I haven't nursed a child in over five years, but my breastfeeding experience spanned a continuous 5 years and 9 months. In this series I'll share my breastfeeding story, with all of its ups and downs, for the purpose of inspiring and encouraging both new moms and those who are years into their breastfeeding experience.
When my oldest son was 6 weeks old I returned to work part-time. I felt a little panicked because, although he was latching for breastfeeding fairly well with my help, he had never learned to properly latch onto a bottle. When I supplemented with formula or fed him expressed breast milk in the earlier weeks, he never ate more than 4 ounces from a bottle in one day. How was he suppose to get enough to eat while I was at work for four hours?
My plan was to pump once while at work and again in the evening at home to provide at least two four ounce bottles for him while I was working. As it turned out I was never able to pump more than two ounces at a time and had to pump several times per day. I hated pumping and began to consider giving him formula during the time I was at work.
His daycare provider understood that I was committed to breastfeeding and assured me that he would eventually transition to the bottle and would not starve himself. In fact, she said, he was sleeping for half of the time he was at daycare, attempting to eat once and sitting happily in the swing observing the older babies the rest of the time. He didn't cry and didn't seem hungry. He did, however, spend the afternoons and evenings attached to my breast, leaving me very little time or milk to pump.
Around 8 weeks, he began to "wake up" at daycare and was not spending as much time sleeping. He was crying more and still not latching on to the bottle properly. Some mornings he would refuse the bottle completely worrying his daycare provider and causing her to call me to come feed him.
By his 9th week, he refused the bottle without fail and I had to breastfeed him just before leaving him at the daycare at 7:45, leave work to feed him again at 10:00am and hurry from work at noon to feed him before taking him home. My boss noticed and co-workers noticed, though no one said anything. At the end of that week I devised a plan.
If my baby wouldn't take a bottle, using expressed formula or breast milk was out of the question. I was already working part-time and spending nearly an hour of my four-hour work day away from work, feeding my baby. I could lose my job over this! I needed to be able to work and feed my baby at the same time. I had two choices. I could hire a nanny to care for my son and bring him to me when he needed to eat or I could work from home. Working from home would eliminate the cost of childcare, so it made the most sense. Easy choice.
There was only one problem. No one in our company worked from home regularly. I was nervous, but approached my boss on Monday morning and asked for a meeting. He agreed to talk with me later that morning and was extremely supportive of my needs. He promised to talk with the corporate office to be certain that this was permissible and, when he did, they agreed. By the end of the week I was set up for full-time telecommuting. Yes, in a compromise for the privilege of working from home, I agreed to take on an important task that I performed before my maternity leave that was struggling from set-backs and disorganization since being handed over to another employee. I gladly added more work to my plate in order to breastfeed my baby on demand. I never regretted that decision.
A couple of weeks later, I was sitting on at my desk at home, spreadsheet open, fully concentrating on work when I looked down at my nursling. I realized that all of our latching struggles were gone. He was latching and staying latched! It had been weeks since I declared to my husband on a daily basis that I was DONE with "this breastfeeding crap". I had been weeks since my baby and I cried together in frustration as he latched and slipped off over and over. There was no longer any pain, physical or emotional, associated with nursing!
I fed him on demand, which was about every two hours for 20 minutes. He was healthy and growing and our nursing relationship was peaceful and easy. This was the promised land of nursing that I'd read about, the one that other moms assured me that I'd reach if I just kept going.
I had made it. We had made it!