Parts of me wanted to just slide right past this post without mention because breastfeeding is h a r d. It doesn't work out for a lot of mamas. All the information out there can be suffocating and intimidating and down right discouraging when trying to absorb the tips and tricks from the 'breastfeeding pros'. News flash: I am definitely not an expert. But I am one of the lucky ones that has had success with breastfeeding my babies. I am still in the learning stages with Baker, and what I do want to document (for myself) is how different it is breastfeeding one baby versus two babies. Since my prior breastfeeding experience was solely based on feeding two babies, I felt like I was coming into this second round of breastfeeding blind and with anxiety of the unknown.
the b e g i n n i n g.
I requested the lactation consultant to come in the morning after Baker was born. After she whizzed through several questions like "how was your experience with your last delivery" and "how long did you nurse your twins..?" she stared blankly at me and made it somewhat clear that she wasn't sure why I had requested a consult.
"I don't know how to breastfeed one baby."
Does she eat on both sides? How do I know when to switch sides? How will I know when she's full enough?
Taken back slightly, she quickly realized that yes, I needed a little assistance. I really was clueless as to how or what the basics were to feeding just one baby. Nursing two babes for 13 months I produced enough on one side to feed the girls tandem-style. I had no idea the concept of switching sides or knowing which side to start on the next time I nursed.. basic concepts of breastfeeding, you know? I did take a class prior to the twins being born, but the nurse proctoring the class basically said after every sentence that "...your experience won't apply to XYZ". Needless to say I began the learning experience of feeding a singleton and it took about 8 weeks before my body finally figured out that I was only feeding one baby and Baker was efficient enough to begin eating off both sides when needed.
the m i d d l e
I wasn't pumping hardly at all during the early weeks because .. toddlers. I simply didn't have time. When my weeks and days at home continued to grow shorter and shorter, I knew I needed to start introducing myself to the pump and Baker to the bottle. My going back to work sort of forced us onto a regular scheduled routine and I kind of loved it. I started pumping first thing in the morning after I fed Baker and would offer Baker the bottle here and there when the opportunity presented itself. The morning was when I could get the most out of pumping. By the time your baby is 4 weeks old your body will have built up enough supply to be able to handle at least one session.
Pumping while I was still at home not only helped with my supply, but it also helped to build a small stockpile of milk in the freezer. This helped my confidence during the early weeks after returning on the days that I didn't quite get enough milk to fill the bottles for the next day.
Practice makes perfect when introducing the bottle to your little one, so while you may hear conflicting information about when to offer a bottle - your best bet would be to leave bottles at bay for the first 4 weeks or so. I would suggest about 1-2 weeks before you go back to work to start offering a bottle at least once a day to your babe. The first couple times Baker took a bottle it was.. terrible. She cried, choked, refused. I was panicking a little to think that she would soon have no choice but to take a bottle, so we better figure this out pretty quick. Thankfully we had enough time to work through that struggle and my sweet girl takes a bottle like a champ these days! That's a relief. Now- if only I could keep those bottles filled to where they needed to be on a daily basis.
going b a c k
You may be on the receiving end of less than supportive comments/questions from ignorant co-workers. There will be days when you’re ready to toss in the pump and reach for the formula - I have them. But in the end, I have made a commitment to continue to breastfeed, and I found a way to do it. Forget the “what ifs.” “What if he won’t take a bottle?” “What if she won’t take a nap without nursing?” “When I pump milk at home I can pump only a little bit. What if I can’t pump enough milk when I’m back at work?”
Don’t let these worries intrude on your decision to make the commitment.
f i r s t things first
The first thing I did when I was preparing to go back to work was figure out where I would be pumping - this girl needed some privacy a couple times a day! Thankfully I have an office that I am able to close the door and take some personal time to do what I need to - but not everyone in my work place gets this benefit. Make sure there is a room for you to camp out in before it is time for you to pump. That way you have plenty of time to figure it out or ask for help before the dreaded leaking through your shirt panic sets in when you literally have to get some relief right.now. All you really need is a clean private room with an outlet - not the bathroom. According to U.S. law, most workplaces have to provide accommodations for you. Here’s a summary of federal and state breastfeeding laws just in case you need it:) Ideally, the place where you pump will have an electrical outlet, so that you can use an electric pump, if that is your choice, and a sink to rinse off the parts of the pump that come in contact with your milk. You’ll need a comfortable chair and a table for your equipment, your lunch, or any reading or work you might want to look at while you’re pumping. Another important question to ask yourself.. Where will you store the milk? A refrigerator where you can store expressed milk is handy, though you can substitute ice packs and a cooler. I keep mine in a lunch bag and our office fridge.
supply b u s t e r
The number one supply buster is not emptying your breasts often enough.
You will need to pump about as often as your baby nurses, every 2-4 hours. If you work an eight-hour day, this means pumping at mid-morning, at lunch, and at mid-afternoon. Baker takes 2 bottles while I'm at the office during the day- first pumping session is around 10am and my second session is about 2pm. If I get a chance to nurse her before I leave in the morning, my lunch hour is typically spent pumping instead of 10am. There are a ton of theories and ideas out there for how long you are supposed to pump. I've heard to pump five minutes after you notice the 'last drop', some say to pump at least 20-25 minutes and no less, others say just 10-15 minutes is enough. Personally, I would make sure to pump until your breasts feel soft and empty. For me, this is at least a 30 minute pumping session every 3-4 hours during my work day. You may even notice an increase in your supply as you begin pumping more often. If you empty your breasts every time, your body is reminded to produce more. If you are not empty when you stop your session, your body will being to assume you don't need as much milk- which is a common factor in a decrease in supply shortly after returning to work.
the c l u s t e r
One thing that I was told when I went back to work was that breastfed babies who are away from their mothers during the day often nurse more frequently at night. This happened to me and Jolie. I went back to work when the twins were almost three months old, and around that time Jolie started waking through the night, and would not be soothed unless she nursed. This lasted about a month- I would wake to feed her just once a night around 2am. I had no idea my going back to work could have altered her sleep-eat habits, but surely it had. All that said, I am here once again with Baker. The week I went back to work that girl was up all night long and basically wouldn't sleep unless my boob was in her mouth! We are still reeling from this, but her sleep is getting longer in between feedings, so we can only move forward.
one l a s t tip
You can combine breastfeeding and formula feeding. Breastfeeding is not an all-or-nothing deal. While many of us who work and attempt to solely breastfeed find success, others resort to using formula as a back-up when they are unable to pump enough milk - and that it completely fine!
Right now breastfeeding + pumping + working is going well for Miss B and me. She is taking about 6 ounces in a bottle twice a day - and occasionally a third bottle if I have an early or late meeting that day. My goal is 12 months, and maybe even 13 or longer as I did with the twins. This time around has been MUCH different than my experience with the twins. I started out with many of the same anxieties that I had as a first time mom and eventually we got into the groove of it. One month in, and I'd say its a success!
What are your tips for keeping up with breastfeeding while working?
I'm all ears!