Keeping up with your milk supply through school, work, and life
The bond that is created between mother and child during breastfeeding is incomparable. While breastfeeding can be rough in the beginning, once you and your babe are able to get in the rhythm of it, it can be very rewarding. Knowing that I am providing my baby with the perfect blend of everything that is right in the world to help him thrive and grow simply makes me feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy inside!
During the first 6 weeks of your baby’s life, you both are adjusting. Your body is doing the same as it is trying to determine how much milk your baby needs on a supply and demand basis. Basically, the more your baby eats or you pump, the more milk you make. If you are a mom that works outside of the home or goes to school, keeping up that established supply can seem impossible once your maternity leave comes to an end. On top of that, during the time that you are away and your baby is not nursing, your body will assume that he is eating less therefore your body will produce less. Blame it on evolution I suppose?
Well, the good news is that breastfeeding is more than possible if you work outside of the home or go to school. When my son was 6 weeks old, I had to return back to work as per the
AWESOME and LUXURIOUS maternity leave we are given here in the states. When he was a bit over 3 months old, I had to return to school for my last semester which meant I would be away from him for long stretches of the day for about 5 days out of the week. Since I was able to breastfeed without any supply issues and my son took a bottle like a champ, I decided to attempt to reach my 1 year breastfeeding goal while finishing up my Bachelors and working. I didn’t have very much guidance on how to achieve my personal goals while exclusively breastfeeding because most if not all of the women that I know that have children either stayed home during the time they breastfed or breastfed for the first couple of months before switching to formula. I am here to say that a successful breastfeeding experience while working and finishing your goals can be achieved! Breastfeeding is not just for stay at home moms anymore,
Here are a few things that helped (and continue to help) me breastfeed my son as a working mom:
1. Establish a schedule BEFORE returning to work or school- Breasts are very simple. They will produce milk according to how often they are stimulated. You want to be sure that you pump each meal that your baby misses. So, if you work 8 hours and your baby eats every 2 hours, you want to try to pump 4 times in your shift especially in the beginning. Once your milk supply is established and your baby goes longer between feedings, you won’t be chained down to the pump. coordinate with your job and professors so that they understand how important breastfeeding is to you and what your schedule will be so that you are on the same page. A schedule will make the work/school transition easier on you and your coworkers as well as your body.
2. Test out bottles BEFORE you return to work/school- Babies have a habit of being quite picky especially when being breast and bottle fed. To avoid frantic calls from your babysitter, test out a few different bottles to find the perfect one for your babe. You want to consider gas reduction, the nipple, and size. I was lucky enough to find the right bottle on the first try which are the Dr. Browns 4 oz bottles.
3. Stock up on pre-sterilized milk bags and an insulated bag- You will need these in order to transport milk from one place to another. They are relatively cheap and very simple to use.
4. Invest in a good pump- I can’t stress this enough! Later in your breastfeeding journey, you may have times where pumping doesn’t yield as much milk as it did in the beginning. Before you panic, make sure you are using a pump that has a strong enough suction. Pump choices are seemingly endless but chat with a lactation consultant to find the right one for you.
5. Know your rights- It is Federal law that your place of employment provides a space, other than the bathroom, for you to pump that is camera free and has a door with a lock. The only catch is there needs to be at least 50 employees. If you are working at a place with 49 employees and your boss is being a real (you fill in the blank), first try to talk to them about how important it is to you and your baby. If they still refuse to budge, consider either pumping in your car or seeking help from a lactation consultant. As far as school, there is no law in place to protect breastfeeding mothers, which is unbelievably bogus. You can talk to your dean or school president to arrange a place for you to pump– possibly an empty classroom or conference room.
6. Study how breast milk works- Since you will be transporting your milk, take some time to read up on how long breast milk can stay at room temp, how long it stays fresh in the refrigerator/freezer, and how to properly thaw breast milk. I love kellymom.com for my breast milk/breastfeeding questions.
7. Never ever hesitate to ask for help- No matter how many children you have or how many you have breastfed, none of us know all of the answers! If you have a problem at work, school, with your supply, latching or anything else in reference to breastfeeding, contact a lactation consultant or your local Le Leche League (llli.org).
8. Don’t give up- There were times that I was just so exhausted and felt as though it was impossible for me to continue to pump as much and as often as I needed to. I’d be lying if I said there will never be a time where you feel as though you want to just throw in the tile and buy a can of formula. If you want to continue to breastfeed, remember why you are doing it and what an amazing and selfless gift you are giving to your baby. Once you think of that, look at that little smushy face and pump on sista! You can do it!