Breastfeeding as a Working Mom (aka Pumping Fool!)

Breastfeeding versus formula feeding seems to be one of those extra-touchy, sensitive topics out there in mommy blog-land. Then when you add in the terms 'working mom' versus 'stay at home mom' you are basically playing with fire on the internet and bound to irritate a few readers. So first, I feel like I need to throw out the peaceful comment that I do not think formula is poison. I give mad props to ALL moms of babies because it's ridiculously challenging at times to keep said babies fed and (mostly) happy and growing. If you choose to use formula from day one, or you are forced to use formula after nursing just doesn't work out for any reason, I give you a big thumbs up because you are feeding your baby. Also, whether you answer to a wee little one as your 'boss' most days or you work outside of the home, again---more power to you. It's hard no matter what and every family is different.

So all of that said, I just so happen to work outside of the home part time (3 days per week, nice and balanced and I love it) and I thoroughly enjoy breastfeeding my babes. I mean, I kind of love it but I don't want to get all gushy on you about how the bond I've felt with nursing my children makes my heart literally ache at times. So I won't. But I will say that I know I'm beyond blessed to have had such a great experience nursing Truman for a year and Cecelia for her nearly six months thus far (keep going, baby girl!). I'm happy I've never had to mix a formula bottle for my kids but I'm not opposed to it, either. Because I know it's not so easy for a lot of moms and there are just so many roadblocks that can pop up during a nursing journey.

Especially for moms who work outside of the home--keeping up your supply while you are working is no freaking joke. It takes a ton of hard work, dedication and probably a lot of luck on your side to make it work. Someone once told me that back in the day (our mothers' generation), doctors would say that you had to choose between breastfeeding or bottle feeding. There was no room for both. You had to pick. Which means if you worked outside of the home you didn't have the privilege to breastfeed your baby after a maternity leave. Isn't that sad and totally unfair? It makes me feel even more grateful to have the option of nursing my baby even though I work outside of our home. And it makes me love whoever came up with the idea of a nice double-electric breast pump. Kudos, dude. Killed it.

But pumping? It pretty much sucks. Literally. And it's one thing to pump a bit when you are home with your baby to help establish a supply, or to relieve a bit of engorgement, or to create a small freezer stash for some freedom. But it's a totally different ballgame when it comes to pumping consistently, while also juggling a job with separate demands, for the long run. Pumping isn't *that* big of a deal but it's a huge annoyance, one more thing to fit into a work day for me, and then all of the 'milk management' issues that come with expressing milk out of your tats? Forget it. Totally need an extra hour in the day to deal with it all.

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I wanted to write this post to have a 'go to' post for all things pumping/nursing/working outside the home. I am by no means an expert on this topic, but apparently I have a lot to say (go figure). I know I always found these types of posts helpful when I was pregnant with Truman, researching the internet because I was totally scared that breastfeeding would not work for me as a mom who would be returning to work. I already wrote a few pretty informative posts when I was nursing Truman, which you are welcome to browse as you please:

Pump Talk part 1 | This one is all about my choice of double electric pump, and then a few general pumping numbers to live by with links to fantastic supportive websites for the pumping mom

Pump Talk part 2 | Here is where I talk about the actual logistics of pumping at work. Then I go into the gear/supplies that I need.

Hanging on for Dear Life | Uh-oh, things change with Truman's nursing around 9 months. I worry that I'm doomed to end our nursing relationship before I'm ready.

Breastfeeding Journey Evolution | The sappy, celebratory post I wrote about 'making it to a year' nursing Truman.

But I also wanted to update some of my old posts about this topic now that I'm on child #2 in a different job setting than before. Plus if there ever is a child #3, I'm sure I'd need to refer back to this post as a reference. You definitely forget a lot of the details about pumping when you aren't doing it day in and day out.

I still go with the concept of pumping about every 3 hours or less while you are separated from the babe. Which means 3 pumping sessions in a given 8 hour work day for me. It would be SO NICE to drop a session but I know that would probably spell disaster for my supply because I choose not to pump at home in the mornings before work or in the evenings before bed. A lot of girls will add a session in that way but I just really don't like to do that. In fact, I don't even pump at all at home on my days off or on weekends--maybe I should, but I don't. I blame the fact that Cecelia sleeps like crap, because I can't really pump before I go to bed---she will probably be eating a few minutes later (or maybe she already has). And I can't really pump when I wake up because she probably JUST ate and then I usually do pump about an hour after that last feeding before work anyway. See? Totally had to justify my reasoning as to why I only pump during business hours;)

But it should be noted that a lot of times when moms go back to work, they probably don't pump frequently enough and that is the primary reason their supply drops and they can't continue to meet baby's needs with nursing. Right now I average about 5ish ounces per session, giving me 15ish per day (more like 11-18 but who's counting?). And right now, at nearly 6 months, Cecelia is taking 10-15 ounces at Lori's. The numbers game is brutal to the ego if you aren't matching baby 1:1. BRUTAL. It's the part I hate the most about pumping---making sure that baby doesn't eat more than you can pump.

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As far as cleaning the pump parts, I had a revelation about half way through my pumping experience with Truman. If freshly expressed breast milk is good for 8 hours at room temperature then why is it necessary to clean the pump parts after every session? Any milk that is left on the parts would technically be okay for 8 hours, right? This is key for me because I pump in my car 3 times per day and do not have access to a sink and soap. Yes, they make wipes to clean your pump parts. But they are SUPER expensive and there is no way I'd continually buy those babies. I'd rather just wash my pump parts and bottles in the evening.

I do use a small ice pack inside my little cooler for the bottles that catch my milk. Now another light bulb moment for me? Why pump into numerous little bottles all day long? Why not just use two giant 9 oz bottles instead? My pump's cooler does fit such tall bottles so it's a no-brainer for me. I just use the same 9 oz bottles all day long and then it's less for me to clean at night. Hallelujah.

Other numbers that are still very helpful for me? I used the guidelines posted on Kellymom.com for all of Truman's milk and am going with that again this time, but I hear there are other timeline ideas out there, too. I store my frozen milk in my in-laws deep freezer, so it's good there for 6 months. If we keep it in our own regular freezer, that would be just 3 months. And once you defrost frozen milk it's only good for 24 hours. But freshly pumped milk can be refrigerated for 3 days which is awesome and helpful for me. I will pump on Monday and use that milk for bottles on Wednesday instead of messing with frozen bags all of the time. But I do pay close attention to my stored bags and try to rotate them out accordingly to avoid any milk going bad. You basically have to pry my fingers off every ounce in my hefty stash. I'm crazy like that. Can't help it.

Because I pump in my car most times, a nursing cover and a hands-free pump bra are a MUST. It's still a pain to get everything set up but then at least I can use those 15 minutes productively while I pump. Like check my phone for various social media updates, duh;)

And can I just take a time out and say that I'm SO GLAD my daughter did, eventually, succumb to our bottle attempts? If she was still refusing all artificial nipples I would probably be 100 times worse off for my mental health. Because I really do like having a freezer stash she can eat from for an extended period of time if something (God forbid) would happen to me or my supply. Thankfully she got over that little diva-stage and downs a bottle like a champ now. Hang onto hope if you are still struggling with your little one and a bottle. It really does get better!

And although my little stinker gave me anxiety attacks about possibly never taking a bottle, the second time around for nursing while working has been a lot easier. I had mastitis three times while nursing Truman (3 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months). I truly hope I don't jinx myself but so far so good. I HAVE, however, had multiple clogged ducts this time which is also really painful but nothing like The Big M.  I never had a single clogged duct the first time. Isn't that odd? My right side is still my big producer, usually getting about three times as much as old leftie. I was so worried that I would be permanently lopsided after breastfeeding Truman, but no---both sides were sufficiently pancaked once I was done with him. Also, I think because I am only away from Cecelia for three days per week now and I was away from Truman for four days back then, I am not as nervous about my supply this time. Meaning, I figure even if I can't match her bottle intake on those three days, I could hopefully make up for that by nursing her on our four off-days at home anyway. A nursing baby definitely ups your supply a lot better than a pump ever could.

(my first time breastfeeding Cecelia. Sigh. )
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What else about a pumping career? I don't know. But any mom who has been an 'exclusive pumper'--one who pumps and gives breast milk bottles without actually nursing the baby--has officially earned the title of a badass in my book. I would never have the motivation to pump full time without the reward of nursing my baby. So hard. And yet it's always worth the annoyance of the pump to be able to nurse my babe with each passing day.

Also, my cousin Krista runs a very informative website called Nursing Nurture. She has featured one of my breastfeeding posts there and does a great job at answering any nursing questions you may have. I know there are so many when you are just starting out!

23 comments:

  1. Julia,

    Such an informative post! I'm wondering where you got you numbers for storing milk (8 hrs, 3 days, 5 months)? I JUST talked to a lactation consultant on Friday and she said to go by the rule of 5's: 5 hours out, 5 days in fridge, 5 months in attached freezer. She said milk in a deep freeze is good for a year. She also said to not live and die by those rules and that if the milk doesn't smell rotten, it's still good. Based on her numbers you would have a little more wiggle room.

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    1. Erin--I meant to say in this post that I got my numbers from Kellymom.com. Very interesting to think the milk might last even longer for me (other than the freshly expressed stuff they say is good for 8 hours at room temp). Never heard of the rule of fives but I like it!!

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  2. LOVE this post! You know alllll my struggles with nursing this time around, but we are finally into a groove where I almost start crying at every nursing session because I love it so much. Crazy. I could still do without the recurrent clogged ducts, though, that's for sure.

    As a cubicle dweller with an oversupply, pumping has never really been that big of a deal for me because the pumping room is about 100 feet from my desk and all tricked out with everything I need (fridge, sink, chair, outlet) and I only need to pump 2x (10 mins each) to more than match Luke's needs. However, I shudder to think how painful cutting down to one session a day and eventually not pumping at all will be...

    Also, I totallllllly stretch the rules of milk storage and have never had an issue. 8 hours at room temp, I've gone a full week in the fridge, and probably almost 6 months in an attached freezer. I figure if it goes bad, he'll let me know. Usually it's not quite that long (I use pumped milk Friday for Monday's bottles) and try to keep it to 3-4 months in the freezer, but I know I've gone far longer than that and it's been fine.

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  3. Three pumps in a day takes time, but I wouldn't drop to two either. It would just hurt my supply and make it harder when I'm home with her on weekends.

    And you're right. Pumping sucks.

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  4. I pumped exclusively with both girls. It wasn't the plan, but it worked, although it was indeed a lot of work. I did a lot of pumping in the car!

    I made it almost 7 months with Shelby and 5.5 with Natasha. I just weaned with her. It was simply too much to manage on top of working full-time and being sleep deprived (and starved for time in general).

    I never had an oversupply, but I found as I was weaning with Natasha that I was able to cut out sessions without actually affecting my supply. It wasn't till I got down to just two sessions in 24 hours that my supply really took a hit. I found that kind of interesting.

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  5. This was a great post. And that is coming from a formula feeding stay at home mom! You will love having this to look back on if in fact you do have a #3! Props to you for working so hard for your daughter!

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  6. Yep, I pumped for 14 months as a FT working Mom with Jaxon... it sucked but I always felt the benefits outweighed how much work it was.

    Big props to you, Mama! And lots of great info here!!

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  7. Great post!

    As for exclusively pumping and how much it sucks, I bet you'd do it if you had to since the financial incentive is a big one!! I feel lucky Ben hasn't weaned himself yet the way Henry did so I'm not yet an exclusive pumper - but I'll do it to make it to a year without having to pay for any formula!

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  8. Working 13 months as a full-time mom and working outside the house. The thing I have found most difficult is that I don't have an office, I travel for my job, so I have no actual space to pump. So like Julia and others, my car is where I do most of my pumping. I am down to just 2 pumping sessions during the day, but he still eats like crazy in the evenings and at night.

    And I think you and I are from the same crazyland, because I still have a freezer full of milk, hitting that 6 month out mark right now, and yet I still worry every day about pumping enough to cover what he eats at daycare. Oh and on those numbers I heard: 8-10 hours on the counter, 8 days in the fridge, 6 months in a regular freezer and 12 months in a deep freezer.

    I know I will look back and be very proud of what I have done for my son and the relaxing time I have given up, but being able to look down and see his cute face and eyes while he eats is something no one can ever take away!

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  9. Great post! I EBF for 16 weeks but went back to work full time and 12 and my body just doesn't like the pump. Slowly but surely I dried up and was hearbroken.

    I think I cried when I bought my first bottle of formula, becuase I was sad my plans didn't work and becuase it is SO expensive!

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  10. Oh dear God, I despise pumping and give major kudos to those who do it every day. I just hated the whole process - assembling the bottles, pumping, storing the milk, cleaning. Ugh...girl, you are bringing back nightmares ;)

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  11. I was coming to your blog today for the purpose of looking up your other posts on breastfeeding/pumping. I just started back to work and am going to order the hands free bra. I can't wait! Thanks for being so detailed!!

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  12. I give giant props to pumping moms. I hate the pump with a passion and know it takes a ton of dedication to pull that sucker out day in and day out.

    Super informative post...the lightbulb moments about milk in the pump and the big bottles are brilliant. That ups the convenience of the whole thing by leaps and bounds!

    Also, I was always told in my breastfeeding group that the storage rules can be stretched quite a bit and that if something is wrong with the milk, you will know. It will smell bad and the baby won't take it. I definitely kept milk for a year in a deep freeze with Isaac.

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  13. I am a working mom and BF my son for 13.5 months. I was lucky to work for a great company that provided multiple "mother's rooms" and a flexible schedule that allowed me to pump during work hours. After the first week, I decided that washing/drying my pump parts after each session was WAY too cumbersome and just resorted to drying them off a bit until I was able to wash them in the evening at home.

    I was a total numbers freak about my milk supply too. I can definitely relate to this post!

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  14. I've been breast feeding and pumping for the past 10 1/2 months. I love nursing but HATE pumping and will not miss it when it's over. I am a working mom and pump 2-3 times a day at work, it's definitely a commitment but one that I'm glad I made. I think I will stop pumping when he hits a year and maybe just nurse in the mornings.

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  15. Great post. I hate pumping with a passion but I'm SO much more dedicated this time around because I never got this far last time :) I never wash mine either. I pump in my car several times a week depending on my client visits and my stupid office is awful at finding a place to pump. ugh.

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  16. Amen! Thank you for all of your ridiculously helpful pumping posts. I consulted them many times during my 13 months as a pumping mama!

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  17. Pumping for me was a nightmare. I was able to do it right in my office, so space was no biggie, but once I wasn't able to nurse on a regular basis, I had all kinds of physical side effects. Crazy night sweats, not losing a single freaking pound of baby weight, and having a baby that ate more than I could produce (15 oz taken at daycare vs 10-11 oz pumped = my whole life is a failure.). With the next baby, I am seriously considering not pumping after I return to work because all of my memories are of hating pumping, and I don't want to have those memories again!

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  18. You are such a wealth of information. You helped me so much in the beginnh days of pumping with all your milk knowledge. I had heard a year in the deep freeZe, but I'm already working my way into my stash so it won't last that long.

    Also, I am really interested in your nursing experience because I have pretty much always been an exclusive pumper. We tried pretty hard to nurse but because Henry was early and tiny, the pediatrician didn't want him losing anymore weight so I was pumping and giving bottles on top of unsuccessful nursing sessions. Well, the little guy decided bottles were much simpler and the boob was too hard. So, I was pumping almost so the time before I came back to work. But what's interesting is that I think being around Him more on maternity leave actually led to more milk production, even without nursing. Now I'm at work all day and pumping the same amount and getting a bit less each session. Which is a bit frustrating but it is what it is. And so far, we have been able to keep up, with the help of a few frozen bottles each week.

    Anyhow, no real point to my comment. I just liked reading your take. I am constantly amazed at the differences between babies..

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  19. Hi Julia! Have you ever thought of donating some of your breast milk to a milk bank? Great post!

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  20. TWO NINE OUNCE BOTTLES. You are a genius!

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  21. I pump in the car on the way to and from work as well I have found a new collection cup that is compatible with many pumps that I LOVE. They're called Freemies (www.freemie.com) you should check them out. Definitely worth the $50.

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