I’ve never been separated from my 2 year old and my 8 month old, except for the random sleepover at grandma and grandpa’s. So leaving my babies for 6 days seemed like the craziest idea and an immense hurdle to overcome. I had to do this. I want to empower mamas everywhere in their motherhood journeys and it’s truly my passion, and this was a major step in achieving that goal!
The planning began – I prepared everything for my little ones before going on this excursion for myself – pumped for 2 months to stock up on breast milk, had all the food and purees ready to go, and made sure my hubby felt comfortable and completely ready to take on the week (shout out to him – he took it off work and supported me in this venture)! He’s a planner and has a completely type A personality, so I wrote him up a detailed schedule for our 8 month old since prior to this, I was the one doing the feeds and putting him down for naps and bedtime (relax – he did all of that for our 2 year old). I taught our baby to sleep without any props so this was already a huge win in my mind. Still though, we were both pretty much freaking out at how this was all going to play out, but it worked. He was fine. They were fine. And boy am I glad that I went.
As mamas, we always want to be there for our babies and it’s hard for us to let go and step away. Just for a moment, just to find yourself again, just some time to do you. But you know what? It’s the best thing you can do for yourself because when you return to your amazing babies and see them light up, you are ready to continue the insane journey that is motherhood. You’re recharged. You’re set. It’s good for your children to know that they can be loved and nurtured by others, so why do we feel so guilty about not being around for a bit?
I learned so much by stepping away and being left alone with my own thoughts. I actually greatly enjoyed my time away. I didn’t feel guilty, then I felt guilty for not feeling guilty. I remained so focused on the task at hand and developing my business with the Mama Coach and the adrenaline was rushing through me the entire time I was gone. I wouldn’t say I caught up on sleep, although I did catch up on me time. I explored the beautiful city of Calgary and visited some pretty sweet neighbourhoods. Ate what I wanted (with two hands!), hung out with a hot cup of coffee on a bench with an incredible view, took some cool photos, and met some magnificent people. I Ubered everywhere and did my own thing. I thoroughly savoured the entire experience with all of my senses. I remembered who I am as a person and as a nurse.
Breastfeeding is extremely important to me and I wanted to continue this relationship with my little one upon returning, so that meant pumping while I was away. It was a completely different experience compared to pumping with the baby. When I was pumping before I left, I breastfed my babe on one side and pumped from the other. This helped initiate the let down reflex so my milk came out quite effortlessly. Being away from your baby brings on new challenges in the pumping world, and realizing that let down would be harder to achieve without my baby was a total let down. So here are 5 tips that helped me pump successfully while I was away from my sweet little bean:
- PUMP – Use a double electric pump to effectively get that milk out! I love my Medela pump, but there are so many good ones out there that will work just as well. You want lots of stimulation on those breasts to get the most out of your pumping sessions! Make sure you have the appropriate size of flanges for your breasts and that you are using the proper settings on your pump.
- TIMING – I pumped 3/4 times a day to keep that milk production flowing. Aim for about 20 minutes. Your body is working on supply and demand, so the more you pump the better it will be for your baby when you return! If it doesn’t seem to be working very well, take a break and try again in another 30 minutes.
- MASSAGE – Use massage and breast compressions before and during your pumping sessions. It will really help stimulate those nerve endings to send the message to get the milk out of your milk ducts.
- VISUALIZATION – Literally think about your baby. Look at photos of him or her. Imagine your baby suckling at your breast. I know it seems totally weird, but it definitely helped my body initiate that let down reflex.
- GET COMFORTABLE – Chill out and try your best to be free of stress. I used a hands free pumping bra so I was able to be on my laptop or phone, video chat with my family, and get my makeup on in the morning during pumping. Have a snack, watch some TV, get some work done, or check out some pictures of your baby!
Now that I had all of this milk stocked up and stored in my hotel mini-fridge, I had to transport it home! I amazingly came across this brilliant freezer bag PackIt. Seriously, it’s the bomb. I purchased the freezable picnic tote on Amazon before leaving and I’m so thankful for it. It’s a bag that you fold up and stick in the freezer the night before you want to use it and it keeps everything as cold as a fridge for 10 hours. The bag has a freezable lining so you never have to worry about using ice packs. The hotel that I stayed at was awesome and froze it for me. I took it out around 3pm and was home around midnight with some seriously cold breast milk. Perfection! Oh and by the way, you’re allowed to travel by plane with an unlimited amount of breast milk – with or without baby.
Now that I’ve been back home for a few days, my baby has been on the boob more frequently – probably trying to get the milk amounts back up to his standards. But I’ll take the extra snuggles. Mamas – take that trip for business or for pleasure and be confident about taking care of yourself. A happier mama is a happier family. You can maintain your breastfeeding relationship while being away from your baby. Do your thing; prep, pump & enjoy! You’ll be so glad you did!!