Before Paisley was even born there was another deadline looming. It was one that you hear so many Mum’s talking about on forums, Facebook pages and other forms of social media and it can fill some of us with dread…going back to work. For a lot of Mum’s they have quite a bit of time to prepare for that day and the days are structured in a typical 9-5 way so you know when you’ll leave and when you’ll return (presuming Northern Rail don’t want to randomly cancel trains…). Sadly my work day has never been ‘typical’ and I could some days be away from home 15-16 hours with hardly any breaks. Some Mum’s stop breastfeeding entirely to fit around with going back to work and I can understand that it’s quite a challenge to over come and can seem daunting but with a bit of research and advanced planning it’s not the nightmare it can seem. With me going back so early I didn’t want to stop feeding early, especially once we’d got going and realised how much we both loved it. How on earth was I going to make this work?
I made the most of nap times by reading up on my options for expressing/pumping…
You may notice that I’m not even questioning the feeding method here. I knew all along I was going to breastfeed and my stubborn nature didn’t even allow myself to consider that it may not work out that way or I’d ‘fail’ (what is it with that word, I hate it). That can be another blog post for another time. Knowing I was going to breastfeed meant that one day, and a lot earlier than most Mum’s anticipate, our daughter would need to take a bottle off someone else. I’ve never heard any breastfeeding Mum’s share an instant success story and that’s what worried us all.
So, after 6 weeks when my breastfeeding was established (as recommended by midwives, health professionals and my breastfeeding support team) my local children’s centre (The Grove in Burscough) lent me one of their Ardo breast pumps to start my expressing journey. We borrowed a few different types of bottles off other parents we knew after sending out a Facebook plea and got to work seeing if Miss P would take a bottle of my milk. She point blank refused. We tried a little most days. There were tears, lots of tears and not just from Paisley but from us both too. The days kept disappearing and the first date back at work was hurtling towards us, we felt the whole situation was hopeless and on one occasion I think the whole breastfeeding thing was blamed for adding extra stress to the situation. It’s easy to focus the blame on the feeding when you’re feeling anxious and stressed, we always ended up agreeing that actually we didn’t mean that and it’s been ace but she really needs to take a bottle so that my first day back isn’t filled with extra stress!
Well meaning friends shared their tips…
– Try a different bottle
– Try a different teat
– Feed her yourself so she knows it’s your milk (yeah…no, she just wanted my boob. Who were we kidding?)
– Don’t be in the room when someone’s feeding her as she’ll smell you and want you instead (I swear she knows if I’m even in the same village never mind the same house…)
– She’ll feed when she’s hungry, she won’t starve. (that made Dad even more anxious)
– Have you tried formula instead? (I’d suggest never suggesting this to a Mum who really wants to work at breastfeeding…)
– Try a cup or a syringe (queue us buying both…)
– Don’t stress, she’ll pick up on it (have you ever tried to feed an upset baby and not get upset yourself…?)
Looking back we realise that her cries were upsetting us (A LOT) and we didn’t have it in us to leave her crying or keep trying something knowing she would get so upset. It felt we were forcing the bottle on her and she really didn’t want it. Who would really when you are used to the real, squishy thing and most of the time you know ‘it’ was the other side of the door? Poor Dad would get anxious so quickly which meant he’d lose patience quickly too, he would end up wanting me to give her the boob to keep us all calm and happy! Step forward Mother in Law. A bit of patience and tentative trying one day and what do you know…Paisley will take a bottle! It wasn’t much but she tried sucking and didn’t cry, eventually. She even took it off her Auntie and then finally off Dad. HUGE achievement and just in time for my first wedding back when she was less than 3 months old.
You can hear how proud (and maybe relieved) Daddy is in this video they sent me!
I had a blast at my first wedding, and every wedding since. It felt odd at first to be back with adults, holding a camera and dressed all smart (in breastfeeding/ expressing friendly clothes this time) but I was soon throwing myself in and enjoying every minute. My wonderful husband kept sending me little updates via WhatsApp and it turns out that they also proved to be amazing at getting my milk flowing (when I had to express in the back of my assistant’s van outside the church…surely that’s yet another blog post for you?).
It’s been a challenging journey for us all but we made it. Some day’s she’ll feed like a pro and take quite a few oz, others she will only have 1-2oz the whole day and then feed off me for hours when I returned like she was playing catch up. I didn’t mind that one bit seeing as I’d missed her so much and she didn’t seem to mind too much either, she obviously came to realise I’d be back at some point so she would prefer to wait for the real thing. Obviously when 6 months rolled round and we could introduce food I think everyone felt a bit of weight off our shoulders if she was having a fussy day as they could try her with some yummy edible treats instead.
I found Kellymom to be an invaluable resource to have when looking in to expressing/pumping and bottle feeding, worth having a read of some of posts on there if you’re in a similar position as I was. You may have gathered by my previous posts I do like to do my research!
So, my top tips for Mum’s either struggling with getting their breastfed baby to take a bottle or already anticipating this will be the case…
Delegate. Consider a really patient family member or friend to be the one to help you through this. Maybe even plan a cheeky lunch out with your other half and let them see what they can do. Of all the helpful (and not so helpful) advice the one about babies picking up on stress seems to actually be the case.
Try to introduce it gradually and not the day before you need to leave them, it’ll get them used to it over time and they’ll realise it’s not such a scary thing (as will you).
And worst case, if they’re really refusing and you’ve tried everything I’ve mentioned above maybe they won’t actually starve. Maybe you could on ways of getting baby to pay you a visit on your break? Maybe they simply prefer you and will happily wait, like my P did, for you to come back and make up for it with a 3 course dinner of their favourite food…Mummy’s milk. I’ve worked some really long days and yes, I have come home to an upset Daddy and Baby on a few occasions. But even he’d admit that she’s be a star all day and it was only at night, when she realised she missed her Mummy, that things got tough. At over a year old we still have a mixed reaction to expressed feeds (in terms of amounts now more than anything) but she’s done so well and it really does get easier all round. She will drink out of anything now, though does have her favourite…
Paisley drinking out of her favourite bottle, a Munchkins Latch.
Good luck with your ‘back to work’ breastfeeding journey. I hope reading my story helps inspire you a little to find the right resources and advice to help you continue…