Abbie: Pumping in the Classroom
Abbie had her first child this spring and is currently exclusively breastfeeding on demand. She will return back to work in September as a high school teacher. She knows that going back to work will be an adjustment for both her and Joshua but she’s committed to making it work. Abbie knows that a few of her coworkers successfully pumped at work but she needs to do some leg work to figure it all out.
Joshua is now 18 months old, which also means that I’ve been breastfeeding for 18 months! I’ve decided to combine two of my favorite things—breastfeeding and math—to calculate the actual amount of time I’ve spent breastfeeding in the past year and a half. Disclaimer 1: I’m a huge nerd and this was actually really fun for me. Disclaimer 2: I had to do some rounding and estimating. Next time I have a baby I may just carry around a stopwatch so that I can get an exact accounting of time spent breastfeeding. Disclaimer 3: If you’re a new mom and are feeling kind of anxious about how much time you spend nursing your baby, you might not want to read this right now. Okay, on to the calculations!9:00am on Monday October 17
Since Joshua joined our family 15 months ago, we have constantly had to readjust our expectations. My husband Ed has been supportive and allowed me to take the lead by following my instincts and doing what I feel is best for Joshua, including breastfeeding.
I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed Joshua, and Ed was always supportive. In the early days, we quickly realized that family meal time was on hold for a little while. Evenings consisted of a fussy baby who only wanted to nurse for hours on end, and Ed supported me following my instincts and nursing Joshua for comfort for those hours. Ed took over the responsibilities of fixing supper and cleaning up, even going so far as to serve meals to me so I could focus on mothering Joshua during those difficult times. He didn’t argue with my instinct to comfort-nurse, he kept complaining to a minimum, and in allowing me to build a strong nursing relationship with Joshua, Ed also showed me that I could depend on him when I most needed him. In turn, I showed him that I had the patience to deal with a fussy baby, modeling how I would like Ed to parent as well.
The "witching hour," or fussy time during the early evening, was only the pre-game for the real difficulty: night-time parenting. We never planned to cosleep with Joshua, but we found that it was the only way we could all get some sleep. Cosleeping has also contributed to development of a strong family bond as well as a healthy breastfeeding relationship. I think of cosleeping as a survival strategy, not this wonderful thing that our family does. It’s hard, especially for Ed, to handle being woken up repeatedly. At 15 months, Joshua is a much better sleeper than he used to be, but he has yet to sleep through the night once. Sleep deprivation can be an obstacle to a happy marriage.
In the wee hours of the morning, when Joshua is having a bad night, Ed can be prone to get angry with me about cosleeping. In our sleep-deprived state, it’s easy to argue about what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong, compare ourselves to parents whose kids are good sleepers, or second guess our decision to cosleep. I take these conversations as criticism of my parenting choices, and I get really sensitive about it. After one particularly heated discussion at 2 am, after a wakeful night with our teething toddler and lots of nursing, I expressed my desperation as tears rolled down my face: "I’m just doing what I feel is best." Ed simply replied that he knows I’m following my instincts, and he has readjusted his expectations about toddler sleep.
Over the past 15 months, I’ve learned that both Joshua and I can depend on Ed as a husband and father when we need him most. He trusts me, trusts my instincts, and is willing to follow my lead in parenting when it comes to breastfeeding and other issues I feel strongly about. It’s easier for me to trust my own instincts when I have his support, and our relationship is better for it.
The major difference that I’ve noticed between nursing a newborn and nursing a toddler is that Joshua no longer lies quietly in my arms as he nurses. He wiggles all around, managing to kick me in the face with one foot and in the belly with the other. He pokes me in the eyes, mouth, nose. He pops off whenever he hears an interesting noise. He rolls around to change positions while still latched on. He wants to nurse while standing, sitting, or upside down. He holds onto his favorite toy or a sippy cup, then intermittently stops nursing to chew on it or drink his water.9:00am on Friday May 27
At the same time that I was transitioning Joshua from my expressed milk to cow's milk while we are separated, I was also weaning myself from the pump. I was a little concerned that quitting the pump cold turkey would result in clogged ducts or mastitis, so I slowly decreased pumping over the course of three weeks.
Here's how I did it.9:00am on Friday April 29
On a trip to Alaska years ago, I stood silently in the woods and watched a young momma Grizzly Bear stand to defend her three cubs against a big male bear, roaring in his face as the cubs clamored up a tree to safety. I remember feeling terrified, then wondering what I would do in the same situation. Now that I’m a mother I know that I would do the same to defend my child. I would do anything for my son. I don’t care how other people feel about nursing in public or breastfeeding past a certain age; I know what’s best for my son.9:00am on Tuesday April 12
After meeting my goal of expressing breastmilk for Joshua until his first birthday, I began to transition him to cow's milk in his bottles while I'm at work. In the last few months, I spent some time researching how to make this a smooth transition. I even considered continuing to express milk past his first birthday and delaying the transition to cow's milk, but I decided that was not what was best for both of us.9:00am on Thursday April 7
I can’t believe that my baby boy is already a year old! Along with celebrating Joshua’s first birthday, I’m also celebrating a year of parenting and a year of breastfeeding.9:00am on Friday April 1
After realizing I was a little short on expressed breast milk, I decided to grab some milk out of the frozen stash. I was looking to thaw about three ounces, so I picked through the bags in the freezer. I suddenly realized that all of the expressed milk in my freezer was over six months old.11:30am on Monday March 28
The first time my big, screaming baby boy was placed on my chest and promptly peed on me, I felt that maternal instinct kick in. I became Mommy Abbie. In the beginning, motherhood seemed to take precedence over every other facet of my personality. It still does, but now I feel like I've figured out how to balance all of me.9:39am on Wednesday March 23
The breastfeeding problems I'm about to describe may sound trivial to people who really struggled to breastfeed their babies, but I was fortunate in that I breastfed my son with no problems, but these issues caught me unprepared. A few days after Joshua was born my milk came in, and I suddenly realized my boobs were HUGE. I mean, Dolly Parton huge.
Besides being swollen, sore and sweaty, my boobs also had very prominent veins running through them. I'd seen these bulging "milk veins" on horses and cows before. The prominent blue veins running through the pale white skin on my chest and arms were present thanks to the extra blood running to my mammary glands to make milk. But the combined extra blood flow and engorgement made my boobs seem gigantic.
Now, I've always been happy to describe myself as voluptuous, wearing a D-cup. My family had joked that I'd be a "good milker" when I had children (we live on a farm, after all). In preparation for breastfeeding I bought a few nursing bras in size XL thinking surely they would fit. As I grew during my pregnancy, I started wearing these nursing bras and they fit quite comfortably. However, once my milk came in, these XL bras suddenly seemed so small. The straps were too short and they dug into my shoulders. The cups were far too small and dug into my sensitive skin, making it painful to wear these bras at all. I kicked myself for opting not to visit the Women's Wellness Center where they were offering free bra fittings. I toyed with the idea of skipping a bra altogether. Bad idea! Not only were my boobs huge, they leaked. A lot.
I was really unprepared for how much leaking there would be. I didn't want disposables nursing pads, so I figured the eight or so washable organic cotton pads I bought would be sufficient. I was clearly ignorant. Within minutes, my nursing pads were soaked and so was my shirt. I spent much of the first few days after my milk came in changing my shirt. The many visitors who stopped by to meet Joshua were treated to a glimpse of two circles of milk on my top. Eight nursing pads were nowhere near enough for one day of leaking during that first week.
The embarrassment of leaking in front of guests and the pain of my too-tight nursing bras were starting to get stressful. Fortunately, I had a great support team. My mom scoured grocery stores and pharmacies in all the surrounding towns and found some disposable nursing pads for me. It was such a relief to forget about doing the laundry and instead toss the soaked nursing pads. Opting for disposables is out of character for me, but in that first week they saved my sanity. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law went out and bought me an appropriately huge nursing bra. When I finally put it on with the disposable nursing pads, I was so much more comfortable. I ordered more huge nursing bras online and wore my new one day and night until the reinforcements arrived.
Five months later, my boobs are still huge and I still leak a lot, though it's limited to when I'm actually breastfeeding. I have plenty of bras that fit, in all different colors, and use a Milkies Milk Saver on the opposite side when I'm nursing to capture the leaking milk in order to add to the pumped breastmilk stash. I still use disposable nursing pads in between feedings, but I'm currently looking into getting some more reusable ones. I'm sure to tell my pregnant friends to be prepared for big boobs and big leaks!12:00pm on Wednesday March 16
I'm sure I'm not the only working mother who daydreams about leaving her job to stay home with her child. Over the holiday vacation from work, pumping and daycare, I was still busy, still working hard. Taking care of my child is my number one priority, and I spent as much time with Joshua as possible. In fact, I didn't leave him at all for 10 days. I may have snuck upstairs to take a bath while Joshua played with Daddy, and I may have walked into another room while he played with his grandma at a Christmas party, but we weren't separated for long.12:00pm on Wednesday March 9
I've been pumping at work for almost five months now, so I wanted to share some tips and tricks that I've learned along the way.
1. Relax! When I first went back to work, I'd spend the time in my little pumping room stressed out. I'd stress about how much time it was taking, how much milk was in the bottles, what I should be doing to get ready for my next class, the piles of papers I should be grading... And I'd get annoyed that I had to pump at work because I live in a society that doesn't place monetary value on the role of the mother so I have to work! When I finally shut off my mind, took some deep breaths and relaxed, the bottles seemed to magically fill up. Now I read fun, quick novels while I pump and forget all the stress for a little while.
2. Think About Your Baby! I've found that looking at a picture of my son, picturing his sweet milky smile or the cute way he looks up at me while he suckles will really help my milk let-down. For the first few minutes of pumping I think about my son until the milk starts flowing, and then I pick up my book to read. Sometimes it's hard to clear my mind (see #1 above!), but I do my best because it works.
3. Don't Forget to Eat and Drink! Even before becoming a mother I would skip breakfast in my rush out the door or forget about eating lunch because I was "too busy." And since I can only use the restroom in between my 84-minute classes, I wouldn't drink enough water throughout the day at school. If I don't drink enough water or skip a meal now, I see the result is decreased milk supply. I have to make time to drink water and eat, which I know is what's best for me anyway, even if I do have to ask a colleague to cover my class for a few minutes so I can run to the ladies' room!
4. Experiment! Try different methods of pumping to find what works for you. It took me a few weeks to realize that it takes me 20-30 minutes to pump as opposed to the 10 minutes other moms talked about. I tried a technique an online friend suggested but it didn't work. At first I thought there was something wrong with me until I just accepted it: that's just how long it takes me! I should have expected it would take a long time, since Joshua typically nurses for 30-40 minutes at a time and sometimes for much longer.
5. Most importantly: Breast feed that baby! When you're with your baby, nurse on-cue (on-demand). I've found this is the best way to keep up my supply. I'm nursing throughout the night which also helps maintain my supply. Co-sleeping has been the best sleeping arrangement for our family, since that means Joshua can nurse all night long if he wants to, and I don't have to drag myself out of bed and go to his room to nurse him.
Whatever you do, don't give up because you'll find what works for you!12:00pm on Wednesday March 2
I'm very lucky that I haven't had anybody openly object to me nursing Joshua. Nobody's ever shouted "Cover up!" or "Gross!" as I've heard has happened to other moms. Generally, my family and friends are very supportive. I'm pretty vocal in my choice to breastfeed and am well-educated about it, thanks to all the articles I've read, so I'm happy to pass on the knowledge of why breastfeeding is the best choice for most babies. My family and friends also know that I blog about our breastfeeding adventures, so the fear of becoming fodder for a post may be that extra push to keep mum about any objections to breastfeeding.12:00pm on Wednesday February 23
I'm obsessed. After more than three months of pumping at work, I can't stand to waste a drop of breast milk. This stuff is valuable!12:00pm on Wednesday February 16
I don’t think what Ed and I are experiencing is uncommon for new parents: we’re not fighting, but we’re not focusing on our relationship. We’ve been married over six years and we had a lot of time to ourselves before Joshua came along. Ed was used to coming home to a nice home-cooked meal and being greeted with a kiss. I was used to being taken out on weekends. All that changed since we became parents. Now Ed typically comes home to me sitting on the couch breastfeeding Joshua, but sometimes Joshua is napping and he gets strict hand gestures that mean “don’t make a peep!” And sometimes? We each take out our stress and frustration on each other.9:48am on Tuesday February 15
Finally, the time I had waited for since I went back to work at the end of August had arrived: Christmas vacation! When I got home from work on the 23rd, I popped the bottles of expressed milk in the fridge, washed the pump parts and bottles from daycare and stowed them all away until after New Year's Eve!12:00pm on Wednesday February 9
When it comes to breastfeeding support, I'm pretty lucky. My whole family supports my decision to breastfeed. I grew up seeing my mom nurse my little brothers for what some might call an extended time but was quite normal for us. It's my culture, and it has come pretty naturally to me. However, how many of my friends are currently breastfeeding their children? ZERO.12:00pm on Wednesday February 2
Both my mother and Ed's mother have been incredibly supportive of my decision to breastfeed Joshua and all of our other parenting choices. They're more than happy to share how they did things when we were small, listen to our concerns and desires and respect Ed's and my wishes.12:00pm on Wednesday January 26
When Joshua was first born, I felt like I needed privacy to figure out breastfeeding. Those first days felt clumsy with arranging pillows, figuring out how to unhook my nursing bra with one hand and also position Joshua. It felt like I needed more than two hands, and I didn't need to flash an audience while I fed Joshua. At our house, I didn't mind when our immediate families visited because I was comfortable enough around them to feed Joshua. Everybody knew my intentions were to breastfeed and respected that. I would chat with my mom or my mother-in-law while I nursed Joshua, and our dads and siblings were kind enough to avert their eyes when it was time for me to start feeding Joshua so I could get organized without feeling uncomfortable.12:00pm on Wednesday January 19
I'm not big on New Year's resolutions. To me, resolutions are always unrealistic and easy to quit. Instead, I set goals. I somehow feel more likely to work towards and achieve goals. I turn 30 this year, and while I understand that age is just a number, it somehow makes me feel very grown up. I've been happily married to Ed for the last six years and we've got our wonderful little boy Joshua. We're settled in a home that we built ourselves and have no plans to move. I have a career that makes me happy on most days and allows me to be an equal provider for my family. As you can see, I have a lot to be thankful for and all of my hard work throughout my life has paid off.4:24pm on Wednesday January 12
2:00 am- Joshua nuzzles me, looking to nurse. I nurse him and he goes back to sleep. He wakes and nurses about every 15 minutes for the next two hours. I'm awake the whole time.3:20pm on Wednesday January 5
I've learned that if I want to accomplish anything, I need to combine tasks. Sometimes it's easy to do two things at once, but sometimes I get overwhelmed.
As a teacher, I need to spend time outside of my official workday doing work. Fortunately I've been teaching long enough (eight years) that I can do a lot of my planning in my head without writing it down. I can remember activities that I made up for specific topics, replay the lessons from previous years and make adjustments to them, all in my head. This can be done in the car while I'm driving, in the shower, or while I'm expressing milk at work.2:06pm on Wednesday December 29
We have a problem at daycare. Here should have been some of my first clues that Joshua's daycare is not as breastfeeding-friendly as I had hoped:
- Joshua is the only breastfed baby enrolled in the childcare center we selected. I don't know why this didn't stand out to me as a problem initially. I probably just assumed that breastfeeding rates are so low that it made mathematical sense.1:58pm on Wednesday December 22
"Breastfeeding gives you a six-pack," my best friend stated matter-of-factly. I had heard her say this before. She doesn't yet have children so it's kind of funny to hear this from her.
"Um, have you seen my belly lately?" I asked her. Of course she hadn't, unless she caught a glimpse of the flabby pale skin with purple stretch marks when I lifted my shirt to breastfeed. I most certainly do not have washboard abs.1:11pm on Wednesday December 15
Thanksgiving was my first real break after going back to work in September, and I was looking forward to spending four days with my son Joshua. No pumping, no bottles, no washing and no time away!11:49am on Wednesday December 8
I've been feeling rather bovine lately. But unlike many lactating mamas I know, I'm not offended to be compared to a cow. Both of my parents were raised on dairy farms and grew up milking cows twice a day, every day. My dad's family stopped milking cows before I was born (due to the 300-year-old barn burning down) and they transformed the farm into an orchard. Consequently I have much more experience with apple cider than milk, but we also spent a lot of time visiting my mom's family's dairy. My brothers and I loved walking to the barn, shouting "Here Bossy! Come Boss!" and watching the Holsteins and Guernseys walk calmly and eagerly into their stanchions for milking time. We'd watch my grandfather attach the milking machines, pet the cows and visit the calves. While I don't drink a lot of milk now, I appreciate the lovely ladies who supply me with the cheese, yogurt and ice cream that I so enjoy. I can't help but think of Bossy and her friends when I pump at work.10:51am on Wednesday December 1
It's been a month since I went back to work, and I finally feel like we're going to survive! We've been sick off and on (mostly on) for the past three weeks. I knew this would happen when Joshua started daycare, but I didn't realize how sick we would all get. Joshua had his first cold, fever and ear infection, while I had a nasty cough and lost my voice for over a week. It's pretty tough to be in a classroom with no voice! I had to take a few days off (thank goodness I still have 60 accumulated sick days!) and came back to a pile of papers to grade. Well I'm happy to report that, while we're still sick, I got through the whole pile of papers today and felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders!3:24pm on Wednesday November 17
I've begun to refer to the science storage room where I pump as The Dungeon. I sit at a little student desk, surrounded by retired ancient laboratory apparatus. My mind begins to wander... Weren't there medieval torture devices that looked like breast pumps? I think of the life-sucking machine in "The Princess Bride" and imagine years of my own life being sucked away. Maybe my dungeon needs to be renamed "The Pit of Despair."1:39pm on Wednesday November 10
I'm so happy and proud to write this: Joshua has been breastfeeding for six months! Back when I was pregnant, and even before, I always knew I wanted to breastfeed but didn't really have a goal of how long. I just figured I'd nurse my children for as long as was mutually desired, and I assumed that would be measured in years, not months. After doing some research about it, I decided that a nice initial goal would be to exclusively breastfeed for six months, as recommended by the World Health Organization. We made it!3:11pm on Thursday November 4
My husband has been amazingly supportive and wonderful during my transition back to work. I've always known he's a keeper but I'm still surprised by how he's always here for me when I need him. Ed has been getting up at 5:00 am to get himself ready early so he can help get Joshua dressed and packed to go while I get dressed. He fixes me breakfast and packs my lunch while I nurse Joshua, then buckles Joshua into his car seat and drives off. Because of Ed, we're all able to get out of the door by 6:45 am.2:58pm on Wednesday October 27
After almost a week at work, I can say it's HARD to be a working mom. I had no idea how draining it would be, physically and emotionally, to go back to work. I miss Joshua and feel like he spends all of his waking hours at daycare and that I have such a short amount of time to spend with him. He's going to bed so early, but I am happy that co-sleeping allows me to snuggle with him all night long.12:00pm on Wednesday October 20
One of the most important things I need to resolve before I go back to work is finding child care for my son Joshua. While there are many qualities that I'm looking for in a child care provider, finding a breastfeeding-friendly facility is a priority. I want to successfully continue our breastfeeding relationship when I go back to work, and I need to make sure that our child care provider is on board. Before visiting day came, I made a list of questions to discuss, which turned out to be long! After visiting, I was really happy to have a list of questions because I took notes and felt I had a good comparison of different places. In the end, I was able to choose the child care facility that I feel is best for Joshua and our whole family.12:00pm on Wednesday October 13
As a supporter of breastfeeding, I believe that nursing in public is important for normalizing breastfeeding, providing an ally for other nursing moms and providing a role model for parents-to-be, people who want to have children, and well, everyone. I fully support a woman's right to nurse in public, anywhere and everywhere, whenever her child needs to be fed. But I personally haven't always been comfortable nursing in public.
The first time I nursed Joshua in public was at the beach. It was a warm May day, Joshua was about two months old, and we decided to have a picnic at the beach. There weren't many people there because it was a weekday, but there were some moms and children as well as some sunbathers. I was nervous about nursing Joshua in public, but after looking around at the bikinis and other skimpy outfits, I realized that I'd still be one of the most covered people there. I wasn't good at covering up with a blanket while nursing, since I never used a blanket at home, but since it was my first time nursing in public, and since the sun was so bright and I didn't want Joshua to get burned (not to mention my fair skin), I threw a thin blanket over my shoulder. I had a bit of trouble trying to get my nursing bra unhooked while staying covered and holding Joshua, and I joked that while it's called breastfeeding, it requires at least three hands to do successfully. Once I finally got my act together, Joshua latched on and happily nursed.11:00am on Wednesday October 6
No, this isn't about which is best. This is about a little problem we have with Joshua. He much prefers the breast to the bottle of breast milk, which isn't really a problem per se, except that while I'm at work, the bottle is all that's available. I don't want my baby to starve at day care, so we're working on encouraging him to take a bottle. My mom told me stories of being unable to leave me or my brothers for very long because we were exclusively breastfed and refused to take a bottle, and I obviously can't have that happen with Joshua, since I'll be at work!12:00pm on Wednesday September 29
When I was growing up, breastfeeding was normal. I grew up on a small family farm in Connecticut, where I was able to watch births of baby animals and see them nurse shortly after. Horses, goats, sheep and cows all nursed without problems. Nursing was clearly an important part of survival. We only used milk replacer for animals that were away from their mothers, having been purchased from a different farm. Once, we found a sickly fawn and "nursed" her back to health with milk replacer. I vividly remember mixing up the milk and hating the smell of the powder, then lovingly giving her the bottle. It was always evident that the milk replacer was the last resort. Mother's milk was best.12:00pm on Wednesday September 22
I want to go back to work. I love what I do, and Joshua will benefit from the socialization and curriculum at daycare. That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.
Years ago, when my husband and I started talking about having children, I knew that I loved my job as a teacher and would always want to go back to work. Teachers have the best schedules for raising a family, I reasoned, with vacations and weekends off. We waited to start a family until we had built our home, a home that needs two salaries to pay the mortgage. It wasn't a concern, since I'd always want to work. Besides, we wouldn't have health insurance if it wasn't for my job.10:10am on Wednesday September 15
I've been on maternity leave from my job as a high school science teacher for the last three months. When I got invited to a celebratory end-of-the-year luncheon with my department, I was excited to bring baby Joshua along. I had a few questions about expressing milk at work, so I looked forward to talking to other nursing moms, plus I knew my colleagues would love to meet my happy-go-lucky baby.3:57pm on Tuesday September 7
I gave birth to Joshua on March 12, 2010, after a 41 hour labor. He was a healthy 9lbs. 8oz., and he nursed shortly after birth. We developed a wonderful nursing relationship, and I'm so happy that I'm able to give him nothing but the best. I credit our success to having a husband and family who are supportive of breastfeeding in addition to having enough time on maternity leave to establish successful breastfeeding. I nurse Joshua throughout most of my day. In fact, he's nursing right now as I type with one hand.11:51am on Tuesday August 3