Breastfeeding + Work: Making it work!
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Sweet Peas, Pods & Papas: All About Birth, B@@bs & Babies

Breastfeeding + Work: Making it work!

Laura is wearing a Belabumbum pajama set, and a teething necklace by Chewbeads
Diaper bag by JuJuBe

The theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Awareness Week is “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s make it work!”

While it certainly can be more convenient to formula feed while at work, that is not the choice that all families want to make.  (Side note: As long as the baby is put to the breast during contact hours, and barring other complications, the body will make the supply according to demand. It is possible to do a mix of formula feeding and breastfeeding as long as the baby is consistently put to the breast.  Putting the baby to the breast places "the order" for it to be available again at the same time tomorrow.)

Since putting the baby to the breast places "the order" for breastmilk to be available again at the same time tomorrow, some mother's are choosing to use a breast pump at work to make sure their supply stays strong and consistent for their Sweet Peas.  This allows for an exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) situation during the first six months as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Thanks to breast pumps, families can EBF even when the mother returns to a workplace or work arrangement in the home.  This is not necessarily or convenient, hence today's choice of quote in our image.
 
I asked our former students for some input on this topic, and two things became clear:
 

  1. The decision to pump at work to provide breastmilk for baby and keep up the mother’s milk supply can be very isolating. 
  2. We still have a long way to go in educating peers, managers, administrators, etc., on the time, energy, and commitment it takes to pump. 

 
A note about the time if you haven't pumped at work or while traveling:  
It’s not just the 10-15 minutes spent with the machine.  It takes time to settle into the space so that one is mentally ready to pump, the actual pumping time, and then the time afterwards to store properly and clean parts so that they are sanitized and ready to go for the next pumping session.  All told, a pumping session could take at least 30 minutes; maybe a little less on a day when mama isn’t stressed and the milk flows freely.
 
"Letting down" to a breast pump takes acclimation.  We were not designed to feed to a machine.  If you have questions about finding the right pump for you, click back to read a guest post written by Debbie Gillespie, IBCLC about finding the right pump for the job you need it to do (more on that HERE).

One way I "trained" my body to pump was to nurse my Sweet Pea on one side, while I pumped on the other.  By getting used to pumping with our baby, it made it easier to connect the machine to making milk for our child when I had to do pump without them.
 
HERE are resources for you to share with your workplace, and some for you to help you finesse your talking points with your co-workers, managers, etc.
 
I also want to share some collected tips from our students, and some from me from my pumping days:

  • Play music that reminds you of your Sweet Pea.
  • Carry something that reminds you of your baby or smells like them.
  • Look at their picture while you pump.
  • Your pump mechanism is going to sound in cadence – make up a mantra that you can chant along with it.  Mine was, “This is milk for my baby.”
  • Think about using the word, ‘lactation” instead of, “breastfeeding,” to ease into conversations about your needs with your boss. (LLL)
  • Try not to skip pumping sessions. (Amy Y)
  • Have a schedule and stick to it! (Francis H)
  • I bought multiple pump parts so during the day at work I actually didn't wash them I just used a clean set (I pumped 3 times). It saved me lots of time and just washed everything once I got home. (Francis H)
    (NOTE: Breastfeeding supplies are covered under the ACA - should be provided at no cost to you by your insurer - read more about that HERE)
  • Medala wipes were a lifesaver for me. The nearest sink was too far away. So I would wipe everything clean after each pumping using those wipes. (April M)
  • Pump and freeze a nice freezer stash while you’re on leave if you can.  Costco has excellent deals on deep freezers if you run out of space. (Laura A)
  • Set a goal you can achieve – even if it’s short term. (Laura A)
  • Be organized with your pump, cleaning parts, storage containers, and cooler. (Laura A)
  • Don't worry about labeling until you get home if you’re short on time. (Laura A)
  • Consider a hand pump for times when you can’t do a long pump – it will protect your supply if you pump even a little bit. (Laura A) 
  • If possible, choose a job that is flexible or has a good schedule and budget for less income if you can. (Laura A)
  • Dress for easy access. Wear nursing bras that unclip and a shirt that does not need to be taken all the way off, just pulled down unbuttoned partially. This helps with time management. (Laura A)
  • Seek out other co-workers who are pumping at work – it helps to know you are not alone. (Courtney D)
  • When a workplace has a place to pump, it's a good start, but the true contributor to success is the emotional, and scheduling support, that a workplace can provide that will make the biggest difference. (Courtney D)
  • One thing that has made a big difference in several airports is Mamava. Mamava are little pods set up in airports, stores, etc throughout the country and are made just for nursing/ pumping moms! They are private, comfortable and have a place to sit, a table, and an electrical outlet. The Mamava app is free and will tell you exactly where they are located. (Meghan C)
  • When you book a hotel, be sure to request a fridge and let them know it's for medical reasons so they don't charge you extra for it. (Meghan C)

 
Anecdotal reflections from our students 
I am sharing these because if you are feeling isolated in your choice, I want to validate you - YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  YOU ARE NOT CRAZY FOR WANTING THIS.  IT IS WORTH IT.

Amy Y:
We pumped for 8 months while I was working. It was challenging because my supply didn't hold up. He stopped breastfeeding at 6 months and so we pumped and bottle-fed exclusively. I would wake up at 2am to pump even though baby slept through the night. If I had to do that again I would use supplements sooner and never skip pumps. Stress also made it a lot harder. With baby #2 I actually changed jobs to work at a school where she is on-site and I don't have to pump. That was totally worth the pay cut.
 
I think a lot of the challenges are just people generally not being supportive. I was much more confident with my second and I told the people in my life that I wanted their support and that it hurt to not have it. It made a big difference and I'm glad I stood up for myself.
 
 
Laura A:
We’re still pumping and breastfeeding today at +1:) 
I went back to work as an airline pilot at 6 months postpartum

Tips:
-Pump and freeze a nice freezer stash while your on leave if you can.  Costco has excellent deals on deep freezers if you run out of space.
- My job is exempt of nursing/pumping laws, so it helped me to have good educational discussions with co-workers about the health benefits of breastmilk and why I personally have chosen to extend pumping and made sure to discuss with them how often and long I will need to pump on breaks at the airport. At times, this puts more workload on my captain on a "quick turn" of the aircraft so I make sure to always ensure they also receive breaks through our day by always helping with additional workload on the other quick turns. This has helped me to get a lot of support from my fellow crews. 
- Every personality is different on how to achieve goals, but for me with pumping at work, it was better that I was very relaxed with my goal. Since it wasn't supported by our industry, I decided to do a no pressure goal. I just decided to take each week as it comes and evaluate how baby and I are doing. If pumping ever got to be too stressful then I would stop. We're going over a year now and it is still working great for both of us :) 
- Be organized with your pump, cleaning parts, storage containers, and cooler. Don't worry about labeling until you get home if you’re short on time. I use a hand pump at work because it is easiest for me to quickly assemble and keep in a cooler. The times that I can't do a long pump I can at least relieve and keep my supply strong. 
- If you can, choose a job that is flexible or has a good schedule and budget for less income if you can. I have chosen to stay a senior first officer to ensure I can hand pick my schedule. This is a pay cut and a hold on career advancement, but it has been priceless for this time in our life. I can pick day trips and schedules that work for my son well and also allow for breaks to pump fairly easily.
- Dress for easy access. Wear nursing bras that unclip and a shirt that does not need to be taken all the way off, just pulled down unbuttoned partially. This helps with time management.
 
 
Courtney D:
I took 10 weeks of maternity leave. When I returned to work, I pumped 3-4 times a day. I am a high school teacher. Each day, I would pump at least once, in my car, driving to, or from work. At first, it was a way to reconnect and think of my little one while I was working. I had a coworker that was pumping for her son as well, and I worked in a department, with all women, that were tremendously supportive. My friend and I would pump side by side and eat lunch and chat with our coworkers. It was a time to be together and I felt supported. That feeling lasted about a year. I had to change jobs and while my new school and department were supportive of my breastfeeding goals, I was not able to have that same social connection. I was lonely, and when asked to go to a meeting or do something during a time that I needed to pump, I was constantly making others feel awkward when I told them why I couldn't make it. 

I continued to pump until she was 22 months, when she was down to only nursing in the morning and at bedtime. It was at around 18 months that I started to hate pumping. It was now a tedious thing that isolated me from others, but I kept at it. Occasionally, I would have to ask for donor milk, but never had to use it. I always seemed to be able to provide just enough for her while I was gone. She continued to nurse until she was 26 months. My goal was always for her to breastfeed as long as she wanted to. She self-weaned; stopping on her own when I became pregnant again. 

I think that the #1 contributor to my pumping success was the support I received from those around me. When a workplace has a place to pump, it's a good start, but the true contributor to success is the emotional, and scheduling support that a workplace can provide that will make the biggest difference. 

I am not looking forward to pumping again, but I plan to make it work.
 
 
Francis H:
I was lucky with J. to have a very supportive principal (I'm a kinder teacher) that adjusted my schedule so I had the appropriate breaks to pump; but with C. and my new principal I did not. I had to be assertive with her and demand my time to pump. It was hard at first, but I knew I was the only advocate for my daughter. I was committed to continuing our breastfeeding relationship and for us that meant pumping at work. I also starting working on my stash 2 months before returning. On days I pumped less (stress, or unexpected school situations or illness) I was comforted in knowing I had back up milk for them.
 
 
Nisa C:
I returned to work as a Research Assistant and PhD grad student at ASU when my first was 6 weeks old. Thankfully, I was in a very supportive environment. As long as I got my work done on time, when and how didn't matter. And Z was welcome in our lab! Z became an honorary grad student as I brought him to work. I was given a private room to nurse in. I stored my Boppy™ and burp cloths in that room. I did have to pump when I had class. At most I was away for 3-4 hours including commute time. I would pump in the morning, and nursed him before and after class. Our breastfeeding relationship lasted over 2 years.
 
April M:
Our daughter is now almost 17 months old and still nursing about 3-4 times a day. As we gear up for the start of a new semester of college teaching, I'm trying to figure out how much I'll need to pump to keep me comfortable and keep up the supply. We are weaning her, but in a very gentle way, just slowing cutting back the number of sessions. However, we will likely to continue to allow her to nurse before bed and upon waking as long as that seems to be working for both her and me.
 
Because I never did respond terribly well to the pump, I had to pump quite a bit to get those few ounces we needed (4-5 oz), but it was enough to get us through. Like a few other posters, I found the process rather lonely. I could no longer socialize at all on campus and basically came to work, shut my office door, pumped and then headed off to class. The same thing happened at lunch. So no lunches with colleagues, or chats before or after class. On numerous occasions I would have colleagues question me about leaving a meeting early, even when I had repeatedly explained that I needed to have at least 15 minutes before my afternoon classes to pump.
 
It's very frustrating when people who are truly trying to be supportive, many of whom breastfed and pumped themselves, still forget about the complex logistics needed to keep breastfeeding while working full time. I don't know what the solution is, but I hated that the onus was always on me to remind everyone about my need to be accommodated.
 
In spite of it all, I'm very proud of the fact that I've continued to provide her with breast milk for this long. It's been worth it, but far more challenging than I expected.

Do you have any "back to work" breastfeeding+pumping tips to share?
Please leave us a comment - it will be moderated and posted. 
 

Bradley Method® natural childbirth classes offered in Arizona: Chandler, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, PaysonDisclaimer: 
The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation.  Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.  This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.


 

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