Being a Nursing Mom & Teacher

Natalie as a newborn... awww!

Last year, I returned from maternity leave carrying my school bag and another bag... in that bag was a breast pump.

I am taking a slight departure from my normal blog content. Today I'm writing about being a new mom and a teacher at the same time. I wanted to take a moment to blog about my experiences trying to work full time and breastfeed my daughter because I think it could help anyone that works in a school that might:
-be a new mom that is nursing her child
-work with a new nursing mom

Being a full-time working mom has challenges, but you can do it!

I'm defining my audience up front, because I think it's important for everyone to understand and be aware of what it is like to be a teacher going back to work, worrying about feeding her child, and trying to be super-mom and super-teacher at the same time. I'm going to break this post up into two parts. My advice for "New Mom Teacher" and for "Co-Worker of New Mom Teacher." Feel free to skip to the part that works for you... or better, in my opinion, read both because empathy is a great thing! :)

Disclaimers: I want to acknowledge that different women have different experiences. This is written about mine. I don't claim to be an expert, so anyone having breastfeeding problems should contact a certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). 

For the "New Mom Teacher" that wants to breastfeed:

1. Let People in on the Plan
It might seem like something you want to keep private, but it my experience it is much better to let your coworkers and boss know your plans to pump. When you plan to, where you plan to be, etc. Then also let secretaries and custodians know! I had to pump across the room from my phone, so it was nice to let the office staff know why I wasn't answering calls during a certain time. Also, I pumped during lunch and after school. It was important to let the custodians know since they had a key to my classroom and also wanted to come in after school to collect garbage.

2. Just Say It!
Determine the words you are comfortable using and just say it. For example, I decided I would say "pump" and not feel weird about it. I didn't want to be fumbling for words every time I had to leave a meeting saying "I need to um... you know, uh..." and feel embarrassed. Why should I feel embarrassed? So I just said "I need to go pump." and let people know without making it weird every time. In fact, my team got so used to it. There was even a male teacher on my team that got so used to it he was like, "Oh, Annie, are we meeting during 4th period today or are you pumping then?" He said this with a total neutral tone, as if it was no big deal. (#NormalizeBreastfeeding)

3. Speak Up, If Needed
There were a few Institute Days, held in a different building, where I ended up pumping in the bathroom (gross). I probably should have spoken up for myself and asked for a room. Another time a substitute custodian opened my locked door that even had a sign over the handle. Things will happen, and I understand that. But, it was important to let my principal and head custodian know so it didn't happen again. I wasn't speaking up to get anyone in trouble, I just needed to make sure we were all on the same page.

4. Routine and Back-ups
Once you are in the routine of pumping at work, it gets easier. At first, it was common that I might forget a part here and there. Some people keep back-up supplies at work. For example, I kept the package of storage bags in my desk. Cleaning parts at night so they are ready to go in the morning was a good routine for me. In fact, my husband started taking over part cleaning duty, which I thought was a nice way to show support to me and what I was doing!

5. Paced Bottle Feeding
Having your daycare person be supportive and knowledgeable is really important. The amount of breastmilk babies need is different than the amount of formula. Also, there is something called paced-bottle feeding that is something worth reading about and talking to your daycare provider about. My experience was that I was able to pump about 9oz per day and my daughter took 3- 3oz bottles at daycare.

6. Put a Sign on It!
Put a sign on your door. Even if you tell everyone, there will be those subs or students that don't know your plan and you don't want people banging on your door. I put my sign over the door handle to further discourage people from missing seeing it.

7. Making the Time
Finding the time to pump can be one of the biggest challenges for teacher-moms. I know quite a few teachers that pumped while driving to or from school. Another option is to use plan times or lunch. I have also heard of teachers asking colleagues to watch their class for them or even principals that have found coverage for teachers so they can pump. Some of these might be options for you.

The routine that worked best for me, is I nursed my daughter at 7:15, right before I dropped her off at daycare. Then I pumped during my plan or lunch (11:30/12:00) and then pumped again after the students left (3:20). I would pick up my daughter at 4:00 and nurse her when we got home.

For the Co-Worker of New Mom that wants to breastfeed:

1. Be supportive and don't be weird
This is really the only advice I have for co-workers. If you were a nursing mom yourself, you might have stories to share, and that's great. If you are a father and your wife breastfed your children, you might want to share that info, that's great! If you are a co-worker and you have no experience with breastfeeding, you might have questions, that's okay.

However, here is a list (not comprehensive) of things to avoid doing or saying because it makes you unsupportive or weird.
-comments about "how long are you going to do that for?"
-calling pumping "that" (see previous)
-giving your opinion about when a baby should wean (whether that is 6 months, 1 year, or some other arbitrary deadline such as getting teeth or talking). Weaning is a choice between mom and baby.
-being annoyed when co-worker needs to pump and misses a meeting
-maybe you are a mom and chose not to breasted-- no worries, your co-worker's choice does not mean that your different choice is bad or wrong, so keep your comments positive (or, if you can't, don't say anything)
-mentioning anything about the nursing mom's boobs size, shape, or change
-comparing her to a cow

The main thing is, let's be supportive of full-time working moms! It's tough. Some of us choose to breastfeed for months, a year, or beyond. Some of us choose combination of nursing and formula. Some of us will choose formula from the start. We all have different experiences and challenges. Be kind!

Need more information? These resources can help:
La Leche League


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