I am a proud breastfeeding mother and I went back to work when both of my daughters were 6.5 weeks old. With my first, I pumped at work until she was 13 months old and nursed at home until she was 16 months. My second is currently almost 9 months old and I nurse at home and pump at work.
I work full time in administration for a large medical group and while I love my job, it can be unpredictable, challenging and demanding at times. We have multiple locations and I occasionally have evening meetings and unplanned travel between offices, which means being organized and prepared is key.
Backing up to where it all began… within moments after the birth of my daughters, I practiced the breast crawl and I attribute a lot of my success to this decision. This is where you immediately bond with your baby and allow them to naturally find the breast and nurse in their first moments outside the womb [You Tube videos The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding]. I have to give kudos to my husband for his support after the birth of our first. After a long labor and with our families patiently waiting in the waiting room, I didn’t want to take the time to do the crawl. Looking back now, I am forever grateful for his encouragement that day (well, every day really).
My mom also significantly influenced my decision to breastfeed. She talked openly with us about it and her description of the bond it creates was nothing short of perfect and beautiful. I never even questioned whether or not I wanted breastfeed. I always knew I would at least try.
So, what does a typical day look like for a working mom like me and what do I think are the keys to being successful?
I nurse once in the morning at home before leaving for daycare and work. While away from me, she drinks 3 ounces of breastmilk every 3 hours. The time of her last feeding at home before we leave sets the clock for my pumping schedule each day. I typically have to pump 2-3 times (every 3-4 hours) on a regular work day. The days I only pump twice are my favorite, because it means I was able to sneak away during lunch to nurse her at daycare. The fact that her daycare is so close to my office is a huge perk!
Equipment/Supplies: Having good, reliable equipment is imperative and will set you up for success. I invested in a brand new double electric pump before the birth of each of my children and I have a few hands-free pumping bras. I have a desk job, so the hands-free bra allows me to talk on the phone and type with no interruption in workflow. Most insurance plans will pay towards a double electric pump (contact your carrier to see what they offer). Now that I have more than one pump, I leave one at the office and one at home. On days that I have to travel for work, I take my “office” pump with me so I can pump in the car or onsite at my next destination.
My personal favorites and recommendations:
- Medela Pump In Style Advanced double electric pump
- Spectra S2 double electric pump
- Lansinoh Simple Wishes hands-free pumping bra
- Power adapter for the car
- Medela Quick Clean Steam Bags (sanitizes your parts in the microwave in 3 mins)
- Cooler bag to store milk at work
- Sign for your door “Pumping in Progress”
Clothing/Attire: Unless you wear a standard uniform, you will need to ask yourself daily, “Is this outfit nursing/pumping friendly?” I wear dress clothes to work and put a lot of effort into my appearance. However, as a breastfeeding mom, my wardrobe essentially revolves around quick accessibility to the “goods”. As I mentioned earlier, I try as often as possible to visit my daughter at daycare to nurse during lunch, so one piece dresses are not an option on those days.
Routine/Structure/Organization: Being organized is tremendous to my success and keeps me sane. I cannot always control my schedule at work, but I can make sure I have the tools I need in order to pump and store my milk. I often get tied up in meetings or delayed past my scheduled pumping appointment, but I do not allow myself to SKIP pumping sessions. Skipping sessions can cause your supply to decrease and I have witnessed this slippery slope with other moms. If I am pulled away to travel to another office, I stop and ask myself before leaving “Do I have my pump, parts, car adapter, door sign, cooler bag, ice pack and hands-free bra?” In my book, this is equally as important as asking myself if I have my notebook, pen and business cards.
Checklist for Work / Daycare:
- Three bottles of breast milk for daycare- Each bottle containing 3 ounces. (Side note: as the baby grows, our bodies naturally increase the nutritional content of the milk, so I have never increased my daughter’s ounces or number of feedings. I have personally faced opposition on this topic in the past, but I stood firm and it all worked out fine).
- Storage bottles – I take at least 6 empty storage bottles with lids to work each day. For each pumping session, I need 2 bottles to attach to the pump and these double as storage bottles. At the end of the day, I bring them home filled with milk. I use the freshly pumped milk to make the 3 bottles for daycare the next day and I bag up any excess and put it in the freezer to donate.
Cooler Bag – I use my little cooler bag to store the milk in the fridge at work and to transport the bottles to and from work.
Outfit – AGAIN, “is my outfit nursing/pumping friendly?”
- Nursing Cover – I prefer to use a cover when I nurse in public, so on days that I have the opportunity to go do daycare at lunch to nurse, I always like to have my cover available. The cover also comes in handy when I have to travel. I have pumped while driving countless times.
- Receiving blanket – I use a receiving blanket every day at work. I put it in my lap when I finish pumping to catch any drips when I unhook the parts, then I use it to cinch and store the parts under my desk (after rinsing).
Hands-free Bra- I leave this at the office and take it home on the weekends to wash it. I have become so dependent on the hands-free bra and despise pumping without it.
- Pumping Log – I use an Excel spreadsheet to track my ounces per session. At the bottom, I have my totals calculated as follows: [Monthly total ounces – Ounces needed for daycare = Surplus]. This documentation helps me to track my output and quickly identify patterns when my supply fluctuates. I also donate all my excess milk to other precious babies in need. I keep a separate tab in the Excel workbook to list my donations by date, recipient and quantity.
Attitude and Determination: Breastfeeding requires quite a bit of sacrifice on the mother’s part and it truly is a labor of love. I am incredibly passionate about it and realizing the purpose behind why I really do this helps me to stay positive on those long and hectic days at work. I often think of a quote I have heard my mom say countless times “If you can’t relax, you can’t breastfeed.” In those quiet moments of reflection, I also think to myself “Wow, it is so amazing that my babies have been able to thrive on one single substance that my body made all on its own!” THAT’S AMAZING in itself and I see it as a privilege to be able to provide that for them. With my second, I have faced obstacles along the way and they have only made my determination stronger. The first obstacle being a dairy sensitivity (We discovered this when she was only 1 week old. It means I am unable to consume dairy in any form as it passes to my milk and she cannot tolerate it) and the second being the tongue/lip tie diagnosis at 8 weeks old. We had a medical procedure performed on her mouth to correct the ties. Also, coming from someone who was shy about pumping in the beginning, DON’T BE. I have found that co-workers understand when you need to take breaks and they don’t see it as gross or weird… like I once thought they might.
Diet/Nutrition: Eating enough calories and drinking plenty of water is what I believe can make or break a woman’s supply. I can almost instantly tell by my output if I haven’t eaten enough the previous day. In my experience, there is a direct correlation between how much I eat and how much milk I make. I don’t skip meals, and in my book, refusing to skip meals and snacks is just as important as refusing to skip pumping sessions. IT ISN’T WORTH IT!
Support: I am fortunate to be surrounded by support… some of which I have just been blessed with and some I have sought out on my own.
- Husband – He is hugely supportive and encouraging. He also helps me get the items on my checklist ready each day.
- Employer – They are very supportive.
- Professional IBCLC (lactation consultant) – I had a brief meeting with the IBCLC at 1 week post-partum with both girls at my birth center, Charleston Birth Place. However, I didn’t schedule a formal “in-depth” meeting with an IBCLC with my first (and fortunately, never had trouble), but I decided to get a professional opinion with my second baby and I’m so glad I did! I recommend this to ALL new moms, working or not. I initially went for a “back to work” assessment to review my pumping schedule, flange size, etc. My goal for the meeting was to simply make sure I was doing everything at an optimal level and to make sure I was using my “new” pump properly. Even as an experienced pumper, I still learned shortcuts, tips and tricks from her. During that first appointment, we also discovered my daughter had an Upper Lip Tie and Tongue Tie. Left untreated, these ties could have been detrimental to our breastfeeding relationship, so I am forever grateful that I sought professional advice.
- Support Groups (Facebook & La Leche League) – We have 2 local support groups on Facebook that have been an invaluable resource to me. The groups are private and members can post any question(s) imaginable and the other moms will respond with advice. I also encourage all new moms to join your local La Leche League, attend meetings and at a minimum…join the FB support groups. I recommend joining both while pregnant. ESTABLISHING SUPPORT EARLY ON IS CRITICAL.