You guys, I have FOUR days of work left! FOUR. I am so excited and ready to turn the page to having only one job (mom) rather than two. I’ve written before about my breastfeeding struggles and how grateful I am that I succeeded despite the obstacles. This is sort of another prideful post because I have survived almost 5 months of working full-time as a teacher and breastfeeding as well. I’ve learned A LOT in the past 5 months, so for Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday this week, I decided to share some of it with you.
From your comments, it seems that most of my readers are stay at home moms, so I’m not sure how necessary this post really is, but I feel the need to write it all down while it is still fresh on my mind, and I hope it will be useful to someone out there. So here they are, my Top Ten Tips for Breastfeeding and Working Full-Time.
- Invest in a good pump. It has to be a double electric. I’m a fan of the Medela Pump in Style personally, but whatever it is, be sure it’s effective.Yes they are expensive, but so is formula.
- Before you head to work, get lots of milk stocked in the freezer. For most of us, the pump pulls less than the baby does, especially over time. There is also the occasional growth spurt or hungry day that the baby will experience while you are away at work. Stocking up lessens the possibility that you’ll have to use formula for supplementation. I had about 50 ounces stocked up, and it was gone after about 3 months of working.
- Set a goal. Stick to it. For me, I said I didn’t care how much I hated pumping or even how little I got (if my milk supply dwindled) but that I refused to stop before Jude was 6 months old. For you it might not be 6 months, it could be longer or shorter. The point is that if you set a concrete goal, you won’t stop. Plus is feels so gratifying to meet that goal.
- Insist on a space and time. A lot of people told me that there was no way I could continue breastfeeding after I went back to work. Teaching is a job with NO privacy at all and no free time or chosen schedules. I was determined to prove them wrong and I ended up (with the help of a nursing friend) securing a room for this purpose. In a building full of 2,500 people that was actually built for 1,900, this was hard to come by, but we sort of insisted. As far as scheduling goes, I am late for a class everyday so that I can pump. For me, it is Yearbook/Journalism with 23 responsible girls, so it’s no big deal. Without this luxury, I would have had to insist on a little help from colleagues or a change in schedule, I guess. Depending on your state, there could be a law insisting that employers offer you a place to pump. It’s also in the new healthcare bill! Three cheers for that!
- Yes you should be insistent, but make the best of what you’re given. Have humor. I was given a room, and I am grateful for that. It is, however, a dusty supply closet in a location where I have to walk through another teacher’s class to get there. I was also walked in on my a male coworker who got a nice clear view of my boobs; it was hands-down the most awkward moment of my life. The copy room line can still be a little awkward when I stand next to him, but we moved on; you just have to have humor and be happy with the time and space you get. Make the most of it. As a side note to this one, you don’t have to rinse out your pump parts after every pumping. An LC told me to carry a hand towel to wipe them down and then just wash them every night when I get home. My pumping room is nowhere near a kitchen or a sink, so I rely on a packed towel and a cooler with an ice block, and we have no problems at all.
- Get used to people thinking you’re crazy. Breastfeeding is not a popular choice, nor is it an easy one when you work full-time. I work closely with 5 other women who all have children under 14 months. I am the only one who is still breastfeeding. One is kind and supportive and fabulous while the rest think I’m nuts and tell me so with their eyes. And occasionally with their voices. At this point, I’m used to it and somewhat entertained by it. I know this is the right choice for my family right now, so I just move right along and avoid dwelling on the judgment.
- Don’t obsess about the number of ounces. I was really bad about this in the beginning, but I’m getting better. Some days you will have lower output than others. It’s just the way it is. Every Lactation Consultant and every resource I read told me that the baby is more efficient than the pump, and it’s definitely true for me. In late March, I ran out of freezer stock and started having to use the occasional bottle of – gasp! – formula. I freaked out at first until I realized that A) when we were together on the weekends or over spring break, it is not problem and he is satisfied without supplementation and B) if 2-3 small formula bottles a week keep me breastfeeding for a year, it’s worth it for sure. Some days I make enough. Some days I don’t. Just do the best you can and don’t obsess. I’ve also found that I can pump a couple of hours after he goes to bed and get 2-3 ounces a night. That helps.
- When you and baby are together, throw out the bottles. Nursing your baby as often as possible helps boost and maintain your supply. Plus who would want to get out that pump when you are tied to it all week? Jude and I never use bottles when we’re together. They are for workdays and sitters only.
- It’s all in how you look at it. It might seem like locking yourself in a closet for 10-12 minutes three times a day is a ridiculous and boring waste of time. For me, I have learned to welcome the few minutes of quiet and privacy away from my desk and rowdy students. I even grade papers in there sometimes! My students would be repulsed by that image, but hey, it gets the job done. Well two jobs actually.
- Don’t skip out on pumping sessions. This is probably the hardest part of it for most of us. You have to be fairly militant and determined to NEVER skip a session. For me, I feed Jude at about 6am before we leave. At work, I pump at 8:15 just before my first class, around 11:30 between classes, and then again during my planning period at about 2:15. In the past 5 months, there have been three times I have missed a session because of morning meetings. Three times won’t hurt, but if I made a habit of it, my milk supply would certainly be affected. It seems like a chore at first, but it will soon become a routine part of your day.