Breastfeeding While Working from Home
Today, a topic that I could talk about endlessly: breastfeeding, i.e. churning out calories for a hungry baby up to twelve times as day for months on end.
There is a lot of material out there about breastfeeding. Before my son was born I read some of it, and I determined that a lot of it focused on how mechanically difficult and challenging breastfeeding can be.
In my own experience, that was true: for about two weeks. For the first two weeks, it was painful. Like, really painful. But then all parties figured out what we were supposed to be doing. My baby learned to latch so well that he could have nursed while swinging from a trapeze, and I was no longer in pain. (I know that many people continue to have mechanical difficulties after the first few weeks, and, to that I say, thank god for La Leche League).
But you know what was much, much harder that I failed to anticipate?
The enormous, relentless amount of time breastfeeding consumes. It’s not the mechanics of breastfeeding that was the hardest part for me but the time and physical effort it required. My baby absolutely loved eating (still does). For the first few months he would nurse 10-12 times per day for up to 45 minutes! Do you know how much sitting that is? I’ve never sat so much in my life, and that’s saying a lot because I wrote a freaking dissertation.
But here’s the thing. I was working from home the entire time. I rarely had to worry about packing up a pump, bottles, ice pack, and cooler, much less think about what nasty bathroom I would probably be sitting in to pump.
Most of my hundreds of nursing sessions happened while I was sitting at a desk, on a bed, on a couch, or in a parked car.
And in case you haven’t read up on breastfeeding before, milk supply is dependent on how frequently a baby nurses. The longer you go between feeds or the shorter a baby’s feeds are, the more likely the mom is to have low milk supply. But working from home meant that I could feed my baby all the time, totally on demand. As a result, I never had any milk supply issues. If anything, my body was like HEY BABY, YOU’VE EATEN ENOUGH. The only time I had a clogged duct was when I listened to bad advice from a bad pediatrician.
This is the only image I could find that shows my breastfeeding / working setup. Here’s what it looked like and what it still looks like for me at 4 pm everyday. (He still drinks a little milk these days).
For moms who need a big work-from-home tip, I actually used probably 75% of time breastfeeding time to work. I was lucky that up through my son’s tenth month, he would happily eat and doze for hours while I cranked out some work. (Would anyone be interested in learning about the mechanics of this?)
Some weeks after giving birth, I had to start a big freelance project, and I honestly have no idea how I would have managed it if I had had to go into an office. As it was, I was able to strap my baby into a My Brest Friend nursing pillow and let him drift into total milk bliss while I powered up my laptop. (I did the entire project between 1 and 4 in the morning – but that’s another story!)
Despite all the sitting and the truly staggering amount of time breastfeeding requires, it was – dare I say – a joyful experience for me. I’m certain that the main reasons it was such a joyful experience were
I was able to feed a baby, not a pump, most of the time,
I was usually at home or at family and friends’ houses and didn’t have to worry about my body and awkward exposure, and
I did not have to worry about mastitis, clogged ducts, low supply, and other problems, the risks of which are exponentially increased when you aren’t able to nurse on demand.*
And again, lest you think I was just relaxing into a blissful state of unity between myself and my baby during these insanely long nursing sessions, I was not. I was working, pretty much all the time. In the first few months, breastfeeding made working possible, and working from home made breastfeeding possible.
In our current reality, I was privileged to be able to work from home while breastfeeding, but this shouldn’t be a privilege. Women should have the right to breastfeed while comfortable and safe, whether that is through a reasonable maternity leave or by working from home.
*I want to note: there are other reasons that mothers experience these issues, totally unrelated to their heroic breastfeeding efforts. I absolutely would never blame a mom for facing these challenges. Also, it’s worth adding: I make no judgments about how a mother chooses to feed her child. All I’m pointing out here is that if you’re planning to breastfeed your child, doing it while working from home is many times easier than doing it while commuting to an office.
And finally: if you are planning to work from home while breastfeeding you ABSOLUTELY MUST get a My Brest Friend nursing pillow. If you know any mom planning to breastfeed and work, buy them this pillow. If you have even the faintest idea that you might one day want to operate a laptop while feeding a baby with your body, you must, absolutely, 100% MUST get this pillow. Hands-free nursing saved me: my career, my sanity, and my relationships (because I could text my friends while breastfeeding!) Also, I bought mine for about $5 at a consignment sale…