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One Thing All Breastfeeding Working Moms Need to Know

Once upon a time, my daughter decided bottles were not for her. Not a one. Not the expensive ones or the ones my best friend's child loved, not the ones with fancy breast-like nipples and not with different temperatures of milk. She said no, and she said it loudly and often throughout my maternity leave.

Needless to say, her breast-only preference caused quite a predicament in my early mothering days as I prepared to return to work. Go ahead, feel free to wince alongside me as you assess my sweet baby's nutritional needs and the 4- to 10-hour work schedule quickly approaching. She cried in frustration as I once again tried to coax a bottle-feeding and I cried from utter dismay.

I had milk, lots of it. In fact, I dealt with oversupply and in preparation for returning to work had a large chest freezer in the garage full of pumped milk. Milk was in abundance. But getting expressed milk into her little body was becoming our biggest obstacle.

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It was a cold, February day when I first left my little girl in her nanny's care. She was 4 months old and we had established a haphazard plan to make it through the first week. I nursed Jemma right before I left so her belly would be full. Then her nanny planned to attempt cup feeding mid-morning. At lunch time, Jemma and her nanny would visit my office so she could once again fill up on breast milk straight from the source. Another cup feed in the afternoon. And finally, Mama rushing home at day's end for more nursing. We crossed our fingers and prayed this would keep us all sane.

And it did—for a few weeks.

By five months old, Jemma became disinterested in cup feeding. It was pretty messy and inefficient so we were all on board to wean her off those. She seemed to stay decently full with her nursing sessions, but it was not because she was satisfied with three feedings in twelve hours. It was because she began to reverse cycle.

I'm assuming she felt like quite the little winner—no bottles and lots of Mama's milk, a little slice of her heaven.

And that is what all breastfeeding, working moms needs to know. Babies are truly brilliant in finding ways for their needs to be met and for Jemma, reverse cycling was the answer to her problem with Mama's work schedule.

When reverse cycling began, I didn't really know it had a name. I just knew Jemma nursed 3 times during the day—and much, much more often at night. She breastfed almost constantly when I arrived home from work up until her bedtime, again once or twice before midnight and countless times between midnight and the chirping of my alarm clock at 6 am. Due to my work schedule and her bottle aversion, she flip-flopped her daytime and nighttime eating schedule. Smart little lady!

Reverse cycling worked great for Jemma. I'm assuming she felt like quite the little winner—no bottles and lots of Mama's milk, a little slice of her heaven. She gained weight right on track and didn't hassle her nanny with hunger during the day. Honestly, it worked OK for me too. One of my biggest concerns with returning to work was maintaining my milk supply and since we were mimicking a regular and frequent nursing schedule—just backwards—my supply stayed ample long past her first birthday.

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Of course, I sacrificed sleep. And oh did I miss it with a vengeance. No one can prepare you for the sleep deprivation new motherhood brings let alone the step above that when you have a baby who reverse cycles. But, I managed, both from sheer determination and lots of rest on the weekends. I also learned to nurse laying on my side which made Jemma's dream feeding, well, a dream for us both!

In the end, with much thanks to reverse cycling, I met my first breastfeeding goal of exclusively nursing for six months. From there, we took it one week at a time and thankfully I maintained my milk supply and breastfed Jemma as her primary source of nutrition just past her first birthday. Then, just as she was accustomed, she threw a curveball my way and abruptly weaned. But that's a story for another day.

Did your baby surprise you with reverse cycling? How did you cope?

Image via Twenty20/tharpemily

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