Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! I’m glad you’re here. Be sure to check out the other contributors, whose links are at the end of this post.
I’ve spoken a lot about how lucky we are to have a full year of paid maternity and parental leave in Canada. I believe that these months at home with our babies are very valuable in many ways. One of the big advantages is that being off of work for this long facilitates breastfeeding. Because while it is possible to combine working with breastfeeding a very small baby, it does present challenges. Being at home for a full year allows Canadian mothers to avoid many of these challenges.
Because Canadian maternity leave lasts for so long, and because a minority of mothers breastfeed their babies up to the one-year mark or beyond, it is often par for the course to wean a baby from the breast in order to return to work. I would certainly never question another mother’s choice about when to wean her baby. However, I was able to successfully combine work with breastfeeding my toddler Hannah for years, and I found it surprisingly easy to do. I know many other mothers who shared the same experience. So, with the aim of providing a perspective and alternative I will share my story.
When I considered returning to work the first question on my mind was whether or not I would need to pump. I did some research and read some articles about weaning from the pump at work. I discovered that many moms stop pumping at work at around the one-year mark, even as they continue to breastfeed. I also learned that many toddlers will not drink expressed breast milk. I found that to be true for my own daughter – she loved to nurse, but she frankly wanted it only from the source or not at all.
Even having that information, I wasn’t sure how my own milk supply would adapt, since I would be working full days Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I was away from my daughter for up to 10 hours at a stretch, and I thought it might be hard for my body to regulate a one day on / one day off schedule such as that. However, I decided that I would prefer to avoid pumping if possible, since I knew my daughter wasn’t interested in the milk, and since it would present an interruption to my day as well as require me to locate facilities. I was willing to jump through any hoops if it was necessary, but I was hoping that it wouldn’t be.
When I returned to work I brought my hand pump, and decided to just see how it played out. On my first day back by about 3pm I was pretty full. I expressed enough milk to relieve my discomfort. Over the first two weeks I continued in the same manner, expressing to my own comfort when necessary. I found that within weeks my body adjusted, and I was able to comfortably go 10 hours without pumping.
My one-year-old did change some of her nursing and eating habits after my return to work. She began ‘reverse-cycling’, nursing more at night when she was otherwise asleep. I discovered that this is a pretty common occurrence when nurslings are separated from their moms during the day. By bedsharing I was able to get enough rest and accommodate the increased night nursings. My daughter also ate more solid foods at daycare than she did at home, and drank more water. Again, I think this is pretty common – when nurslings don’t have access to the breast they make up for it by eating and drinking other things.
As I said, I was able to continue nursing my daughter for almost 2 years after returning to work, until she weaned at 34 months. Before her birth I didn’t anticipate that I would continue breastfeeding after my return to work, but I’m so glad I did. It really reduced the stress on both of us, since we were already going through enough change as it was. It also provided a great source of comfort and means to re-connect at the end of the day.
The human body is an amazing machine, and it can do so much more than we give it credit for. In my case, I was happy to learn that it could produce the right amount of milk at the right time for my toddler, in spite of my work schedule. It’s almost like my body just knew what to do, even when I didn’t.
Now check out these other great posts. You will be very glad you did!
- Breastfeeding Moms Unite!: Breastfeeding At My Family Daycare
- Momnesia the Book: Sorry, Facilities Guy
- Marshins: Taking Your Working Boobs to Work
- The Marketing Mama: Working and Pumping
- Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Breastfeeding and working is possible, and you can make it work
- Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: Do you really need a pump?
- Vanderbilt Wife: I Think This Officially Makes Me a Mommy Blogger
- Stork Stories: My Breast Pump and I didn’t get Along
- Breastfeeding Moms Unite! / Stork Stories: Ask an LC: What About Pumping?
- Breastfeeding 1-2-3: Tips for Breastfeeding and Working
- Breastfeeding Mums: Breastfeeding and Working in the UK
- Blacktating: The 5 Biggest Mistakes Working & Pumping Moms Make
- MumUnplugged: This is a Breastfeeding Office
- Best for Babes: Beating the Employment “Booby Trap”
- My World Edenwild: Nursing Mothers Need Workplace Support