Pump It Up

I am here to chronicle my pumping journey. As a working mom, I had to decide if I wanted to continue our breastfeeding adventure once I returned to work.

For me it was pretty simple:  I want to keep providing George with breastmilk as long as I can.

Since we had to pump quite a bit his first month of life due to his early arrival situation, I knew that transitioning back to it wouldn’t be that difficult.

I just had to figure out how it would fit into my new work schedule.

There are laws protecting women in the workplace who decide to pump, meaning that they have to let you do it. But there is still cause to worry. Will my colleagues be understanding? Will it cut down on my productivity/availability? How will I fit this in my schedule? Will it become too much?

Luckily my colleagues have all been super accepting and understand fully what I am going through. They both have kids of their own and know this is something that I need to do. I just have to kindly remind them when I need my mother break. I feel really lucky that they have been fully supportive and help me in whatever way they can to make sure I get my time.

As far as my productivity and availability, this has been the hardest thing for me to adjust to. I take three pumping breaks a day, which leaves me practically useless for those half hour spans of time. I am fortunate to be able to pump in my own office so I can still do minimal work on my computer. I would say it is not super productive since I can only type with one hand (although my speed is increasing.) I don’t have one of those fancy bras that holds the cups in place, so I have to physically hold it with my hand for the duration of the pump. I try to save more reading tasks or phone calls for these times to maximize what I can do since I am limited to one hand.

But I cannot meet with anyone. It hasn’t been a huge problem yet since I have still been in training mode and our student contact dies down at the end of the semester. I do worry though once next semester hits, and I have back to back meetings and need to be available to students. I don’t want to seem unapproachable or hard to meet with due to my blocks of time.

I had have a lot of guilt that I am not doing my job the best I can because I have to take these timeouts. I know that this is the best for George, but I also feel a strong sense of responsibility to do the best at my job. Sometimes, I feel an immense amount of guilt because I have to hide myself away for an hour and a half a day to do something personal.

Which leads into my schedule. So far I have only had one day that I have not been able to do all three of my breaks. I do worry that this will happen the more I get involved and more things I need to tend to. The day it happened I had 3 meetings back to back in different places around campus and was not able to make it back in time to pump. I learned that I will need to be more vigilant about moving my pumping schedule around so people don’t schedule my time on my calendar. Unfortunately, I know there will be times when those meetings are out of my control. I feel that as long as I make sure I have 2 pumps a day, I can make it work. But ideally I need to have three to keep up with George’s feeding the best way possible.

I am so glad that I have my own office to escape to for my breaks. I can leave my pump somewhat set up under my desk, which is nice not to have to break it down each time. My first day here they didn’t have blinds on my window yet, which is a floor to ceiling window looking into a lobby. I had to go to the community breastfeeding closet that day. This would have really eaten into my schedule because the one room they have designated for breastfeeding moms is not in my building. So I would have to walk two buildings over (luckily they are connected by a breezeway), climb three flights of stairs, and hope the room wasn’t occupied. Then I would have to set up and break down each time. That travel time and set up alone would add 15 minutes to the already 30 minutes I was taking. Plus there is no computer in that room, so in order to work, I would have to lug my work station with me. Needless to say the blinds were installed on my office window on my second day so I only had one day of that to deal with. Whew. I do not take this luxury lightly!

Funny story:  Even though I have blinds and a locked door, I did have someone walk in on me a couple weeks back. It was a maintenance man who did not heed my “I am busy” when he knocked. He got more than he bargained for when he unlocked that door. I am still not sure why he needed in my office because I had no work orders out and he never came back to do what he intended in the first place. I was really mad at first but looking back, I can only laugh at his facial expression when he realized what was going on.

Anyway, besides all the professional questions, you think about all the mom things: Am I going to make enough? Is George going to be more used to a bottle now and will we have problems breastfeeding?

I don’t make enough milk. There it is. I feel like a failure sometimes when I think about it. It just is what it is though. I have tried taking supplements and eating all the lactation cookies to increase my supply, which helped, but ultimately I was not keeping up with George’s demand. He is pretty greedy with the bottle. I average around 3 oz each complete session and George drinks 3-5 oz each feeding. Do the math; I got behind fast…We had to make a choice, and we recently decided to feed George formula for his last feeding of the night. This was for two reasons. One, he was no longer sleeping through the night, and I was having to wake up at 2/3am to feed him. We were hoping if we fed him formula it would get him through the entire night since all the readings say it keeps them full longer. And two, it gave me the opportunity to pump at night and stock up extra milk for the sitter. So we have been doing that for a little more than a week now, and it has really changed everyone’s mood. We are all sleeping through the night for the most part (we still have our nights), and we now have enough for him to drink breastmilk all day. For now.

There was a lot of anxiety on my part for this one. Tom and I had several conversations that we were going to do this, and it still took me a couple days to actually pull the trigger on the formula. I still feel guilty that I wasn’t able to do it 100% longer, but we made it 3.5 months. I know that formula is not bad. Goodness I was only formula fed and I am just fine. I think though that there is just so much pressure these days to be mom who breastfeeds, and then you put a lot on yourself as a mom if you can’t succeed in that. I just need to remember to look at the whole situation; his primary sustenance is still breastmilk and again formula is keeping lots of babies perfectly healthy. We ultimately were going to have to end up doing formula somewhere because the reality was I was not making enough to fill him up. The plus side is that now Tom can be more involved with feeding because he is in charge of that bedtime feeding now. That gives them some time to bond that I was previously hogging (unintentionally).

We also did have a few problems with breastfeeding before the big switch to formula that began shortly after I started working. George did not want the boob. He would kick and fight me the whole time, and I was so distraught. But yet he would have no problems with a bottle. Apparently they go through cycles and this happens, but I had firmly decided that it was because of pumping and “abandoning” my baby at feeding time. “All my fault” was flashing in big neon lights in my head. I just need to get over myself on this one-it’s a daily battle friends.

I really just need a reminder that there are going to be little troubles, but we will make the best decision that we can within the means that we have. I need to accept that. He is healthy and being fed and that is what matters.

So I pump more than I breastfeed now. We do breastfeed completely on the weekends, besides that last feeding. It is nice for me to catch up on all the missed feedings with him. I honestly think that pumping has made me cherish those times we do breastfeed a little more.

And I cherish the fact that there are less dishes to do on the weekend. Like super cherish. I hate doing those silly dishes.

I have to wash pump parts every single night to keep up. (I have 6 pump parts, and I am adament stubborn about buying more even though I pump 4 times a day.) Those are 15-30 minutes I wish I had back every day, but I am too paranoid to leave it to the dishwasher to get clean.

Other things that are handy for pumping at work:

  • It is vital that you have a good pump. I have a Medela, and I love it. (As much as you can love a suction cup machine)
  • Burp cloth or hand towel-I keep a burp cloth in my bag because it is inevitable that I will spill/spray milk every where.
  • Cooler/access to fridge- My pump came with a little cooler and ice pack, which I use everyday to transport the milk. I am lucky that we have access to a fridge in my office, otherwise I would probably invest in a mini-fridge to store the milk throughout the day. Although it would still be nice to have a fridge in my office again.
  • Water and snacks-I am thirsty and hungry ALL. THE. TIME. I pack my lunch bag with extra snacks to have for these pumping sessions. I also make sure that my water bottle is full before every session so I can stay hydrated.
  • Nursing pads-These are just a must so you don’t leak through your work clothes. I use the Target brand, and I have never had a problem with leaking out of them.
  • Ziplock bags-I keep two bags to keep all the clean and dirty parts separated in my bag.

I don’t wear a nursing bra because I found them too cumbersome. I am still managing with a sports bra and cami everyday and then just roll it up when I need to pump. It does somewhat limit my wardrobe, but I am making it work. This is the most comfortable for me. I do miss all my dresses though…

There are times that I wonder if this (the pumping, the washing, the preparing) is worth it. Pumping only 3 oz each time can be really discouraging. There is a conversation a few times a week about whether we should continue. In the end though, what I am able to supply is a huge blessing. Whatever I can give is good for George.

Just saying, it is also nice on our wallet to keep pumping. Even with only one feeding of formula a day, I feel like we are just zipping through this container of formula.

You have to always be re-evaluating this nursing experience. Your situation and baby’s needs are going to make things change, so you have to be ready to evolve with what is going on. It can be really stressful at times. For me, it was in those moments that I realized we needed to do something different because it was not healthy for any of us to continue down that path. So adjustments are made and you move on to the next thing.

Which is teething…oh buddy.

Do you have experience pumping at work or know anyone who does? Did you have struggles? What are your tips? Did you feel like a bag lady going into work everyday? 

One Fine Day

Over a month ago, I posted what our day looked like when I was staying home with G. Now that we have settled into a routine as a working family, I wanted to post how things have changed.

For the past month, we have been living with my in-laws while we wait for Tom to return and for us to find a decent home. We figured there was no reason to rush since Tom was still in KY for awhile. But now that time is ending so this is a recap of how George fared without him.

Here is our day now:

At 5am, the alarm clock goes off, and we wake up. I am pretty proud of myself that I rarely hit the snooze button on weekdays. Progress people.

Between 5 and 5:30am:  I nurse George and change his diaper and switch out his pjs for his day clothes.

For the first few weeks the dogs were not with us, but this last week we added their madness to the mix.

Around 5:30, I hand off George to my mother-in-law, and I take the dogs out for their potty time.

Then I hop in the shower.

Around 6, I grab some breakfast and coffee.

At 6:15, I take George back from Grandma so she can get ready. George, then watches me finish getting ready from his little bouncy chair. Sometimes he is awake, and we talk about the day ahead. And other times this is his reaction to morning time. Mornings are hard people.

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At 6:45, I gather up any last minute things I need to pack like pumping equipment and George’s things. Then I load it and George into the car. I feel like a bag lady (diaper bag, pump bag, work bag, lunch bag).

By 7am, we are on the road.

It is a 30 minute drive to the baby sitter. George usually sleeps as I listen to the Kidd Kraddick show. If he is awake, I talk about what we drive by like the Capital building and the airport or the cars that we pass. Or I add my own commentary in response to the radio show. Y’all should be listening to this show. It is delightful.

Between 7:30 and 7:45, I drop off George at the babysitter’s. I usually stick around for 5 minutes to talk to her and one of the little girls that beats us there. “Baby George is here!” She (the three year old, not the babysitter) says every morning as we come in. Then sometimes we talk about princesses because that’s definitely 7:30am conversation. So cute.

By 7:55am, I am pulling into the parking lot at my job.

From 8-5, I am working. Doing really important things and changing people’s lives you know.

Around 5:20, I have worked my way through the traffic lights and the abundance of cars back to the babysitter’s.

We usually make it back to my in-laws around 6:15pm. I use this commute back to talk with Tom or I call other people to check in.

Once we get to the house, I snuggle with George for a few minutes than hand him off to either Grandma or Papa so I can eat. (Can I just say my in-laws are awesome for cooking me food every night!)

At 7, I nurse George. Then we play in our room until about 8ish. We get some tummy time in and leg exercises. Every day is leg day to George. This is my favorite part of the day because it is real quality time where I don’t feel like I have to rush our time together. We can just be.

Around 8, I let Grandma and Papa love on him. I use this time to take the dogs out, wash pump parts and bottles, and to get my lunch ready for the next day. Maybe I will go to the bathroom without a dog or a baby watching me, you know grown up things. This is such a blessing to have them to help. Plus I know that they are loving the quality time they are getting with little man.

This video was from a couple weeks ago when he first started babbling. He is pretty camera shy because he talks a whole lot more when I am not trying to record it.

If it is bath night, at 8:30 I go and get bath stuff ready for George while Papa chats with him (or some nights they fall asleep in the chair together). I will also wash my own face, brush my teeth, and get my clothes ready for the morning. If it is not bath night, I will start my nightly routine at 9pm.

Once I am through with my night stuff, George and I either head for a bath or I take him to nurse.

Around 9:30, we are usually wrapping up his last nursing session of the day. I will read him a story, and then put him in his Pack and Play for the night.

We are almost always done by 10pm.

I then take the dogs out again if they haven’t begged for it already from Grandma and Papa.

I call Tom once I have crawled in bed, and I am usually asleep before 10:30. Sometimes, I am still on the phone with Tom when I fall asleep….

Lately, George has been stirring between 3-5am. But most nights he will fall back asleep once I find the pacy and talk to him a little. Very rarely do I have to actually get up to nurse him before 5am.

On the weekends, it’s like George knows that we don’t have to wake up early. He will usually sleep until 6 and sometimes even 7. Bless this child.

One thing that has really helped keep me organized and not feel so rushed during the week is that I lay out clothes for the week for both myself and George on Sunday. It may sound crazy to plan for the week, but it is the best thing I have done to not feel like I am wasting time during the week stressing about what each of us is wearing. Then the only thing I do at night is grab undergarments and shoes to set out for the next day. So instead of wasting a half hour each night wondering how to style myself, (because let’s be real I will sometimes look at the mounds of clothes and think I have nothing to wear) I can take a half hour maybe 45 minutes one time on Sunday to get both of our things together.

I also write blog posts on the weekends and then edit throughout the week. Any spare time I have at night is usually spent playing with George and watching TV instead of playing on the computer. I wouldn’t have it any other way. So writing on the weekend has helped keep me from staying up late during the week because I still WANT to blog.

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There are days that I am really exhausted, but for the most part this routine has worked for us. I will be glad to knock some time off that commute though once we move into our own place. But for now, I will cherish the time that George gets with his grandparents while we stay with them. Plus he usually gets to see his cousin Ava a little more often this way too. Being close to family for the first time since undergrad has been really truly wonderful. I am so glad that George will be able to grow up close to both of our families and be surrounded by that family atmosphere.

So that’s what life has looked like for the past few weeks. It is all about to change though with Tom coming home TODAY! And hopefully we will be moving within the next week.

What are your routine tricks to save you time?

And Just Like That

And just like that, I am a working mom.

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I am well into week two of being back on the working circuit. (Not that type of working girl, goodness.)

Last week was rough. It was my first full week at a job since the beginning of August. It was my first full week full time in about a year and half.

It was my first time leaving George for more than an hour at a time.

With a stranger.

Rough and exhausting.

But it was good at the same time. We really did have a great first week.

I was truly fortunate to find a sitter for George relatively easily. The timing just really worked out for us here. And to find in-home care was just awesome.

She is a woman who watches 4-5 kids depending on the day. She was about half the price of any daycare in the area. And her house is just over 5 minutes away from my office.

Win, win, win.

I met with the sitter for about an hour and watched her interact with the other kids. The two little girls fell in love with George right away. (Literally, one girl exclaimed within minutes of meeting him, “I just love Baby George, and I can’t wait till he is here all the time.”)

Let’s just say this woman is a Godsend. She really makes these kids her whole world. I knew practically instantly that George would be in good hands with her.

She is so kind and warm-hearted. Pretty much perfect.

This past week she put up Christmas decorations, and George now has a stocking of his very own there. (I don’t even know where our Christmas boxes are right now, let alone having bought anything for G-man.)

She is very patient with his acid reflux and need to be held all the time. Although the first two days I thought George liked her more than me because he didn’t poop or throw up on her at all. Then when he got home he would work out EVERYTHING he had saved up from the whole day all down my shirt. On day three though, he initiated her into the clean-up George’s functions club.

She handles my new mom questions like a pro when I pick him up each night to get a progress report.

Leaving him that first day was hard. I had to fight back tears as I left him in her arms. Luckily last week I was in training meetings for most of the day, so I could keep my mind off the fact that I wasn’t singing songs or attempting to like tummy time with him.

There is so much trust you have to have to leave your kid with anyone, let alone someone you have only had a ONE hour encounter with. You have to let go of a lot of control. One of the many lessons of parenthood…

Every morning, I am a little awkward dropping him off because I try to do it as quickly as possible so I don’t get myself in a tizzy by leaving him. Other times, I realize I am lingering and just staring at this sweet face…

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Move on and make some money Mom.

I feel really fortunate as well that my office is full of babies. My boss just had his first kid two weeks before I started. The other woman in the office has a two and four year old. They have been super supportive knowing what it’s like being a parent and working. This has made for an easy transition because they both understand. Plus, we are gushing over baby pictures practically every chance we get. And who doesn’t mind looking at baby pictures? We also win for the office with the least amount of sleep. How we are accomplishing anything is beyond me.

It is hard leaving him and knowing that I spend a good chunk of time without him now. But as some friends mentioned recently, he will be getting the best of me because I will be fulfilled with my job professionally. I know I am meant to be a mom and an educator. I know that having both will make me better at both. (And my job is AWESOME, but that is a discussion for another day.)

I have to remind myself that it is good for both of us. I truly cherish the time we get together because it is limited now more than before. Like this morning, I got a ready with 10 minutes to spare so I just snuggled him a little extra before bundling him in the car. George benefits by interacting with other kids, but also by seeing his mom and dad work and being excited about their careers. I hope that he will see Tom and I loving our jobs and be motivated in his own career path to feel the way that we do. It is also good knowing that he has a community of people who are going to love and support him, and I don’t have to feel the pressure to be his whole and only world. (Even though selfishly at times, I want to be just that.)

This little man deserves the best, so his dad and I are doing what we can to make that for him.

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I don’t really have a lot of advice when trying to find childcare. We went totally off recommendations, so if you know someone in the area with kids I would start with their suggestions. The rest was a gut feeling. Sometimes you just know who you can trust and who you can’t.

While it is not easy leaving him in the care of someone else, it is getting easier as we adjust.

And you really can’t beat coming home to that face everyday!