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Perhaps I should have called this post, “How I went away for work and returned to a child that sleeps through the night,” because that’s what this post is really about. But it just doesn’t have the same zing, no?
It’s been just a couple weeks now since I was fretting about my four-day, overnight trip for work — cheerleading camp, as I’m a high school coach — and worrying about not only simply being away from my daughter for that long, but how the time away would impact our breastfeeding relationship.
Well, folks, I’m happy to report that the trip went VERY well. I was kept so busy that, to be honest, there wasn’t much downtime to think about how much I missed my family and I know that Nora enjoyed the extra QT she got with daddy while I was gone. (It’s been debated who had it harder – dad with one toddler or mom with ten teenage girls. Yeah, we couldn’t pick a winner, either.)
And did it slip past you what I said up there? Let me repeat the most important part of all this: my daughter now sleeps THROUGH THE NIGHT. Four days away from her was enough for her to be ready to do this.
How did I survive the time away and reap a huge benefit when I returned? Here’s what worked for us:
Trust that you CAN do this.
This trip was the longest I’d been away from my daughter in a year, and I just wasn’t sure I was emotionally ready to do it. Nor did I want to risk her weaning. But, even though she’s a toddler, I really had no reason to worry that she was going to drop ALL of her nursing sessions. I had to trust that things would work out as they should (even if not as planned) when I returned. I had to trust that dad would be a suitable substitute, every time my daughter woke up in the middle of the night. And trust that this was actually a good thing for everyone in our family. I trusted, and it worked.
Of course, if you’re still nursing you need to keep up with this. Don’t get so caught up in the busy-ness of your work trip that you don’t make time. Pumping a couple times a day while I was gone ensured that we were able to pick up where we left off with nursing when I returned.
Realize that night-weaning isn’t all or nothing.
I believe that children will drop their nighttime nursings when they are developmentally ready to do so. At 15 months old, my daughter didn’t need to nurse in the middle of the night for nourishment, but it was clear that nursing offered her something else she did continue to need; comfort, support, company, love. I was happy to provide this for her as long as she needed it (despite my sleep-deprived complaints on occasion, I really was committed) but it seems that a few nights away from each other was what she needed to recognize that she didn’t always need me in the middle of the night. Still, there have been a couple of nights since I returned that she has gotten up in the middle of the night and couldn’t put herself back to sleep, and I’ve gone in to nurse her and give her the attention she was looking for. I’m okay with this, because we’re still, more nights than not, getting glorious, glorious full nights of sleep.
Wean yourself, too.
Don’t do what I did when I got back from my trip and relish in the first solid nights of sleep you’ve gotten in over a year and not get up to pump in the middle of the night. You will end up with the worst case of mastitis you’ve ever had. OMG. I thought I was gonna die. I’ve since been slowly decreasing the length of my late-night pumping session by a minute each time, until my body is used to not having that activity at that time of day. Learn from my mistake and don’t go cold turkey.
Since returning from the trip I reached yet another milestone. Just last weekend my hubby and I attended a wedding and, for the first time, I was EXCITED to leave my daughter at my in laws overnight. I knew we could use a night out together as a couple, and I knew my daughter would be fine without me overnight. We had a fantastic time, so did she, and I know that ALL of our relationships will be better because of this.
So that’s how I spent a week with cheerleaders, reduced my late-night nursing encounters, and still maintained my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter. It may not be titillating, but it’s still music to my ears.