One of the biggest questions that I get from you guys about breastfeeding is how to keep it going when going back to work.
Although I am no expert in any way, shape, or form, I can share some of my advice. Proceed at your own risk (there really isn’t a risk…but that sounded so much better than just…proceed).
One of the first things that I did was to contact my HR person and talk to them about the fact that I would be breastfeeding and pumping when I return to work. We spoke about a possible pump room (a very large storage room with a lock and outlets that we moved a comfy chair into) and about milk storage (she decided it would be beneficial to everyone to purchase a small mini-fridge for the storage room). Every day I pack up my pump, charger, bottles, caps, and pump parts before heading to work. I use the same bottles and parts to pump all day and store them in a Tupperware container in the mini fridge. I also bring in some towels, wipes, and tissues to make sure that everything is clean and sanitary.
Next, I wanted to create a schedule.
Initially the schedule was just in my head – I knew what times I needed to pump and for how long. However, after a couple of weeks, I realized that I would forget, get caught up in something, or schedule something on top of my “pump time” consistently. After talking to my bff who was also breastfeeding, I decided to put a block of about 20 minutes on my calendar for pumping. I made it a personal event (meaning that no one viewing my work calendar could see) and marked it with a subject “*” and nothing else. Most people that I interact with know what it means (because I talk openly about it) and I’ve told them that if they need me to be there during that block, I’ll be more than happy to. But if the meeting can be moved or scheduled for a different time, it’s usually enough to deter me from changing my session. I know this isn’t something that everyone would want to do, but since I’m very open about it and am a complete scheduling freak, this worked for me.
I also figured out when and how long to pump for. I feed Peanut in the morning and in the evening. She will usually eat around 6 am and then again in the evening around 7:30 pm. I pump for about 15-20 minutes after Peanut eats both in the morning and evening. During the day I pump at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm. I keep each session to about 15-18 minutes long to make sure that I fully drain all the milk and then some (this is what will help keep your supply up – but that’s for another post). This is usually when more people make their way over to the coffee machine and chit chat, so I don’t feel so bad about my 15 minute sessions.
Most importantly, I try very hard to make sure that I stay hydrated and continue to eat well throughout the day. It’s super easy to forget about drinking water or having a snack when you’re fully invested in what you’re doing, so I usually keep a couple of snacks on my desk in full view along with a large water bottle. When my Outlook reminder goes off 15 minutes before it’s time to head to the “pump room,” I automatically look up to see how empty my water cup or bottle is and drink a little extra, just in case.
Some very important factors in my success with pumping while being back at work is that my work is accommodating. I already mentioned that I have the whole open and forward attitude about the whole thing, but I want to give you some reasons of why I feel confident about it.
Women who breastfeed generally take less time off! Did you know this? Because breastfeeding has additional health benefits to you and your baby, you are less likely to miss work due to illnesses. This alone is a great benefit to the company. Additionally, workplaces that provide women with a place to pump and encourage breastfeeding have happier, healthier employees who return to work. Now what company doesn’t want that?
Lastly, it’s important to try and exclusively breastfeed on your days off. Most weekends I try to avoid giving Peanut bottles, which helps to increase my supply and keep the two of us connected. I still pump in the morning and evening and feed her 3 times a day in addition to our usual week day schedule (so our days look like this: feed at 6 am, pump, feed at 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7:30pm, pump).
Like I mentioned in the previous post, breastfeeding is a commitment. Pumping and breastfeeding while working is also a big commitment. But if you’re ready for it and you have a strong support system around you, you will succeed.