One of my biggest struggles thus far has been breastfeeding my daughter. She is now 13 months old and we are still going strong. My goal is to get to two years then wean her off with baby led weaning. It has been a journey, to say the least, filled with ups and downs, highs and lows. In the beginning, it was amazing. The best way to continue to bond with my daughter post pregnancy and feel as though I was still contributing to her growth and helping her thrive. Then, it got to be a little challenging. I would pump in the mornings to give myself a break in the afternoons and have my husband feed her the bottle. She started to prefer the bottle and my self-esteem decreased as a result. I felt as though I was going to loose this beautiful ritual and that I would have to continue pumping around the clock. Pumping is my least favorite activity. Mothers can you relate?
After a few weeks she got back on the boob and things were good again. I am lucky that I didn't get mastitis or clogged ducks. If my breasts became sore then I would make her drink from that boob exclusively until the pain went away. I also used 'Mother's Blend' oil from Whole Foods every time I got out of the shower to ensure that my nipples didn't get chapped. I tried to balance out feedings between the right and left boob so I didn't overproduce on one (although she definitely preferred the right). Nursing became the only way she would go to sleep so I would hold her in my arms, fully latched, until her soft little eyelids would close and she would drift away into dreamland.
I can tell right away when she is hungry, in fact my boobs actually inflate, and most of my #MomGuilt comes from not being available to her when she needs to feed. Luckily, I have a job that allows me to only be away for a few hours at a time. The challenge is making time for myself and making sure I am practicing self-care on top of being a mom and a working teacher.
Now that she is 13 months, we are supplementing her milk with organic foods so my husband can feed her while I am away. It makes my life a lot easier and I do not have as much anxiety as I did in the beginning. I feel so responsible for her health and livelihood and I know breast milk has given her the antibodies she needs to fight off certain diseases. My husband and I both caught a wicked cold this year and she never got it, we believe because I nursed her the whole way through. Breast milk is a miracle cure for just about anything. I put it on her scalp along with coconut oil to cure cradle cap, placed it on wounds which helped them heal faster, and even used it on airplanes (squirting a few drops up her nose) to help her sneeze out any germs or bacteria that may have been floating around the cabin. Mother Nature is so powerful and wise. Breast milk is further proof of that.
I have definitely noticed a decrease of energy when I pump milk as opposed to a surge of happy hormones I receive when my daughter feeds from the breast. Because of this, I stopped pumping a while ago because on top of teaching and home responsibilities, it was getting to be too much. If I had to go back to a 9-5 job I am not sure how long I would have lasted. One thing I feel strongly about now is advocating for women’s rights. Women need and deserve paid time off to stay home with their little ones for as long as they choose to nurse, or at least the first 2 years of life. I believe educators and caretakers should be one of the highest paying jobs in the world.
If you are a mom balancing work and home life, know that you are a super hero and not alone in your struggles to meet all the demands. We must prioritize our own wellbeing, something I know can seem tough because we are nurturers, but so important to keep our bodies, minds, and relationships alive and thriving.
A couple other things that really helped to keep up my milk supply were drinking quality, alkaline water, eating tons of veggies (especially leafy greens) and getting plenty of rest. Instead of tackling my to-do list, I would nap with my daughter. Even though it meant I didn’t get as much work done, I slowly came to the realization that the most important job was right in front of me. Thus, I committed to being the best mother I could, first a foremost. After that, my days flowed with so much more ease. I put aside my distractions and became present with my daughter, constantly interacting and teaching her things. The light in her eyes is the only thing I need to return to the present moment and fill my heart with so much love and gratitude.
If you are a mom, how did you balance work and home life? Did you breastfeed? What were some of your struggles and how did you overcome them? Please comment or share with your community!