Making It Work
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, May-June 2001, p. 106
"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
My baby used to love to breastfeed, but since I returned to work, she has started to prefer bottles even when I'm home. It breaks my heart to leave her in the first place, and now I feel so rejected! Some women in my LLL Group seem to be able to switch back and forth between breastfeeding and bottles with no trouble. Have any other mothers had this happen? How can I coax her back to the breast?
It's very distressing when your baby seems to reject you like this. My daughter became very reluctant to breastfeed shortly after I returned to work full time (she was four months old) and effectively went on a nursing strike for two months. She would still nurse when very sleepy (last thing at night, during the night, and first thing in the morning), but the rest of the time I would have to try to pump my milk and feed it via bottle. I found I couldn't pump enough for her needs during that time.
A couple of things contributed to her reaction. I had been using a cradle hold to do some things she didn't enjoy (giving medication and cleaning her nose), so she was getting some unwelcome associations. I stopped doing that as soon as I realized the issue. She was often very congested, so after a few seconds of being latched on, she would come off my breast in order to breathe.
I had a delayed, but very forceful, let-down, which would leave her sputtering and choking. So even if she made the attempt to nurse, she would be annoyed by the let-down and become very angry.
We finally developed some solutions. I would breastfeed her in the bathtub, where the humidity in the air helped her breathe more rally. I also offered to nurse while carrying her in a front-pack. The walking movement seemed to soothe her and she could be completely upright, which really helped her breathing. She discovered this position one day, which seemed to help her feel comfortable with the idea.
Please don't get discouraged. The two of you will find a way if you persevere. I am still nursing Clare at 15 months and she loves it!
Sarah M. K.
It's great that you've been able to attend La Leche League meetings! It sounds like there is a group of women there who are combining work and nursing successfully. It may seem as if they don't have any difficulty, but I think you'll find that talking about what you are going through often helps others to open up and talk of their own experiences. (For example, I didn't realize how many people had had miscarriages until I mentioned that I had one.) One mother I know waited until her baby was four months old before returning to work. She said that she noticed some nipple confusion and that her son seemed reluctant to nurse. She said it worked for her to hold him close, give him a pacifier, and then switch him to nursing. As when you have a newborn, it might help to ask others to bring food or to order takeout, so you have more time to concentrate on relaxing with your baby. Are you able to pump at work? Pumping two or three times during the day ran help to maintain your milk supply, as will continued nursing at night. To get through this time when she doesn't seem too excited about nursing, you may need to pump while you are at home to keep up your supply.
You are both going through a big adjustment. I know one time I came home from being out and there was stiff some precious breast milk in the bottle. I didn't want to throw it out, so I found myself feeding my baby with a bottle, even though my breasts felt very full. Try to let her realize that she won't be getting bottles from you. You may want to consider feeding her your milk in a cup if she refuses to nurse and you know she is hungry. Cup feeding will help her get nutrients and so calm her down some, but not satisfy her sucking needs, so she may be more eager to accept the breast. Most of all enjoy your baby and keep your times with her positive.
It must be so frustrating and disappointing to think your baby prefers bottles to the breast. But she isn't rejecting you, rather opting for the quickest way to fill her tummy and not miss a thing going on around her. You don't mention how old your baby is. Some babies become highly distracted by absolutely anything around them. It usually starts around four months and peaks at about eight months. Some babies will nurse more cooperatively in a quiet, darkened room, or when they are sleeping. I also highly recommend the book, The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning, by Kathleen Huggins and Linda Ziedrich. It addresses some babies self-weaning and working mothers' unique concerns. Nursing Mother, Working Mother, by Gale Pryor is also great.
Perhaps your milk supply is a little low. If this is a concern, there are ways to try to increase your supply. Pumping more frequently and getting adequate rest are helpful. Another idea may be to have the sitter try to offer your expressed milk or formula in a cup while you are at work instead of a bottle.
I think your concerns and feelings may be much more common than you realize. Each baby is unique. My sister is going through a very similar situation. Your dedication to breastfeeding is wonderful and your baby has already reaped many benefits from your milk!
Mary Ellen S. W.