Breastfeeding in a Modern World
West Chester PA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 2, March-April 2007, pp. 56-57
As an older mom who had some challenges when trying to have a baby, my daughter, Emma, was an extra special blessing to me. I decided I would do whatever I could to help her be healthy. Since everything I read said that breastfeeding was the best for a child, I decided that breastfeeding was clearly the way to go.
There were a few glitches along the way. My husband decided to take six months off from his business to stay with Emma, so I went back to work when she was four weeks old, earlier than scheduled. Second was the fact that my job required periodic travel -- my breast pump was the smartest purchase I ever made!
In the beginning, I looked at the pump and thought, "Why do they make these bottles so big? I'm never going to fill up one of these bottles!" I went to an LLL meeting and heard someone say they were pumping over four ounces per breast at a time. I figured I must be doing something wrong if I couldn't get more than a few drops. This was before I went back to work, though, and I didn't realize that Emma was getting that much milk when she was nursing. When I started pumping at work, I got quite a bit more than I expected (whew!).
I had a few challenges, but I made it work with the help of my husband and coworkers. Once, I had a painful blocked duct and I thought for sure clients could see that one breast was a lot bigger than the other. (Of course, those were the times I was working with mostly men!) I ended up pumping in a storage closet in a New York business and took a longer lunch so I could just focus on the breast that had a plugged duct. For me, clearing up blocked ducts meant pumping for about 20 minutes longer on the affected breast while massaging it (or nursing longer when with my daughter). I did manage to get a lot of books read during times like these!
Another day, I worked too late and ended up on the last train out of New York (I live three hours away by train). Since it was winter, I had a big coat on. Luckily, the train had electrical outlets. I thought it was a loud pump, so I went to the front of the train and managed to get my own seat (with a few empty seats around me). It turns out that a pump is not that loud when under a coat and on the train. I don't know if the conductor or any other passengers figured out what I was doing, but I was certainly glad that I was able to pump.
I can't talk about pumping and work without talking about my trip to Ireland. Sure, this sounds great (and really was fun), but it was a logistical pain. With airport security, airtime, and travel time on both ends, it was over 12 hours each way -- far too long to go without pumping for my five-month-old. I bought a $200 power set and was assured I could pump at my seat on the airplane, but it didn't actually work. In addition, although I was seated right behind an empty section of business class seats, I was not allowed to use the toilet facilities in that section (clearly the flight attendant wasn't a breastfeeding mother!). I soon found that the power outlet in an airplane is not the same as a power outlet at home -- it's very, very slow. I stayed in one of the toilets for an entire hour pumping because it was so slow (and this was double pumping). I'm glad there wasn't a lot of turbulence on that trip! I felt bad that the other passengers had to go to the other end of the plane, but my choices were pretty limited at that point. Once I was in Ireland, the slow pumping issue went away and the opposite happened. I thought the car charger was fast (which it is), but the converter blew that away. I think pumping was approximately one-and-a-half times faster than pumping in a regular US outlet. Luckily, my body was able to adjust quickly.
With all of the interesting places I pumped in while working -- locked offices, scary bathrooms, and the car -- I had no problem nursing Emma where ever I went. My stepdaughter played basketball and I inevitably found myself nursing in the stands at those games. When in town, I'd go to the day care and nurse on my lunch break, nurse in the mall, nurse at the kitchen table playing cards with family, and, of course, nurse in the rocking chair in Emma's room.
Emma is over two now and soon I'll probably head down the weaning path (I am only nursing at night upon request). Breastfeeding was the best decision I made. I am very proud of my efforts (and it was a lot of effort!). I am grateful for my healthy girl and my family's support. My husband never questioned me on breastfeeding, whether it was while Emma was a newborn or while Emma was a toddler. I know I couldn't have done it without that support.