Thursday, November 14, 2013

Working Mom: Lisa (on Breastfeeding/Pumping at Work)

I am a working mom (and I love it); but, if I'm being honest, I feel like most days I'm more "surviving" and less "making it work."  So... I enlisted the help of some dear blog friends to share their experiences, advice, lessons, and encouragement on all kinds of topics related to life balancing a job outside the home and a family. I think this goes without saying, but please know that this series is - in no way - meant to belittle or undermine the work of stay-at-home moms - you are doing an incredibly important JOB, and I have so much respect for you!  That said, I do feel like working moms are sometimes under-represented in the internet world... So, my hope is that this will be a place for working moms of the blogosphere to unite and feel understood, connected, strengthened, and supported (plus, maybe pick up a tip or two)!   Overall, I hope this will be a reminder that (regardless of your situation), you are NOT alone, and you are doing a darn good job! Please introduce yourself and  "join the conversation" in the comments.  

(More from me on being a working mom and all the posts in this series here.)
This week, we've been talking all about the very earliest challenges of being a working mom - pregnancy, maternity leave, and now... breastfeeding & pumping while working*.  This can be such a hard part of the balancing act; but, it can also be very do-able!  Today, Lisa is sharing a little about what she learned from her experience returning to work as an elementary school teacher when her daughter, Mallory, was five months old and pumping for seven months until summer break... Please join me in welcoming her!

Lisa and Mallory at Mallory's first birthday party and the celebration of one year of breastfeeding!
Before I begin, I have to give a little disclaimer... Breastfeeding can be a touchy subject, one where mamas can seem all preachy. I don’t want to be one of those moms who pushes breastfeeding on you. I had a good experience and sincerely just wish other mamas can have one too if breastfeeding is their plan. That said, it was not easy, and I know many mamas have even more challenging situations than I did. Whether you nurse or don’t, you are a good mama making sure your child is getting what he or she needs. So, here’s just a bit of my story, a few tips, and a wish that you can confidently trust yourself and do what(ever) works for you and your little one.

I wasn’t breastfed as a child and honestly knew nothing about it. But, in the end, I found so many advantages in breastfeeding - the bonding, the benefits for my little girl - and, once I got the hang of it, I found nursing easier than making and washing bottles. Nursing became easy and convenient wherever we happened to be. But then, just as I was getting comfortable, I was taunted by the approach of the inevitable date when I would return to work. I started planning my pumping schedule probably three months before I went back. Looking back, I laugh at my Type A planning and how motherhood has taught me to go with the flow. Dropping my plan and grabbing a go with the flow approach seemed to be the key to what helped me make it all work. For 7 months, my little pumping tote was my constant work companion, and I completely accepted the fact that I would have milk on my shirt and be a bit of a mess trying to manage work, pumping, and the rest of my life. Those things aside, being able to continue to breastfeed was one of the things that helped me go back to work as hard as it was to separate from my five month old. Being able to leave those bottles for her each morning and to still nurse in the morning and night got me through. So, here are a few things that helped me, and I hope they may help you, too.

Halloween 2012 - just before returning from maternity leave
Try not to stress. Yes, stress affects your supply. I stressed. I stressed even before I started pumping planning how it would go. There were times my supply would dip, and I would panic that I would not produce enough milk. I’d stuff my face with lactation cookies and tea and worry. I had times I had to push back a pumping time or had to skip one altogether, but despite the ups and downs and supply dips, I had enough. Trust your body will make what you need, and I always told myself if I needed to supplement I would. 

If making it work is your goal, try not to supplement. Okay, so yes, I always kept it in the back of my mind I could and would supplement with formula if I needed to (and I didn’t hold any negative thoughts about formula), but I never did. I think an effort to avoid supplementing helped me keep my milk supply up. If your supply is down, nurse as much as you can when you are with your baby and avoid supplementing. Remember milk production works on supply and demand.

Use any time savers you can find. I quickly started to find time savers that made a big difference for me... a hands free double pumping bra with the bottles set up and ready to pump in the morning with all of the parts as ready to go as possible. In between pumping sessions at work, I put the pieces in a plastic bag in a fridge so that I did not need to wash them in between sessions. I threw everything into a giant bowl in the sink to wash all of the parts in soapy water quickly once I got home. Clothes that make pumping faster like an easy to unhook nursing tank under a button down dress shirt also help. Find what works for you.

Eat and drink! I could tell a huge difference in my pumping sessions when I was eating enough calories and drinking a lot. Keep a box of granola bars in your car and have easy to eat snacks ready to go. Even if you do not think about it during the rest of your busy day at work, have a snack and drink packed in your bag to eat while you pump. I also saw a difference when I ate the oatmeal cookies and drank the lactation teas. (Maybe it was just because my stress level went down when I felt I was doing something that helped my milk production!)

Do what works for you. I can’t tell you that what worked for me will work for you. At some point after countless texts to breastfeeding friends (“Am I doing this right?,” “Is she getting enough?”), Googling “increasing milk supply,” making schedules, and questioning my choices, I realized that there is no right way. Looking back now, I’d tell myself to stop questioning myself. In fact, I’d yell at myself to stop questioning yourself! Trust your gut. Do what works for you whether it be to keep going or to stop. You know what makes a happy and healthy mama and baby.

Watching as I leave for work... So hard to drive off!
I was driving to work the other day thinking about how it felt to walk out the door without my trusty pumping tote, without going through my pumping times for that day in my head, and it felt good. At the same time, I felt a nostalgia...  At the time, it felt like an eternity, a perpetuity of the daily pumping schedule, but after trucking through, here I am looking back in what feels like a blink of the eye. My confidence as a mama has grown leaps and bounds, which is a good thing as there will always be the next mama challenges.  I still am nursing in the morning and at night and working on weaning, potty training will be here soon, and of course... the list will go on.

Summer 2013
*As Lisa mentioned, I realize that the topic of breastfeeding can some times be controversial among moms or draw up insecurities in some of us.  I was able to exclusively breastfeed Sam and work full time only until he was six months old.  At that point, I am not ashamed to admit that we began supplmenting with formula during the day to help ease some of the pressure/anxiety I was feeling and make both of us happier.  I continued to breastfeed in the mornings and evenings until Sam was 10 months old, and then we switched the formula all the time.  It was 100% the right decision for our family.  Ultimately, that's all we are responsible for - you know? - making the right decision for our family.

From my limited experience (I pumped for about three months at work), I second Lisa's recommendation of getting a hands-free bra (this is a MUST HAVE even though it looks absolutely ridiculous) and storing bottles in the fridge between pumping sessions.  I also would recommend a nice little "DO NOT DISTURB" note to put on your office/classroom door for when you are a pumping, a decent "back up supply" of milk in the freezer, and always - always - a spare shirt in your car.  :)


Those of you that have worked and pumped, how did you make it work?  
What advice do you have for other moms trying to do it?


  1. Great guest post. I just wanted to share a link that goes along with this, about the famous "Freezer Stash" working moms are often told they need to build up and how to use it judiciously so you don't inadvertently impact your supply. I had no idea what it was or why I needed one and this article was really helpful to me in figuring it all out.

  2. Great advice! I pumped at school for close to a year and lets just say it is probably the thing I am least excited about doing when I return to work in three weeks. There is SO much I could say on this topic but here is my short list of things that really helped me.
    1) Hands Free pumping Bra - take an old sports bra and cut holes, place flanges in holes and viola hands free!
    2) EXTRA pumping parts (I have three sets)
    3) I also did the fridge method of storing my pumping parts between pumping sessions at work and then when I got home I put the parts in the top level of the dishwasher
    4) I really liked having a soft button top pajama top in my pumping bag to put over my shoulders while pumping when I was chilly
    5) Pumping friendly outfits are a must. A nice cardigan and a tank is a great pumping outfit.

  3. This is the biggest thing I am scared of regarding returning to work :/ Do you ladies have suggestions for scheduling your pumping times? I am always running from meeting to meeting and I am afraid that I won't have time/accidentally miss the time that I should be pumping... or how to gracefully excuse myself if I have to?

  4. I pumped for twins for a year. One did end up nursing for awhile but I still had to pump for the other. My nipples will never be the same! lol! Thankfully I was able to take a year off from work, but I still had to work all my pumping sessions into my life. At one point, I was pumping 5-6 times a day for 1.5 hour each was literally a full time job! The hands free bra was a must, a comfy button down shirt or cardigan was a must, snacks and drinks were a must, I consumed my weight in lactation cookies (or poop cookies as they are called at my house due to additional side effects), and for me a hospital grade pump was a must. My medela pump in style couldn't keep up with my supply needs.

    Thank you for sharing your tips and make it work for your family attitude!

  5. Great post! Way to go Lisa!! I loved reading this... you should be so proud of yourself! I am so glad it worked for you. Mallory is so lucky to have such a lovely mommy :)


Your comments are what makes this thing fun! I LOVE to hear from you and do my best to respond to everyone! THANK YOU!

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