Recently one of our WMAG readers asked us this question: “Does anyone have any good resources for working moms that plan to breast feed? Baby is due in July and I’d like to know what all I need to do to prepare for my return to work after 9 weeks.”
Being a new mom and working is challenging – add in the anxiety of being your child’s primary nutrition source and you’ve got a whole lot of new momma stress. But fear not – the moms of WMAG have been there! We’ve ducked out of many a meeting to hook ourselves up to the old faithful breast-pump. We decided to work together to compile some tips for new breastfeeding moms returning to work.
- Schedules and Expectations – One of the first things I did when I got back to the office was set up a schedule for myself. For me, that meant blocking reoccurring times on my calendar several times a day to pump. This kept coworkers from scheduling things during my pumping times, and also gave me a friendly reminder to step away when the time came to pump. Along with setting a schedule for myself, I also took the time to set expectations with both my boss and my direct reports. I wanted my boss to understand my personal priorities so that if I needed to excuse myself for a few minutes he understood what was going on.
- Know the Pump – About two weeks before I was set to return to work I started pumping at home (pumping too soon after your milk comes in can negatively impact your supply – my LC recommended waiting until roughly 5 weeks to start pumping). Believe it or not, a breast pump isn’t the most intuitive machine on the planet…so pumping while on leave allowed me time to learn how the pump worked and establish a process for pumping. One of the first things I learned is that pumps come with standard sized parts – and most of us women (especially postpartum) are not standard sized. Parts like flanges come in multiple sizes, and there’s a good chance you will need a different fit than what originally came in the box. Trust me on this one – you need pump parts that fit properly. Flanges that are too small can cause extreme pain during pumping sessions, while a part that’s too big can yield less milk. This article has a quick guide to finding the right fit for your body.
- Step Away and Relax – When I’m at work I tend to get wrapped up in my day and in what I’m doing. My first few days back at work I struggled a lot with pumping because I just couldn’t relax: I was hooked up to the pump…but typing out emails and tackling business problems. Turns out relaxation is a big factor in milk let-down, and I wasn’t putting myself in a position to relax. On the advice of my LC, I changed my approach and ditched the laptop. Instead, I went into each pumping session armed with photos and videos of my baby. Heck, I even brought her blanket into the office with me one day. Looking at my little one instantly took me from work-mode to mommy-mode, providing the relaxation that my body needed to have a productive pumping session.
- Drink Lots of Water – I have read one should drink 13-8 oz. glasses of water per day, but barring carrying a gallon jug of water to work with you every day, keeping a refillable bottle at your desk and making sure to sip from it regularly should help.
- Nursing Tea – The jury is out on whether the use of herbal supplements like fenugreek and nettle leaf actually aid in keeping up one’s milk supply, but if you’re worried about supply, it probably can’t hurt (and remember – your supply may drop if you’re used to exclusively breastfeeding and not pumping — babies are really good at getting milk to flow, while pumps are just not as good). Yogi Nursing Support and Traditional Medicinal’s Mother’s Milk are good options (and don’t taste terrible). The package directions indicate drinking at least 3 cups per day (which may, in the end, simply be hydrating you — see above), but at the very least you’ll be increasing your fluid intake.
- Dress For the Task – My first day back to work I was so excited to be wearing “real” clothes, I didn’t consider the logistics of pumping when I donned that super cute shift-dress and blazer. This resulted in me having to get practically naked in my office each time I pumped. Two-piece outfits over a nursing bra work best. I usually throw a cami underneath my shirt so I don’t have to have my gut hanging out (lift the top shirt, pull the cami down like a nursing tank).
- Hang a “Do Not Disturb” Sign – It will take you a little time to get used to pumping at work, let alone get used to knowing that people know when you’re pumping, but after a few weeks, you’ll probably stop worrying about that. That said, it’s distracting (to say the least) to have someone repeatedly knocking on your door for your attention or worse, barging in to your office/pumping room (say you forgot to lock the door or you pump in a shared space) while you’re mid-pump-fest.
A few other random tips are to pack your pump bag and pumping supplies the night before and double check it in the morning before you leave. Keep a Tide stick on hand (for the occasional milk stain) and pack snacks for yourself (your body is working overtime…you have to fuel the milk-making machine). Lastly, when it comes to pumping, you will have good days and not so good days. It’s perfectly normal to pump different amounts each day. As frustrating as a low-output day can be, be kind to yourself. Breastfeeding and working is a marathon event – keep focused on the end goal…not the ounces in between.
Here are some resources we found helpful for breastfeeding and working:
Fellow breastfeeding mommas – what did we miss? We’d love to hear your best working and pumping tips!