As you probably already know, Liam turned one over the weekend. This is a day that I have feared and hoped for, off and on for the past few months. I have feared my son getting bigger and bigger so quickly, but I have hoped for it, because the day would signal the accomplishment of my biggest and most important parenting (and possibly life) goal so far- nursing/pumping for the first year. I tend to be someone who makes goals and follows through sparatically, but when Liam was born, I said that I would do everything in my power to make it nursing exclusively for the first year. When I said this, I was serious about the goal, but still had doubts about my ability to follow through.
Nursing was no problem for the first four months, as I was a stay at home mom over the summer and was always with Liam. The first major hurtle came when I went back to work in September. At that point I talked to a co-worker who is very "nature-focused" and who I thought "If anyone could do it, she could." When I asked her how long she was able to nurse, she said through the first year. Confidience up! But then I asked if she needed to supplement with formula and she said, "Oh ya. There was no way!" Confidience plummeting! I began to doubt my abilities again.
At that point, I said that if I just made it to 6 months I would be happy. October (6 months) came and went and the pumping/nursing was still going strong. Then I said, "Just through the holidays." They came and went and I was beginning to really think that I may have a chance. Then the tough stuff hit. In January, I went back to work after a two week x-mas break and started taking classes for my reading endorsement. The classes required me to work with two students (outside of class time) one on one. The only time this would work was after school and during my prep period (AKA pumping time). At first things were ok, but the further into the calendar year I got, the harder it was. My milk started to stall and not drop soon enough for me to get prepared for the huge group of screaming students to enter my room.
I was so scared that I wouldn't make it after all of this time. Although I knew it wasn't true, I thought that I had gone through all of this trouble for nothing. As spring break approached, I started just hoping to make it until then. With less and less milk, more and more stress, and even less time to pump, it seemed almost impossible. But spring break came and for a whole week Liam and I focused on nursing. The next three weeks were touch and go. Some days were very good and others were so draining that I thought it was over. But here it is, a few days into Liam's second year, and I am still nursing (no longer pumping at work- thank goodness!) and I am so proud of myself. I have NEVER felt so accomplished and I am glad that this is the goal that made it.
*Disclaimer- If you don't want to read about boobies, you should stop reading now!
A friend who is about to welcome her little guy soon, asked if I would post some tips. I don't know how much help they will be, but here they are:
1. Set a good schedule- try to spend as much time nursing exclusely before going to work. I know most people can't help this, but the longer you have, the more your body seems to respond and setting up a good schedule helped me.
2. Don't get frustrated- your milk supply will vary a bit everyday. Some days you will produce a lot and others you won't. Don't dwell on the not so great days, it will all even out if you stick with it.
3. Start pumping and freezing milk ASAP- the more milk in the freezer, the better. If for nothing else, a night out with the hubby.
4. Do whatever you need to do, to be comfortable (with pumping and nursing). Being comfortable and relaxed helps your milk drop quickly and will ensure that your little one won't get frustrated or impatient.
5. Get a good pump. I recommend Medela. When at the hospital, we were told to get a Medela pump. We ignored them thinking they were too expensive. But if you are really committed to this, you will need a good reliable pump and will most likely, eventually go get one anyway. So save yourself the time and money and just get one first.
*The next few tips will be about pumping at work
6. Be honest and straight forward with your boss- it's the law that your boss has to give you a time and place to pump. Use this to your advantage and try to create a plan early.
7. Make sure that your pumping area is comfortable and warm- being cold is not helpful when trying to produce milk and being in a stressful situation doesn't help either. I know this because I had to pump in my classroom (where two walls are windows, one of them to the hallway where students are constantly around).
8. Lock the door! Even with a massive amount of dicussion with my co-workers about what the screen in the corner of the room and lights off means, I still had a couple of almost interruptions (even when the door was locked).
9. Your favorite music and some water to drink can help to set the mood. A comfortable chair and a dark room is a nice way to prepare.
10. Set up a system for getting your pumping equipment to and from work. I took everything with me on Mondays, washed out the pieces after each pumping session, and left the pieces in my classroom until Friday. Then I would take it all home and put it through the dishwasher. To do this, it would be easiest to have two sets of everything (although not financially ideal) pump, cups, tubing, bottles, etc. Leaving one set at home and one at work would relieve a lot of prep and worry. But I wasn't able to do this and had to take the pump itself back and forth.
I hope that these tips are helpful to someone, if not, I tried!