Thursday, February 6, 2014

Breastfeeding is Easy! (For Stay-at-Home Moms)

Last Monday, I woke up some time before 6am, grateful that my 10-month-old had only woken once the previous night. We're down from 5-6 wakings (and feedings) per night to just 1-2, and it could not have come at a better time. You see, I was laid off from my full-time position when K was only 3 months old, and I've recently picked up some contract work that requires me to commute to an office a few times per week. Awesome, right? Well, mostly....

I dragged myself out of bed and immediately nursed the squirt awake, then popped him into his playpen so that I could begin the long process of preparing his food and my pumping gear for the day. I poured breastmilk that had been thawed the night before into bottles that had also been washed that night and would need to be washed again the next evening, packed them into a cooler bag with some cold packs and purees, then turned to my pump: I gingerly inspected the just-washed flanges, membranes, and diaphragms to determine if I needed to change any of them out, then packed them with six pump bottles, my pumping bra, and the pump itself into two more cooler bags, then stuffed those into another bag that also held some snacks, Mother's Milk Tea, and Fenugreek. I have a daily checklist on my phone for all of this. It has 22 items on it.

In spite of my attempt to prepare in advance the night before, we still got out of the house late that morning. My husband drove the 25min route to K's daycare while I pumped in the passenger seat. I was disappointed by the output: only 2oz when I can usually get at least 4oz at that time of day. After dropping off the baby, we switched and I drove the remaining 25min to work.

Upon arrival, I looked at my work for the day and realized that it was going to take a lot longer than I expected. This work has hard deadlines at certain hours of the day, and though I worked feverishly all morning, I was still not finished by the time my pump break rolled around. Then, I missed lunch. I was starting to panic because I might pump two hours late AND miss a meal altogether, and I knew my supply could not handle that. I was so stressed that I was shaking, and I could feel my heart racing.

Thankfully, my boss (whom, it should be noted, is a dude) was kind enough to push back our meeting, and I was able to pump and eat.... not very healthy, but it was better than nothing.  The second half of the day passed quickly, and then I was on the road again, pumping as I drove the 30+min (rush hour is nasty going the other way) back to daycare. My output wasn't as terrible as in the morning, but I knew I was still behind what my son needs in a day.

At home, I moved quickly to get all the pumped milk into the fridge and clean all the pump parts and bottles for the next day. I took care of a few other chores, nursed the baby briefly, then fed him dinner and put him to bed. Afterward, hubby and I had dinner, I pumped for the fourth time, and then transferred all the milk from my day into ice cube trays for freezing, careful to swirl the fat into the mix before pouring. I pounded a couple of Mother's Milk Teas and went to bed early, knowing K would be up in a few hours to nurse.

Tuesday, I was home for the day, so I just nursed my baby whenever he was hungry.

Is being a Stay-At-Home Mom easy? I think I speak for all women who have ever tried it when I say OH, HELL NO. But when it comes to breastfeeding, it's an absolutely massive advantage. Part of me wonders if I would still be breastfeeding if I had not lost my job. Would my supply have kept up? Would the stress of pumping four times a day and spending hours washing everything have finally burned me out? Would I have resented the fact that I spent more time with my pump than with my baby? Would middle-of-the-night feedings have worn me down until I had to just hand a bottle to my husband so I could take a break? I'd like to think that I'd be as hardcore as my fellow working mamas on this blog, but it's impossible to know.

There is some terrific information available on this blog to help working mamas maintain a thriving nursing relationship: tips like how much milk to send to daycare to avoid a bottle preference, how to use cute videos of your baby to encourage letdown, supply-boosters, and an extremely helpful overview of pumping rights. I could get into the piss-poor maternity leave policies in the US that contribute to the difficulty that working moms have with breastfeeding, but that's a topic for another post. Right now, I just want to say this:

Breastfeeding is hard. But if you're working away from your baby at all, it sometimes seems almost impossible. (In a nutshell: pumping sucks. Thank you, Captain Obvious....) So, if you're committed to breastfeeding and have the option to stay home, you should seriously consider it. If being a SAHM is not your thing or not a financial option, get your support system in place, because you will definitely need it! Offer support to your fellow mommies who are also trying to maintain a breastfeeding relationship while working, and go easy on those who struggle with that balance. And finally, (here comes the plug) keep coming back to Adventures in Breastfeeding for more tips on how to make it work!

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