For a lot of women, breastfeeding is stressful enough without adding work and additional responsibilities to the mix. It isn’t surprising then, that I’ve heard many moms typically quit once they start working again. Whether that’s one month postpartum, or ten, it’s important to note that if you can and you are willing, “breast milk is still best for babies up to two years (which is the disclaimer that caps off every single infant formula commercial I’ve ever seen/heard)“. Now, if you’ve made the choice to quit for personal/specific reasons, that’s fine – to each her own. But if you actually want to keep breastfeeding but just don’t know how you could possibly pull it off, well here are some tips I’ve picked up so far from my own experience:
- HAVE A GOOD PUMP. Find the right pump for you – and that means everything from the mechanism itself, to the funnels. If you aren’t sure you have the right funnel fit, best to ask a doctor or lactation consultant. My pumps came with size 27s, but my lactation consultant taught me I needed size 37s. After purchasing the new funnels, I found that they were much more efficient at expressing my milk. So be mindful of that too. Besides funnel, type of pump is important too. I would say a good portable electric pump is always handy, but I find an easy-to-dismantle, and even-easier-to-clean manual does the trick better. I have both the Medela Pump In Style, and the Medela Harmony Hand Pump, and I definitely use the Harmony Hand Pump more. Not only do I find I can control the suction better, but I am able to put all of it in a bag that I can keep handy in my laptop bag/purse at all times.
- BRING YOUR PUMP AND NURSING COVER EVERYWHERE. As mentioned above, I try to keep my hand pump handy (haha) everywhere I go. This has been especially true since going back to work. I keep it in my purse together with my nursing cover and I pump everywhere – on the road, on the way to meetings, in the office at my desk, and even when I am taking video calls (I just train the camera upward and have it show just my face, or turn it off altogether).
- FIND A GOOD COURIER SERVICE. As I touched on in a previous entry, if you are like me and want to ensure your baby gets fresh batches of milk throughout the day, it helps to find a good courier service that can shuttle your milk back home at an affordable price. (If you are in Jakarta, I use the GoSend feature on the GoJek app and it has been remarkably good value for money, and incredibly efficient. Particularly because my home is not far from work, it comes out to just [15,000 IDR] $1.14 USD per delivery and I usually top up a little extra for tip [usually +5,000 IDR])
- MAKE SURE THE COLLEAGUES YOU WORK MOST CLOSELY WITH KNOW WHAT’S UP. If you’re planning on taking time out throughout the day and/or blocking your calendar to pump, you’re going to need to make sure your boss/direct manager as well as any teammates and direct reports are aware of your intentions and the reasons behind them. Just be open and explain why it is important to you (if need be), and also let them know that you are flexible. Tell them you have blocked off time in your calendar to pump but are willing of course to shift the blocks around to make sure work is getting done and important meetings are still being attended to.
- KEEP A STASH OF HEALTHY SNACKS / MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ACCESS TO HEALTHY FOOD. Breastfeeding makes you hungry, and add to that the calories you’re burning (not kidding, okay) running around at work and expending brain power at the same time, you’re going to need to replenish. Make sure you always have plenty of water/liquids, and that you have access to both healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. At our office, I am lucky enough to have free lunch daily – including a nutritious soup and plenty fruits and veg to choose from. However, our office snacks are not the healthiest, so I am going to slowly need to work out a way to turn a blind eye to all the horribly good stuff (Nutella), and keep my sights on the better options (oatmeal, almond milk, brown bread, and hardboiled eggs…ha…ha…haaaa)
- WHEN PUMPING, MAKE THE EXPERIENCE MORE ABOUT YOUR BABY THAN ABOUT YOU OR WORK. This might be the toughest piece of advice to follow, and will be impossible at least half the time. However, this was advice given me directly by one of my seniors at work who is also a mother, and I think is still worth mentioning. She told me, on my third day back, that one thing that worked for her whenever she pumped was not looking at work at all, and instead looking at a photo of her baby, and putting on some soothing music. She explained that whenever she pumped and tried to do work at the same time, hardly anything would come out. And I’ve found this is true for me too. In fact, I’m noticing that the more work I do even outside of pumping hours, the lower my milk supply seems to be. To refrain from stressing and making the situation worse, I intend to take her advice every chance I get.
End of day, it’s hard to be all things, and sometimes that’s what being a Working Mom entails. But it is possible to do your very best across the things that you already are, and make it work. Hopefully these tips serve some of you guys well as I apply them in my own life. 🙂 If you have your own tips for breastfeeding moms do send them over! I have purposely left out the more technical info on freezing, storing, etc because I feel there is already so much information out there that’s easy to find on that. But if you did have questions about how I do that, feel free to leave a comment and I’ll happily answer.