Well Being

Tips for Breastfeeding and Working

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Welcome to the September Carnival of Breastfeeding! Today working mothers share their stories and tips for combining breastfeeding and working outside the home. Pumping at work can be challenging but with a little advance preparation and determination, both mother and baby can reap the rewards of continuing to breastfeed after the mother returns to work. Read on for the advice working mothers shared with me, and then check out the links at the end to other carnival participants!

Before Going Back to Work

“Read up on what other women do because you never know what will apply to you in your situation. Get a book on nursing, I like the The Nursing Mother's Companion guide, so that you can troubleshoot any nursing issues. Your baby will have growth spurts and nursing patterns will change, don’t panic, it’s normal, just nurse on demand whenever you’re with your baby.” ~ Azucar at The Jet Set

“If you are a breastfeeding mom preparing to work outside the home, I’ve found a couple good resources. The first, Nursing Mother, Working Mother, is a book I have flipped through but haven’t read. And I just came across another called The Milk Memos that I would love to read. . . someday. When I have more time.” ~ Christina at The Milk Mama

[Editor: I second all these book recommendations!]

“The week before I went back to work, I started pumping during “work hours” and feeding him by bottle. I thought it may ease the transition to bottle feeding for him if it was me still giving it too him. Also, it would give me a chance to gauge how much milk he was drinking, and if there would be any issues (hello sore nipples!). I’m glad we did this week long “trial run”. I was able to toughen up a little to the new way my breasts were being sucked on, and we also learned that our bottle nipples were too slow flow for him to be satisfied. These were two things we didn’t have to worry about during my first days back.” ~ Victoria

“I think that to be successful breastfeeding and working, it needs to be a very strong commitment. Despite thinking that it’s so hard, I still think it was worth it and would do it again in a heartbeat.” ~ Amber Shah at Project Super Mom

Choosing a Breast Pump

There are lots of options for renting or buying a pump. Working mothers generally find they need a good double electric breast pump.

Medela Freestyle Breast Pump

Medela Freestyle Breast Pump

“I purchased an Ameda double electric. I absolutely love my Ameda and I’ve used it for both babies.” ~ Azucar

Storing Breast Milk

“Freeze your milk in smaller portions, 2-3 ounces. It’s tempting to put 4-6 ounces in a bag, and you can occasionally, but try to keep smaller portions so that you only pull out what you’ll need. Sometimes I’d label the time of day on the bag, or the type of milk (more foremilk, more hindmilk, evening, morning, etc.) to make it easier to mix and match bags.”

“You don’t have to freeze all your pumped milk. You can keep expressed milk in your fridge for a week, so you can combine milk from sessions to make one bottle or for one package. Just use the date of the oldest milk.” ~ Azucar

Dealing with Your Employer

“I spoke with my employer about pumping times and a spot to pump early on, I made it clear to her that this was a priority and in my mind there was no other option but to have the time and place to pump.” ~ Sara

“Really, everything went really smoothly. I work for a very large consumer goods company, who provides a Medela Pump in Style double electric pump to any breastfeeding mom for a small co-pay. I also was offered free lactation counseling, and had the sweetest old lady checking in with me before and after the birth to make sure everything was working smoothly, and to answer any questions I had. She also made a special call just to discuss pumping at work. I work in California, so my employer is required to provide a non-bathroom place to pump. Our campus has two “Nurture Rooms” with a hospital grade pump, a couch and a fridge. Work also provided spare parts for the multi-user pumps (the Medela Lactina, I think). I was pleased that the bottles and horns worked with my Pump-in-Style. There is a small employee lounge right by the restroom closest to my desk which is where I usually pump. I started out pumping three times a day for a few weeks, then moved to twice a day when I realized I could get roughly the same volume of milk in two vs. three pumps. I always pumped way more than I needed, because I was so worried about losing my supply. Fortunately, my milk was abundant, and I have donated over 1000 oz of milk to a family and a milk bank. Once solids were firmly established, around 8 months, I cut back to one pump a day.” ~ Victoria

“Both of my employers were incredibly supportive. My first employer allowed me to bring the baby to work for half days until he was about 3 months old. There was never an issue with taking the time I needed to pump. There was a mother’s lounge type room that was inside the women’s rest room. The lounge had a long, wide chaise and a door that closed and locked. It was marvelous. The only challenge was that there were three or four of us pumping and working. We just emailed each other to coordinate times to use the room if we knew we might want to go about the same time. We usually budgeted about 30 minutes each, just for a little leeway and clean up time.” ~ Azucar

Making It Work

“I dreaded the return from maternity leave to part-time work. I thought of how much I would miss my baby, wondered how I would manage to get myself ready and out the door on time in the morning. I imagined breaking down crying in front of my coworkers from the stress of it all, and I worried that my milk supply would diminish.

But it wasn’t bad. I found some ways to juggle my time, continue to provide breast milk, and spend quality time with my son. I’ve gotten used to this, and I like my part time schedule. I pump 3 times during a full work day to maintain my milk supply and provide milk for the bottles.” ~ Christina

“Pumping can be both a grind and a time to relax during the work day. I had to almost go to another place while pumping, taking deep breaths, thinking of my baby, it’s kind of like meditating at first. It can be a challenge to find that kind of relaxation if you’re stressed from working. And you have to relax, otherwise your milk won’t let down. Pumping just becomes another thing that you do everyday, and you commit to it for your baby. You have to trust that your body will make the milk your baby needs. It’s surprising that working and breastfeeding becomes even more about trusting your body.

Keep a few extra pairs of nursing pads (love Lansinoh in the purple box) in your office or your car. You may think your time for leaking is past, but one day, you may be sitting at your desk and spring a leak.” ~ Azucar

Reverse Cycling (Nursing more at night to make up for the separation during the day)

“My second baby was a reverse cycler. In fact, he would often refuse a bottle until I got home, sometimes not eating for 6 hours. Don’t panic, babies know when they’re hungry. He’d make up for it by nursing while I slept.” ~ Azucar

“Jack started reverse cycling when he was a few months old, waking every 2 hours to nurse. He’s 20 months old now and still has the same night nursing schedule. Some habits are hard to break…” ~ Amber Shah

“This was really hard. From four months to eight or nine months he was feeding at least three times through the night. We eventually started co-sleeping, which helped, but caused other issues for our family that made me have to force the issue of him sleeping in his crib. People have asked me how I handled all the night feedings and going to work in the morning. All I can say is that you just do what you have to do, rise to the occasion, and remember that it’s not forever. I figured that if I couldn’t be with him during that day, then it was good that we got extra time together through the night. It’s a compliment, really, that the baby prefers getting his milk directly from the source…” ~ Victoria

“Knowing that it was likely to happen did help me when it actually happened.” ~ Amber at Strocel.com

Overcoming Challenges

“I made the commitment to myself when I went back that my baby and breastfeeding take priority over my job. This means that if I have to pump, I do, even if it makes me late to a meeting. When I had a clogged duct, I took a sick day to work it out before it got worse. I encourage other moms to keep it up, even when it’s hard. Pumping at work is a big commitment, but if you have to be away from your baby, your milk is the best thing you can leave behind for him. I know pumping can be much more difficult than it was for me, but if you can only bring home 4 ounces a day, it still counts! If your having trouble, get help! Connect with other moms at work who have done the same thing, and don’t give up!” ~ Victoria

“Your baby will go through growth spurts when they want to nurse or eat more often to increase your supply –DO NOT PANIC– simply try to sneak in an extra pumping session or two, even if it’s short like 5-10 minutes, it will help. You can also try to pump after your baby is down for the night, just for a couple days. Your supply will increase and they’ll settle down again into more manageable times.”

“Babymoons are wonderful. If you can spend an occasional day skin to skin with your baby, with free access to nursing, it really helps keep your supply.” ~ Azucar

“I have an oversupply problem so I had to be careful in the beginning not to pump too much or my sensitive supply would go crazy.” ~ Sara

General Tips

“Try something called tandem pumping: when the baby nurses on one side and you pump the other. I did this with the first session of the day, often on Saturdays as well (an extra day or two of pumping on the weekend will sometimes help you get a little supply built up in the freezer. It’s a cushion that keeps your mind at ease.) Get the pump set up at night before you go to bed so you can just roll out and pump/nurse the baby. It’s a little tricky to get the hang of latching the baby and then the pump, but you can figure it out–a nursing pillow, like a Boppy, helped.” ~ Azucar

“By the way, at some point you will leak on your clothes at work. Through the pad. Also – at some point you will spill breastmilk on your clothes during your pumping session. So it would be smart to have a change of clothes packed in the car (no, I’m not that smart).” ~ Amber Shah

“I feel that in order to pump and continue to EBF while working, you need to be completely, 100% committed to breastfeeding. Otherwise it is too easy to start to drop pumping sessions and as a result have a decrease in supply. I also feel so fortunate to be able to be home with my son more days than I am at work…the more days that we breastfeed at home, the better for my supply. If you have any flexibility with your job and finances, work part time. I love my job and the socializing at work and I feel like I have the best of both worlds.” ~ Sara

Things I Wish I'd Known

“I didn’t figure out sleeping with my baby until my second came along. It’s SO MUCH better if you can co-sleep. I got a lot more sleep and my supply never suffered. Co-sleeping is specially helpful when your baby goes through growth spurts and tries to up your milk supply by nursing constantly.” ~ Azucar

“I wish that I hadn’t worried so much about leaving my son. He is with a friend, my mother in law and my husband…I couldn’t have had a better situation and still, I worried. That being said, I know it is completely normal. I had been pumping for about 2 months prior to returning to work and my son was not a bottle lover, so it took a while for him to take to one (Adiri).” ~ Sara

“I would say that one thing I wasn’t prepared for was how time-consuming work-pumping can be. I used to be able to use break time to get things done, go for a walk, and build relationships with my coworkers. Pumping fills all that time. It’s important, and of course it’s worth it for my baby. I just didn’t realize how full my day would feel!” ~ Christina

“I was surprised how normal I felt being back at work. (Of course I would stay home in a second if we could figure out how). I was pretty easily able to slip pumping breaks between meetings. The worst part of working and pumping is washing all the bottles and equipment every night. I really hate doing that.” ~ Victoria

“I went back to work way too early (5 weeks). I think this in large part due to my own insecurity and also PPD. I plan on taking a longer leave next time and would encourage everyone to do the same.” ~ Amber Shah

“I am a very proud breastfeeding mother. Everyone knows that I breastfeed and pump twice daily at work. I am so pleased at the dialogues that have opened up with other women regarding breastfeeding and our children in general. I was amazed at how pumping just becomes a part of what you do during the day. That being said, I can’t say I particularly enjoy pumping and some days I downright hate it! The most difficult part of working and BFing for me is that my son will only fall asleep easily if he is nursed. This has made it difficult at times for others to get him to nap during the day.” ~ Sara

“Something happened that surprised me. I worked Monday / Wednesday / Friday from the office. The other days I was working at home with my daughter. My work days were long – we were apart for 9-10 hours at a stretch. On days when we were together, my daughter nursed frequently. And on days when were apart, my body just adjusted. It was amazing to me how it just seemed to ‘know’ whether it needed to make milk or not, especially because it alternated days. The human body is a truly amazing machine!” ~ Amber

When to Stop Pumping

Many women find that around their baby's first birthday they no longer need to pump at work and can simply continue to offer the breast when they are at home.

“I pumped until they were both about 13 months, then we kept nursing, just not pumping. It’s kind of crazy to stop pumping after a year of the routine, but one day you just hang up the horns!” ~ Azucar

“I returned to work when my daughter was one year old, since I’m Canadian and we have long maternity leaves. I didn’t do any particular preparation, and I didn’t pump. At that age my daughter wasn’t willing to take a bottle of my milk, and my research suggested that most moms stop pumping around that time anyway.” ~ Amber

“Breastfeeding while working is a commitment, but if you’re planning on extended nursing, you don’t have to feel daunted about the prospect of years of pumping. It’s pretty reasonable to stop pumping when your child turns 1 and can just eat solids during the day, and nurse in the evening and on the weekend.” ~ Amber Shah

Other Carnival Participants

~ Strocel.com: Working and Breastfeeding a Toddler
~ Breastfeeding Moms Unite!: Breastfeeding at My Family Daycare
~ The Milk Mama: A Job Where Everyone Breastfeeds
~ Momnesia the Book: Sorry, Facilities Guy
~ Marshins: Taking Your Working Boobs to Work
~ The Marketing Mama: Working and Pumping
~ Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Breastfeeding and Working Is Possible, and You Can Make It Work
~ Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: Do You Really Need a Pump?
~ Vanderbilt Wife: I Think This Officially Makes Me a Mommy Blogger
~ babyREADY: What about Breastfeeding When I Go Back to Work?
~ Stork Stories: My Breast Pump and I Didn’t Get Along
~ Breastfeeding Moms Unite! / Stork Stories: Ask an LC: What about Pumping?
~ Breastfeeding Mums: Breastfeeding and Working in the UK
~ Blacktating: The 5 Biggest Mistakes Working and Pumping Moms Make
~ Mum Unplugged: This Is a Breastfeeding Office
~ Best for Babes: Beating the Employment Booby Trap
~ My World Edenwild: Nursing Mothers Need Workplace Support