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Simple Breastfeeding Tips
for Working Moms

breastfeeding tips
These breastfeeding tips are essential to any mom returning to the work force.

If you attempt to "wing it" and see what happens, chances are you'll be empty and baby weaned by 3 months.

If you're committed to nursing your infant and you're a working mom, planning ahead is vital to your long-term nursing success.

You've got several weeks of baby bliss between you and your return to the office.

These weeks will go a long way towards helping you establish your milk supply and establishing a rhythm of nursing.

Don't squander them! Use these precious weeks to lay a foundation for your breastfeeding plans in the future.

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Breastfeeding Tips: First Things First

Obviously, the first thing you'll need to do is secure who is going to be watching the baby while you're at work. If you're fortunate to have willing and able family around, this decision may be easy.

If you're not so lucky (like myself) than you'll need to either find a day care service in your area that you can afford, or search online for a nanny. SitterCity is a great website to help moms find affordable in-home nannies (and babysitters) in your area that are certified and recommended by other moms like you.

      Side Note: A nanny is not something just for Desperate Housewives in New York. Personally, I've found using a nanny to be just as affordable as paying for childcare. Nannies are individuals who are willing to go beyond "baby watching" and pour themselves into the development and care of your children. They can help around the house and act as an extension of your care when you aren't there. They could also bring the baby to you at work, allowing you to get have one direct nursing session during the day.

      Most importantly, nannies come to you, letting your children stay in your home, and minimizing the chaos that can result with getting to and from day care every day. I personally use a nanny once a week to work on this site. It's affordable, and I love that my kids are at home and going through their normal routine while I'm not there.

In order to best organize this information, I've split these breastfeeding tips into three basic categories.

  • How to prepare yourself, your baby, and your employer ahead of time.
  • How to set up a pumping routine at work.
  • How it works in the real world (suggestions from real working moms).

Planning Ahead:
Your Ticket to Nursing Happiness

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Breastfeeding Tips: Preparing Yourself

As you emotionally prepare yourself for going back to work, try not to over-emphasize the pros and cons. You've made your decision to go back, and now it's time to move on. You'll probably shed a few tears, and there may be periods of feeling torn or guilty.

I had to go back to work for the first two years of my Lauren's life. There were good days and there were bad days. My husband Cameron and I decided that we would re-evaluate every 3 months. If it wasn't time to re-evaluate, I refused to worry or think much about it. This was the decision we had made at this time. At the end of 3 months, if we decided I should continue, we made the decision and I went back to my "no guilt, no thought" policy until the next quarter.

By having these designated "decision times", I was released from worrying or fretting about where I was. I could give it up until the next "discussion". When it was time for another back-to-work discussion, we would look at how the previous months had gone, how I was feeling about it, what our budget said, and make a logical decision for the next quarter I could settle and rest on.

Besides emotionally preparing yourself for post-maternity-leave, you should also stock up on the items you'll need to practically nurse at work. Here's a short list of must-have's for working nursing moms.

  • Several good nursing bras. (It may be a good idea to leave an extra bra and blouse at work in case of massive leaking.) See how to choose a good breastfeeding bra for more breastfeeding tips and reviews of the top brands.
  • A well-stocked supply of nursing pads. You can choose either disposable or washable. See the difference in these nursing pads and determine which may be best for you.
  • A heavy-duty breast pump. Since you'll be using it daily, don't scrimp on a cheapo-deapo manual pump. Save your pennies to buy or rent an electric breast pump.
  • A milk storage system. You'll need to be able to store the milk you pump at work, labeled with the date. Purchase a small cooler that can keep the milk cold under your desk. You could ask special permission to use the office fridge, but be considerate of others in how you label your milk, and how much you store.

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Breastfeeding Tips: Preparing Your Baby

Your main task in preparing your baby will be introducing him to the concept of feeding out of a bottle. Once your milk is established and you have both settled into a rhythm (around 4-5 weeks) start introducing him to one bottle of breastmilk a day.

In this area, the bottle will make all the difference. See my article on finding a good bottle. Every baby is different, so don't be discouraged if you have to try several different bottles brands over several days to find one your baby seems to like best. Lauren loved Avent bottles, Elena preferred Dr. Browns.

Also, be sure that you are purchasing the right size nipples for your bottles. Smaller babies require nipples with smaller holes, because they cannot handle as much volume as a 9-month old. On the flip side, older babies will get frustrated if they can only get a thimble-drop of milk with each suck.

breastfeeding tips 2
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Breastfeeding Tips: Preparing Your Employer

Most companies today realize that happy nursing mothers make happy working environments. However, unless your boss was a breastfeeding mother, you may need to do some educating on what you'll need in order to breastfeed at work.

Call your boss before you return to work to share your desire to continue to breastfeed at the workplace.

Emphasize that you will not be taking time from your regular job to do this (i.e. breaks and lunch) and will be doing it in private, secluded location that will not be a distraction to the other worker bees around the office.

  • Discuss with your employer where the best places would be for you to pump. If you have an office, it may be as simple as shutting and locking the door. If you have a cubicle, ask if there is an empty office, meeting room, or even a female locker room that you can use at specific times.

    (Just be sure to lock the door! You don't want to be pumping away and then have Joe's office birthday party crash in!)

  • Enquire about a locking cabinet or closet where you could store supplies: your pump, extra blouses, empty containers etc.
  • Ask if there are other breastfeeding mothers in the office. Their support can be greatly encouraging, and their advice on how to breastfeed in your office invaluable.
  • Re-emphasize that you realize that your office has a purpose: work. By pumping in private you are be respectful of your fellow employees. By pumping on your breaks and at lunch you are being respectful of your employer.
  • Finally, if your work situation enables it, don't be afraid to discuss changing your work schedule all together. Could you use flex hours and go home (or to daycare) and nurse? Could your position be downsized to part time? Could you work part of the week at home? Be prepared to write a proposal on your idea, including how you would be making these transitions while still maintaining the work ethics and productivity you had before.

    Breastfeeding Tips:
    Establish a Routine that Works

    There are several different nursing routines you can establish when pumping at work. The longer your maternity leave, the easier it will be for you to get your baby and your breasts onto a schedule that works. (However, trying to set up a schedule before your baby is at least 4 weeks old is not recommended.)

    Option One: Twice at Work

    • Pump two times during an eight-hour work day and give your baby that milk the following day.
    • To do that, put the total amount pump into a container, and then split that into 2-3 feedings, depending on how often and how much your baby is eating at that age.
    • You'll need an insulated bag and storage system to transport the milk from work to home.

    Option Two: Once at Work

    • Pump once during an eight-hour work day. Then pump again after feeding your baby when you come home and perhaps after nursing in the morning.
    • Divide that total amount into a container, splitting it into the amount and number of feedings your infant will need the following day.

    Option Three: None at Work

    • Pump before you go to work and immediately when you get home.
    • Also pump once or twice a day on the weekends for extra milk.
    • Pumping after every feeding (to drain any excess) will also help keep your milk supply up.

    Option Four: The No-Pump Option

    • If you're close to your home or your daycare, you could go to your baby and nurse directly. Or, sometimes a caregiver will be willing to bring the baby to your office so you can nurse there.
    Option Four: Supplementing with Formula
    • You could also use formula when you are at work, and nurse when you are at home.
    • If you don't feel you are able to pump enough extra milk to fulfill her needs, adding some formula may be helpful.
    • Make sure you don't use formula when you are around, and try to pump as much as possible after feedings to keep your milk supply up and healthy.

    From One to Another:
    Breastfeeding Tips from Working Moms Like You

    In order to get breastfeeding tips that go beyond theory and into the nitty-gritty of office life, I interviewed 25 working moms for the breastfeeding tips that had made all the difference in their ability to successfully breastfeed. Here's a sampling of what they said:

    Michelle from Oklahoma:

      Bring a cooler with an ice pack with you everyday at work and wear clothes that open in the front. They wrinkle less, are more comfortable, and faster to adjust for pumping.

    Tara from California:

      I used an electric pump during nap time (I'm a preschool teacher). I used an apron to cover up and stored the milk in the refrigerator. I also pumped milk in the evening while my baby was sleeping. I stored the milk in the freezer in plastic one-serving bags, or in individual bottles.

    Jenny from Iowa:

      Get your sleep - remember that your stress level and exhaustion will effect milk supply. When you are working, you can't have an afternoon nap, so it's that much more important to get a good nights sleep. You can't control if you baby wakes up in the night, but you can choose to go to bed early - and you should.

      Buy a good pump - it you are pumping at work, do yourself a favour and invest in a good pump. The cheap pumps are really frustrating to work with - and since stress level effects milk supply, you want to do all you can to reduce your stress.

      Try a lunchtime nursing break - if you can get a daycare near work, that's ideal. You can whip out on your lunch break and nurse baby, then go back to work without having to pump. You and your baby will also benefit from that mid-day interaction.

    breastfeeding tips

    Cindy from Florida:

      Invest in a high quality breast pump. It makes a huge difference. I only nursed my daughter for 6 months, with supplementing, before she weaned herself. I had a cheap hand pump. With my son, I bought a Medela Swing pump. I decided to go with that one because I was not going to work so it wasn't something I was going to depend on. My son will be a year next month and we are still going strong.

      Find a great lactation consultant. That will also make a big difference. With my daughter I had no one. With my son, I have two incredible women who have been a great support. One even let me keep a hospital grade pump for three months.

      If you feel like you are losing your supply, try taking Fenugreek. It increases milk supply. I have taken it since I had my baby. The only drawback is it will make you smell like maple syrup when you sweat.

    Michelle from Arizona:

      The toughest thing I experienced was long days and feeling emotional about my baby. During these times my milk would release and flow, so I found it necessary to have extra bra liners and to control my emotions. I used techniques learned in Lamaze to focus and slow down. Relaxing really helped me and usually reduced the milk flow in this crisis times until I could feed the baby.

    Annette from Wisconsin:

      Tip #1: Though they can be expensive depending on the model you purchase, an electric or battery operated double breast pump is a must! Manual pumps are loud and inefficient, not to mention extremely slow and tiring. Invest in a good motorized pump and you'll save both time and sore hands.

      Tip #2: Take along a discreet tote bag or carrying case for your necessities. Usually a pump will come with its own case, but be sure to include sterile wipes, breast pads and lotion for sore breasts, along with anything else you might need in a pinch.

      Tip # 3: Enlist the help and support of your co-workers, especially your boss. Whether your boss is a man or a woman, be honest and upfront about your desire to breastfeed your child. Let him/her know how important it is to you while still conveying that your work responsibilities won't suffer.

      Tip # 4: Location, location, location! It's not just the catch-phrase in real estate. It's very hard to relax when you're trying to use a breast pump in a semi-public bathroom. If you're lucky enough to work close to your home, head there for your lunch break. If you discuss your needs with your boss ahead of time, it's the perfect segue to ask about setting aside an unused room (especially if there are other breastfeeding moms) specifically for that purpose. All you need is a room with a lock.

      Tip # 5: Be sure to bring along a lunch cooler and ice packs to store your expressed milk. If you have access to a refrigerator, great, but you'll still want to keep the bottles separate in something inconspicuous for hygienic/sterile purposes.

    Brittney from Colorado:

      Make sure you discuss your breastfeeding plan with your boss. You should have a specific plan; when, how often and where you'll pump are all things you should consider and make sure to mention.

      Try to plan your pumping sessions on the same schedule as your baby's regular daily feeding schedule. That way on days when you're not working your milk supply will be adequate enough and you won't have the need to supplement with a bottle.


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    Nursing at work isn't easy, but it is rewarding. I'm confident that these breastfeeding tips will help you balance your two lives - the one at the office and the one at home, as easily as possible.

    If you have breastfeeding tips for working moms and want to share them, let me know and I'll be happy to post them!

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Heather recommends...

nursing mother, working mother

Nursing Mother,
Working Mother

This book provides well-needed advice to help working moms balance life at home and life at the office.

She provides breastfeeding tips and suggestions that range from the radical to the why-didn't-I-think-of-that!

Click here to see it at Amazon.

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