Working & nursing the older child

Working & nursing an infant can be extremely challenging (whether your pumping or providing formula during the hours you’re away from your babe). Spending significant time away from your baby inevitably leads to concerns over supply & how to get your body to adjust to nursing part-time.

Those are challenges worth spending some time on & I hope to do just that in an upcoming post.

But today I feel like writing about the phase we are in right now: nursing an older child & working outside the home.

Here I am, working full time & nursing a three-year-old… I never in a million years thought I’d say or type those words… not even three years ago! (I’m actually not sure how I feel about it even now that it’s our reality, but that’s a post for another day…).

Nursing a three-year-old as a working mama can be perfectly lovely. Like most mornings when T wanders into our bedroom, climbs into bed & just cuddles, nursing contently. Or when he gets really upset during the day & tells me that mommy milk will help him calm down (& it does). Or when he asks if I put honey in his mama milk.

Or it can be a painful nightmare. Wiggling restlessly before bedtime while nursing is a dangerous combination when a full set of teeth is involved. Whining for more mommy milk while I’m getting ready for work is hardly endearing.

These days, the annoying or painful moments seem to be outweighing the sweet ones. But he’s so clearly not ready to give up this part of his babyhood that I am not pushing it (though I never offer it these days, either).

I think the biggest challenge as a working mom is that nursing no longer satisfies most of what T needs from me, yet it takes up a not-insignificant amount of time in the mornings & evenings.

In the mornings, T will spend a long time nursing but still wants me to read books & play with him… All while I’m putting breakfast together or brushing my teeth. In the evenings, we have to cut playtime or books short because I’m factoring in time for nursing into the bedtime routine.

When he was an infant or even a young toddler, it was enough for me to nurse & carry him close to me when I was home. Now there is no way that’s enough to fulfill his emotional needs.

But there aren’t enough hours in the day!

And to be honest, as tired as I am most days, I’d rather play or read than nurse. We talk a lot about the day when he won’t need mama milk anymore. Or I should say I talk about it a lot. And when I do, T’s response is usually to just pretend he’s a baby a needs to nurse.

It’s not that I’m a push-over or overly permissive or incapable of setting limits (which seems like an assumption people like to make when the topic of extended nursing comes up). No that’s not the case at all. We have set all sorts of limits around nursing. Not during night. Not in public (anymore). Not when there’s no milk. Not if I say “no,” even if it’s just because I want my body to myself for five minutes.

And I try very hard to fill those emotional needs in other ways, to help the weaning process along. Simple but active weekends with lots of outside play time & work (by which I mean household chores). Certain rituals are starting to take over the need to nurse: Sometimes T jumps out of bed on Saturday morning to make pancakes.

Short spurts of intense, physical play in the evenings will help “fill his bucket” after being apart during the day. Rarely does he ask to nurse when I get home from work anymore, especially if I engage with him right when I walk through the door.

Its taken a lot of conscious effort on my part & some careful planning (especially when it comes to not over-booking he weekends). I mess up a lot & sometimes we both fall back on the comfort & ritual of nursing. But those times are fewer & fewer.

(By the way, see my About page for why I hate the term “working mom”… Let me know if you have a better one that isn’t too long…)

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3 Comments

Filed under Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding, Mothering, Parenting, Working

3 responses to “Working & nursing the older child

  1. Katie

    Re: the terminology problem around “working mother,” I think you’re right that all parenting can be called “work.” But I don’t think “work” = “job.” All parenting is labor, is work, but I’m not sure I think that being a parent is a “job” in the way that other kinds of work is. So maybe “mom-with-a-job” alleviates the issue? It has the same number of syllables as “working mother.” 😉

    • I love it! “Mom-with-a-job”! (I’ll update my about page soon to add this!)

      I definitely agree that “work” does not mean the same thing as “job”. … So often work is fulfilling when a job is not…

      Thanks, as always, Katie! I miss you!!

  2. Pingback: “2 bottles of mama milk” | Mom, JD

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