Breastfeeding and the Working Girl: Making Friends with Your Pump
As a new working mom, one of the biggest challenges of going back to work after having a baby is figuring out how to keep breastfeeding. Prior to getting pregnant I decided that I was going to breastfeed however, I wasn’t really sure how long I would plan to do it. I just assumed I would nurse for a few months and then happily switch my baby over to formula when I went back to work. How wrong I was! D2 was a champion nurser right out the womb. The minute the nurse handed him to me, he latched on like a little pro. I was thrilled. For three glorious months, I nursed on demand and he thrived. I decided right then and there that there was no way my little guy was going to drink formula as long as I could produce milk.
I agonized when it was time to go back to work to my demanding job as a marketing executive. Up until my son’s birth, I was a hard-driving career girl and just assumed that I’d slot my little one into my pre-pregnancy life and keep it rolling. *Cue laughter*. D2 arrived just after my 40th birthday and I never gave much consideration to how much the pace of my life would be so dramatically altered. Now faced with returning to work, I struggled with how to keep my breastfeeding going. Not working wasn’t an option for me financially, plus I loved my job. In my heart of hearts I knew that I wasn’t SAHM material. I talked to numerous women with high-powered careers and asked them what they did when they went back to work. Overall, it was pretty discouraging. The story was the same with each woman, who would tell me how they gave up breast feeding after a few weeks back at work because finding the time to pump at work was so challenging. Then I talked to my friend Lily, an incredibly successful business woman, entrepreneur and mother extraordinaire. She really encouraged me to keep breastfeeding and even shared how she traveled with her new born son, nanny in tow and breastfed while on business trips. I decided that if she could do it, I could make it work for me. Much in the way I would tackle a new project at work, I mobilized. I got on the phone with the lactation consultant and strategized my return to work. First, I started stockpiling milk in the freezer. This was easier said than done because my little guy was a BIG baby –as in he was wearing six month clothes when he was three months. This kid was literally sucking me dry and the thought of having extra milk for freezing was laughable. Still I was able to get a small quantity stored up (though it only lasted about six weeks when D2 hit a growth spurt which is whole other story).
My first step was to talk to my boss and tell him what I was planning to do. It helped that he had three daughters. And so when I told him I wanted to work one day a week from home, he was supportive. On the advice of my lactation consultant, I chose to work from home on Wednesdays, which would allow me one day in the middle of the week to exclusively breastfeed thus boosting my milk supply. The other days of the week I pumped at work three times a day and breast fed in the evening and early morning before work. I wish I could tell you that it was easy. It wasn’t. But I made it work for me. Here is what a typical day looked like for me…
- 7:00AM…..pump before work
- 4:00PM…..optional pump time
I felt like a Holstein cow. I scheduled meetings around pump times. My wonderful assistant even set up pumping appointments in my calendar so that I didn’t forget to pump. It was physically demanding but I didn’t complain because it allowed me to do something good for my baby while I was at work. I know I am fortunate to have had a clean, quiet place to pump as well as a supportive work environment that allowed me to keep breastfeeding. We just celebrated D2’s first birthday and we are nearly at the end of our breastfeeding journey. I committed to trying to nurse until he was one and I’m really glad I made it. We are in the midst of a baby boom at work right now and a number of our new moms are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. This experience has made me want to help create a work environment that is both family friendly and pro-breastfeeding. Later this year, we’ll debut our company’s first lactation room and I’m very excited. Tell me, did you keep breastfeeding after returning to work? How did you manage your daily schedule? What advice would you give to other BF moms who are going back to work?