More and more career women are deciding to have babies. And they want to experience all the joys that go with babies, including breastfeeding. But what about the time when Mom has to return to work?
She can still continue breastfeeding --- for as long as she wants!
I did, and highly recommend the same for all working mothers --- be it their first or sixth time around.
Working a 40-hour week, I breastfed my third child for nearly three years. I finally weaned him completely after three years only because my mother threatened to disown me if I continued.
And to think --- three years earlier, I had hoped that I could nurse little Josh for at least a couple weeks after my return to work!
At that time, Josh was only a month old. But my two-month leave-of-absence from work flew by. I left him with a kindly woman down the street and returned to my other love --- writing for a TV station.
Everything, however, seemed to be in my favor. It was an arrangement made in heaven. But I think other mothers can make breastfeeding work for them, too, if they have any of the following advantages:
- An understanding employer. I always worked a full-time job --- and sometimes even more than 40 hours per week during busy times. But I worked out my schedule to fit my baby's needs. I took long lunch hours, for example. While most people took an hour, I would take an hour and a half. I would make up for the extra half hour by coming into work earlier or leaving later. Thus my baby hardly ever had to take milk from a bottle. He was full in the morning when I dropped him off at the sitter's, full at lunch when I went home to feed him, and I would come home when he was ready for his evening feeding. Once in awhile, my babysitter would supplement my feeding with a mid-afternoon bottle feeding. This feeding would often consist of my own milk, pumped the day before during my afternoon break. Stored in the refrigerator at work and at home, it was fine to give in a sterile container the next day. On days I couldn't return home for lunch, this practice was almost a necessity. Again, you must have an understanding employer and fellow employees to feel comfortable pumping your breasts at work (in a private room, of course which is regrettably often the women's restroom).
- A sympathetic babysitter. This, as well as having an understanding employer, is of utmost importance. My sitter is a professional grandma. All the children she's ever attended learned to call her "Mam-mal" almost immediately. Since she nursed her own children, right from the beginning, she knew how serious I was about continuing to nurse Josh. Although all my children have been fed more on a "demand" schedule, she would delay Josh's feeding, or give him water, if it was getting close to my return home. And of course, she would feed him my breast milk first if I had left some for her the night before. Another good thing about Josh's Mam-mal was that she didn't insist on Joshua eating solid foods too soon. When he was old enough, he ate finely crushed table food at mealtime. Neither at our home nor at his sitter's did he ever taste the likes of bottled baby food. I'm not a dietitian by any means. Maybe Josh did miss some needed nutrients, but I would sneak his liquid vitamins in a bottle of milk once in awhile. Other than that, however, Josh lived solely on my milk, supplemented by formula until he got his first teeth at about five months. Today, and even back then he was seldom sick, and had energy enough for three of me and my husband, which brings to mind another advantage.
- A patient family. My husband was so gun-ho on breast feeding that he probably would have disowned me if I had decided to forget it this time around. I had breastfed both my other two children. But each time I wasn't working full-time. Ron saw how Randee and Bobby thrived, and he wanted the same for Josh. (What's surprising, however, is that I ended up nursing Josh longer than I did his brother and sister. The patience comes into play when it's dinnertime and everyone is hungry. Baby gets nursed first while other stomach continue to growl. Quite often Ron would start lunch or dinner while I nursed Josh. That would give me a time to relax and enjoy the baby awhile, too. And now this takes us to the next advantage.
- Your determination. If you really want to continue breastfeeding your baby after you return to work, you will succeed. You may find other methods different than mine, but you will succeed.
Here are a few more hints to make it easier,however.
- Don't push yourself too much. You know that you produce more milk if you are a relaxed person. Learn to let your home go just a little more. You are a new mother with new responsibilities. Number one importance is your baby, your family and you. And although you're listed last here, if you've pushed yourself too hard caring for baby and family, you will hurt most from your exhaustion. So get straight in your mind what's really important, and let the other things slide. Betty yet, get someone else to do them, either pay to get it done, or delegate it to someone else in the household.
- Get exercise. You'll feel much better. get outside at least once a day and do your exercise out there (jogging or bike riding, for example), if possible. Staying in shape, while eating sensibly, will do wonders for your relaxed mental attitude. It will also help you get the necessary sleep you need at night.
- Don't forget the rest of the family. Show the other children some extra attention occasionally. Let them help with the baby. Make this a family affair.
- Go out occasionally with just your husband. If you must stay out a long time, don't worry about it. At times I had to leave for an entire weekend. Whenever I felt myself becoming uncomfortable, I pumped as much milk as necessary to take away the pressure, and continued having a good time.
- Get together with other breast-feeding mothers. One excellent way is by attending local LaLeche League (Italian for milk) meetings. If you have any questions about children's diets, weaning, night feedings, etc., they can help you by sharing their own experiences.
One thing I don't want you to think from this article is that working and nursing will be a lot of hard work --- trying to arrange schedules and relationships to fit in. In the long run, I think you save time. You don't have to worry about the expense and time of caring for formula. But what's better is the closeness you gain with a breast-fed baby. You've gone at least eight hours a day. Both you and your baby, in my opinion, will benefit more from breast-feeding rather than formula feeding.
As with so many working mothers, your quantity of time with your baby will be limited. But the quality will remain up there high with those mothers who stay home all day with their children.
Looking back, it was good and very satisfying. If I could do it over again, I don't think I would change a thing, other than a few more hours of sleep at night.
May your Higher Power bless your attempt as well!