Breastfeeding as a working mom requires practice, patience, and preparation. I was able to breastfeed my children while returning to work. Each experience was different with different challenges and victories but the results were the same. I was able to continue to provide my children with breastmilk even when returning to work. The tips listed below helped me in my breastfeed journey and I hope they do the same for you!
Quality Breastfeeding pump
It is imperative that you research breast pumps before you decide to rent or purchase them. As a working mom, your breast pump will easily become your best friend or worst enemy. As a new mom, breastfeeding my son was a top priority, however, I was a frugal mom. I decided to use a manual pump for the first 3 weeks while on maternity leave. While the manual pump yielded good results it was very time-consuming and tedious. I finally decided to try an electric breast pump and after one use I knew that I could never go back to the manual. My electric pump decreased my time and it expressed more milk at each session. I would consider cost, ease of use, comfort, and results when determining which breast pump is best for your breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding before you leave home
I believe that breastfeeding prior to leaving home for daycare and work signals your body to start producing milk. In addition, you and your body are able to spend a few precious moments together before the day gets hectic. If I had to be at work at 9 I would breastfeed my son at 6 am. Remember the more often you nurse, the more milk is produced. I like to think of it as simple economics, supply, and demand. The greater the demand (breastfeed) the more supply (breastmilk) is produced by the body. A nursing session before leaving home is a great kickstart to a great day of pumping!
While an increase in water consumption does not increase milk supply, it is great for your overall health. As a working mom, you will be busy tackling work tasks, taking care of clients, and managing your workload. It is important that we as moms take care of ourselves as well and staying hydrated is a practice that is easy to incorporate throughout the workday. I encourage you to bring a reusable water bottle and take sips of water throughout the day. Nursing and pumping sessions exert energy (burning calories) so it is imperative to stay hydrated for the next “workout” session.
Build your Stockpile
While on maternity leave I received a great tip from a dear friend. She knew that I would be returning to work when Matthew was 3 months old and that I wanted to continue to nurse. She explained to me the power of a breast milk stockpile. So what exactly is a breast milk stockpile? It is milk that you pump and freeze in order to be used at a later time. Most lactation specialists state that frozen breast milk is best when used within 6 months, however, it is acceptable to use within 12 months. One of the ways that I was successful with breastfeeding while working was the stockpile that I built up during maternity leave. For example, I would freeze the milk that I expressed at work and send four packs of frozen milk from the stockpile to daycare the next day. My goal was to have at least 2-3 weeks’ worth of milk in the freezer in case I was unable to pump due to illness, exhaustion, or I just needing a break. The stockpile was my friend and I highly encourage all moms to pump and store as often as they can.
Prepare the night before
While I know this sounds super simple, it is probably one of the most practical ways to set yourself up for success. In my house, our mornings can be quite eventful (another word for hectic), and oftentimes if I do not prepare the night before I will be susceptible to forgetting items that I need for work. Mama, I encourage you to clean, sterilize, and pack your breast pump and all equipment the night before. Make sure that you reference your breast pump manual to determine what you will need from bottles, a charger, ice packs, etc.
Schedule times for breastfeeding pump
At the beginning of my breastfeeding journey, I realized that scheduled feeding and pumping sessions increased my supply. As a new mom, when I started to see an increase in my milk supply I was encouraged to continue on the journey with my first son. While on maternity leave I would nurse my son every 2-3 hours and once he was settled I would immediately pump to make sure that I had emptied my breasts. When I returned to work, I would nurse every three hours while at work; 9, 12, and 1. Due to my work schedule, I would have to wait until 5 pm to pump before leaving the office. Each pumping session produced about 2 oz of milk but most importantly it signaled my body to continue to produce milk. In addition, by setting a schedule I was able to adjust my workload and time so that I could still be productive.
That’s right! You have your breast pump, you are hydrating and a pumping schedule has been developed….now let’s practice. In addition, this presents an opportunity for your baby to practice using a bottle. I recommend choosing a day to practice when you have someone who can assist with the baby and your focus will be on perfecting your routine. The more you practice the more comfortable you become which leads to confidence!
Identify space to pump
I work in college athletics and while being a wife and mom has become more commonplace in the world of athletics, I realized that breastfeed, let alone pumping, was one area that was rarely thought of or even discussed. I was very fortunate to have an office that allowed me to pump in privacy. During that time we did not have a designated private space for moms to pump but now most employers are now required to provide a private space and time for moms to pump. Locating and designating a specific space creates comfort and routine for moms who want to continue on their breastfeed journey, even as working moms. I knew that every day I could close my door and pump uninterrupted which eased my anxiety about being able to pump at work. Being a wife, mom, and employee can all create stress which can affect milk supply. Let’s designate an area to pump to eliminate one potential stressor.
Identify a place to store expressed milk
Now that you have returned to work, where will you store your precious liquid gold? In my office, we shared a common refrigerator but I did not feel comfortable storing my milk there out of respect for my colleagues. Your office might be different but remember to consider ease of access and hygiene when storing in a common space. I used ice packs and the insulated area of my breast pump to store the milk. If you do not have an insulated area or refrigerator then a small cooler will suffice. In addition, what type of container will you use? Will you keep the milk in the breast pump bottles or transfer them over to breast milk bags? These are all things to consider when determining how you will store your breastmilk.
While I am listing all of these things, it is important to remember that situations arise where challenges may occur or motivation might wane. Do not isolate, compare yourself to others, or quit. As a new mom, I was embarking on new territory and I needed support from other moms. I have a great mom friend who provided support, advice, and encouragement. Many of the tips that I shared with you. Being a mom is all about building a community for you and your babies to thrive and grow while working is a journey that many moms have navigated. Find support and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
I want to encourage you that you can do it! My first breastfeed journey lasted for 12 months, while my second lasted 7. I wish that I could’ve made a year but I’m proud of making it for seven. Celebrate your small successes, incorporate some if not all of the tips, and enjoy the journey!