I’m a firm believer that “fed is best”, but breastfeeding has always been my first option for my own babies. I did the research long before I was ever pregnant and mentally committed myself to at least one year for each child we planned to have. I had to slightly reassess, however, when Goose was born and I faced the challenge of pumping at work. That was an entirely different ballgame and I had to make some serious adjustments to fit it into my life. This is what I learned about successfully breastfeeding while working full time:
YOU NEED SUPPORT
Make sure that your partner agrees with the decision to breastfeed your baby. At first, my husband didn’t understand why it mattered to me so much. Then we attended a breastfeeding workshop together while I was pregnant with Goose. See if your hospital offers any free programs like this! After learning about all of the benefits of breast milk and the obstacles some women and babies face, he was 100% supportive and willing to help me in any way I needed.
Your child’s caregiver also needs to be on board. Whoever is responsible for feeding your child during the day must respect your choice to breastfeed and follow your directions for storing and preparing your milk for your baby.
Last, communicate openly with your employer about your intention to pump at work so that they can accommodate the frequency and duration of your pumping sessions. Depending on the type of position you have and where you live, you are probably covered by a mandate declaring that you must be provided adequate time and a private area for pumping. Talk to your employer about what this looks like for you.
GET A GOOD PUMP
Pumps can get pricey. I was lucky enough to be provided free Ameda electric breast pumps from the hospital when both Goose and Belly were born. I was so thankful! Many hospitals or insurance providers offer free or discounted pumps so make sure to ask about it. You can even put one on your baby registry and a friend or family member might purchase it for you.
Your pump should have adjusters for both speed and suction so that you can completely control the intensity. I used this one for both kids and it’s fantastic!
Ameda Purely Yours Double Electric Breast Pump
You also want to double check that you have all of the parts in your bag every day because your pump will not work if you forget one little piece. I ended up purchasing extra pump parts so that I had a set for home and a set for work. It does end up being a lot of washing and sanitizing, but you can enlist your partner’s help!
Ameda Spare Parts Kit
Replacement Flange Kit
INVEST IN QUALITY BOTTLES
The last thing you want to do is take the time to pump and preserve your milk and then watch your baby experience discomfort or difficulty drinking it. This may be your child’s only source of food for at least a few months so take the time to find quality bottles. You can also put them on your registry and somebody may get them for you. We had the best luck with Dr. Browns!
Dr. Browns Pink Bottle Set
HAVE A SCHEDULE (but listen to your body)
You’re at work so you still need to be productive. Find the least disruptive pumping schedule that lets you do your job to the best of your ability. As a teacher, I couldn’t take a million breaks so my schedule looked something like this:
6:00 am- Pump before work
11:15 am- Pump during lunch
4:00 pm- Nurse the minute I got home (this was a great way to bond with my baby after being gone all day) and throughout the evening until bedtime.
I had to fit in 3:00 pm sessions on days that I had commitments requiring me to stay later at work.
If you notice your supply fluctuating, you may need to pump more or less to make sure baby gets what she needs. It never hurts to pump too much. You can always freeze milk you don’t plan to use right away.
As Goose started eating more solid food, she slowly needed less breast milk. Right around 11 months, my body knew that it could slow down the milk production and I didn’t have to pump at lunch anymore. Pay close attention to how much your baby needs and how their appetite is changing.
The designated mommy area at my school was quite small and stuffy so I choose to pump in my classroom. I also didn’t want to worry about ice packs or putting my milk in the communal fridge so I bought my own mini fridge. I’ve pumped in many other office buildings and I’ve seen some really nice pumping areas with curtains and recliners. Hopefully, the room in your place of employment is welcoming and private.
Sit in a cozy chair with a lot of surface space around you and have whatever you need close by (pump parts, bottle parts, a hand towel just in case). Since I pumped during lunch, I had to make sure my food and water were within reach (drink water all day). I also usually had my phone next to me to pass the time. I know other moms who like looking at pictures of their babies or even used that time to video chat with them.
How you pump is completely your choice. I tried one of those hands-free bras that are supposed to let you pump both sides simultaneously. Did not work for me. You’ll find the best system for you.
PUMPING IS A COMMITMENT
Most of the time it’s tiring. And lonely. And boring. I watched a lot of Netflix while I pumped. Funny shows make it a little less miserable.
There were definitely times when I wanted to stop altogether. For example, I always locked my door with a clear “DO NOT ENTER” sign when I pumped. One day an adult employee unlocked my room and entered with one of my students. I. Was. Mortified. It made me feel so exposed and violated. I was almost done pumping that day. Hopefully, that won’t happen to you, but if it does, don’t let it prevent you from feeding your child the way that you prefer.
There are a lot of “crazy” things we do for our kids and pumping is high on that list for me. This phase of your life will be over before you know it, though, and you can look back and be proud of what you accomplished for your child and your family. Stick to your decision, always ask for help if you’re having a hard time, and you will be successfully breastfeeding while working full time.
*Shout out to all of my teacher friends who encouraged me on my pumping journey, THANK YOU!!! And good luck to all of you pumping this school year! You can do it!
Check out my Busy Mom’s Guide to Homemade Baby Food!
Learn all about Baby-led Weaning and if it’s right for you!
And see how I lost all of my baby weight!