Tips for nursing and working

An earlier post on nursing addressed issues of supply.  Check it out for what could go wrong with your pump.

Working mom resources: is a great resource for all things nursing.  Unfortunately it isn’t as thorough on the issues of pumping and working while nursing as it is on issues of say, poo.  A great resource is the book, Nursing Mother, Working Mother: The Essential Guide for Breastfeeding and Staying Close to Your Baby After You Return to Work.

Here’s some brain-dump in Q&A fashion.

My baby won’t take the bottle and I have to start work in a week:

The baby is more likely to take the bottle if mom is not in the house.  A good time to introduce it is when you are not around and the baby is sleepy.  Often another caretaker (dad, the nanny, a grandparent etc.) can sneak the bottle in at that time.  Additionally, some babies will be more likely to take the bottle facing out rather than facing in (and some vice versa), depending on if they want the bottle experience to be similar to or different from nursing.  Similarly, if you can get away with never warming the bottle you’re in better shape than if the baby insists on it being warmed, but if warming it up is what it takes, get a bottle warmer.  (NEVER heat milk up in the microwave– it causes pockets of burning.)

My baby doesn’t drink much from the bottle, but drinks plenty from the tap:

It’s recommended to introduce the bottle sometime between 3-6 weeks.  Earlier and they might develop nipple preference/confusion because bottles flow faster than breasts (this is rare, but a huge hassle when it does happen).  Later and they might reject the bottle entirely.

Even if the baby doesn’t drink much from the bottle at daycare that’s not a big deal.  Look up reverse-cycling.  So long as they’re wetting, pooing, and gaining weight, as appropriate for their age group they’re good.  Nursing at drop-off and pick-up is great too, especially if you’re worried.  Cosleeping also helps working moms because they can nurse while you sleep and your sleep cycle gets synched up theirs.

I don’t have a fridge/freezer at work, what do I do?:

Breastmilk is amazing stuff.  So long as you don’t freeze it, it will stay quite happy at room temperature or cooled for quite some time.  The freezer-thing kit that comes with your pump should be enough until you can get the fresh milk home.  The same is not true for milk that has been frozen.  So it is better to not use the freezer at work if there’s a chance the milk could melt on the way home.

My milk separates in the fridge, is that a problem?:

Nope, the cream is just rising to the top, just like cow’s milk.  It is still good to go in the bottle.  Go ahead and shake it a bit.

I don’t get more than a couple ounces out each time I pump:

Not a problem!  That is totally normal.  It just means you don’t have a big oversupply.  You are doing fine.  I never got more than 2 oz out a pump unless I was at a conference sans baby and had infrequent opportunities to pump.  I would pump extra on weekends and if my supply was running low I would do a session in the middle of the night or before my morning nursing.  My baby ate nothing but breast milk for hir first 8.5 months and I pumped until 18 months.

Working moms, anything else to add?  Questions?  Comments?  Concerns?  Stories?


17 Responses to “Tips for nursing and working”

  1. prodigal academic Says:

    Little Prodigal#1 took a bottle very reluctantly from my spouse and not at all from me, but did fine at daycare (started at 3 months old).

    Little Prodigal#2 NEVER took a bottle from anyone. At daycare, this child accepted “food” (EXTREMELY liquidy oat cereal made with pumped milk) from a spoon, and that was all LP#2 would eat without the source. Nevertheless, between shifting feedings (so more were in the early morning/in the evening when Mom was home) and thin cereal, LP#2 was also fine at daycare. Children are more flexible than we think.

  2. Everyday Tips Says:

    I never pumped, but I also didn’t nurse as long as you were able to. The longest I ever made it was 8 months, and then my son was too interested in everything around him to nurse. (Namely watching his older brother and sister run around.) I guess I could have pumped at that point, but I just never did.

    I tried the ‘no bottle’ thing with my first, but that failed after 2 weeks and he was on the growth spurt from hell. I was exhausted from feeding him and thought I was going to lose it. Fortunately, he liked the bottle just fine and didn’t have any confusion.

    Nursing is portrayed as the easiest, most natural thing in the world, but it sure can be difficult!

  3. Perpetua Says:

    Here’s a great tip for pumps – invest in a really good one. Like many experienced pumpers, I use a Medela, one of the double electric dealios. I also have a Medela hand pump, which I use for taking with me on trips, so I never cart that heavy electric pump anywhere. I even stopped trucking it to and from work. I’m lucky enough to have an office, and I leave it here. But that’s not really my tip – I learned when I was pregnant from a nursing friend that our insurance (at that time, it was Regence Blue Cross) actually pays for 80% of a pump, as long as you buy it in a medical equipment store (which is actually great, if you can find one, because they just bill the 80% directly to insurance, so there’s no reimbursement drama). I don’t know how many insurance companies do this, but I bet it’s more than you think. They don’t advertise this anywhere, so if you’re pregnant or want to buy a pump, call your insurance company first and ask them. The medical supply stores carry Medela electric pumps exclusively, so you’ll get a really nice one.

    I’m a fervent believer in the “introduce your baby to a bottle between 4-6 weeks” philosophy. Everyone I know who had a baby who refused a bottle introduced it later. Even if you don’t really need to bottle feed so early, it can be great to get them used to a bottle and start building a supply of extra milk. That way you feel less tied to your baby, if you want to (gasp!) go and get your hair cut, or leave the house alone for a couple of hours. We used the bottle of a way of allowing my husband to do the whole night time routine, which was a great break for me when I was maternity leave.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      That is a really good point about the pump. They’re not all of equal quality. has information on quality.

      I did not know that insurance might pay for pumps unless a medical necessity (as with a preemie). That is definitely something to look into. Also, for women who are lower income (say graduate students), WIC is starting to move towards providing pumps for almost all of its offices in an effort to promote nursing. They are easier or harder to get depending on where in the country you are. But if you have been on the fence about whether or not to sign up for WIC, that is one good reason to do so. (Sadly, pumping and work are still most likely to be compatible for women with high-income jobs and more support for pumping at work… especially in terms of own offices and dedicated pumping rooms, job flexibility, breaks etc.)

      • Perpetua Says:

        Hopefully all insurance companies will start seeing pumps as an important part of preventive medicine.

    • prodigal academic Says:

      We introduced bottles at 2 days old with both kids (milk didn’t come in for 2 weeks with #1). Still no luck on getting them to accept bottles after my milk came in and they got the hang of nursing. Sometimes, you get what you get.

  4. business review Says:

    They have tried all different bottles and nipples but still she only wants breastfed. However i almost had him weaned completely about a month ago when my sister-in-law bought him the Nuby Stages Bottle- it comes with a breastlike nipple complete with little bumps all around it like a real areola soft sippy cup shaped nipple and then a straw-like nipple so they learn in stages. My son DID take this bottle 1st one ever! and I had him down to one breastfeeding per day but then he got really sick 104.9 fever and refused anything but breastfeeding for 6 days- were back to the start but that bottle is my only chance!

  5. Cloud Says:

    I pumped for 17 months for baby #1 and 16 months for baby #2. (Baby #1 was slow to take to finger foods. Baby #2 is my last baby and I am suddenly understanding why the youngest kid in a family gets babied….) They both started getting some cow’s milk at about 13 months old, but then I slowly decreased the amount of breastmilk they got during the day. This was partly for them and partly for me- I get mood swings as I drop pumping/nursing sessions and I never wanted to see what would happen if I dropped more than one at a time.

    Anyway- don’t freak out when your supply drops at about 9-10 months. It happens, and you’ll probably get through it with some fenugreek and a little extra pumping. But if you don’t, don’t stress it. Formula is not poison.

    Drink lots of water- I had killer headaches for over a week when I first went back to work before I clued in to the fact that I was dehydrating.

    For me, the biggest supply booster was protein. It was an awesome excuse to eat a lot of hamburgers for lunch.

    Don’t stress about losing weight at first. It will come. Eat. Eat lots. You need the calories to make the milk.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Water and iron are really really important. My supply would take huge hits when I forgot to take an iron pill (I was anemic during pregnancy and they said to keep up with them after). With water, my supply would be fine but I would definitely get a dehydration headache.

  6. Dr. O Says:

    Invest in a good electric pump. I like my Medela PISA, but there are plenty of other good electric pumps out there. I have a manual pump from Medela as well. It’s great for travel, but I have noticed a definite drop in supply after a couple of days away with just that for pumping.

    Also, it makes financial sense to buy one rather than rent if you plan to BF for longer than 6 months or want to have more kids – rentals get expensive over time.

    We started Monkey on the bottle right at 3 weeks. Monkey took right to it, and rarely seems to care where his milk comes from these days. The one exception is when he’s really sick and then (sometimes) prefers the bottle from dad (not from me). I assume it has something to do with not wanting to work as hard for it when he’s tired and has a sore throat.

  7. becca Says:

    I started with breastfeeding, and had my son with me until he was 4 months. Then when he had to go to daycare, we had a nightmare scenario for breastfeeding- a month with me and then a month with Dada (we lived 100 miles apart). I make it through two cycles of this, with my kid away from me all week and bringing up a freezerful of pumped frozen milk in a cooler on the weekends.
    On the other hand, I had a dream breastfeeding work situation. I worked in an academic medical center that had two dedicated pumping rooms (one of which was just down a couple of flights of stairs from me) with professional Medela pumps (and a couple of lactation consultants on staff). We had quite the little ‘breastfeeding mother’s club’ going on, with pictures of all the little ones, and a little journal, and parenting magazines, by the comfortable couch in the pumping rooms. I also had a Medela double electric pump, and when the pumping room got busy I could use my own pump in a room outside the closest restroom to my lab. All of those things (particularly the tips shared with other moms, and the room right near my lab) made it possible to breastfeed, at least partially, for the months when my son couldn’t be with me.

  8. Sandy H Says:

    I really like these posts- I wish they had been around when I was actually doing it. I’ve been trying to push my sister into reading them. She works 3.5 days a week to get in her 40 hours and has 3 full days off but she ‘doesn’t have time’. Yeah, she has a newborn BUT… I feel like I did a lot of internet searching and stuff while having a baby.


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