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Tips for Successful Breastfeeding as a Working Mom
As a working mom one of the toughest days of your life, thus far, is that dreaded day when you have to leave your precious chubby cherub in the arms of another to return to work. That day can be made even harder if you are a woman determined to continue breastfeeding your baby despite being separated for as much as ten (or possibly even more) hours a day. It’s not like you can just leave your baby and not worry until 5:00 p.m. rolls around, your aching breasts will be a constant reminder of your separation, and it can hurt (literally and figuratively). Fortunately, there are some things you can do to ensure the successful continuation of breastfeeding, even after you return to cubicle land. Here are some things that I, an 8-5 to working and breastfeeding mom, have found help me continue to feed my baby human moo juice.
Get a Reliable Pump
Your breast friend (har har) during your breastfeeding months or years will be your breast pump. That little buddy will go everywhere with you, to work every day, on baby free vacations, or even to a long hair appointment. So it’s important to get a breast pump that you really like and that is reliable and user friendly.
Generally speaking there are three types of breast pumps, manual, electric, and hospital grade. A manual pump is operated by your hands, and using a pumping or squeezing motion, depending on the pump, to create suction. Manual pumps are good for moms who are only occasionally away from baby, but if you are a working mother you are going to quickly develop carpal tunnel trying to pump manually all day long. Your next best bet is an electric pump, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Some can pump one breast, others both at once. Some are more expensive, others cheaper. What I look for in a good, electric breast pump is first, reliability, and second, versatility. It has to last, because if my pump craps out in the middle of a work day I’m really left hanging. Also, my pump (the Ameda "Purely Yours") can be plugged into the wall, operated by battery, or can be plugged into a car charger. This is vital to my pumping operations as I can use it wherever I go, and whenever I need to pump.
Read reviews from other women to see which breast pump may work best for you, and don’t be afraid to spend a little more money for a quality pump. This is one baby item that you really cannot afford to break on you at an inopportune moment.
Communicate Your Needs to Your Workplace
Many states now have laws requiring your workplace to have an area for you to pump in privacy other than the bathroom. Please, don’t be shy about telling your boss or HR representative about your need to pump for your baby, and don’t feel guilty about the time it takes. If you are using a double pump it really only takes about fifteen minutes, and many other people take coffee of smoke breaks that are at least that long. Be firm about your need to feed your baby and chances are your work will understand and accommodate you. If not, check in with your state’s social services agency or department of labor to learn about the local laws regarding a woman’s right to breastfeed and/or pump at work.
Did you continue to breastfeed your baby after returning to work?
Get on a Schedule
By the time you go back to work you should be familiar with your baby’s rhythms. For example, my little one, at six weeks, fed every two hours. Thus, in order to maintain my milk supply I needed to pump every two hours. I managed to create a schedule that allowed me to pump once on the way to work, three times during the work day including once at lunch, and once on the way home. Yes, this is a HUGE commitment but to me it’s completely worth it. If you have doubts about such a rigorous schedule just look to any breastfeeding book to see the myriad benefits, that’s not what I’m aiming at here. The good news is that as baby starts to stretch out feedings, you usually can stretch out pumping sessions at work too. Staying on a pumping schedule will not only help maintain your milk supply but will also aid your workplace in knowing when you need a break to pump.
Pump it Up with Fenugreek
For mothers who may have an issue with milk supply or even just want to increase an already adequate supply one homeopathic remedy is the herb Fenugreek, which helps increase milk supply in many women. Other natural methods of increasing milk supply include eating oatmeal and drinking the occasional dark beer. Of course, you should always consult your midwife or doctor before taking supplements or having that beer, especially when breastfeeding.
Unfortunately there will be days when you feel like you just can’t do it anymore, you’re too busy, too tired and ready to throw in the towel and buy a can of formula. Before you make an emotional decision, talk to a supportive person. Get in touch with your local La Leche League or join a group of breastfeeding moms. Many support groups have an on-call person you can talk to whenever you need help or a shoulder to cry on.
Breastfeeding is a huge commitment, but one with vast rewards. Kudos to you working mama, for not only bringing home the bacon but also the milk as well.