So, you have a new sweet little one at home! Congratulations! You are breastfeeding! Yay! I breastfed too… until 12 weeks after my little one was born and I went back to work. I was so excited to go back to work. I absolutely love teaching kindergarten. I was also completely devastated to be leaving this new little life that I loved fiercely. I knew that I wanted to keep breastfeeding so I bought a pump and a couple of bottles and thought it would come easy. I think that it may come easy for some new moms, but for me and my little one it was anything but easy. I didn’t respond to the pump and Ella wouldn’t take a bottle. Luckily the sitter that we had for her was a La Leche League Consultant with her daily support and relentless effort it started getting easier! In fact I was able to pump through the first year and Ella was breastfed until she was two!
Here are some of the tips and tricks that worked well for us and were important to learn:
- Know Your Rights: Almost all states have rights that protect breastfeeding rights for new moms. These rights include the employer providing an adequate place and time for pumping. You can find the federal law that protects nursing mothers here. In addition many states have their own laws that protect nursing mothers in the work place. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and your baby. http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/workplace-law
- Find the Best Time and Place: Work out your schedule for what will meet your supply needs for feeding your baby while you are away. Both of mine only took two 4 oz bottles during the day when they were away from me. I struggled to produce that. Even with the struggle I found a way to pump enough for them during the day. My schedule looked like this 5:30am breastfeed baby, 7:00 breastfeed baby, Drop baby off at the sitter, 7:30 pump for 15 minutes, 10:30 (lunch) pump for 20 minutes, 1:00 (recess) pump for 20 minutes, 3:30 breastfeed baby – 3:30 – midnight NEVER PUT BABY DOWN BECAUSE I MISSED HER SO MUCH I COULDN’T HANDLE IT!
- Get the Right Equipment: There are several options for quality breast pumps. Insurance even covers breast pumps now! No matter which brand you choose, you are definitely going to want a double electric pump and spare parts. The industry leader for the past decade has been the Medela – Pump in Style. This is the pump I used and they are much more stylish now! I also bought a set of extra parts in case something didn’t get sanitized the night before. Other great pumps are made by Spectra and Aveda.
- Work on Mindset: To be honest, the first few times I pumped, I cried. I cried because I missed my baby. I cried because I was doing something that I should be doing with my baby alone. I cried because I was lonely. As time went on, pumping became a sacred time and space that I could take a break from the work world and think about my baby and my love for her as her mother. Thinking about her, thinking about her nursing, and thinking about how much I loved her increase my response to the breast pump. Some things that help are keeping a picture of your baby with you, watching a video of your baby, or keeping a blanket or something soft that smells like your baby with you when you pump. The emotional and physiological responses that your body makes to these supports can help your body respond better to the pump.
- Get Support: Don’t be afraid to ask for or receive help when you are pumping. When I was pumping, my team knew that if I wasn’t finished in time to pick up my kids from their specials, they would grab them for me. There were also a handful of times that my class doubled up with another class for a few minutes to do a craft so that I could squeeze in an extra pumping section if I needed to. Recently, a friend on my team was pumping and we watched her kids during recess so that she could go inside and pump. Talk to your team and see how they can help you. Each night when I was putting our baby to bed, my husband would wash, sanitize, and repack my pumping bag for me. I will never be able to thank him enough for doing this simple task and giving me that much more time with our babies in the evening. Talk to your husband.
- Be Patient: Pumping isn’t always easy at first. It may take several days to a couple of weeks for your body to respond to the pump. You may only have to pump once a day, or you may be like I was and have to pump multiple times. Be patient with your body and be committed to making it work. You may also have to be patient during each pumping session. I would generally get a really good let down in the first 5 minutes, maybe 2-4 ounces from each side. To make sure that I pumped hind milk as well, I would always pump 10-15 minutes extra at each session. Not only does this encourage your body to continue to make more milk, you may get another let down at each session. It takes time and some mindset work, but it is really beneficial.
- Trust Your Baby: After all of that work during the day to pump, there were some days that my babies either wouldn’t take a drop because they only wanted mommy, or they drank all of the milk and wanted more. I recommend not supplementing with formula either way. When baby is older, you can supplement with some food or cereal. When your baby is younger, you may be able to ask your care provider to distract the baby with something to chew or play with. You may also have to trust your baby at night. Another sacrifice that I would make again in a heartbeat is sleepless nights. Both of my children nursed through the night. I believe that they were making up for both physical and emotional needs that they missed during the day. Their bodies knew what they needed to make up for and they preferred night nursing over taking bottles. This meant that I did co-sleep, I would recommend doing some research on co-sleeping before you start.
- Don’t Give Up: Being a mom is amazing but it is hard. Leaving your babies to go teach other people’s children is hard. Sticking two cold hard plastic cones up to your nipples and feeling somewhat akin to a bovine is less than enjoyable. Don’t give up. Soon you will have made it to your breastfeeding goal and the joy of providing and experiencing that as a mother is incredible. You can do this!
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