A few months ago, this spunky, firecracker mama started attending our weekly breastfeeding support group and I knew from the start that she was amazing! Over these past months, Jessica has warmed the hearts of all of the moms in the group, as well as lifted their spirits with her quick wit and sass. Well, Miss Jessica landed this fabulous new job a few weeks ago and ended her maternity leave a little sooner than she had planned for. I have missed her parenting insight, so I thought I would interview her about her return to work, as a breastfeeding and pumping mama. Well, as you can see, her insight prevails!
Thanks, Jessica for your candor and advice for those breastfeeding mamas returning to work!
First day back at work
What did you do to prepare for going back to work?
Finding a good childcare provider was a huge part of overcoming my fear of returning. I don't have family here and my partner works full-time as well. I probably went to a dozen home daycares and a handful of corporate ones. You have to find someone who has a philosophy similar to your own and you feel comfortable with. As I went to providers, I discovered there were alarm bells for me: if the television was on the entire time I was there, if the provider interacted with a child in a way that I didn't like, if the terms of the contract were suspicious. I went with my gut. In the end, I found a nanny I could trust.
Breastfeeding was the surprise stressor. I was depressed I wouldn't get to breastfeed Ellie during the day and I was worried about pumping. To get used to pumping, I started pumping at home. It helped me stockpile a supply. Since I was starting a brand-new job, I made sure to thoroughly read their policies on pumping. Read the laws and understand your rights. You don't have to go in waving a boob flag or anything but you can gently inform and educate employers. Be ready to offer options like suggestions for places to pump. My employer did not know I was pumping when I was made the offer and I didn't ask any questions until I had accepted. After that, when I ran into a snag, I made sure to ask the HR rep.
What worked? Would you do anything differently?
Ask about your work schedule! The biggest surprise to me was that my employer let me have a flexible schedule. I found that getting to work by 6:30am worked very well for my family. My daughter wakes at 5AM, I nurse her and put her back down to sleep. Then I get ready and leave. My partner then takes over the morning routine until the nanny get there. My daughter doesn't have an emotional separation from me in the morning and neither do I! Then, I come home early so we can hang out most of the afternoon.
I also can't say enough about BabyConnect. It's an app on my smart phone. It tracks feeding, sleeping, diapers, medication, etc. I used it religiously before I went back to work and my nanny has the app on his smartphone as well. There is something very comforting about glancing at my phone and seeing that she went down for her nap. It tracks how much breast milk she's taking by bottle so I know if what I am pumping at work is on par with what she's eating.
What advice can you offer to a breastfeeding mom going back to work?
For breastfeeding moms, whether they plan to go back to work or not, I recommend finding a way to have a relationship with your pump. In the same vein, let your child take a bottle once in a while. You may want to leave the house one day. You might not think so in the beginning, but eventually, you will. And the more practice you and your baby have, the less stressed both of you will be.
I had a very negative relationship with the pump because of some difficulties when I first started breastfeeding but I had to get over it. I started by letting myself eat chocolate while pumping, then moved to trashy magazines. At work, I run through my to-do list for the week or look at pictures of my daughter. My point is the pump is a tool to help you continue breastfeeding.
Jessica Hilt is fiction writer that works in the technology field. In the BC era (Before Child), I hosted elaborate dinner parties, drank heavily, and stayed up late. Now I love my slow cooker, drink more water than a fish, and think 9PM is late. But it's all worth it when my seven-month-old Ellie gives me that big, gummy smile.