by Sheela Shukla
Returning to work can never be easy, but I learnt that preparation is the key to making things easier. I’m a full-time working mum and I work three rotating shifts. Being a first time mum, I had no prior experience or education on breastfeeding. I did lots of reading and constantly sought advice from people around me. My concept of breastfeeding was that after baby was born, I would just latch her when its time for feeding and voila, we are done! Little did I know that there would be obstacles to overcome in my journey!
A month ahead of starting work, I decided to introduce the bottle to baby at least once a day. For those feeds, I would pump in exchange for giving the bottle. Initially, she took to the bottle just fine, even when I offered her the bottle. But just 1 week short of commencing work, baby decided to strongly refuse the bottle. As I live with my mum, who is her caregiver when I’m at work, it was rather difficult convincing her that baby will not take the bottle from me or in my presence. So, I had to leave for that hour just so she could take the bottle from my Mum. Of course, it wasn’t easy having to be ‘separated’ from baby but my Mum wanted to be sure baby took the bottle. And yes, she eventually did before I officially started work. Phew!
I faced refusal from her when I returned to work after my maternity leave. She refused to latch and that really made me so hurt. I felt rejected. And so I started reading up and consulting professionals. I received a whole lot of different responses, some even telling me to stop latching and commenting I should feel relieved baby has decided to take the bottle! However, I decided that I will get baby to latch again, and so lots of skin contact coupled with lots of patience made it all possible. And within a week, baby started latching all fine again.
It was rather tough getting baby into a routine as my shift hours were confusing to her. Finding a right pumping/latching schedule was indeed tough. Therefore, I went with the 2 to 3hrs pump/latch balance for myself. This meant that regardless of what time it was, I will pump or latch every 2 to 3 hourly. What made things even tougher was the fact that break times were a far cry for me, which meant that pumping at work was close to zero possibilities. In order to be able to pump milk at work, I invested in the Freemie cups which allowed me pump to on-the-go whether I had a break or not. The Freemie is obviously not as effective in total milk clearance for a pump session. However, it allowed me to store the milk my baby needs for the next day as she refused frozen breastmilk.
The one thing that really kept me going was my husband’s support. Every time I felt I wanted to give up, he was there to push me on, to tell me how much this meant to baby and myself. It has really been a blessing to baby and I to have him in our lives, and we are now going strong past a year of breastfeeding!
My advise to mums: follow your heart. People will always give you their two-cents worth, but really, baby and you will know best!