The working mom’s guide to breastfeeding

The word “guide” may be a little over-reaching, but I do hope something I write here will be of help to other working moms.

I breastfed Isaac for a year, and I worked full-time. In fact, Isaac was five months old when I changed jobs, and my biggest fear during my interview with my new employer was telling him that I was breastfeeding and would need to pump three times a day.

He said, “Oh, yeah, that’s fine. No problem,” and then quickly changed the subject, which I find hilarious now that I know him well enough to imagine what he was probably thinking. My first day on the job, a couple of female coworkers saw me dragging a chair in and out of the bathroom and insisted I just leave it there, even though it took up more than half the space in the room and undoubtedly got in their way.

I’m really lucky. I had — and still have — an employer and coworkers who are supportive of my breastfeeding. Even so, it’s not easy. Sometimes I’m sitting in the bathroom, hooked up to a breast pump, and I just don’t want to do it. My mind is racing with all the work I need to get done, I’m frustrated that I can’t get as much milk out as I think I should be able to, etc.

But when I’m at home, and I’m holding my sweet baby while he nurses, I know I don’t want to give it up for anything, no matter how hard it is. And I’ve learned a few things along the way that make it a little easier, and I hope some of those things will help other moms.

1. Get your employer on board.

Oklahoma law requires employers to give breastfeeding moms ample time and a private place to pump during the working day. When I worked full time, I pumped three times a day: once in the morning, once at lunch and once in the afternoon, or about every three hours. Each session took 20 to 25 minutes. If you think your employer might object to your spending an hour out of every day incapacitated, remind him/her of the benefits of breastfeeding: fewer sick days for your baby; a happier, more productive you; etc. Just talk to your boss. Chances are, he/she will be supportive and help you work out a plan of action that will enable your success, both breastfeeding and at work.

2. Invest in a good pump.

I’ve said before, I think the Medela Pump In Style is the best pump you can buy. At about $280, it’s also one of the most expensive. But having a good pump can mean the difference between pumping success and failure. For example, right now I’m pumping with a Lansinoh Double Electric Breast Pump, which is about $100 cheaper than the Medela. It’s also considerably slower and doesn’t remove as much milk. I get by, but I spend most of my time pumping in frustration, and that only serves to further diminish my milk supply. It’s easy to think about giving up, and if I weren’t so darn hard-headed, I might.
Another option is to rent a hospital-grade pump, which I’ve also done (and LOVED it), but at about $60 a month, they’re not cheap either. However you can make it work, get a good pump. It really does make a difference.

3. Relax.

It’s hard to sit still for 20 minutes doing nothing when you know there’s work piling up on your desk and phone calls and e-mails going unanswered. So don’t stress about it. The work will be there when you’re done. But also, don’t do nothing. Use the time to think about your baby. Look at pictures of him or her. Call your child care provider. If your baby can talk, talk to him or her. You could check e-mails on your smart phone or copyedit pages of the newspaper you help edit (I’m speaking from experience here), or you could spend some time bonding with your child, even though the two of you aren’t together. I did this a lot when Isaac was a baby and I had just gone back to work, and it definitely helped me feel close to him, even though we were apart.

4. Get support.

Do you have any friends who are breastfeeding and working? If so, be sure to talk to them and share your experiences with each other. Having that peer support, even if it’s not in your own office, can really help you be successful. Knowing that someone else is expeirencing the same things you are, that you’re not alone in what you’re doing and feeling, can help encourage your tenacity. Also check in with a local La Lecha League group. You’ll make friends and get a lot of valuable support and advice.

What are your tips? I’d love for you to share them here. Not only will TulsaKids readers appreciate them, but I will, too!

Categories: Natural Mom