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Tips for working moms to successfully breastfeed while working

Here are tips from one of our members to help you continue to give your baby the very best in nutrition after you return to your job.

I developed my passion to help other women to successfully breastfeed their children after personal breastfeeding experience with my boys. I breastfed my older son Dmitry almost exclusively for twelve months and fully weaned him off when he was sixteen months old (at that time he lost interest, which made the whole thing fairly painless). Fortunately, I didn’t have to pump and go back to work with him, as one of the best decisions I have made in my life was to take a leave of absence from a very demanding job at the Private Bank when I had him and stay home for little over a year before returning to work. Staying home and spending time with my baby worked out very well for me (looking for another job while being out of work for this long not so much but that is another topic which I am planning to write about separately). My younger son Evan was a different story - I pumped at work for fifteen months and breastfed him for nineteen months while working during the recent volatile and stressful market environment.
When I became pregnant with my younger son Evan I faced a dilemma: I have breastfed before and knew, all joys aside, how difficult and stressful it could be even at home, and could not imagine how it was logistically possible with my demanding and hectic job of 10-12 hour days and often no time to even to go to the bathroom. My conversations with other women in the industry did not help much either. Many of the ones I spoke to only breastfed for the duration of their maternity leave, and others didn’t bother with it at all given that you only have 3 months before returning to work.  Thankfully there were few other women that also breastfed their children like me and I owe them big time for the support and encouragement I received.  Also, even though my company offers a lot of educational resources on the topic as well as lactation support services through our human resources network, I really wanted a “cliff notes” version that summarized all the relevant information on the topic.
While I was in process of weaning off Evan I compiled a few tips that made a meaningful difference for me and made the “pumping at work” experience much easier and manageable. This note was posted in my lactation room and was also circulated among other nursing moms I knew at the time, and received a very positive feedback.  Many have told me that my tips encouraged them to breastfeed longer than they originally planned.  I now would love to share these tips with others in the hopes of helping more moms being able to provide breast milk to their babies while working. Hopefully these tips will serve as a useful resource and make the whole experience as smooth as possible.  
·                     Tip #1: Educate yourself and start planning early.
There are many books and sites on the internet on the subject of breastfeeding and pumping, how it works physiologically and psychologically so I am not going to reinvent the wheel with this one. I have included few links below that I myself found helpful and used as resources on latching on, frequency of feeding, as well as when I did my own research on what type of breast pump would work for me. In my own experience, when I was not at work I breastfed my both boys on demand and had them with me at night when they were breastfed. I also took advice from my nanny and pumped all excess milk if I had any after each feeding. I am also a strong believer in co-sleeping, which actually made my night feedings more manageable.
Do your homework on what type breast pump is right for you. Today stores like “Babies R US” or more specialized baby and maternity boutiques sell all kind of different types of breast pumps to choose from. Many new companies entered the market in the last ten years; some of them were even started by moms with the idea to provide better support, comfort and convenience than the existing brands. When you are doing your research think about how often and where you will need to pump your milk. Do you travel often? Do you have an outlet where you will be pumping? Do these pumps offer compatible freezer bags and bottles that you can easily pump into? Are they easy to clean? Are you planning to pump at home? Many of the corporate lactation rooms (including where I work) are equipped with Medela’s hospital grade Lactina pumps. I have a Medela portable pump at home (Pump in Style Advanced) which uses the same accessory kit as Lactina. Both worked well for me. Also, probably one very important point when selecting a pump: make sure that you have the right fit for the breast shields. The right size shields should fit comfortably and would not hurt when you pump. If that is not the case you will need to try a different size, otherwise the emptying will not be efficient.
Discuss your plans to pump at work with your manager before going on maternity leave. I think the best time to bring it up is when you discuss your maternity leave details or when you announce that you are pregnant. This way you are already on the same topic and have a chance to cover all the details at once. Plus when you return from maternity leave you already have a lot going on with your busy work schedule, a baby at home, daycare/nanny etc. and for some moms bringing up such personal matter again could only add to their stress. Tell him or her up front how many times a day you will have to pump, so there are no surprises later. It is recommended to pump as often as your baby nurses, or every two to three hours. If you work an eight-to ten hour day, it means you will need pumping at mid-morning, at lunch, and at mid-afternoon for about fifteen to twenty minutes to empty both breasts at a time per session.  I often made up for these hours when I came home and remotely logged in to my work computer again when everyone was asleep.
I also found it easier to return to work from maternity leave on a Wednesday or Thursday rather than Monday. This helped me emotionally and physically to ease into the separation from my baby and get into the new routine. A couple of days apart followed by two days together were much easier than five days all at once.
Here are the most helpful online resources I found when trawling the internet for advice:  - great website on everything related to breastfeeding another great website on working and pumping Medela website has also a lot of information on breast pumps and other lactation resources
·                     Tip #2: Start building your freezer stash early.
Personally, I started pumping right after I came home from the hospital because from my experience with my older son I only produced just enough milk and almost nothing extra. I found it easier to build my milk stash during the first six weeks because then my body had not adjusted to the exact amount of milk my baby needed. I pumped once in the morning for about thirty minutes after my baby’s first feeding of the day and also at night right before going to bed. I know it sounds like a lot (some mothers only choose to have one extra pumping session per day but I really wanted to make sure I have enough - better to have and not need, after all). Also, try pumping within the same timeframe each day, as your body will quickly adapt to the pumping as an extra feeding session.
Start gradually introducing your baby to the bottle while you are on maternity leave. I have read that typically it is done after the first six weeks (to avoid nipple confusion). I started giving the bottle one feeding a day about a month before returning to work. While I didn’t have any trouble with bottle/breast switch, some moms introduce it earlier in case the baby needs some time to adjust. From my experience I have seen suggestions of no earlier than four weeks and at least two weeks before returning to work. Here is a link to some great tipson how to introduce a bottle.
·                     Tip #3: Get information about lactation room in your building in advance.
Two weeks before returning, sign up to use a lactation room in your building. This way you will familiarize yourself with the room and have an idea of what to bring with you when you return. Many large corporations’ lactation rooms are equipped with hospital grade Medela pumps. I used to bring accessories for it and kept another pump at home (I used Medela Pump in Style Advanced, which uses the same accessories kit as the hospital grade pump). Come in three or four times during the time you are planning to pump for a “test pump session”. For example, if you are planning to pump twice a day try to do two practice sessions: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
·                     TIP #4: What to do upon your return.
Remind your manager again about your plans and your schedule. Block off your calendar for the times that you will be going to the lactation room. Of course last minute and urgent meetings did come up for me in the past, but in general my schedule worked out well. I promise it will work out for you too if you make this your priority and be open about it with people you work with. Also, try to stick to your schedule. This way your body will get used to it and also it would be easier to manage your daily workload around it. When I returned to work I used to pump three times a day for about 6 months and twice a day thereafter.
·                     TIP #5: Don’t forget to take care of yourself! Make sure you have plenty of liquids and snacks at your fingertips to get you through the day.
I filled up two 2-liter bottles of water and two large cups of tea when I came into the office every morning. I knew ahead of time that I would not be able to get up from my chair because of my hectic schedule, so I wanted to have all the essential items to help me get through the day right at my fingertips. I kept an assortment of nuts, packs of yogurt and hard boiled eggs to snack on if I felt hungry in between meals.
I know it sounds impossible when you are in the middle of your very busy day but try to relax during your pumping sessions. Breathing and looking at pictures of my babies helped me a lot to get my milk flowing (otherwise known as “let down reflex”). I remember in the beginning as my body was adjusting to the new schedule, I had difficulty to get the letdown right away; I even had recordings on my phone with my baby’s sounds that I listened to over and over again to get the milk going.
Also, there will be days when your milk supply will be low or lower than before. It happened to me too. A lot of factors play in your milk production including levels of stress, diet, your general health and your menstrual cycle. There were days when I could barely pump few ounces and would not get any let down when I pumped. Thankfully it happened during the time when my baby was not exclusively breastfed and I also had some extra milk in my freezer. At times like that as difficult as it was I just kept going and stuck to my schedule.  The thought that breast milk is the best nutritional source for my baby kept me going. My supply usually went back to normal in about a day.
Ladies do not give up! I know being a working mom is already difficult as it is. If you find yourself struggling, talk to me, your friends or reach out to other moms in your lactation room to see how they managed it. Give it at least a 30-day trial period. This will give you a chance to work out any problems and settle into a mutually-rewarding experience for you and your baby. Remember you are not alone and you can do this! Stay positive and think about all the benefits you are providing for your baby. After all, breast milk is the best nutritional source for the baby as well as a way to keep you connected with your bundle of joy when you are not around. Remember, it is the only one thing that you can provide that no one else can!