My husband was away on his first deployment. Halfway through, Baby S arrived. I chose to breastfeed, and I am thankful I did, but let me tell you…breastfeeding when your spouse is deployed is hard! I want to share with you 7 ways to survive breastfeeding during your spouse’s deployment…things that I wish I had done better or had at my disposal.
We’ve partnered with 1 Natural Way to share these breastfeeding tips for military spouses during deployments.
Let’s face it. Just being a military spouse is hard. Going through deployments is hard. Having a baby during deployment…even harder. Add in breastfeeding? Whew!
Sometimes breastfeeding can be convenient, yes. I love that it costs me nothing (besides maybe a little bit of time), but breastfeeding can also make going on errands, getting everything accomplished, and especially sleeping much more difficult, not to mention the support and encouragement that breastfeeding mothers need that isn’t always available when your spouse is overseas.
In hindsight, I would have done many things differently. This wasn’t my first baby, so I suppose I should have known better, but the deployment threw me for a loop since I’d never gone through one before.
My goal is to help equip you with tools you need to successfully breastfeed while your spouse is deployed. No matter what, you’ll make it through, but these tips can make things so much easier on you!
7 Ways to Survive Breastfeeding During Your Spouse’s Deployment
Have a Support System In Place
Having a solid support system is key and should be one of the very first things on your list. Sometimes this is difficult (that was my issue), but it’s essential.
Your husband is overseas, so you don’t have that extremely essential partner to help you out. You don’t have that person to hug you and to give you breaks and cheer you on. It’s hard, I know. That is why it is so important to choose a support system.
Your support system can help with:
- Taking care of any of your other children while you nurse
- Grabbing you items you didn’t realize you needed
- Listening to you vent when you’re overwhelmed and exhausted and just need to get it all off your chest
- Hold your baby sometimes while you get situated
- Have a sleepover and take the “night shift” with a bottle
- Cheer you on and repeat affirmations to you
- Make calls to a lactation consultant when you are too overwhelmed to do it yourself
- Take sweet pictures as keepsakes or to send to your spouse so they can cherish these moments too
- Make food runs to keep you nourished when breastfeeding can take everything out of you
- The list goes on–the closer your support system, the more they can help with. This can be family members, close friends, or even someone you know going through a similar circumstance or previously went through something similar
When I had S, I managed to breastfeed him for a little over a year. I had D-Mer, which is no fun. Basically, you end up depressed every time you nurse. It got pretty bad, but I cried and pushed through, all on my own. I would have been much better off with someone there to help and wish I would have found someone just to be able to talk to them and cry with them and for them to remind me that “it will all be okay.”
Find that support system. Build it up.
Pump It Up
Above, I’d mentioned having your support system spend the night sometimes (or even during the day) and take over “breastfeeding” for a bit by giving Baby a bottle. Pumping can make life so much easier.
When I had S, TRICARE did not offer breastfeeding supplies to me since I did not work outside the home, but now they’ve partnered with 1 Natural Way to offer those essential breastfeeding supplies to new mommas under TRICARE insurance.
As a TRICARE member, you can receive a FREE breast pump and supplies! Sometimes it’s hard to find time to pump, but it’s one of those things where you’ll just have to make time. If you want your baby to take a bottle at all so you can take a break, you’ll need to pump and allow your baby to take a bottle on a semi-regular basis to get used to it.
1 Natural Way provides high-quality breast pumps like Medela and Spectra and some of my favorite breastfeeding supplies (like different sizes of breast shields…because, let’s face it momma, you never really know how…”the girls” are going to be when you’re breastfeeding, so you’ll be prepared).
Check out this great list of Deployment Freebies & Resources!
Have a Game Plan
Breastfeeding can be very frequent and time-consuming. You may not be able to have a completely set plan, but having a semi-game plan can be a huge help.
Try to get you and Baby on a generic feeding schedule so you know when to expect a meal time. Sometimes you’ll have extras sprinkled in, but just to have a general game plan can help.
Keep a breastfeeding journal near any areas you typically breastfeed…add a pocket to your cover to store it in or put it in your diaper bag or you glider pocket. Keep track of when you feed when and how much/how long and what side. Make it a point to stay organized. You may also want to hang a clock up in the room you breastfeed in the most often.
Don’t Worry About Other People
Now, I’m one of those that is all about respecting others and their choices and feelings, because I just think that isn’t a difficult thing to do. I’m one of those who will still breastfeed in public, because…well, Baby has to eat…but I choose to wear a loose cover so others feel comfortable and kids don’t ask me awkward questions (and also because it keeps Baby a little more focused on the task at hand and not looking around with every noise).
This being said, don’t worry about others. Be respectful still, but if your little one has to eat, let him eat. A great way to avoid all of the awkwardness is to just bring along a bottle, but sometimes this isn’t possible or you forgot to pack enough (you know, because grocery trips can take way longer than you’d ever planned). Sometimes you forget any form of cover. Forgetting things and not being prepared, even if you’re all about spreadsheets, totally happens when you’re trying to do it all alone.
Don’t feel like you can’t feed your baby. Don’t get stressed out. You just love on that baby and feed him and be the amazing mama you are because that is what matters most.
Keep Things Within Arm’s Reach
When you’re busy nursing, it’s hard to be mobile. Sometimes you can manage to walk around while breastfeeding, but not usually because you are just too tired or your hands are too full.
One of the best things you can do is to keep your essentials within arm’s reach while you are breastfeeding. If you are out and about with a friend, your friend can help, but when you are at home alone with Baby, you will want to be sure to have everything accessible.
Keep these close: something to drink (a cup of water and maybe something else too, a snack or two because breastfeeding makes you hungry, your phone, a pen and paper in case you remember something or need to take notes, the remote control if you want to turn on a show, your wallet, a calendar or planner if you don’t use your phone for this, a blanket in case you get cold, a box of tissues, lip balm, and anything else you may need in a hurry during this time.
Use This Time To Relax
When I would breastfeed, a lot of times I would still try to get work done. I’d be completely exhausted, but I always need something to do.
My recommendation to you is to use this time to relax, as much as you can at least. Turn on some soft classical music, hum a song to your baby, read your Bible, close your eyes for a bit and kick up your feet, whisper sweet affirmations to your little one, color a picture with your free arm…other things can wait.
Enjoy this time with your little one and allow your body and mind to relax, because being a parent is hard and even more so when your other half is deployed. You need this time. Breastfeeding is time that is already specifically carved out where you can’t do a whole lot else, so use it for your benefit.
Don’t Give Up
Breastfeeding is a challenge just in general. I was so tempted to give up since I had D-Mer and my husband was not home to support me emotionally, but I am so thankful I did not. I wanted to nurse and I produced enough milk, so I pushed myself to keep going.
Pumping and taking those breaks to bottle feed or let someone else handle it will help you keep going. Allowing yourself to rest physically and mentally will renew you and help with the stress levels (which may also help with milk supply). Having everything somewhat orderly can also help. Having a support system is an incredible way to keep on going.
If you really want to breastfeed and you do produce enough, push through it and do your best. It’s hard, but it will get better and you will be thankful you kept with it.
I am not a lactation consultant or anything, but if you just need someone to talk to who has been there (and who hopefully hasn’t forgotten most of the answers due to “mom brain”), you are always more than welcome to email me or message me on Facebook to chat.