A Stay-at-Home Mother’s Guide to Nursing
By Lisa A. Goldstein
If you’re a stay-at-home, breastfeeding mom, you might be feeling completely overwhelmed. Your baby needs you and so does everyone else. Time to yourself seems to be a rare entity. You feel like you are on your own. So what can you do about it?
Some stay-at-home moms feel isolated and “burned out,” especially in the early weeks if the mom has a lack of support and sleep deprivation, says Betsy Corcory, IBCLC, a registered nurse with Virtua Health. Plus, all new moms face the possibility that the “burn out” could be depression.
Begin “Operation Mom”
Sometimes aggravation can be increased if your husband isn’t doing his share.
Once depression is ruled out, it’s time “Operation Mom” can begin.
“It’s so important for the stay-at-home mom to remember why she is at home with her baby and to do her best to be in the moment and not look around at the chaos that was once her organized living room or pre-baby nursery, which is now strewn with laundry, toys and an overfull garbage bin,” says Leslie Godwin, a psychotherapist who authored From Burned Out to Fired Up: A Woman’s Guide to Rekindling the Passion and Meaning in Work and Life (Health Communications, 2004).
Let Go of the Reins
Sometimes aggravation can be increased if your husband isn’t doing his share. Let him know how much it will cost to hire some help, Godwin says. This way he can decide if he’d rather help or pay up for someone else to do it. “Don’t get emotional about this, but treat it like the practical issue it should be,” she says.
If your husband is willing to help—even if just a little—great! Try not to criticize or micro-manage his efforts, says Godwin. Make him feel like he made a difference, and let the small things go.
Doing it all yourself can mean reaching your breaking point. Taina Dube of Norwalk, Conn., breastfed her son for six months, but wishes she had done it longer. One of the reasons she stopped nursing him was because she’d had enough. “I was burned out from all the people and their opinions, and he got heavy, and I just wanted to prop him up on a pillow and prop his bottle up so I didn’t have to hold him,” she says. “I got tired of always being alone in some room or car away from everyone. It made me feel isolated, so I stopped.”
Dube’s son wasn’t ready to give up breastfeeding; it took a month to wean him. “I knew in my heart and by the way he searched for my breasts that he still needed to be close to me,” she says.
Recommendations from Dube include calling a lactation consultant. “Remember, the baby is very different every month, so if this month is rough, it will only get better the next month,” she says.
Carving out Mom Time
Terra Wellington of Phoenix, Ariz., felt trapped with all three of her children. “Breastfeed outside if you can, or at least get some sunlight near a window” she says.
You can also exercise once a day. This can be done with or without Baby by walking with the stroller or using an exercise video at home. Stretch often, learn breathing exercises and read for fun. Use some of your breastfeeding time to delve into the guilty pleasure of reading a good fiction book.
Corcory and Haldeman recommend taking advantage of community resources like Mommy and Me groups as well as utilizing support groups. Asking for help is also important. Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can always leave your baby in the house with a sitter while you sun yourself in the back yard or relax on the front porch.
The difficulties stay-at-home moms face can lead them to blame breastfeeding. You can learn to avoid this and begin to preserve and enjoy the breastfeeding relationship. How? Some moms create a breastfeeding spot or two in their homes that are prepared in advance, says Debra Gilbert Rosenberg, psychotherapist, mother of three and author of the forthcoming Motherhood Without Guilt. “All you need is a comfortable chair, cushions and a place to put a drink,” she says.
Novels, magazines and television are also helpful. Instead of feeling frustrated at having to nurse again, look at it as an opportunity to relax and reconnect.
Alone time doesn’t have to be an impossible goal, involving breast pumps and sitters. If your baby is able to sleep in a stroller, bring along a great novel and park the sleeping baby and your behind under a shady tree. Baby swapping—the legal kind—is another way to make time for yourself. Find a friend or agreeable stay-at-home mom in the area and swap turns babysitting, says Rosenberg. “You take both babies for a couple of hours on Tuesdays, and she takes them both on Thursdays,” she says.
Finally, take to heart what Rosenberg says: “[Stay-at-home] mothers usually derive very close relationships with their babies, and breastfeeding is one major reason.”