I know how all encompassing it can be to be your child's main or only source of nutrition. My son had a supplement of formula for a couple of months due to a weak latch, but with the help of a lactation consultant and a whole lot of pumping, I was back to exclusively breastfeeding before he was out of the newborn phase. As a result, I felt equally proud and touched out. I didn't have days off, though, so it was important (to me) to maintain my "me time" when I was exclusively breastfeeding.
Nursing my baby made me feel empowered and proud, but it also eroded some of my identity for a specific period of time. It was important for me to remember that I was more than just someone's mom. I still needed (not to mention, deserved) to devote my time to things I enjoyed doing, and to spend time with the people that were important to me.
If I'm being honest, sometimes I resented my son's little hands grasping at my shirt and, instead, just wanted to be left alone where no one would touch me or demand anything from me. It was in those moments that I knew I needed to find a balance and remember that the "me" that was "me" before I had a baby needed to be cared for. So, with that in mind, here are just a few ways I carved out some alone time in the middle of all that breastfeeding.
I Did Something Fun When My Baby Slept
Babies take a lot of naps and the old advice of "sleeping when the baby sleeps" is sometimes (read: almost always) unrealistic.
But what you can do is use at least some of this time to do something you enjoy. If you have someone at home to care for the baby, you can actually leave and return when the baby needs their next feed. Or, you can just do something in the house. Even a bubble bath, watching TV, or reading a magazine in peace can feel heavenly when you've been obsessed with someone else's needs.
I Learned How To Multitask
Most mothers already excel at multitasking, but it can take some practice before you're able to do other things while nursing your baby. So, while I didn't have the opportunity to do more than one thing at one time in the beginning, eventually I was able to check my phone, answer emails, write lists, and pay bills while feeding my baby.
Because nursing is often a special bonding time, some moms worry that they are neglecting their child if they do other things during breastfeeding sessions. However, if you exclusively nurse you're spending hours upon hours every single day, just holding your baby close and feeding them. Trust me: you can give some of your attention to another task during this time, guilt free.
I Started Delegating
I tried to be "Supermom" for a while. Yeah, it didn't last long. It's unnecessary and can be insulting to your loved ones, who desperately want to lend a hand. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if you don't let someone else be "in charge," you're essentially saying you don't trust them to help out.
If you are physically tied to your baby for every feed, you can and should delegate other baby related tasks and jobs to the people in your support system. After all, you can't do everything. For example, my mom made a whole bunch of meals, my dad tackled the overflowing laundry, and my girlfriends unpacked gifts and baby clothes. It takes a village, you know.
I Used Bedtime To Escape
Once your child is going to sleep at a scheduled time each night, and sleeping for a decent amount of time throughout the night, I suggest using this set up as a chance to leave the house.
You can leave your partner on duty, or get a babysitter, but get out of the house for the evening. Sometimes I would meet up with friends to remind me that I was still an interesting human with some non-baby related thoughts to share. Other times, I went to the movies and shut down my thoughts entirely. Of course, I also took the opportunity to sit alone in a coffee shop and enjoy an uninterrupted drink to collect new thoughts.
I Did The "Pump And Run"
If you can express your milk (and your baby will take a bottle), relying on your breast pump can be a great opportunity to a allow someone else to do a feeding.
I developed Shingles when my baby was still young, so I was glad to have some frozen milk as a backup if my doctor advised me to stop nursing.
I Hired A Babysitter
Hiring a babysitter doesn't mean you have to leave your home. Instead, having someone else around can give you an extra set of hands to allow you to take a shower, fix dinner, or clean the house while your baby is safely cared for.
Remember all those girlfriends at your baby shower who said they would love to babysit? Now's the time to make that call. Or, if you prefer and/or you have the means, why not hire a cleaner to tackle all those jobs while you snuggle with your little one?
I Assigned "Daddy Duty"
If you are exclusively breastfeeding, your partner may feel left out. Try to include him by asking him to grab any items you might need — like water or pillows — or simply asking him to sit and chat with you while you nurse. I found breastfeeding a little lonely sometimes, so just having him there to talk to was a huge help.
It's also a good idea to give your partner something baby related to do that is solely their responsibility. For example, my husband took over bathing our baby (and still bathes our 3-year-old toddler, now). This little chunk of time became mine to do with what I wished.
I Went Out (Close To My Home)
If you really need to get out of the house and be alone, just make sure you stay close to home and take a cell phone. That way you can be called back if your baby needs you. I would routinely go for a swim at the pool at the end of our street, knowing I was close enough to get home if I was needed but was still able to enjoy a little alone time. You know what? I never got that call.
Exclusively breastfeeding is a commitment and a gift to your baby, but it can sometimes be an overwhelming encroachment on your personal space and boundaries. It's important to take opportunities to have free time, allow other people to help out, and do things that remind you of the woman you were before you became a mom. Allowing yourself regular "me" time will stop you from having a meltdown (and will help you be the mom your baby deserves).