In February 2011, I became a mom. A breastfeeding mom. The delivery was not ideal for breastfeeding. I ended up intubated and Hannabert arrived via c-section while I was under general anesthesia. He was rushed to NICU (low blood sugar) shortly after I woke-up and got a glance at him. I did not lay eyes on him for the next 12 hours. Not a good start at all. I was determined that my sleepy son would breastfeed. It was a rocky start to say the least. I didn't know what I was doing, Hannabert didn't know what to do (actually he loved the glucose drip). I think was most frustrated that I was unconscious during the first moments. To be honest, it was hard to not resent my husband, my in-laws, and my parents as they got 12 more hours with him than I got.
While in the hospital, I kept waiting for the "boob fairy" to visit. She never did much to my disappointment (and concern). Once we got home, we realized that Hannabert was really just too sleepy and did frequent visits withe the Lactation Consultants at our Hospital. Our consultant was supportive and suggested that because Hannabert had been on gavage feedings and a few of the nurses hadn't respected my wishes on breastfeeding first, he had gotten used to a faster pace of feeding. She suggested that we use a supplemental nursing system (SNS) until we both got the hang of it. Using the SNS was a nightmare and led to the destruction of one laptop which was the motivating factor of me tossing it to the side and convincing myself that I could do it. Key things I would have done differently from labor/delivery to second week:
- Attended a La Leche League or Dar du Lutz meeting prior to giving birth
- Refused the epidural
- Discussed "worst case scenarios" with my husband
- Learned more about donor milk
- Known more about blood sugar testings in newborns
- Insisted that I breastfeed prior to the NICU completing any gavage/bottles feeds
- Been informed on the effect of IV fluids and baby weight (I had over 9 liters forced into me when my epidural went wrong)
- Made sure the pediatrician's office was using the correct growth chart
Once home, Hannabert and I settled into a routine. We would spend most of the day reclining on the couch, perhaps taking a walk with the Hannabert in a wrap, finally, meeting Horn at a local park for dinner. I nursed on demand, assuming that he was hungry unless he was wet, we co-slept, it was great.
I returned to my teaching job when Hannabert was 6 weeks old. Horn had baby on the chest those mornings while I struggled to teach my classes and pump. The first few weeks back, I thought that it would be ok for me to be gone for 5 hrs at a time without pumping. ALERT - not a good idea! I think that this greatly effected my supply.
During our well baby check-ups, we were frequently rescheduled for weight checks and encouraged to supplement with formula (this was actually first brought up at our discharge appointment).
Key things I would have done differently from second week to return to work
- Ignore those that said "he couldn't possibly be hungry!"
- Worried less about getting out and having family/friends over
- Not allowed anyone to give him a bottle (except for Horn when I was teaching)
- Pumped in the same intervals as Hannabert would have eaten had we not been separated
- Pumped while breastfeeding one side or after feeding
Once I returned to my full-time job (in addition to my part-time position), I established a very set schedule. I would Nurse, teach for 2 hrs, pump, teach for 2 hours, nurse, and then pump every 2 hrs at work, and then nurse as frequently as needed during the night. Over and over and over again.
Unfortunately, maybe because of the issues I experienced with the delivery, maybe because I didn't pump as often as I should have during the first six weeks, I am a really really really poor pump producer. A stellar amount for me is 2.5 oz combined for on 28 minute pumping session. I blamed the pump and rented a hospital grade pump (which resulted in even worse output), tried Pumpin Pals, got some pump bras, did hand compression, etc. You can think of it, I tried it.
Despite my lack of output, I was determined to NOT formula supplement. I followed Kelly Mom guidelines (and pumped every spare minute) to make sure that Hannabert got 1.5 to 2 oz per hour of separation. My daycare provider was extremely supportive and did paced feeds with Hannabert. One of the reasons we did paced feeds is because Hannabert spit up...alot. I felt like it was a lot but then again, babies spit up right?
Key things I would have done differently upon returning to work:
- Create a more restful environment in my company's lactation room
- Take a few moments before each session tell myself that what I was doing for good for me and good for my child
- Drank more water
- Tried more pumps! I ended up ordering a number of used pumps on eBay in my quest to find "the pump." I really wished there was a place for me to try out numerous pumps before buying. It would be worth the "pump and dump."
- Realized that there is nothing wrong with supplementing with formula while my son was in daycare
I was able to continue pumping and providing breast milk for my son until he was just about 18 months old. As we reached the 1 year mark, I decreased the number of pump minutes/sessions a little bit at a time so that I was down to one session during my lunch hour. In 12 months, I pumped almost 1500 oz in 676 recorded pumping sessions. I am proud of every single one of those ounces. I stopped pumping at work when Hannabert reached 18mths. I was producing very little with my pump and I was just done with pumping. Hannabert continued to nurse before work, between jobs, and again once we were home and when he woke up during the night.
He was losing interest when my husband suddenly got a new job that resulted in him being the one who would drop Hannabert off at daycare in the morning and pick him up again. Typically, I don't see either one of them Tuesday through Thursday. Now, at 2 years, my son is pretty much weaned. He goes days without nursing (and it is pretty bittersweet) but I am comfortable with the his decision (we loosely followed the don't offer/don't refuse method) although with his recent diagnosis of mono, I do have some regrets and really wished that our schedule hadn't changed. I do appreciate each time he says, "I nurse" and "chair" a bit more than the time before but I also feel much more relaxed about it.
Keys to success as a breastfeeding working mom
|Hannabert nursing in October 2012|
|Literally 2 hours before we were in urgent care with a bilateral ear infection and a mono diagnosis|
- Supportive partner who would have everything ready to go so when I got home from teaching, I just needed to sit down and nurse Hannabert
- Being firm with my employer about my desire to pump and making it a priority to set aside time to do so
- Reminding myself when my ounces were small that each ounce mattered to Hannabert, his health, and my health
- Being a supporter of other mothers (forgot your flange, membrane or bottle? I had them)
- Being willing to pump anywhere when I needed to pump (I have a car adapter that was used on more than 1 team building day)
- Having an e-reader for the hours I spent pumping
Yes, it was stressful to work and pump but it was entirely worth it! I can offer advice and support to other moms in similar situations and also let them know that they are supported by me for however long they want to breastfeed and/or pump. For those moms that are starting out on their journey or perhaps haven't yet started, you can do it.
Hannah is a wife, a mother, a director of a paralegal studies program, a legal researcher, and an advocate of moms in her local community. She met her husband on their first day of law school, married 7 years later, and had their first child in 2009. Hannabert is an extremely active 2 year old who loves walks, bikes, kitches, and 'sauce (applesauce). She is looking forward to becoming an aunt in May and hopes that her sister will ask her for advice on all things parenting but especially what breastfeeding is really like and hopes that she will be able to answer any questions her sister might have in a loving, supportive manner.