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?