It IS Possible: Working and Breastfeeding

 2011-04-17

On April 18th, Hubby and I decided it was time to introduce a bottle to Roland.  I had been exclusively breastfeeding up to that point.  Knowing that I would eventually return to work in a few months, coupled with the fact that it can be difficult to transition a baby from breast to bottle, we decided it was the right time to do so to ease the transition.  

At first, I had high expectations.  Hubby could help with the feedings and bond with Roland while I was able to give up a feeding and sleep for a little longer than a 2-3 hour time period.  That was my original thought and one thing I've learned - your feelings and emotions can change in an instant.  


We originally decided to breastfeed Roland based on the health benefits and (I'm not going to lie) the cost savings.  To help prepare, I went to a breastfeeding class offered by our hospital and at the start of the class, the instructor went around the room asking why we decided to breastfeed: 99% of the expecting mothers said they were breastfeeding to "bond" with their child. 'Bond with their child'??? What is that?  Seriously, these people are way too into it.' I thought.

The moment I handed over Roland to Hubby to give the first bottle, I suddenly realized that those 'crazy expecting moms' were right.  I felt helpless.  That was my job, my role, my responsibility and our bonding time.


If I didn't have to work, this wouldn't be a problem (enter GUILT - first appearance, but definitely not the last).   But I didn't have a choice: I had to work, Roland had to learn to take a bottle, and this was the best way to ensure that we were well equipped on his first day of Daycare. 

I was able to make the transition to a 'Working Mother' while supporting Roland on breast milk his first 5 months of life (3 months breastfeeding on maternity leave, 2 months breastfeeding at work).  I would have continued as long as possible, but I was diagnosed with Postpartum Thyroidits (look for an upcoming blog topic on this).  So how did I manage to make the transition as a 'Breastfeeding Working Mother'?  Here's how: 

1. Plan, Plan, Plan
One of my favorite quotes reads "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." and I was determined not to fail. Before I started back to work, I set some time aside to write down my daily breastfeeding schedule.  I knew that I needed to pump 3 times a day, at a minimum, to sustain my current supply.  My first day back to work, I set up a private recurring meeting notice on my calendar for 9:00-9:30, 12:00-12:30 and 3:00-3:30.  Thankfully, I had an office so I didn't have to go to medical to pump.

I also made sure that I had enough supplies/breastfeeding equipment to ensure that I didn't have to clean the storage containers daily.  If I had a rough day, they could go in the dishwasher and I'd be prepared for the next day with my extra set of supplies.  I used the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Pump and would highly recommend it! 

2. Communication
Prior to my first day back, I called my manager to discuss a variety of different topics, including my schedule.  I informed him that I was breastfeeding and wanted to sustain it as long as possible.  He was very supportive and had no issues with the plan that I had proposed.

At the time, I was a co-manager for 60+ employees.  I informed the other manager as well as my admin (Nancy) of the planned schedule (9:00, 12:00, 3:00).  They were both very supportive and worked with me to coordinate meeting attendance, etc during those two months. 

3. Stick to Your Plan  
There were times when I was requested to go to high profile meetings during my scheduled pumps and times when I contemplated skipping one due to my workload.  That brief moment of GUILT for even thinking such a thought forced me right back on target.  (It also helped that I had Nancy keep me on track, too!! Thanks Nancy!!)

Inevitably, my supply did decrease due to the transition; within three weeks of returning to work, I was down to pumping twice a day, rather than three times.  But nonetheless, I survived.  I was a full-time working mother who was committed to breastfeeding, and proud of it!

I'd love to hear about how you made the transition and any tips/tricks you used along the way!! 




2 comments:

The Ramos Family April 18, 2011 at 1:22 PM  

I too had the guilt during the first bottle attempt! It was necessary to get Annaliese used to the bottle before daycare, but I was missing out on my time with her.

I took a training class several months after returning to work and sometimes had to make my own breaks to take care of pumping. I had worked on pumping one night at home (in addition to breastfeeding at night) for the prior week to build up the supply in the freezer just in case, so it was more for my comfort and continued production to make the time. Though it was a week-long class, I was able to pump at lunch and small "relief" pumps during the morning and afternoon breaks without any detrimental effects to supply. Despite the occasional annoyance of all the time spent in a little closet to pump, I managed to keep Annaliese on breastmilk for the whole first year. I have to say it helped having crossword puzzles to do or books to read (mostly for my graduate classes, but still useful) since then I removed the feeling of wasting time and gave myself some relaxation and alone time.

I kept up the thrice-daily schedule for several months, but the hardest part for me was the time spent. My work schedule is 9-80, so I'm expected to be working 9 hours most days. With 1.5 hours pumping (if I was lucky to have it go so quickly, with cleanup too since I had limited supplies) and a regular commute time of about 20 minutes each way, I was a little stressed for time. I was never awake enough in the mornings and felt like I was getting home past the too-early bedtime of my little one. It was very disheartening until I accepted tiredness in the mornings as inevitable and tried to make it in earlier, and since bedtime started slipping later when she got older. Still, the first several months had the guilt of being away all day and missing any awake time except late-night feedings.

Also, I used Lansinoh Double Electric Breastpump. I had read great reviews and found it an inexpensive product that was successful with the features I needed.

Working Mother April 18, 2011 at 8:47 PM  

That is great that you were able to continue for the entire first year - especially given your work schedule! Way to go!!

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