It is World Breastfeeding Week 2014 from August 1-August 7th. I meet this year’s events with a sense of sadness as my daughter decided to wean herself a few weeks ago.
It is the first month in 27 months that I have not nursed my daughter. It is a very bittersweet time for me. I was on vacation with her, and really wanted her to nurse through the trip so that she would have that extra layer of immunity during the plane trips and such. Alas, she stopped 2 days into the trip. The last session probably didn’t actually even count, but she did attempt it before rejecting me..so I am counting it.
27 months is an incredible run. Most American women do not make it to a year. The World Health Organization suggests nursing until 2 so at least we made it that far. I feel she is healthy, very independent and can be pretty smart and sassy. I am calling it the milk!
I suspect that if I had not stayed home with her all of this time that we would have stopped much sooner. It is a nice thing to be able to work from home, and I am very fortunate we have made it to this point. Most American women do not have this luxury.
Pumping and working is not impossible, so do not be discouraged if you are on that path, but it is hard. It is certainly harder than being able to nurse on demand at home snuggled up in your bed with your nursling. So to those out there who do it- Keep at it! You will not regret doing it, no matter how hard.
One of the reasons I am not working is the difficulty I was facing the first few days back to work. Pumping was to be done in an old computer storage room. It was dusty, dirty, and it had a lock, but there was a missing key, and there were employees that were visiting such rooms to sneak off during the work day undetected, so I was always afraid I would be intruded upon during pumping. I did have a nice hard plastic chair to sit on, the room was windowless, and it was far away from any other offices so no one would be bothered with the sound of my pump.
There was a plug in the room but no table so I tried to balance it on the bag that I brought my milk in. I had an hour drive to and from work. It was June in Arizona, so I had to really make sure my ice was cold because by the time I got home the milk was not as cold as I would have preferred.
The room was not air conditioned. I would have trouble with letdown. It would take me about 45 minutes to pump a measly 4 ounces of milk between the 2 bottles, and by the time I was done I was soaked in sweat. Soaked. I was still having a lot of postpartum hormonal swings and I was miserable. I was anxious. I needed to pump 3-4 times in an 8 hour shift or I would be so engorged I was in misery. I leaked no matter what. Bear in mind, this was 12 weeks out. Not the 6 weeks that many women go back to.
I quit. I was overwhelmed. I hadn’t slept more than 2 hours for about 3 months at that point. I feel asleep on the ride home one day and it scared the crap out of me. I had to quit.
Is this the worst story you ever heard? Not even. Was it hard for me? Yes.
I had a contingency plan in place at home. I was able to stay home, and I TRIED to make the job work but I did not see any way to do that unless I stopped nursing. So I quit my job. To be completely honest, I had started interviewing for a new position before I found out I was pregnant. I was not happy at the job, and the amount of work for me was dwindling. They didn’t replace me if that tells you anything. I was on my way out of there anyway…
Most women cannot do this. They have to work, and for them the choice probably would have been a bottle of formula and no looking back. No judgement. It is reality. I considered it.
But imagine we were in Canada. Employers give women a year to take care of children. Paid. With health insurance of course. When they do come back from work- they are given protection for the entire time they breastfeed- not just a year.
Other countries give even more.
At my work they were calling me at 8 weeks trying to make me go to their occupational doctor to get cleared to come back. (In spite of my doc saying 12 weeks and I was not physically ready.)
World Breastfeeding week has a tall order. They seek to assert the “importance of increasing and sustaining the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding.”
Certainly my experience was a success to the extent that I nursed my daughter 7 months longer than suggested. But it was a complete failure considering what I decided to give up to keep it going. I don’t blame breastfeeding. I could have made it work if I had really wanted to. But it was infinitely more satisfying on this path.
( I did not intend to stay home this long. I have been unable to get a new job. I tried for a year. I ended up getting work to do at home and for now that is enough to keep me here until something fantastic appears in my inbox. )
But the real question is why I needed to sacrifice anything at all. Other countries did not implode by providing moms more. Their economies are no worse than ours. Their healthcare no worse. In fact, most of those countries have better healthcare. Go figure.
So for this World Breastfeeding Week 2014 I leave you the question-
When will we value breastfeeding like other countries do?