In honor of World Breast-feeding Week, I’m sharing the truths that working breast-feeding moms must know. It’s crazy how something that is supposedly so natural can be so difficult even when you’re with your baby all the time, but being a working mom throws even more complications into the mix. Continuing to breast-feed while going back to work can be challenging which is why I’m writing this post. Part of my mission at NMC Coaching is to provide moms with the information they need to be successful. Here are five truths that you should know if you are a working breast-feeding mom.
Combination Feeding is Possible
Generally, I wouldn’t start off a post about breast-feeding talking about formula, but I think this is important. Many moms feel guilty if breast-feeding doesn’t work out for them. They may feel as if their bodies let them down, they aren’t strong enough, there’s something wrong with them etc. First off, I’m telling you that you’re amazing regardless of how you feed your baby. This debate can get controversial and you may get mixed messages, but it is possible to combination feed. Maybe your body doesn’t respond well to a pump making it difficult to get enough milk for your baby while you’re at work. Maybe your workplace isn’t conducive to breast-feeding moms. They all legally should give you place to pump, but unfortunately we live in the real world and not every employer follows guidelines or cares about families. Maybe you just don’t want this hassle. Whatever your reason is for wanting to combination feed, it can be done.
If your baby gets formula while you are working, your body will eventually adjust and produce at the times when you are normally with your baby. For example, if you want to only feed at night, your body will decrease milk production during the day. Some breast milk is more beneficial than none which is why some moms may choose this option. If you are trying to build your supply, this is not recommended because it can tank and you may end up giving more formula than intended.
Combination feeding can be a stepping stone to exclusively breast-feeding as well. This is what I did with Rosebud because my milk supply was very low in the beginning. I had to go back to work and my supply was not fully established, so Rosebud would get some formula during the day. After several weeks of a regular feeding/pumping schedule, I was able to take her off the formula completely. I was able to reach the feeding goals I had set for us, but it wasn’t without tears and lots of time attached to a machine. My final thoughts on combination feeding are that there’s nothing wrong with formula. We are fortunate to have options for our babies and there should be no guilt or shame for choosing what is best for our babies.
Make pumping a self-care ritual
I know, it sounds strange, but if you are returning to work, chances are you will be pumping multiple times throughout the day. Some moms may need to add additional pumping sessions to make enough milk for their babies. With all that time being attached to a machine, you want to make it as bearable as possible, so why not use pumping time for self-care? Self-care is hard to come by for new moms, but if you have the right set up, you can make this time enjoyable. Depending on what pump you have, you can definitely multitask. There are pumping bras that you can buy to make pumping hands free and some pumps are battery operated so you can bring them on the go. I will do a separate post with a list of essential items, but for now I’m giving you food for thought. Here is what I did to turn pumping into me time. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be to make milk.
- Listen to an Audible book,
- Watch videos or tv shows,
- Look at photos of your baby,
- Eat your favorite snack,
- Watch your baby play,
- Listen to your favorite music,
- Listen to soothing sounds,
- Text with friends.
Useful Pumping Tips
- Make one of your sessions a power pump,
- Eat foods that boost your supply,
- Make sure you have the right sized flanges,
- Buy extra bottles and pump parts so that you will only have to wash and sanitize once per day,
- Check with your insurance. Most will pay for a breast pump.
If your baby is with a caregiver while you’re at work, they may find it difficult transitioning from the breast to a bottle. To ensure that this is smooth transition, the caregiver should ensure that the bottle feeds are as similar to breast-feeding as possible. You can do this with paced feeding. The milk comes out of the bottle much faster which may make the baby frustrated during breast-feeding. There are several ways to help with this. The caregiver should slow the feeding down. Give smaller amounts and then remove the bottle, stop to burp, have the baby sitting up a bit and have a slow flow nipple. I always kept Rosebud at a level 1 for this purpose. You’ll also want to look at the bottle shape.
These are the best bottles I found. I’ve tried many.
Here is a demo video on paced feeding so you get the idea.
Some people don’t understand why you would choose to breast-feed when you could just use a bottle. I chose to because of the benefits for a babies immune system plus it’s a low cost option. However, I didn’t realize what I’d need for supplies and those cost money. I still think it was cheeper in the long run. Whatever you’re reasons are, you’ll want to find supportive people to reach out to if you need to vent, share a milestone or ask questions. If you have a supportive partner who helps you out, that is the best! Some things your partner can do to help are washing bottles and pump parts, watching the baby while you pump, giving you time to take a bath and relax or just being with you during feeds so you have someone to talk to. Of course, you may not want any of those things. Communicate with your partner and tell them what would be the most helpful.
If you have friends in a similar position, that’s wonderful. If you don’t, look for baby groups in your area or join some Facebook groups. These groups are amazing. Not only can you get support, but there is a wealth of information. If you have a family member who has been on this journey before and they are willing and able to help, that’s awesome as well! Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone. Breast-feeding can be rewarding, but it can also be frustrating and complicated. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved.
The Truth About Bonding
We always hear about breast-feeding being this magical bonding experience. Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s a bunch of bull. While it may be this way for some women, it’s not the case for all and you don’t have to feel guilty for not feeling it. It can definitely make you and your baby closer. You are its food source after all. I saw it as a way to feed my baby and I don’t think I’d have bonded with her any less if I had bottle fed. My journey started out rough. Rosebud had a tongue tie, I had complications from my C-section making my supply low and Rosebud was frustrated and push me away. This only made me feel sad, angry, frustrated and guilty because my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to do. We overcame this by concentrating on feeding at night when she was more receptive and eventually, she decided this would be a good thing during the day too. By that point, it was all about the mechanics and whether she had enough milk. There was no bonding to be done, but as time went on, we reached these milestones together and I felt much better about the journey.
I was also seeing the benefits first hand. I’d get sick with colds and whatever the kids were passing around, but she seemed completely immune. I was sold on that alone, so I kept going and our breast-feeding journey came to an end when she was 18 months old. That was farther than I ever thought we’d get or than I ever wanted to go, honestly. Whatever your feelings are, embrace them. They are uniquely yours and you shouldn’t feel any guilt.
To summarize, it’s possible to combination feed, pumping can be bearable, your caregivers should pace feed, you need a support system and you may or may not bond with your baby through breast-feeding. No matter where you are at on this journey, I hope you’ve found this post helpful. What do you wish you had known about breast-feeding before you started? Tell me in the comments. If you are having trouble getting your baby to sleep through the night, be sure to subscribe to my mailing list to get your free baby sleep guide!