Got Milk? Pumping and Working 9 to 5
Step 1: Get the baby in Step 2: Get the baby out Step 3: Feed the baby
Every step in the baby game comes with its own set of challenges. Working up to your due date is a challenge in itself and even the element of surprise at conception or delivery can prompt stress on supply and demand. My mother almost seems to romanticize about her maternity including four natural births and breastfeeding for eight consecutive years so I definitely had no idea what feeding a newborn really entailed until I experienced it for myself. Working at a maternal and child care center gives me a wonderful opportunity to meet mothers at all stages and breastfeeding is surely a topic that raises questions for many women, especially mothers who must work away from home. As a new mother working full time with an hour commute in each direction, I followed a strict regimen to fuel my pumping needs. What helped me reach my finish line at 13 months? Here's what I had in my breastfeeding corner:
1. Lactation consultant. This was definitely a key player that helped jump start my nursing journey. Whether it is a trained professional, a close friend or family member, I definitely recommend consulting with someone experienced in the background, anatomy, and function of nursing. Even a brief orientation before the baby arrives can help you anticipate what to expect from your body immediately after delivery and the feeding needs of the baby during the first week. Learning about what to look for with your newborn's diaper pattern and how to prepare bottles, store and defrost milk is valuable information for the whole family. Upon my son's arrival, my lactation consultant visited us in the hospital to help me implement the various nursing positions and techniques. My husband joked that she was intense as she carefully explained each of them to us, but we are so grateful for her patience as we adapted to our son's routine and our new duty as parents.
2. Reading Materials. Books and other learning guides are also quite helpful. Most hospitals will supply new mothers with learning resources to take home. Additionally, the La Leche League website provides mother to mother support and guidance all around the world. The American Academy of Pediatrics New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding was my handy companion throughout nursing. I really enjoyed the personal accounts of the various stages of nursing and the detailed discussion of nursing positions. Definitely try to pick up this book before your new bundle arrives.
3. Equipment. A quality breast pump is essential. Your insurance company may outfit you with a hospital grade pump. I recommend one that is easy to transport and set-up like the Medela Freestlye Breast Pump. It comes with a portable storage pack and is designed with a let-down trigger which is an added bonus for pumping on the go. Comfortable nursing bras and nursing pads will also come in handy during your work day.
4. Soothing supplies. The first two weeks are often uncomfortable, as your skin must toughen to accommodate its new task of nursing a hungry baby. My mother's advice to "trust your body" definitely aided me. You have to find your own rhythm and Lasinoh lanolin is great aid for relief of soreness. Plus, it's safe for the baby.
5. A Place to Pump. The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law that provides nursing mothers with the following work conditions:
“a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
Be sure to discuss your nursing and pumping needs with your HR representative. Having a comfortable space to pump provided me with the peace of mind to fulfill this family responsibility. It may feel awkward but new mothers should feel empowered to secure a pumping place in their work space. Also, letting your team know that you will need these breaks can help your office facilitate a healthy work flow.
6. Storage. Your office may or may not have refrigerators available for use. Be sure to inquire with your HR department to see what options are available. Small portable coolers with frozen inserts can provide adequate refrigeration but in limited time frames. Seek out options that will suit your schedule and pumping needs.
7. Schedule. In my experience, there were three distinct phases of pumping at work: a. Peak Pumping Season b. Introduction of Solids and c. The Closing Period. I returned to work when my son was four months old. I was so lucky to have been able to stay at home and bond with him for the first four months of his life. It also allowed me to build up a good amount of stored milk. My return to work at month 5 was at a peak time in nursing and I had to nurse or pump 8 times a day. Here's what my schedule looked like:
05:30 AM: Pump before work
08:00 AM: Pump at work before patients
10:00 AM: Pump between patients
12:30 PM: Pump at lunch
03:30 PM: Pump on break
08:00 PM: Nurse at home
Midnight: Pump before bed
My pumping regimen required commitment, discipline, and organization. As soon as I got back home from work, I had to immediately refrigerate the pumped milk, get acclimated with my son who I'd been away from all day and prepare bottles and equipment for the next work day. Luckily, there are lots of ways to help stay organized. The Medela App for iOS and Android is a very useful tool for mothers pumping and working long days. It features personalized dashboards, confidence assessments, and a problem solver. Additionally, registered app users get free shipping on purchases over $30 and the Medela website even discusses insurance benefits and how to use your flexible spending account (FSA's) to cover your pumping supplies and needs. Click here for more information.
At 6 months, when we introduced our baby boy to solid food, there was a yet another shift on supply and demand. I had to pump harder which meant using more fuel in the form of food. I ate more so I could make more milk which meant weight gain but my awesome husband was in my corner cheering me on so we could reach our family goal. In the final months, fatigue, emotional exhaustion and post pregnancy body changes were taking a toll but the words of guidance, books, and other tools proved to be such a valuable resource to get me through a year of nursing. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to nurse my son during his first year and it was the community both local and far that helped me do so. One thing to remember as a new mom, is that you are not alone. Right beside you is an army of family, friends, and many other supporters who want you to be all that you can be.
What were the biggest challenges of your first year as a new mom?