I myself didn't know a single other mom who continued to breastfeed after returning to work full-time. Of the people I knew who breastfed their babies, the ones who continued breastfeeding past three months were the stay-at-home moms, while the ones who returned to work switched to formula without much thought.
|Nursing A to sleep (& catching up on facebook!)|
So why did I decide to buck the trend?
Was it really just a matter of saving money (as so many people seem to think)? Was it because of all the health benefits of breastmilk, to try and combat the germs A would now be exposed to at daycare?
Of course the answers to these two questions are both a resounding "Yes". But there is so much more to my decision to continue feeding A breastmilk full time. Because let's face it: pumping at work is awkward at the best of times and frequently stressful.
You have to slip away once, twice, sometimes even three times during the work day to squeeze those precious drops out so that your child will be fed and happy the next day. You have to push aside concerns about the work waiting for you at your desk and stop thinking about what your colleagues must be thinking of you (slacker! crazy!) when you disappear for 15 - 20 mins each time. You have to get over your own self consciousness of wanting to defend yourself every time you have to walk past your colleagues with your miniature cooler bag and pump, trying to look nonchalant and totally at ease.
|Breastfeeding at Lourensford Wine Estate|
Sometimes letdown does not happen immediately and you have to struggle to get the milk flowing at first, or you stress so much about not getting enough milk out, that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy - now that you can actually see the ml amount, it puts a lot of pressure on you to 'perform' at a consistent level every day. You worry about the noise of the pump and you worry that you will forget it at home and start leaking at work. You express milk manually, without much success at first, when you get really desperate. You avoid the gaze of your boss as you traipse past his office for the umpteenth time with your shoulder bag (filled with pumping supplies) in tow, headed for the boardroom, where there is an electrical outlet and doors that can lock. You feel defeated when you spend 30 mins and can show barely 60 mls for your efforts. You feel particularly stressed out when your freezer stash is running low and there is no margin for error for your pumping output for the day. Thoughts of cows mooing flits through your head while you are hooked up to the pump - and you can't help but laugh at yourself when those mental images actually get the milk flowing faster!
|The best part of my day: 5 pm.|
But all those concerns disappears the moment I step out of the office and see A waiting for me in the car. The smile on her face, the eager look in her eyes, how she cannot wait to be in my arms, the excitement as she realises the dairy bar is now open for business! Those first few moments after a long day at work, holding her in my arms and providing her with the thing that only I can - warm, fresh milk, the comfort of my smell, my skin, my arms - it is these moments that I wouldn't exchange for anything. She relaxes in my arms and I relax too, she looks up at me and those eyes say it all. The blissful feeling of feeding her in the middle of the night, when it's just her and me, in a bubble, lying side-by-side - no need to get up, no need to scurry to the kitchen to warm a bottle, no need to do anything but bask in the glow of this beautiful child lying next to me, peacefully suck-suck-sucking away. Sometimes because she is hungry, other times just because she missed me all day and want to inhale all of me.
There are times when I can't believe how much of her growing up I am missing by being away from her from eight to five and the only thing I can cling to, the only thing that stops me from completely breaking down some days, is the special relationship we have because of breastfeeding. It sounds silly, but I feel that at least my body can provide her with sustenance while she is away from me for all those hours. Someone else takes care of everything else, experiences every minute of the day with A, but at least I can still breastfeed her. Is that silly?
Breastfeeding not only nourishes her physically, it nourishes both our souls. And no matter how difficult and how awkward and how tedious it might be for me to maintain that while seperated from her, it is something I simply cannot imagine giving up.