Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Balancing Act of Continuing Breastfeeding As a Working Mom - A 4-Month Perspective

I've been back at work for about 4-months already. My little princess, Ava, and I have really loved our time to reconnect with nursing while we're together at night and weekends. I still work from home 2 days at week and have her home with me in the morning and late afternoon. She's still great about entertaining herself while I'm working at home before I take her to daycare.

Ava is turning 6-months old tomorrow and she's been exclusively breastfed, which means she's not on solids and she's only had mother's milk. Only 12% of US babies are exclusively breastfed by 6-months. She's grown and thrived from it, currently in 9-month clothes! And our nursing relationship has survived even though I'm working. It's so rewarding to me. We cosleep. Ava sleeps in a cosleeper bed next to my side of the bed and when she wakes up to nurse around 3 or 4am, I pull her into bed with me and then on days I'm in the office, my alarm goes off at 5:40am! I get more sleep this way. I don't have to get out of bed and she doesn't cry so Aaron gets lots of sleep, too. I know cosleeping isn't for every family, but it really works for us. I love being able to touch her hand or kiss her forehead when I'm going to sleep at night right in bed!

For a working mom with a busy job, it means that I have to stay very organized at work. I religiously pump during my time slots at work and sometimes shift them for meetings or other moms juggling the same thing that need to overlap in my time slot. My coworkers graciously find me spots to pump when we're offsite at a hotel for meetings. My company has meetings at downtown hotels because of our size now and the hotel staff is really supportive by opening empty rooms for me to use for 15 minutes. One woman even stored my cooler bag in the back in their refrigerator. I've been making it work. I'm able to pump a lot of milk.

I freeze a lot of the milk and store it for donation to the local milk bank and I have two moms that I also donate some milk to for their young babies. So far, I've donated 420oz to the milk bank and about 130oz to the two moms - 530 total ounces. I'm proud and honored to do that.

Ava does a great job switching between bottle feeding at daycare to nursing when we're together. I wonder why that is common concern for breastfeeding moms about "nipple confusion" and if it's just a myth because my baby prefers the breast. She knows when she's done with the bottle at daycare and her caregivers are great about knowing if she wants more or if she's done. Overfeeding at daycare is a danger for mom's milk supplies because of less nursing the baby may do when the mom is nearby. She clearly pushes the bottle away when she's done. Her chart shows that her typical serving is still 3oz and on occasion has 2.5 or even 4.5, but not more than that. Babies are all different. Lots of babies her age will take 5-7oz of breastmilk in a bottle. But, Ava prefers frequency and she grazes. My friends and family are surprised by how often she nurses when we're together.

You might remember my post with tips for breastfeeding moms on their daycare providers. Breastfed babies are a little different than formula-fed. I recently read that babies at 5-months can typically hold their own bottles during feedings. I asked Ava's daycare if she did that and they said that she likes to hold their fingers that are holding the bottle. She misses the closeness in nursing when we're apart! I love that. And by 5:40pm when I arrive at daycare, I scoop her up and she turns her head and opens her mouth ready to nurse as soon as I can put her on my breast.

I'm so thankful that the balance act is working. There's lots of things in play: pumping between meetings at work and hauling the pump and cooler bag to/from work and Ava's ability to switch between bottle and breast so easily. Next week, I'm going to my company's user conference and I'm really happy it's local so I won't have to travel. Aaron is helping me by picking Ava up from daycare a couple nights and my manager is super understanding and knows I'll miss lots of evening activities. Ava wouldn't be able to sleep without me there to nurse. I made arrangements with a friend who's staying at the hotel so I can use her room to pump. It's going to be one of the best weeks of my career at the conference and because of the customers and energy at the event, but also because I'll be able to maintain one of the things that defines me as a mother and pump during the meetings.

To make this work, I have to plan ahead, be a little assertive, and be disciplined with my schedule. It's not hard because I have support and I think about the wondering outcome from the balance. I'd be happy to answer any questions for moms out there that are planning to breastfeed at work.

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