Most of us have to make a plan to return to the working world way too quickly after having a baby. And that plan may need to include working and breastfeeding.
Being able to continue to breastfeed was a major concern I had once I returned to work. How would I be able to balance everything?
I work full time as a Registered Nurse in an Emergency Department, so believe me when I tell you- I know it can be difficult, but it is doable! If you are in this position right now, mama, I get it.
I went through some very difficult times with breastfeeding and my breast milk supply in the beginning. There was a time when I was one day away from giving up altogether and switching to formula.
But that’s not where my heart was. I really wanted to be successful in breastfeeding my baby. So, I made it my ultimate goal to make it work.
I exclusively breastfed my baby and pumped while working full time, mama, and you can too. It’s not easy. I’m not going to lie to you an tell you the journey has been butterflies and unicorns.
This will take complete dedication and a lot of work from you, but if providing breast milk to your baby is what you want to do- then let me help you do it!
Here’s how you can be successful at working and breastfeeding.
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When to start pumping
Start pumping from day one.
This will help your breast milk supply come in and come in strong. Establishing your milk supply in the beginning is SO important. If you work hard in the beginning, it will make it so much easier in the long run.
The first three months of breastfeeding are the make it or break it time period. This is when you are establishing your breast milk supply and getting into your routine with your baby. If you pump enough now, you will set yourself up for success.
When you pump from the beginning you will be telling your body to make more milk than if you just breastfed your baby. This is going to create an oversupply. Meaning, more milk than your baby consumes in a day.
If your goal is to pump more breast milk and start building a freezer stash- this is how you can do it.
Some people are against this way of doing things because oversupply is “a bad thing”. Wait, what? How can having too much breast milk ever be a bad thing?
Well, when your body is making more milk than your baby consumes there is a risk of mastitis, clogged ducts. But I will explain more about that later.
There is also a concern of your baby getting too much foremilk and that can lead to gassiness and fussiness. But when I was producing over 40 ounces of breast milk a day, I was pumping a ton!
I would have the most milk first thing in the morning, so I would always pump before my baby woke up in the morning. If you are pumping enough, you will balance out the possibility of your baby getting too much foremilk.
Breastfeeding and Pumping
Pump after you breastfeed. Pumping after your breastfeed lets your breasts know to make more milk.
Now, be advised that some may run the risk of mastitis because of oversupply. You need to ensure you are pumping frequently enough to prevent this.
Pumping will remove the extra milk from your breasts. Mastitis occurs when a milk duct become clogged and infected. To prevent this, you need to keep the milk moving.
Pumping enough is the key to success and saving extra breast milk.
I used this technique, and have saved over 700 ounces in my freezer stash!
Use a hands free pump while breastfeeding
This is a manual silicone pump that goes onto your breasts and creates a suction. The suction removes breast milk from the breast with no effort on your part!
I use the NatureBond Manual Breast Pump. (This particular item is sold out often due to its popularity.)
A similar pump is by Bumblebee, you can view it here.
You put this pump on the breast you are not feeding on. That way, you still are stimulating that breast and removing milk. This will not only promote a good breast milk supply, but now you can save all that milk you expressed.
Start building your freezer stash early.
If you save extra breast milk little by little it will add up. Start doing this early on and by the time you have to go back to work you will have a little cushion.
You don’t necessarily need a ton of milk frozen, but to have at least several days worth is a good place to be.
Have a good pump and routinely check your parts.
The first pump I used was a free one my insurance covered. I didn’t realize at first that this was the biggest part of my problem. It took me about a month of struggling and me about to quit breastfeeding altogether before I realized this.
Investing in a good pump is so worth it, especially when you will be returning to work. I can’t say enough about the Spectra S1 breast pump (view on Amazon here). When my supply was at it’s lowest and my baby was going through a nursing strike- my Spectra is what saved my supply.
I know that may sounds like an exaggeration, but I promise you it is not. My biggest regret is not having this pump from the beginning. But lesson learned, and I hope to help you learn from my struggle!
Read a full review and guide to using the Spectra S1 Breast Pump: Spectra S1 Breast Pump Guide
Make a plan.
Have a written or mental plan of your day, and determine times you will need to go pump. It is really easy to get caught up in the hustle of your work day and go too long without pumping. (trust me, I get it)
It is not always easy to take that 15 minute break. But you NEED to. If pumping while working full time is what you want to do- then let that be your priority.
How often should I be pumping at work?
Ideally, when pumping while working you want to pump like you were home nursing your baby. So that means every 3-4 hours. This is to maintain your breast milk supply.
I notice a huge difference after working a 12-hour shift, despite my best efforts to pump frequently.
This will help you keep track of the times you pump and your output.
When I would notice a decrease in my breast milk output I would make a point to adding in power pumping sessions.
You can learn more about power pumping here.
In addition to ensuring adequate pumping frequency and power pumping when needed, there are many other ways to increase your breast milk supply when needed. Many foods support healthy lactation.
Check out this list of 20 simple ways to increase your breast milk supply quickly.
The working world is far from ideal for breastfeeding mamas.
It will help if you devise your plan of attack before hand. This way you can tell yourself- time for a pump break, and hopefully you work in an environment with supportive coworkers. It helps to let them know of your plan as well, therefore there are no surprises for anyone.
Also know your rights.
Where I live, it is the law that my workplace has a private location that I can pump in. And my employer must give me reasonable breaks to allow me to pump. Refer to your company’s Human Resource Department if you feel like your employer is not accommodating your needs.
Have your baby’s picture/videos on hand.
A big challenge when pumping while working, is being able to relax and redirect your focus to pumping.
Having photos or videos of your baby will help you to focus and promote let-down. Seeing and/or hearing your baby releases oxytocin and subsequently stimulates lactation.
This can be super helpful to help you step out of your work mode for the time being and get that milk flowing!
I mean this in two ways.
First, stressing out about your supply, going back to work, or just general daily stressors will only negatively affect your breast milk supply. Find a way to relax your mind. Find a healthy coping mechanism.
Second, if you feel like working and breastfeeding really isn’t working for you, don’t beat yourself up over it.
You do the best you can. Being a mom is hard enough as it is. You don’t need to feel overwhelmed with breastfeeding.
As big of an advocate as I am for breastfeeding, I am equally as supportive to mental well-being. Find your balance. Do what works for you.
These tips are how I continued working and breastfeeding.
I know you can be successful in reaching your breastfeeding goals- even when you will be pumping while working! It takes a lot of work, but stay grounded and use these tips to help you on your journey.
Questions? Let me know in the comments below!
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