Did you know that returning to work is the #1 reason women in the US discontinue breastfeeding? Yet thousands, even millions of parents work through this obstacle to continue breastfeeding for months and years while working. One of these awesome parents is Jessica! Check out her story below in honor of World Pumping Day!
Can you tell us a little about your breastfeeding journey? What are your goals for pumping? What difficulties have you encountered and how have you overcome them?
J- My breastfeeding journey started when I first found out I was pregnant, when I was 16. I knew I wanted to breastfeed but wasn’t very educated on it. I had taken child development classes and learned a little. I knew I had to go back to high school when my son was only 3 weeks old. I did the work study program, where I went to school half day and worked the other half. I did both breastmilk and formula. I tried pumping with him but never got much. I didn’t have that great of a pump, didn’t know when or how long to pump, etc. When I pumped I remember only getting an ounce or so and quickly got discouraged.
I did try pumping a couple times at work, fast food, but there was no place to pump besides the bathroom. I didn’t know there were pumping laws that stated they needed to provide a place other than a bathroom with a lock on it and provide breaks to pump. So finding time to pump was hard. I decided to nurse while at home and formula feed when I wasn’t. It worked I had a good balance. I slowly formula fed more til I stopped nursing at about 5 months.
Later, I found out I was pregnant with my second. With him, I was a stay-at-home-mom taking college night classes twice a week. Since doing both nursing and formula feeding worked with my first, I did it again with my second. I just had a goal to breastfeed longer than I did with my first. I tried pumping again with him but ran into the same issues. I did pump more often and remembered having decent output. I returned to work when he was 10/11 months old. By that point, my nursing journey with him came to an end.
Fast forward 9 years, I educated my self more on breastfeeding and researched pumps knowing I wanted to breastfeed even longer. When I got pregnant with my 3rd, WIC asked if I wanted to take a breastfed class I jumped on it. With my third, we came home from the hospital completely breastfeeding. I still had a few things to learn. With him, I knew I had to go back to work at 6 weeks. From my research and the WIC breastfeeding class, I knew I needed to start pumping to build a stash 2-3 weeks before returning to work. I actually had taught myself to hand express. When my milk came in, I started hand expressing a little to save what I could. I rented a Medela Lactina from WIC and pumped a few times before I returned to work. When I returned I had 15 oz of milk stashed. I thought that was enough but after my first shift back and having to work longer than expected, I realized it wasn’t enough.
I aimed to pump every 2-3 hours while at work. Being a caregiver working in a group home setting proved tough at times to find the time to pump because the clients’ needs came first. If I was pumping and one of them needed assistance or my coworker needed assistance, I had to stop pumping then resume when I could. My goal breastfeeding him was at least a year. It took about a week or 2 to get a good pumping routine down. I worked as much as possible and often got called in. So we used formula here and there to fill the gaps. We stopped formula when my son was about 4 months.
I had gone on a weekend women’s retreat without my son. It was the last time he needed formula and felt so good. I came home with 70oz of breast milk. I also use expressed milk when out and about running errands if I go to places I don’t feel comfortable nursing at. I pumped the full first year and to breastfeed on demand while at home. My son is now 2.5 years old. I have had my 4th son on Dec 27th. We came home I started hand expressing just in case. He lost 7% of his birth weight. So it was recommended that we do some expressed milk bottles in addition to nursing. I have only pumped once since hand expressing yields a good amount quickly. Thankfully, he is 2 weeks old and we are still 100% breast milk feeding. I couldn’t have done it with out the support of the group. I’ll be going back to work again at 6 weeks and have a decent stash of 25 oz already just by hand expressing between some feedings. My pumping goal with him is to pump for a year and then breastfeed as long as we can- past 2 would be wonderful.
How has Milky Mommas helped you?
When I found Milky Mommas, I’m not sure when exactly I did or even how I stubbled upon the group but I’m glad i did. I learned about growth spurts and leaps, how much a breastfeed baby needs to be pace fed from a bottle. And it all made since as to why I struggled to go back and forth between breast and bottle.
Have you discovered any pumping tricks you want to share with others?
Hands on pumping, looking at pictures and videos helps as well as reading posts for the group you. What I found helped was setting up my pump and leaving it set up and putting my flanges in the fridge between sessions. Knowing how to hand express helped because even after I pumped for 30 minutes I felt full and hand expressing after I’d get an extra 1-2 ounces.
Thank you for sharing your story Jessica! You are one of the most engaged members of our group and it has been so fun getting to hear more of your journey! ❤