[DISCLAIMER #1:] This post talks a lot about my boobs. That’s how you breastfeed, by the way. With your boobs. If you’re not interested in boobs, or breastfeeding, let me direct you elsewhere on the Internet.
[DISCLAIMER #2:] Before I start this post, let me just say that I am not taking part in the “Mommy Wars”. So don’t think I’m posting this because I think if you don’t breastfeed your kid you’re the worst. This is just a choice my husband and I made for my son based on our own personal convictions. As long as you choose to feed your kid somehow, I don’t care how you do it. With your boobs, formula, cow’s milk, goat’s milk, whatever. Just so we’re clear, here. Feed your kid however you want, okay? This is America and #YOLO.
[DISCLAIMER #3:] Sorry about the #YOLO.
Okay. Now that THAT’S out of the way…
Before Dax was born, Dan and I decided that we were going to try to exclusively breastfeed him, my body permitting. When I was on maternity leave, we found that, yes, my body was into the idea as well. (Mind you, it did take us about three weeks to get latching down without blood, sweat, or tears, but we did it.) So when Dax was eight weeks old and I went back to work full time, our breastfeeding rhythm changed a bit which made things a little more challenging. But it wasn’t impossible.
Dax is nine months old now and Friday is my last day working full time outside of the home. We did it! We’ve exclusively breastfed and have never once had to supplement with formula! (It’s going to take everything I have to not go completely Office Space on my breast pump, you guys.)
(The above photo is me nursing in the middle of a crowded Starbucks sitting across from three old men. Dax needed to eat and it was too hot to sit in my car and it’s gross to nurse in a bathroom.)
If you’d like to EBF your babes and also work full time outside the home, here is how I did it. Hopefully this will help!
TIPS ON BREASTFEEDING WHEN YOU WORK FULL TIME:
1. Start pumping early. I didn’t do this and regretted it later. Breast milk is produced on a supply and demand basis. What your baby demands, your body supplies. In the beginning, when your baby is a newborn, your body is still figuring out what your baby’s demand is, so you typically have way more milk. After a few weeks of nursing exclusively (which gives your nipples time to toughen up and stop hurting) pump a little each day to both increase your supply and build a stash in your freezer. [HINT: Remember the rule of FOURS. Breast milk lasts four HOURS at room temperature, four DAYS in the fridge, and four MONTHS in your freezer.]
2. Know that what you pump does NOT indicate how much milk you’re actually producing. Your body was created to feed a person, not a machine. So don’t think you have zero milk in your body if you only can get out a few ounces at a time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pumped for fifteen minutes and not gotten a single drop and then turned around and nursed Dax, only to see him gulping and slurping so much that milk was dribbling out of his mouth.
3. Weigh/Feed/Weigh. Both at my breastfeeding support group and at a health food store in town, there is a baby scale that can help determine how much milk Dax takes from me when he eats. You weigh your baby, then nurse him, then weigh him again to find out how many ounces he eats. This helps me determine how much milk to leave him while I’m gone and how much milk I need to pump at work. I typically do this once every week or two to make sure we’re still giving him the right amount. (Currently at nine months old, on days when he is with me, he nurses about every 3-4 hours and gets between 3 and 3.5 ounces each time. So I know that while I’m at work for 8 hours, he should get 7ish ounces — split between two bottles — and that I should pump no less than that to make sure he has enough for the next day.)
4. Figure out the logistics of pumping at work before your first day back. When you have your wits about you, email or call your employer and ask where you’ll be able to pump during the day. Federal law states that your employer HAS to have a private room in which you can pump so if they say “The BATHROOM,” say “Try again.” Also, ask how often you’ll be allowed to pump. I don’t know the federal regulations on this, so I can’t say for sure what they are exactly. But once you’ve figured that out…
5. Pump as frequently as you’re allowed/able to. I’m very thankful that my employer has been so accommodating for me. Right now, I pump three to four times a day for about 20 minutes at a time to get that 7 ounces I need. That said, I work in a cube farm. If I still worked in broadcast news, I’m not entirely sure I’d be free to pump as much as I do now. I realize that other professions are more demanding so don’t stress. Do it as often as you can and, at the end of the day, give yourself a pat on the back for being able to do it at all.
6. You may have to trick your body. This is the, uh, TMI section. At this point in my breastfeeding/working full time journey, my body has figured out that the pump I have — which is top of the line, by the way — is NOT my baby. So it takes a bit of coercion to get my breasts to let down for the pump. So I’ve got to trick them. This includes watching videos of my baby on my phone while I pump, nipple stimulation (SORRY), and breast massages (SORRY AGAIN).
7. Look into insurance coverage for your pump. In the event that you don’t get a breast pump at your shower, have no fear; under the new health care law you should be able to get a brand new breast pump completely covered by your health insurance provider.
8. Exclusively nurse when you’re at home. Try to nurse right before you leave for work and first thing when you get home. Not only will this help your body keep producing well, it also makes the 8 hours in between less painful. Both of you have that after-work nursing bonding time to look forward to.
9. Surround yourself with other breastfeeding moms — whether they’re already your friends or if they’re in a support group. Breastfeeding is an emotional thing, especially in the beginning when both you and your baby are trying to figure it out. It can also be painful at first. Don’t be ashamed if you need help. As a matter of fact, even if you feel like you don’t need help, seek it anyway. It’s nice to have a support system. Don’t feel bad if you have 23947234 questions. Ask and ask frequently. Most breastfeeding moms will understand and won’t look down on you for not being an expert right away (or ever).
10. YOUR SUPPLY IS FINE. RELAX. There are times when your supply naturally drops (like when you’re about to get your period, for example) and things you ingest that can cause your supply to dip (antihistamines, for example) but RELAX. Stress also can affect your supply, so BREATHE. I’ve lost countless hours of sleep over my milk supply but, as you can tell, my kid is a basket full of rolls and I promise you, this is not because of pureed carrots. If you do suspect your supply is dropping (it probably isn’t) you can try any of these: lactation cookies, Mother’s Milk tea, rolled oats, fenugreek, other supplements… but I will say that I’ve tried them all and have had NO success with any of them. Either my body is smarter than the supplements or they’re really a bunch of bunk.
Phew. I could go on, but this post is already really long so I’m gonna wrap it up here. Hopefully this helps! Do you have any other breastfeeding tips? Comment and let me know!