The countdown to my return to work is on! There are so many things I had planned to do during my maternity leave, including lots of bits around the house and gardening. Where bits and pieces have ben done here and there, most of my plans remain just that – an idea that has not turned into a reality.
My biggest challenge is feeling ready to return to work, and confident that I will manage to balance everything. Worrying about managing to get to work on time, and get back in time to collect Amelia from nursery. I have been fortunate enough to have had almost twelve months of maternity by the time I return. Some careful saving before and during maternity leave, and having a husband who works two jobs, has made the time affordable and without too much financial worry. I have done the odd session of work along the way to top up the savings, and that has helped in more than just a financial sense. Doing the occasional half-day of work allowed me to keep my knowledge ticking over and the benefit of realising that Amelia does just fine without me for a few hours. In fact it probably does us both a bit of good! The last couple of sessions I have done have felt like respite as Amelia battles with teething and colds!
Amelia started going to nursery for a half day here or there in December, when she was 8.5 months old. I booked her in for three half days and she goes along if I go to work or if I just need to get some work done at home. Sometimes I don’t take her if she’s had a terrible nights sleep and wakes up later in the morning. I accept this is not the best use of money but knowing the option has been there has been a great help. As I return to work she will change up to three full days, though my job plan will be such that I can collect her a bit earlier on two of those days and we will rely on Daddy or Grandparents to collect her on my long day.
At nursery they report back to me that she’s always exploring the room and having a great time most of the time. She loves to help them do their paperwork (as she does at home), and eats and drinks well most of the time. Knowing she will happily wolf down a whole bottle at nursery has been on of the biggest reassurances I have had. Prior to her starting nursery she was still fussy about having a bottle. Knowing that she was doing well with a bottle at nursery has left us feeling that now is a good time to start the transition from breast to bottle feeding.
I have more than exceeded my expectations for how breastfeeding would go, and how long I would breastfeed for. Looking back to the early days when I found it such a long process, frustrating when I felt I couldn’t produce enough to maintain her nutrition, and anxious when I felt she depended solely on me for her feeding, it has changed into such a different experience. It has become ‘easy’ and an opportunity to relax for a little while each day. I have no real regrets but I’m just ready to stop now. The process of trying to stop feeding is harder than I had perhaps imagined. No one really tells you how to stop feeding and it’s been a learning process. Some days she has a lot of milk from the bottle and not so much from the breast, and other days vice versa. When she has been unwell or teething she prefers to breastfeed. Whilst I was ill last week she would take the breast but need topping up with a bottle for each feed. Some days my breasts get full very quickly if I haven’t fed and others, they don’t seem to feel full at all. The supply has definitely reduced as I find we have less episodes of milk spurting everywhere when she gets distracted! I also find she seems to get frustrated at times and pushes off the side of the chair, sofa, myself when I think there is less milk available.
The upside of giving more bottles is that bedtime can be undertaken by Daddy alone or one of her Grandparents. This is nice bonding time for them. It also made me feel comfortable to leave her and go and spend the day with my friends in London. It was the longest I’d left her – leaving after breakfast and retuning after her bedtime. She ate and drank well that day, despite a mild temperature. Daddy had successfully put her to bed, and she slept through the night.
Maybe I am just being a bit sensitive but I have found that as I tell people I am trying to stop breastfeeding I have had some looks or reactions that I have made me feel that I am doing the wrong thing or being a bad mother. I think that perhaps more of this has come from people whose little ones are a bit younger than Amelia. Perhaps they are not looking at it from the perspective that Amelia is a little older and nearly 11 months old. I guess the question to ask is ‘At what age do you plan to continue breastfeeding until?’ I don’t really ask this question of others, and no one has asked me such a direct question. My answer? It’s not an easy one. Somehow my first thought is 12 months. Perhaps this is because I know I will be back at work by this point or that she will be requiring less milk, and can at that point drink cow’s milk. But, as I have found out, it’s not a change that happens overnight. It takes time, and Amelia progresses some days and then takes a step backwards other days.
What are your thoughts on how long you should breastfeed for? Have you any good tips for making the transition?