Well, actually its the entire month of August, which is even better!
World Breastfeeding Month is dedicated to raising breastfeeding awareness. Now, you might ask, why do we need breastfeeding awareness? Who doesn’t know about this option? Well, most women are aware of what breastfeeding is and most everyone has heard the phrase “breast is best” but a rather large number of women either make the decision not to breastfeed or they encounter problems and quit early (or never start.) And while I will ALWAYS support any mother who makes the best decision she can for herself and her child, I always want every mother to have as much information as possible.
I have numerous friends who have confided in me that they gave up on breastfeeding because they lacked information and that just breaks my heart. I’m so very thankful that we have formula options for those moms who genuinely can’t make breastfeeding work but many moms are told things like they don’t make enough milk, they can’t take pumping breaks at work, baby needs more nutrition than breastmilk can provide or the worst one, that a mom shouldn’t let her child have “control” over her body.
I could write a book debunking all of these things and more but today I want to focus on breastfeeding and going back to work. That is what World Breastfeeding Week is focusing on this year. I’ve been super blessed in that I’ve been able to stay home with my daughter but I know many moms are not able to stay home or they simply wish to go back into the workforce. For those moms there are some important things to remember…
- 1) Most (if not all) states have laws in place that allow for a mom (for at least baby’s first year) to pump at work and in a comfortable room (not a bathroom). If you are considering going back to work, I would encourage you to find out what your state’s law is and don’t be afraid to share with your boss. Of course, you and your boss are welcome to come to whatever arrangement is acceptable to you both, but just know that you aren’t required to pump in a closet or bathroom. And you should be allowed to take pumping breaks when necessary.
- 2) Some women will not respond to typical pumps. This is your off-the-shelf Medela or other regular pump. I used a Medela and never had a problem but some women just don’t respond to regular pumps. In that case, you might look into a “hospital grade” pump. Now, I have no first hand experience with those, but its my understanding that they are stronger than a regular one and help express more milk. Keep in mind also that some women will never respond to a pump, no matter what. This is very rare but it does happen. If this happens to you, know this: YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. Women’s breasts were meant to nurse a baby, not a plastic pump. Its kind of a miracle that any of us respond to pumps at all!
- 3) Some women also do not produce a lot of milk for the pump. THIS IS NOT A SIGN OF HOW MUCH MILK BABY IS GETTING AT THE BREAST. I put that in all caps because this is the number one thing I hear. “Oh I was only pumping 1oz each time, so I was forced to put my baby on formula so he wouldn’t starve.” This is simply not true. As long as baby is growing appropriately, seems to be satisfied after nursing, and has plenty of wet/dirty diapers then your breasts are making enough milk.
- 4) Some other pumping tips:
– Drink lots of water – a dehydrated body has a hard time producing milk.
– Relax – you can’t sit rigid and stressed out and expect your body to release milk. Find a quiet spot, maybe listen to some music, have a glass of tea. RELAX.
– Keep some of your baby’s articles with you when you pump – the smell of your baby will signal to your body the need for a letdown. Pictures of your baby also work well too. Close your eyes and think of that precious bundle of joy and breathe baby’s scent in. Many moms report that having a sound recording of their baby crying when baby is hungry is also a great way to cue a letdown.
– Talk to your childcare provider and explain to them that you want to nurse your baby as soon as you pick baby up. Make sure they schedule the last feeding for the day at least two hours before you plan to pick up.
– Make sure you get plenty of skin-to-skin (and if possible, nursing) time with baby whenever you are around. Breasts respond to supply and demand. Your body will want to know that you still have a baby that its producing for. Also its VERY common for a baby to nurse a LOT when mom has been gone for the day. Its really more for bonding and comfort than it is for the need for milk. Cherish those snuggles, especially when baby is little.
- 5) If, for whatever reason, you don’t have success with a pump and you simply can’t do it, it may be worth it to reconsider going back to work right away, if possible. If you do decide to go back to work, you can look into finding donor milk – where another mom pumps and donates milk for moms in need. There are milk banks, the two groups “Eats on Feets” and “Human Milk For Human Babies” and local mama groups may have a way you can connect with someone. One last option is to try hand expressing or a manual pump while you are away from baby. It won’t make enough to leave much with baby but it may keep your supply from dropping so that you can nurse when you and baby are together. If none of these options work out for you and you do indeed switch to formula, I want to tell you that IT IS OK. You are not a failure as a mom. You haven’t doomed your child to a life of unhealthiness. You are simply doing the best you can. You are still mom. You still snuggle and kiss and play pat-a-cake. Yes, breast is best. Yes, breastmilk is full of so many more micro nutrients than formula has. Yes, it has other beneficial properties aside from the nutritional. But in this journey of motherhood, we all do the best we can and we love our babies. As long as you continue to love your baby and make sure your baby feels loved, then you are a rock star!
I hope this post has been helpful for any breastfeeding moms that are looking at going back to work! Just know that you have rights, you have support and you have help! If you don’t have a support team, feel free to contact me or leave a comment here and I’ll try to find you a support team. You aren’t in this alone, there are women EVERYWHERE that want to see you succeed in your breastfeeding journey! Rock on, working mama!!