" where we all sleep) but until she was a little over a year old, she always napped on my lap, on the boppy, in front of the computer. When you add in all the non-nap nursing time, that was pretty much the majority of my day!

Now that she's on the move (17 months) I find that NAKing is often the only time I get more than a quick peek at the computer.

I must confess (Janet) that I'm often paying more attention to the computer than her while we're nursing (and, likewise, she's looking out the window watching the dogs in the backyard), but I know it's time to make the internet wait, and have a "goody" (our word for nursing) chat instead, when she reaches up, grabs my nose, and turns my head toward her!

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWhozat

Oh, one more thing - I am also quite large-and-floppy breasted, but once Peeper was big enough to not need everything to be "just-so" I was able to let go of my breast and just prop it with the boppy, so I could have both hand for typing. Sometimes I still need to sort of push up the end of the boppy to hold it in a good position.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWhozat

Honestly, I just think this is unrealistic and one of the reasons nursing can seem like "more work" than bottle feeding. Yes, nursing can and should be a great bonding time. But when you're 16 months into it, your child is still cluster feeding and nursin 10+ times a day, and you are looking around at all the other babies contentedly sucking on pacis or slurping sippy cups instead of nursing, it's easy for it to become a chore. I think nursing has to work for BOTH members of the nursing relationship....and for me, this has always meant being able to multi-task. I make my living and put dinner on the by working at the computer, writing. I also nurse my children until 2 and beyond. It's no accident that I have gotten nursing while writing down to a science.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan Francis

That, I love.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjanetlansbury

I believe in giving a baby focused attention while bottle feeding, too. I nursed 3 children into their second year and always made a point to not answer the phone, read or watch TV while I was nursing (or changing their diaper, or bathing them.) Babies need to be included in, and invited to participate in all of those intimate activities with us., not just have things done to them. I've never used pacifiers or sippy cups . (I'm not bragging, just want you to know it is possible.) I'm not a martyr -- far from it! To me it is pointless, and even unhealthy to nurse a baby while they are asleep. Would you want to be fed while asleep?

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjanetlansbury

You believe breastfeeding is just food. I know that it is much more than food. We've batted this one back and forth before and I'm not going to bother doing it again.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Honestly, if it's more than food, is it comforting for you to have someone give you half-attention (or less) while they are at the computer?

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjanetlansbury

My babies have always needed touch to sleep and to feel secure. Especially in the early days. That is normal. Babies do not go from the comfort of the womb to being completely independent beings. The need for touch that my kids both had did not turn off once they were asleep. My daughter was literally touching me for at least 22 out of the 24 hours in a day during the first 6 months of her life, either in a sling, on my lap, in my arms or in bed with me. She is now a very secure, independent, and happy 3 year old and when she does have the need to cuddle, I can devote my full attention to her because that need is not constant. It is intermittent.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

You know, you are now obligated to do a post on how to scrapbook while nursing at the same time :)

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlaura

I totally do this! Not so much anymore, but like you said when she was younger (year and under) she would only sleep while nursing (basically using me as a pacifier, which I was fine with). I loved cinching up the breastfriend nursing pillow with a blanket on top. I even answered the door like that! Now she is older (15 months) and will lay down next to me and nurse awake. I love it because we can play with each others hair and giggle. Before she was an instant eyes closed and asleep nurser. I still do surf and nurse on my iPhone (like right now) during the nighttime feedings.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber Lee

I thought I just did. :P

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

NAK: genius. And what I'm doing right now. I like your setup, but bunny is such a squirmer! One of these days I'll give it a shot!

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

It doesn't work all that well when they are fully awake. But it is great for when they are nursing to sleep or sleeping and still need to be touching you.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I guess so! You are much more organized than I am, though - I always end up forgetting something in my craft closet so it's an up-and-down endeavor for me!

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlaura

I did a lot of this, too. At one point I had a chair with arms at just the right height to hold up the sides of the boppy, with the front resting on the desk (so no need for a pillow on my lap). The only trouble is that being so short, I had to raise my arms unnaturally high to get over baby's head - but that was a small price to pay for the freedom of access to the internet during a marathon comfort nursing session!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

Of course infants are not independent beings. Infants need us for survival, and they accept whatever they receive. They may not be able to express their wish for undivided attention as Whozat's 17-month-old eloquently did, but they need and desire our mindful presence from the beginning. It's true that I believe the focus of breastfeeding is feeding, but to me, the experience of feeding a baby is about much more than food. It is a loving, caring ritual to be shared, not ignored. Babies don't want a human drinking fountain or pacifier. They want to connect with our minds and hearts while they are connecting with our bodies. That makes them feel important and valuable to us.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjanetlansbury

Oooohhh... look at all the Creative Memories stuff ;)

I use to NAK when the baby was tiny and cluster feeding a lot. But then again, I would walk around nursing too. I reserved these until after the baby was asleep (since I never minded being a pacifier!). Now, I'm sure the littlest one would rather use the computer than pay attention to feedings!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCorey

This is TOTALLY how I have a "life" beyond the home!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbaby-led mama

I would argue that constant, focused attention is bad for kids and even for babies. They need to realize that they are not the center of the universe. At some stages they need more undivided attention, but many times, less is better. If we do nothing but care for them and play with them when they are awake, how will they learn about our world? Try going to the grocery store and giving a toddler or baby undivided attention. And to do nothing while baby is nursing, when you are nursing so many hours, sets an unrealistic and nearly impossible standard. Janet, I'm glad it worked for you, but for most mothers it won't.
Even though our attention is focused on the computer, phone, or older child, a nursing mom is still hyper-aware of the baby in her arms. If she is restless the mom can stop what she is doing.
Of course there has to be a balance with lots of time for gazing into baby's eyes, playing with kids, etc.

Ditto for me @spilt milk Even at 13 months I usually have to do some "boob holding." I do use "nak" on message boards to mean...i'm typing 1 handed and can not be held responsible for lack of punctuation and/or spelling.

I think there is something to be said for "being in the moment" and I would definitely advise new moms to connect while nursing (while some books talk about having a nursing station with books, magazines, etc.). However, it is unrealistic to expect *every* nursing session to be the quintessential bonding moment. Think about it like this. When I'm blogging after the baby is in bed I could be in my office while my husband is in the living room watching TV but I prefer to sit next to him on the couch - near, sometimes touching, sometimes with feet propped on him. Is this undivided, soul-shattering bonding? No. Is is a connection I've chosen to share while also pursuing my other responsibilities? Yes.

It is important for children to see you taking time for yourself either in responsibility (work) or leisure. We teach our daughters how to take care of themselves in addition to others (boys too, I have only a girl). There is also very good backing for the idea of babies being present concurrently with normal daily life and not having their interaction always be a stopping of normal household activity (see Continuum Concept which specifically promotes that babies SHOULD be multi-tasked!).

I am astonished that there is judgement from another mama about nursing at the effin' keyboard! Just, wow. I suppose, @janetlansbury, if you feel that nursing their child should not be combined with anything else, and that your child should have your undivided attention for every singel minute of every single hour that they are nursing, and that your child should not be nursed while asleep, then that's fine, but I'll say you have never nursed my child, and you have NO RIGHT to say that I'm doing something wrong by doing what works for both my little guy and myself. I'm so sad to see that part of this thread.

On the other hand, Annie - scrapbooking while nursing?! Brilliant! Loved this post.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

NAK worked great for the first four months. Then my kiddo decided to start helping me type, and was just generally discontent to sit still. Just in the for the National Novel Writing Month, too!

Now he's eight months and has put up with my reading blogs and writing this reply -- he needed cuddles. Soon he'll want to get down and find something on the floor to get into, so I'll have to chase him down. :P

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSerene

Janet, I don't use pacifiers or sippy cups (except occasionally at the table--not as a bottle/breast substitute), either, and it never occurred to me that it could be something to brag about. However, I also know that babies and toddlers often have strong sucking needs, and that by opting not to give the paci, I would need to give my children another outlet for non-nutritive sucking. For us, that outlet is nursing. And no, I don't nurse *totally asleep* babies. However, especially when they are little, there is definitely a period of time in which my babies are dozing/waking/dozing at the breast. And if they're the (biologically normal) sort of babies who nurse 45 minutes out of every hour for the first few months, it can start to feel like you do nothing but breastfeed all day long. Is a mom honestly supposed to gaze into her new baby's eyes for twelve hours a day? Really? Honestly, I would think that a little weird and unhealthy. Even as they get older and spend less time at the breast, it would just feel really unnatural and forced to me to be staring at them throughout every nursing session, beginning to end. Every baby deserves focused attention--and lots of it--but I also think there's something to be said for getting out of their faces a little and letting them experience the world. And for a nursing baby or toddler, often they experience the world from the security of Mom's breast. And I have to admit I'm chuckling a little at the idea of nursing being "done to" a toddler, or that babies "don't want" human pacifiers. I don't think you could force or even coerce a baby to nurse even if you wanted to. And breasts were around long before pacifiers, so I think it more accurate to call pacifiers "latex humans", don't you?

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan Francis

Oh barf. Someone really wants to feel superior to all the other moms... Ok, you win at breastfeeding. You win at life.

Seriously, my child nursed non-stop through most of her infancy. She often fell asleep latched on, and it was more a question of NOT disengaging her and risking waking her up than a question of "feeding a totally asleep baby." not only that, but we did and do have lots and lots of intimate, cozy, attention-filled moments. No, my child does not need or want my undivided attention every second of the day or every waking second or every nursing second.

I've actually heard people argue against nursing in public for this very reason. Oh, it's such an intimate moment, you shouldn't share it with the world! Find a nice cozy spot out of everyone's sight so that you can properly stare into each others eyes in a tableux of angelic maternity. Well, sometimes breastfeeding is like that, but sometimes it's just mundane. Requiring 100% magical mommy times is just another way that breastfeeding is seen as only for "best" mothers, which nobody is (except you of course) and therefore something that most normal mothers can and should give up.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

Hannah, I couldn't agree more.

My babies, while precious, loved, and nurtured, are members of the family, not suns for the rest of us to orbit. Even though it may sometimes seem that way. :)

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan Francis

Paige, that is a really excellent analogy.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeagan Francis

I love this quote on the topic of "human pacifiers" vs. "latex humans":

"You are not a pacifier; you are a Mom. You are the sun, the moon, the earth, you are liquid love, you are warmth, you are security, you are comfort in the very deepest aspect of the meaning of comfort.... but you are not a pacifier!" -- http://www.mother-2-mother.com/" rel="nofollow">Paula Yount

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Neither of my boys ever gazed lovingly into my eyes while nursing, they were either more interested in eating, or were falling asleep! We still managed to create a really deep bond :) Mind you, I rarely ever did do anything while nursing them, mainly because they were very disctractible! If I tried to watch TV, they'd try to watch too. If I read a book, they'd yank it out of my hands and throw it on the floor LOL I never attempted NAK. I would have liked to multi-task more, my boys nursed A LOT. I think it's unrealistic to say moms shouldn't multi-task while nursing, and unfair to call it ignoring the baby -- especially if there is more than one child to look after! That's what makes baby carriers so great too, baby goes along for the ride while mom plays with or tends to the older child(ren). And in many cases, mom can nurse baby in the carrier too. I don't call that ignoring the baby, I call that genius!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I also wanted to add that, when she's not saying, "Hey, Mama! Down here!" if I "engage" my daughter while she's nursing, she'll be too distracted to nurse. She general asks for my more direct attention when she's finished actually nursing.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWhozat

I’m late on the de-lurking thing. I’m a recent reader, beginning with the web analytics post. I’m not a frequent commenter on parenting blogs in general, mostly because I am an older mom (20-something daughters) and I don’t like to sound like some crabby old know-it-all. When my kids were babies, I hated when people my age foisted unasked-for advice on me and I vowed never to do that to younger moms.

I also love the NAK acronym. The internet was not at all user-friendly in the 80s when I was nursing my babies, but I was computer-literate then and so have some NAKking experience. I would have loved to have had access to social media in those days and probably would have been one of the pioneers of "mommy" blogging (-:

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkayak woman

Awesome photo! It gave me a good giggle--I remember the days when my little guy fit on a pillow. Now that he's two, he still likes to finish his nap in-arms at the computer when he's having a particularly snuggly day (it seems to help him recharge, even if he is asleep), but it definitely leaves me typing one-handed! I never found that keeping my attention on him was a problem--when he was very young he was mostly dozing when we were at the computer, and by six months he knew how to get my attention if I got distracted!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIsabelle

oh I love that quote. I read it first when my daughter was little and it has stayed with me.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

My iPhone lets me read blogs & use Twitter while nursing in almost any position. I did a lot of NAK with my daughter but i'm at a computer less often while nursing my son because I can do so many things on the iPhone.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThat Danielle

I am RIGHT NOW NAKing both my 6 month old twins. My laptop fits on my lap behind them and I can type with both hands, arms under their heads. I'm tall, so this works well. Only now they're starting to try to kick my laptop. *sigh* But I'm always NAKing one or both of them.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJean

I remember tallying up one day how many hours I spent nursing my son when he was a newborn. It came out to over 8hours in a 24hr cycle. That's a full-time job. I spent several of those hours gazing at him and reveling in his adorableness. But, honestly, those were also some of my very few free hours to do things like read. Or even eat. (b/c any free time I had where I was allowed to sleep, I would, so nursing was pretty much my only sit-and-do-stuff-while-sitting time).

Parenting is a hard enough job without people telling us we have to be paying attention to our beloved children every.single.second. It is insulting to loving, attentive mothers to be told we are ignoring or neglecting our children by not constantly gazing into their eyes as they nurse.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

PS- I forgot to add above that when I read this post last night (on my itouch, thus no comment), I was amazed at how BRILLIANT!!!! this is. Thank you very much for passing this tactic on. I hope to be able to use it in the future. =)

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarcy

I have exclusively nursed twins. I am sometimes nursing for over 8 hours a day. I also have two other children, bills to pay, communication to catch up on and a husband who works 12-16 hour days. Yes, sometimes the babies get my undivided attention while I nurse, but sometimes I pay bills, make playdates, look up lesson ideas for my homeschooled kids, talk to my husband on IM, book activities for the kids, look uprecipes - while I nurse. Then when I am through I am able to give the olders more undivided attention - which they deserve too. There is a time and a place for everything.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJean

You must not have underweight children then and been threatened with the "failure to thrive" label? With all of my children when they were tiny often every calorie in counted - so the light, flutter sleep nursing was so, so important to their continued good weight gain (and my supply issues were helped by any time at the breast, awake OR asleep, spent nursing). Not to mention the comfort they got from sleep nursing.

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJean

I have been seeing that acronym for years, and I could never figure out what it stood for. Thank you!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

This almost makes me miss the early days where all I did was sit and nurse, and nurse, and nurse. Alexa was on the boob more often than not. I usually just read or typed one-handed (or waited till Peter came home and he would hold her while she napped). There was FINALLY a time a few months in where Alexa was strong enough to hold herself a bit and we got into a good groove. I had both hands back! I would sit Indian Style on the couch, her in the boppy, laptop to my side. Still typing one handed, but at least I didn't need both arms to prop her. I never tried your setup. IF (BIG BIG IF) I ever have another baby, I'll try it out for sure! Looks MUCH more comfortable than when I used to try to do this in bed. Computer on the mattress in front of my lap, me hunched over the baby trying to type :P

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

in a cluster feeding right now!!! i type w/ one hand!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterabbie

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