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Nursing Working Mama’s Conundrum

Without a doubt, I knew I was going to nurse my babes.  Nursing (while the natural and simple choice for me) is certainly wrought with its own set of challenges.  Coupled with returning to the workplace outside of the home, the challenges become even more complex.  With my first child, I nursed for 9 months - feeling guilty and inadequate for not being able to do it for at least a year.  But when it came down to the stress of trying to balance mamahood and work, to stop nursing seemed to be one of the choices I had to make to stay sane.  It stressed me out to figure out how to fit in pumping into my busy work schedule in addition to figuring out how to continue nursing will traveling out of state at least once a month.  It was also tough for me to figure out how to pump when attending all day workshops or conferences that did not provide a private room allowing me to use my electric pump.

Fast forward to child number two.  I’ve been nursing for seven months, and the reality of nursing for at least a year seems easily achievable this time. Learning from from baby number one, I’ve completely relaxed my perspective.  It’s no longer just black and white to me, and the shades of gray in between are what makes breastfeeding and working outside the home manageable.  Here are some strategies:

Think portable.  The electric pump is a luxury not a necessity.  For some reason, when I started nursing, I felt that having an electric pump was *the* only option.  But I soon found out there are situations when you need to pump, but you couldn’t find a private location, a spot with an electrical outlet, or found out that your batteries were dead.  Here’s where the trusty manual pump comes in handy.  Crazy as it sounds, I’ve been pretty much solely hand pumping this time around.  With a hand pump, you can do it the bathroom or in the car.  It’s also been convenient on road trips.  An added plus is that it’s compact.  The downside is that it’s probably not as efficient as an electric pump.  In my case, it’s a draw whether I use the manual or electric.

Don’t stress over breast is best.  I had to overcome the mental hurdle of thinking that breast milk was the only way to go to ensure a healthy baby.  Obviously, it’s the best choice, but you’re not going to hurt your child if you need to supplement with formula.  And for the mamas that solely formula feed, they’ve also been known to raise healthy children as well!  We leave formula with our caretaker in the event he runs out of breast milk.  On the rare occasion when it’s given to him, he drinks it (unwillingly).  I’d rather have him eat then starve.

Be creative.  Remember that breast milk can be refrigerated up to 8 days, frozen for up to 3 months, and be unrefrigerated for up to 8 hours.  If you are in a situation that you have to be away from you baby for more than 24 hours, check to see if you have access to a refrigerator or freezer.  Bring ice packs, and a small cooler.  I can fit my manual pump and three bottles of milk in a lunch cooler with ice packs.

Feed and pump.  If I feel like I'm running low on milk, I will pump while nursing my son.  I feed him on one side, and use my manual pump on the other side.  It's amazing to see a true let-down occur and typically I will collect more milk will nursing him.

I would love to hear from other moms who have to pump.  What are your strategies for handling work and pumping?  What about professions that require rigid schedules and not easily conducive to pumping?  Any mamas with strategies allowing you to deal with issues?

Comments

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Though I am not pumping now, your post brings me back to those days of pumping/working madness. My strategy was basically to pump whenever I could. I pumped in the morning, either right before or right after nursing (I got the most milk at this time), two to three times during the day at work using my Medela (my best friend back then), and then again late at night before bed. When Boo was younger I used to be able to pump one side while nursing him on the other, but as he got older it distracted him from the task at hand. My schedule back then was crazy and erratic and I had to introduce one bottle of formula a day at six months because even pumping around the clock the kid wanted more, and I felt SO guilty about that one tiny bottle of formula (which he loved). You're so lucky, Hau, that hand pumping works for you; I tried several different hand pumps for several weeks and got about four ounces from the Avent Isis--that's it! It was torture. So I stuck with toting my electric Medela everywhere I went.

When he was eight months, I had to go on my first business trip where I couldn't take him (he had just gone with me on previous ones so I could nurse him during breaks from meetings), and we decided to wean him then. But he almost self-weaned leading up to the trip anyway. It was harder on me than it was on him! The only goal I started out with was to breastfeed for as long as I could, however long that would be.

Looking back, I was much harder on myself than I should have been, which I honestly think the added stress lead to decreased milk supply later on (the doc told me, but do I listen? Noooo). When he was five momths, I started to get a skin infection and it was painful, nasty, and itchy but he was nursing just fine and it didn't affect him, so I kept going. Thinking about that pain now makes my boobs hurt!

I think having a pumping schedule so co-workers know when you are pumping helps, but it's not easy to stick to a schedule when your work is not straight 9-5 office work. I had an office that locked, which was lucky, but one of my employees still walked in on me once.

I would also highly recommend getting the band that goes around your middle and allows you to pump hands-free. I LOVED it! Plus, it helped me answer emails while pumping in my office, which reminded people that yes, I was still a hardworking productive employee but I needed to feed my son too. Also, I would recommend getting the sanitizing wipes (I think Medela still makes them) that you can use for your pump parts if you can't get to a sink to wash them during the day. I would use those, and then sterilize the parts at night.

Oh wow -this is a long comment! Sorry!

I have an 8-month-old breastfed cutie and work full time, often out of my car. While I cant say I enjoy pumping at work - I've been managing. My little one is starting to wean, from the bottle anyway. He takes a sippy cup of milk during the day, but will have nothing to do with the bottle. I now pump once dring the workday, maybe twice if uncomfortable. The car adapter for the Medela Pump-In-Style has been very helpful. I wouldnt recommend pumping while driving (although I have done it), but I often pump in a parking lot between appointments. Yesterday I attended a full day workshop. During one of the 15 minute breaks, I excused my self to my car (for an additional 15 minutes). A little cooler with an ice pack works great to keep the milk cold. I too pump at my desk (mostly female office). As long as I wear clothing that is forgiving enough, I am able to pump while checking email or typing one-handed, and office mates dont really realize what I am doing. The accomodations for a nursing mother on the job really are reasonable, a location to express milk, refridgerator to keep it cold, and time in the schedule to do it. Women need to have the confidence to let their employers know what they need to be a successful employee and nursing mom.

Pumping at the same times every day both helps maintain a regular milk supply and also helps colleagues know that it's important. I book it in my public calendar, so people don't try to catch me at those times. In a pinch, I used the manual pump, but I thought the electric just did the job more efficiently. A 5-minute electric pump job may be a 15-minute manual pump job. It's a great idea to maximize those let downs, though, so pump while nursing if you can do it(WOW - that's serious multitasking)! By the time I was on baby girl 2, I felt fine about hooking up in the restroom. You'll probably be stuck staring at yourself pump in the mirror, so it'll also a good time to powder your nose.

I was lucky enough to have a schedule to let me have a 15-minute break in the morning (around 10ish), then another 15-minute break in the afternoon (around 2ish) almost every day. I have left a meeting before, just got up and left, just to pump. People have to understand - I have to feed my baby!

Oh, and related to the wipes Marlynn mentioned, there are also these sterilizing bags. You just rinse out your bottles, then put them into this sterilizing ziploc and nuke for a few minutes. Helps with clean-up and with re-using bottles or other items during 2 sessions each day.

Gosh, your post brings back memories for me! I also remember that very busy time of life when I was working f/t at a very stressful job and trying to make sure that I stayed on a consistent schedule to pump at work.

I basically made sure that I pumped twice a day at work. The first time was at 10:30 am, and the second time was at 2:30 pm.

If I knew that I had to be at a 2 or 3 hour meeting, I made sure to take my electric pump with me, and I would just set it out on the floor underneath the table. I would try to pump during break time. If no break time looked like it was forthcoming, I would quietly leave the room and sneak away to pump.

With my first child, I had to pump in the handicapped bathroom stall because our company didn't have a lactation room! Back then, pumping was not as common, and I used to get very freaked-out women coming up to my stall and trying to peer through the bathroom door cracks, and asking me WHAT I was doing in there, LOL! I guess the whole set-up must have looked pretty strange to them because the handicapped stall was way in the back, and the electric sockets were way in the front, and there was a fluorescent yellow electric cord that I was using that was trailing the length of the bathroom, AND this odd machine sound was emanating from behind the door!

With my 2nd child, things worked out much better because by then a formal lactation room had been set up. It had a comfy chair inside, and shades on the window, and a lock on the door. What a major improvement!

As part of my pumping routine, I made sure that I owned 2 pumps -- a Medela electric pump and an Avent Isis manual pump. I primarily used the Medela while at work, and carried my milk supply home in a lunch box with ice packs in it to keep it cool.

I used the Avent when I was at home. Whenever Ben was nursing, I would always pump on the other side. Using this trick, I was able to get tons of milk this way, and ended up with a plentiful supply in my freezer.

Yeah, it does bring back memories! I too breastfed after I went back to work at 3 months. I was very lucky in some ways - I was able to find a daycare at only 5 minutes walking distance from work. And, my schedule is very flexible.

My routine tended to be to nurse my (now 3yr old) daughter when I dropped her off at daycare at around 8:30, then come back to nurse her at 11:30ish and again at 14:30, and again when I picked her up around 17:15. So, on the days she was at daycare it was a nice schedule. I stayed very consistent with those times, and was able to schedule most meetings around it. I basically used up my one hour of lunchbreak this way, and came in a little early and left a little later to compensate as well.
The one day a week she was not at daycare, but I was at work (and partner took care of her), I did pump.
The not-so-lucky part was that my place of work had no clue (at first! :) ) about pumping needs. They tried the "just use the bathroom" approach, which I shot down. No-one should ever have to settle for that. Yes, it will do in a pinch, but is frequently not comfortable, and definitely not a good stimulus for let-down. Luckily, there were 3 of us that needed to pump, so we managed to get a conference room (tiny 2-people one) scheduled twice a day for us. Other than not having a lock on the door, and just putting up a note, that was fine. Office wasn't really an option, since it's shared with a male colleague. Yes, I did in a pinch once or twice (gotta love those nursing shirts!) but not ideal.

All in all, I was really happy being able to continue nursing rather than pumping. But I do realize that not everyone has a daycare this close to work, nor a flexible schedule to go with it....

Like Betty, I'm a Medela-at-work and Isis-at-home sort. I've also taken the hand pump with me to conferences, lectures and theaters, and expressed milk right there in the room. The Avent pump is easy to operate and very quiet. I take a big shawl with me to keep things visually discreet. :-)

Just wondering if anyone has a simliar problem.

I started work on a part time basis when my daughter was about 5 months old. As a result, I never really needed to pump very often. As time has gone by, and now my daughter is almost 9 months, I seem to have lost my ability to get a let down with the pump..I struggle to get even 1 oz....and leave my breast full. My daughter always gets satisfied and she is a happy babym so I know that she is getting plenty.

Along those lines, for those 2 days she is in daycare...she gets no milk and is not so happy about formula. I simply feed her before I leave and as soon as I get there.

Anyone with similar lack of let down?

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