The Pumping Mom’s Survival Guide
I’m a lucky mom. For my daughter and me, breastfeeding was love at first latch. Chloe seemed to get the hang of it right away, and all those cautionary tales of clogged ducts and cracked nipples? Let’s just say I’ve had to find alternative uses for the arsenal of lanolin cream I’d amassed in preparation.
The challenge came when I returned to work as an elementary school teacher after twelve weeks. I wanted to continue breastfeeding through the first year, which meant my breast pump and I would be getting to know each other intimately. To be honest, it hasn’t been a stress-free experience. But in a strange way, I’ve come to enjoy it. It’s my connection to my daughter while I’m away from her. I love that I’m able to fulfill her most vital need despite my absence. It’s my way of taking care of her during the day, if only for a few minutes at a time. And with only weeks to go until her birthday and days until school is out for the summer, I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to keep Chloe exclusively breastfed throughout my first year as a working mom.
Working full-time and breastfeeding full-time is tough to balance, and it’s no wonder many moms find it daunting. How will you find the time to pump several times during your busy workday? What if your boss accidentally catches a glimpse of the wrong kind of “assets”? While I’m no expert, I hope the lessons I’ve gained from my experience can help you if you’re wondering how to manage working and breastfeeding.
Stock the freezer before returning to work. As tough as it is to find time while caring for a newborn, pumping even just once a day during your maternity leave and freezing the milk will allow you to build up a reserve that will come in handy once you’re back at work. You’ll be glad to have it on hand for the days when you didn’t have time to pump enough or experience a dip in your milk supply.
Buy the best pump you can afford. Take it from me – if you plan on pumping full-time, you need equipment that can stand up to the challenge. My “bargain” pump turned out to be the most expensive piece of trash I’ve ever thrown away when it kicked the bucket after only a few weeks of regular use.
Establish a “mother’s lair”. In many states, your employer is required to provide you with a private location (besides the bathroom) and allow you two to three short breaks for pumping. Sure, it’s an awkward conversation to have with your boss, but if you don’t have a place where you can relax and feel comfortable, your milk supply will fare about as well as a slug in the Sahara.
Keep a set of spare pump parts and bottles at work. This will save you a frantic call to your husband to come quickly because you forgot one crucial piece . . . not that I would know anything about that.
If possible, invest in a mini-fridge to keep in your office or workspace for storing milk. It’s totally worth the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your liquid gold isn’t in a community fridge where a bleary-eyed coworker might accidentally splash a little into his morning coffee. Added bonus: stashing your pump parts in the fridge between uses eliminates the need to wash them after every use, a major time-saver. Any milk that remains on them won’t spoil and you can wait until the end of the day to give them a good scrub. You might want to run a little hot water over them before your next pumping session, though. Brrrrr.
Go with the (slow) flow. You know how the nipple packages instruct you to use a certain level for a certain age? Guess what – if your baby still seems content with the slowest flowing nipple, there’s no rush to move up a level. Your baby will have an easier time switching between breast and bottle if she doesn’t become accustomed to a quick, steady flow of milk from a bottle.
Nurse as much as you can. In the morning, nurse just before you leave – if your baby has eaten recently, top him off before heading to work. Talk to your childcare provider and aim to have your baby ready to eat when you take him home in the afternoon. Every feeding you can accomplish by nursing is one less bottle you have to pump.
Take care of yourself, too. Take the time to manage your stress, eat your veggies, and catch your zzz’s. As a nursing mom, your body is working hard to sustain itself and your baby. Give it the rest and nourishment it needs. And if you find yourself overly stressed about having time to pump or producing enough milk for the next day, don’t get discouraged. Breastfeeding isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition, and supplementing with formula won’t negate the benefits of any breast milk you can still provide. Give yourself credit for the effort you’ve made and the incredible gift you’re giving your baby!
Danielle Light is an art teacher and self-described “crunchy mom”. She lives with her husband Bryan and daughter Chloe in the metro Atlanta area. She blogs about new motherhood and natural parenting at www.sweetchloelight.blogspot.com.
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