I have had a few conversations recently about work, and how that fits in with an attachment parenting ideal, most particularly the breastfeeding aspect of it. Particularly one conversation with a colleague who had fully weaned her baby from the breast in preparation for returning to work, who was stunned when I said I was still breastfeeding my child, more than a year after returning full time.
There seems to be a lot of worry about returning to work whilst still breastfeeding. I TOTALLY get that. Returning to work after maternity leave full stop seems to be one big worry. Breastfeeding definitely adds an extra layer to that though, particularly when that breastfeeding seems to be an integral part in getting your child to nap as well.
As always with my blog I will not speak for anyone else’s experiences but I’m happy to share my experiences with two children, both of whom were total boob fiends when I returned to work full time, on erratic shifts, when they were just over a year old. Both of whom were entirely dependent on a combination of boob and babywearing to ever get to sleep.
With both of them I refused to do anything to prepare them for my return to work. I wasn’t going to spend the last two months of my maternity leave listening to them cry as I refused them the boob they desperately wanted in order to practice for my return, or struggling for hours to get them to nap in a cot. Instead I tried to enjoy those final days and trust that it would all work out somehow.
And you know what? It worked out. Somehow.
My older child napped in the day with my husband in the sling. And ate food. Drank water from a cup. Then boobed an awful lot whenever I was around. Bedtimes were tricky for the first few months. But he worked out a way that worked for them, mainly involving singing Zippidee doo dah, A LOT! And once he’d got her to sleep at night she slept far better for him than she ever did when I was around. If I was away all day he’d bring her to me at lunchtime where I would feed her in the office, but on my other shifts she did without. I bulk packed breast pads to start with, but for me personally I never really leaked. If I got uncomfortably full I would sometimes use a hand pump, sometimes just hand express a little into the bathroom sink so I wasn’t carting two melons around on my chest!! I think after the first few months I didn’t even have to think about it. She fed when I was at home, was fine when I wasn’t. Fed to sleep when she could and got sung to sleep when the boobs weren’t around. I had expressed a whole load of milk in the freezer, which she totally refused to drink, and all got used up in porridge.
With my son it was even easier. Because my husband now had two of them to wrangle, he never got brought into work for feeds. He still managed just fine with food and water from a cup. He was easier to settle for naps and bedtime, though woke a lot more regularly on night shifts. Yet still my husband and my son have both survived it. I have pumped maybe five times in over a year back, and only when I have felt particularly uncomfortable. My magic boobs have seemed to cope just fine with this, not squirting on any unsuspecting patients, yet still functioning just fine when I’ve been at home with my boob-monster boy. I did get an inconvenient and uncomfortable breast abscess after a long work weekend with a crystal down my bra (hippy mum tip, this is a bad idea whilst still lactating!!), but a course of antibiotics, and lots of booby cuddles and we were back to normal.
I think I have been lucky. I’m sure I have. But I am definitely testament to the fact that it is possible to continue to breast feed and co-sleep and babywear, whilst also working full time. Me and most especially my children are testament to the fact that it is possible to adapt life to fit in a number of different ways of doing things, lovely boobs for cuddley naps alongside food and bottles and naps in bed for Daddy. And if daycare and nurseries need to fit into these plans too I know many people who have successfully combined these too. I have found with children so far, it may not be easy, but most things are possible!
Post script to say I actually went out tonight! And drank four glasses of wine! With adult company on a work night-out! It was very nice thank you, but I apologise if this blog has been even more rambling than usual with more spelling mistakes and unnecessary exclamation marks. I will be sleeping downstairs tonight for anyone who is concerned about me crushing my babies. This was my evening view…