Mama's day: breastfeeding and work
Tuesday is my "mama's day" – formally I work 4 days a week now to have one day to take care of Alexander. I thought that would be a good day to blog about things that are important, but not extremely work-related.
This Tuesday I'd like to contribute to the world breastfeeding week by sharing my own tips for combining breastfeeding and work.
- Read some books on breastfeeding. Ideally before you need them, but it also helps to have one in hands in case you need information later on.
- If you only can buy one book on breastfeeding and you are (planning to be) a working mom, get Milk memos (full review that got me into buying the book). It's funny, sweet and practical (e.g. it had a section on bottle-strike that I couldn't find in other breastfeeding books I read). Besides that the story is based on what has been written by breastfeeding mothers in a shared notebook at work, so I can even pretend that it fits my research readings as some strange kind of employee blogging :)
- Read breastfeeding blogs - pick up the one you like at one of breastfeeding carnivals.
Early days tip (from our kraamzorg). Buy a jar of jam (the cheapest one, without seeds and pieces of fruit), put a couple of spoons in a little plastic bag, freeze. When in need for a cold compress, take out of the freezer, put a thin cloth around it and apply. Because of sugars it doesn't freeze solid, but turns into a cold gel (also handy for all other occasions).
Feeding in public tip. Buy (or make) a couple of breastfeeding outfits - they make a lot of difference by giving you an opportunity to feed discreetly, without any discomfort of being cold or trying to cover. The good ones seem to be expensive, but it pays back (I tried several, but there are two that I couldn't do without - plain black Anna Cecilia T-shirt and Glamourmom tanktop; if buying in NL, check Prettymum).On those occasions when I took Alexander to work-related events I was especially happy with having that special "gear": next to being plain practical, being able to feed him while listening to a presentation gave me a very special feeling that motherhood and work could be compatible after all.
Getting back to work tips
- Know your rights. Those things are different between countries (Netherlands is pretty good in this respect). Breastfeeding facilities (is there a private place to express milk? a fridge to keep it cold?), time you are allowed to take, etc. Knowing that not only helps in any conversations with your employer, but also gives some idea of what resources should be available in other organisations in case you have to be at an external meeting long enough to need them.
- Check at work if you can have extra flexible schedule for the first few weeks. I ended up working half days (to let Alexander get used to daycare gradually), going to the daycare to feed him while the whole bottle business didn't work and working at home on the days Robert was babysitting, so I could just go downstairs to feed Alexander and then get back to work. Being able to do all that made the transition to work much easier for everyone.
Bottle strike tip [this is when your baby refuses to drink your milk from a bottle]. I guess there are no silver bullets here. What helped in our case? Ladies in our daycare. Not only they had a lot of experience of bottle-feeding babies in different circumstances, but they also tried feeding Alexander from different types of bottles, so eventually they found the one he liked (this is pretty difficult to do at home unless you want to spend a lot of money).
Expressing and storing milk tips
- Invest in a breastpump (get one indicated for "daily use"). I've got two used ones from friends and I could feel the difference. I use the better one (old version of Medela pump in style) regularly at work and (since I have the luxury of having two) simpler Medela Mini Electric plus very occasionally at home.
- Get some spare parts. When at work I don't want to lose too much time by washing and cleaning pumping gear, so I've got packages of clean shields for every pumping round and wash everything at once at home.
- If your baby doesn't drink as much as you express and you have to freeze the leftovers, think of using breastmilk storage bags (e.g. those by Medela or Lansinoh) for that to avoid the risk of having all your bottles in the freezer. They also take less space than bottles if you have to travel and make a perfect back-up stock in the office in a case you forget some bottles (it actually happened to me).
- Ziplock bags are great for storing sterilised parts (and lots of other things too :)
- And, finally, if you need a motivator to make expressing milk easier you might go a bit geeky by starting a slide-slow of your baby's photos on whatever digital device is around (I run slide-show of Alexander's photos at Flickr on my desktop :)
Some resources that might help are at del.icio.us/mathemagenic/breastfeeding.