Real Talk: Pumping at Work, an Interview with Amy Heeringa, MD, and Laura Hazely, C.N.M.
Many of our providers have returned to work while still breastfeeding infants. It might be comforting to know that, even for experts in the field, breastfeeding and pumping is physical and emotional HARD WORK! They’ve been through the same challenges their patients have, of pumping, storing, and transporting milk, cleaning all their gear, and being constantly worried about supply.
We sat down with Dr. Heeringa and Laura Hazely, C.N.M, to get their take on pumping, and ask if they have any advice from their time in the milk trenches.
1. With your first baby, what did you find most challenging about breast feeding?
L.H. The time commitment. Although I loved the special time we got to spend togther nursing, the amount of time I spent doing just that (or pumping) was enormous (see below).
A.H. When family/friends would ask, how do you know he is getting enough? Are you sure he’s not hungry? It made me question my own ability to provide for my baby. I joined a great breastfeeding support group and it made all of the difference.
2. What supplies/apps/tools helped you most when you were feeding?
L.H. For nursing: lots of extra pillows. Never found a good breastfeeding tracker app I liked, I would just text myself after each nursing session to keep track of what time I nursed and what side was next. For pumping: Hands free bra, several sets of pump parts.
A.H. I used a timer app in the beginning. It helped to track length of feeds and which side to start on. A poncho-type nursing cover. A pumping bra.
3. Any annoying/funny things you remember about feeding/pumping?
L.H. I carried SO many bags to work each day! Pump bag, cooler, work bag…everyone asked me about it, including complete strangers. “Moving in?” they would ask… 😉
A.H. Once in the middle of the night (and at the peak of exhaustion) I was pumping and looked down after 5 minutes and didn’t have any milk out of one side. Turns out the phalange was no where near my nipple. 😉
4. What advice would you give to partners/family to help breast feeding moms?
L.H. Bring her lots of snacks and water, listen to her concerns/struggles with breastfeeding even if they seem silly (should i make the bottles 3 oz or 3.5? Defrost milk or use fresh milk?), let her know how awesome of a job she is doing as often as possible, and thank her!
A.H. Support and normalize breastfeeding in public. I felt more comfortable covering up (just a personal preference), but I never felt more supported than when my husband would help get me situated (get the baby ready, hand me the baby) and smile and talk to me the whole time (maybe even cut my food).
Laura and her infant son, 2017
5. What would you recommend during pregnancy to prepare for breast feeding?
L.H. Learn as much as you can about it! Starting asking moms you know who’ve breastfed about their experiences, find someone who you can ask questions once the baby gets here (but remember everyone’s experience is different!)
A.H. Don’t buy any nursing bras until your milk comes in, I went up several cup sizes (just when you think you can’t get bigger, you can…)
**Also, Beaumont offers great breast feeding courses and support groups. Find them all here!
6. What did you do about supply issues?
L.H. Rationed breastmilk, taught those who fed my son about paced bottle feeding. Drank lots of water and tried not to stress about it! (Easier said than done). I also nursed as much as possible when not at work.
A.H. I actually had over supply issues, which can be as painful/frustrating as low supply. I really had to be careful not to over-pump (short pumping sessions) and couldn’t go long periods of time between pumping/feeding.
7. Any issues with bottles/nipples for baby when you were pumping for baby to be fed at home by family/sitter?
L.H. My son took a bottle very well before I went back to work, but then struggled with it once I actually went back to work. My first day back he refused his bottle for over an hour, my husband figured out if he put him in the rock n play in instead of holding him he would take it. So we used that technique for a while until he got better at taking it, which happened pretty quickly.
A.H. Yes – awful. Both of my kids were terrible with bottles. and the second one wouldn’t even take a paci (the horror). I would just recommend picking a very slow flow nipple. I let a very patient and calm family member do the feed while I left the house. I couldn’t hear the struggle and the baby couldn’t smell me (’cause they totally can).
Dr. Heeringa and her infant son, 2016
8. How many hours do you estimate you spent feeding/pumping in the first year of your kid’s life?
L.H. Best guess: about 2500. Not including the time i spent washing pump parts and bottles!
A.H. So hard to say. I exclusively breastfed and pumped for one full year for both my kids. It’s a huge commitment.
9. What did you miss most when you were done breast feeding?
L.H. The bonding, although I figured out how to bond in lots of other great ways. Definitely did not miss the pump!
A.H. Burning those calories! 😉
10. Any advice on smoothly transitioning off breast feeding?
L.H.I really followed his cues when it came to weaning. Take it slow, and enjoy getting your body back!
A.H. Both of my kids just got too squirmy and started pushing away. Honestly, they were over it. I had a harder time than them.
Bonus question: What ways did you fantasize about killing your husbands when they either slept soundly through the night with their worthless nipples while you were up feeding, or accidentally spilled/wasted some of your pumped milk?
L.H. So sometimes when I was working overnight, I would specifically tell me husband to make a bottle of refrigerated fresh milk instead of defrosting milk, just in case I ended up making it home for the next feeding (to nurse) because I didn’t want to waste defrosted milk (has to be used within 24 hrs). Do you think he listened? Sometimes. But wasting defrosted milk was the worst (I would still throw it out vs giving it in to baby in a bottle and having to pump instead).
Thank you to both these wonderful providers for sharing their stories with us. We appreciate their candor, and wisdom!