Marika Tsircou: “There Is No Comparison To A Mother’s Milk”

The latest advocate for attachment parenting comes to us from the TV series, Beverly Hills Nannies. Marika Tsircou and her attorney husband Kyri are proud parents to son Xander, 13 months, and they use a part-time nanny on the new hit reality show

Marika opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about being an attached parent and the benefits of co-sleeping and breastfeeding. “It will make your baby healthier, stronger and smarter,” she claims of breastfeeding on demand. Marika also dishes on the average paycheck of a Beverly Hills nanny and the over-the-top demands of wealthy families toward their children’s caregivers. Read on.

CBS: Tell us about your new hit reality series Beverly Hills Nannies. What’s it all about?

MT: It’s about a group of nannies in Beverly Hills and the families they work for. It’s about relationships, motherhood, nannies trying to figure out their place in the world in terms of who they are, how much they make per hour, etc. It’s a slice of life into homes you’d never normally see.”

CBS: Tell us about some of the over-the-top demands from wealthy families toward their nannies that we’ll see on the show.

MT: “I got smeared in the blogs for asking Justin for a foot rub on the pilot. I suppose it was over the top however my baby was 2-months-old, I’d been wearing heels all day while out shooting the pilot and carrying Xander around and my feet were killing from gaining 65 lbs. while pregnant.

Plus – and most importantly – what the cameras didn’t show was Justin refusing to change diapers or help out with the baby. He had no baby experience so I tried giving him other jobs, such as rubbing my feet and organizing my frozen stash of breast milk. He never ended up doing any of the above. People need to remember that with editing they don’t always see the 100% true and accurate picture of who someone is.”

CBS: How do you communicate with your nanny? Are you friendly? Is she viewed as a member of the family? Or an employee?

MT: “I am a very open and honest person with all my friends, family and employers. I’m the most loving mama and friend anyone could ask for. So yes, I’m friendly with my nanny. Amanda seemed like a girlfriend to me, which was so much fun because it was great to have someone helping me around the house a little bit who I enjoy being around and chatting with.

After the baby would go down for bed we’d chat and have a glass of wine and hang out before my husband got home from work. I really love her and have so much respect for her, as a friend and a nanny. It was fun doing the show together and she was very sweet with Xander.

It’s extremely difficult for me to leave Xander with anyone. We are pretty much always together as I’m practicing attachment parenting with him. I’m a breastfeeding, baby-wearing natural mama and it just feels normal and natural for me to take care of my baby and be with him all day. He completes me and makes me the happiest I’ve ever been. So I needed a nanny on the show who understood that I would pretty much always be around (except for when I’m in my studio painting), and would therefore need help with other things rather than just caring for my baby and handing my baby over to her.”

CBS: What is the typical fee for a nanny in Beverly Hills? What are the hours? Do they travel with you? Sleep overnight?

MT: “Every single person I know pays $12-$15 an hour. I only know one person who pays $20 and that’s for two kids, and even her nanny admits that is on the high end. I honestly don’t know where Kristen’s nannies get that they should be paid $40 an hour for a service that everyone else is paying $15 for.

I have the utmost respect for Amanda and Justin and if I had billions of dollars and money was absolutely no object, I would gladly pay them $100 an hour. Unfortunately that’s not the case and while we certainly have money and live very comfortably we need to buy a bigger house when I get pregnant again and we have many expenses.

We therefore don’t have the luxury of spending $40 an hour on a nanny, especially when we know that everyone in our circle pays $15. Until my hubby turns into Bill Gates we’re going to have to stick with a $15 an hour nanny.

The hours of nannies in Beverly Hills totally depend on what each family needs. We only need a part time nanny as I’m a stay at home mom and absolutely love taking care of Xander more than anything in the world. Therefore the only time I really need a nanny is one or two days a week so I can make it down to my studio to paint and sit at my desk to catch up on bills and emails. The rest of the time I am with Xander. He nurses a lot and we are very bonded and it wouldn’t seem natural to me to not be raising him myself 99.9% of the time.

We also, of course, need a nanny a couple nights a week as we go out twice a week. I always put Xander to bed myself though, as nursing is a big part of our bedtime routine and I enjoy giving him dinner, bath and reading books before we nurse. We have a routine. However, when we go out it’s very important to have someone here that Xander knows and that we trust implicitly in case he were to wake up.

Depending on the trip we would take our nanny. I’m very close to my mom so when we all travel together as a family (such as our Hawaii trip in June and Sun Valley, Idaho trip in August) we don’t need a nanny as that’s our special time to bond and Xander gets to spend extra time with his grandparents.”

CBS: Tell us about your baby Xander. How old is he? What is he into?

MT: Xander just turned 1 in August. It’s been the fastest year of my life. He’s the most amazing, sweet baby and when he smiles and laughs it truly melts my heart. He has captivated every single part of me and I’m more in love with this baby than I ever realized I could be. Obviously I love my husband tremendously but the love I have for my baby trumps any love I’ve ever experienced in my life.

It is because of this love that I want to be with him all the time and it feels only natural to be together all the time. Overnight I became a natural mama who is committed to extended breastfeeding, baby wearing and attachment parenting. Nothing else matters besides my baby. I would give everything up for him if it every came down to that.

He’s into everything! He’s a very active little boy. He started crawling at 5 months and started walking at 12 months. Instead of being a shoe fanatic I’m now a toy fanatic and have bought him all the most popular and fun toys to have in the house. He loves to play and laugh and talk. We take lots of classes every week, a music class, mommy and me class and baby gym class. He is very social and loves people and other kids. I love to take him to classes to see him interact with the other babies. This is the best time in my life nothing makes me happier than spending my days with Xander.”

CBS: We hear you’re a breastfeeding expert. What are some of your best breastfeeding tips?

MT: “My breastfeeding do’s and don’ts:

· Whatever you do, do no…I repeat do not listen to the nurses at the hospital who try to push formula while your milk comes in. Colostrum is the best thing for your baby and though it will be painful, difficult, exhausting and very challenging let your baby suckle all day and night if need be to stimulate your milk.

· Colostrum is all your baby needs until your milk comes in, so please be patient and work though the initial pain and frustration. It will get easier…I promise!

· Caving in and giving formula in the hospital before your milk even has a chance to come in, is setting yourself up for failure.

· Tell the nurses, ‘Thank you very much,’ but you’re sticking it out and that you’re 1000% committed to breastfeeding. Give it a chance before jumping to formula!

· Ask to see a lactation consultant in the hospital twice a day if you need to. Tell them you want to use the hospital grade pump to further stimulate your milk.

· Either rent a hospital grade pump to take home with you or buy a very high quality double electric pump (I had great success with Medela pumps).

· Once you’re home, if your milk supply is low, pump after each nursing session to increase your milk supply.

· Don’t forget that the first month or so is the most important, as that’s when your milk supply is being established. So this is the time to hunker down and nurse, nurse, nurse.

Feed on demand! Here’s why:

· Please, whatever you do, do no put your baby on a nursing schedule. Feed on demand!!

· Beware of the results; you’ll have a very happy baby and simultaneously boost your milk supply!

· If your milk supply is on over-drive, no need to pump more than once a day. I always recommend pumping at least once a day in order to start a reserve freezer stash.

· Invest in a deep freezer and pump a lot before your baby starts solids (the first six months is when you naturally produce the most milk before your baby starts solids).

· Working moms — In order to build up your freezer stash and have milk for a year to come or if you plan to go back to work: pump, pump, pump!

· Milk can be stored in a regular freezer for 4-5 months and in a deep freezer for up to a year. I use the ‘Medela milk storage bags’ and labeled them with date and ounces.

· Be sure to freeze in varying increments because once you defrost you cannot reuse or reheat. I stored in 2oz, 3 oz, 4oz, 5oz and 6oz increments.

· Be careful of blocked milk ducts if you plan to try to sleep through the night. Xander is 11 months old and I still haven’t night weaned him for a couple of reasons: a) to keep him happy and well fed, and b) to keep my supply up. He goes to sleep at 6:30 p.m., I pump at 11 p.m. before bed to add to my freezer stash and then he wakes at about 3 a.m. to nurse.

· It’s also a time of bonding for us when I go in and cuddle him in the middle of the night. I love our middle of the night feedings as they are so peaceful and tender and all about cuddling, love and true nurturing.

· Your baby will not want to wake up in the middle of the night forever, so my thought is to enjoy it while it lasts.

· Look at things positively instead of negatively. If you see it as a bonding time instead of a dreadful duty you will wake up happier.

· Please don’t make the mistake of having your hubby do a middle of the night feeding while you sleep. This is a sure fire way to lose your supply and get blocked ducked and/or mastitis.

· This goes for any time of the day your baby gets a bottle. Please have your nanny tell you the exact time she’s giving your baby a bottle and pump at that exact time so you’re on the same cycle. I can not stress how important it is to be on the same cycle.

· If you get blocked ducts and engorgement freeze cabbage leaves and put them inside your bra for instant relief. Our freezer was stocked with frozen cabbage for months!

· Whenever your baby gets a bottle you must pump.

· I still nurse Xander on demand and believe it’s always the best way. At eleven months sometimes he wants to nurse after four hours and sometimes after two, but I always take his lead. It’s far less rigid and more organic and natural to allow your baby to let you know when they’re hungry. I do pretty much always offer him the breast every three hours though and he lets me know whether he wants it.

Co-Sleeping helps build milk supply and is a great bonding experience.

· I believe in co-sleeping for the first six months. There are many ways to co-sleep. There are co-sleeping attachments for your bed or co-sleeping bassinets you can put in the middle of your bed. Or you can go the old fashioned route and just have your baby snuggled up against you, with the covers pulled down of course.

· I tried them all and eventually when Xander was 2.5 months old went the route of snuggling. He slept nestled in my breasts for six beautiful months and it was an amazing experience. Sure, I didn’t leave my house at night for that time or have plans with friends or see a movie or do anything but nurse and be with my baby, but nothing can ever take that away from us. Hands down I will do it again with our next baby.

· Six months is a perfect time to transition your baby to the crib. By this point, the baby will be on pureed solids and will be able to sleep longer stretches and will not be too overly attached to co-sleeping.

· Yes, of course it will be a slightly difficult transition, but co-sleeping for the first six months is invaluable for your milk supply and for meeting baby’s needs by easily nursing all night long without having to get out of bed. It’s easier on mom and baby.

· I also use ‘More Milk Plus’ supplements and ‘Fenugreek’ when needed. They can really help to boost your supply but must be taken regularly.

· Of course, eat oatmeal every day and drink a dark beer at night, these are both great for your milk supply. Limit the beer to one, though.

And lastly, words of encouragement: Don’t give up!!

· Breastfeeding is not without challenges but it is so worth it! I had severe blocked ducts, engorgement & mastitis. I had to go on antibiotics twice.

· I had a lactation consultant come to the house three times to help relieve my engorgement and help educate me on what to do. I did a ton of research. I refused to give up.

I promise there is another side to the madness at the beginning and it does get easy and becomes second nature. It will be something you will always fondly remember and cherish and something no one else can give to your baby. This is what we were meant to do as mothers. There is simply no comparison to a mother’s milk. It will make your baby healthier, stronger and smarter. Just say ‘yes’ to breastfeeding!”

CBS: How long are you planning to breastfeed your son? Is breastfeeding in public frowned upon in Beverly Hills? Do you proudly breastfeed whenever/wherever?

MT: “My original goal was one year but Xander has no idea he just turned one and to him it’s just another day he’d like to be nursing. He loves to nurse and I love to make him happy so I have no plans to wean anytime soon.

Sure, it’s a massive commitment and I can’t go out of town or leave him for more than a few hours, but honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. Ideally I’d love to let him self-wean. I want to get pregnant again this spring or summer so we’re just taking it one day at a time.

There are a great deal of women who nurse while pregnant and then even tandem nurse. I’d be a nursing rock star if I got that far. I just take his lead. I still nurse him whenever he wants. I’m not strict with him or on a nursing schedule. We are very organic with nursing and that’s what works for us.

I absolutely proudly breastfeed in public. When Xander was younger I used to use a cover but now that he’s older he tears the cover off faster than you can say ‘boob,’ so we leave the covers at home. It is the most natural way to feed your baby and it’s the norm in other countries to nurse until a child is three years old. If someone doesn’t like it, they can look away. The law is that a mother can breastfeed her baby in public, uncovered, anywhere and anytime and I am a law-abiding citizen.

I see many nursing mothers in Beverly Hills and think it’s great. I am the biggest breastfeeding advocate. I think it’s very sad when mothers who have milk opt to wean early just for convenience. Of course, it’s a personal thing but breastfeeding your baby is the greatest gift you can give and there is no substituting the bond you will always have with your child from extended breastfeeding.”

For more from Marika, follow her on Twitter @MarikaTsircou and on Facebook.

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