More Than I Knew I Could Do: A Nursing/Working Tale

  • Posted by Tricia Dixon

When my first daughter, Elizabeth, was born in March 2000, I planned to nurse her for about 5 or 6 weeks till I had to go back to work, then switch to formula.  Since I work 12-hour days as a pharmacist with no scheduled lunch or breaks, I did not think that I would be able to pump.  Like many mothers, I knew that breastmilk was best but assumed that formula was just about as good.  After I started learning more about breastmilk through La Leche League and also through a great breastfeeding board, I decided I would at least try to pump.  I also learned about a few other pharmacists with my company who had made pumping work out.

Everything I had read said that I would need to pump at least every 2 to 3 hours, and because we are sometimes very busy at work, I did not see how this would be possible.  I decided to just do my best to work in pumping around our slow periods at work.  I ended up pumping 3 times per day.  I pumped once in the morning just before leaving for work (sometimes even pumping one side while nursing from the other side for a better letdown), then again in the early afternoon and then again in the early evening.  Thankfully I was able to get enough to meet my daughter’s needs while I was away.  I also made a point to nurse whenever possible, and save all of the expressed breastmilk for when I had to be at work.  In addition, I made sure to nurse more frequently when I was at home to ensure a good milk supply and so she could get as much breastmilk as possible directly from me.

Making a commitment to pumping for your baby is much easier if you are blessed with a work situation that provides a pumping room, ladies’ lounge, conference room with a locked door or some other convenient and comfortable location in which to take your pumping breaks.  If you don’t have an easy set up, it doesn’t mean that you can’t follow through and make pumping work for you.  Less than optimal pumping locations still provide breastmilk for baby.  With my first two girls, I pumped in a small storage closet in my pharmacy.  Not optimal, but it worked.  This time around, my pharmacy has since been remodeled and there is no longer even a small closet or other obvious place to pump.  Add to that the regulation of not being allowed to leave the pharmacy premises during my working hours, and it would be easy to give up and decide not to pump if I weren’t so determined to give my baby my best.  I will make this work, even though it will be challenging.  I am planning to rig up my own creation of a curtain between two shelves or a small divider so I can pump near the sink, and during my pumping times I will close the nearest pharmacy window.  Granted it’s not the most ideal situation, and certainly not the most private, but it will work.  It will provide a visual barrier at least.  I have heard of other pumping moms that have sat in a chair in a women’s restroom or break room, or even gone out to their car to pump.  I admire their commitment to continue to pump and have a positive attitude in spite of a less than perfect environment in which to do their pumping.

Another thing that I didn’t really plan on doing, but that helped immensely, was co-sleeping.  I knew of a friend who had co-slept with her baby, and I remember thinking that was one of the strangest things I had ever encountered.  But one night after 6 weeks of little to no sleep, we ended up just taking Elizabeth to bed with us.  It ended up working out great since she was able to nurse in the night as needed without anyone having to get out of bed or even fully wake up.  As a working mom, this was especially nice as we all got more sleep.  We discovered that with both of our daughters they would nurse a bit more frequently at night to help make up for being away from me during the day.  It was really nice to just be able to snuggle and sleep for these extra feedings.  With our second daughter, we planned on co-sleeping from the very beginning and now I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As my first daughter grew older, I learned even more not only about the benefits of breastmilk, but also about the hazards of formula, one of those things that we seldom hear about.  Usually we hear about how breastfeeding decreases the risk of many illnesses, but since breastfeeding is the biological norm for humans, the truth is that formula actually increases the risk of many illnesses, since there are so many living components of breastmilk that can never be replicated in a laboratory.  Additionally, formula is often recalled for issues such as bacterial contamination, which is something I’ll never have to worry about with my milk.  Learning about all the risks of artificial baby milk (formula) only made me even more determined to make pumping work out.  I ended up pumping for Elizabeth until she was about 14 months old, and possibly would have gone longer but since it was summer I wasn’t as concerned about her getting extra immunities from me since there weren’t as many illnesses going around.  She still nursed when I was at home though, even though I was pregnant with her younger sister at the time.

My attitude toward making pumping work has definitely come a long way over the past few years.  Now that I have become a more informed mother, my attitude has changed from “I just don’t think I’ll be able to do that and formula is probably almost as good anyway” to “I will never give any of my children artificial baby milk as long as I am alive to provide my milk for them.”  Now I am determined to make pumping work out, and if I ever had a job where my employers made pumping impossible, I would even go so far as to find a new job that was more family friendly.

I am proud to say that so far I have pumped for a total of about 25 months between both my nurslings, and neither of them has ever had a drop of formula.  I am now expecting my third nursling and again planning to pump and avoid artificial baby milk.  And let me not forget to mention my wonderfully supportive husband, Matthew, who is a stay-at-home dad.  Without his encouragement, I know that I would not have come this far.  We even managed to avoid using any artificial nipples with our second daughter Katie to avoid the risk of nipple preference.  I went back to work when Katelyn was just 9 weeks old, and Matthew fed her with a syringe for about a month until she learned to take her feedings by cup.

I hope that in sharing my story it will spread the word to other mothers that it is entirely possible to work full time (even long shifts with no set breaks), exclusively nurse your baby when you’re off work and never have to use formula at all for the hours that you are working.  It does take dedication and hard work, but it is so worth it when you consider the risks of artificial baby milk, and of course, the numerous benefits of mother’s milk.

Recommended Reading:

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Gwen Gotsch, et al

Nursing Mother, Working Mother by Gale Pryor