Everyone needs time-out from their children. You can be as earth mother as you like, but a couple of hours to have a haircut, go shoe shopping, have a meal with a friend or just lie back and have a bubble bath in peace is essential for emotional health! I get a lot of breastfeeding mums despairing that their baby won’t take a bottle of expressed milk, and this makes them feel tied down and not able to do all the fun things they used to do before bub was born.
I say, just go! After No. 3, I would dash out at any opportunity after my son was fed and in bed (mobile in hand in case he woke early). I am waaaay too lazy to express and couldn’t be bothered with the whole bottle thing. If you have a partner at home, great! If you don’t, arranging for a relative or friend to come over for an hour or two (make it a regular thing, once a fortnight perhaps?) will give you the escape time you need. If you’ve fed your baby before you go, just remember, they are safe and loved. Really, truly, nothing terrible will happen to them in the hour or two you’re gone, so relax, and let them be taken care of, no bottles necessary.
After a few short dashes out between feeds during the day, and the initial newborn haze has lifted, you might feel game enough to venture out at night. Once breastfeeding is established, let’s say at roughly 2 to 3 months, most mums find their babies are a bit more reliable in settling down to sleep in the early evening. Even babies who initially have no idea what day and night is, will eventually succumb to a natural circadian rhythm, all humans do. The fact that it is light in the daytime and dark at night programs their little body clocks, just as it does ours (think of shift workers, the ones I know always complain that their bodies never adapt). An ideal time to exit is after that cluster feeding time between 5 to 8pmish, and bub has hopefully fallen into a nice, deep sleep. The beauty of a mobile phone is that you can bring it along with you for peace of mind, but partners/grandparents/friends, we don’t want it rung for a bit of an early wake-up and some grizzling, that’s your job to deal with, just for a little while.
Babies soon learn the role of the loved ones in their lives who don’t give milk (in our household, we call them ‘Not-the-Mama’. Remember baby Sinclair in that funny cartoon Dinosaurs?). They are the fun ones, they can distract, talk, read, point out interesting things, sing, play music, rock, go for walks, or just provide a warm, snuggly spot on their chest and some lovely pats, sways and soothing words. Mama will be home soon.
Simone Casey is an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor and community educator from Northern Melbourne. She’s breastfed three children over nine years and has been volunteering with ABA for over 13 years, with a 6-year stint as group leader of the Pascoe Hume Group and several years as regional representative of the Tullamarine Region. Simone was a journalist for 20 years so has loved combining her writing skills with her breastfeeding knowledge to create blogs for the national website and now recording this podcast series. In 2011 she qualified as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and works in a private inner city hospital and runs her own lactation business doing home visits. Her volunteering highlight was at a branch conference in Ballarat when a trainee referred to her as ‘the Kylie Minogue of breastfeeding’.