Breastfeeding has been one of the most beautiful and special experiences of my life. Not only I have fed my baby with the best that it could be offered but I have also learned a lot in this process.
The benefits of breast milk are countless. Each drop is loaded with hundreds of nutrients and antibodies; that’s why breast milk saves lives and protects babies and mothers against deadly diseases. In each shot, and according to age, the milk changes to meet the specific needs of each baby. The emotional bond that is created between the mother and the baby is also very important, the baby finds in his mom’s breast not only food but also warm, security and love.
Even so, many babies worldwide do not manage to take exclusively breastmilk for at least 6 months as recommended by WHO. In the USA, only 50% of children achieve that goal. In my country Costa Rica, although 97% leave the hospital receiving breast milk, only 21% still take it exclusively by the age of 6 months.
Some studies indicate that there is a critical period that occurs at the end of maternity leave, when returning to work. That’s why in this post I want to tell you how to breastfeed and work is possible and I want to tell you how I have achieved it.
1. Determination and perseverance
Since pregnancy, I was very sure I wanted to breastfeed. The first days was not easy. When my nipples cracked I sent my husband to the pharmacy to buy formula milk because I did not think I could give the next shot. However, I never used it. Each time, I repeated to myself the phrase ‘I can do this’. When we finally got a correct latch and it stopped hurting I got really committed with the subject. I read and asked a lot. Breastfeeding can make us feel very tired, even lonely as I wrote in a previous post. My motivation has been to think not only about the benefits that it gives my daughter but also that being able to breastfeed will only happen a few times in life. Determination and perseverance has been the motor that impulsed me to succeed.
2. Working hours
I had the blessing of working only part time in this first year of my daughter’s life. That meant a very large salary drop but it also meant being able to spend quality time with her and it was for sure a great help around the breastfeeding topic. Working part time, allowed me to be away from home only 6 hours. In Costa Rica, women have the right to leave work one hour early if they breastfeed. Despite being a law, I had to overcome an administration that initially did not let me enjoy my right as well as having to renew my breastfeeding certificate every month.
3. The milk bank
I started to work my milk bank 2 months before returning to work. I pumped milk every morning when I woke and I made it part of my daily routine. I kept my bags in a flat shape in the freezer, that way I managed to optimize the space and store more.
The pump that I used was the electric duo Evenflo. This was a gift from my sister-in-law, probably the best gift anyone could have given me. The pump, in addition to having different speeds and suction levels, works with batteries and it is also very quick.
I used Lansinoh bags to store the milk. These have several advantages: they can store up to 6 ounces per bag, have double closure to prevent leaks, have a nozzle to pour milk easily and have a label to record extraction data.
4. Training cup instead of bottle
The way in which a babies suck from the breast is different from the way they do it from a bottle and in general the way to take milk out from the bottle is much easier. That is why many babies end up preferring the bottle.
During the entire period that I was at home, I always gave breast, with no schedules. We never practiced giving her milk in the cup until the day I returned to work and immediately went from the breast to the training cup. Only a couple of days later, the baby had become accustomed to her cup but still preferred the breast.
I used Dr. Browns training cup.
5. Daily pump
Once I started working, I continued to pump milk twice a day. Upon awakening and at work. During the 6 hours I was away and before my baby started eating solids, she took milk 3 and even 4 times so having enough milk in my bank was very important.
At work we do not have a lactation room. I simply close the door of my classroom; although sometimes it is inevitable that people come and go in between the process.
During all these months I have carried the extractor, the tubes, the cups, the bottles, the cooler, the ice packs. Sometimes when I do not have time at work I get myself pluged in the car and I pump while drive. At night I wash all the implements and sterilize them once a week and although it sounds a bit much, I made it all part of my routine.
6. Tips to collect more milk
I have heard and read about many substances to produce more milk. After a lot of research and in my own experience the only way to produce more mill is through the suction of the baby. The milk never ends. If a baby drinks milk right now and in an hour he asks again, the breast will just produce more.
It is unknown with certainty how much milk comes out of the breast when the baby is sucking from it. What comes out of the pump should not be a reference of how much milk is produced.
However, there are some tricks that I have learned in order ro collect more when pumping.
A. After pumping, you can get even more by extracting manually. I have managed to get up to 1 more ounce.
B. Offer only one breast during the night and pump from the one that was not offered in the morning. The next night, alternate the breast.
C. Pump from one breast while breastfeeding from the other.
D. Use nursing cups. These not only work to collect milk from one breast while offering the other one, but also to collect the drops that will fall in our intimate clothes. By using nursing cups we also avoid pads, therefore, we pollute less.
When I look back and think about everything I have learned and how much I have matured as a person, I can not deny feeling incredible. What pleases me most is to know that I have done all this just for love. Any mom will understand.
I am convinced that for a happy breastfeeding process, 90% is determination and 10% is milk production. Happy breastfeeding to you all!