Thursday 31 May 2012

How to go on a date when breastfeeding

I get asked all the time about how and when to pump if Mum needs a break or wants to get out of the house without the baby.  Valentines Day is just around the corner, and if you have a brand new baby you might be thinking about whether it's possible for you to spend a little quality time with your partner with an exclusively breastfed baby.

Valentines day is extended in my household because it is also my husbands birthday.  What we usually do is decide to celebrate Valentines Day on one date and my husbands birthday on another date.  Of course this makes it even more difficult because we have to find care for two children on two days.  So I thought I'd take you through the planning and execution of having a date with a new baby.


You have two choices for venues for your first date after the birth of a newborn.  You can either stay at home or go out.

  • If you have a baby that goes to sleep early in the evening and sleeps through til midnight or later, you don't have to go out, grab a movie and a £10 meal deal from M&S and snuggle in front of the television for the evening.  Staying home will save you money and effort because you won't have to pay restaurant prices or a babysitter, and breastfeeding on demand can carry on as usual.
  • If you decide to leave the house, a little planning is involved.  You will have to find a babysitter and you may want to leave some milk behind for feeding purposes.  Think about how baby usually sleeps and try to work around this to its full potential.  If baby sleeps for a long time earlier in the evening you can go out early.  If baby goes to bed at 7pm and usually wakes at 11pm think about going out between 7 and 11 to minimise the need to pump.  You can also find a venue close by so that you can get home quickly and you can then spend more time at the restaurant having adult conversation.
  • You could decide to spend the night without baby at a hotel.  This is a possibility for some parents.  You would want to decide if it is right for you.  If the baby is a little older and sleeping longer at night, there may only be a need for the sitter to feed once or twice in the night.  I know I didn't want to leave my babies overnight for a long time, and you might feel the same.  At 18 months my husband and I had our first baby free night.  We were staying at a hotel for a conference (breastfeeding conference), and my Mother had decided to visit while we were there (Orlando).  We booked adjoining rooms and she took care of William for the whole night.  We were there if needed, but we weren't needed.  At 18 months I didn't need to pump during the night, but for a small infant you would need to set the alarm to pump as many times as baby would usually feed to reduce engorgement and maintain supply.  You would also need to pump a few times leading up to the night out to provide milk for your sitter to use.

Planning ahead for a night out allows you to pump over a number of days to build up a stash of milk for your evening out.  You could pump last minute, but you might not pump enough as you would be a little tense and pumping leftovers so your evening out might be ruined.
Think about how often your baby nurses during the time of day you will be out and decide approximately how much milk you might need, then add a little bit just in case.  From personal experience I would say 2-3oz can be a typical feed for a normal breastfed infant, but some babies take a little bit more from a bottle (We've all done it - "Just finish the last bit").
If you don't pump regularly, you will be pumping leftovers so don't expect a whole feed.  If your body is not used to pumping, it may take a few times to get anything at all.  A good time to pump might be during a nap or you could feed twice from one side and pump the other.  Many Mums have more milk in the morning and find it a good time to pump. If you add a pumping session to your day regularly, your body will increase production and continue to make that extra feed if you want a stash of milk for future use.
Of course, hand expression is a great tool for every breastfeeding Mum to know and can be used just as effectively as a pump with practise.

You have a few choices:
  1. You.  If you decide to stay home for a nice romantic meal, you won't have to worry about a babysitter.
  2. Parents or family members.  If they live close by this would be really cost effective, and they might think you're doing them a favour letting them have a whole evening with their grandchild.
  3. A babysitter.  I don't know what the going rate is in the UK, but the one and only time we had a babysitter in the US it cost us $50 for 4 hours.
  4. You can babysit share.  We did this when William was a year old.  We had some friends that had a baby of a similar age and swapped babysitting duties.  We chose two dates and babysat the other couples baby for free and then they did the same for us.  If you get a group of three couples together you could even get to double date with another couple and then rotate.

I don't think you should have to avoid anything when you are breastfeeding, I'll leave you to make sensible decisions about your food consumption.  I am sceptical about different foods you eat affecting baby in negative ways (I know you may not agree), and I have never had to remove a food from my diet while breastfeeding so I can't possibly understand this situation either, so I would tell you that you know your baby best and if you need to avoid certain foods, you'll probably want to continue to avoid them during your date.
I have always understood that alcohol is removed from the milk in a similar rate as it is removed from the blood, so about a unit per hour.  If you are sensible and don't drink more than a unit per hour while you are out there should be no reason to avoid breastfeeding when you get home.  However, you know your body better than me, and if you feel too drunk to hold your baby when you get home, you probably shouldn't be taking care of a baby or breastfeeding a baby, (or bedsharing with your baby), and please don't drink and drive.

Taking that first step towards going out without your baby can be stressfull.  It may not work out the first time you try, but keep on trying.  The more planning you do, the easier it will be and the less stressed you will feel.  I know that the first few times my husband and i ventured out after having our second were a little stressful, but we went somewhere local (within a mile), and actually Ellie would never even know that we had gone because she has slept through each and every time.  Each time I have pumped and it has gone to waste.  So give it a go and have a great time.

If you have enjoyed reading this post and would like to read more posts about breastfeeding and indeed join the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger hunt to learn, share and win breastfeeding goodies, then take a look at some of these bloggers who are participating throughout the Month of June.  You may also want to take a look at Bravado Designs, a company that has been designing and manufacturing nursing bras for 20 years.  They have provided an original nursing bra as a prize for the Grand Prize for the hunt, take a look at their website to see their other great bras and tanks.

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1 comment:

  1. I don't have any tips and after spending the afternoon/evening blog hopping and reading wonderful blog posts for breastfeeding week I don't have any questions/concerns either. Thanks!