By Veronika Javor-
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. For some time after her birth I did a combination of nursing and pumping and even after lots of help from the incredible lactation support team here at the Pavilion for Women, I made the choice to exclusively pump so that I could continue to provide breast milk for my baby who was having a difficult time nursing.
Returning to work after having a baby brings about many challenges, and one of the most major ones is continuing to nurse. Staying motivated and having the right support system and resources in place is essential for any mom who would like to continue to provide breast milk for her baby.
After exclusively pumping for the last year, here are my best tips for making it through to reach your nursing goal:
1. Get into a routine – start pumping before you return to work, if possible. Get your body used to the pump and try to pump the same times you would at work so your body gets into a rhythm. This will make it less of an adjustment when you return to work because you’ll already have a routine established.
2. Plan ahead – how many times will you need to pump at work and for how long? How will you make sure you bring the supplies you need each day? Where will you pump and store your milk? Addressing these questions about a week before you arrive back to work will allow you to have a solid plan to integrate pumping into your day. Remember that we have a wonderful Milk Bank where employees can pump located on the fourth floor of the West Tower. If you work off-campus, make sure there is a room or office you can pump in prior to returning to work.
3. Build a support network – some days, what got me through was talking to coworkers and friends who pumped. Their stories and words of encouragement motivated me. If you’re a mom who pumped at work, offer encouragement to moms returning to work. Sometimes a simple “you’re doing a great job!” can make someone’s day.
4. Get your partner involved – my husband has been very supportive and I could not be more thankful. Each morning he packs a Ziploc bag containing my pumping parts for the day as well as a cooler bag. It’s one less thing for me to think about in the morning.
5. Make small goals – though my ultimate goal was to provide my daughter with breast milk for the entire first year of her life, I made smaller goals as a way to take pressure off of myself. My first goal was six months, then nine. By the time I made it to nine months, getting to 12 didn’t seem so far away.
6. Celebrate! Speaking of making goals, it’s just as important to reward yourself for meeting each goal. Maybe it’s a fancy dinner or a new pair of shoes. Maybe it’s simply enjoying your favorite dessert after dinner – celebrate each breastfeeding milestone. You deserve it!
7. Be productive – though pumping limits what you can do, there are ways to make that time count. Answer emails on your smartphone, tablet or laptop, review lengthier documents that require proofing or clean out and organize your inbox. You could also pump during your lunch break and eat at the same time. If you’re using your lunch break to pump, make that your “me time” which you don’t get a lot of as a new mom and do something you enjoy!
8. The light at the end of the tunnel – try to remember pumping isn’t forever and remind yourself about the important benefits you’re providing to your baby. Anytime I had a rough day and hated the idea of pumping (yet again) I reminded myself that it’s temporary and I focused on how my daughter is growing the thriving with the nutrition only I can provide for her.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – that’s what our lactation support and milk bank staff are for. I’ve called many times myself.
10. Don’t be too hard on yourself – deciding to stop breastfeeding can cause a lot of guilt. If you find you don’t want to or cannot continue, don’t focus on what you’ll no longer provide- focus on what you have provided to your child. Breastfeeding has cumulative benefits so each day counts! Celebrate what you provided, no matter how long or short a time.
I hope this helps all of the new moms who are returning to work and trying to manage new schedules. Take it one day at a time and remember, YOU CAN DO IT!