Making It Work
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 16 No. 1, January-February 1999, pp. 20-22
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.
"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.
I will be returning to teach elementary school full-time in September. My daughter will be only six-and-a-half months old. My husband will be staying home full-time. He will take me to school and pick me up so I can nurse before and after school. In theory, my lunch break is 45 minutes long. In reality, it is closer to 20 minutes and even then I often have phone calls and meetings. The only other break I have is a 15 minute morning recess which is usually less than 10 minutes for me. My classroom is not just my room. I may have a teaching assistant in my classroom and students often stay inside on rainy days. Any tips on nursing at school, pumping at school, what to say to students, helping my daughter and husband make it through the day, or returning to work at school with a baby would be appreciated. We want to keep nursing and be happy.
I worked as an elementary school teacher from the time my son was three months old until he was fifteen months old. As with you, my husband cared for our son while I was at work. The best thing we did was to arrange for my husband to bring our son to have "lunch with mama."' It gave us all a chance to reconnect, gave some needed structure to my husband and son's day, gave my husband a few minutes of down time, and saved me a pumping session. I made phone calls to parents from home in the afternoon or evening. I also took my son to meetings at lunch and after school and nursed him there discreetly. I invested in a few nursing shirts and dresses. My coworkers were either supportive or blissfully ignorant of our nursing, and they seemed to really enjoy having a happy baby in their midst.
My least favorite thing about pumping was that it isolated me from my coworkers. It helped that a teacher friend of mine explained to other coworkers why I wasn't in the staff room at breaks. I got lots of support from other teachers, especially those who were parents. Some would watch my students in especially long cafeteria lines. Some would pick up things from my mailbox so I wouldn't have to trek all the way to the office during my short recess. I'd definitely recommend asking for help from those you feel most comfortable with.
I generally pumped at recess and after school. For recess, I got very efficient at getting the students ready to go out exactly at the time recess started. Before I became a nursing mom, I always used every last second of instructional time. However, I soon learned that I needed every minute of recess or I didn't have time to pump and use the bathroom. So I got the students lined up early! I used a double pump to save time. After school, I always had lots of paperwork to sort before I could go home, so I pumped, one side at a time, holding the pump with one hand and doing paperwork with the other.
I too returned to my elementary school teaching job full time when my daughter was very young. I made it known that I was going to be nursing my baby and that this was very important to me. My administrator and the school nurse both made some suggestions about where I could use my pump in private, first in a little-used janitor's office, then in my own classroom. I now realize that complete privacy is very difficult in a school, because someone has a key for every door. Eventually, most people knew that I was pumping when I'd go into my classroom and post a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door.
A science unit on animals helped me explain to the children how I fed my baby. When a child asked me during class what my daughter ate, I reminded them about how mammals feed their young with mother's milk. One or two children even related their personal exposure to breastfeeding at home. A short discussion satisfied their curiosity.
Make pumping at school a priority. Be persistent and creative in finding solutions for every obstacle. Find people around you who can give you support and let them encourage you. Remember that you are entitled to breastfeed your baby even if you're working full-time. Eventually it gets easier as you find a routine that works.
I returned to teaching when my son Brendan was four months old. When I was pumping my breasts, I put a sign on my classroom door that read: "Nursing mom in here." I put my desk in the back of my classroom for a little added privacy. I learned to put a big stack of books or a box on my desk to hide my open blouse. I, too, had little time to pump, so I rented a good electric pump with a Y connection so that I could pump both breasts at the same time. Sometimes I couldn't pump in my classroom, so I went into a nearby closet. It was big enough to fit me, a chair and my battery-powered pump. I actually had more privacy in there than in my classroom. If it is acceptable, leave the children with the teaching assistant if you need to pump during the day. Ask your colleagues if you can use their empty classrooms to pump. I did not have a teaching assistant, but my colleagues were extremely helpful in coming to my room if my breasts felt very full. I would make sure the students were reading or doing math problems, but some of my friends actually enjoyed teaching my students a lesson. While I did not tell the children where I was going every time I left the room, they did know that I was breastfeeding my baby, and we talked about the reasons I felt this was the best way to feed my child.
The most important thing to remember is this: at times you may feel very overwhelmed, but nursing your baby will last only a relatively short time. You will probably not have to pump your breasts anymore when you return to school next year. As a teacher, you will have many vacations and days off when you can be at home with your baby. So if things become crazy, try to keep everything in perspective. You are doing the best thing for your baby and possibly educating a lot of people along the way. Good luck.
I went back to work as a high school teacher when my daughter was five months old. I pumped in the morning as I was eating breakfast and watching the morning news. Then I went back upstairs and nursed her again in bed before leaving for the day. I discussed pumping with my principal, emphasizing how important it was to me as well as to the school (having a healthier baby meant I missed less work). I pumped and ate lunch at the same time—in a storage room with my extension cord running under the door. I used before-school and after-school time to meet with my students.
My advice is to stockpile a lot of frozen milk "just in case," wear double breast pads—at least initially, and keep reminding yourself that this is the best thing you can do for your daughter (as well as yourself). It may be hectic, but it's such a short time in the whole scheme of things!
Your situation sounds a lot like mine. I went back to my full-time job as an elementary school teacher when my daughter was three months old. My sister, who had agreed to watch my baby, was willing to bring my baby to school each day during my lunch break so that I could breastfeed her.
Though I did not have a private room in which to nurse, I informed the other teachers who shared my room when I would be nursing, so they could decide whether to stay in the room or not. If students were present for indoor recess, I tried to find someone to cover my classroom. If that didn't work out, I would discreetly nurse her in a private area in my room. If a student asked what I was doing I told them I was feeding my baby. If they asked where the bottle was, I explained that some babies are fed from their moms. That seemed to satisfy their curiosity. If you're concerned about reactions from the students, parents, or other staff members, you might want to inform these people beforehand so you can deal with any questions right away.
Since pumping seems to require more privacy than nursing, try pumping in the car, the faculty restroom, or a vacant room at school. Pumping first thing in the morning while your baby is nursing on the other side gives you a fresh supply of expressed milk to have on hand each day. You can freeze what you don't need, and your husband will always have some on hand. As for tips for your husband to make it through the day, I suggest leaving whatever nightgown or T-shirt you slept in. He can lay it on or near your baby while he's feeding her your expressed milk or when putting her down for a nap. She will smell you and be comforted just as she smells you when she's nursing. This works well for my daughter when she is at my sister's house or at home with dad if I'm away. Good luck to you!
I also returned to teaching, starting when my son was six months old. The first thing you need is a comfortable, portable, hospital grade, double-sided pump. Start pumping and storing your milk at least two weeks before your return so you can get used to how the pump works and can have some milk stored away.
What worked for me was pumping in the morning and pumping at lunch. I too had only 20 to 25 actual minutes for lunch, but I would pump and eat my lunch brought from home. I would use my morning or afternoon break for phone calls.
I set up a small breastfeeding corner in my room behind an easel and a sheet. It was inconspicuous and easy to construct. I brought my lunch, pump, a picture of my son, and a piece of clothing he had worn recently to help me with let-downs. Sometimes I would also play relaxing music. I told my second graders that I was doing something for my son. Some wanted to know more. When I just explained (later) as little as possible, they were satisfied. Good Luck!