Breastfeeding can be great or it can be terrible. Formula feeding can be great or it can be terrible. However you choose to feed your child is not terrible. It is incredible that your child is being fed!
So yes, I breastfed my daughter. It was great and terrible, sometimes at the same time. This post is not to toot my own horn or make anybody feel bad about their decisions (you shouldn’t – your child is well cared for!). This post is to illustrate the challenges of breastfeeding, both at work and at home, and what I did to overcome some of those challenges.
The first couple weeks of Elizabeth’s life were challenging, to say the least. I was more tired than I had ever been in my life, Nathan & I were learning how to be parents, I was learning how to breastfeed, and quiet moments were few and far between with sleepless nights and well meaning (and appreciated) visitors.
Indeed, for some time Elizabeth and I slept much like you see above you. It was the only way I could get any rest.
In Elizabeth’s second week I was 100% home alone. The visitors were gone, Nathan was back to work, and we were out of toilet paper. I tested out my Moby wrap (I still love it!), put on my coat, buckled Elizabeth into her car seat, and made my way to the local Target.
A couple hours later I developed a slight fever. 24 hours later it was still hanging around so I called urgent care and they told me there would be a wait of about an hour. So I fed Elizabeth and went to urgent care by myself. 3 hours later I was finally home, trying (and failing) to not cry in front of my mother-in-law who had to rescue Nathan with some formula because I wasn’t around and Elizabeth was hungry.
Three weeks later (counting out, I am 5 weeks postpartum) I am interviewing for my current job. It is still something of a mystery to me how I managed to land the job at all. Nathan had been sick the night before and Elizabeth had a rough night. I was even more tired than usual and I was feeling pretty self-conscious because my interview clothes did not fit well at all. I was told my interview would be about an hour so I fed Elizabeth, dropped her off with my in-laws, and made the trek to St. Paul for the interview. Roughly 2 hours later I was leaving the interview. Luckily I didn’t start “leaking” until I was in the car. That would have been embarrassing. Luckily Elizabeth was fine.
The Tuesday after my interview I went back to work. Day 1 of pumping at work went relatively well. I worked for a small non-profit and my boss gallantly installed a lock on the door of our wellness room so I could pump in a private place (not too easy when you’re a receptionist).
My second week of work (I only worked one day my first week) I forgot to pack all the various accessories critical to connecting me to the pump. Luckily my old job was only 10 minutes away from home so I just dashed home and was saved!
I started my new job when Elizabeth was 8 weeks old. I remembered everything the first day, but the second day I was not so lucky. Nathan had dropped me off at work so I had to wait until he could come get me. It was one uncomfortable morning, that’s for sure!
The second time I forgot my stuff I decided that was it! I bought an extra set of things and kept them at work along with a little drying rack. It was definitely a game changer, especially when you have so much to think about in the morning!
The biggest challenge I had after my own forgetfulness was making my work as mobile as possible. I work in a cubicle and so every two hours I would have to get up and pump. Because I value my break time, I would work while I pumped. I know the experts say that looking at pictures of your baby helps your supply, but it didn’t help mine. I felt that the distraction of working actually helped my supply because, let’s face it, pumping is pretty miserable. You just feel like an industrial milk machine, not a mom.
Luckily, moms are born creative problem solvers! Good golly, was the work I do ever portable! I did such a good job that I’ve had trouble adjusting to not being a nomadic worker in the 2 months since I stopped pumping at work.
The final challenge I would like to address here is dealing with your coworkers who may be less-than-supportive. Your employer is required by law to allow you adequate break time to express your milk and provide a private space (not a bathroom) with an electrical outlet. The law doesn’t say anything about your coworkers. I had some challenged with one of my coworkers who would regularly ask me to help her with things just as I was going to pump, despite my pumping times being clearly marked on my public calendar. At first I said to myself “Oh, it’s just a couple minutes. So what?” But it morphed into a problem and I started saying I didn’t have time to help her at that moment, but I would be glad to when I was done.
So just a few bullet points to wrap things up:
- Don’t panic, you are an amazing mom no matter what!
- Save yourself some grief and get extra pumping accessories before you go back to work
- Stick to your guns with your coworkers from the beginning (even if you’re new, it’s okay!)
- Find what works for you, even if it’s not what other people are doing