from the blog.

Breastfeeding and Working: A Numbers Game

1 to 1.5 oz per hour away: that’s what the articles say he’ll need when I go back to work. I’ll feed him last at 7:30am and pick up him around 5:30pm. That’s 10-15oz per day. Let’s split the difference and call it 12oz. How do I send it? What are the options? How do you know how to bottle feed a breastfed baby? 2oz bottles? 3oz? 4oz? Multiple sizes? This is overwhelming… Why can’t I just stay home with him?

400oz: Did that lactation consultant really just say that’s what I needed in the freezer before I go back to work in a month? FOUR HUNDRED OUNCES? I’ll never get that. He eats all the time, I barely have time to pump and if I do, it goes right back in him because of his tongue tie. How am I supposed to breastfeed him for at least 6 months if I need that much? We’re going to have to supplement again. Dammit, I worked so hard to get off that!

40oz: that’s all I’ve managed to save up before my first day back. 16oz of that gets thawed and bottled for O. I’m glad he gets to stay home with N for the first few days. That takes some of the stress off. I feed him at 7:30am and walk out the door with 4 different bags. One for the pump, one for lunch and milk cooler, one for my laptop, and my purse. I feel like a pack mule.

8:30am: I get to work and get settled in. I talk with our Office Manager about my pumping space. It’s an empty executive office right across from the General Manager. Super awkward but better than nothing. I tell her I’ll need it 3 times a day for the next 9 months. She seems shocked. She doesn’t have kids. Her reaction doesn’t surprise me.

10:14am: my first pumping session. I get all hooked up and get started. 17 minutes of staring at pictures of the baby and I’ve got 4.5oz. This is good. 2 more pumps left. If I can just stay ahead of what he eats, we’ll be ok. I check on him via text about 100 times. He’s doing okay for N. I finish the day with another 8oz pumped. I get home and nurse my baby. I’m “ahead” for the day by 0.5oz.

Day 5: back to work, he’s going to my mom’s this time. Things have been ok, I’m pumping just enough each day, 12-13oz. I send 16oz with him, just in case my commute is worse than expected. He takes all 16oz and is still ready to nurse when I get there. Mom said he acted hungry and needs more. Cue panic. I can’t give him that much every day. I don’t make enough! I send her all the articles, all the calculators, all the research. He’s peeing and pooping fine, he’s gaining weight. It’s enough, it has to be enough. But in the back of my mind the thoughts creep in. Am I starving my baby? What if he really is hungry? Does this make me a bad mom? The guilt creeps in.

21oz: that’s how much he gained in the first month I was back to work. I’m glad I stuck with my gut and kept his bottles at the recommended amount. That’s all he needs. He doesn’t need a bottle every time he fusses. He’s a social baby, he gets bored. He needs distractions. He misses nursing. He misses ME.

98 Hours and 16 Minutes: That’s how much time I’ve spent hooked up to the pump. This doesn’t include washing pump parts, washing bottles, setting up, breaking down. This is my life now.. 3 times a day, every day.

1043.25oz: That’s how much I’ve pumped for my son. I’ve grown my stash from that measly 40oz to over 112.5oz. I haven’t had to supplement once. The anxiety did hit the couple times I’ve had to dip into that stash, I worry every day that I won’t have enough. I keep a tally in my head and if i’m “up” for the week I feel great! If I’m “down” or even just breaking even, I feel like I’m failing. I try and fight those thoughts. I try and talk to myself like I would talk to my friends.

Feed the baby not the freezer.

From 9lbs 3oz at birth to over 20lbs: that’s over 10lbs of delicious chunky thigh rolls and chubby fingers. With the exception of 114.75oz of formula in 20 days of February, that’s all me. My time, my effort, my boobs, my body. I DID THAT. For once I feel like my body isn’t betraying me.

According to a popular meme that I see passed around but can’t find the source of, only 26% of breastfeeding moms who work full-time, provide breastmilk for the first 6 months. At 1 year, they say that drops to 17%. My goal is to continue pumping until he’s a year but to nurse him as long as it’s working for both of us.

I won’t say it’s easy, or fun, but for me it is worth it.

Breastfeeding, working full-time, and pumping is a numbers game… and right now, it’s one I’m winning.


We are sharing stories this week about our triumphs and travails with breastfeeding in honor of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 2015, coordinated by WABA).*

“This World Breastfeeding Week, WABA calls for concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.”

For more information please visit http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/.

*Disclaimer: Rainbows & Unicorns does not discriminate against how any parent chooses to feed their child. We honor that families always choose the best thing that works for them, whether that is formula feeding, breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, or a mixture of any of these. 

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9 Comments

  1. When I was pumping at work I would leave all my pumping stuff in a big ziplock in a non see through bag & put in in the refrigerator inbetween pumps so I didn’t have to wash it each time. It would stay sanitary b/c and BM residue would be chilled. Just a tip for reducing the amount of time it takes to wash each time. It’s hard. Hard hard hard!

    1. I do that!! I use the Freemie cups too which seem to help with set up time. It’s still just a giant pain in the ass!

  2. *applause* That takes A LOT of effort. I always wanted to bf and am very glad I did/do but I’m not sure I’d do this. I’m very impressed that some people do. Although I also wish there were better mat leave options so it wasn’t (as) necessary.

    1. Yes! Better maternity leave would definitely relieve some of the pressure and anxiety. The return to work triggered my postpartum anxiety, but that’s another post in it’s own right! I do love nursing my son. It really helps with reconnecting with him after a full day away from him and it helps me to relax and unwind.

  3. I’m so happy that everything is working out well for you! Did you ever ask your LC why 400 oz freezer stash? That seems insane to me. My daycare provider requested a week’s worth of frozen breast milk as a back up, which was about 50 oz (10 oz/day). I think I had about 120 oz saved up, but I ended up giving myself an oversupply, which sounds great, but has it’s own problems. I pumped at work until about 8 months, when I was ready to be done. I was totally okay with formula by that point.

    1. She said that “everyone should have a full month just in case” which is cool, if it’s possible. But it’s scary as hell when you’re struggling to get started just breastfeeding and then you have that looming over your head!

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