I have succesfully breastfed two children from birth to over 12 months. I also returned to work full-time with both kids when they were between 11-12 weeks old. I pumped 2-3 times a day at work for approximately 9 months with both children, and I had enough frozen breastmilk to use for 4-6 weeks even after they were weaned. Whew.
What I left out–nursing is NOT easy, not always fun, and sometimes downright painful. It is not the most natural thing I have ever done, and I vowed I would only consider nursing my second baby for 6 months. I had every intention of switching to formula at 6 months. I hated, hated pumping, and my son was quite a difficult nurser. I cried many, many times out of frustration with him. I wanted to throw in the towel so badly but I had such mommy guilt over not doing what I felt obligated to do. Nursing him was easier towards the end but at 13 months he and I were both ready for him to be weaned.
Then my daughter was born, and she was born a natural nurser. What took him 30 minutes took her 10 minutes at most. Friends and family that had visited while my son was still nursing were astonished. I would leave the room and be back before they hardly noticed I was gone. They were used to me being gone a substantially longer time and coming back frustrated. My daughter had her moments, typically in the evenings, but 90% of the time she was fantastic at nursing. It never even crossed my mind that I would wean her before 12 months, let alone 6 months. I almost felt guilty for weaning her. We made it to 14.5 months before I just needed a break.
Nursing alone is exhausting to me. Add in pumping, washing bottles, washing pumping equipment, milk storage, the cost of a good pump, the time to pump, milk supply issues…all while trying to work full-time. I have never been so tired. Would I do it all over? Yes. I do believe it was the best thing for my children with our situation. I believe it contributed to their health, to our bonding, and made me a better working mother. It is not right or even possible for every mom. I totally get that, but I do think it is possible for moms to work and breastfeed.
- Buy at least 2 sets of pumping equipment and bottles so you can wash every other night
- Start pumping after the first and/or second feed of the morning while on maternity leave
- Decide how to rotate and store
- I made 1-2 bottles from frozen milk, and 2-3 bottles from fresh milk daily. Depending on how quick your milk sours, I froze mine every Mon/Fri with my son and every 1-2 days with my daughter. I stored the breastmilk bags in a large gallon ziploc freezer bag and wrote the earliest date on the outside of the bag. We actually bought a small deep freezer partially for storing breastmilk.
- Mark each bottle with the day you pumped. Or you can pump directly into a bag. I would have loved to try these when I was nursing!!
- If applicable, discuss with your boss how much time you will need to pump. Offer to come in early, stay late, or use breaks if needed.
- I work in healthcare so fortunately I received a lot of encouragement to pump at work. If you encounter any difficulty from your employer, research all of the health benefits and the huge plus that you may actually miss less work/sick days by nursing your baby. Research your state laws concerning breastfeeding. Some states mandate that employees be offered the ability to pump at work.
- Drink LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of water. Do not let yourself even get close to dehydration, and get lots of rest. It is extremely hard to do but I promise you it will help your supply.
- Expect supply issues if you are pumping and working full-time.
- Options include galactagogues (oatmeal, fennel), Rx metoclopramide, Rx compounded domperidone, blessed thistle (not milk thistle), and fenugreek.
- Most of these are not very effective and may only be effective short-term, but they may be enough to get you back on track.
- Ask your husband for support. Honestly, just having him washing bottles and equipment at night was enough to prevent a mini-breakdown at one point for me!
- Give yourself permission to quit. Do the right thing for your baby, but also do the right thing for YOU. Before you quit, re-evaluate your goal. Can you make it one more month? One more week? Or is it time to release yourself from the pressure to breastfeed and be a better mom for it?