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Making It Work

Arranging Your Schedule

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 5, September-October 2005, pp. 227-229

"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 work part-time with a flexible schedule and I have a three-month-old. I'm having a hard time knowing when will be good times to schedule appointments with my clients since her eating and sleeping patterns are so irregular (I feed her on cue). I don't want her to be upset or hungry while I'm gone, so I'd like to time my departures for when she's asleep. Is this even possible? What have other mothers done in my situation?

Mother's Response

I applaud you for thinking hard about how best to meet your daughter's needs while working. From reading your letter, I was not able to tell whether your work situation will allow you to try something that worked well for me -- bringing the baby along with you. When I first went back to work, my son was about four months old and had always nursed on cue. It was very difficult for me to tell in advance when he would need to nurse, whether for hunger, sleep, or comfort. I decided to transform some of my work space into a baby space using blankets, a basket of toys, and a drawer of supplies. I taught at a university so, outside of class, I was able to work and meet with most of my students and colleagues with my baby on the floor or in a sling (often nursing!). I figured I was giving these folks a chance to see that breastfeeding and attachment parenting can be integrated with work outside of the home.

When I knew I would have to be alone to teach or meet with certain colleagues, I was able to arrange my schedule so that I would be away from my son when he usually was in a pretty good mood (e.g., late mornings). Then, I had the babysitter come to my office so I could nurse him right beforehand. I used a different office, classroom, or conference room for the meeting. If my baby was desperate to nurse, the sitter called my cellular phone with a coded message. Sometimes I was able to excuse myself to nurse him. Most people were able to wait those few minutes, or rescheduled in extreme circumstances. I usually just explained that my son was "not feeling well" and needed me -- true at that moment!

Until your daughter is a little older and has a more predictable pattern of needs, you might find keeping her near you actually helps you to focus better on your work since you will not be as worried about how she is doing. It still helps me to remember that old adage, "If what you're doing isn't working, try something else." I am always learning to be flexible and try new arrangements as my children's needs evolve. A little creativity and courage will help you find the best solutions for your family.

Mary Wandrei
Wauwatosa WI USA

Mother's Response

It's wonderful that you have a flexible, part-time job that allows you to be with your baby. I know firsthand how difficult it is to schedule appointments around a new baby who nurses around the clock.

I went back to work as a freelance editor when my baby was about three months old. I had expected to bring him along with me everywhere in a sling. This didn't work, though, since I had a fussy baby, so I had to be creative. I found that most of my clients were very accommodating when I was honest with them and explained I was working from home with a young baby. Many of them said they had even been there! They were willing to communicate via email and fax when a crying baby didn't allow phone conversations. If a phone conversation was inevitable, I was able to tell them I'd call when my baby was sleeping. I also had a couple of clients who were willing to come to my house to meet with me, drop things off, or pick things up. I'm still working with this flexibility today, and it's become even more essential with a high-spirited toddler!

Joyce Ippolito
Guilford CT USA

Mother's Response

My baby became more regular about his naptimes starting around two months old. His most reliable time was two hours after waking for the day. You may be discovering similar patterns that you can work around, and you may be able to time meetings in advance if you wake your baby up at the same time each day.

Also, at three-and-a-half months he had reduced his nursing frequency to every two to three hours, and could wait three to four hours in the afternoon if we were apart. Since then, I have been able to work out of the home a few hours per week without the hassle of bottle-feeding. We do keep some pumped milk in reserve, though, just in case.

My husband has a flexible schedule and cares for our son while I work. This has been a great time for them to bond and for my husband to participate more fully in parenting our child. I find a few hours in the adult world replenishes my energy to meet my baby's needs the rest of the time!

Rosemary McNaughton
Northampton MA USA

Mother's Response

I also work part time. It's a blessing to have a job that allows you to reach some personal goals without being away from your children for very long.

From the time each of my babies was four weeks old, I worked three to four times a week for approximately three hour stretches per day. My husband took over while I was gone. I've found that both babies adjusted well to this schedule because we were consistent. If there was too much variation to the times I was away, my body and babies may not have adjusted as well and I may have felt more engorgement and discomfort. Sticking to a regular schedule helped a lot. In the early weeks and months following each child's birth, my husband sometimes brought the baby to me at work during my breaks.

Most importantly, don't forget to watch your baby's cues. Does she seem to nurse a lot at certain times during the day and take longer breaks at other times? Be ready to adjust the schedule to meet her needs as she grows. Remember to bring your pump in case you're gone longer than anticipated and leave expressed milk at home for baby. Also factor travel time into your schedule. Best of luck to you!

Emily Hinshaw
Ft. Mitchell KY USA

Mother's Response

Some mothers are fortunate enough to be able to keep their babies with them while they work. Clients "ooh" and "ahh" over baby while mother fills out paperwork, takes notes, or does whatever else needs to be done. Sometimes baby sleeps, sometimes baby sits and watches, sometimes baby nurses discreetly while adults chat. Some mothers can "wear" the baby in a carrier or backpack, depending on the child's size and mother's tasks.

A little extra "free" time may need to be given to compensate for the baby taking up some of mother's attention, or billing "short" on the time actually used so that clients don't feel that they are paying for your childcare time. Obviously, this won't work well for a career as "hands on" as a massage therapist, but many jobs are highly adaptable to the presence of a baby, and it's only in the Western world that we assume babies will be "somewhere else." In many other places, if there is a baby, he's present with the mother, even when the mother is working.

Linda Clement
Victoria BC Canada

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