This blog post got away from me a little bit. What started as a ‘Hey! I’m back at work’ quickly turned into a ‘Day in the Life’ post, which then turned into a post about maternity leave, which then turned into a post about breastfeeding, which then turned into a post about literally all of the above.
First and foremost: Maternity leave (whatever that is, considering 88% of women in the United States don’t get a minute of paid leave after giving birth) in the United States is insufficient/irresponsible/un-Christian/bullshit and you should all write to your congressperson or senator about it. But enough about the men and women in government who don’t care about babies or mothers once the baby has vacated the uterus. Enough about that.
Well, it’s been real. After
a beautiful six weeks of maternity leave (which I paid for using my sick/vacation), I went back to work two weeks part time and I’ve officially just wrapped up my first full time week back at work. What a trip it’s been.
It’s not going back to work that bothers me. I love work. I’ve worked full time since I was sixteen years old. I can work, work gives me a sense of purpose. What bothers me is that my baby had to be in daycare at seven weeks old, just when I was starting to understand her, just when I was starting to understand my new body, and biggest of all, breastfeeding. Now I get home from work and have just a few short hours with her before she’s out for the night, and some of that time is spent with her napping. It’s not enough time to enjoy her, bond with her, and watch her grow during a time when she’s growing so quickly. My maternity leave was not enough.
Even if you ignore the fact that maternity leave is healthy and beneficial for mom, baby, and really, the entire population, you can’t ignore that my baby’s sole food source is attached to my body. I am her food source. So it’s not super shocking that despite being back at work, I still find that my entire day centers around Temen. To be more specific, my entire day centers around Temen and finding the time to make her food. My whole day is consumed by breastfeeding or pumping every 2 -3 hours (or more frequently!), checking on her at daycare to make sure she’s eating enough/not eating too much (they have an awesome app), washing bottles, prepping bottles, storing extra milk, counting how big my freezer stash is and worrying if I have enough milk, changing diapers and wondering if there are enough wet diapers. All day.
I don’t know if this will change with time. I really don’t see how feeding Temen can be any more difficult than it is right now, away from her for most of the day, plagued with guilt every time I step into an office to pump, wondering if she’s getting enough to eat at daycare, hoping and praying my supply doesn’t decrease now that I’m back at work. That’s a lot.
I thought I’d spend some time to walk through what a typical workday looks like, with a focus on making food for her. I’m interested to see how this changes as Temen gets older and I get used to this whole “mom” thing. I’m also interested to see if this is typical for others, and if so, when it got a bit more manageable.
A Day in the Life
2AM Wake up, breast pump in the dark for 20-30 minutes, go back to sleep
4AM Baby wakes up, nurses, then back to sleep
7AM Baby wakes up, nurses, then cuddles in bed
7:30AM Get up with baby, change her diaper, put her outfit on (sometimes Ryan does this and I get to sleep!)
8AM Ryan takes baby to daycare, I get 20 minutes to get ready all to myself! But, of course, pump while getting ready.
8:20AM -8:30AM Out the door on my way to work!
9AM Arrive at work, do work
11AM Breast pump while eating lunch, checking emails, checking on baby at daycare (on app!), checking social media, and watching HGTV. All while obsessively looking at my bottles, wondering if I’m making enough and doing the math on how much she eats vs. how much I pumped overnight and in the morning.
11:30AM Back to work, tired.
1:30PM Breast pump again while checking emails, checking on baby, checking social media, and watching HGTV. Usually around this time I realize that she’s good to eat for another day. Thank God. Did you know that women who have more generous maternity leaves are more likely to breastfeed longer? Well, now you do.
2PM Back to work
3:30PM Breast pump for the fifth time while checking on baby, checking social media, and watching HGTV. I have to do this at 3:30PM, if I do it any later I worry she won’t have enough from the breast at home.
4PM Back to work, enter pumping results in my daily spreadsheet, do work.
5PM Hit the road to go home!
5:20PM Home, empty out breastpump supplies and daycare bottles to be washed
5:40PM Breastfeed and change the baby while fantasizing about dinner
6PM Decide that a real dinner is too much work, microwave corndogs/make pizza/pasta/something easy
6:30PM Eat dinner, probably while breastfeeding
7PM Attempt to sit down to watch TV but realize there’s still things to do. Think about going on a walk or cleaning bottles.
7:10PM Go on a walk with the family
7:45PM Get home, change baby into sleeper and dim all lights in the house
8PM Sit downstairs and breastfeed baby
8:30PM Finish breastfeeding, give baby to husband while I prepare for tomorrow by washing bottles, filling her bottles for daycare tomorrow, freezing and labeling extra milk, and washing pump parts…
9PM Breastfeed baby to sleep, hopefully, while watching our shows
10PM Baby falls asleep, wait for her to stay sleeping for a few minutes, bring her up to her bassinet.
10:15PM SLEEP and REPEAT
It’s not a horrible day, but it’s draining. (Ha, get it?!) I pump five times a day, and at least three times while at work to make enough food for my baby and keep my supply up. Five times a day. Round up to a half hour each time, that’s two and a half hours hooked up to a milk machine a day. Probably double that time if you want to include cleaning bottles/parts and storing/prepping bottles for later. On top of that, I breastfeed for at least three additional hours, if not more. That’s eight hours a day feeding my baby. That is a full time job.
I feel tremendous guilt pumping at work. Pumping at work while watching TV in an office might sound like a break, but it’s not. That’s hard to communicate to coworkers. So it’s no wonder that women who have shorter maternity leaves are less likely to breastfeed for as long as women who have a more generous maternity leave. It’s a hassle to feed your baby as a working mom, plain and simple.
Breastfeeding is still the medically preferred method of feeding your baby. Not every woman can breastfeed, and not every woman wants to, but for the women who can and want to breastfeed, they should be supported. Mothers in America who take short leaves face double or even quadruple the odds of failing to initiate breastfeeding when compared to those who do not work. The American Academy of Pediatrics says infants not breastfed face more than 3.5 times the odds of SIDS mortality when compared to exclusively breastfed babies.
So, I guess in honor of World Breastfeeding Week I’ll say this: Let’s do better.