S1E5 Alexis’ Story | New Little Life Breastfeeding Podcast
In this week’s episode, I am joined by Alexis: a licensed naturopathic doctor, lactation consultant, and mom of one due with her 2nd baby any day now. We talk about her breastfeeding journey, the impact of her professional experience, and how she’s preparing differently for her next baby. Alexis is the cohost of her own podcast, blog, and has a great social media presence so be sure to check out the links below to connect with her!
Connect with Alexis
- Website: http://strongfoundationsnaturalhealth.com/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/strongfoundationsnaturalhealth/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/strongfoundationsnaturalhealth
- Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/mommas-munchies-and-little-monsters/id1539603328
- Podcast’s Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/mommasmunchieslittlemonsters/
- Blog post on preparing for breastfeeding during pregnancy: http://strongfoundationsnaturalhealth.com/5-ways-to-prepare-for-successful-breastfeeding/
Links from Allison
- ONLINE BREASTFEEDING COURSE https://newlittlelife.teachable.com/p/online-breastfeeding-class
- Support the Podcast on Patreon https://patreon.com/newlittlelife
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Hello again, and welcome to the third episode of the New Little Life podcast. Today I’ve got a great interview to share with you from Alexis who is a naturopathic doctor and mom of one– very soon-to-be mom of two. Actually, since I recorded this interview with her, she’s had her second baby and a very big congratulations to her. She’s going to be talking to us today about her experience breastfeeding her first, especially with her unique medical training and also how she’s prepared for her second one after having already done this once before. If you’d like to connect with her, I’ve got a bunch of her information down in the show notes. Before we get started today, though, I just wanted to remind you that New Little Life has an online breastfeeding basics course that is available for you and can help you get started on the right foot. So if you’re planning to breastfeed soon, or even if you are already started and you just want a better understanding of breastfeeding, I’ll leave a link down for you in the show notes. It’s basically the class that I would teach you if you took a breastfeeding class from me in real life. So now, especially where many of us have COVID restrictions and things that make it difficult to take an in-person class, this might be a good option for you. So I will leave it down there for you to explore. Okay. We’ve got a lot to learn from Alexis. So let’s jump into today’s interview.
Hi Alexis. I’m so excited to talk with you today. We were just catching up a little bit before we started, and I wish we’d had more time together, but the military had taken us apart very quick. So I’m excited to chat with you today.
Absolutely. I’m excited to be here.
Cool. Can you start out and tell us just a little bit about yourself, your family what you do?
So I’m a licensed naturopathic doctor. So I specialize in natural and holistic health. I’m also a certified lactation consultant. I am soon-to-be a mom of two, any day now. And I have an almost two and a half year old. So definitely busy with balancing my own practice. I have my own practice at Strong Foundations Natural Health. That’s where I am on Instagram and Facebook, as well as my website www.strong foundationsnaturalhealth.com. I’m also a host of a podcast called Mommas, Munchies, and Little Monsters.
Yes, I love it. If you haven’t checked it out yet, go listen. It’s been really, really fun.
I’m a cohost with my dear friend from school. She’s a pediatric naturopathic doctor, so we tag team a lot of different topics. She goes into depth more on the kiddo side. Sometimes I’ll go into depth on the pregnancy, breastfeeding, adult side. So we’ve really enjoyed doing that. The whole theme is families and moms and kids. We talk a lot about the foundations of health and diet and all of those natural things. That’s where the mamas, the munchies for diet, and little monsters comes from. So it can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, most general podcast platforms. So check us out there. And we also have an Instagram account where we post a little bit more information about the things we talk about. Our last one was on sleep, which is super important.
I just downloaded it. I’m going to listen to it tomorrow while I’m cleaning the house in the morning. I’m really looking forward to the sleep one.
Yay! We tend to sometimes go with some things that are applicable personally, being late in pregnancy. The pregnancy insomnia kicks in and all the worries of getting kiddos to sleep there too. So we definitely covered a pretty good, broad range of topics in that one.
That’s great. I’ll put a bunch of links down in the show notes for the listeners so they can find you. That’d be fun. Actually, just this morning I was doing the math. My little guy is three and a half months old now, and I was trying doing the math on when the last time I had slept through the night was. Because I remember the end of pregnancy, like where you are.
Yeah. Not too much sleep to be had, which is unfortunate since it’s your last few precious moments. Or it feels like that.
It’s good preparation for after the baby comes, I guess. I don’t know.
Yeah. That’s what I try to think about. Keep it positive.
Well, great. I am really excited to chat with you about your breastfeeding experience, especially with your first one. And especially from the perspective that you have as a naturopathic doctor, but also a first-time mom. I know that just comes with a lot of things too. So can you tell us a little bit about breastfeeding your first one? You could start right at the beginning with the birth, if you want. Wherever you’d like would be great.
So I definitely was pretty committed to breastfeeding. Obviously in medical school, we go over a lot of the benefits– both for mom and for baby. As a naturopathic doctor, we talk a lot about the health of the gut. So it’s really–in my mind–an important start for a baby to start out on breast milk. As a first time mom, I think we head into it a little rosy eyed, and feeling like, “It can just be what happens. I want to do it. It’s just gonna flow, given my education.” Those sorts of things. I knew that there was obviously some challenges that can come up, as a lactation consultant. In my education, we went over all of those things to tackle. So I knew going in, but I think in the back of my head had a thought like, “Oh, this is just gonna happen. It just happens.” For the most part, it was not too terrible. My birth, I had my child with a midwife at the birth center and that went wonderfully. She took to breastfeeding pretty quickly. We of course had her breastfeeding seconds after she was born, at least attempting to. And then a few hours later we came home and you’re –*just let free in the breastfeeding realm. And as a lactation consultant, in the back of your head you think, “Oh, I should know everything I need to know about this.” But you don’t. No matter how hard you try. It’s really hard to breastfeed and make any sort of assessment from this angle.
Yes, I totally agree.
The first two days were a little bit rough. We had some latch issues. She was a little bit on the smaller side, so we definitely had some issues with getting a proper latch with her. And you know, looking down, it was hard for me to even assess it myself, even though I knew what I was looking for. So on day two, I believe, I made an appointment with the lactation consultant here, local to me. And went in and I think it was for the morning of day three. Overnight from night two to night three, my milk came in and that made the latching aspect a lot easier. But I still went, and I still got some pointers and some tips on what she could see that needed a little bit of improvement. And she encouraged me, she did a weighted feed. From that point on, it just got a little bit easier. I didn’t really have any issues with like cracking or bleeding, but I definitely was starting to get raw. I think if I had stayed on that trajectory, my problems would not have gotten much better. So it was definitely important to reach out, even for someone who knows what they’re looking for and have someone give you some tips and pointers. And then from, I think it went pretty easy from there. My goal was to let her decide when she wanted to wean. So we were going pretty strong still. We had night weaned and we were doing mostly before bed and before naps and then I got pregnant. So that was a little bit of a challenge. And we ended up doing a gentle weaning process with her when I was about 18 weeks pregnant. It just really sensitive and I didn’t want it to turn into something that I was resenting at all. And she took to it pretty well. There wasn’t much of a struggle really. So I think she was also at a place where she was ready to be lightly encouraged. So yeah, we were just under two years for my breastfeeding journey with my daughter.
That’s great. Yeah, I love it. So you were already trained as a lactation professional before you had your baby, right?
Okay. And had you done some work with other moms and had a little bit of experience in that area? Or were you newly trained? I can’t remember your timeline there.
Yeah, I still was on the more new side because I had actually finished my training about three months before we moved to Oklahoma. So I had not a ton of time under my belt working with others in the same way. While I was graduating and in my clinical work, I definitely was on that side anyways. So I did have some work with supervisors and other doctors. It’s actually fairly common for naturopathic doctors to work with breastfeeding. So we had some supervisors who were well-trained in it. So I had done a little bit of hands-on training and those sorts of things before I did my my coursework, and then I did the coursework, and then I moved here, and then I got pregnant. So I did as much as I could beforehand working with other people, but I was still a little bit newer then.
Did you always know you just were going to breastfeed? Were you exposed to that when you were growing up as a child or youth? Or did your opinions of that change when you were doing your study and naturopathic medicine and stuff like that?
Yeah. I wasn’t very exposed growing up or in my early adulthood. As I went to school, I figured out I wanted to do more women’s health, and kids pediatrics, and those sorts of things. So that’s where my interest really sprung up. And then because most naturopathic doctors–the profession is almost exclusively women– I was lucky enough to have quite a few friends who ended up having babies either while in school, or just before school, those sorts of things. So I was exposed more to it by my friends than necessarily growing up with it. Later on, I was more exposed than I was early on, but once we started studying the science behind it, and all of the medical aspects– I was sold before, but I was even more sold after that.
Did you do any prep during your pregnancy? Like any classes or watching YouTube or talking with other moms? Did you feel like you needed a little bit of extra prep during your pregnancy? Or were you like, I’m just going to do this and take it one day at a time?
Being the medical nerd that I am, took it a little bit further. So I decided that I would use my education and I have a few books. I have the Breastfeeding for the Medical Professional and then The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. So I basically scoured those books in the process of writing a blog post about how to be prepared in pregnancy for breastfeeding. Often when I have something that I personally want to research, I usually transform that into something like a blog post or a social media post or something like that. I just recently did one on stress in how it affects fertility, pregnancy, and childhood outcome. So that’s just another example of when I take real life of what I’m experiencing and I figure other moms are experiencing that too, and I turned it into something else. So that was really the only preparation that I did– was just doing a little bit of extra research, and looking at tips and pointers on how to prepare for the breastfeeding aspect of it. And I can go ahead and say the number one thing that I think that is important in preparation is reaching out to resources, finding the lactation consultant that you want to work with. If you can, meet with them beforehand so you’re comfortable with them. Whether or not you feel comfortable with your newborn going someplace to meet with someone or whether you would rather have them come into your home, but just figuring out where your resources are within your community, and having that number on speed dial for when you need it.
You read my mind. I was just going to ask you if you already knew that lactation consultant that you saw. But I’m assuming you did, because that was only day two that you called somebody.
Yeah, so I had a doula who was wonderful. She came and gave me some advice as well. And then I ended up actually going to the hospital where I did not deliver and seeing them there as well. I hadn’t reached out to her beforehand, but it was easy to just make a quick appointment and to go there and just get a quick second opinion. And that was wonderful. She did great. So I’m really glad that I did that.
Yeah. Even just knowing who to call or where to go, when something comes up, I think is super important. Just having the numbers or at least the resources.
Exactly. And knowing that I could go to the hospital and they had a lactation consultant there who would take appointments. That was definitely something I knew in advance and had on hand.
I think that’s actually really common that you don’t actually have to have delivered at the hospital to utilize their lactation services. I think that’s really common, but I don’t think people know that like, “Oh, they have a lactation counselor over here, but I didn’t deliver there. I delivered over here.” But I feel like the lactation department is usually separate from the delivery. I mean, I know they go down and see the delivery people, but you really can just call and make an appointment with the lactation people. They don’t care. They’re there to help.
Exactly. That’s awesome.
Do you remember anything specific that you were told– especially in those early days, your visit with the lactation counselor– something that really made a difference and put you on a better path? Like you said, “changed your trajectory”, I think is how you worded it. Do you remember any specific advice that you were given?
Yeah, so one of my favorite ones, which it doesn’t ring true for everybody, but I really love the advice that’s pretty common: to not give up on a difficult day. So when things get hard, don’t make that the day that you feel like you need to give up. If you’re needing a different solution, or it’s really not working for you, or you feel like you’ve tried everything…there’s a wide range of reasons why moms might need to breastfeed less or not breastfeed– mental health considerations, medications that they might need to take for their own health, those sorts of things. If any of those things are coming up, I just really remind people don’t quit on a bad day. We can get really in our heads and really down. And I know if I had quit on my worst day, I would have regretted it. I wouldn’t have been happy with my decision in the future. So I try to remind people just don’t quit on a bad day. Get yourself to a better day if you can, and reassess there, and definitely talk about it. I think sometimes moms are left alone to figure all of these things out. And whether that’s talking with your spouse, your doctor, your best friend– talking about these concerns for new moms and especially around breastfeeding, I think is really important. I’m a strong believer in the fact that we didn’t always have to do this all on our own. We’ve evolved as a human population where we had a community usually around giving birth and having children. And there’s a lot of advice and help that comes along with that. And when we’re in these isolated pods now– especially now with isolation we’re required to do, it’s really, really important for moms to reach out and make sure that they’re getting the help that they need–breastfeeding or otherwise.
That’s perfect. I’m so glad you said that. It’s part of the experience and nobody is supposed to do this alone, or just with your partner who doesn’t have a clue about breastfeeding anyway. You’re not just meant to stay at home and figure it out. So that’s an awesome reminder. Speaking of partners, was your partner supportive of your breastfeeding? I know some dads or husbands can feel a little bit left out like the mom is doing everything. Do you remember any any funny things like that or tell us about that relationship?
He’s always been really supportive. I feel lucky for that. He’s always given me whatever space or help I needed to make it work. My final paper for my education for lactation consultant was on the laws and regulations of public breastfeeding. So he knew that women being able to breastfeed in public without being hassled was really important to me. So funny little story is that he’s always waited for somebody to like say something to me or hassle me in public while I was breastfeeding. Cause he wanted to see the mama bear come out.
He’s been waiting for this happen.
Yes. And I do remember like right when I moved here, when I was still pregnant the local mall here in Lawton, the security asked a mom to cover up.
I remember that!
And they a nurse-in and I was still pregnant and I was like, “I really want to go, but I don’t have anything to nurse.”
I remember that. Yes, that was interesting. Yes. The mom community there in Oklahoma was not impressed that a mom had been asked to cover up or move, who was just feeding her baby. Oh, I had forgot about that. Yeah.
Yeah. He is always been really great with the side of just waiting for somebody to try and say something to me about it.
So have you ever had anyone say something to you negative?
No, I haven’t.
I know, I feel like this is a huge fear for moms and honestly, I have had very little encounters with it as well. I remember being worried the first few times you do that. Actually, I’ll tell you the other day at the commissary I went and it’s super awkward, there’s like no place to feed your baby there. And my baby was hungry. It was just me and him. So I went up to the front, like by the registers, there’s like benches, but you’re facing the registers. It’s really awkward. And I was feeding the baby and this mom comes up and she’s like, “I’ve totally been where you are. Can I buy you like a drink or a snack? Like, what do you need?” And I’m like, you know what, this is how it’s supposed to be. You’re supposed to encourage each other. And I’m not new at this breastfeeding thing. So even if I had caught flack, it wouldn’t have bothered me. But I could just picture a new mom sitting there and to have someone come up and offer such support, I thought was a really sweet thing to do.
Yeah, absolutely. In the beginning it was really hard. And I tried using covers and all those things and that just didn’t jive well. She didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. Especially in the beginning, there’s too many things to juggle and try and figure out along with the cover for me. So I ditched it pretty early on– that aspect of trying to cover or put something over her. There’s a few instances where I did try to go with that. And that was only for my comfort and not for anyone else’s comfort. And mostly that was just at work functions of my husband because I felt a little weird having my husband’s bosses seeing that too. So I did attempt to like move to at least a private corner and not be quite as in the open with it at those functions. But that was really the only place where I felt I wanted to be a little bit more discreet. Otherwise I’m an open book. Like this is just what’s happening and it’s, what’s natural.
You bring up a good point. It doesn’t really have to be one or the other. You don’t have to be like, “Look at my boobs, I’m feeding my baby” or like in the corner under a blanket. I mean, it really should be whatever you feel you want to do, you know?
Yeah. I like your assessment of the situation, but it should always be the choice of the mom, not somebody else who might feel uncomfortable about it. It’s a stranger, at least in my opinion. That was kinda my public breastfeeding journey.
Have you done anything different to prepare this time around for your second baby? Do you think you’ll do anything differently– especially in the early, early time? I’m curious to know the second time around how you’re gonna do things a little different.
Yeah. so I think in all things with second babies, I have this vision in my head that things are just going to be exactly the same, which I know is not always the same. Two breastfeeding journeys can be completely different. Two babies can be completely different. So I’m trying to forcibly open my mind to things being slightly different. So with my first, since I was able to be mostly at home with her, I didn’t have to use an electric pump for much. I did use a hand pump as well as the Haakaa to have a little bit of a stash of my freezer, for when I needed to go out and my husband fed her with a bottle. She did take a bottle and go back and forth pretty easily, but it was never really something we relied upon too much. So this time I busted out my electric pump, made sure it was still working, since I never had actually even used it. Made sure I still had the manual so I could figure out what all the settings mean, in case I needed it. And then, just made sure that the tools I was used to using my hand pump and my Haakaa and those things were still in working order and could still be used. Just getting the products together that I liked using– my nipple butters and all of those things. And last time I had like a little diaper caddy with stuff in it that I took with me wherever I went. Getting that stocked up this time. I have most of it like right next to my bed since I realized it’s mostly happening there for the first couple of weeks anyways. So I’ve got like my little breastfeeding stations set up right at my at my bed. I think that’s mostly it. Just making sure the things and the tools that I might need are there. I did have nipple shields and the collecting cups as well. So like getting those set and ready, making sure that I have the tools that I use if I get a clog or anything like that, which I never had to deal with before. Thankfully, knock on wood. I was not challenged with those. But making sure if I needed them, that they were there. And that I didn’t have to wait three to four days with Christmas shipping on Amazon for things to get there when you need them. So that’s the extent of what I’ve done with preparation this time.
I love the little caddy idea and just like all your breastfeeding stuff. Because even if you’re not using supplies, I can guarantee you’ve got like some nursing pads in there and maybe a water bottle and your lanolin or your nipple butter. You’re going to have some little things and just having something to be like, “Hey partner, could you run and grab my breastfeeding tote?”
Yes. Things for mom too. Like, I’ve put my chapstick in there and I’ve had a few like Lara bars or little protein bars, emergency snacks in the middle of the night. Even just little things for me because you get stuck like your couch or your bed just has an imprint of your tush for a few hours. And having your little essentials– backup water, whatever you need. Having those right at your hand, I remember really, really, really appreciating. My husband didn’t quite get very much paternity leave that he was supposed to, so I was very quickly on my own. So I had to make do with what I could and have those things. I couldn’t be like, “Hey, someone get me some water.” So I had to make sure I had like my little snack pack and my little tools right next to me most of the time. Cause those hours just fly by and you realize, “I haven’t moved an inch.”
Yep, I remember. You mentioned your freezer stash. How much milk did you usually keep in the freezer just as you exclusively breastfed? You know, so you’re not bottle feeding. How much did you like to have in your stash?
So I didn’t really have a goal or any guidance. In the beginning I did pretty well over producing. I mean, it’s, it is over producing because it was extra beyond what my daughter needed. So every day I had anywhere from probably three to six ounces, extra on top to put away. I didn’t do it consistently. So I think I did it maybe for the first six months. So this is an interesting story. I had quite a few ounces and like I said, my husband worked most of the time, so I didn’t really have reason to use a ton of it. But I did have a friend who was having trouble with her breastfeeding journey. So it actually happened before all of my milk expired. So I was actually able to give all of what I had to her, for her son.
Oh I love that.
Yeah. I did a few donations a little bit earlier around six months, I donated a few blocks– Ziploc bags full of the three ounce storage bags. So I did donate a little bit there. And then I had probably like four or five of the big gallon Ziploc bags to give to her in the very beginning when she was still working on building her supply and those sorts of things. Which it’s a big thing. And I didn’t really think about the donation aspect. With my first, there was something about the prepper in me. I just wanted to have like a little stash just in case something happened. If I got sick or something like that, I wanted to make sure that she at least had breast milk for a little bit longer. If I couldn’t be exclusively feeding her at the breast. And that’s actually something I’m thinking about this time is being able to build a little bit more of a stash, being able to donate a little bit more to moms in need. Because if the journey goes the same way, I think I can be someone who produces extra beyond what my daughter will need and then be able to help other families and babies.
Well, that’s so great. That takes dedication and commitment too, because not only are you feeding the baby, you’re expressing the extra and most of the time, if you just don’t express the extra, I feel like your milk just regulates out and eventually you just make what your baby needs, which is what your body is supposed to do. But for someone who wants to do what you’re doing and, you know, first of all, have a little stash, to be a prepper there, but then also willing to donate the extra I think is a really cool goal and really cool thing to do. If that’s something you’re able to.
Yeah. That’s where I’m at. It’s like if I’m able to do what I want to, I want to be able to contribute that much. As a family, we’re only having two, so this is my last opportunity to to be able to do that and have that to offer someone else. So knock on wood, I’ll be able to do that as well.
Right. Oh, I love it. Okay. So I have just a couple more questions for you. First I’d like to know what the hardest part of breastfeeding was for you, maybe your least favorite part? And then I’d also like to know what the best part of breastfeeding was for you. So let’s start with the hardest part or maybe your least favorite.
I think those two days were really rough. The first two, yeah. Getting, getting past those two days you know, trying to work on latch, it so much as a balance of mom learning, baby learning, practice, just repetition. Having your nipples unfortunately be raw and painful is not comfortable. It’s not a fun experience. You know, that feeling lots of moms talk about, you curl your toes up and you squint your face and you grin and you get through it– is not the most fun experience. Also another thing they don’t tell new moms–which is a great thing in the end– but is that breastfeeding actually stimulates contractions of the uterus. So newly postpartum, you want your uterus contracting, so it can shrink back down to its normal fist-shaped size instead of the size that it is grown to accommodate a baby. So I remember just like, you know, the combination of the nipples still being really sensitive. And then all of a sudden you get all this cramping when baby starts actually nursing and suckling. You’re just sitting there, like in pain physically and your uterus is cramping and you just are like, “This isn’t what I thought it was going to be.” So yeah, definitely those those first two days and you’re waiting for your milk still to come in as well too. So that’s another aspect on there. So there’s just a lot right in the beginning, that makes it a little bit less pleasant. But I always encourage the moms that I work with, just remember those first couple of days are definitely can be rough. And it gets easier from there on out. I think that the best experience is rounding out that six month period, and like looking at your child that you’ve completely grown from from your own breast milk and from your body. I mean, it happens in pregnancy. You grow them all from your body, but when you see it in front of you and you have it in front of your eyes, it’s amazing. And just like awe inspiring really. I was in awe of myself for being able to do that– of being able to grow a healthy beautiful child up to six months, just exclusively from what I’m able to provide her from my body. That was a big milestone for me, even though it wasn’t like where we were stopping. I just remember that aspect. And of course I’m excited to introduce food and do all of those things as well, but there’s something that’s just really loving and wonderful about that moment when you look down and you’re like, “Wow, I really did it.” So I think it was like right about six months right before we started introducing foods that I just had this moment of like, this is amazing. I am so grateful and thankful that I was able to do this the way that I had wanted or intended.
It really is a really cool feeling to look at that little human, like you said, and they have only grown from me up until this point. I totally agree, just having that tangible thing and and meeting your goals too. You hit six months and that wasn’t where you planned on stopping and you kept going anyway, but just celebrating those little milestones along the way, I think is a really awesome way to just keep encouraging yourself and really just be appreciative. Not all moms breastfeed that want to, so just being grateful and I think that’s great. Is there anything that you would tell a new mom who’s planning to breastfeed? And this is where we’ll end it today. But if you could just tell a new mom who’s listening to this– maybe they’re a little worried, maybe they’re just trying to get prepared, maybe they’re really excited. Can you think of anything that you would tell a new mom has wanted to breastfeed? Probably a million things.
Yeah. I don’t know if I can pick one. I can pick a couple. The lessons I’ve learned from my story is just get the help you need, have that ready. Don’t be afraid to ask for help– ever. Get that help. And don’t quit on a bad day. The beginning is definitely rough, but in the end it’s always worth it.
That’s perfect. I love that. If you can make it through that first week, you should get like a gold star. It gets better, I promise. If you’re in the first week, you can do this.
Yeah, exactly. I definitely say that one a lot.
Oh, me too. Thank you so much Alexis for taking the time. I know you’ve got a toddler at home and I really appreciate you chatting with us.
Yeah. It’s been really fun. Thank you for having me.
Yeah. I’m going to put a bunch of links to a few of the things you mentioned at the beginning. I also want to see that blog post you wrote on preparing for breastfeeding and pregnancy too. We’ll put that down too, that’d be great. You can find out more about what New Little Life and myself is doing over on my website, which is www.newlittlelife.com. And don’t forget to leave a review on whatever platform you’re listening on. So thanks again, Alexis. We’ll see you later.
You’re welcome. Bye.