Excerpted from The Working Gal’s Guide to Babyville by Paige Hobey
Breast feeding can be complicated even during maternity leave, when you have all day to master an effective latch-on. Then you head back to work, and it gets even crazier. But never fear. If you want to continue nursing, you can.
If you decide to keep breast-feeding, master the pump now; it’s going to be your new best friend.
Drink lots of water to maximize your output, pump during breaks or over lunch, refrigerate your expressed milk while at the office, and bring it to your childcare provider to be given to your baby in bottles the following day.
I am dairy cow. Hear me roar.
Beyond these pumping logistics, which can be learned pretty quickly, there is the larger issue: How to attach a pump to your chest and express milk at work without feeling like an overpaid dairy cow in cute shoes? How to stride confidently out of the designated nursing room, jauntily toting your expressed milk like any high-powered career gal nonchalantly sporting a Grande Soy Latte?
This is, of course, a rhetorical question. The dairy cow self-image, as far as I can tell, is an inevitable part of the pumping reality. You can, however, justify the weirdness by reminding yourself that pumping (a) is good for your baby, (b) burns a few hundred calories sweat-free, and (c) minimizes any residual working mom guilt. (You’re willingly strapping a motorized suction cup to your chest when you could be catching up on personal e-mail; your maternal devotion is clearly beyond reproach.)
Claim a private pumping station.
If you’re really lucky, you have an office with a lockable door, or you work at a company that has designated nursing rooms. In either case, pumping is a snap. Otherwise, you’ll need to claim an unused space or head to the ladies room for pumping sessions.
Explain your pumping plan to your manager.
Granted, this can be a slightly uncomfortable conversation if your boss is one of those uptight guys who successfully shirked diaper duty in his house or, worse yet, doesn’t even have kids. But it should be done—unless you can subtly fit in pumping over lunch without being missed. And don’t feel guilty about your time spent pumping. You could be taking smoking breaks, right?
Invest in nursing pads. Lots and lots of nursing pads.
You’re sitting in a meeting, attempting to pay attention, but the guy up front has a seemingly endless series of PowerPoint slides and a seriously distracting arsenal of hand gestures. Eventually, your mind wanders to a happy place: your baby. You picture her engaged in her latest hobby—earnestly attempting to stick her toes into her mouth—and suddenly you recognize a warm, tingly sensation in your chest.
“Message received. All systems go,” your milk ducts announce proudly, kicking into overdrive. And before your brain can respond (“Abort mission! I repeat, abort mission! It’s just a daydream, you morons. The baby’s back at home!”), they’ve dutifully produced enough milk to feed your child for days, and half of it has leaked on to the white cotton shirt you just purchased on sale at Ann Taylor Loft. You stifle a scream, pull your notepad to your chest, and make a mad dash for the door.
Right. To prevent moments like this, wear absorbent cotton nursing pads 24/7 until the day you stop breast-feeding. And then wear them a few more days just to be on the safe side.
At the risk of stating the completely obvious, you can express milk a lot faster by pumping from both sides at once. And you can now purchase hands-free pumping accessories, which hold both breast shields in place and allow you to multitask while pumping.
If you’re working part-time, try to pump on a consistent schedule each workday.
To maintain your milk supply and minimize discomfort, pump when you feed your baby on your days off. If you’re lucky to squeeze in a couple of random pumping sessions, don’t stress. Keep the nursing pads in place and take ibuprofen to minimize achiness.
If you want to drop the daytime feedings, give yourself a few weeks to wean your baby before returning to work.
Weaning is typically most successful (and less painful) when you drop one feeding per week. If you usually breast-feed three times during working hours, you need about three weeks to shift from nursing to formula for those feedings. This approach can offer a great balance, but nursing pads are critical during the day, and your milk supply may diminish over time.
Paige Hobey is a contributing writer to Parenting Magazine and Chicago Parent as well as the author of the popular new parenting guidebook, The Working Gal's Guide to Babyville. She lives in Chicago with her husband Charlie and their two children, Bailey (4) and Avery Grace (2).