I’m a work-outside-of-the-home mom—a teacher, to be specific. I dabble in stay-at-home momming during the summer, long weekends, vacations and the occasional maternity leave. But during the vast majority of the day, I am away from my babies. I miss them during the day, though, and find myself rushing to get home to them as soon as possible every afternoon. My time with them is precious and I don’t want to waste it.
I recently had my second baby and was lucky enough to have a full 10 weeks off with my baby. I went into this whole breastfeeding business with full intentions of nursing my munchkin for the better part of a year, at least. After all, breast is best, right?
I’d been breastfed until I could literally ask for a "sippy of milk,” plus all my mom friends made it look like a piece of cake with ice cream on top. As luck would have it, I never had quite enough “ice cream,” if you know what I mean, and found myself using the “f” word (formula) within the first week. I soldiered on, though. I had conviction that some breast milk was far better than no breast milk. The doctor told me that studies have shown that babies who get even some of their nutrients from Mom get most of the same benefits as fully breastfed babies. Say no more, doc! I’ve got this.
We got in a good breastfeeding rhythm and I was confident when I returned to work that I would be able to maintain what I’d started. Being a teacher, I have a planning time and a couple breaks throughout the day. I could pump during those times, nurse in the morning and night, and all would be pretty much the same as before. Right?
Once I went back to work, I was in for a rude awakening. Here’s what my life looked like:
5:30 a.m. Nurse baby while watching the morning news and planning my outfit while brainstorming ways to wear my hair that do not involve washing it.
7 a.m. Try to sneak in one more mini session while also inhaling a piece of toast with one hand and trying to not spray breast milk or drip peanut butter on my work blouse.
7:30 a.m. Drop baby off at childcare with necessary paraphernalia, including, but not limited to: 3 backup outfits, 12 diapers, wipes, bottle and a cooler full of pumped breast milk.
8:30 a.m. Welcome students into my classroom like I haven’t already run a virtual marathon while downing my third cup of coffee and simultaneously passing out morning work, taking attendance and pledging allegiance to my country.
10:15 a.m. Push my students out the door to recess while I set myself up for a 15-minute power pumping/email responding session.
12:30 p.m. Shoo the students out for their long recess and hook the ladies up again as I sit at my desk and attempt to correct papers and eat my salad for lunch.
It didn’t take me much time and consideration to realize that my breastfeeding and pumping was taking away from the precious time I was able to spend with my little one—and something had to give.
1:45 p.m. Get the maximum amount of milk I can in 10 short minutes while still budgeting enough time to pee and refill my coffee.
3:30 p.m. Lock myself in my classroom with all the shades drawn to avoid an awkward exchange with my principal for my one last pumping party of the day.
4:00-5:30 p.m. Prep for science, print and copy all the worksheets, correct all the papers, stack all the chairs, wipe down all the desk and do all the things that I could not do during my breaks.
6:30 p.m. FINALLY get home with my baby at the peak of witching hour with just enough time to throw food on the table before I sit and nurse my baby before her bedtime.
6:30-10:00 p.m. Miss her while she sleeps.
10 p.m. Go to bed, only to start over in the morning.
This was my reality as a pumping/nursing/working mother. It was hard and it was draining and it was worth it … for a while.
Yes, I had plenty of time to pump throughout the day. Yes, my breaks were even dispersed pretty evenly. But, all the things I would normally be doing—like prepping and planning during said breaks—got pushed to AFTER school.
While pre-baby/pumping/nursing, I would be heading home by 3:30-4:00, I had to stay an extra hour and a half to two hours a night to be ready to teach the next day. I was always running, stressed, falling behind and—on top of that—I felt like I hardly got to see my baby at all. After six months of this new “normal” of pumping at work and staying late, I had to take a step back and look at my reality, my priorities and my life.
It didn’t take much time or consideration to realize that my breastfeeding and pumping was taking away from the precious time I was able to spend with my little one—and something had to give.
First, I decided to stop pumping at school, but continued our morning and nightly routine of nursing. After all, the nursing was the special time with my baby that I craved and she needed. After a few weeks of this, my supply dwindled and we found ourselves naturally weaning even more.
Surprisingly, this was not saddening to me; the opposite, in fact. I was proud that I had managed to overcome my initial struggles with nursing, as well as sacrificing to breastfeed even when it wasn’t easy.
My girl got six solid months of good mama milk and I don’t regret that at all.
I also felt relieved and happy that I now could be more efficient at work, allowing me to leave earlier. My decision to stop nursing gave me more time with my baby—time I know I'll never get back—and that’s how I know it was the right choice for me.
Yes, breast is best, but only to a certain point. Do what's right for you and your baby, and don't feel a single ounce of guilt about it.