I am not there yet when it comes to peaceful acceptance of my nursing situation. Things are much further ahead than the first few months when I was alternately miserable, anxious and angry about my struggles to feed baby exclusively from the breast (see other blog for details). I have a lot more peace now knowing I continue to do the best I can to care for my daughter, and seeing her growing and happy – boy is she happy! But still, situations come up where my old negative feelings resurface.
Her new stage of maturity, the busyness of summer and the challenges with nursing while returning to work seem to be bringing these issues up for me again. As a more awake, more aware and more active little girl she is nursing less and less frequently. She definitely latches on and sucks well, but she’s so busy motoring around, observing the world around her and waving at new friends that the breast is just less interesting than her other options. I need to offer it a lot, and move to a quiet, out of sight spot to get her to nurse. Fortunately, night nursing is still going well and frequently.
Similarly, when she is busy and interacting she forgets about the need to eat. With my sister’s family here and more time with nana and out at the park or library, there simply are more hours out of every day when I can’t get her calm enough to nurse even if she is hungry. Inevitably as soon as I leave somewhere and sit in the back seat with her she will latch on and nurse before getting into the car seat. Heaven forbid I try to put her into the car seat before feeding her! She will also nurse if she falls asleep hungry and then wakes up. So I’ve been trying to be okay with the win/challenge of this situation as she develops her social skills and I try to learn how to capture moments to nurse and let go the ones when she won’t.
Returning to work has also been a bigger challenge than I expected. Though I’ve only been in for 3 half-days, they have been super busy with many urgent prep requirements for the upcoming school year. And this time, I can’t stay an extra half-hour or hour to get a few more things done: I have to stop and pump, or head out and try and feed baby as soon as I get to my mom’s to try and keep intervals between breast emptying to a minimum. Pumping is work. Especially with a single pump, it can take up to 30 or 40 minutes to do it. And I’m still waiting for a curtain to be put up on my door window for privacy. And much of my day is spent in skype meetings – not comfortable/appropriate situation to pump in! Then when I finally leave and get to mom’s, baby is happy to see me but definitely not ready to nurse. She is having the time of her life, chasing the dog, playing with nana’s toys, wrestling with her cousin, and enjoying far more stimulation than she gets at home. Basically, it’s party time, and she’s not ready to slow down. My emotional response is frustration and negativity: I give up, I can’t nurse, I shouldn’t be working. And so I end up pumping, which is never as satisfactory or effective as nursing.
For me to survive this return to work with peace of mind I am going to have to learn a few things. Emotionally, I will have to separate my needs from my daughter’s needs and gauge my ability to hold this job based on her emotional well-being, not my need to be needed by her. While recognizing that she is still astoundingly young and dependent, I will have to respect her individuality and preferences and not become upset if she is enjoying playtime and doesn’t want to take a mommy break. Practically, I will have to learn how to schedule time for expressing milk more regularly (both manually and with the pump) so that I do not feel the intense pressure to complete my work, race to my mom’s and clamp her onto the boob at lightning speed. I will also need to figure out what strategies and situations are more conducive to nursing for her so I can nurse her soon after returning from work if at all possible.
Finally, I need to return to my earlier acceptance of my life situation. I’m a nursing mom who needs to supplement. I’m a mom who is returning to a great job for my own development and to support my family. I’m a mom who loves my daughter and will spend as much time with her as I can. And I need to trust that if it becomes apparent that we need to tweak or completely alter any of our plans to meet her needs, we will.