Due to having Devin mid semester, I was only able to take two weeks off of school before I had to go back. Some people say it's terrible timing, but it actually wasn't as bad as I expected. She slept a lot (though she did nurse every hour around the clock for the first few months!) and I was able to nap with her, I was out of the house for 24 hours of the week so it wasn't full-time, I could come home at times during lunch to nurse her, and I was also able to have the entire summer off during her extremely fun months!
One thing that did cause me stress in the beginning was pumping. It wasn't that pumping was hard or difficult, I was just so worried about nipple confusion or her not wanting to nurse, thus ending our breastfeeding relationship. Aside from her being placed on my chest immediately after birth, breastfeeding was the thing I was most looking forward to and I didn't want to mess with it! Luckily, I had nothing to worry about as we had no problem and she still loves to nurse constantly, and will hopefully continue into toddlerhood.
When I was scouring the internet for advice on pumping really early, I found nothing. 'Early' to most people meant going back to work at 6 or 8 weeks. The advice would be to start pumping 4 weeks before going back to work, and to start bottle feeding two weeks before going back to get the baby used to a bottle. That would have meant I should have started pumping two week before I delivered, and started bottle feeding the day she was born! Obviously, that would be impossible and not ideal.
So here is a rough outline of what I did, in case you are one of the lucky few who has to go to school/work after a very short period of time and you want to continue breastfeeding.
Nurse on demand. Devin, like most babies, nursed for nutrition as well as comfort. For the first two weeks, we basically sat on a recliner with her attached to my boob about 90% of the day. She would nurse, and then taper off to little suckles while she slept. This signaled to my body to make more milk, and helped increase my supply. While at the hospital she would nurse for hours straight and all through the night, and even though it was really uncomfortable at times in the beginning, I just let her do her thing.
Do NOT use a pacifier. As I said, Devin liked to comfort nurse. Many moms choose to put a pacifier in for this, but I was adamant about no paci. One) it took away her ability to tell my body to make more milk, and two) it would likely mean that I would set her down to do something else, decreasing our physical contact, and decreasing my milk supply. We started her on a paci around 6 weeks because the comfort nursing was making her acid reflux worse by never allowing her food to digest, but we made sure breastfeeding was well established, I had a pumping routine in place, and I had a solid amount of milk.
Start pumping once your milk is in. My milk came in very quickly - while I was still in the hospital - and continued to increase in amount. Around day 7, once my milk was 'completely' in (it would continue to increase over the next many weeks, but it was changing from colostrum to regular milk), I started pumping a few times a day after Devin finished nursing. I was nervous at first, thinking I was 'stealing' the milk from her next feed, but really it just helped increase my milk supply after a couple days. I would get about a half ounce to start with, and it quickly increased to 1-2 ounces per pumping. I was trying to stock up enough milk for at least the first two days of school, in case I didn't end up pumping enough while I was away for a total of 16 hours. I was following the 'baby eats one ounce per hour' rule, so 16 ounces was my goal. I froze the milk in 1 ounce portions, since I assumed she would stick with her eating every hour routine even though I wasn't there.
Introduce a bottle. Three days before I was supposed to go to school, I had Vince try to give her a bottle. I heard good things about breastfeeding mothers using the Dr. Brown's bottles with a preemie sized nipple, so the baby still had to work hard to get the milk out. She kept refusing it with Vince and he was stressed out about it (he also got little amounts of sleep that first week!) so I ended up trying to feed her. I was still so distraught about how it could effect our breastfeeding relationship, so once she got a hang of the bottle and started eating, I cried! And then sobbed! It was awful to be the one feeding her from a bottle. Vince realized how upset I was and took over from there. I had him feed her one time for those three days while I pumped so they could both get used to it, and then I would nurse her immediately after as well so she wouldn't 'forget' how to nurse. I could definitely feel a difference in her latch, but after a minute or so she would correct herself and remember.
Relax. When I went back to school, I was able to pump more than enough for her. I was lucky enough to have Vince or my grandparents be home with Devin, so I was confident she was in good hands getting the love and attention she needed. Had I been stressed out about her situation, I'm sure it would have had an impact on my milk supply. She didn't have any issues with nipple confusion, and she would nurse even more when I was home because she missed the physical contact. We bed-share, which I think also has a huge part in our success because she had full access to my boobs, and I could get enough rest while still feeding her constantly. Every situation is different, though, so you'll have to see what works for you!
My next post will be pumping tips, so be sure to look for that.