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Making It Work

Nursing On My Lunch Break

From New Beginnings, Vol. 31 No. 1, 2010, pp. 26-28

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine New Beginnings, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of New Beginnings to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Mother's Situation

I am returning to work in a couple of months and will be leaving my six-month-old in the care of a great babysitter. I work as a teacher in a local elementary school and was hoping to pump once during the day, and also have my sitter bring my son to visit, nurse, and reconnect for a few minutes each day during my lunch break. However, I know from experience that I am often busy emailing parents and organizing student work during that time. Am I unrealistic to think I can manage this? Have other nursing mothers been able to nurse and pump during the day and balance their responsibilities? Or would I be better off to focus on my work during the school day and have more time for my baby when I get home? I just cannot imagine leaving him for that long.

Response

As both an elementary teacher and mother of three breastfed children, I understand your concerns about fulfilling your responsibilities to both your students and your child. Your plan to pump once during the day and have your son come to you for nursing and reconnecting during the day sounds like it will be very good for all concerned.

The logistics may seem daunting, but with some planning, I think you can bring it off beautifully. Since you have a few months before returning, do you think you can practice getting used to nursing while typing? I got quite adept at having my baby breastfeeding in a sling and keyboard on my knees. Learning to double-pump hands-free will also allow you to organize student work, email, or make phone calls during recess.

The time reconnecting with your son, whether at lunch with him there or just thinking about him while pumping can also be seen as a "recharge" of your mothering instincts, from which your students benefit as well. The hormones you stimulate through milk production will help you be a calm, centered teacher and fulfilled, responsive mother.

Either plan may leave you with work to bring home. Rather than seeing this as taking away from your son, you might look for ways to include him. While you grade papers, you can tell him about it while he sits or lies beside you. You can read him stories you plan to share with the class and even share your strategies for using class material to build students' skills. Telling him about your work each day will help him begin to build a framework for what it will be like for him to be older. When you work on classroom displays, he can play in the classroom or join you in a sling or back carrier. While much of this goes "over his head," he will learn from your use of varied vocabulary and will respond to your enthusiasm and inclusion.

You are wise to begin formulating a plan for your return to work. Remember, also, that as he grows and his needs change, your breastfeeding and pumping schedule will change as well. It can be easier to adopt a plan a week at a time than see this as something that will go on for the whole school year. Enlisting the help of your fellow teachers, parents, and administrators can also be helpful. Can you trade some shared lesson planning for duty time, or find a parent volunteer to help collate or grade papers? Letting all these people know how having your son enriches your motivation to teach can help everyone involved to see how the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond a mother and baby.

Ellen Chase
Lomita, California, USA

Response

I did the same thing with my baby and brought her to work to nurse. It saved my sanity on returning to work.

We have an amazing "Nemmy,"as my daughter calls her, who was willing to bring her down every day. Otherwise I would have been away from my daughter for ten hours at a time, which was unbearable to me as a new mother! My daughter only nursed for part of the time during her visit and we were able to play a little as well. What a wonderful way to break up the time away from her.

I highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity if it's available to you. You will feel more connected to your little one. Perhaps you can email parents in the evening from home after your baby has gone to sleep. Also, you will become efficient at pumping and be able to send emails and organize your work while you pump.

Good luck to you!

Maggie Romanovich
Oak Park, IL, USA

Response

How fantastic that you are thinking of spending time helping your son adjust to the separation caused by going back to work. It seems to me that at least initially, the smaller the gaps between his feeds and between reconnecting with you emotionally, the easier it will be for him to accept the necessary changes. Of course, there will be extra challenges in fitting everything in, but if you are reassured that your son is happy you may be able to concentrate and get things done more quickly. If you do find that you are not able to fit everything into your day, might there be some things you could take home to do while he is sleeping, or playing happily around you?

It sounds as if working will be a challenge for you in terms of missing your son. There is no doubt he will miss you just as much. Do you have any options to consider delaying your return to work until he is more self-sufficient and you are both more comfortable with the situation? If not, your plan sounds as if it will offer the maximum reassurance.

Jill Unwin
Berkshire, GB

Response

I am an aircraft mechanic and I work as a civilian for the Department of Defense at an Airforce base. My daughter stays at home with her daddy, but I go home every day at lunch time to breastfeed her. I also pump twice a day. I get my job done and still get to reconnect with my daughter and my husband. I'm sure you can do it, too!

My daughter is only 15 weeks and two days old. We all sit back and relax for a few minutes before I have to return to work for a few more hours. I feel that this helps my daughter and husband stay as close as we were before I went back to work.

Cyndie
Oklahoma, USA

Response

I too am an elementary school teacher and, indeed, the demands are many. Spending the entire day away from your six-month-old is also difficult.

If you are able to use your classroom for lunchtime visits try to set up an area where you can nurse comfortably and possibly get some school work done, too. If you have a big comfy chair that might be used in a reader's corner why not make it a nursing corner? Set it up to be private enough, with an extra student's desk where you can collect simple tasks to work on while you nurse. Reading, marking, and writing lesson plans can be done fairly simply while nursing and reconnecting with your baby. This would work at home or in a private office as well for any mother who wants to nurse and get something else done. Think ahead and have things organized near you so that once you sit down with your baby everything that you need is at hand.

Alternatively, just sitting and reconnecting with your baby while you eat your lunch might be a wonderful break in your hectic day that fuels you with the energy you need to be super productive for the rest of the day. Good luck!

Kristin Carter
West Babylon, NY, USA

Response

When I first went back to work, I just worked mornings from 9 o'clock to midday, four days a week, and I’d manage to express a couple of ounces here and there, which I then froze. My little boy was six months old and he coped really well without the feeds from me.

I chose a childcare facility that was about ten minutes from my office. For the first month or so we got by and he was happy to have a breastfeed at the childcarer's when I had finished work. Once I started to work the longer hours of 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, when my little boy was seven months old and my expressed milk store had run out, we supplemented with one formula bottle feed. Although I didn't like the idea of giving him formula, he really seemed to want some sort of milk in the day.

My second child was nine months old when I went back to work, and those extra three months (and a different personality) made a huge difference. He was much more ready to go for the full day of 8:00 am to 4:00 pm without any milk. I had planned to go in to nurse him during my lunch break, but it turned out that he found this reasonably distressing, having me turn up half way through the day only to leave again. In fact, I only did this for a short while. He was offered formula from a bottle and apparently expressed his disgust and wanted nothing to do with it.

Both my children were fine with food and drinks of water. I'm lucky that my employer is flexible about my hours and ability to work from home sometimes. Good luck to you!

Lucy Kaplan
Northampton, UK

Response

Nursing your baby during a break in your work day is one way to be responsive to your baby's need for you, and it can reduce your reliance on pumping, as you eliminate a pumping session by nursing at the breast instead.

I found that wearing a hands-free pumping bra allowed me to read emails at the same time as pumping. A laptop with wireless Internet access is helpful if you need to go to a private area to pump. You might want to avoid phone calls if the pump noise is intrusive. You can convert a nursing bra into a hands-free bra by looping some hair bands or rubber brands around each bra strap. Loop a second band through the first and then insert the pumping flange into the loop. The bottom part of your bra should help anchor the flange. Depending on your breast size you may need to experiment with the size or number of bands.

I used my lunch break to visit and nurse my baby. I took my lunch with me and ate while nursing my baby. You have probably already mastered the art of eating while nursing! If, however, you have to use your lunch break to supervise students, you might find that you can save some simple activities like reading to do during your nursing time. Of course you want to focus on your baby, too, but if he is dozing at the breast while nursing, you might find it easy to multi-task. My babies were ready for their nap and usually fell asleep while I nursed, so it might be helpful to schedule nursing your baby just before he usually naps.

As you experiment with this new arrangement, you'll find what works best for you and your baby, whether it's multi-tasking, staying at work a little longer to finish up, or bringing work home. By being sensitive to your baby's need for you, and your need for your baby, you can remain well attached to your baby while returning to work.

Mary Joan Robinson
Hickory, NC, USA

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