Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work

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I dreaded going back to work. You can read about it here. A month and a half later I can tell you it has gotten a little easier, but just a bit. My friend Sarah wrote an awesome post to a friend when she went back to work and it helped a lot (and will probably make you cry, but I didn't need much help with the whole crying thing).

As I prepped to go back to work I hung out at my daycare. I played with my baby and got to watch how the teachers interacted with the kids. I recommend going at least twice and if you can do it around drop off and pick up times so you can see how these are handled. It really helped me to see all the babies need all the things at once. I felt so much better about leaving my baby in their care after witnessing that.

Your daycare may be different, but one thing that helped was that mine takes frozen milk. I found during my search that a lot don't. I don't take a lot of frozen, usually just one feeding. The rest is fresh that I pumped the day before. I just fill up a big bottle (or two) and take that each day. I then freeze whatever was left over.

This is totally up to how comfortable you are - there can be milk wastage. You worked HARD for that liquid gold! My daycare's policy is to toss after 1 hour. Sometimes Bud doesn't drink a whole 4 ounces (that's about what he eats right now at 4 months), but they have to toss after an hour. Sometimes that's 2 or more ounces down the drain! I provided them with information from KellyMom to back up my request for them to hold it. What's great about the info provided here is that there are almost several to choose from - just highlight the section you're comfortable with and print out that selection. Because my milk is fresh I'm even more ok with it. You need to decide on your own, watch the milk handling at the facility, know how you're handling your milk, is baby healthy, etc. Again, it's all what you're comfortable with as most milk storage guidelines tell you to toss unfinished milk.

I've been asked a few times about what I took to daycare that first day. I recommend taking all the supplies the week before if you can so that all you have to worry about the day of is milk, bottles, baby. Be sure to label everything with a sharpie and for bottles I bought these. They have REALLY held up.
  • 2 extra pairs of clothes in a ziploc with his name on it
  • Diaper Rash Cream - big fans of Earth Mama Angel Baby though we didn't have to use it until he started day care
  • Wipes
  • Diapers (I just take a sleeve of them)
  • Boogie Wipes
  • Kleenex (they'll use your good ones as opposed to the rough industrial type ones)
  • Gas Drops
  • Infant Saline and a Bulb - this was a recent addition due to allergy season. Again it's another "are you ok with them sucking boogers from your kid's nose?" They also required that the saline say Infant on it
  • Bottles - I take a ton at once and replenish as needed
  • Pacifiers if your kid takes them - my daycare only gives them for sleep
Pumping while at work. Ugh. It does become a drag. Be sure to get a good quality pump because it'll be your best friend. Insurance is required to provide you a pump for free so check with your insurance company. I have heard that Tricare does not (grandfathered plan) and some will only do a manual. I of course have no first hand experience or knowledge so please correct me if I am wrong. If yours only does a manual find out about purchasing it under your durable medical equipment plan. Sometimes there are loopholes and you'll probably get different answers from different people so take notes when you call.

The HR person in me also wants to let you know that your employer is required to give you breaks to express milk in a private space that is not a bathroom. NOT A BATHROOM people! Though I personally don't think a storage closet is acceptable either, but the law wasn't written that way. They don't have to pay you (but if they provide paid breaks they sure do or if they expect you to do any kind of work while pumping), and there is no limit to the amount of breaks you may take. There are some very rare instances in which a company may not be required under the law, but even then hopefully your boss is a decent human being and will allow you to pump. Or just keep talking about breast pain and engorgement in front of the men in the office. In case you don't trust my 13 years experience in HR, my PHR certification, or my 2 degrees in this area, here is a lovely print out you can give to your employer and the FAQs from the Department of Labor.

I'm lucky to have my own office with a door that locks. Unfortunately, this door has a giant window so that even when I'm busy and have my door closed people can still see that I'm present. At least this is the BS answer I was given during my first week of employment. I really have no idea why our doors have windows. I covered that giant window with wrapping paper (that now needs to be changed since it is no longer Christmas. I had the front desk laminate a sign for me and it appears 3 times a day on my door.

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I thought I'd be polite with Do Not Disturb, but am thinking of switching to Pumping in Progress, because you'd be surprised the amount of people that want to disturb you.

I keep a supply of gallon ziplocs in my desk. After each pumping session I rinse my pump parts, put them in a bag, and throw them in the fridge. Again, I'm blessed to have a minifridge in my office (my own, not work provided) so my coworkers don't have to find my pump parts in the break room fridge. I've actually thought of switching to a wet bag or something similar to not go through a box of ziplocs a month. Maybe that's an option if you have a community fridge. It just saves you having to wash and dry your pump parts 3 times a day.

Also, the first time you walk to the sink (I have to walk the full length of our building from my office to the break room) with your pump parts in tow it will feel like you're smuggling a tampon half in half out of your pocket or whatever embarrassing thing that may be similar to you. A month in, I don't really care anymore, and I think most of my coworkers are used to seeing me rinsing out my parts by now.

The next best thing you can do for yourself is get a handsfree pumping bra. This is the one I have and I love it. I recommend 2 because halfway though the week you're going to wonder where that sour milk smell is coming from and it's going to be your bra.

I have a big tote bag that I keep my pump, pump parts, little cooler (I transfer to the cooler when I leave. It's great if I need to run errands or something after work), nipple butter, handsfree bra, and breastfeeding cover (in case I have to pump in the car which has happened on occasion). Nothing will make you feel like more of a bag lady than being a working and pumping mom.

I would recommend having a manual pump in your desk in case something happens to your pump or you forget one of the 50 parts that go to your pump. My 2nd day at work my pump suddenly went out, (Ameda customer service is the bomb by the way) and I have forgotten pieces before. Another option is to buy back ups of everything, but sometimes it's more affordable to buy a $20 manual pump.

I'll end this post with my favorite website KellyMom's section on pumping at work. It's full of great info.

What are your tricks to pumping at work?

10 comments:

  1. Great tips! I also think changing the sign to say your pumping will keep people out.

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  2. Up here in Canada we're entitled to one-year of maternity leave, so by that time, many moms have weaned their little ones enough so that they don't need to pump at work. While the length of maternity leave in the US still astonishes me (16 weeks is SO not enough), I'm glad to hear that there are laws in place so you can still give your little ones all the goodness of breast milk.
    And I'd totally change the sign to "Pumping in Progress." That will definitely keep people away!

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    1. It's actually only 12 weeks of protected leave and that's if you qualify. It's also unpaid. I was very lucky to have gotten 14 and to come back part-time at first. Many can't afford to even take the full 12 weeks. It's still crazy that it's such a short time though.

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  3. Good post Faith, although I don't have a baby yet! This stuff is fascinating and a peak into what could be in store for me.

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  4. I thought the law only requires a place to pump but says nothing about time. I currently have to use my already short 30 min lunch so I tend to not empty because I have to get back to my class. It is hard to warm lunch, get to the room, set everything up, pump, clean up, and use the restroom all in that time. Being a teacher in a state that doesn't really put much value there means we also don't have the personnel to cover my class so I can have ample time to pump. *steps off soap box*

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    1. There's no limit to the amount of time you take or how many breaks you take. Nonexempt employess are who the law is written for since exempt employees are considered to have more flexibility in their schedule. The only real guidelines in the law are about the space & that time is unpaid (an individual state law can override federal if it differs greater protections). I have heard from teacher friends that pumping is difficult for them because they can't find someone to cover their class and have short lunch breaks. My only advice is to give the Principal the handout and push them to find you someone to cover your class while you pump. I'd even print out benefits - your baby is sick less so you're not missing work, etc.

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    2. I'd also maybe give your boss the FAQ instead of the handout since it doesn't mention exempt employees not being covered. It's surprising what they don't know sometimes. :)

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  5. How did I go so wrong in all my research?!?

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  6. Faith, what a helpful, thorough, and entertaining post. So many moms will benefit from your tips!

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