Leaving my baby
November 9, 2012 7:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm leaving my 7 month old baby with his other mom for three days. This will be the first time I'm away from him for longer than a couple of hours, and the first time I won't be able to nurse him. I am really anxious about this. What can I do to help this go as smoothly as possible, and keep me sane?

I am currently on maternity leave taking care of my 7 month old son. I've been given an opportunity to take some training in a city a few hours away but I'll have to spend three nights away from home. I've never spent a night away from him before. His other mom (we're both women) is perfectly capable but there are some difficulties.

1. I'm breastfeeding. I can bring a small electric pump with me but will I need to pump during the day at training? At lunch? How do I do this? Three days isn't long enough for him to spontaneously wean, is it? I'm not ready for that.

2. Baby doesn't take a soother, or a bottle (or sippy cup) very well. I'll leave a bunch of expressed milk, but how in the world can she get it in him? Will he learn to take a bottle if he's hungry and it's the only option? He eats purees too, but is too young to get all his nutrition that way.

3. He still wakes up 2-3 times a night to nurse. We've tried sending my wife in to soothe him, but all he wants is to nurse. We've tried letting him cry back to sleep (we did cry-it-out very successfully for bedtimes and naptimes) but he just gets hysterical. What can she do to soothe him at night?

I know that this will likely be harder on me than it is on him - his other mom is perfectly competent and loving. I just need some help to make this go as smoothly as possible for baby, mom, and I. I have four more nights before the trip.
posted by arcticwoman to Human Relations (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
1. You'll have to pump at least as often as he nurses. In my experience the pump wasn't quite as efficient as the baby for getting my milk out, so in order for your supply to not drop off, you may have to pump MORE frequently. I think when my baby was 7 months I was pumping 3x during my 8-hour workday.

2. Try really hard over the next four days to get him to take a bottle. Did you leave the house before when the bottle was tried? My son would no way take a bottle when the boobs were right there. But if there were no boobs, the bottle was OK. This might also be a good time to mix some breastmilk with rice cereal to try and get it in him that way.

3. This is the tough one. You might just prepare for not much sleep during the nights you're away. Do you cosleep? Maybe cosleeping during those nights, so he has at least the comfort of a mom, would help? Also, bottles in bed maybe?

Good luck.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:10 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Really, really strongly suggest renting an electric double-pump. If you will have your car, get the car adapter. The small electric pump is going to frustrate you profoundly.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:13 AM on November 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

If he won't take a bottle, she can also use a syringe. We used a large-ish syringe that came with a prescribed medicine when my then 6mo was getting a ton of teeth at once and didn't want to take a bottle for a month. We also sometimes let him sip slowly from small paper cups, like mouthwash sized cups. It was tricky, and better to try when he is not screaming hungry. (Have her feed a little more often, so he doesn't get screaming hungry, it's much more difficult at that point). Have her try to get the breastmilk as close to body temp as possible, that helps too. Your LO may reluctantly settle into taking the bottle after the first day.

I would probably try to find a way to pump at lunch at least if you can't follow your normal schedule. Ask organizers if there is a room nearby that you can use for the purpose, so you don't miss out on too much networking time running back and forth.

I doubt he will wean in that time.

Are you on the email group for your local La Leche League? They are very helpful with these questions. Also, The Leaky B@@b facebook group, and Kellymom. Good luck!
posted by vignettist at 8:14 AM on November 9, 2012

Best answer: You will almost certainly need to pump during the day. When I was away from my fulltime nursing 9-month-old, I was most comfortable pumping four times a day.

Have a few kinds of bottles on hand for your wife to try (babies who hate some bottles like others) mix in full-fat yogurt with his purees for a calorie bump and ... I think let your wife figure it out.

This is advice usually given about dads, but I think it applies here: She's going to find her own way to manage without you, but it's not anything that you can figure out for the two of them. She's going to do great! You're going to do great! He's going to be just fine.
posted by purpleclover at 8:14 AM on November 9, 2012

Can you both travel to the city with your child and alternate nursing and pumping breaks?

What's your plan for pumping, do you have a way to clean the parts (I had the hotel provide me with a microwave oven for steam sterilization and a fridge) and transport the milk back (if that's the plan)?
posted by tilde at 8:16 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

IANALactation Consultant, but
1. At seven months, I'd be more concerned about the impact on your supply than about his forgetting how to nurse. It'll be a pain, but you might want to try keeping up a pumping schedule as close as possible (at least in frequency) to his feeding schedule if you want to be able to seamlessly step back in when you return home.

2. Have you tried bottles specifically designed to simulate the experience of breastfeeding? We had good luck with The First Years Breastflow, which is designed to require roughly the same sort of sucking action that a breast does. Perhaps you could try being really stubborn about insisting on the bottle at one feeding per day over the next four days (to the point of allowing him to go hungry until the next feeding if necessary). Babies sometimes do require a couple of tries to get used to things.

3. One recommendation I've heard is for the mom to wear a soft piece of fabric (scarf/blanket) under her bra until it picks up a bit of her scent-- if your partner has something that smells like you handy, that might help the little one be less freaked out in the middle of the night.
posted by Bardolph at 8:18 AM on November 9, 2012

You should pump as often as the baby nurses. If you've not used your pump much in the past you need to be prepared for the possibility that it will not work for you, and you'll have to hand express. Google it and learn how to now, it can help a lot. How often have you pumped already? How much milk do you have stored already?

Yes, it is definitely long enough for him to early wean, and it's a very high risk. If he were used to having bottles during the day then coming back to you at night, it's not likely to be a problem, but it sounds like you guys have only ever BF "from the tap" so it's very likely this would cause him a lot of stress and could cause early weaning.

What bottles or sippies have you tried? There's one called BreastFlow which is very much like the breast in how the baby has to suck to get the milk out, instead of it just flowing. You can also try an open cup or a trainer cup.

What might be easiest on baby is using a Supplemental Nursing System so other mom can let him "nurse" at her breast - if she is comfortable with this. It's a thin tube that goes from a bag or bottle of the expressed breast milk and she tapes the tube to her breast so when he nurses the milk comes out of the tube right at her nipple. You guys could try this before you leave to see if it works. People usually use them for formula or donated BM, but this is another time when it would work.

I have to say as a mom of a 1 year old EBF baby - leaving for three days at 7 months is a BAD idea. If there's ANY way you can postpone this trip do it. If there's any way your wife and baby can come along, do that. Leaving suddenly for 3 days when you've never been gone for more than a few hours will be very hard on everyone, especially with the nighttime. Think about how you'd feel if he does wean and you have to switch to formula. Is that worth this trip? Between 10 and 12 months my baby (who will actually be 1 in exactly a week) dropped his BM consumption a ton. Before 10 months I would not have felt okay leaving him for longer than my workday. My son barely takes his bottles, he only ever drank the minimum to hold him over, then nursed a ton at night to make up for it. Once he really got into his food (We did Baby Led Weaning), and became mobile (walking) he probably halved what he nurses/drinks. Now I would be okay trying 1 night away, but under 10 months it would have been a disaster for us. And my baby got bottles of BM from 6 weeks.

If you have to do the trip and you need any more specific advice feel free to email me at my username here at gmail. Also go on facebook to the leaky B@@B, they are helpful!
posted by jesirose at 8:21 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

A good pump is the best investment we ever made.

As the non breast feeding parent having milk is handy but what is more helpful is space and practice.

The 'milk maker' has a lot of natural advantages to soothing a midnight-crying baby. So it is insanely, understandably easy to fall into the habit of the 'milk maker' doing ALL the night soothing. But the baby if he is a healthy weight dose not need all that food 2-3 times a night.

Before you go on this trip your partner has to spend some nights soothing this boy down. There will be screaming, there will be crying, there will be moments where quiet prayers are said to previously abandoned gods... But you need to stay out of the room.

Baby will never make this transition if you are coming in eventually, because he is learning "if I just keep crying milk and boobs will be mine!"

It's hard but it's worth it. It will also buy you a full nights sleep every now and then :)

**Out of curiosity I asked my lesbian friends who have one 'milk producer' mom if it would be "weird" if the non lactating mom nursed the baby? They said No they do it all the time, baby is just looking for comfort. Not an option I have but sounds handy as hell.
posted by French Fry at 8:27 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding the recommendation to have partner try bottlefeeding when you are out of the *house*, not just the room -- go for a walk or something. Babies have incredible olfactory sensors, and if they can smell the boob, they want the boob! This probably follows for all kinds of comforting too; if you're not around, he'll be less hysterical.

The timing is a bummer, but I think you'll be ok. Get a good pump, practice with it in advance (you need to be able to relax and/or think about baby to stimulate good let-down), maybe make yourself a "flange-holder" so that you can hold a magazine or baby picture (just sacrifice a regular bra so that the parts can stick out the front and connect to the pump hoses without your needing to hold them in place). You do want to keep your supply up, but baby will do whatever extra sucking is needed to get it back when you return too.

Good luck!
posted by acm at 8:34 AM on November 9, 2012

Best answer: I disagree with some of this.

You're leaving in four days, right? I think the time for a lot of practicing is past. I mean, having her try to do bottles all the time now is just going to lead to an underfed and freaked out baby (not to mention mommies.)

Likewise, do not have your wife suffer through night wakeups now. She'll just start her solo parenting jaunt in sleep debt. If anything, she needs to start out more well-rested than usual.

Plus, trying to practice now turns your three-days away into a week of OMG WHAT IS HAPPENING!?!? for your son.

No one can promise that your son won't wean, but mine didn't when I was gone for two days. I am also a SAHM. Nursing resumed exactly as normal (he was extra-hungry when I got home.) He wasn't that hot on any solid foods and was a reluctant bottle-taker. Still, he was totally fine!

Also, previously.
posted by purpleclover at 8:48 AM on November 9, 2012

Best answer: My daughter would not take a bottle if I was in the house, but would do so eagerly if I was gone. The first couple of times, she was super-angry about it, but she did it after about an hour of hollering.

I'm not going to lie. Nights will suck. They will suck for you (you may have to get up and pump in the middle of the night) and they will suck for your wife (who should be prepared to get only very broken sleep) and they will suck for your son (WAAAAH MILKIES!). But it is OK that it will suck. It's 3 days, and nobody ever gets promised a carefree life.

As for the spontaneous weaning? It could happen. But I doubt it's guaranteed, particularly if your son is currently an enthusiastic nurser. I have a friend who traveled for a week out of every other month once her daughter was 4 months old, and she weaned her at 18 months.
posted by KathrynT at 8:58 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I left for about the same period of time when my daughter was seven months old. It was harder on me than her and actually ended up giving my husband a lot of confidence that he could soloparent.

Like others mentioned, having a doublepump and frequent pumping are key. I rented a hospital-grade pump for about $70 for the month. It is so much faster to pump with a hospital-grade pump! Hospital pumps are huge and you feel a little silly walking around with one but you'll save so much time. My supply stayed fine when pumping one less time than I breastfed during the day.

In terms of where to pump, just ask if there's a lactation room. I've found that most people are pretty accomodating about finding somewhere for you to pump - even if it's not super comfortable. For example, when I had jury duty I wound up pumping in the witness holding room.

I'd guess that the baby will take a bottle once you are gone. Ours put up a huge fuss for this but would eventually drink when she got hungry. One thing that my husband did when I was gone was switch to a high-flow nipple. I was expecting her to prefer the bottle to breast after this based on what I'd read online but that didn't happen. In fact, she's over 2 now and I wish she'd want to wean!

For the nighttime nursing, I'd just make sure that your partner has a bottle ready. One thing I never thought of until my husband had night duty was how it takes more time to warm up and get a bottle ready in the middle of the night.

One thing you didn't mention is what you are doing with all of the milk you pump while gone. If you are flying, it's a bit of a pain to transport breastmilk and you'll want to have some sort of cooler.

I'd also recommend making sure that you have a picture of your baby and/or something relaxing to do while pumping. When I was traveling, I was so freaked out about being away from my baby that it made it hard for the milk to start flowing.

Feel free to PM me. I've spent a lot of time freaking out about breastfeeding and travel. :)
posted by JuliaKM at 9:13 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about having the other mom use a SNS full of expressed milk?
posted by Nickel Pickle at 10:36 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

I am a mom of 4 ebf teenagers (all 4 to 2 yrs at least) who was very involved with LLL and I agree with everything that's been said here. Your wife is going to have a very sad little dude who will probably be hard to calm. Your breasts will get very hard and you will need to express as much as possible to avoid an infection. It's hard but it's can be done to force a previously only bf baby to take a bottle under duress. Occasionally the bf baby may not go back to the breast depending on the length of time. I would highly encourage you to bring her and him with you on your trip. A couple of hours of meetings is nothing compared to a few days of screaming to your wife. Good luck - it sucks having to work and nurse and all that.
posted by lasamana at 11:25 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A delayed update, for posterity.

I cut some holes in a bra like someone suggested (great idea!), pumped before work, at lunch, after work, and before bed, and I was fine. I asked my big boss if she could suggest a place for me to pump (I knew that she had young kids and had pumped at work) and she offered me her private office. Score!

Baby took a bottle the first day I was away, and had a rough night. He refused the bottle the second day, and slept through the night for the first time in his life. As purpleclover suggested, this gave his other mom the chance to gain her own confidence solo parenting, and to figure out her own solutions to issues that came up. Baby was still an eager nurser when I came home. Overall, everything went well and there were no real problems. Thank you for the support!
posted by arcticwoman at 6:50 PM on May 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

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