Thursday, August 9, 2012

Breastfeeding Exclusively While Working Full Time

As a full time working mother, creating a new life comes with some very real challenges. Problems of balancing time and energy, as well as managing expectations. There's also the necessity of handling the physical demands of both the job and the baby.  This post is exploring some of the paths I've taken this year and what has worked well for our little non-traditional family arrangement.

Young Logan was born in April. My employer was great about making sure I was weaned off of projects and prepared for my team to step in and take over anything I was working on when baby's timer went off. That part of maternity leave went really well. There were very few hiccups after my water broke early Weds morning and I asked my team lead to take over responsibility for the work I had planned for that week. I had no hesitation about making that call, and nothing but excitement about meeting the young lad that I knew would be out soon. (Well, excitement and a good dollop of fear and anxiety, but I'll save that for the birth story.) I know I'm blessed to have those privileges. I say blessed here, only to use a word other than "lucky," as I don't believe I'm lucky. I'm not happy with blessed either, as it implies that the blessing was bestowed on my by a deity, which I also don't believe in. The family friendly practices of this company were the main reason they lured me out to the middle of nowhere NW Iowa.  There was no luck involved, I worked hard for my engineering degree and was extremely picky about the job I accepted here. There are lactation rooms, fully supported FMLA leave policies, my boss is a woman and has had 4 kids with this company.  These were all things I verified before taking the position, even though at the time, I wasn't expecting to need to use them.

Anyway, I wanted to be clear on where I'm coming from with this post. I know I'm fortunate in the facilities and the support I receive, and it saddens me that not every woman in America has at least this much support. There's no right or wrong way to be a good parent, and I don't want to imply that this is the only or best way for anyone other than us.

I had 12 weeks off in total.  There were 5 of those weeks where I received 50% pay, from the temporary disability insurance the company carries.  The rest of the time off was without pay.  As the main income provider for my family, this required a lot of advanced planning. For the 8 month prior to the delivery, I sent 400$ a month towards the Health Savings Account (HSA). Plus I transferred a good chunk out of our savings into there, something on the order of 1 or 1.2K. We have a $4,000 deductible on our current health insurance and I knew I wanted at least $3,200 in the HSA before baby came, in order to have enough money in there to cover most of the medical bills.  I also tried to get every monthly bill paid up or paid ahead so that the first month after baby we could ignore the mail without anything getting shut off.

Jennie, what does any of this have to do with breastfeeding? Well, I'm getting to that part.  All of that work ahead of time set us up so that I could take the maximum allowed time off. I didn't want financial pressures pushing me back to the office, before baby and I were physically ready for it.  12 weeks is barely enough time to ensure that, 5 weeks or 6 weeks would have been really hard.

At 10 weeks out, boss lady and I decided that I would come back part time on week 12, using the last week of FMLA, over a 2 week span. I worked a MWF schedule my first 2 weeks back, using FMLA (unpaid) leave for T/TH.  This helped ease both baby and I into the work routine. On my end there was the pumping regimen to endure, and the desk schedule of 7:30-5pm.  On baby's end there was adjustment to bottle feeding with Dad.  Once I knew my start day, I had to make sure that there was enough milk pumped and frozen to sustain baby for that day.  This was a bit of a guess on my part. I knew how many feedings he usually had, and I tried to make sure there were enough bags in the freezer to cover the number of feedings I expected to miss. I didn't really know quantities, so I tried not to worry about it, and I had an extra bag to cover a bit of guessing error.

A few words about pumping at work.  I have to pump 3 times a day at work. (I work the aforementioned schedule of 7:30-5 in a cube.) My company has 50+ employees, so we have a lactation room. (It's also a server room, but not high traffic.) My boss leaves my pumping breaks up to me to schedule and follow and work around. I try to stick to a schedule, I use my calendar and repeating alarms to help. I have found that it's not critical though, I can swing one feeding by 30 minutes in either direction and not have any problems.  It takes me 15 minutes to pump. I usually combine my pee break/coffee refill and pump break, so I'm away from my desk for 20 minutes each time.   By the end of the first week of full time pumping, my nips were hurting enough that I had to break out another set of Soothies pads to ease them a bit Friday and Saturday. Second week of full time went a little better.

A few words about the pump. I bought a double electric pump, with letdown programming. I got the cheapest brand in that tier of pumps. Lansinoh's. It didn't come with a bag, or with icepacks but it came with everything needed to pump. I made a bag, because I'm cool like that.  It does help to have a bag for it, that way I can easily and discreetly carry it to work on Monday mornings, and home Friday evenings.  I use my lunch box to carry the milk home in.  It's rare for me not to bring my lunch, so that works fine in my situation.  If you know you need a bag, and you know you need a specific ice pack/cooler solution, make sure the pump you buy comes with those. Otherwise, save your money and buy just the pump.

With each pumping session I pump both boobs, simultaneously. (Ha! It took me 9 paragraphs to say boobs. You're welcome.) I expected that to be difficult the first time, but it really wasn't. Letdown has always happened in both, when one is stimulated, so that part didn't feel any different. I always have one lady that lets down a little quicker than the other. It varies each day, depending on my nursing habits the night before.  I just keep the pump in letdown mode until both have letdown, then I send it into pump mode. Usually there's only 5-30 seconds difference, so it's not a big deal.

Along with the differences in letdown timings, there's also a difference in quantity. Every day is different, but there's always one that's producing more for whatever reason.  Then as the day progresses, the quantities lessen.  I can pump 7oz total in the morning session, but my noon session is usually only 5-6 oz, and the afternoon session is usually only 4-5 oz.

So, I usually pump 16-18 oz at work every day. That's still matching up to what baby eats at home with Dave. I know there are some days he wishes he had an extra bit, but he's usually able to keep baby calm (if hungry) until I can get home.  There is an extra bag for emergencies in the freezer, but we both do our best to leave that one there for true emergencies, and not just to calm the baby because we can't deal with another 10 minutes of screaming.

Eating for two is a bit of a hassle at work.  I eat as much as I can for breakfast, and I bring a jam-packed lunch bag for work. Lots of fruit and veggies to help me feel full and keep me away from the vending machines. Lots of water, to keep hydrated. Lot's of whole grains and lots of dairy.   It would cost a fortune to feed me 700 calories at a fast food place, and it wouldn't have the required range of vitamins or whole grains, so I don't even try.

After lunch I toss my ice pack in the freezer to get chilly, and then when I'm headed home for the day I put my 3 bags of milk in the now empty lunch box.  At home the milk goes straight in the freezer.

Evenings and nights Logan and I nurse as often as he wants it.  Well, as often as I can mange to sit my butt in a chair and let him nurse.

Really, I think that's the hardest part, giving up my night and weekend freedoms to care for this little proto-human. Which is a selfish thing to admit, but I'll admit it.  I didn't magically become unselfish or less independant-minded because I birthed spawn.   Hubby, who knows me better than I know myself sometimes, was the first to put a finger on it when my frustrations were getting the best of me. Now, I try to be mindful of the transient nature of this bond between baby and I.  30 years from now it probably won't matter if there was less garden produce or a few less salsa dances. I'll have more garden seasons, I will dance again, I won't have another year of breastfeeding Logan.
Some days that mantra works better than others.
But, that's life, yea?


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you're able to provide despite how difficult it is. I'm back at work in my 2nd week attempting to exclusively breastfeed and it's tough. I work a 10-hour shift with 30-minute break. /o: I'd be delighted to get tips from you (you're honestly doing everything; go you!). I'm happy to sacrifice; I'm a happy new mom, really. I just need to find what is going to work for me and attempt to emulate what my needs are to the best of my ability.

Aquamonkey317 said...

I'm so glad that you're able to provide despite how difficult it is. I'm back at work in my 2nd week attempting to exclusively breastfeed and it's tough. I work a 10-hour shift with 30-minute break. /o: I'd be delighted to get tips from you (you're honestly doing everything; go you!). I'm happy to sacrifice; I'm a happy new mom, really. I just need to find what is going to work for me and attempt to emulate what my needs are to the best of my ability.

Aquamonkey317 said...

I was clearly struggling and will stop now. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

If you're away from your baby for 9.5 hours, you really should be leaving closer to just 10 oz for that separation. Babies take in on average 25-30 oz of breast milk in a 24 hour period. You are pumping more than you need now but that will eventually stabilize, and then you'll be worried that you aren't producing enough milk. This is a common "booby trap." Right now, you're feeding your baby 2/3 of their daily intake in 1/3 of his day, meaning that he won't be as hungry when you're together, therefore taking in less from you, which over time will cause you to make less milk. I'd really encourage you to check out for more information about pumping amounts and bottle feeding a baby.