Did you know that only 10 percent of nursing moms in the US are still breastfeeding at six months?
A year ago, I returned to work and sent my 4-month-old baby (we'll call her DD) to daycare, with the plan to express breastmilk for her for at least a year. Of eight babies in her class, only two had bottles of expressed breast milk at six months. Now she's 15 months old, and we're still nursing.
When DD was born, I was finishing the PhD part of my MD/PhD, so I was working primarily in a lab. Honestly, the only way I survived the first year nursing/pumping was making my role as a milk provider my No. 1 role.
After the first month I thought I would quit, but I reassessed my life.
I knew I would be unhappy as a SAHM, but I was absolutely committed to providing breastmilk. I had to let go of perfection (very difficult for me), and be very open to my mentor/PI and labmates about what I was doing. (I had a sign for the break room door that said "MOO!" and I took it around to everyone to explain what it meant.)
I was lucky to have a mentor who suggested a shifted schedule: I left the house very early (7ish) and I left the workplace after my afternoon pumping, around 3 p.m., but put in time again after DD went to sleep, sometimes going back to to lab.
5 Key Tips to Make It to a Year:
1.) Give your partner a role that at least approximates your own efforts in terms of time. Mine took the baby to daycare in the morning and was responsible for washing and sterilizing the bottles and pump parts.
2.) Don't skimp on the hardware. Consider that post-processed breast milk for premature babies costs hospitals $3 per mL, and remember you are producing gold! Having a double electric pump for home and another for work meant I didn't have to remember to lug it in very morning. Multiple sets of parts meant I only washed parts once per day. Finally, make sure your breastshields (flanges) are large enough; according to Medela, 60 percent of pumpers aren't using an appropriately sized shield. If your nipples are larger than a quarter, the shields that came with your pump may not be right for you.
3.) Outsource what you can. Assuming you can't hire a wet nurse, hire out whatever else you can afford. My credit card sometimes got hit, but I had a housecleaner once a week and outsourced all the laundry. If you are pumping, that should be your No. 1 priority, not worrying about the clothes getting folded.