Sunday, April 5, 2009

Leaving a nursing 12 month old baby for 5 nights

I had a wedding job in New York City a couple of weeks ago (I live in Arizona). It was a very cool wedding-- on a Broadway stage-- see the images here.

I have been stressed about leaving Owen for approximately the past 3 months. Basically when I booked the job, I was naive and thought, "oh at 12 months, I can go anywhere and we'll just bring Owen anyway." We learned between that time and the time I booked my plane ticket that traveling with an infant, is challenging at best and probably not a great idea when he wasn't sleeping through the night (at the time we booked the ticket, he was still waking 2-3 times, now he sleeps uninterrupted).

I think every Mother should run this drill:

GO AWAY overnight as soon as you can.

Even if your baby is nursing.

They will survive.

Even if it's just for one night.

You can do it.

It's great mental exercise for yourself, and really lets you know that your baby will be fine without you. I'm not saying it wasn't hard. Getting on a plane was the hardest part but I firmly believe had I not done this now it would've been YEARS before I left him for the fear that he would not be okay without me or that something would happen and the baby would NEED me. I know that sounds irrational even as I write it but in my head it was a real fear that needed to be addressed.

We all have to face our fears at some point.

I know for a fact that many mothers wait YEARS to leave their children and the less you leave them, the harder it is.

Obviously, you want to leave your baby with family or a close friend whom knows the schedule and your baby. Luckily, I have the best husband on earth whom cares for our son all the time for 12-hour stretches while I shoot weddings on Saturdays, which is also great. If you cannot go overnight YET, mentally or for whatever excuse you make, then, go do something ALL DAY, really, it will be fine. Now, there is no way in hell I could've left this child when he was 3 months, 6 months or even 7 months for an overnight period. He simply didn't drink from a bottle and wouldn't get enough liquids without me present to nurse. Dehydration was a big concern during that stage, but around 9-12 months he started really drinking well from the sippy cup (NEVER breastmilk --- he wouldn't touch it outside of a breast -- only formula in a sippy cup).

Bottom line is I DID IT. It WAS NOT easy for several reasons:
1) my milk supply ran really low while I was gone... since I only breastfeed and never pump, my breasts don't make a lot of milk without the baby around and don't respond well to pumping. For example, I was only getting an ounce or so each time I would pump, twice a day, which worried me since I am fairly dedicated to nursing until the baby quits it himself. It made me think I would lose my supply before I got back, which makes one anxious to get back.
2) 5 nights is too long at 12 months, or at least it was for me. I think 3 nights would've been perfect, but by day 4 I was ready to be home.
3) I was going such a long distance it made it extra stressful since if something happened, it would be 12 hours home and I couldn't leave until AFTER the wedding.

On the other hand, it WAS easy for these reasons
1) I was working, so I had a purpose and didn't have much free "mommy" time to think about the baby
2) I knew Matt was taking care of Owen very well and they were getting some great quality time together.
3) Owen was sleeping through the night every night and drinking plenty of cow's milk (we started 2 weeks before the trip) and very hydrated.
4) I left him overnight for about 40 hours to go to a conference 2 hours away. See blog post on that topic here.

When I returned home, my milk supply came back to normal and the baby nursed on his normal schedule. All was well. I did it and now I can't wait to plan a trip with my husband in the fall sometime when Owen will be 18 months. I'm sure it will be equally as hard to leave then, but now I know he'll be fine and that makes all the difference in the world... a little confidence goes a long way. It's so exciting to think of the places we can go as a family but even more excited to get away with Matt.

I am a firm believer that once you have children you have to really actively nurture your marriage. A strong marriage will provide a good example for your children throughout their life and it makes for a happy household. Scheduling a babysitter for some "couple time" is a MUST. Getting away together for dates, playtime and overnight trips if you can. Start small, dream big.

Today Matt and I went on our first mountain bike ride together (something we used to do 3-4 times a week in the summers) in 18 months. It was REALLY fun. I look forward to laying on a beach somewhere with him knowing our child is fine at home.

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TanyaMas said...

Thanks for the boost of confidence! My baby is now 13 months old and exclusively breastfed. I am starting work in 3 weeks and have my first 3 day away from home trip for training in 2 weeks. I have already started stressing, much more because he still wakes up during the night to feed. It helps to know that there are others out there in the same situation. Many thanks,T

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I am leaving my 18 month old daughter in a couple of days and I am really anxious about it. I am still breastfeeding and I am not ready to give it up. I am leaving her with grandma so I can go celebrate my 30th birthday with a friend and I will be gone for 2 nights. I have never left her overnight yet, so this feels like a big step. I do have the advantage of having an older child, I have left him many times, and so far I have gone out and left my baby way more than I ever did with with my 1st. I didn't wean until 2 1/2 with him, and I want to continue with the baby at least until then. Now that the time is nearing I am feeling stressed about leaving her overnight while she is a baby. It was really nice to read this post and hear some positive feedback on how it is okay to do so, and that she will be just fine. I plan to pump my milk while I am gone, and cross my finger that she picks it back up then. I have to figure if she doesn't then it was meant to be, but can she really forget how much she loves nursing in 2 1/2 days? Somewhere in my head I have been feeling like an aweful selfish mother to leave my baby. Thanks for the confindence boost!

Anonymous said...

I'm not happy to know that my husband scheduled a 14 day trip, without our baby, before he was even born. Now that he is 3 moth old, I'm really counting the days that this vacations will come and I will be away from my baby. My husband doesn't want to take him, and I'm crying inside because I don't want to be separated from my baby for such a long time. What I can do, I'm leaving my baby with his godmother (my sister), but I'm still suffering because he is so little.