This post is sponsored by The Breastfeeding Shop.
Having a baby alone is not easy, but thousands of military wives or girlfriends have survived this challenge. Once the baby arrives, that’s when things become challenging. The sleepless nights of the newborn stage are particularly exhausting for a solo mom. However, with a little patience and help and a lot of strength, you can survive being a solo parent during a deployment.
I had the unfortunate luck to deliver two of my babies right before or during two of my husband’s overseas combat deployments. Following these guidelines can make life a little easier during those trying times.
How to make feeding easier
Since my second baby was born right before a deployment, I didn’t have time to pump breast milk and put it into a bottle. It was more convenient to just nurse the baby. This soon backfired when the baby grew older and refused to take a bottle. For the first nine months, I couldn’t leave him with anyone else for more than an hour. I had to wait until he was old enough to eat baby food and drink from a cup before I could go anywhere without him. This was very limiting and sometimes frustrating.
When my third child was born during the next deployment, I vowed not to make the same mistake again. Even though I was breastfeeding, the baby still learned to take a bottle within the first months. During his morning nap, I used a breast pump to get the milk from one side. I saved it in a bag or bottle until he woke up. Then, while he was still sleepy, I offered him the bottle of pumped milk. Sometimes it didn’t work if I held him, since the baby preferred to nurse with me. If another friend or family member was visiting, I let them try to give the baby a bottle first. If the baby refused, I could always nurse on the remaining side where I hadn’t pumped. I saved or froze the amount I pumped for a future feeding. This way, I built up a small milk reserve for emergencies without affecting my overall supply. It was such a relief when the baby learned to take a bottle.
Entertaining toddlers while nursing
If you have a toddler and a newborn, solo-parenting will have frustrating moments, especially while you are feeding the baby. Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, you will need to plan ahead. Before you settle in for the feeding, make sure the older child has used the bathroom. Then set the toddler up with a snack, a toy, or a TV show before you start feeding. Eventually, I learned how to hold a book in one hand and a baby in the other, so I could read to the toddler while feeding the baby. It takes some practice, but once you learn it you will feel like you have unlocked a new mommy achievement level!
Master one-handed meal prep and eating
A solo parent will spend a lot of time alone, so you have to learn to do many things with only one hand while holding the baby with the other. Plan simple meals for yourself that don’t require chopping. While you are still pregnant, stock your freezer with frozen crock pot meals so you can just dump and go. Always have a glass of water or juice nearby to hydrate yourself while you are feeding the baby. Don’t worry if you have to temporarily switch to paper plates or eat salad from a bag–this stage won’t last forever. The important thing is that you are nourishing your body and taking care of yourself.
Call for help
Even the most amazing solo-mom is going to need help during a deployment. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. My mom and sister each spent time with me after I delivered baby #3 during a deployment. They would take care of my older kids while I took care of the baby. Maybe your mom, sister, or a family member can visit for the first week or so after the baby is born. Having another adult at home to hold the baby or help with laundry and meals is a huge relief.
If your own family isn’t around, lean on your military family. Friends volunteered to watch my toddlers, mow my lawn, take kids to school, and even clean my house. Some of them did this without me even asking! Most units will set up a meal train to bring fresh meals to a new mom during a deployment.
If you live on base, befriend your neighbors while you are pregnant. Make sure you know at least one parent from each of your older children’s classes, in case you need help getting them to and from school. Don’t hesitate to reach out to others. Older moms who have moved past the baby years still remember how challenging they are. Most military spouses are willing to help another new mom in need.
The Breastfeeding Shop provides name-brand, high-quality breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies. Catering to the military community, the Breastfeeding Shop’s quick and easy service ensures that TRICARE beneficiaries can receive breast pumps and supplies at no-cost to them.
By Lizann Lightfoot