Our goal is to provide information, ideas and support for working women who are also full-time mothers.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Hardest Most Rewarding Job

I never imagined that I wouldn't breastfeed my children. I assumed it was something that would come naturally to me. I was completely unprepared. I sought out no support, and little education. No one at the hospital where I delivered helped me, I got one visit from a lactation consultant who told me I was doing fine. Looking back, knowing what I know now, I can tell you I most certainly was not doing fine.
We struggled, my son and I, from the day he was born. Misinformed that a csection mommy could only use the "football hold" (we had latch problems) that a baby eats every 3 hours (No one told me I should nurse on demand, even if that was every hour) or showed me how to use the pump I'd rented ("you'll only need that if you get engorged)

We lasted 3 weeks. The pump sat in the corner of my living room for 37 long days, collecting dust and rubbing salt in a very raw wound.

I saw moms nursing their children and I would cry. I got the occaisional dirty look when giving my son a bottle at the mall and wanted to scream "I TRIED". The feelings of failure and dissapointment didn't fade easily. 3 years later they are still with me.

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I was determined to give breastfeeding every effort I could. I would try harder. I would dedicate more time to building my supply. I would do nothing but nurse night and day if that's what it took, never leaving her side. I'd take the supplements, drink gallons of water, I would make it at least 6 months. 6 months would be amazing!

My sweet baby spent the first 24 hours of her life in the NICU, having swallowed fluid on her way out. Strike 1 against breastfeeding. Laying in bed recovering from a second csection, I asked for a pump before I even saw a picture of my new baby girl. I watched the clock, pumping every hour. I wept when the nurses insist she have a bottle before leaving NICU (they did agree to let me nurse her first). Strike 2 for breastfeeding.

Complications seperated us again at day 6, and she went home with Daddy while I stayed in the hospital. Strike 3 for breastfeeding.

Yet we overcame. Back at home she was nursing like a champ, and I couldn't have been happier. When I couldn't keep up with her, the occaisional bottle of formula crept in, and before I knew it we were supplementing with formula about 50 of the time. I was, and am, completely OK with that. She got all the benefits of breastmilk, and I never had to stress if she was getting enough.

I know we wouldn't have made it long if I hadn't kept my son in daycare part time on my maternity leave. The hours when he was at school not only gave me time to have 1-on-1 with my daughter, it allowed me to have a much more productive pumping schedule to help increase my supply.

I went back to work when my daughter was 11 weeks old. Carving out time to pump was difficult, I felt guilty for stealing away for my "breaks", especially when people asked where I was going.

Our office has no rooms without windows, so I pumped in my car in the parking garage. It wasn't too bad, I tried to bring work with me whenever possible. I pumped 3 times a day at work, for 15 minutes. With setup, that's 20 minutes. It's a long time to be gone.

There were a couple incidents where people walked up on me in my car. That was pretty embarrasing. One opened the passenger door and I'm pretty sure he was more embarrassed than I was. I was always well covered, but having to explain what I was doing to coworkers was an experience I could have lived without.

I continued to pump until my daughter was just over 5 months old. As my supply dwindled, those marathon sessions with the pump, the endless bowls of oatmeal, gallons of water, bottles of supplements came to and end. When a last ditch effort of a prescription for Reglan left me nearly falling asleep at my desk, I knew it was time to close down the dairy.

Our family is complete, there will be no third child to see if I can do better next time. I'm OK with that, and both grateful for & proud of sucess I had the second time around.

Sometimes I wonder: If I wasn't working, would I have been able to keep breastfeeding longer? Then I look at my crazy 3 year old as he bounces off the walls and say to myself, "who am I kidding, I got more breaks at work then HE would have ever given me!"

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Breastfeeding & The Working Mom: No Lies

I'm not going to lie. Breastfeeding is tough work. Working or not. It takes a lot of commitment and determination to make it work. The difficulty is magnified when you are trying to work full-time and breastfeed too. Pumping is no fun!!1

Breastfeeding got off to a rocky start with both my boys because they were severely jaundice and spent about a week under the billirubin lights which interfered with getting started. With my first, it was a constant struggle to try not to have to supplement when he came home. It seemed like he was eating every hour and I was totally exhausted. By week three, I was ready to quit. I felt defeated :(. Thank goodness I had an understanding husband who said it was my call and when I was ready to do what I felt right. I stopped at that point since I knew it would be very hard with my job to continue in a couple weeks when I returned to work. I felt guilty of course because that's what we mothers do best: feel guilty. He was rarely sick and I was happy.

With my second, I was determined to make this work for at least a little while longer. I would breastfeed him and then supplement as needed afterwards for the first 6 weeks. This allowed him to sleep longer and me be happier too. Being very relaxed about it made the whole process much easier. Plus I felt success just making it past the 3 week point I had stopped at with #1.

Going back to work changed that relaxed mode quickly. Although we have a lactation room in our building, there is no discussion with managers about allowing time for pumping. In an effort to try not to seem like I was less of an employee because I was a mother, I constantly felt like I was sneaking around to go and pump, that I was rushed and the phone always seemed to ring just as I was about to go do it or meeting was called for that time of day. I started trying to do it twice a day which quickly dwindled to once at lunch time which just wasn't enough to keep my supply up and I always felt rushed at work. After about 3 weeks of this, I decided to only breastfeed in the mornings and evenings and on the weekends and stop pumping. I felt like this was a tremendous weight lifted off me. I could relax at work again.

Home was still a little stressful trying to breastfeed with a preschooler running around and working on potty training. Never failed everytime we sat down to breastfeed, he'd have to go to the bathroom. Jealousy?? Maybe but we managed. This lasted until my little guy was about 5 months old when he just seemed to lose interest in breastfeeding when he had a bad cold. My supply started to quickly dwindle and I thought ok I'm going to stop. I felt like it was the right time for us. Of course, still felt guilt (I am a mom you know) but it felt like the right decision for me and my son.

Breastfeeding is not simply one size fits all for all mothers and their children. There are a lot of options and everyone needs to find the right fit for themselves and their families. Only you can decide what is right.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Breastfeeding and the Working Mom

Being that I will be embarking on my second go-round as a breastfeeding and working mom in a couple of months, now is a great time to reflect on my experiences as a first time mom. When I was pg with my daughter, I had decided that I wanted to try breastfeeding and set a goal for myself for a year. But I wasn't totally committed to it; if it worked, it worked, if not, I would give her formula. I didn't purchase a pump in advance. I wanted to make sure this breastfeeding thing "took" before shelling out a couple of hundred bucks on a high quality pump. Well, bf'ing ended up being pretty easy for me and I quickly became 100% committed. Once I bought that pump, I decided that I was going to do whatever it took to provide my daughter with breastmilk for the first year...I was going to get every penny out of that pump!

It turned out that pumping did not come nearly as easily as straight-up breastfeeding. I had supply issues almost from the beginning. My dd was a little piggie and I just couldn't keep up. Believe me, I tried EVERYTHING. Here are the ones I can remember off-hand:
  • I ended up having two pumps - long story - and kept one in the car. I pumped on my hour drive to and from work, LOL!
  • I pumped two or three more times per day in the office.
  • I looked at pictures of my daughter while I pumped.
  • I took Fenugreek & Blessed Thistle.
  • I ate oatmeal every day.
  • I drank SOOOO much water I really should've floated away.
  • I drank a special tea.
  • I used warm moist compresses & massaged my bb's before pumping.
  • I used the 10-10-10 pumping method (10 minutes pumping, 10 off, 10 on again).
In the end, I had to supplement with formula anyway, and initially, I felt like a failure. I got over that, though, and I did manage to reach my goal of pumping until she was a year old. I was really lucky to have a private office where I could pump and continue to work, so I felt that I had no excuse to not perservere. I actually continued to nurse my daughter in the evenings and on weekends until she was 2...I tried the child-directed weaning thing, but I think she would've continued nursing until she was in kindergarten, so I did end up cutting her off after age 2.

This time around, I've got a wait & see attitude again. I am committed to breastfeeding, but I don't want to put as much pressure on myself as far as pumping goes. I think I got every penny and then some out of those pumps the first time around! I felt with my first that my life revolved around that pump, and I don't want to end up fantasizing about smashing it to smithereens with my car when I'm done with it. I plan to do the best I can but not go overboard. Ha ha, we'll see. "Overboard" is my middle name!

Resources that were useful for me as a breastfeeding/pumping/working mom -

www.kellymom.com - The BEST resource for all things breastfeeding, in my humble opinion.

http://boards.babycenter.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?webtag=bcus1202053 - A great board to post questions or read about others' experiences as pumping moms. This was a great resource for me when I was new to being a pumping mom.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Being a working mom and breastfeeding

Some days I wonder why I've done this to myself. I guess I knew in my heart that if I was a stay-at-home mom, I would've tried to breastfeed my kids for at least a year. And I never wanted them to lose anything because I'm working.

I hadn't made up my mind to do this when my first child was born. I was still trying to figure the whole motherhood thing out. In the back of my mind, I thought I'd at least breastfeed for the first three months and then do my best to breastfeed in the mornings and evenings, while instructing daycare to give the baby formula during the day. But a month into my maternity leave, I realized this was something important, something that came easily to me, and something I should continue for my baby. So the research began. I spent A LOT of money on a high-quality pump and I swallowed my pride and talked to my boss about giving me a place at work to pump. I'm lucky because not only do I have an understanding employer, but I live in a state which legally requires employers to give moms the time and place to pump if they want it. So there was one hurdle overcome.

I struggled with my supply, as many pumping moms do. For the first six months, I set my alarm for 2 a.m. so I could get up in the middle of the night to pump and have enough milk to send with the baby during the day. I also pumped twice times during the work day, in the morning and at lunch. I would breastfeed right before we left in the morning, right after I picked the baby up in the afternoon (I was only working 7-hour days). I HATED pumping. But somehow I did it. On her first birthday, I packed that pump up!! I continued breastfeeding in the mornings and evenings for another month or so, until my supply was gone.

Now I am breastfeeding my second child. I think it's harder this time and I'm not sure why. Perhaps it's because I'm also caring for a preschooler and am more exhausted. Perhaps it's because this childbirth was a c-section and seemed to get me off to a rocky breastfeeding start. Perhaps it's because this baby didn't sleep through the night until 8 months old so I was unable to do the 2 a.m. pumping session. But I have struggled with my supply throughout the months. I pump twice during the day and once before bed. I've been on a near-constant regimen of fenugreek and feel like I'm permanently cursed to smell like maple syrup. Yet this time, the baby still requires 1-2 bottles of formula a day. And that makes me feel like I'm somehow failing, which I know is ridiculous. But I'm doing the best I can.

Being a breastfeeding and working mom has been so tough, but there have been many rewards. Both my children have had minimal illnesses their first year. I've gotten to enjoy that special breastfeeding bond. I've saved money on formula. I guess I'll never know if it was the "best" thing to do or if I only kept up with it because I'm so stubborn! But either way, I somehow made it work. I applaud all moms who give it a try!