In honor of breastfeeding moms all over the world, I’m posting my breastfeeding tools and tips, which I don’t think I can’t do without as a working mom.
But first, I want to clarify that if you are with your baby for most of the day, then you don’t really need any tools. As breastfeeding is the best and cheapest (or as UNICEF terms it, the single most economical and effective intervention) opportunity to better nutrition that any mother can give (unless if you are one of the few mothers with medical conditions that won’t enable them to breastfeed), all you need are your breasts, your positive perspective on breastfeeding (to get you through the rough times), support from friends and family, and your baby. However, if you are a working mother and bent on making breastfeeding last for as long as possible, then here’s what I use to keep up the supply while at work:
1. Breast pump
I actually have 2 pumps: manual and electric (double). I first used the manual during the first 2 weeks when my baby and I were still trying to find the “perfect” latch that works for the both of us and feed the milk using a dropper into my baby’s mouth when latching was too painful for me to bear (the solution is to find a lactation counselor to help you find the latch! breastfeeding is natural but it’s not easy at first). I alternate this with my electric pump when needed.
I bought my electric pump after 6 weeks and I tried to express milk to build supply before going back to work (I was able to get a 3 month maternity leave, which was 60 calendar days for mother who had NSD, as per Philippine laws, and extra leaves I had saved up).
I know there are issues between closed and open breast pumps, but there aren’t many options in the Philippines. In fact most breastfeeding moms don’t have any options at all because electric breast pumps are very expensive. For my pump, I shelled out around/almost US$ 300, which was half of my maternity benefit pay. But I figured, the initial cost of buying an expensive pump is worth the investment if I am to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months. US$300 is equivalent to 2 months worth of formula milk! I am happy with this pump too because it is light and compact enough to be carried to and from the office.
I do have a band for hands-free expression. It helps a lot for multitasking moms who need to express milk while working!
When I was exclusively breastfeeding, I had to pump 3-4 times while at work. To keep the flanges and bottles and small pump parts clean, I was able to wash the bottles and the flanges and the other pump parts with soapy hot water and dry them with a small towel. However, most of the time, washing the parts would take up a lot of the precious time during office breaks, so I put the bottles and flanges, etc in a slider storage (plastic) bag and place it in the fridge to inhibit bacterial growth (I got this tip from Dr. Sears).
When I used to travel 1.5-2 hours per way to the office, a compact cooler is a good way to make sure that my milk stays as fresh as possible during commute. While at the office, I was allowed the use of the fridge to store my milk and the pump parts and my cooler in. I use extra blue ice packs during longer trips/commute.
3. Storage Milk Bottles
Unfortunately, I was not one of the moms who are blessed with bountiful milk that they are able to store bags and bags of milk. I use baby food storage cups/containers to store milk in 3-4 oz (the amount of milk that my baby consumes in each feed. This allowed me to keep track of the milk that my son consumes and I was able to rotate all the containers in a week. It’s value for money because I use these to store homemade baby food now that I am complementary feeding!
4. Storage container for all the other stuff
This may not be necessary for other moms who cup feed or directly feed from the breast, but my baby does get his milk from the bottle. My milk that is. So I find that having this storage container really handy to organize all the bottles, etc. I am quite lucky though that my son knows the difference between my breast and the bottle and insists/ will not feed from the bottle whenever he knows that I am around.
5. Nipple Cream
This is a life saver during the first 2 months of breastfeeding and now that my son have teeth. I like this brand because it works for me and it’s non-toxic.
I did buy a bottle of galactagogue supplements (as shown in the previous photo), and it did work to a certain extent when I was exclusively breastfeeding. But now that my supply is dwindling because my son is complementary feeding, I turn to fresher galactagogues. I drink a lot of soup, I eat oatmeal (despite the fact that I am not very fond of it), and I eat a lot of green leafy vegetables, like malunggay leaves, which is a superfood in the Philippines and a known galactagogue (see photo below for our very young malunggay tree).
Note: I am not endorsing any products and these are photos of what I am using on a daily basis. Like all else, make informed choices! Here’s to a continuing and successful breastfeeding journey!