3 Steps to Finding a Happy Medium
By Heather Johnson Durocher
In the wee hours of the night, as you and your baby cuddle together for a feeding, nursing can feel like the most beautiful thing in the world. But in the light of day, as much as you may enjoy the closeness of nursing, life’s demands on top of your commitment to breastfeeding may leave you feeling tied down, even wistful about the once active lifestyle you maintained.
Sharon Brantley of Wake Forest, N.C., experienced this when her baby girl refused to take a bottle. “I was planning to take classes and work part time, but since Sarah refused the bottle, I was unable to do anything,” Brantley says. “When I realized that I had no acceptable options, I became frustrated and, for a short time, sad.”
Breastfeeding doesn’t have to mean staying at home, donning pajamas.
Judy Anderson, mother of twins, can relate. “For a while I did feel trapped at home and trapped by nursing; it’s hard not to be trapped by twins,” she says.
It’s absolutely normal to feel somewhat trapped by breastfeeding—and motherhood in general. After all, it’s you who is providing the bulk, if not all, of your baby’s nutrients and care. Still, now more than ever before in history—with more and more workplaces and businesses providing nursing/pumping rooms for mothers—breastfeeding doesn’t have to mean staying at home, donning pajamas and forgetting about life beyond your driveway.
1. Don’t Isolate Yourself
What helped Anderson most was seeking assistance—and then taking it, she says. “Get help and take care of yourself,” she says. “I made sure I got other people to hold my babies, and I went for bicycle rides or to the grocery store by myself to get brief breaks.”
Anderson acknowledges that she certainly didn’t recover her former “active, on-the-go lifestyle,” which she says she did have, “with lots of travel and evening activities.” She did, however, eventually strike a balance she’s happy with. “I went back to work, but only one-quarter time, when the babies were 3 months old, going in one day a week and working from home an hour or two the rest of the days,” she says. “I’ve gradually built that up to almost halftime, going in two days a week and continuing to work from home.”
For some women, opting to introduce a bottle with pumped breast milk earlier rather than later made all the difference. This holds true for moms working outside the home as well as those who choose to stay at home full time. “By pumping and using bottles, I was able to leave Aidan and Amelia with my parents or my husband to do even simple things like going to the chiropractor, grocery store or just to rest,” says Natalie Schuhler, mom to a 3-year-old daughter and a 14-month-old son, whom she still nurses. Breastfeedings do not alter her daily plans.
2. Nurse on the Go
Schuhler, who lives in Santa Clarita, Calif., believes moms should feel comfortable nursing in public. “Get yourself one or two good nursing tops that are discreet, and go for it,” she says. “Once you are able to nurse while you’re out, things get so easy.”
Brantley makes nursing her 1-year-old work when out and about by wearing loose-fitting pullover tops. “I find that I can nurse her pretty discretely by having the edge of my shirt cover the breast,” she says. “I also love to wear my baby and currently have a ring-type sling and also a Snugli carrier. She can nurse in the sling if needed.”
Don’t worry too much about what others think, says Melinda Vaughn of Santa Clarita, Calif., mother to Jackson, 1. “I’ve found most people don’t notice,” she says. “If they do and they’re uncomfortable, they look away. If they notice and they’re not uncomfortable, they often say things like, ‘Good for you! More moms should breastfeed!’”
If nursing in public just doesn’t work for you or your baby—even Schuhler admits that her children were often too busy to stop and nurse – bring a bottle of expressed milk and offer this while out running errands. “Don’t stress about finding a way to warm the bottles,” Schuhler says. “My kids both got used to cold bottles and even like them better on warm days. Another trick is to nurse in the car before going in. Even if you are OK with nursing in public, you may want to do this anyway, since it gets harder as Baby gets older, since it’s easy to get distracted in a new environment.”
3. Get Some Perspective
Perspective is everything, Brantley says. “I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that she will only be an infant for such a short time and to relax and enjoy this time,” she says. “The freedom that I have given up is more than compensated by the closeness I feel with her.”
Schuhler agrees. “This is such a short season of life,” she says. “All too soon our babies will be grown and not need us. I have found that much of motherhood is how you look at it. Let’s face it; we are not getting much sleep; our personal time is nonexistent; our bodies aren’t what they used to be—but that is the price of having children. We can choose to complain about it, or we can choose to enjoy it while it lasts.”
Also, there’s no reason to feel trapped at home when your baby can often go with you, Vaughn adds. “Having a baby changes a lot of things, but it doesn’t have to tie you to your home,” she says. “My husband and I still eat out frequently, travel, go to museums, beaches and parks, and we take our son along everywhere. It was hard at first, of course, but now our baby is just used to getting out and about. He loves to get out in his stroller and tool about town. And we’ve had great traveling experiences—knock on wood—mostly because if he does start to get upset on the plane, for instance, nursing calms him right down.”