We found out that my wife was pregnant with our first child and that I had orders to Aviano Air Base in Italy at almost the exact same time. Up until that point, my wife worked full time as a pediatric psychologist at a local children’s hospital. She spent most of her day in and out of various clinics and seeing patients. From what I could tell, she barely had time to sit down or eat lunch, so I couldn’t imagine her finding time to pump for our baby.
Therefore, the news that we were moving was a blessing as far as I could see. We had this amazing opportunity to live abroad, see new places, and my wife could stay home with the baby.
Now, before you throw me to the wolves, she had always wanted to stay home but loved her job so much that I wasn’t sure she would do it. I promise I wasn’t trying to force her to not work! Italy is tricky for the nonactive duty family member since the SOFA agreement makes it nearly impossible for that person to find a job. So really, her transition to a stay at home mom (SAHM) made sense.
The baby was due six weeks after we moved to Italy which meant that we needed to figure out our baby gear before our household goods shipped. We knew that we would be short on space over there. Even if we found a house that was the same size as our current house, the lack of closets and other storage would make it feel smaller. We really had to think about what this tiny baby would need.
One piece of “baby equipment” we went back and forth on was the breast pump. Knowing about as much as any parent-to-be knows about taking care of a baby, we assumed we didn’t need one. We were both so excited about this opportunity for my wife to stay home. We didn’t understand why we needed the pump when there really wasn’t a good reason (remember that we were still very naive at this point!) for my wife to not be able to feed the baby herself during those couple of months before our household good arrived.
After going back and forth on whether to pack a pump, my wife found The Breastfeeding Shop online. We still weren’t convinced about actually needing the pump in our precious luggage allotment, but the pump ended up being so easy to order and covered by Tricare that we decided to order one … just in case.
Fast forward to the not so distant future, and I can safely say that ordering the pump through The Breastfeeding Shop and having that pump right after the baby was born was a lifesaver.
First, and I say this in the nicest way, my wife ended up being a milk truck.
She was fortunate to be making way more milk than that tiny baby needed in the beginning. The best advice she was given was to pump a little after each feeding. This helped normalize her production and it gave us a little to store in the milk bank.
The second best thing was that I was able to help feed the baby very early on.
The lactation consultant at the hospital showed me how our teeny newborn could drink pumped breast milk from a medicine cup. Isn’t that amazing? It wasn’t much, but I loved that I could help feed the baby, too.
Finally, remember how I said that my wife has a background in pediatric psychology? She used her Jedi mind tricks to get our baby to sleep 12 hours a night from a very early age. The pump was crucial for that, too.
We realized that our baby was more likely to fall asleep when feeding before bed while nursing but not when taking a bottle of breast milk. Maybe that is because I jiggled the bottle a little bit every time she fell asleep, waking her enough to finish the bottle?
Regardless, the baby started taking a bottle of breast milk before bed at 7 p.m. In order for my wife to make it through the night without feeding, she pumped before she went to bed at 10 p.m. or so. Then we used most of that milk in the following night’s bottle before bed and froze the rest. Not only could I feel useful by feeding the baby, ANYONE could now feed the baby before bed. Date nights were back!
Looking back, it would have been a huge mistake to assume that my wife didn’t need a breast pump because she was going to be a full time SAHM. Not having done this before, neither of us realized that the benefits of a breast pump extend far beyond taking a break at work to pump.
We are thankful that The Breastfeeding Shop made it so easy to order the pump of choice and that it was covered by Tricare. Otherwise, we would have been scrambling around at the last minute, with a newborn, and in a foreign country for something that is so essential to caring for a baby.
Guest Blogger: Kwame Curtis