August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, and the theme for 2015 is Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make It Work!
I don’t think anyone will tell you that breastfeeding is easy. Sure, it gets easier, but I wouldn’t say that it’s ever easy. Breastfeeding and working full-time? Definitely not easy or especially fun.
When my son was born, I was bound and determined to breastfeed and pump at work. I was going to make it happen. It was only through sheer determination that I stuck with it for a full year. And when I successfully breastfed my son through the first year of his life, I felt like I deserved a badge of honor. (Congress should consider giving out badges of honor to moms. We totally deserve it.)
Three times a day I would sit by myself in the basement of my workplace and pump enough milk to sustain my little one. Three times a day I would drop whatever I was working on and take my “milk breaks.” It wasn’t horrible, but I’d be lying if I tried to tell you it was fun. It required commitment, organization, and a firm belief that all of it was ultimately worth it. Eight months in to breastfeeding and working full-time with my second child, I am again reminded that breastfeeding, pumping, and working full-time is a chore. An important chore, but still a chore.
If there’s anything I’ve learned about being a mom, it is moms make it work!
Here are a few things I’ve learned about breastfeeding and working full-time:
- Be organized. Pack all your pumping stuff the night before. There’s nothing like a morning mad dash to make you forget something on the counter.
- Keep extra bottles, pumping parts, flanges, etc., at work. After our first baby was born and just before I was getting ready to go back to work, I purchased a second breast pump for work. Yes, it probably wasn’t necessary, but I was thankful to have one less thing to bring back and forth to work.
- Schedule your milk breaks. Put them on your calendar, block off the time, and set a reminder.
- Inform people on a need-to-know basis. You don’t need to tell the entire world everything about your boobies, but if people keep trying to schedule meetings over your milk breaks, have a quick chat about how they are cramping your style.
- Drink copious amounts of water. I’m not kidding. I drink close to 100 ounces of water at work. My husband makes jokes about me being part camel (storing water away for a rainy day), part fish (needing water to survive).
- Try to pump on a one-to-one schedule for when your child takes a bottle. If you are really on top of it, try to breastfeed first thing in the morning and then pump immediately after (before work). I had one friend who was able to pump the same time as feeding her baby. That requires extreme coordination that I don’t have.
- Download a breastfeeding app. With our first child I didn’t have a smart phone and I’m astounded by how much easier it is now to keep track of the last time I fed the baby, how long I fed her, and what side I last fed her on. Technology is great!
- Don’t wear dresses. Seriously, do you really want to sit in a semi-darkened room with your dress over your head? Workplaces are notoriously cold! Wear layers and nursing/pumping-friendly clothes.
- This was something new for me the second time around – storing my breast pump parts in a plastic bag in a cooler in the fridge. With my son, I washed and cleaned parts after every time I pumped, but now I’m wiser. It’s completely fine to store the parts in between pumpings and wash at the end of the day.
- If you are sharing a new mother’s room with other women, communicate with them. Figure out when everyone needs to use the room and try to be accommodating.