As I am sure many Moms out there can attest to, going back to work after having a baby is TOUGH! I really struggled the last week of my maternity leave with depression and summoning up the guts that I would need to face reality and head back to work; more specifically, the stress of reaching my goal to provide my son with breast milk while I was away. My real fear came from being unsure about pumping and whether or not it would help me reach that goal for my 4-month old.
The purpose of this article is to share with all of you my experience going back to work while continuing breastfeeding and pumping. The struggles, the benefits, the rude people I encountered and the supporters. Overall it’s my hope that this post will encourage ALL Moms and to let you know in whatever choice you make when it comes to choosing to continue breastfeeding for however long you feel is best for your child or choosing to stop when you come back to work; that you are not alone! At the end of the day, it is your decision when it comes to what is best for your child but sometimes taking care of yourself first is just that.
I also wanted to talk about everything I used to pump successfully at work and talk about your rights as a breastfeeding and pumping Mom.
The two weeks leading up to me returning to work were really tough for me. I started heading down a path of worry and paranoia; worrying about leaving my baby, worrying if I had stored enough pumped breast milk for him while I am working and the biggest of all, worrying how to maintain pumping at work to supply for my Son daily. I read many stories about breast milk depleting when you return to work and that stress made it even harder to return.
I am fortunate in that I work for very supportive leaders. They assured me that I would have a private place to pump and take care of it as needed. After hearing some horror stories of other working Moms and their experience going back to work with non-supportive leaders, it’s very important to know what your rights are legally. (At the end of the day, ALL returning Moms should receive the support I received in regard to pumping and this should not be a rare thing, it should be the NORM…. off my soap box.) With that being said, I do encourage everyone to read through the breastfeeding laws in their state. Below are mine from California.
“Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time and safe place for non-exempt employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year. California law extends these protections to any employee for as long as employee is nursing her child.”
The website breaks down other aspects of breastfeeding and I again would encourage you to look up your state laws before heading back to work.
Now, on to the equipment….
In the beginning, when I was preparing to go back to work, I found myself going down the rabbit hole, researching as much as possible on the internet in order to prepare myself to pump successfully each day. From tips on what I can do to prepare, to all the gizmos and gadgets that I would need to make sure I have everything. I decided to list out my tips and tools for you below. It is a complete list of everything I did to continue pumping at work without depleting my milk supply. I may not be a medical professional but am 100% honest with this list, so be prepared for the raw.
Tips for Pumping at Work
- Practice pumping and feeding your baby with your pumped breast milk before going back to work.
- Tips that I received from my lactation nurse that my county provided after I came home from the hospital (seriously… check with your hospital and see if you have this program… it is free and they teach you EVERYTHING!) was that I needed to make sure that our baby knew how to suck from a bottle before I went back to work. I also needed to allow my breasts to practice on the pump before relying on it at work. A little rehearsal never hurt anyone I guess. If the baby isn’t adapting to a bottle and you are at work, then you will need to rush back home, so if you practice, you can ease him/her into it. You also need to rehearse the pump with your “girls” so that they know what they are doing and you don’t get engorged and develop milk ducts. Believe me, I wouldn’t have been successful without this. Your baby, your boobies and YOU will be happy you did!
- Have videos of your baby ready and if possible ask your caretaker to send you some.
- Having a video or photo of your baby to look at when pumping actually helps you let down. It is a “trigger” when you are away from your baby as it helps you visualize your baby near you.
- Baths at night and massages
- Massaging your breasts during pumping, as well as at night, helps stimulate your let down reflux. Warm baths at night also help prevent developing blocked ducts, which I encountered a couple of times the first couple months.
- Be proud and don’t let people get under your skin
- Unfortunately, I’ve experienced some rude and ignorant comments while pumping at work. There was one encounter while cleaning out my supplies in the work pantry, a co-worker came up and said, “Oh, you’re cleaning that in here? I will just turn my eyes and not look at it I guess.” I felt so uncomfortable that the rest of the day, I went to the bathroom to clean my pump supplies. It actually wasn’t until another Mom came in and saw me doing this and asked, “Why would you clean that in here and not in the pantry?” I told her what had happened and she basically told me to not give a “F***” and be a proud breastfeeding pumping Mom. I then thought, “Yeah you’re right, I AM a proud breastfeeding Mom!” and from that moment forward, I cleaned all my supplies in the open.
- Keeping your equipment clean
- It is very important to keep your equipment clean, as you do not want it to have any build up of bacteria. This was one of the things I stressed out about the most. I would bring minimal supplies with me and after each session, I would take the supplies to the pantry and clean them all out. In the beginning, I would boil everything once a week (I’m a first time Mom, give me a break!) but our pediatrician put it in perspective when he asked me, “Are you going to boil the floor every time he crawls on it?” Just as long as you thoroughly clean all the equipment and dry it all out, you will be fine. It is important to dry it out, as if you keep liquid on any of the equipment it could get in your pump cords and ruin the machine OR have a build up of mold, which could get into your supply. No Bueno!
I decided to list all of the equipment I used to successfully pump at work as well as links to where I got them. I kept them all in my pumping bag and carried it to work like a purse every single day. I would recommend all of these products as it allowed me to continue feeding my Son breast milk as a working Mom. Links to products below:
- Medela Pump
- Pumping Equipment
- Pumping Bra
- Cooler with Icepacks
- Car Charger for pump
- Pumping/Breastfeeding Cover
- Pumping Bag
At the end of the day, I hope this post helps and inspires anyone who is struggling with going back to work and the stress of pumping. It is a very hard time for ALL working Moms, but knowing you’re not alone does help release some of that stress. All Moms have to stick together and help each other out, especially in times of stress and worry. The best saying I have ever heard in regard to the support of other Moms is from the pamphlet that my OBGYN gave me when we found out we were pregnant…. “Welcome to the Sisterhood of Motherhood!”