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Returning to Work

From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 1, January-February 2002, p. 9

When I was pregnant with my son, Nicholas, I knew that I definitely wanted to breastfeed because of the great benefits in terms of nutrition and bonding. I was, however, somewhat apprehensive. I was accustomed to a stressful job and often felt overloaded by juggling the various responsibilities of my personal and professional life. I decided that I would do my best. I set my goal to nurse for at least the first three months of my baby's life.

Pushing Nicholas into the world was the most beautiful, exhilarating experience I have ever known. He was placed on my chest moments after he was born. He gazed up at me with intense, deep-blue eyes, and I finally met the wondrous being whom I already felt I had come to know. He took my nipple right into his mouth with very little need for direction, and thus began our nursing relationship. After an initial period of sleepiness in the hospital, Nicholas took to breastfeeding like a natural, taking in all he could and often nursing for up to 45 minutes at a time. I had some discomfort from engorgement and then nipple soreness, which was easily remedied by Lansinoh ointment. Nicholas rapidly regained his birth weight and has hovered around the 100th percentile for his height and weight ever since. The nurses at my pediatrician's office tease me that I must have had "cream" in my breasts.

Returning to work when Nicholas was four months old posed the only real challenge in my experience of breastfeeding. I enrolled Nicholas in a day care center located within walking distance of my office and established a routine of nursing him during my lunch hour and pumping two to three times a day in between appointments. I was concerned about him initially going "on strike," because his daily milk intake seemed to decrease dramatically when he had to regularly drink out of bottles. Soon, however, my husband and I became convinced that our cosleeping arrangement enabled Nicholas to maximize his intake of human milk at night and to meet his nutritional needs.

Pumping made my workday more hectic, and I had ongoing difficulty getting the day care workers to coordinate Nicholas' bottle feedings so as not to interfere with our nursing schedule. The strange thing was that it seemed as if no one else at his day care center was nursing. It felt confusing at times and I probably would have lost sight of why I was going to such great efforts to maintain my son's diet of 100 percent human milk if it were not for the support and validation I received from the Leaders and members of my La Leche League Group. It has now been 10 months since Nicholas was born and our nursing relationship is still going strong. He still gets about 85 to 90 percent of his nourishment from human milk, and I cannot yet imagine either one of us being ready to wean.

Much to my surprise, despite Nicholas' frequent feedings and my decreased hours of sleep, I have not found myself feeling overburdened. If anything, I believe I have learned how to truly relax. I have always been the "Type A" personality who feels a compulsive need to be ultra productive with my time. Nursing Nicholas enabled me to slow down and just fully experience what is occurring in the moment.

Minutes before completing this essay, I finished nursing Nicholas. He was staring up at me with what are now his green-colored eyes, the color of my own. He gazed lovingly at me as he suckled and played with a strand of my hair. As I watched this miraculous little being pressed up against my chest, I felt his warmth in my arms, savored his wonderful smell, and took in the pureness of his beauty. I was able to immerse myself in this experience and feel serenity and intense joy.

Not only has breastfeeding helped me to bond with this beautiful little boy in a way that I will always cherish, but it has also helped me to grow. I feel that through this bond with my baby I have become a better person, less self-focused, more empathic, and more able to recognize and experience the meaningful and precious moments in life.

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