This weekend I had my first break away as a mummy!!
It was my best friend’s hen do, and we had an amazing weekend away at Woburn Centre Parcs. We arrived on Friday afternoon, had a chilled evening with a few games (Don’t Show Keith Your Teeth went down a storm!) and then an early(ish) night before a busy day on Saturday! On Saturday we were up early for our first activity – Go Ape at Woburn Safari Park. Honestly, I had mixed feelings about this activity, as I’m a little scared of heights, but it was SO fun! I’d love to go and do it again. We then went back to Centre Parcs for lunch and a bit of swimming – the slides and rapids at Woburn are so much fun. The evening was spent having lots of drinks, cocktails and games, and we rolled into bed at 3am. Sunday we chilled out with a spa morning and then did a hula hoop class in the afternoon – again, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was hilarious. I started off crap, but soon got the hang of it. I bloody ached the next day though, my core muscles were not what they used to be!
The weekend had been booked for about a year, so I had a looooong time to prepare for it – I knew about it even before Alfie was born. It still came around very quickly though. I had mixed feelings about it – of course it was my best friend’s hen do and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, but it’s difficult when your world is your 8 month old baby. Add on to that the fact I’m breastfeeding, and the issues that brings, the planning and preparation of the weekend was a lot different to previous hen weekends. The last hen weekend I attended, I was 7 months pregnant and I thought that was hard!
So as a bridesmaid, I wasn’t just attending the weekend, I was helping to organise it all. After dividing up jobs, it was mine and my friend’s job to organise the party bags and evening entertainment! Last time I spent my weekends, evenings and train journeys planning and organising. This time, I had to fit it around nap time and baby groups – it was actually harder work than when I had a full time job!
I managed to produce this at 4am when Alfie decided he didn’t want to sleep in his cot, but wanted to play in the lounge, and then promptly fell asleep in his rocking chair! By this time I was wide awake, so put that time to good use. I had 11 party bags to organise so got on it!
Sorting out the hen do was actually the easy bit! Sorting out how I was going to leave my baby was the difficult bit. He was staying at home with Daddy, so I knew he’d be fine, but I was still worried. I hadn’t left him for more than a few hours at a time, and he is such a boob monster I wasn’t sure how he’d cope without me. We tried to have a few days where Daddy just looked after him as if I wasn’t there, but if I was actually in the house, it was too easy for me to just take over. So we never really had a ‘practice run’. Daddy was thrown in at the deep end!
The biggest thing I had to do to prepare was to pump enough milk for the weekend. I did some research and it was estimated that I would need 25oz per day. I was away from Friday lunchtime to Sunday early evening, so over-calculated that to be 75oz for the weekend. I aimed to pump 100oz just to be on the safe side. I have a Medela Swing pump, which is brilliant, although at this point I wish I had a double pump just to make things easier! I use Medela Pump and Save bags as they attach perfectly to the pump so I could express straight into them, and use the Quick Sterilising Microwave bags to sterilise my pump parts after every use.
I worked out if I started in January, I only needed to pump 10oz a week to hit the target. I started off ok, and managed to get 25oz in January. But then I got busy, Alfie got hungry and I also had a few nights/hours away that I needed extra milk for! So we got to mid-February and I still only had 25oz! I began to panic that I wouldn’t have enough, so started pumping every day, sometimes twice a day. Generally I would get more in the evening – I think this is because Alfie always fed loads in the evening, but then he started going to bed earlier, so I had all this spare milk lying around! So I was pumping 5 oz every night. Sometimes this would take me 20 minutes (10 minutes from each breast), sometimes it would take me an hour. The closer it got to the date and the more I was worrying about having enough milk for the weekend, the longer it seemed to take me to pump. I then started expressing in the morning and I seemed to get quite a lot out then as well. Eventually I was pumping 5oz in the morning and 5oz in the evening. In total, before I left for the weekend, I had managed to pump 80oz of milk. I was super impressed with myself!
The second problem I encountered as a breastfeeding mum going away for the weekend was the need to pump! I felt like every time someone asked where I was, I was in the bedroom pumping. Originally I thought I’d need to pump every 3 hours, as this is how often Alfie feeds generally at home. However, I found I could get away with going about 5 hours between pumps. I would do it first thing when I got up, then just before we left for our activity, when we got back and then when I was getting ready to go out. I did one last time before I went to bed. I did it for up to 30 minutes each time, I mostly followed the rule that when I got 5oz I would stop. On Sunday morning I got 5oz from each breast!!! I felt very proud after producing that! I also learnt how to pump hands-free by clipping up my nursing bra. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before, but I managed to do my make up whilst pumping from one breast, and my hair whilst pumping from the other!
I’ll admit that before I went away I was extremely worried that this weekend away might end my breastfeeding adventure with Alfie. I didn’t know how he would cope with so long away from the boob and lots of things ran through my mind – would he remember how to latch on, would he prefer the bottle, would my milk dry up? It was pretty tough for me to be honest. But I’m so pleased to say that none of those things happened, and we have literally picked up where we left off.
I’m glad I went away for this weekend – it shows that breastfeeding doesn’t mean you can’t have a life outside of being a mum. I understand that for some people they don’t need/want to be away from their babies and that’s fine, but it’s also fine to admit you do want a break! My weekend away was a fantastic time for Craig to have Daddy/Son time with just him and Alfie as well which I think is hugely important, even more so as I am breastfeeding. They spent some time with Grandpapa Jones and generally had a fabulous time without me (I’m not jealous, honest!)
Of course I missed Alfie something rotten while I was away – but I tried not to be over-bearing and ring Craig every 5 seconds! But he was great and sent me lots of pictures and videos of the fun things they were doing, so I knew they were having fun and not missing me too much. I was a tad concerned about the video I received on the way home of Alfie falling off Daddy’s lap (it’s ok, he didn’t fall off, just forward!) but apart from that, there were no major injuries!!
Would I go again? For my best friends hen do – absolutely! For anything else – I don’t know. It was really hard work pumping, and I got a grand total of 5 blocked ducts during the pumping process, including one that I really thought was going to turn into mastitis as it was so bad. I also got a blocked duct whilst I was away. While it’s not the end of the world to get a blockage, it is bloody painful. I believe they were probably caused by an oversupply brought on by the excess pumping. It was partially my fault as I wasn’t consistent enough with my pumping, but obviously if I wasn’t going away, I wouldn’t have needed to pump.
Hopefully this has given any mummas wanting to go away but are worried about the logistics of it a bit of confidence – you can do it if you really want to! And there is no shame in wanting to go away and enjoy a weekend of not being a mum – you’re still you! Even though I was breastfeeding, I still enjoyed a glass of Prosecco and a cocktail, and came away with some amazing memories (and no hangover!) Now we just have to wait for the wedding (look out for my post on surviving a wedding with a baby – I’ve had practice, this will be my third one!!)
*with special thanks to Zoe at Yummeez for the amazing cake!