Conquering the back to work and breastfeeding game

 

Returning to work after having a baby can be daunting. Heck, getting into the car without spit up dripping down your outfit deserves a medal.  So let's start talking about the pumping basics and review some emergency situations scenarios.  You're going to be so freaking ready anything, that a Navy Seal commander might salute your strategy. 

 The Plan 

  • Before you return to work it is important to review your state breastfeeding laws. Knowing your rights is a must in case you need to review them with your employer. 

  • Next think logistics. Chat with your employer about pumping location and schedule a few weeks before you return to work. Many companies have dedicated lactation rooms, but sadly lots do not.  Privacy and an electrical outlet are the bare essentials for a lactation space. If you work in the field (literally or figuratively speaking) you may need a purchase a battery pack or vehicle power adapter for an electrical pump. 

  •  A few weeks prior to the big day have someone give your baby a bottle if they haven't already been introduced. Don't worry if your babe initially rejects it. Be patient and keep working on it. Hence the reason it is best to try this a few weeks before vs. the night before going back to work. 

  • Mamas should also practice pumping. Practice pump sessions help you become buddies with the pump and contribute to your initial back to work milk stockpile. 

The Gear (we tried to keep the list short, but if pumping were easy we wouldn't  be blogging about it)

  • Obviously bring your pump and parts. A double electric breast pump is highly recommended. 

  • Pack enough bottles/bags for your planned pumping sessions plus a few extras. 

  • A marker or pen to label your milk bags with your name and date. A roll of masking tape comes in handy to create bottle labels. 

  • If you don't have a refrigerator at work, bring a small cooler and ice packs. Even if a refrigerator is available, many moms prefer to store their milk in coolers to avoid forgetting their liquid gold at work. 

  • Another winning pump game strategy tip is to purchase or make a hands-free bra. It allows for serious multitasking or at the very least you can eat your lunch while you pump. 

  • A nursing cover or scarf comes in handy when privacy is an issue or your pumping locale is chilly. 

  • Pump part cleaning and storage. There are many options. If you have a sink, a quick wash and rinse is great. If there is not water available Medela quick wipes are a good option.  Or you can place your unwashed parts in a clean Ziploc or other seal-able bag until your next pump session. Take advantage of the fact that breast milk is ALIVE!!! Harmful bacteria do not quickly grow in the milk when it is left out at room temperature for a few hours. Freshly expressed breastmilk can be left out at room temperature for up to 6 hours. However if your room temperature feels like the tropics, then stick to 3-4 hours. 

  • Lastly, we highly advise mamas to take the time to do a detailed gear check before you leave for work to avoid forgetting any critical parts. And if your pump has small pieces that often fall off or go missing. Keep back-ups in your pump bag. 

The Schedule

  • In order to maintain your milk supply your pumping schedule needs to be similar to your regular nursing routine. Many moms nurse or pump right before they leave for work or some pump shortly after arriving.  In general most moms need to pump every 2-4 hours when away from their baby. Average pump session times range between 15-25 minutes long. 

  • Expressed milk quantities vary greatly among women.  Some moms don't respond well to the pump aka their boobies go on strike and refuse to release the milk. Other moms pump out copious amounts. Alas there is no rhyme or reason. To achieve your best results try to get comfy, take a few deep breaths before turning on the pump, look at baby pictures or videos on your phone, and hand express any remaining milk from your dynamic duo to finish up your pumping session.

  • In the end, try not to stress. Most moms need to adjust their pumping schedule during the first few weeks back. And don't hesitate to connect with a lactation professional for help. 

What to do with: "I need to pump... like NOW!!!"

  • You were planning to pump at 10am, but a meeting or phone call ran long. It's now 10:20. Your breasts start to feel heavy and full... and then.. oh no... you feel the let down tingle. CODE RED!!!! First give your ladies a firm hug by wrapping your arm across your chest to force the let down to pause.  

  • If possible, politely get up and leave the meeting or for goodness sake tell a little while lie to end the phone call.  Cuz, guess what? It's OK to prioritize your baby and body. Especially if your lactation room is busy and you risk losing your scheduled time. 

  • Wearing nursing pads helps moms avoid the dreaded clothing soak through. 

Pump Malfunctions and Curious Toddlers

  • The scene: You're totally winning the pumping game... until one morning you sit down for the first pump session and realize a critical pump piece is missing. The word #%&* enters your mind (and possibly escapes your lips). The likely culprit of the missing piece: your darling 2 year old. 

  • A quick solution might include a mad dash home or to Target retrieve the missing part. Using a manual pump (if you have one) or hand expression  might be plan B options, especially if you are experiencing a pump motor issue. 

  • But in this scenario, there is nothing sweeter than a little bit to ingenuity. Hello to the last piece of gum in my bag!  And just like that, chewing gum transforms into the missing pump part. Eureka! Suction!!!

No matter what your pumping groove looks like, remember that you are absolutely amazing. This is hard work and you've earned serious high fives for your time, effort, and dedication. Breastfeeding and pumping is a BIG DEAL. 

Wear your badge. Be Proud. Support others. 

Until next time. 

Love and hugs. 

 

Written by Jennifer Dick, MS, RN, IBCLC

 

 

 


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