Along with the celebration of six months of Ellison Hope came the celebration of reaching a significant goal of ours: 6 months of breastfeeding. While my larger goal is 1 year, I am grateful to have reached what I consider the most important goal in this bf endeavor. It was not an easy task, especially since I worked full-time, but I am thankful for the time with our girl and for never once having to supplement. Please hear me: I'm not speaking negatively of supplementing; I'm just amazed at how smoothly these months of working without weaning have gone. I'd like to share some tips with those that may be interested in bf and especially those who are interested in working without weaning.
1. Make small goals. I am extremely goal oriented. I need small celebrations along the way to keep me motivated and focused on the finish line. The ultimate goal may change as things unfold, but I often find enough encouragement in reaching each small objective to push me to the end. My first goal was two weeks. I wanted to give bf all I had for just two weeks. Our first night at home was the worst. There was a lot of crying (from both Mommy and baby), but we made it through. The first couple weeks are the hardest and with the guidance of your doctor and/or lactation consultant, your baby's needs will be met. You will learn your baby and track growth. It is a difficult but blessed two weeks. Once I bf for two weeks, I felt confident I could make it through my maternity leave without problem. After returning to work, every month felt like a small win. I desperately wanted to make it to 6 months, and I did. That may not happen for you and it might not have happened for me, but I feel like having a goal pushes you to make it through hard times. My next and final goal is one year. I may not reach it, but I have the courage to keep going. That's important!
2. Educate yourself but expect to learn the most from your baby. I read blogs, interrogated friends, and took two breast feeding classes. For me, gathering information was necessary. I was clueless! However, nothing could prepare me for Ellison. I could prepare myself for what I thought nursing might look like, but without involving the other essential partner in this relationship, my expectations couldn't even be considered plans, only assumptions. Fear both resulted and subsided with the gathering of more knowledge about bf. It was only when Ellison came, and we figured things out together (with the help of others like doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, and my husband) that I finally knew that I could do it. I could be what she needed. I am very thankful for that.
3. Have the right stuff. I chose to use a double electric Medela pump. It's expensive, but to pump full-time, it's worth it. (Also, check with your insurance company to see if they cover all or part of the pump cost.) Medela is the best, and I knew that this pump would basically be a body part of mine for quite a while. Seriously...I use it every day at least once a day and sometimes as much as three or four times a day depending on the circumstances. I was measured by a lactation consultant to make sure I had the right sized shields. I assumed the ones that came with it would be a size too small. They were THREE sizes too small. I feel that so much of the success of my pumping has been because of the right fit and the right equipment.
I needed a nipple shield early on. Chris had to purchase one at 4 AM after our bad night with absolutely no sleep. I would suggest having one on hand, just in case. I haven't had any problems from using it. Neither have I had a decreased milk supply from using one or having to pump as much as I nurse (sometimes more than I nurse). Trust me, my freezer is FULL. Really, really full.
You will also need breast milk storage bags for freezing. I found out late in the game that Target has a brand of storage bags, and I am sure there are other off brands, too. Their measurements are a little off, but I measure in the bottles anyway before pouring into bags because measuring in bags can be kind of tricky. Buy the cheaper off brand bags. They are just as good.
You will want a towel or burp cloth of some sort in your pump bag to clean up. Know this: you will spill milk. Your husband will spill milk. While it feels as if that stuff is liquid gold, some of it will go to waste no matter how protective you are of it. Don't cry. Don't scream. You will have enough.
You will want nursing bras and tanks (nursing tanks are great for the hospital) and nursing tops if you prefer. I can typically wear my "regular clothes" and still feed and/or pump, but I would never go without a nursing bra. I would suggest Medela or Bravado brands. There is nothing that you will need that you can't get after the baby is born, but it's always nice to be as prepared as possible! :)
4. Make the necessary provisions. Making plans for pumping at work was necessary, though not as difficult as it might have been. I do not have an office, so I can't just shut my door for fifteen minutes. I needed to find a comfortable, private place to do my business. We did have a vacant office I could use without problem. It did not lock, but that didn't require me to purchase these as badly as I wanted to. HAHA!! I simply printed a sign with a large stop sign on it and wrote: "Please do not enter!" I hung it OVER the door handle so that anyone who attempted to open the door could not do so without reading it. I have an incredibly approachable boss, but to be honest, I never had to go to him to discuss my bf needs. If I had to, though, I would have. As uncomfortable as it may be for you (and me), you do what you have to to meet the needs of your baby. I wanted to bf full-time. Pumping was necessary to do that. By law, if your employer employs more than 50 people, they are required to provide a place (other than a bathroom) and an ample break for you to pump as you need to for the first year of your baby's life. At first, I pumped three times a day. I now pump twice a day. It's never been embarrassing for me. People in my office know that is what I am doing, and it's not a big deal. I'm just feeding a baby, people.
5. Choose pride over guilt. Going back to work after having a baby is hard. Hard, hard, hard. Even though I would still be a full-time Mommy if I had not chosen to bf, bf reminds me I am still a full-time Mommy even while I work full-time. I deal with a lot of guilt as a full-time Mommy/full-time employee. I feel guilty for leaving my baby, but I also feel guilty for having to strategically schedule and sometimes exclude myself from work activities for my child. I feel guilty if I go too long without pumping, but I also feel guilty if I step away from a meeting to pump. Because I get limited wake time during the week and only two days at home on the weekends, I say no to many invitations and opportunities in order to spend time with her, and the time still doesn't feel like enough. It's hard. This week, one of my besties sent me this blog post: Grace for the working mother and her guilt. I can't read it without crying. Every morning, especially mornings that I drop Ellison off, I struggle. I am reminded (especially after reading that blog) that I am meeting her needs. I am her Mommy. I bf. I clothe. I homemake breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We chose the greatest and the best Mommy-friend to watch her when we cannot. I play. I tickle. I bathe. I rock. I wash diapers. I read. I sing. I lay down. I check on her a thousand times at night. I care for her when she is sick. I work. These are provisions that only I can make for her. I know her. Her facial expressions. Her laugh. Her tricks. Her hands and feet, her skin, her hair. I know her smell. I take pride in being Ellison's Mommy. When I am pulled away from her to work, I am doing it for her. There is no shame in that. I take pride in being her provider. When I am pulled away from work because she needs me more than they do, I need not feel guilty. Again, I take pride in being Ellison's Mommy. No one else can do it but me.
Let me just say, if you want to work without weaning, you can do this. It can be tough, and there are a million emotions that come along with it, but it's beautiful. You can be what your baby needs even if you work full-time. Research. Prepare. Persevere. And above all else, offer yourself grace instead of guilt. No one else is Mommy but you.