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Making It Work

Hanging Up the "Horns"

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 4, July-August 2005, pp. 170-73

"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 life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Mother's Situation

I've been pumping at work two to three times a day for 11 months. I'm happy that I am able to produce enough milk for my 14-month-old baby while I'm working. I'm also lucky to have an employer who supports my decision to pump 100 percent. The problem is that I am getting tired of pumping. I miss having lunch with friends, going for walks, or taking care of errands. When can I stop pumping? If I do, will my baby wean? Do other women stop pumping and still continue to nurse their toddlers?

Mother's Response

Congratulations on pumping milk for your baby all the way to the age of 14 months! Combining breastfeeding and working is hard work and you deserve so much credit for your dedication. All babies are different, but most seem to be ready to eat and drink enough foods outside of mother's milk while at day care for their mothers to be able to "hang up the horns" at around 12 months. If you are ready and your baby is ready, now is a fine time. This does not mean that your baby has to wean if the two of you are not ready for that. Many mothers stop pumping at a year but continue to nurse when they are with the child after that. I nursed my daughter for a long time after I stopped pumping at one year. Whatever you decide, you have given your baby a great start under difficult conditions and should be very proud.

Mariah Boone
Corpus Christi TX USA

Mother's Response

I have good news for you! It is possible to dump the pump and continue to nurse. My daughter is 19 months old. I stopped pumping for her when she was 12 months. She continued to get my milk until the stock pile ran out, then she was introduced to cow's milk for the times that we are apart. Had she not taken it, I wouldn't have worried because she still nurses five or more times per day. If anything, she is more committed to our nursing relationship now than she was as an infant. And so am I.

I really love nursing my toddler and I'm so glad that I have been able to continue doing it while giving up the burden of pumping. I find that nursing now is so much easier and has even more of those special moments than when she was an infant. There is nothing like picking her up at day care and having her run to me with a big grin and ask to nurse. It makes my day.

I do find that I feel a little bit fuller by Monday afternoon since we nurse on demand all weekend, but within a couple of minutes of our reuniting my daughter expertly solves that problem. I intend to continue to nurse her until she self-weans.

Sarah Stuhlsatz-Krouper
Maplewood MO USA

Mother's Response

When I nursed my daughter, I took her to work with me. We enjoyed nursing for three years with no pumps or bottles. My son is 18 months old now and I have a new work situation and have learned to pump. I started working Saturdays when he was six months old with my breast pump as my constant companion. While I love nursing and am thankful for the convenience of breast pumps, it's not quite the same thing. I commend you for pumping three times a day for 11 months! I also would definitely feel like I never quite got a break at work when all my downtime was spent pumping. There are two things I changed that made a big difference for me: how I pumped and where I pumped.

I cut two holes in an old camisole to hold the breast pump so that I could at least read and eat while I was pumping. There are bras available that do the same thing, but they are pricey. As my son gets older, I can go longer periods without pumping, but not a 10 to 12 hour day. I still want my milk available for him while I am gone. The battery pack is very helpful. Now I pump on the way to or from work during my 90-minute commute.

Nursing is such a gift in letting us get to know our babies, but also in letting us get to know our own bodies. I have experienced my body's ability to adapt to my baby's needs and our timing. You may find one episode of pumping at work is enough to keep you comfortable during the day if it provides enough milk for your child.

As my baby grows, I am more confident in the gradualness of weaning. Changing your pumping habits will change things, but it doesn't mean the end of nursing. Nursing is common among mothers and children, yet unique to each nursing pair. Notice it is a pair, a mother and a child, and the mother's needs are important, too. I am confident you will find a balance that works for both of you.

Kate Furnish
Anthem AZ USA

Mother's Response

When my son turned one year old, I started eagerly searching for advice about when I could stop pumping. I wasn't ready to wean him, but I wasn't getting that much milk anymore when I pumped, and, frankly, I was tired of toting the pump around everywhere. After reading and hearing various mothers' stories, I decided to slow down to one pumping session a day, then to stop pumping as soon as it felt right to do so. Well, my pumping output continued to decrease, and as my son consumed more solid foods, he didn't seem as hungry for my expressed milk as he once had (though he still was an avid nurser). Because my son has reflux and can't drink cow's milk, I had no other milk to give him, so I took a little longer to stop pumping than I would have if I could've given him a human milk substitute. He can't drink soy and doesn't like rice milk. Finally, when he turned 16 months old, I just stopped pumping -- it was a very freeing moment!

I was able to keep up my milk supply by making sure I didn't go more than five hours without nursing (my job was flexible enough to allow me to do this). I also nursed a lot at night and on the weekends. Now, at 20 months, I can go about seven hours without nursing. I'm getting a lot more done at work now, too. Plus, I find myself enjoying our nursing experience so much more now that I don't have to worry about my supply. I am grateful for how pumping allowed me to keep the nursing relationship going this long, but I am also grateful that stage has ended. Now I'm discovering the delights of nursing a spirited toddler.

Michele Gill
Orlando FL USA

Mother's Response

My son is 22 months old and we are quite the nursing couple! I stopped pumping when he was 13 months. He had stopped taking my milk at day care and wanted whatever the other children were drinking. I had concerns about eliminating pumping, just as you do. I talked about the situation with one of my LLL Leaders, who also worked and pumped for her toddlers. She said that if I nursed right before and after work, I should maintain an adequate milk supply. Thankfully, she was right. We continued cosleeping and nursing on demand. Now, I'm 20 weeks pregnant and still able to meet Brady's breastfeeding needs (which have drastically decreased) without pumping.

As your toddler gets older and becomes more proficient with table foods, he/she will nurse less. Continue to maintain a healthy diet for yourself and offer lots of healthy whole foods to your toddler. I recommend buying a copy of Whole Foods for Babies and Toddlers, there is invaluable info on nutrition and great food preparation ideas.

Jessica Harris

Mother's Response

When our first child was born, I had just finished graduate school. My husband and I decided that I would stay home with our son and work on a part time or contractual basis. I spent two years at home with him and did not have to pump very often. However, when our son was two, my husband and I switched roles and I began a full time job. From 24 to 28 months, our son continued nursing and I did not pump at work. He weaned at 28 months. For the past two-and-a-half years, my husband has been home with our children during the days and works part time outside the home.

A few months into my new job, we conceived our daughter. I was just as committed to nursing our daughter, but was faced with a new situation. Because I was the primary income earner, I returned to work part-time when she was just four weeks old and full-time when she was six weeks old. I believe cosleeping and nighttime nursing helped me keep up my milk supply despite the daytime separation. It also helped me be better rested to face the days at work. I pumped three times a day for a long time, eventually going down to twice a day, and then once a day. Because my job often involves day trips on the road, I experienced pumping in some pretty unique locations in my car!

It is difficult to miss the lunches, time for errands, and other "breaks" from work because you're pumping. However, I made my pumping sessions something I looked forward to by using the time to read, check in on the phone with my husband and children, or write a note to a friend (after pumping for so long, I got quite adept at doing it one-handed). I also realized I didn't have to wash my pump parts with soap after each session -- just rinsing them with hot water was okay. This saved me time and frustration. I also used a pump that allowed me to pump directly into bottles that could be used for storage and feeding. I bought a supply of spare bottles so I didn't have to deal with moving milk between containers. We could run the bottles and all the pump parts through the dishwasher at the end of the day.

When my daughter was 15 months old, I took a few weeks of vacation around Christmas and decided to not pump anymore when I went back to work. She was eating a healthy variety of foods and I felt comfortable stopping. She is now 19 months old and nurses two to three times a day on days I work and more often on the weekends. I'm very proud that she never had formula. She also had trouble with some food sensitivities, so mother's milk provided a dependable source of nutrition when we weren't sure what she could safely eat.

I have been active in attending LLL meetings during the infancies of both of my children, which provided information, support, and new friendships. I've learned so much about nursing and mothering since our son was born nearly five years ago. It's hard for me to imagine what my relationships with my children would be like without breastfeeding. I truly cherish the closeness that nursing gives me with my active, verbal little girl who yells for my "muk" when I walk in the door!

Heidi Shriver
Eagan MN USA

Mother's Response

When my son was one year old, I decreased the number of times I pumped. I continued to breastfeed him as soon as I picked him up after work, as often as he requested, and on my days off. He also nursed at night two to three times, so I still received the stimulation required to maintain my supply. One lesson I learned is to gradually decrease the duration between pumping or breastfeeding. At first, I could go no longer than six hours without emptying, or I would end up with a clogged milk duct. My son is now 26 months old and we still enjoy our nursing relationship. I am able to go eight to 10 hours without breastfeeding him. He still nurses unrestricted on my days off and two to three times at night.

Holly Robinson
Ballwin Mo USA

Mother's Response

I also pumped when I returned to work when my daughter was three months old. I was determined that my daughter not receive any formula, only my milk. I always thought that I would wean her at one year, but when that time came it seemed that she and I were not ready. I continued to pump until she was 14 months old and I had a love/hate relationship with my pump. I was happy to be providing her with my milk while I was away, but I also wanted my breaks back to myself. When my daughter was happily eating solid foods and drinking whole milk, I weaned her from my milk when I was at work. We switched to bottles of whole milk for nap or nighttime. She took to the switch easily and happily continued to breastfeed whenever I was at home.

Now at two-and-a-half, she still continues to nurse a few times every day, and greets me at the door when I get home asking to nurse as if I have been gone for days.

Jody Selig
Rochester MN USA

Mother's Response

I recently went back to school to complete work on my doctoral dissertation. Since I spend most of my day in the library or on a computer, I found it hard to pump, too. My 13-month-old son gets a sippy cup of soy formula while he is in day care four days a week.

We still nurse once or twice in the morning and two or three times in the evening. Given that he nurses when he is at home, I don't think my milk supply has suffered and my son is definitely still eager to nurse. He has recently begun to say "nurse" when he wants to nurse. It's so cute! I'm proud to still be able to consider myself a breastfeeding mother.

I think you should give yourself a break every so often and take that walk at lunch or run to the post office. One of the best pieces of advice that I have received as a new mother is "Take time out for yourself."

Nicole Cousin-Gossett
Norristown PA USA

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