Saturday, March 7, 2009

Unofficial Working Mom's Guide to Nursing and Working: It can be done!

Let me start by saying that my over all nursing experience was anything but typical. It started out very rough (she still had not latched on when we left the hospital) and I was thisclose to giving up altogether. But, thanks to a wonderful support system, and a lactation consultant from our local hospital, I stuck with it and am still a nursing (and working) mom nearly 18 months later. Twelve weeks after EG was born, I returned to work full time as a teacher (NOT the ideal schedule for pumping at all!) and was able to pump enough milk each day to send to EG's daycare. I'm here to tell you that, no matter what your schedule, etc. it can be done. The benefits certainly outweigh the drawbacks, and if you're not sure if you'll be able to continue full time nursing while working, my suggestion is to at least give it a try. You never know, it may work out! I was very skeptical at first because at school, our schedule rotates every 6 weeks (which means my planning (pumping) time rotated) and we don't really have a lunch break. So, if I was able to do it, you can too. I'd love to share with you some tips and tricks that I learned along the way...

Nursing in General:
The first thing I want to get across is that nursing is NOT easy for everyone. It was not easy for me, but something I was so determined to do that I made it work. EG really wasn't eating well when we left the hospital, and had only latched on maybe 1 time (and never for a full feeding). When we got home from the hospital with her I felt helpless. I dreaded every feeding time, because it took so long that about the time we finally got enough in her it was nearly time to feed her again. It truly took that long! And you can imagine how that worked at night. Hubby and I literally had maybe 1 hour of sleep between the two of us that first night. My mom came and helped me to let hubby sleep the next night, but I still had no sleep. On the sixth morning after she was born I was at my breaking sleep, constantly in tears, and not enjoying my precious baby as much as I could and wanted to. So, hubby called and made an appointment with one of the lactation consultants at our local hospital. I wasn't too convinced that they were going to be that much help, because I had worked with them while we were still in the hospital. But, off we went, and thank goodness we did! The LC saved my nursing experience that morning! We had tried everything they recommended in the hospital, and when we got home. Nothing worked! When we got there she could see our frustration and our efforts, and, as a last resort, sent me home with a nipple shield (and a nursing baby!). Now, I had always heard (and still do) that nipple shields are an absolute "no no". But, I promise you we had tried everything else with no success. It was worth it to me to use it for every feeding, and she only used it for three months. It never reduced my supply, and she didn't have to use it forever. It was so worth it for us! Now, should you exhaust all other resources first? Absolutely. It's obviously better to try to get your baby to nurse without anything else to help. But, for us, there was nothing else. Anyhow, my experience proves anyone can do it so here is my advice for nursing and staying sane:

1. Make sure you have a good support system that supports your decision to nurse. This makes things so much easier!

2. Seek help if needed. If we had not visited the LC that morning, I am certain I would have stopped nursing that day.

3. Drink lots of fluids. It's really that important. Keep yourself hydrated and keep the milk flowing...easy as that.

4. Relax. It's much easier to achieve let down when you are as relaxed as possible.

5. Have a great pump and begin pumping before your return to work. It's nice to have a little stash built up before you return to work for those days you don't pump quite enough, etc.

6. Don't be afraid to go out. I'm not one that was ever really comfortable nursing in public, and I never had difficulty finding a place to nurse discreetly. There are more places out there than you think, so don't be afraid to go out with your little one. You can find somewhere to nurse, I promise! (It may be your car, a dressing room, etc. but there is somewhere!)

7. Get a nursing cover (Bebe Au Lait makes a beautiful one...and you can win one right here too!) I used my nursing cover all the time and never once used it "publicly". It was great when we had visitors at our house, when I would nurse in the bathroom lounges in department stores, nursing in the car, etc. I LOVED mine, and there are some really beautiful ones too!

8. Have some great resources on hand. My favorite book was The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins. It was a complete resource guide to have on hand. There are also some great websites, the best by far being kellymom. I haven't found a breastfeeding question that kellymom couldn't answer! From medication safety, to foods to increase supply, absolutely ANYTHING! Definitely bookmark it!

Nursing and Working - Pumping:
My work situation was less than ideal for continuing full time nursing, or pumping enough each day for EG to have only breastmilk at daycare. I would have two times a day to pump, one being only about 10 minutes long, max. The other time, during my planning period, would rotate every six weeks. Luckily, when I first returned to work, my planning period was mid-morning (a great time to have a pumping break) and then lunch was at 12:00. However, at lunch, all teachers are supposed to be "on duty" in the lunchroom each day so I really couldn't take my lunch in my room. So, I worked it out with another teacher to watch my class for 10-15 minutes while I rushed to my room, pumped, and rushed back to the lunchroom. I never thought that this situation would work, but it did. Somehow my body adjusted and I was able to make it work. I had talked to a LC before I returned to work to get tips and suggestions, and she was very skeptical that I would be able to pump enough. Especially on a long term basis. But, I did, for a full 13 months until EG started drinking cow's milk at daycare. I went to work and pumped from January - May, stayed home for June and July and nursed full time, then returned to work in August and pumped until October. If that crazy schedule can work, yours can too! Here was my typical pumping schedule, and some tips for nursing and working:

Typical Weekday Schedule:
5:45 AM - Wake up and pump before EG gets up
7:10 AM - Nurse EG at daycare before I leave
10:00 AM - Pump for about 15 minutes at work (**this time rotated every 6 weeks, but this is where it started out**)
12:00 PM - Pump for 8-10 minutes
3:45 PM - Pick EG up from daycare and nurse
9:00 PM - Pump after EG goes to sleep (I didn't always pump at this time, or have enough milk to pump at this time)

1. Give it a try. There's no harm in trying it to see if it will work. You might be surprised.

2. Have a GREAT pump. They can be expensive but are worth the investment. If you don't have a nice pump, your pumping sessions will not be as effective or efficient. The most popular pumps are Medela (I used a Medela Pump in Style Advanced and loved it!) and Ameda Purely Yours, and Hollister. TIP: I ordered mine from Hackley Home Healthcare and they have SUPER prices!

3. Drink plenty of fluids. Equally as important for pumping!

4. Don't be discouraged by a decrease in supply. There were plenty of times my supply went down, but I just increased my fluid intake and made Mommy Milk cookies (a GREAT recipe from my local Meetup group that includes oatS, brewer's yeast, etc. that are all known for increasing supply - and they tasted wonderful!!). You can find a similar recipe HERE. They don't sound tasty, but try them, THEY ARE! Just do a search on kellymom for increasing supply, and you'll find many more suggestions as well.

5. Nurse before leaving your child at daycare. This was so nice because I could feed EG right before I left so that she could wait a little longer to eat, and I wouldn't have to pump as much milk. Definitely do this if you can.

6. Take a picture of your little one with you to work. Looking at a picture of EG helped me to do two things. One, it helped me to relax and focus on something for pumping. And two, it reminded me of the reason for my efforts.

7. Don't freak out if you have to give a little bit of formula once in a while. There were a few days (maybe 3) during the entire 13 months of pumping that I had to mix a little bit of formula with the breastmilk so that she would have enough for the day. One time, I spilled half of her milk when I got to daycare. Another time, I left it at home and didn't have any extra at daycare. I freaked out and was upset all day, but EG was totally fine. It didn't kill her, or upset her stomach, but it made me crazy. Looking back now, it was totally fine, no matter how many people told me it wouldn't be.

8. Keep a hand pump and extra bottles at work just in case. There were a few days that I forgot to put all of the pump parts in my bag, and had to have hubby go back home and bring them to school. This was alleviated by keeping a hand pump with extra bottles at school just in case.

9. Pump into ready to use bottles to save time. When you can, this works great. And you can freeze milk in some bottles as well.

10. Do it for as long as you can. There is no set amount of time that you should continue pumping and feeding your baby breastmilk all the time. Do what's right for you and your family. If it doesn't work for you at work, continue nursing at home. I've had friends who used formula during the day, and just nursed in the morning, at night, and on weekends. Your body is amazing and will adjust to almost anything. After 13 months, I stopped pumping and began giving EG cow's milk at daycare. Since then she's only nursed in the morning, at night, and on weekends. It's worked great for us!

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best and hope you've found some encouragement and tips that you can use! Please don't hesitate to contact me or leave me a comment with your questions and ideas too. Please check out the great nursing mom giveaways I've got going on as well (Bebe Au Lait nursing cover, Smart Mom jewelry, and a nursing bracelet)!! Thanks and happy nursing!


  1. I loved breastfeeding my little one but when I started working part time I learned quickly that it was really important for me to keep track of her feedings and keep up the pumping to maintain my supply, which I found dwindled if I didn’t really keep to a routine. I remember very little of the first few weeks, between the sleep deprivation and the constant feedings I was so run down. I was so excited when I found Insights, an online tool to keep track of her feedings and pumping schedule, best of all I could do it right from my phone! Congrats to all the breastfeeding moms out there!

  2. Wow! Cool tool! Thank you for sharing :)

  3. Thank you for this very informative blog