Exclusively breastfeeding and working full time is not for the faint of heart. I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you, it was extremely difficult and many days I found myself in tears, but I was committed so I kept pushing.
Before Hayden was born, I set a goal that I wanted to breastfeed for a year. I was very well aware of the health benefits it could have for her and let’s face it… it’s free which is kind of an added bonus.
The one thing I didn’t prepare myself for was the mental toll this would play on me as a new mom and especially a working mom. My position at my company is not only geographically and emotionally demanding, but it’s extremely high stress. These elements are not a great recipe for success when you are trying to exclusively breastfeed an infant.
I am proud to say I got to 8 months before I decided that this was the end of our breastfeeding journey. Along the way, I experienced a few things that I don’t think we as moms talk about because we feel to ashamed to admit the toll this process can play on us. I hope by sharing some of these real and truly raw emotions I experienced, it will motivate someone out there to start a dialogue with those around them regarding what they are going through.
Everyone asks you if you’re breastfeeding. This adds to the pressure to keep this up. When I wasn’t working and on maternity leave, this breastfeeding thing was a breeze. However, the second I went back, my overflowing supply quickly changed to counting ounces and always feeling like I was going to run out. On top of that, I felt pressure at work to be participating at a higher level since I had been out for a few months. Stepping away to go pump seemed daunting a lot of the time. The self-inflicted pressure can escalate to almost unhealthy levels which makes you question if you need to really step away and you have to!
You live in two and half hour blocks. It doesn’t matter if your are with your baby or you aren’t. You are handcuffed to this schedule and if you don’t stick to it (which I learned the hard way), you will pay for it. I got very sick by pushing off my pumping schedule to not have to leave a meeting early. After that I started setting alarms on my phone to remind me to go pump. I lived under this religious schedule.
I personally did not feel comfortable breastfeeding in front of people. Everyone is so different when it comes to this. Being separated in a different room or having to leave to go nurse in the car made me feel like I was constantly missing out. It becomes lonely and a chore rather quickly because in your mind everyone is having fun and her you are locked away with the baby.
It can be embarrassing to ask to leave a meeting to go pump. You sometimes skip pumping or prolong pumping to not be judged by co-workers. I work with predominately males and when I came back from maternity leave everyone was asking to meet with me. I hated saying I needed to stop working to go pump. Like I mentioned before, it was partly due to FOMO and also because I didn’t want my male co-workers to think differently of me.
I always felt like I was being judged by other moms. They would ask if I was still nursing and you never wanted to admit you secretly wanted to stop or absolutely hated the thought of washing another pump part. The judgey eyes when you pull out a bottle was even worse (at least in the OC). They would always assume it was formula and immediately comment about it.
It easy to start becoming resentful because of the extra toll breastfeeding can have on you not only physically but emotionally. At times, I resented my job because I truly believe I would have gotten to my goal of one year if I wouldn’t have gone back so quickly. I also had resentment towards my husband because he would be sleeping away while I was up in the middle of the night pumping and counting ounces so I could make sure I had enough milk for the next day.
I felt like I was a failure when I decided to stop. I didn’t want to let my baby down. I became resentful of the things that stood in my way of reaching my goal. It took awhile for the feeling of failure to go away. Now I am proud of how far I got. It’s extremely difficult to work an insane job and exclusive breastfeed and I got to 8 months. I killed it!
This was a really strong emotion towards the end of my journey. I didn’t tell anyone I started supplementing when I did and refused to tell anyone when I officially stopped. I thought I failed my baby and I was ashamed. I felt like a bad mom.
I only took two months off for maternity leave. I rushed back for multiple reasons which now I can honestly say I regret. I do believe that if I would have taken my entire time off for maternity leave, I would have been able to reach my year goal. It was hard to come to terms with that fact and I found myself feeling guilty quite often that I took this away from my daughter. I have come to terms with it but if I could do it over, I would have taken the time off. You learn a lot about yourself through this process and I did give it the good old college try.
It’s okay to feel the way I felt and even more so it’s okay to network with your family and friends so you don’t go down this rabbit hole of emotions. If you find yourself feeling this way or experiencing these things talk to someone about what is going on and more so educate them on what your journey is like. You will be surprised how a lot of these emotions are self-inflicted. The fact that you are trying is a win! Everyone is different and you are doing a great job regardless what your breastfeeding journey looks like. You got this mommy!