Pumping at Work

In my last post I mentioned that I went back to work two weeks ago. Michael feeds Jack bottles while I am gone, so I have to pump at work. Before I returned to work, I did pump a little. Mostly because Jack was sleeping through the night (stupid sleep regression) and I pumped for relief. I never set an alarm to pump, usually Jack woke around 4 AM, ate from one side and I got up to pump the other. I froze that milk so I had a stash for when my parent watch him next month when we go on a trip for anniversary. Side note: I love the Up& Up and Lansinoh freezer bags. But make sure you seal the Lansinoh really tight or they can leak when you thaw them. The Up& Up are cheaper and have never leaked for me though.

The first bag I ever pumped, I was so proud.

The first time you pump is really weird. It might hurt if your nipples haven’t toughen up yet (or were horribly bruised from nursing like mine). To ease the pain, I put a little bit olive oil on my nipples and the flanges first. And once I finished, I put on lots of lanolin. It hurt way less than nursing did at first though. But like I said, it’s weird. You really will feel like a cow. But just remember you are doing something amazing for your little one.

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Anyways, I first bought an Evenflo Deluxe Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump. I knew nothing about pumps so I just went by price. For the price the machine is not bad and did get the job done. It comes with a tote bag,  a separate mini cooler with ice packs, 2 bottles and 2 different flanges sizes. I also like that it’s not that loud. But, it’s not that powerful. I have a really strong letdown, then afterwards it goes to a weak stream. Without a strong suction to boost the stream up, it just takes forever to drain my boobs. To be honest, I think I wasted my money on it. If you are just going to pump on occasion or don’t need that much suction, it is worth the money. However, for me personally, it just didn’t cut it.

Stimulation mode is awesome and the
suction is good for such a small device.

After awhile it became such a pain to set-up and use an electric pump at night when I was only doing one side. So I thought I’d try a hand pump. I got a Medela Harmony and it worked fantastic! It’s easy to clean and use when I am half asleep at 4 in the morning. I love that it has two pumping modes, stimulation and normal. The stimulation mode starts my letdown way more efficiently than the Evenflo one did. And because I controlled the pumping speed, I could change the suction instantly to my needs. I got way more out with just this simple little pump than I did before. They are fairly inexpensive and totally worth the money. And great to keep with you when are travelling or if you start leaking while away from your baby.

I LOVE this pump. And yeah, I am using the treadmill
as table for my stuff. Joys of pumping in public.

Then when I turned to work I got the Medela Double Electric for free (your insurance company and WIC will provide you with a pump for free). I LOVE IT! It has great suction power, stimulation mode, and several speeding settings to keep my stream going as needed. It comes in its own portable bag too. You never need to take it out, there is a zipper opening on the side to access the controls.

There is a pocket inside to store all the parts. And a cooler with ice packs to store the expressed milk for up to 10 hours. I should have just waited for this pump. It’s more expensive (if you don’t get it for free) but SO worth the money.

As far as pumping at work, first you need to know your rights. All employers MUST give you a break to express milk, a reasonable amount of time to do it in, and a place that is not a restroom to do. This is all under Federal law. Check out the Department of Labor website here for more information. My husband was nice and talked to our HR guy for me while I was on maternity leave. He suggested that the gym was the best place for me to pump. Not many people actually use the gym so it don’t have to worry about people barging in. Plus the door locks and there is a shade on the window next to the door for privacy. A couple people have asked why I keep going into the gym, so I just politely explained and they understood. I also talked with my boss before I went on leave and before I got back. He approved my pumping schedule. It was pretty easy overall, but I really suggest working this stuff out beforehand and making sure everyone who might be affected is on board. That way there are no issues to stress you out (stress hurts your supply) when you get back to work.

I pump every two hours for 20 minutes. Once at 5 PM and again at 7 PM. I chose these times because this is normally when Jack eats each day. I suggest (if possible) having a pumping schedule similar to your feeding schedule so it does not effect your supply.

I suggest either buying or making your own hand-free pumping bra. It really sucks to be sitting there holding  your boobs for 20 minutes. I made one out of an old sports bra by cutting slits wide enough for the flanges to go through.  And bring something with you to do while you pump, it can get boring. I either play on my phone or take some paper work with me.

Since breast milk can be left at room temperature for up to 8 hours, I don’t fully wash the pumping parts after each session. I rinse off them in the breakroom (once again, no one cares, just do it calmly and quietly). Then I put them back in the bag with and use them again for the second session. After the second session I just stick back in the bag and give them a thorough cleaning when I get home.

I first started pumping into the storage bottles that came with the pump. But it got annoying washing 2 or 3 extra bottles at night. I realized that the bottles Jack drinks from fit onto the pump so I started pumping straight into them. I bring an extra storage bottle just in case I make extra.

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Jack likes the Evenflo Classic Glass 4 Ounce Bottles. I got great advice from a friend when I was pregnant on what bottles to start with—pick ones that look most like your nipples. After some trips to the store and awkwardly trying to decide what looks the closest, I settled on these.  However, you may have better luck with bottles designed for breast feeding babies, like these suggestions from Baby Center. Also, don’t wait to introduce a bottle until you go back to work. They might get too used to the breast and not take it. However, don’t introduce it too until they have latched correctly and repeatedly, or else they may get too used the bottle and reject your breast. We introduced a bottle slowly starting at 3 weeks. He would get maybe one a week. Then a few weeks before I went back to work he started to get several more a week to help ease the transition.

It takes a little guessing on how much to leave. The lactation consultant told me an ounce for every hour I’m gone. I last nurse him 6 hours before I get home, so 6 ounces. So the first day I left two 3-ounce bottles. Jack plowed right through those, obviously this kids needs more than 1 ounce an hour. So the next day I left two 4-ounce bottles, plus a little spare. He plowed through the first, and then happily suck the other down slowly later. I found the winning combination. And sometimes he doesn’t need all of the last one either, I think he knows I’m coming soon and waits for me. To make this all easier on Michael, I line them up in order of use in the fridge.

All lined up and ready to go in the fridge.

Then there is the storage issue. Some moms rotate their freezer stash. They pumped milk while on maternity leave and thaw out as needed each day, using the oldest bags first. Then replenish the stash with what they pumped that day. Others don’t have a stash and just use what they pumped the day before. This is what I do, even though I do have a stash. What I pump on Monday gets bottle up and fed on Tuesday. Tuesday gets fed on Wednesday, & etc.. And since breast milk lasts up to 6 days in the fridge, Friday’s get fed on Monday.

My freezer stash of about 350 ounces.

Before I went back to work I read some other blogs about pumping and it really helped. Happy Home Fairy’s Extreme Pumping- Confessions of an Exclusive Pumper is SUPER helpful. Although I’m not a teacher, I really like Healthful Mama’s Back-to-School Breastfeeding: Pumping in Your Classroom.

So far I have been able to comfortably pump at work and make enough milk each night without having to touch my freezer stash. However, check out my next post about the supply issue I had a few weeks ago that also had me reaching for my stash.

Back to Work After Maternity Leave

I returned to work after 17 weeks of maternity leave. The State of California allows up to 4 weeks off before your due date, plus 12 weeks off for bonding time. The extra week off came from vacation time. I have the same job, but I am working second shift for only part-time hours right now. As Jack gets bigger I might slowly add more hours back to full time, but no rush from my boss as long as stuff gets done.

Michael and I worked it out so we avoid paying for childcare. He works first shift while I stay home with Jack. Then I put Jack in the car, bring him to our work and we trade cars. Then he drives home with Jack and I go to work. Then I get off just in time to get Jack ready for bed. I like this solution for two reasons: we avoid the $1000 a month bill for childcare and we both get time to bond with our son. And so far Jack doesn’t seem to mind. He usually falls asleep in the car with me and wakes up when Michael gets home.
How could I leave this face?
But the first day back was hard. The night before I bawled my eyes out over it. Jack had been my whole world for three and half months, how could I leave him? That day I brought Jack in the building with me because he was awake when I got there. Michael was ready to go so he quickly took Jack from me and kissed me goodbye. I just stood there thinking No! Bring me my baby back!  I went to my desk and started to work, but I kept worrying about my baby. What if he wont take the bottles? What if he wont nap? What if Michael doesn’t do tummy time? What if he just cries the whole time? What if he forgets me in these next 5 hours and never wants me to hold him again!?!?
 

When it was time to clock out, I rushed home. My boys were standing at the door to greet me, and Jack lit up when he saw me. Everything was alright. Michael is an excellent dad and takes great care of him. I had nothing to worry about. That being said, I am a mom and I will worry about them both every day still.

Michael sent me this on my first day.
He was just fine, and even started to grasp his bottle!

But am I exhausted? Yes (especially with the sleep regression still going on). Are there some days I feel like Jack and I are never going to get out the door on time? Yup. Does it suck I get even less time with my husband now? Totally. As much as I wish I could be a stay-at-home-mom all the time, it’s not feasible right now. And everyone at work is so accommodating for what our family needs that there is no reason for me to quit.

I get to come home to this face every evening!

Being back at work also means I’m pumping at work too. I will do a post about how that’d going next, so look out for that.

Maternity Leave Plans

Two Fridays ago I met with the real OB/GYN , not just the practitioner, because I am in my third trimester now (27 weeks at the time). She said everything is fine and Jack is doing great. Then she started going over signs of preterm labor and how I need to go straight to the hospital if I something doesn’t feel right. Then I suddenly remembered that Tuesday night I woke up feeling like I REALLY had to pee. And no matter how many times I went to the bathroom, it was not go away. Jack was still moving normally and I could tell it was only urine was coming out, not amniotic fluid(urine smells like ammonia and you can stop the flow easily, amniotic fluid usually smells sweet and cannot be stopped). I was concerned, but decided not to the hospital. It went away by noontime so I was not that worried. My doctor immediately said I should always go when I feel weird pressure. Then decided I need to have an ultrasound and a cervical checked.

She asked me to have a seat in the waiting room while they squeezed me in between other patients. Forty-five minutes later and several text from my boss wondering where I was, I was called in. Jack was fine (he was in a weird position so we didn’t get a good look at his face) and I had plenty of fluid. Then they did a vaginal ultrasound for my cervix. It was long and closed, so everything was fine. She said he was probably just sitting on my bladder that day.
However, while they were checking his anatomy, I caught phrases like, “Measuring at 29 weeks”, “About plus 2 weeks” , and “Early April.” They also asked when my due date was and if it had ever been changed. I have heard thing like this all along, even at my pregnancy confirmation ultrasound. But no one had ever actually changed my due date directly. So I asked the ultrasound tech. She said that yes, he was measuring 2 weeks ahead. But an estimated due date is based on your last period plus or minus two weeks. Since he is not off by more than two weeks, they will not officially change it.
I asked the OB/GYN when she came back in. She agreed with the ultrasound tech. She said she will not officially change my due date, but unofficially I should not be surprised if he came at 38 weeks. And to not be upset if I am told I need a c-section because he is big and I am petite.

I am already getting really uncomfortable so I would not mind at all if he came reasonably early. And as much as I want to do it all naturally, I would not be upset if I had to get a c-section. I just want a healthy baby. However, my mom said they told her the same thing and she had two healthy babies vaginally that were pretty close to the actual due dates. I am pretty much her carbon copy, so if she can do it, so can I.

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This week I started thinking about all the stuff I need to do before Jack arrives, including finalizing maternity leave.When my husband got me a job at his work, I was 16 weeks already. My boss asked during the interview how much leave I would take and when I would take it. I told him I wanted all the 12 weeks Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles me to and I will try to work up to my due date. He said no problem. He also kept asking every once and awhile if my plans have changed once I was hired, just so he knows when to start training my replacement while I’m gone.

I realized that maybe it is for the best I start my maternity leave at 38 weeks instead of working until I go into labor. I am already pretty uncomfortable, and it’s only going to get worse. It’s probably for the best if I give myself a break. And if he does come early, I wont have to be faxing in my leave forms to work and my disability forms to the state with a screaming newborn in my arms. My mom is also coming to stay for a month around that time. We can finish getting everything ready and have some nice bonding time together.

I wish I was tough enough to be one of those women who works right up until her water breaks, but I am not. I need to do what is right for my baby and myself. Like I said, I totally would not mind–if he is ready–to come early. I am already over being pregnant and just want to kiss his sweet little face already.

And yes, I already thought about what to do if he comes late, when I would have used up several weeks of my 12 week maternity leave. I have Paid Time Off that my boss said I can use if I need to once my leave is up. I will just need to let him know two weeks before I want to take it.

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Before you finalize or take your maternity leave, make sure you talk to your boss and HR director. Also check out FMLA. It has some very specific wording that might disqualify you if just started your job or work for a small company. It can be confusing to figure out and you might need to think about your options for awhile if you do not qualify under FMLA. And see if your state offers disability pay for pregnancy and bonding time. California offers up to 4 weeks before birth and 6 weeks after of  disability pay for mothers. Dads get 6 weeks unpaid after the birth. Both of which are beyond awesome!

Michael is going to wait to take his until after my mom leaves and might use some PTO instead. My boss approved my leave to start the Monday I am 38 weeks. All I had to do was fill out an Absence Request Form. I see my pregnancy counselor in a few days, she will help me fill out the disability forms then. And I know that 6 weeks pay will not cover the full 12 weeks I plan to take off, so we will need to plan accordingly. That is why you should start getting this stuff in order before the baby comes!

Here are some important links to help you finalize maternity leave:.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
California Family Rights Act (CAFRA)
Maternity Leave: The Basics, Baby Center
Maternity Leave, American Pregnancy Association