Leaving a baby for any length of time is never easy – but leaving an attachment-parented, breastfed baby is the worst.
As a newborn, Zoe not only wanted and needed her mama at all times, she also wanted and needed her milk. And of course, she wanted and needed it 100% more once she realized mama’s gone! Such situations can be incredibly stressful on both the departing mom and the suddenly needy babe – not to mention the loving caregiver left behind, in our case Zoe’s awesome dad.
The first time I left Zoe for more than a quick errand or meal out was when I returned to work full-time after my maternity leave ended. Zoe was 11 weeks old and I was a devastated mess, to say the least. Not only was I a wreck thinking about being away from my sweet baby for hours at a time, but we had finally gotten good at breastfeeding and I was terrified that being apart would set us back.
Also, even though I had plenty of my milk pumped and stored in the freezer, Zoe was refusing bottles. This is ironic because at birth she refused the breast and would only take a bottle. Slowly, over a period of many weeks using a nursing shield and the counsel of a lactation consultant, we got her to latch and drink her milk fresh from the tap. Now, I was anxious that she would go back to preferring the bottle again. But first there was the challenge of getting her back on the bottle so I could go back to work!
Enter E, my beloved husband and the best baby daddy ever, to the rescue. He took a week of his vacation time to stay home with Zoe the week before she started daycare and bottle train her. It was a challenge at first, but he succeeded by following some great tips we found on Kellymom about how to bottle feed the breastfed baby. We even sent Zoe to daycare the following week with a print-out of these tips, and our daycare provider was very glad to have them and made copies for several other moms. E’s week with Zoe – her last week at home before starting daycare – was a huge success and I believe it truly cemented their amazing daddy-daughter bond which continues to this day.
Leaving Zoe was never easy.
That first week back at work was torture even though I knew she was home with her daddy, and even though I was able to go home every day at lunch to nurse her. The following week when she started daycare, it was even worse – I thought I would die each day as I left her there and sobbed in my car. It felt like my heart was being wrenched from my body. I had strategically chosen a daycare very near my office, so I could go there each day at lunch and nurse her. The longest we were apart in those early days was about four hours. But oh, the torment I put myself through – and the guilt. It just felt WRONG to be apart from her.
I’m happy to say that things did get easier over time. I still have guilt over being a working mom at times, especially when she reaches cool developmental milestones during the day while I’m at work. After two months of working full-time and mothering Zoe just nights and weekends, I felt I was coming close to a complete meltdown, so I talked to both E and my boss about cutting back my hours. Dropping down to a four day workweek was the best thing I’ve done since having Zoe – making that change felt so right. I am home with her on Wednesdays now and that extra day together makes all the difference. I feel a much better balance between my mommy life and my work life. I feel really fortunate to work for an amazing, family-friendly agency that values its employees and provides flexible options.
It’s still rough dropping Zoe off at daycare on Mondays after a wonderful weekend together. I don’t go to visit her at lunch anymore (I stopped when she was around nine months because my visits were doing more harm than good – she was getting too upset when I left). I still miss those lunchtime visits, sitting in a rocking chair in the corner of her daycare nursery, nursing her and getting to see the inner workings of the place.
But I still get to experience the unbelievable sweetness of mommy and baby reunions at the end of each day when I walk into her room and she notices me. Now that she’s almost two, the reaction is instantaneous – her face lights up in a big beaming smile, she shouts out “Mommy!” and she pelts toward me at full speed. Once I scoop her up and hug her, she has just one thing to say: “Mimis! Mimis!” as she pulls at my shirt.
Being a nursing mom rocks, even when it’s hard. What’s the hardest part of motherhood for you – and what’s the best part?
This post is my first foray into the wonderful world of blog hops – in this case, the Breastfeeding Blog Hop. I am so excited to be part of this online community! The Breastfeeding Blog Hop is hosted by The Slacker Mom and co-hosted by Happiness Redefined and The Gnome’s Mom. Please visit the other blogs to see what they have to say about this week’s topic – leaving baby for the first time.