To the Breastfeeding Working Moms, YOU GOT THIS!
Breastfeeding is difficult. Throw the working mom into the mix and you’ve got nearly impossible. Okay maybe that was a stretch of the truth but seriously, it’s much harder. In fact, for the working mom who breastfeeds, she faces 2.18 odds (or a 68% chance) of terminating her breastfeeding journey in her first month back to work when compared to the stay at home mom.
Are you a breastfeeding mama who wants to continue while working?
Are you worried that you won’t meet your breastfeeding goal once you return to work?
Looking to find helpful tips that will set you up for success in the working place?
I’m glad you found me. I’m going to show you exactly what I did to help me, a full-time working mother, who was able to breastfeed for 2 years 2 months.
As a working mom, I know how stressful it can be to breastfeed our babies. There’s constant stress about what bottles to use, how to pump, is your supply up to par, how much of a milk stash should to have, how much will he drink, and much more.
I’ve been there. I was unsuccessful my first time around to reach my nursing goal. The second time, I surpassed my goal and nursed into toddlerhood, as a working mom.
Here is some recent data from CDC in their 2016 Breastfeeding Report:
44% of mothers exclusively breastfed their children for up to 3 months. However, this dropped to only 22% of mothers who exclusively breastfed their children by 6 months. One of the biggest reasons, as you may guess, is that employed moms go back to work between 6-12 weeks after birth.
Dear working mama, accomplishing goals is sexy and I’m going to help you bring sexy back.
So let’s get started.
This post contains affiliate links.
Establishing your supply
Your baby will be at your breast a lot in the first few weeks to months. This is important and completely natural. Your milk production works via supply and demand. The demand (your baby nursing) sends signals to your body to make more milk. If the demand disappears, then your body doesn’t get that signal and your milk production decreases.
Also, frequent nursing builds receptors necessary for an established supply. Its okay and necessary that your babe is constantly at your breast especially in the first few weeks. He is making your body lay the foundation for long term nursing.
Once your milk comes in (day 2-5), you’ll want to keep the momentum going. Nurse often and keep baby skin to skin as long as you can.
Stay hydrated and eat plenty of food. Staying hydrated is important to keeping an established milk supply. You will find that when you are dehydrated, you may not make as much milk. Also, you are still eating for two. Make sure you are taking in an extra 500 calories while breastfeeding. It’s also a good idea to take post-natal vitamins if you feel your diet may not be the best.
The dreaded LOW SUPPLY
Most often than not, women think they have a low supply because baby is fussy at the breast, they aren’t pumping enough, or they feel that the breast isn’t full. These are not sufficient indicators of a low supply.
Real indicators of a low supply is based on the amount of wet diapers your baby has and if your baby is gaining weight. If your baby is having less than 5 wet diapers per day (before 3 months) or if the urine seems amber or dark yellow, he may not be getting enough and you may be suffering from low supply. Make sure to contact your doctor if you see any crystallization or brick dust color in the urine as this is a sign of dehydration.
If your baby is peeing and pooping adequately and gaining weight, then your supply is probably just right.
Your body will adjust to the feeding of your baby to exactly what he needs, nothing more nothing less. For the working mom, this makes it difficult to build an extra supply of breast milk. You will have to increase your supply to have more than what baby needs if you want that breast milk stash.
Building a breast milk stash
The average breastfed baby will take in 24-30oz of breastmilk in a 24 hour period. Or 1-1.5oz per hour. This is a good starting point for determining how much you need to stash. For example, if you work an 8 hour day (add an hour for commute time), you’ll need about 9-13.5 oz for the day. You’ll pump at work, replenish those ounces when you return home and should break even.
However, things happen. You may not respond well to the pump, maybe you had to skip a pumping session due to the demands of your job, your stress may be preventing you from pumping as much, or your baby is not being paced fed and is taking in more than the recommended 9-13.5oz. For these reasons, many women decide to build their stashes much higher than a day.
When I went back to work for the first time after my second-born, I had built my stash up to 300oz. I was so nervous going back to work and was afraid it wouldn’t last or it wouldn’t be enough. It was definitely enough.
Find your happy zone. This time, I will be building my milk stash to no bigger than 100oz. For me, that is 2 weeks worth of milk. If something were to happen to my supply, I would have about 2 weeks as a backup so that I could boost it again.
Increasing your supply
Pumping is the best thing to increase supply. Pump while you are feeding baby or shortly after. This way, you are signaling the breast to make more milk. Invest in a hospital grade pump if you can. In the years that I have been breastfeeding, I have tried 3 different pumps. I will say that I like the feel of the Spectra 1 but I still LOVE my Madela Freestyle due to it’s versatility and it’s portability. Also, a good investment is the Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump. It makes building a stash effortless.
Hand expression is also a good way to stimulate the breasts to make more milk. It can be tricky and takes some time to learn to do it effectively. There are some YouTube videos that can help. It can be a life saver if you are engorged and uncomfortable but are away from baby and pump.
Skin to skin with baby will also help in increasing supply. I’m not quite sure exactly how this works but I can attest that it helps.
Galactogogues are foods, nutrients that women have proclaimed helped them increase supply. Some examples are Fennel Herbal Tea, Flax seed, 100% Pure Brewer’s Yeast, Blue Gatorade, Motherlove More Milk Supplements, Fennel and Basil Essential Oils, and Old Fashioned Oats
Power pumping is a great way to boost your supply. It mimics your baby’s feeding frequency during a growth spurt. Pump for 20 min, then rest for 10 minutes. Pump for 10 minutes, then rest for 10. Then pump for the last 10 minutes. This always works for me.
Pumping at work for the Breastfeeding Working Moms
Know your rights. In a provision of the Affordable Care Act, an employer must provide a reasonable break time for breastfeeding working moms to pump in a private place (other than a bathroom) shielded from the public up to 1 year after the birth of her child.
Establish where you will be pumping when you return to work. This will cut down on time spent trying to find a good place to pump. Scope it out. Does it have a fridge? Are the plugs accessible? Sink?
Determine how often you will need to pump. It is recommended to pump as often as your nursling eats. For some, this can still be every two hours (like me). If it is not possible to leave the workplace every two hours, try every 3 or 4. If you go too long between pumping sessions you run the risk of getting mastitis and decreasing your supply.
Pro Tip: Pump in the car if you can. It can minimize the time spent away from your job. You can purchase vehicle adaptors for most pumps.
Find out where you will be storing your milk. Breast milk is just that, milk. It goes into the refrigerator. If you are uncomfortable storing your milk in the employer’s refrigerator than you may chose to store it in a cooler with ice packs. I store my milk in the Madela bottles in a cooler and place the cooler in the fridge so that my coworkers aren’t weirded out by it.
Store your milk in clean containers. Some of the products you can use are glass jars, BPA-free containers or bottles, or bags designed for breastmilk.
Breast milk is good for up to 4-6 hours at room temperature, 24hours in a cooler with ice packs, 7 days in the fridge, 3-6 months in the standard freezer and up to 1year in a deep freezer. So
Between each pumping session make sure to clean each part thoroughly. There have been recent changes to the guidelines recommended by the CDC after a tragic incident occurred. The new guidelines state that you should wash all the parts between each session and let them air-dry. No more storing the parts in the fridge between sessions. The CDC also recommends washing your pump and parts separate from the sink and preferable in its own basin designated for part parts only. Source
But let’s face it, when you are working, you don’t necessarily want to showcase your breast pump parts to all of your coworkers right? And you want to maximize your pumping time not your cleaning time, right? I suggest you bring spare pumping parts. If you will be pumping 2 times at work, bring 2 sets of flanges and membranes. Then you can clean and sanitize when you get home. If not, perhaps find an empty cupboard in the break room and hide all your pumping supplies in there. Just be sure to sanitize it prior to using it.
For the breastfeeding working moms who want to continue long term, paced feeding will definitely help. What is paced feeding? Paced feeding is a way to mimic the breastfeeding session by allowing baby to pace himself when eating (just as he would at the breast). It allows the baby to determine when he is full instead of forcing the milk to him.
How to pace feed a breastfed baby:
- Hold the baby upright
- Encourage baby to draw the nipple into his mouth with his lips flanges (as he would the breast)
- Hold the bottle horizontally
- Watch baby drink, when he takes natural pauses, dip down the bottle to prevent milk from seeping out. Then when he starts to suck again, brink the bottle back to horizontal.
Pro Tip: use a slow flow nipple throughout the entire breastfeeding journey. This will prevent baby from choosing the bottle nipple over the breast because he won’t have to work for it.
Well, there you have it. I hope this post was informative and helps you to be successful in continuing your breastfeeding journey as a working mom.
Don’t forget to download the sample pumping schedule to help you in increasing and maintaining your supply.