So you’ve decided to continue breastfeeding after going back to work. (Or maybe baby decided for you) 🙂 High five, mama! But let’s be straight here, whether you have a high pressured job or not, keeping this pumping business up does take some doing. Or at least that was my experience in it. And I suppose me saying that may be surprising to those who knew how set I was on breastfeeding until baby decided it was time. But, as always, I’m going to keep it real for you. And despite it all, it is still very, very doable!
As with any undertaking in life, it’s best to go in well-prepared. Understand what you would need to put in place and so on. Also, you’re moving Pump Operations Head Office from the comfort of your bedroom to the flourescent-lit cubicles. So, for one: no more swanning around topless. There’s also a solidly good chance for some wardrobe malfunctions, for your “girls” just not working with you, and maybe even some forgetful co-workers who forget to knock.It’s also pretty likely you’ll have some other surprising curveballs thrown at you along this wet and wild booby ride, ladies.
So buckle up, here are a few tips to help prepare you. Hopefully help make your journey smoother and maybe even help make this an extended journey, if you so desire. And all without awkward silences at the water cooler and still being to look your colleagues in the eye:
1. Commitment: Guys, let me tell you first up, no matter how cheery and rose-tinted you start this journey, there are going to be those moments where you just want to throw the towel in. Like, stuff this, I’ve gone so far, enough is enough. You may get your fair share of funny comments, turned up noses and poorly-formed and wholly uninformed opinions. You may forget your pump at home or at work, and then have to go back for it – or ask your hubby to- a couple of times. Honestly, you may feel like quitting a 1000 times through it all.
In fact, you may go through a range frustrations and hurdles, and I can tell you now, just as with any challenge, the difference between making it happen & sticking it out for the long haul, and ending it before you even got started, is all in your mind-set. If your mind is set and committed to the process, there’s little that could ever stop you from achieving what you set out to do.
2. Ditch the guilt: Of course, a girl has every right to change her mind too. So then on that “enough is enough” token, if you do believe you’ve reached the end of your milky tether, and like this is starting to suck the life out of you, or become something that is a source of constant stress that you somehow can’t seem to navigate, or maybe you just can’t cope with co-ordinating all the pumping with all the meetings anymore. I mean, how do you tell a CIO, sorry, can you shift our meeting to 10:15am instead, “my girls” are just not responding this morning.
Sure, now and then it happens, and really it’s ok -flexibility is the name of the game- but if it’s starting to just bring more stress into your life than you can cope with, then, my dear mama, leave all the guilt of your decisions at the door.
As I always say, guilt does not serve you, your baby, or anything, any good. The guilt contributes nothing positive, accomplishes nothing and adds exactly zero value- so ditch it. Just, all I suggest is that when you do make that decision, make it a well-informed one. That way you’ll never second guess yourself. Knowledge is power!
3. Speaking of decisions, don’t quit on a bad day: Rough days, whilst very real, are also very ripe with emotional lows, and rash decisions. The rational mind is never really front and centre at these times. So, as far as you can, may I suggest you try to hold off your decision until after that bad day has passed, and wait till you’re in a better state of mind to weigh up your options. And then, no matter what your decision, see point no. 2 above. Guilt- free, baby! Guilt- free.
4. Invest in a good pump: So many times I’ve heard from some of my friends and other women talk about how much they really loathed the pumping bit, like it was a real schlep, only to later discover that they either had a manual pump or a really weak ass motorized pump. Dude, of course your pumping efforts are going to suck, because
a) manual pumps are really tiring, tedious, time consuming, and really, really boring. Hells, no! Get the automatic one!
b) Not all automatic pumps were created equally! Do some research according to your budgets and needs.
Honestly though, guys, in my humble opinion, pumping at work is not the time to mess about with a tired pansy little motor pump. At work, you may no longer have the luxury of taking your time. So if you can afford it, what you’re going for here is in-and-out service, without the aching wrists and tired forearms of manual pumping. Make a wise investment!
5. Know your rights:
According to the Code of Good Practice on protection of employees during pregnancy and after birth of child, which forms part of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, arrangements should be made for breastfeeding workers to have two 30 minute breaks per day to allow for breastfeeding or pumping, for the first 6 months of the child’s life.
A clean and comfortable space with privacy should be also be made available for the mother to breastfeed or pump.
I was fortunate enough to work in an enviroment that is very family and baby conscious, so pumping was not a new or uncomfortable concept. Nor did I have to have special discussions about my pumping – it wasalready understood. However, if you are not too sure about your own work environment, it is very much recommended that you have these discussions up front – possibly even before you go on maternity leave. Be open, honest and direct about your requirements that you are legally obliged to have access to.
6. Don’t be ashamed, and don’t be intimidated:
Seriously, you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. If you were to go stand in the work kitchen and mix up a bottle of formula for your child (odd, I know, but go with it), would you at all feel ashamed? When you go into the work kitchen to quickly fix yourself a bite to eat, do you feel ashamed?
No? Of course not. It’s all very normal things to be doing. Just as expressing breastmilk for your child is.You are performing a very basic act, and fulfilling a basic right of your child – to be fed- through pumping. This is not something to be shamed of, nor to be made to feel intimidated about. It may take you a while to get used to in your personal capacity, if that’s your personality type. However, know that what you’re doing is as normal as being pregnant. You feel me?
And, I can’t stress this enough: Know your rights- get very familiar with them, darling. Knowledge is power! Use it. And speak up about it. No one needs to suffer in silence if you’re being intimidated. Basic conditions of employment demand that employees work in suitable and non-hostile environments. All you’re asking for, is for that to be upheld.
Understand as well, that this world unfortunately also has a few douche-bags in them. And your office often just poses as a microcosm of life. Douche bags are known to be ignorant and misinformed, and also completely unaware of their douchy status. Some can be rehabilitiated with some education and awareness, others not so much. You can be the judge of who you would invest time in educating, and who’d be the waste of breath.
But mostly, trust that douchebag opinions dont really count, and should never allow them to affect your frame of mind or decisions.
7. Schedule your time, but try and be flexible: Meetings can run into each other and days can get manic. Or, sometimes, in your haste to get the milk out before your next meeting, you may tense up and milk doesn’t flow forth as it should. So, instead of getting all tensed up about it, try and go with the flow, and instead of trying to get one or two full pump sessions in, try to squeeze in a few shorter pump sessions instead. But try to remain as flexible about this, and try to not let it consume you.
8. Load up on Breastpads: Don’t forget them. Lest you wish to paint a breastmilk bull-eye on your boobs for that board meeting. Right as you enter. As everyone looks up at you. Then proceeds to ask you about baby. And instead, your boobs answer for you…*sigh*…Happened to me. And then never again.
Pack them in, set a reminder if you have to, or even better, leave a box at work if need be.
Because, really wadded up toilet paper just doesn’t cut it. Also: pieces of disintergrated toilet paper that got soaked and then dried stuck to your nips are just not hot for any possible impromptu sexy time you may get home.
9. Pack in that Photo album Look, it’s a known fact that “the girls” have a mind of their own. So it won’t be uncommon for them to suddenly get a bit of stage fright now and again. What you need to remember is that they work on hormones. Particularly, your love hormone- oxytocin.
And what better way to get your love hormones going than by ogling over that gorgeous pic of your sweet babums with all their chubby rolls, bright beautiful eyes, and perfect skin with rose tinted cheeks. Damnit, if I was still breastfeeding now when I wrote that line, I would have totally soaked my shirt.
10. Don’t stress over one bad day of little milk: Stress doesn’t help you. Yes, I know, easier said than done, when you’re trying to empty those puppies before your 10:15, but honestly it only makes it worse if you do stress.
Instead, try some breathing exercises. Slow your mind, and for the next 3 minutes, focus on just your breathing. A technique I recently discovered is called the 7-4-8. Breathe in for 7 counts, hold for 4 and breathe out slowly for 8. This should slow down your heart rate, and help trick your body into thinking it’s less stressed…in other words, lowering your stress hormones at that point in time, thereby allowing oxytocin to work it’s magic on your let-down reflex.
Also, it’s just ONE day. Everyone has a bad day – and sometimes a bad week. And that’s alright. Don’t base, or worse yet, don’t forecast what your life with pumping is going to be like, just on this one lousy day. It won’t all be like this. Remain pragmatic about your situation. If, however, you are looking for ways to help boost your supply, check out this here, here and here.
11. Pump extra at home if you can: Let’s face it, there are going to be those days where you may just not get around to pumping at all or no matter how much you breathed your way through things, “your girls” were just not up for the task (you’ll be a painful version of Pamela Anderson yes – ouch), and all you can think of is the fact that this now has an immediate impact on baby’s supply for the next day. And that right there, folks, is pure Armageddon for any pumping mom.
Therefore, to help avoid those panic stations, if you can at all, try to fit in pumping times when you’re at home as well. That way you will always have a stash at hand, and won’t have to stress about having enough milk for baby at home.
12. Don’t have to keep washing you milk pump every time: I know right, I sound like a complete lazy bum, who’s cutting corners. But truth is, when you’re trying to pump and still deliver at work like everyone else, you’re actually going TO LOOK for places you can cut corners at. And skipping pump washing can shave off a decent 5 to 10 minutes from each time you pump.
So after you pump, you can either just do a quick rinse (or not), and place into a ziplock bag and into the fridge. (And if you have any finicky colleagues, place that ziplock into a brown paper bag as well – can’t account for everyone’s thresholds). That way, the milk droplets that are still stuck in pump, won’t go off in between pump sessions.
Then once you get home, you give it a good and sterilize the parts.
13. Don’t mix pump sessions up & bring extra storage containers: As a pumping rule: The milk you pumped three hours ago is not to be mixed with milk of now.
The differing temperatures of the warm just pumped milk versus the earlier pumped milk that has now cooled in the fridge cause a bit of havoc with regards to bacteria. So don’t ever mix the two. It’s best to have enough storage containers to store each different pump sessions “offerings”.
Note: two different milk yields CAN be mixed, as long as you ensure that both/all have been cooled to the exact same temperature before you do.
And remember to always swirl, not shake breastmilk, when trying to “mix”.
14. If you can, get an extra pump for emergencies : I’ve left my pump at work before. And at home as well. And then cried into my post-toasties. Yes, it’s yet another fine example of pure Armageddon-status panic for any pumping mom. So if you can, think of investing in another pump to ensure that you’re never caught with your pants down. Or bra overflowing.
15. Dress for success
Ask any breastfeeding mom, and they’ll tell you in no uncertain terms just how much their wardrobe /life now revolves around their breastfeeding. And heading back to the office is no different. So unless you want to get completely undressed in your office to pump, you’re going to want some professional pieces that’s going to make your life a bit easier.
Think button up shirts, sweaters that can lift easily, without causing strained placement of the pump, or constantly fall down. Or maybe loose enough to allow you to navigate and hold you pump without constricting your movements.
You generally want clothes that will play with you. So for now, that gorgeous dress that zips up at the back may have to wait a bit.
Also, think breastfeeding bra’s. And if you want to go a hands-free way, think of investing in a hands-free pumping bra!! Definitely something I’m going to look into for the next time (God- willingly)
16. Waste not, want not: If you’re one of those lucky ladies who’s let-down is quite generous, with milk streaming out from both boobs when either pumping or feeding baby, but not lucky enough to own a double pump (those pumps that can pump both breasts at the same time), then fear not, simply hold another breastmilk storage container under the breast that’s not being pumped. That way you won’t have to watch that milk wastefully soak up into your breast pads. (Or worse, into your work blazer.)
I used to get anything from 10ml to 100mls from just that let-down stream alone, and as we all know, every single drop of that white gold counts!
17. Don’t shurk those night time feeds: As much as you really want to sleep through (oh Lawd, please), there is a certain stage of baby’s development where night time nursing is very normal, and actually very crucial for both their development AND your supply! So if baba wakes up for milkies, breathe deep, relax and feed, because it’s exactly THOSE feeds that are going to ensure your supply maintenance.(more on “why you don’t want to give up that night feeding” soon.)
18. Pump both sides always. Ensure the supply and demand effect is applied to both boobs, and thus, ensuring your supply wont dip, don’t ever skip a boob during a session. Remember, pumping is already affecting the supply and demand to an extent because pumping doesn’t remove as much milk as baby does. So skipping a boob will make it dip even more so.
19. Don’t worry about not having enough for baby when you get home: From the moment you stop pumping, your boobs are busy making milk already. Your breasts are in fact never empty. And if it feels like on that one day your baby seems unsatisfied with what’s coming out, continue to breastfeed her anyway (your breasts, thanks to baby’s frustrated sucking, will get the message to produce even more for the next time), then top her up with some of your pumped stash if she’s still indicating for more.
20. Pack in that Photo album On those days where your girls are just not responding, and are still fretting about that budget cut or report that’s due, sometimes it helps to get them back in the game with a cute little pic of baby. And if you want to go all 3D on this, then why not add an item of baby clothes that baby wore to your pumping bag. That’s sure to get the oxytocin factories fired up and the girls churning out that white gold. (and don’t forget your 7-4-8 breathing technique too! See above.)
21. Get your team together Don’t ever underestimate the power of your support team. In this game of parenting, it’s the village that comes through time and time again. And with breastfeeding and pumping, which is just another facet of parenting, it’s no different. So be sure your partner, your caregivers and everyone in your parenting inner-circle is on board with what you’re trying achieve, what you need from them – spelling out the exact kind of support you need and how.
Good luck, mama, you can do it! Here’s to bringing home the bacon AND the milk!