When Dilan was born, I was disappointed. My goal from day one was to breastfeed. Guess what his very first meal was? Formula! Ugh, poison, I thought. I did not have a choice. My all-natural labor took a toll on my body and I had to be knocked out (put under anesthesia) for surgery. I did not even get to see him take his first bath. He was born at 6:50 PM and remained in the nursery that first night since I was unable to breastfeed him while in surgery and with medicine still in my system. I know, sounds like a big first world problem and I’m lucky enough to have top quality medical care in the first place, but it was still a huge disappointment for me.
Fast forward almost 8.5 months later and I’m still pretty happily nursing. I nurse twice a day and pump once at work. I’ve definitely ramped things down since it’s really hard to pump frequently at work (in my job, no one is going to move a meeting just because you have to pump for the 50,000th time) and my low supply is probably not worth the extra pumping sessions. The end is definitely in sight. I could easily look at this as “giving up”. After all, there are many moms who breastfeed for one, two, heck, even three years. But instead, I’m looking at it as a giant accomplishment. I’ve done what I could and to this day, have given Dilan almost every drop of milk I can. If I could talk to my past self, I would have given myself these 5 breastfeeding tips:
1. It’s ok to give yourself a break. Pumping after every nursing session sounds great, but just breastfeeding every 2-3 hours alone (or on demand) will help your supply in the first 6 weeks. Don’t go nuts trying to build up “a stash” for when you return to work. It goes fast. Just do what you can without killing yourself. I had my mom around for only 8 days after I gave birth. It was impossible to pump while Dilan was awake and no one else was around to help. Just the way it was / is.
2. Keep things consistent. On the other hand, you don’t want to skip TOO many nursing or pumping sessions because your supply WILL drop if you don’t keep things fairly consistent. Skipping a few here or there is ok, but being disciplined and trying to establish a schedule early on is key.
3. Supplementing with formula is not the end of the world. Formula is NOT poison, I promise. We had to start supplementing around 5 months since Dilan needed an extra bottle a day (the boy likes to EAT) that I simply could not provide. I was never the girl with the freezer full of milk. I’m still not. I just pump for the next day’s bottles and sometimes, not even enough for that. It worked out just fine. We tried a few types of formula and settled on the one brand he reacted best to.
4. A great network is key. I could not have kept this up without multiple Facebook messages and emails of encouragement, tips, and of course the many baby blogs that I read during 3 AM feedings. Finding friends and family who will encourage and not judge you is both essential and wonderful.
5. You have the RIGHT to nurse and pump. This one especially applies to working moms. I am lucky enough to have an office that I can pump in. I blocked out the window with printing paper and have a giant DO NOT DISTURB sign taped to my door once a day now. Even if you don’t have this, you have the right to ask your employer for a reasonable solution. After a while, people might get annoyed with you being unavailable for a small period of time, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely stop.
My current goal is to keep pumping until July 4th. It will be one heck of an Independence Day! I hope to continue to nurse Dilan in the mornings and evenings after that, but it will all depend on how well my supply holds up. It may or may not be possible. Regardless, I hope these 5 breastfeeding tips for the working mom help some of you exhausted new moms out there. You’re doing something absolutely wonderful for your child. Don’t ever forget that. I’m glad people told me this when I was that exhausted new mom just a few months ago.
I can’t say I’m not looking forward to being done with pumping, but I know I will definitely miss the nursing. It’s bonding time for me and Dils. That, and time for him to check out every detail of whatever room we’re in. It’s been a fun journey, one that only comes around once. The best advice I have for my (future ?) self and all you other new moms out there is: while you deal with the inevitable disappointment, exhaustion, or whatever emotion comes your way, don’t forget the most important thing of all: to enjoy the ride.