I now believe that a mother can work and breastfeed her child for as long as she intends to. Because I, for one, am a working mom who have been breastfeeding my Little Princess for almost 23 months now. See, it can be done! 🙂
Let me start with these 2 important things that I believe helped me to continue to breastfeed my precious child even while I’m working:
- My personal desire to give the best nourishment to my child. I learned from my breastfeeding journey that a mother, working or not, should be armed with the determination and dedication to breastfeed in order for her to successfully breastfeed her child. This mindset is in fact extremely helpful when you are away from your child during the day to work. I also set a breastfeeding goal of at least 2 years to motivate me.
- Support of and understanding from my boss and colleagues. Pumping 4 times a day in the middle of tasks and meetings at work is not a joke and I’m very thankful and blessed that my boss and colleagues support and understand my decision to provide the best milk for my daughter. I talked to them about the benefits of breastfeeding and how natural it is and I’m thankful that I never experienced any negative remark or reaction whenever I put on my breastfeeding gear in the office. I didn’t have any baggage of mocking or discrimination to deal with.
It had to begin with myself through proper mindsetting then gaining support from the people around me. But of course, I also needed to strategize on how I could pump in the office with my work environment — I work a long 9.6 hours, I also go on fieldwork, we do not have a lactation room in our office and no accessible refrigerator as well. So I better think of ways on how I could make my breastpumping-in-the-office (or even out of office 😀 ) work and here are the “strategies” that I do given my work hours and work condition. 🙂
1. I follow a pumping schedule and stick to it as much as possible.
To maintain my milk supply, I need to express as frequent as possible following the supply and demand principle so I have to set a pumping schedule that would work for me. During the first 16 months of the Little Princess when my milk supply was still abundant, I pumped at 8:30am, 11:30am, 2:30pm and 5:30pm, expressing 4-5 ounces per session. My output decreased to around 3-4 ounces per session when the Little Princess got a bit older with her milk consumption also dwindling. Now at 23 months of breastfeeding, my pumping schedule has changed following the change in my supply given the Little Princess’ demand (she drinks less milk now, eats more solids). I pump at 10:00am, 1:00pm, 4:00pm, and 6:00pm. I skip a session at times, usually the 4pm, depending on my work schedule. My current output is a bountiful 1-2 ounces per session. 😀 But I haven’t given up yet! 😉
2. I adjust my pumping schedule depending on work demands.
I couldn’t strictly adhere to my pumping schedule all the time because of meetings and other work-related activities so I work around my schedule. When I have a meeting that coincides with my pumping schedule, I pump 15-30 minutes before the said meeting. If it’s an informal discussion within our all-ladies department, I pump during our meeting. Thank God for my very understanding colleagues. 🙂
3. I pump at my office cubicle allowing me to multi-task.
Because we do not have breastfeeding station yet in the office, my work cubicle serves as my pumping station. We have a separate room in our office where I can pump more privately but I prefer doing it at my desk because it’s more accessible and I can do some work while pumping like reading emails and reviewing reports. I just cover with a scarf or a nursing poncho then proceed with my thing (work and pumping 🙂 I’m multi-tasking!). I think it also helped that we are all ladies in the department so I have gotten used to and have become comfortable with pumping while working and my colleagues seeing me all wrapped at my cube with a tiny apparatus attached to me. But I guess I wouldn’t mind too, even if we have male colleagues. 🙂
4. I pump anywhere when needed.
At a barangay hall during fieldwork, in an FGD (focus group discussion) viewing room, in a meeting room, in a training room, at a restaurant, on the airplane. I pump anywhere that is clean and feasible when it’s time for me to pump. When we have fieldwork which is usual in my line of work as a market researcher, I sit down covered in one corner with my handy manual pump or just my bare hands to discreetly express milk. I also do it in dark FGD (focus group discussion) viewing rooms even with the big bosses around. 😀 I also express milk during project briefings at our vendor’s office and at restaurants during lunch meetings. I’ve also done it on the plane while on business trip. 🙂 My little one’s need overides my self-consciousness because if I don’t have the courage to pump anywhere, I would just suffer with engorged breast that would lead to the decrease in my supply.
5. I learned how to hand express milk.
Based on my experience, it’s much faster to express milk by hand than using a pump. I’m done in 5-10 minutes while it took me 30 minutes to fill a bottle with my pump. In fact, I have already kept my breastpump and shifted to hand expression for around 6 months now. Easier and faster. No need to refrigerate or sterilize flanges. Saves time and effort. It also made my pumping anywhere a lot easier and more discreet. 🙂 Also, hand expression reduces the risk of plugged ducts which I promise is one of the worst things that can happen to a breasfteeding mom. 😀 It’s just a little challenging at first when you don’t get the correct hand positioning and hit the pressure points but once you get the hang of it, it’s already a breeze. 🙂
6. I useD three single breastpump to save on cleaning and sterilizing time.
Since I pump 4 times in the office, my Unimom Forte double breastpump functioned as a single pump for 2 separate pumping occasions, one of which I re-use for the third pumping session. For the 4th session, I used my manual Spectra pump which is my backup pump in case there is no electricity or electrical socket on where I will express milk. All these cover for my 4-times-a-day pumping requirement without the need to sterilize each time I would pump.
7. I put my used breast flanges inside the refrigerator for re-use in the next pumping session to save on sterilization.
This saved me a huge amount of time and effort back when I was still using my breastpump. The high temperature from the ref keeps the milk residues on the flanges from getting spoiled so it can be re-used. I just sealed the flanges inside my Lock & Lock container to avoid contamination and put it (or request to be put as we don’t have a ref in our office) in our nearby canteen ref then I would just pick it up when it was time for me to pump. A little hassle to go back and forth the canteen but at least it was just once a day. 😀
8. I store my pumped milk in my cooler pouch with ice packs.
We do not have an accessible refrigerator in our office and the nearest one is at the canteen and I find it inconvenient (and I’m too lazy! 😀 ) going to and fro the canteen and request the servers to keep my pumped milk every single time I pump (that was my system for a while until I got tired. And lazy. Haha! 😀 ). So what I do now is just store my expressed milk at my cooler pouch with 2 frozen ice packs for the rest of the day until I go home. It doesn’t spoil, thankfully. 🙂
Pumping-at-work can be challenging but establishing a system and strategies that work for you and incorporating these in your daily work life coupled with a genuine motivation of giving the best food for your child actually makes it a joyful activity. Not daunting at all. 🙂