So many things change after the birth of our children—we think we are prepared for motherhood, only to be slapped with the reality that no class, book, conversation or prayer can save us from some of the experiences that we just have to slog through.
Our beautiful little bundles of joy are here and our priorities change drastically. While the most driven moms still cherish our careers, we now must think about the demands of motherhood first and the demands of our careers second. Thank heaven for maternity leave; we get a chance to dip our toes in the tidal wave of infant care while thinking about how we are going to maintain the delicate balance of childcare and work.
The thought of breastfeeding and having to maintain a schedule that is optimized for your body while at work is a very stressful one. It would be so much easier if we could afford to stay home and let the demands our children dictate when, where, and how they eat, but now we have the reality of fitting it into a nine-to-five and making sure that milk production maintains its integrity long enough for us to feed them. How will this be done?
Many workplaces are progressive enough these days to provide nursing mothers with a safe and discreet place to not only pump while at work, but a place to store their milk in a manner that does not compromise its quality. As a pumping mom, it is wise to advocate for yourself and speak up if you see that conditions for pumping while at work are not ideal for you and other mothers. Many times, it’s not a result of discrimination, but simply of ignorance—this is not in the forefront of your boss’s mind as he or she is planning the next strategy for company takeovers. Let the powers that be know what you need, and they should do their best to provide it for all the moms in your office.
That being said, let’s look at some ways that you can return to work successfully and continue to provide that golden health elixir that sustains and protects your baby in this critical time of growth. Here’s how to balance work and breastfeeding:
Don’t Worry About Volume
There are mothers who can make six weeks’ worth of extra milk upon returning to work and there are some who struggle to meet their children’s daily needs. Try not to worry too much; stress can actually have adverse effects on the amount of milk you produce, so keep an open mind and a positive thought that no matter how much milk your child is getting from you, it has health benefits that nothing else contains. The more you can establish a pumping schedule, the better you will be able to train your body to release at certain times of the day. Over time, you’ll be able to build up a surplus that can see you through “lean” days.
Nurse on Demand at Night
You’re still building up a supply in the first few months of your child’s life, so if it’s possible for you to nurse on demand at night, allow your child to nurse on demand. The powerful combination of hormones that are released in your body when you do feed keeps your supply coming in; suck up some sleep-“less” nights and indulge your baby to keep your supply high.
Surround Yourself With a Support Team
Finding people at work and at home to support your endeavors will help you to relax and enjoy the experience of providing for your child more. If you are lucky enough to be in an office environment with other moms, go to them for insight, support and advice, particularly if you are having a tough day. Don’t beat yourself up if you deviate from your schedule—get back on track as quickly as you can, and move forward from there.
Get Rid of That Toxic “All-or-Nothing” Mentality
Some moms swear that the only way to properly feed a baby is with breastmilk, while others are advocates of the nutrition that formula can provide to fill in the gaps. Some mothers just simply cannot produce the amount of milk needed to fulfill their growing baby’s needs, especially if the demands of work, family, and life interfere. Don’t be too hard on yourself; abandon the notion that formula is “bad” and realize that you are doing the best you can to provide for your child.
You Go, Girl!
You really are a miracle worker—balancing the demands of work and pumping to feed your child in an environment that doesn’t always seem warm and inviting. It really is a wonder that we moms can do this, isn’t it? Celebrate your amazing feat of being a working mom who can provide for her child, and continue to have compassion for yourself as you navigate the process of becoming the best mother you can be.