baby stuff: breastfeeding and working.

i’ve had a couple inquiries as to when part 2 of the cloth diapering post will be up, so i wanted to let you know that it will be one of my next two posts. i wanted to make sure to get all the info on the day-to-day of the process down without overwhelming anyone with wordsonwordsonwords. until then, enjoy this and other random posts!

when we decided to breastfeed amelia, we didn’t really know how it would go, and were really open to whatever happened. if she needed to be on formula, great, if it went well, great. well this girl turned out to be a champ at nursing, so we were very blessed and have been able to exclusively breastfeed up to this point. somewhere along the way, it was kind of just decided/assumed that i would breastfeed amelia until she was one and able to fully depend on solids and cow’s milk for her nutrients.

this means that when i went back to work, i needed to start pumping at work and leaving bottles for her to eat while i was away from her. i had been pumping here and there when on maternity leave to build up a freezer supply of milk, and for when i went out for a while without her, but there was never the pressure of having to produce enough each day for the next day for such a great (read: voracious) eater. it was really rather traumatizing daunting as i headed back to work, and i applaud every single mom out there who has chosen to do this before me.

i’m lucky in that i am able to work only three days outside of the home, but because i have longer hours on those days, i have to leave more milk at home just in case amelia has a hungry day and needs to eat four times. and i happen to have a little piglet of a baby who would eat all day if she was allowed, and takes 5 oz. bottles, so if you do the math on that, i need to produce 20 oz. to leave with her. that’s asking a lot of my boobs. but thanks to a lot of good preparation, a lot of supplements, and some blessings from the big guy upstairs, i have been able to successfully feed my baby while working and pumping.

ask any mom who does this, and she’ll have her own tips and tricks for you. it’s all about taking the information you hear from others and making it work for you. so there is some trial and error involved, but once you find your groove you’ve got it made.

i put together my method of breastfeeding and working through a combination of research on respected breastfeeding sites like kellymom, and asking people what has worked best for them. you never know when you’re going to stumble upon a piece of information that will help you, so i figured i would add my experience to the bucket and maybe someday it will help someone in the same situation.

secrets to successful pumping at work

1) figuring out a schedule: i would say the number one most difficult thing about working and breastfeeding is figuring out your pumping schedule. each woman is different, so the same schedule isn’t going to work for everyone, but knowing what others have tried and succeeded with is incredibly helpful. here is mine if it helps any of you. it took some trial and error over the first month but i feel like i have it pretty well down now.

6:00am pump at home, no matter what day it is. it’s important to keep your ta-tas recognizing the need everyday. on workdays i also take fenugreek, drink a cup of mother’s milk tea and eat oatmeal with 1 tbsp ground flax and 1tbsp brewer’s yeast while pumping. super protip: when i get to work, i add 1 tbsp brewer’s yeast to my morning coffee…you can’t even taste it and it makes your morning cuppa a helpful part of your pumping routine!

10:00am pump at work. drink a cup of mother’s milk tea. super protip: save the teabag for an afternoon cup so you aren’t running through multiple teabags a day.

1:00pm pump at work. take more fenugreek and keep chugging the water.

4:15pm pump at work. drink the second cup of mother’s milk tea. i will take my things with me to the pumping room and leave from there. i will then nurse amelia right when i get home if she is waiting to eat, or shortly thereafter if she’s already taken a bottle. now that she has started solids, she has usually eaten her dinner, so i nurse her right after that.

notes: 1) i choose not to wake amelia up to eat before i leave. that’s a personal decision that works for us; i want her to get her sleep, and since she’s a light sleeper and i don’t have to bring her anywhere in the morning, it’s better for her to wake up normally and eat around 8:00am. that being said, if you need to push the first feeding of the day up a bit, that’s a good way to need less milk during the day. 2) make sure to drink tons of water throughout the day. 3) it helps to be as relaxed as possible while pumping, so if that means reading, listening to music or watching youtube videos instead of working, do that. if it stresses you out to NOT work while pumping, then do work. whatever it takes to feel relaxed and comfortable is what you need to do while you’re getting use to pumping at work.

2) finding the time to pump: by law, your employer is required to give you paid time to pump during the day. that’s all well and good, but sometimes it’s tough to find time in a day. what i will say is that if it is at all in your power, block time in your schedule the first day back at work, and once you’ve found your groove, keep those times holy. i found that the times above worked best for me and my milk production, you may find another way. whatever you do, guard your pumping time with your life.

3) getting support from your employer: as i’ve mentioned above, your employer is required by law to let you pump. but that doesn’t always equate into real life support. i have a wonderful employer who has made it a point to have rooms for pumping on every floor, and who truly supports working moms. if you are not as lucky, make do with what you have, and speak up for yourself. i want to make it clear: feeding your baby is not a shameful thing. so if you feel funny talking to your boss or to HR about needing the right environment to pump, take a moment and remember the reason you’re pumping at all. it’s not for fun (holy crap understatement of the year), it’s to FEED YOUR BABY. let your mama instincts take over so that the embarassment takes second place.

i’ve made it a point to be very open with anyone who sees me with my pumping bag or asks why i’m on the floor where i pump so much and say, “oh, i have to pump three times a day”. if (and when) they look embarassed, i just make a funny comment like, “baby’s gotta eat!” and 99.9% of the time when the person, male or female, sees that i’m not uncomfortable, neither are they. many times the conversation even continues and it makes the whole thing feel very ordinary. not everyone has my personality, but if you have a script, and keep your head high, you can talk about pumping with anyone, and that will help you fight for the support you need if necessary.

last but not least….

4) be gentle with yourself: there are days you won’t get quite enough milk and have to dip into your freezer supply. there are days when your boobs will feel physically tired, like they need a nap. there are days when you will just want your freaking body back already. on those days, pour yourself a glass of wine or have a beer when the baby goes to sleep. take a bath with a magazine or a book. go to bed early. be gentle with yourself and remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day. and at the end of the day, if it just gets too hard, be gentle with yourself if you need to supplement or switch to formula altogether. breastfeeding while you’re working is no easy task, and stress won’t make it any easier. so be good to yourself and things will work out the way they’re supposed to.

if you’ve stuck through until the end, bravo! this was a lot of information on a very tricky subject. like i said, what worked for me won’t work for everybody, but at least it’s somewhere to start.

i want to offer up myself as a resource as well: if you or someone you know is going back to work and is at a loss as to how to keep breastfeeding, please feel free to contact me (hooleywithaz at gmail dot com) and i am happy to share my experience and any tips that may help. 

happy nursing mamas!

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work and life and balance and survival.

i wrote this post almost two months ago, as the full weight of going back to work was hitting me. after i wrote this, i became almost paralyzed with the idea of going back and pretty much just turned inward to focus on my little family. it was one of the most emotionally difficult times of my life and it’s the reason that i haven’t been here writing (along with the sheer exhaustion of working and parenting at the same time…it is no joke!). i’m finally starting to see clearly again, and when i came upon this in my drafts, it still rang so true for me that i wanted to share it. these are some of my most honest feelings i’ve ever put into words on the topic of being a mom and working in today’s world. i hope you take them as such.

also, please read to the end for an update on where all of this stands now.

amelia is three months old and i go back to work in a month. i know how lucky i am to get four months with her, and to have a job that allows me that balance with a new little one. but i am just dying inside at the thought of going back. it keeps me up at night.

there are parts of going back to work that i’m really looking forward to. it’ll be nice to have a break every day from the constant diapers and putting down for naps. i can’t wait to see my friends at work again, i’ve missed coffee breaks and jazz salad lunches. using my brain for something other than childhood development will be great.

other than that, i’m really not looking forward to not being with my baby all day every day. i love watching her learn new things, and watching her develop her skills. i’m so afraid i’m going to miss her roll over for the first time, or not be there to hear her babble her first word. i know it’s not for everybody, but i truly enjoy being a mom. it’s fulfilling for me to help my child become  a wonderful person who is intelligent and kind and self-sufficient. and i think i’m the best person to do it. right now, our life does not allow me to stay home…those pesky health benefits are much easier to have through a job than through the individual market.

the one thing that’s keeping me going is that my company is so great about supporting a work/life balance. because there is no way to do it all both places. i don’t care what all these women say about it being possible to be great at work and be the best mom at home. it isn’t possible without a lot of help. without an employer who supports you not only as an employee but also as a parent, there is no way you can do both well. or, more to the point, there is no way you can do either well.

i happen to be one of the lucky ones. i work somewhere that allows me to take a long maternity leave, and gives enough vacation days that i can be with my baby when i need to be. i even have a hope that one day, i’ll be able to have a schedule that allows me to be at home one part of the week, and in the office the other part*. and i truly believe that they will help me do that.

but if it ever comes to the point where i just can’t do it, where i can’t stand to be away from A. for a whole week…we will just find another way. because as much as i like my job, as much as i like the people and being a valuable part of a team there, they will survive without me. and i will survive without them. because jobs are replaceable, but my family is not.

it is as simple as that. i have never been so certain of anything in my life as the importance of allowing yourself to want the kind of life you want, whether that’s working or staying home. it’s about finding the balance you need, and surviving through these crazy adventures of parenthood//adulthood//life.

*as of this posting, i am happy to report that i am now working a 75% schedule, which allows me to be home with amelia two days a week. i could not be more excited to work for such a wonderful company that values me enough to help me do this, and i’m even more excited to spend the majority of my days with my beautiful daughter. happily ever after.   

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you’re doing it right.

i’m talking to you.

to the mom who feeds her baby from a bottle and the mom who wouldn’t think of any other way than breastfeeding; you’re doing it right.

to the mom whose baby sleeps in her room for months and the mom who puts her baby in a crib the first night and never looks back; you’re doing it right.

to every mother out there who follows their instincts and does what is right for their babies; you are ALL doing it right.


all babies are different. every tiny, new human is an individual right from the very start. no two babies are the same. as such, no two moms are the same. and yet all the advice given to us is done in the language of absolutes: you must wait to give a pacifier OR ELSE; you must swaddle OR ELSE; you must you must you must or else or else OR ELSE. like if you don’t do it the way the advice giver says, your child will end up stunted and dumb and a failure. yet for every single piece of advice that worked for one baby, there is an opposite bit of wisdom that worked for someone else’s. for every pacifier user there is an equally happy thumb sucker, for every snug as a bug swaddled babe there is an equally happy flailing one.

i’m about to lay some truth on you…

if you are keeping your little one full, warm, happy and healthy, YOU ARE DOING IT RIGHT. there is no right way to be a good mom, except for the way that works best for you. and you should never feel guilty about ignoring the advice people give or the snarky things they say when they find out how you parent. nor should you hide how you parent for fear of what the masses will say about it. never be shy about your choices. you are a mother who knows her child, and you are never to apologize for that.

i feel so strongly about the choices i’ve made for my little girl in her three short months of life. i will tell anyone about them in sickening detail (you’ve been warned). what i will never do is tell you that my way is the best way, or the only way. it’s just my way. it’s what works for my little diva of a daughter, and for her dad, and for me.

so go ahead and put those cloth diapers on your baby, or don’t. wear your baby, or don’t. let them cry it out, or don’t. you do you mama, and don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t doing it right.

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our village.

they say it takes a village to raise a child. i agree and would like to add a second piece to that: it takes a village to keep that child’s parents alive.

Mister Man and i would not be doing as well as we are at this parenting thing were it not for the immense amount of help and support we received from our family and friends since amelia was born. you might think i’m exaggerating when i say this, but i truly believe that our quality of life would have suffered if it weren’t for them. we would be more sleep-deprived, our house would be a mess, and our marriage would have struggled.

instead, because of all the wonderful people in our lives, we were able to stay (fairly) well-rested in the first few weeks. we were fed and had errands run for us and were just generally loved on as much as possible. this let us stay ahead of the curve and be the best parents and spouses we can be. there are no words for how grateful we are to our village for taking care of us the last two months. i would have said this sooner, but only just now feel like we’ve made it to the other side of the newborn days. THANK YOU ALL FOR TAKING CARE OF US!

it goes without saying that our biggest supporters have been our parents, the new grandparents. my mom came and stayed with us for a week after amelia was born and helped keep the house running, my dad and my in-laws have provided lots of time for our naps while they hold the little one, and i can’t count the number of meals that they’ve fed us. there is nothing that we can give to repay the help we received from them. but we wanted to say thank you somehow.

ignore the wubbanub, this is our life now.

as small as it seems, i decided that a card with photos of amelia on it would be a good way to say it. in comes treat, a custom greeting card website by shutterfly. i was able to find two adorable thank you cards that i could add photos of amelia to, and send directly to the grandparents if i wanted. i opted to have the cards sent to me first so i could see them in person (not that i’m type-a or anything).


i love how they turned out, and so did the grandparents. if you have anything to say thank you for, or really any reason to send a card, think about using treat. it’s as easy and as inexpensive as getting a card at a store (maybe more so) and definitely more personal. now that going to target is kind of a production, i have a feeling this may become my go-to for greeting cards…

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how to lose the baby weight.

i’m going to be honest with you; getting my pre-baby body back has been the furthest thing from my mind these past couple of months. maybe it’s because i’ve been lucky and have been wearing my regular jeans for a while (although not if i can wear leggings instead…), maybe it’s because the idea of doing a true workout makes me stabby, maybe it’s that this little one is more interesting to me than the state of my body, who knows.

what i do know is that taking care of an infant makes it easier to shed those last couple of pounds. i mean, it’s like having a personal trainer who will never let you stop moving and screams at you if you do. i realized this pretty early on, and decided to make it work for my best interest.

here’s my fool-proof plan for losing the baby weight*. new moms, all you’ll need is your newborn and most of your sanity intact. you can thank me later.

1) walk up and down the one flight of stairs in your house fifty times. do this while holding a 10.5 pound baby.

2) wear your 10.5 pound baby in a sling carrier all morning so she sleeps. bonus if you walk around and fold laundry while doing so.

3) breastfeed if you can. you will then understand the meaning of the phrase “sucking the life out of me”. i’m no scientist but i think the calories get sucked out too…

BONUS TIP: if you’re lucky enough to have a gassy/colicky/active baby, spend additional time each day bouncing and swaying your baby to soothe them, preferably when you would be eating a meal or drinking your coffee. less calories ingested, more calories burned!

there you go. this is what’s working for me. just follow my tips for losing the baby weight and you’ll be back in pre-baby shape in no time!

*this plan is neither fool-proof nor is it an actual plan. it’s actually just a description of my daily routine. i hope it didn’t take you this long to pick up on the snark.

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