*Warning, if you’re not a mother or not Breastfeeding, you may not enjoy this post! But it’s a normal thing to do, so I’m not holding back on talking about it here.
A few people have asked what I’m doing about feeding now I’m back at work. I’ll share my situation here but each situation when it comes to breastfeeding is as unique as the mother and child combination, so I would love if you would share your experiences and solutions in the comments if you can add to the conversation – I know many readers will be interested and grateful.
Bea is exclusively breastfed and has been since birth. She’s never had any formula as we have been lucky enough not to need it. I’ve not spent a lot of time apart from her and expressing doesn’t bother me that much, apart from it being a bit of faff. We have only infrequently given her bottles, (the bulk of my expressing here and there went in the freezer to bolster my back to work supplies,) mainly when I went to evening practice meetings each month for work. Apart from a brief period around the 4 month mark when she wouldn’t take a bottle, she has taken it when she wants milk, but not in the same enthusiastic way she would breastfeed. We initially started with a Medela calma teat (which is supposed to require the latch a baby needs to breastfeed, to get any milk out of it,) but switched to a slow flow normal teat when she was a bit fussier with a bottle, as I felt if she could taste the milk she might then take the bottle. It worked, but I don’t know if that was just the passage of time rather than the change of teat.
So back to my back to work plan… I’ve kept a close eye on Bea’s feeds since she was born, but continued to track them well after BF was established, mainly to see what I would need to provide for her once back at work. I’ve been asked how I tried to reduce her feeds and I didn’t really try, but two things probably had the greatest impact. Firstly, I didn’t push her to feed generally as she got older and so noticed that she went longer between feeds. That might sound like straight forward demand feeding, but I noticed myself that even though she was fed on demand, you do get into a routine of feeding when you expect they will need feeding rather than waiting for them to be hungry or cry. On occasions where it went a bit longer and I realised she didn’t need a feed until 2.5 or 3 hours after the last one, I tried to adjust things going forwards. Secondly, as she got older and consolidated her three short naps into 2 longer ones (around 6-7 months) that stretched out the feeds again (as she went down for a nap not long before she would normally feed and then I fed her on waking, after more time had elapsed.) Weaning also stretched things out a little more, but it hasn’t made a massive difference really, the meals have just had to be shoehorned in between the feeds.
On the expressing front, as I said, I have stockpiled quite a bit in the freezer (as you can see from my photo’s!) which should also give you an idea of how much milk varies – even on frozen portions you can see how the milk changes in consistency and amount day to day, which I thought might be useful to show if its something that worried you. I was very worried about expressing at work as I have always got the most milk, quickest, by expressing on one side when Bea feeds from the other, I think the let-down is stronger that way. When I have occasionally tried when Bea isn’t even around, its been much slower going and less productive, so I was worried if it would work when I was away from her and back at work. Having done it for the first time yesterday (I didn’t get time on my first day back!) I’m happy to report it was easy! I managed a full bottle easily which is great as I can then use that on friday when I’m back in work again. I’m also lucky that I have my own room at work so I have simply let the staff and my colleagues know I am still feeding Bea and will need to express at some point when I’m at work (so they know why there’s a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the door,) and lock the door for privacy.
At the moment, Bea is having 4 feeds a day; Morning, after morning nap, after afternoon nap and before bed. (She’s 8 months but has done this since about 7 months.) Although when she is with me that varies – if she’s distracted at one feed and doesn’t have much she might have one or two more smaller feeds throughout the day, as and when she needs it. So I’m feeding her before work and before bed, and leaving 2 bottles. The only thing that is a bit hit and miss is how much she takes, or what I should be leaving her. Obviously I have no idea how much she takes from me, but I leave 2 full bottles and so far, it’s varied how much she has taken and how often. Sometimes she wolfs a whole bottle (we use the small 150ml ones) and other times she’ll have only a bit and want more later when she wouldn’t normally have a bottle. And there’s always more in the freezer, but obviously at this point, she is having 3 meals a day too.
I did a lot of asking around before getting to this point because feeding her back at work really worried me – mainly that I could get her feeds down to a level that I could keep up with to express enough for her. A lot of mums suggested just going to formula, and although I didn’t want to do that*, I knew if it was coming down to her nutritional needs and me not being able to meet them, then I’d have to do it. Others said their babies just didn’t take a bottle and some moved to giving small amounts in a sippy cup or doidy cup if the baby would take it. Other still said the baby jut waited for them to get back and fed more in the evening (and sometimes at night :/ ) and had just water in the day. So I guess there’s a solution for everyone.
And that’s it, our story. I’ll post a little update when I share more about being back to work, and see what Bea is doing then. I’m hoping as my freezer supply dwindles she may drop another feed and the expressing will take even less effort!
Please do chip in with your experiences readers!
*Just to clarify, I have NOTHING against formula, I just haven’t felt we’ve needed it so far and because BF is all about supply and demand, especially at this time when supply is naturally decreasing due to reduced feeds, I didn’t want to affect it further. I hope to keep feeding Bea at least until she is one and beyond if she wants it, so I don’t want to do anything to reduce the chances of that happening at this early stage.