This post is over a year in the making. Life of a working mom, then-pumping mom, then mom, right?
Having a kid is a lot of fun, but it’s also hard work. (Like, the hardest job I’ve ever had!) One of the hardest/most annoying parts of motherhood is feeding your kid, specifically breastfeeding.
Michael was a good breastfeed-er and we hit our stride pretty early on. But, it was a task; not something I wanted to do, but something I had to do. You know, to feed my kid. Breastfeeding while you’re with the kid is pretty easy to get the hang of, but when you’re away from him and pumping? A whole ‘nother story.
Until recently, and while I was nursing Michael, I worked for the City of Seattle and while some of the city buildings only have adequate pumping facilities, my building’s “mother’s room” is amazing. In addition to a couple of mini fridges, a sink, and microwave (essentials for storing and cleaning your milk), we had plush chairs, private cubicles, and a bank of lockers to store our gear.
By themselves, these attributes made my pumping experience a bit better than some of my friends who didn’t have quite this nice of setup. But it isn’t a standalone thing. The City employs thousands of individuals, and some of them are lactating moms. This is a strong, close-knit community that I was honored to be a part of for close to a year.
It’s not easy going from months off of work, focusing solely on nurturing your new human to working 8+ hours a day, trying to pretend that you didn’t just give birth and don’t have biological needs that have to be addressed. Do you know what it’s like to push your pump break a few minutes only to have to rush to the Emergency Operations Center with your non-parent, mostly male colleagues to address citywide messaging for a huge power outage in downtown Seattle instead of “milking yourself”? I do. It’s not ideal.
I named the lactation/mother’s room the Pump Haus (or Microsoft, which is what it looks like you’re saying if your colleague mouths “milk yourself” after saying you need to leave a meeting urgently). I made some really great friendships there with moms with kids weeks or months older or younger than Michael. We talked about everything. It was a real, live chat board! The more experienced moms set many of our concerns to rest and I was thankful that I was able to pass along my knowledge to the newbies. We talked sleeping, eating, drinking not just for our babes, but also for ourselves; everything under the sun! We shared sale codes, recipes, and advice about decorating, first birthday parties, vacations, and jobs. I even took a meeting or two in the Pump Haus, with a new-mom colleague. Talk about multi-tasking!
I stopped pumping in September, after Michael’s first birthday. I didn’t realize how emotional it would be, but as I wrote a note to my fellow Pump Haus moms, I teared up. While I blame the hormones for the tears, the Pump Haus and my Pump Haus community were a huge part of last year. I count my blessings that I was able to have such a positive pumping experience, because I know that’s not always the case.
Just before the end of the year Michael nursed for the last time and seems to be doing just fine without breast milk. (YESSSSS!!!) It’s pretty freeing for me and for those of you who are struggling with breastfeeding and/or pumping, or heading back to work soon, I’m here to share my tips with you.
For milk production:
- Drink a lot of water. Like, a lot. Drink one ounce of water for every pound that you weigh. I know. That’s a lot of water, but I promise, it’ll keep your supply up!
- Don’t diet. Making milk burns about 500 calories a day, and you need those calories in order to make the milk, so don’t diet.
- Eat healthy, but… Don’t deny yourself either. I’m a pretty healthy eater, but my milk seemed to increase those days when I had a little bit shittier things to eat (licorice, Cheetos, cookies, etc).
- Drink this tea or take Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle supplements. It tastes gnarly, but it works.
- Eat lactation cookies! I tried a million recipes and my favorite one came from Milkin’ Mamas, but the link doesn’t work anymore, so I retyped it. (You know a recipe is legit if it’s posted in the lactation room at work and dated almost two years prior!) I would make a large batch of cookie dough, bake the cookies I needed for the week and then freeze the extras, so I could bake them whenever I needed cookies.
- Your supply operates on a supply and demand schedule. If there isn’t a demand, there won’t be a supply. So, if you want to keep your supply up, pump as many times as you would normally feed your wee one on the weekend. This also meant pumping before bed for me, which was pretty annoying, but it also meant Michael was a good nighttime sleeper, so a trade-off I was ok with.
- Supplement! Sometimes you just don’t make as much milk as others. It’s most important that your child eat. We used Similac for Supplementation throughout Michael’s first year and he continues to thrive!
Pumping at work:
- Get this bra. It’s sizing is very forgiving (growing and shrinking with you, easy to wash) and you’ll have your hands free to properly search Pinterest. (I mean, respond to work emails.)
- Keeping a pump at work with clutch for me. If possible, keep one at work, so you won’t have to drag it back and forth.
- I can’t say enough about my steam sanitizer. I preferred to wash my pump supplies at home, but have the supplies (soap, brush, steamer) if you’re washing there.
- The jury is out on how long you can leave milk un-refrigerated. I usually kept it out no more than 4 hours.
- Have a waterproof bag for transporting your milk upright. As much as you want those Madela lids to work flawlessly, they don’t.
- I bought these 8 oz Madela bottles and kept my milk in them. It was a lot easier than lugging lots of small bottles around!
I think that’s it. Happy pumping!