When I was pregnant with Lily I thought I would probably be breastfeeding her for the first 6 months before switching to formula. Especially after a shakey start I was unsure whether I would even last that long. It took me a while to help Lily get the latch right, and once I had my nipples were so sore I felt like crying every time Lily fed. I also came down with mastitis 4x in the first 3 months. The first time we had to call an ambulance and I was admitted back to hospital for four days as it was so bad.
However, once we got over that traumatic time I found my breastfeeding groove. Feeding Lily became as normal and easy as breathing. I’m a fan of a routine and putting her to the breast every three hours worked well for both of us. Six months approached and things were going well so I continued, as we began weening we cut down on feeds and all was still well.
As Christmas passed and the new year began, 2015, it started to dawn on me that my return to work was fast approaching. I had been in this bubble of motherhood and that was about to be shattered. Not only that but Lily was still breastfeeding about four times a day. 7am, midday, 7pm and midnight. Three of those wouldn’t be a problem even with being back at work, but the midday one was. I couldn’t let Lily go all day without milk as she was still under a year. So we started trying to prepare ourselves.
I have a condition that’s called a microprolactinoma, and this has caused me to have an oversupply of milk. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but if you’ve had it you will know how awful it can be. Feeling like your boobs are going to burst because they’re so full, being in agony because they feel like rocks on your chest. Being petrified of mastitis and those telltale red marks. Not being able to sleep because your baby has slept longer than usual without a feed, and actually hoping they wake up and have a feed soon. So because of this I felt like the only option was to stop breastfeeding and move Lily on to formula when I went back to work, so that I wouldn’t be in constant discomfort from missing feeds.
We bought some formula and I decided to give it a go. It felt strange mixing up a formula and I felt sad but also curious what would happen. Well Lily took one sniff of the stuff and flat out refused it. I tried, Joe tried, my dad tried, she cried, I cried. She was refusing it completely. So back to the drawing board.
I had done some expressing previously but because I was always with Lily I hadn’t done it much. I had a manual breast pump and it always seemed so rubbish, expressing very little and somehow leaving me covered in milk. We went online and started researching for a new one, I found the electric Medela Swing on offer so decided to give it a go. One morning when I was breastfeeding Lily at 7am before work I fed her on my left side whilst expressing from the right. The electric pump did the job and collected a whole bottle of milk easily. It was comfortable, quick and reasonably quiet. The moment of truth came when I gave Lily the bottle of expressed milk. At first she was reluctant, put off by the previous impostor, but after a cautious sip she guzzled it down, amazing!
From then on I got in to a new routine. I expressed in the morning, Joe or my Dad would give her the bottle at lunch, and I was breastfeeding her once I got home and at night. It wasn’t without its hiccups along the way, I needed to take my pump to work and if I felt too full I expressed a bit which felt a bit strange. One time I couldn’t relax enough to express and I rung Joe in tears because my boobs were so full and painful leaking through my work shirt. But after a week or so my boobs got used to the new routine and would only “expect” to be emptied three times a day. For a mum with a normal supply this shouldn’t be so much of a problem, but if it is then a quick pump at lunch usually did the trick for me. Just tell your colleagues to excuse the weird pumping sounds from your office!
If there are any mums reading this that are panicking about continuing breastfeeding once back at work I would say it absolutely can be done. Easily. Prepare first, get your boobs used to not being emptied so many times a day, and buy a good pump, electric is so much quicker and more effective. Let me know how you get on!