I thought I had the logistics down: at 10 weeks, I decided to go back to work part-time. I have 16 weeks of maternity leave, and I’m planning on taking the last 6 weeks part-time. That means working about 4 hours each day, which translates to pumping once at work. It seemed doable. It seemed a logical way to transition from being at home to being at work full-time, and the entire arrangement would make it more likely that I will be able to get to the 6 month mark for breastfeeding.
I already had multiple practice runs starting 6 weeks – I’d leave for a few hours to attend to various matters, leaving baby with grandma. Everything seemed good. But at the end of the first week, I’m exhausted. There was a bit of learning along the way, so bear with me.
Mistake #1: trying to feed the baby before leaving
Although she is only 10 weeks old, baby sleeps through the night from about midnight to 11:30am. She has gained a lot of weight since birth, going from 50th percentile to 97th percentile at her 8 week check up. While our pediatrician told us not to let her go longer than 5 hours without feeding, my friend, who is a pediatrician, thought it was ok to let her wake when she wants feeding. That’s how we figured that she can go 6-8 hours without a feed. The downside is that I still have to wake up to pump.
The baby currently wakes up around 11:30am. She rouses around 6-8am on her own for a dreamfeed before going back to sleep. I don’t know why I thought I would be able to fit in a dream feed at 10am, and get out of the door by 10:30am. That was the first day. She ended up waking up instead of doing a dreamfeed, and she wasn’t hungry so she threw everything up. I forgot to mention that she doesn’t have much of an appetite in the morning. I decided then that I can’t count on being able to feed her, so I’ll have to pump before leaving.
She was waiting for me
Since she’s not that hungry her first meal, we figured it’s a good time to have TummyTime, and any other play and possibly a shower before eating. Even then, Grandma had to coax her into feeding about 2 oz, and the last bit takes forever to go down. A bit later, she’s hungry again but only managed to down another 2oz. And she takes a 3rd 2oz feed before I get home. So I’m gone from 10:30am to about 3:30pm, which is 5 hours. 6oz is reasonable, except she doesn’t eat at night. She’s only taken in ¼ of her estimated daily intake of 24 oz in 5 hours, which is over 1/4th of her waking hours. When she registers that I am home, baby indicates that she wants milk from me, and she ends up feeding every 1 – 1.5 hours until bedtime. So I think she gets her daily needs met, but it makes me feel bad that she’s decided to accommodate my schedule.
I could wake her up to dreamfeed, but it hasn’t been going that well – I sometimes end up waking her up too early. I’ve given up on changing her diaper at night.
There are babies who prefer to starve
Maybe I should consider myself lucky that my daughter is reasonable enough to want a snack when I’m gone. I talked to my cubicle mate the first day I was back, and asked her how the pumping room worked out. She said she didn’t pump; her baby only eats from the boob, so for the first 4 months, she had to go home every 4 hours. They started solids early.
Most babies will take a bottle, although many mothers worry about nipple confusion. What is usually unsaid is that babies can also have nipple confusion the other way: they don’t know how to use the bottle. However, just because babies can take a bottle doesn’t mean they want to take a bottle. Even if the caretaker is a familiar person, the baby will wonder what happened to the nice warm person with boobs.
I guess this is really a rant about maternity leave. 4 months seemed generous, but I now ask myself why I have to be gone before my baby can even sit up or crawl. I never thought about being rich or earning a lot of money, just enough to be comfortable. If I could go back 10 years, I would tell myself to work for the big bucks so that I can be a stay-at-home mom for as long as I feel needed. I never thought I would ever want to be a stay-at-home mom, but it’s not about what I want. It is more about what the baby needs.
I still like working, and I appreciate being outside of the home for a few hours each day. But there is still that guilt that I am not there for my helpless child, even if she is in good hands. I’m making it up by being extra attentive evenings and weekends, but I don’t think it’s healthy to over-indulge in the child because of my guilt.
I guess I’ll cope somehow. Because so many women have gone through this test, and survived.