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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