SHE SAYS: My experience of going back to work while breastfeeding

May 5, 2022 |Challenges

I thought I’d share a little bit about what my experience going back to work while breastfeeding was like. This is something that a lot of working moms are going through today and it can be quite a challenge for some of us. 

As a preschool teacher, kids are my life and I love them with all my heart. I treat every one of them like my own and watching them meet their full potential through the work we put in together gives me great joy. In a lot of ways, being a preschool teacher is a lot like being a parent. You’re given these little angels that you have to nurture and help thrive. And when that happens, there’s no greater feeling in the world!

You’d think this would have prepared me enough for when I eventually had kids of my own, right? Well, it didn’t. I had to learn on the job like every other mom, taking every new challenge as it came and hoping for the best. Trust me, no amount of reading and theoretical knowledge can prepare you for parenthood, because every child is unique with their own set of challenges. 

 

One of the unique experiences I had on my journey was going back to work while breastfeeding. I found out I was pregnant with my second child a few weeks after school started. So I was basically pregnant for the entire school year! 

Despite the challenges that came with being a pregnant preschool teacher (it is super exhausting, your emotions are all over the place, and you get barely any bathroom breaks because you can’t leave the little munchkins unattended!), I had a relatively smooth pregnancy. There were no serious issues and my colleagues were really sweet and supportive the entire time. I’d totally do it again if this wasn’t the last child my husband and I are planning on having, haha! 

When it was finally time to welcome my baby to the world, I remember sitting in my hospital bed on a November night, a myriad of thoughts and feelings running through my head. I was looking forward to seeing my baby, I was worried about the operation I would soon have, I was anxious to find out that the baby would be fine, and I was stressed out about whether or not my first child would be OK with a new sibling. All at the same time. 

The good news is that everything went perfectly fine. My son was born healthy and screaming his lungs out. And from the moment I placed him on my breast, he was breastfeeding like a champ. I loved every moment of it.

Well, it didn’t take long before things started to get challenging. A few months after my son was born, a dark cloud came over me as I realized I would have to go back to work really soon. It was a really depressing feeling that loomed over me and got ever darker as the days drew closer. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my class and by then, I was missing them dearly. But I was loving every minute of my motherhood journey and how breastfeeding my little angel made me feel like my world was complete. I wasn’t ready for all this to end so soon! I could not bear the thought of being separated from my son. 

I fantasized about being a stay-at-home mom and having all the time in the world to spend with my little one. However, I knew that whether I liked it or not, I would eventually have to go back to work. I had no choice because my husband had just lost his job a few months before, so we had become a single-income household while he hunted for a new job. So the choice was rather out of my hands. 

 

As the days drew closer and closer, I started to make the necessary arrangements. One of my biggest worries was how my and my baby’s breastfeeding relationship would be affected. He had just turned 5 months old and had been exclusively breastfed up to that point. I did not want to wean him just yet, so the next best option was to bottle feed him my breast milk. 

I started building my stockpile about a month before I had to go back to work. I had read that having a good supply is key if you want to ease into working again. However, as I pumped every day for that last month, I couldn’t help but dread having to pump at work. Pumping itself was a hit or miss for me on some days, and that didn’t help at all! Breastfeeding was just so much easier in every way and it was really frustrating that I couldn’t do it exclusively. 

My love-hate relationship with pumping came to a head on the first day I went back to work. There I was, in front of the class that I had missed so much, and my breasts were really engorged and sore! I had mistakenly decided to put off pumping about twice earlier that day, and I was paying the price. My whole chest area was on fire and everything was extremely painful! I excused myself and headed to the designated pumping area that the school had so kindly set up for me and went to work pumping till I got some sweet, sweet relief. 

After that first mistake, I never put off pumping when I should ever again. I learned the hard way that it’s extremely important to create a pumping schedule and stick to it, so that’s what I did.

The highlight of my day during those early months of going back to work was heading home and sitting down with my son, and letting him breastfeed to his heart’s content. He was always eager to breastfeed when I got home and I got a lot of relief out of it as well. 

Breastfeeding my children is one of the most amazing things I have ever done. Those tough moments that I had to go back to work while my son was still nursing only helped us form a stronger physical and emotional connection that’s unlike anything I have ever felt. 

I won’t lie to you; going back to work while breastfeeding is hard. There is so much you have to think about and when you have a newborn to take care of, it just adds a lot of stress to your already exhausted mom’s brain. However, if you prepare for it correctly, it can be done. 

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