I recently attended a function and was chatting with my good friend Kate about breastfeeding (in particular, the ins and outs of how we were each planning to express/breastfeed/not become breastmilk fountains during work hours). We were both returning to work after periods of maternity leave. We had both exclusively breastfed our babies on demand. Neither of us had given much thought as to how we would go upon our imminent returns to our workplaces.
Our conversation was soon joined by another woman, pregnant with her first child, who was attending the same function.
“Should I buy a breast pump now?”, she asked.
This question opened up a valid conversation. Was it necessary for mothers planning to return to the workforce (and continue breastfeeding) to prepare to pump?
Of course, experiences vary so widely from one woman to another. But it got me thinking about my views and how they’ve changed since I had my own first child, almost eight years ago.
At my baby shower I was given a manual breast pump by my husband’s cousin, who had recently had her own first child. Until I opened that gift, I hadn’t even considered I’d need a pump! My attitudes towards feeding were very simple, and perhaps a bit naive. To me, if I could breastfeed I would. I hasn’t considered any alternative and I certainly hasn’t imagined I’d come up against any challenges (despite having read every baby book available at the time, turning up to my antenatal appointments with a written list of questions for the midwife, and having searched Google on every pregnancy/birth question that crossed my mind). The whole lactation subject was all a bit casual to my 24-year-old self and I told myself “I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it”. I had a birth to get through first!
I was so grateful for that gift and all the others I received at my shower. I dutifully washed all the tiny clothes, sterilised the pump, and tucked them away in the nursery (which was just the second bedroom of our little apartment).
And do you know what? In the end nothing went to plan. Despite having a three-page typed-out birth plan which specified No Epidural, I had an epidural. It said Low Intervention, I had a ventouse delivery. It said Earliest Discharge Possible, I stayed 3 nights. Because birth isn’t predictable, and neither is anything that comes after it.
My birth plan also said Baby To Breast Straight After Birth. Well, my baby was totally stuck and after a three hour pushing stage he had to go to the resus table straight away, not to my boob. Because priorities. I still got to feed him within 30 minutes.
I’ll skip the details but for the first few days of his life, breastfeeding wasn’t easy. With lots of support, perseverance and pain, we eventually succeeded.
When he was eight months old and I went back to work, relief teaching one day a week. When you demand feed an infant 6 days a weeks and then spend 8 hours away from him to go to work, your boobs miss the memo.
I was so grateful to have my pump ready to go, as I NEEDED to express milk during my break. The pump was a God send.
Nothing about motherhood goes to plan. You can’t possibly predict and prepare for every possible occurrence. The unpredictable nature of labour and birth is just a stepping stone into a new life where you don’t always get to choose your own adventure.
I spend most of my time troubleshooting problems I didn’t even know existed yesterday. It’s kind of exciting. And sometimes stressful.
So my advice to the new mummy to be? Hold off on buying the pump. It’s only ever a quick trip to the shops away (or a few clicks for an online order). More important than having the actual pump stored somewhere in your home is always having a backup plan (or three) safely tucked away.
I’m asking what didn’t you know that you didn’t know before you became a parent? Leave me a comment below!
Linking in to #IBOT