This post is part of the Breast-Kept Secrets: Breastfeeding Advice from One Mom to Another series. Go back and read all posts here.
This post was originally published September 2, 2011.
I have been blessed to work from home with my second and third daughters. But I worked full-time from the time my firstborn was 6 weeks until she was almost 7 months.
When my husband and I realized I needed to go back to work (he was in seminary at the time), one of my biggest concerns was that it would hinder breastfeeding.
I was so determined to make nursing while working full time still happen! Here are some things that helped me have a successful breastfeeding experience those 6 months (I continued nursing until she was 22 months!):
Before Baby Arrives
1. Talk to your employer about pumping at work.
It will be easier to figure out when and where and the company’s policy about taking breaks during your pregnancy than on your first day back to work when you will probably already be nervous about being away from your baby and pumping!
2. Find a location where you will pump.
If you have your own office, this will be pretty easy. If you don’t, you may want to talk to someone who does that you think might be comfortable with you using her office. I was a traveling ESL teacher, so I didn’t even have my own classroom. One of my principals arranged for me to pump in an empty office.
3. Invest in a good pump.
This is crucial. I am ALL about pinching pennies, but if you buy a cheap pump that doesn’t work, you may get frustrated and give up. Or, it might take you too long to pump. I highly recommend a double electric pump. Medela is supposedly the best brand on the market. I personally used and loved the Lansinoh double electric pump. If we had had a little more money and I knew I would be working longer than 6 months, I probably would have gotten a Medela.
After Baby Arrives
1. Start pumping a little each day about 2 weeks before going back to work.
If possible, I wouldn’t pump right away because it might alter your milk supply. This will help you get comfortable with your pump AND allow you to start building a freezer stash of milk.
2. Designate a specific backpack or diaper bag (preferably insulated) just for all your pumping supplies.
This would include a pump, milk storage bags, cleaning wipes, ice packs, a snack, reading material and perhaps a picture of your baby.
3. Lock the door to the room where you are pumping, if possible.
4. Attach a “Do Not Disturb” sign to the office/room door (especially if there isn’t a lock!).
5. Enlist another nursing mom as your “pumping buddy.”
My friend Lexie, of Lexie: Naturals, and I were both pumping and working at the same time. We would actually send each other encouraging text messages while pumping!
I know–easier said than done during the work day. But it’s harder for milk to let-down if you are tense.
7. Think about your baby.
Maybe even look at his/her picture. Fond thoughts of your baby will help with let-down. I would imagine my daughter drinking my milk out of her bottle while I pumped.
8. Try to arrange your schedule where you pump at the same time your baby is eating.
This will ensure you can match the schedule on the weekends and not have to pump while at home. (I’ve always preferred nursing to pumping!)
9. Go no longer than 4 hours between pumping.
If you go longer than 4 hours, your milk may dry up.
10. Eat a nutritious snack, like a lactation cookie.
11. Try to pump when you are at your fullest.
Even though I nursed my daughter right before I left for work, I would still be really full in the mornings. I would often pump as soon as I got to work.
12. Nurse your baby right before you leave for work and as soon as you pick him/her up from the sitter’s.
Sometimes I would call our sitter and tell her I was on the way, so she wouldn’t have to give another bottle. I would nurse Little Girl there, and the sitter and I formed a wonderful friendship!
If you are not pumping as much milk as your baby needs, do not think you are necessarily not making enough milk for your baby. A baby will always suck out more milk than a pump will!
Even so, you may see your supply start to drop once you return to work (I did). Here are some things to do to get your supply back up:
- eat oatmeal
- take Fenugreek
- eat lactation cookies
- drink Mother’s Milk Tea
- add in an extra pump session while at home
- get sufficient rest
- nurse your baby often while at home
Further Reading: State Breastfeeding Laws