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SDBFC's Newest Pumping/Working Mom Guru!

Written by Anna Choi, IBCLC

When I accepted my current position as an IBCLC at the San Diego Breastfeeding Center, I knew what it meant…. time to dust off ye old breast pump and make it my new breast friend again. Clearly, I have one of the best work environments to pump breast milk in: I hang out with cute babies all day long {helps keep my prolactin levels and mama hormones happy}, my coworkers and boss are all fellow IBCLCs {help for any pumping concern is only a step away – literally}, and should I forget a pump part at home, odds are we have an extra in the office. But ladies, I didn’t always work in the land of boobies and after giving birth to my first daughter, I returned to my job as a retail manager and navigated the ups and downs of being a breastfeeding and working mother just like many of you have, or will soon, and I learned quite a bit about pumping and how to make this whole working breastfeeding mom thing work for me.


Here are three most important things I learned during my pumping journey:

1. Hands-on pumping, hands-on pumping, hands-on pumping. If you aren’t massaging your breasts during your pumping session, you are missing out on valuable ounces of liquid gold! I don’t remember what the circumstances were that led me to this valuable piece of information. Maybe I read an article, maybe a friend mentioned it to me, or maybe it happened by accident; but as soon as I realized that massaging and stroking the girls during pumping would yield more ounces [and drain my breasts quicker], you better believe I never pumped again without using this technique.

2. Speak up for yourself. No one else is going to advocate for you and ensure your pumping needs are being met. Yes, it’s fine to be a little flexible [as in bumping your 10am pumping session to 10:30am to accommodate a staff meeting], but do not be intimidated, scared, nervous, whatever to speak up for yourself and politely say that you cannot skip the pumping session altogether and will be pumping immediately following the meeting. Communication is key in these situations. When I worked in retail, we would get slammed on the weekends sometimes; and seeing as I was the Manager, I was working extra hard to keep the chaos organized. Even so, I would clearly tell every employee, “In 15 minutes, I have to pump, I’m doing X,Y, and Z before I take my pump break and then I’ll be back on the floor helping you guys.” It was never an issue because I made sure everyone was getting their breaks and they knew I was pulling my weight and working my butt off just like they were.


3. Relax. When it’s time to pump, leave your work outside and use your pumping time to decompress. I know this is easier said than done, especially when you have a deadline to meet or customers waiting for you. But stressing out about everything on your to-do list while you are on your pump break isn’t helping the situation. So when you sit down to pump, take a deep breath, scan a few pictures of your little one, take a sip of water and relax. Your milk will letdown easier and you will produce more if you aren’t worrying about the pile of work you’ve left behind.


SDBFC is so excited to welcome Anna as the leader of our new Working Moms Breastfeeding Support Group.  Every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, from 10-11:30am, you can hang out with Anna and other working moms, sharing advice about keeping up your milk supply, pumping tips, and ways to keep your sanity as a breastfeeding and working mom.  


Breastfeeding Memoirs: Persevering When Returning to Work

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2015, we are sharing inspirational stories from breastfeeding/working moms.  Today’s story was written by Maggie.


I had a long, stressful delivery that resulted in an emergency c-section, a tongue tie revision on day 2, followed by 48 hours in NICU. I was given a nipple shield, instructed to supplement with formula through an SNS and sent on my way. Breastfeeding was painful and difficult even with the shield, I went to many support group meetings and did weighed feeds and was able to stop supplementing. We were also dealing with a "colicky" baby until about week 8 . Then at week 10, I was able to get off the nipple shield with the help of an LC at Mary Birch. I was supposed to go back to work after 12 weeks but I was so exhausted and we were finally starting to turn a corner where we could actually enjoy our time with baby, I thankfully was able to extend my maternity leave to 16 weeks.

This prelude is to say that with all the struggles we went through in the beginning, I was very anxious about going back to work, whether I would make enough milk, whether he would get nipple confusion or a bottle preference. I worked so hard and suffered through so much literal blood, sweat, and tears to make breastfeeding work I started to really resent the fact that I had to go to work and interrupt our breastfeeding relationship.

Thankfully through my breastfeeding support group journeys I came to the San Diego Breastfeeding Center and met Ashley Treadwell. She told me about the upcoming "going back to work" class and it was only $35. I was so excited! I had so many questions. I had scoured the internet, and learned a lot through websites like, but still needed much more guidance and support.The information from that class helped me plan and feel prepared to go back to work.

Before I went on maternity leave, I worked out with my HR department where my lactation accommodation would be, but I didn't fully understand my needs until I returned. It was obvious that what we had planned was not going to be feasible long-term, so the first two weeks back were a challenge until they were able to give me my own office and make it private so that I could pump there. My pre-baby brain was trying to cause as little disturbance as possible to the rest of the office when planning my accommodations, but once I was back from maternity leave my only concern was making enough precious milk for my little guy! I'm grateful to have a supportive team at work that have had no issues whatsoever about giving me what I needed.

The first day back I barely pumped 9 oz. I was aiming for 12-15oz. I tried to keep calm and take it one day at a time. I still try to keep this mindset and not worry if I pump a little less some days. Gradually overtime I started consistently pumping 12 oz every day, and for a while was getting 16oz and was able to build a decent freezer stash. One of the LCs I met along my journeys suggested 5 minutes of hand expression after every pumping session, and that has worked wonders for me. It's amazing how much the pump leaves behind. The facebook group, "working moms who make breastfeeding work" has been also been an amazing resource.

We're now almost 4 months back at work and things are going smoothly. Bedsharing has been a saving helps my supply to let him nurse all night long, I don't worry about whether he is getting enough to eat or not, and I'm well rested for work each morning despite waking up every 2-3 hours all night. Plus its awesome snuggly bonding time that I miss out on while I'm working.

While I plan to breastfeed as long as baby wants to, I can't wait to break up with my pump in 4.5 months once he turns one!



Breastfeeding Memoirs: My Three Bs

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2015, we are sharing inspirational stories from breastfeeding/working moms.  Today’s story was written by Louanne Ferro.


Prior to May 27th, 2014, the word baby meant something very different to me: my baby was my business. At the young age of 17, I entered the world of cosmetology. Knowing I wanted to strive and create greatness in my industry, I focused on building. In 13 year's time, I had nurtured my baby and created a small empire. One of the leading educators for the world's largest professional beauty company, I frequently traveled to teach my craft.  In the heart of North Park, I opened my very own salon. My baby was thriving and I was the proud mother, spending further countless hours tending to make it what it is today.  Then, May 27th, 2014 happened, changing everything I knew about babies.

The test was positive. To my shock, my work "baby" was going to be replaced with a real-life, micro-human! My pregnancy was something my husband and I had been hoping for and we were thrilled!

As the days went by and I soaked in the reality of this new chapter in our lives, I quickly realized that the acronym B.B. meant far more than a makeup product; my new "B.B." was Business and Baby! I started to prepare myself with all things human baby-related. In addition to the copious things on lists and registries, preparing for the physical exit of my child by way of my body required some serious consideration. My birth plan was short and extreme: 1. Do whatever you need to do to deliver a healthy baby, and 2. If baby and mom get separated, dad goes with baby. My preparations seemed both rational and thoughtful.

As the months crawled forward, I was asked, "Do you plan to breastfeed?" "Sure," I would state casually. I mean, doesn't everybody do it? The portrayal of happy mothers stroking their babies' heads seems the most natural and obvious choice. The commitment to breastfeeding tacked a third B on my list. Self-assured, I reiterated to myself, "Three Bs and three-step birth plan." Simple right?

As the ideas gestated, so did my little human. On February 1st, 2015 when most people seemed to be watching the Patriots win the Super Bowl after the controversial "Deflategate," I was in labor. I had no delusions of grandeur, and felt that the experience progressed well, or at least as well as it could. Literally dancing myself into labor, and thus, the hospital, I was celebrating my salon partner's thirtieth birthday only the night before.

In a lighthearted moment of somewhat inappropriate comedic relief, as I was pushing my sweet boy into the world, my husband, nurse staff, and I were laughing while Maureen, the midwife, styled my son's full head of hair mid-birth canal into a Mohawk for his grand exit. Ezra entered the world healthy and strong, with all the right parts and two healthy lungs. Things were great, that is, until they weren't.  Laying him on my naked breast, as I looked into his eyes for the first time, all I could say was, "I'm going to be sick." Those weren't the words I was expecting to first say to my baby.

Before I knew it, Ezra was being transferred to my husband chest and my birth plan, the one that everyone says won't be needed, became needed. Ripping itself from my uterus, the placenta dislodged, and I, unknowingly, quickly began to bleed out. Because the hospital staff was great, the bleeding quickly stopped and I was generally unaware of the severity my body endured. Before I fully understood what had happened, I was on the mend. So I thought...

Latching my son in the hospital, he seemed to latch well. We left the hospital feeling very supported and excited to start our new lives as parents, and I was eager to be a mother who could sustain life solely from my own body. This, too, proved that things could go well until again, they don't. Shortly after arriving to our home as a family of three, I noticed my son no longer wanted to latch. Unable to wake him for feeds, we were heading down a slippery slope at excruciatingly high speeds. With no formula in the house because it wasn't part of the "plan" and no idea what was wrong, helplessness took hold of me and rattled this new parent's head and heart. Breast feeding should be easy, right? Everyone does it! It's natural.

I held my baby through the night, the first night home, praying we'd make it until morning when I would seek professional support. There was no marveling over the beauty of childbirth or reveling in the moment that our chests rose and fell together. This was the worst night imaginable.  In the mean time, it was after midnight and my husband scoured for 24-hour stores, and finding none, finally sought out a NICU nurse at the hospital to get the formula an after-hours advice nurse suggested.  

As the sun rose, I ran into the Kaiser breastfeeding support group, crying my eyes out as I told the head lactation counselor that I was starving my baby and I didn't know why. I was failing, and failing was something I was never good at doing. Rose, this angel, this pinnacle of breastfeeding knowledge, sat with me most of the support group and promptly made me a one-on-one appointment following the support group that day. Ezra had lost over 20 percent of his birth weight and was comparable to a premature baby. She asked me to share my story leading up to that point, and as soon as I mentioned the hemorrhage, she exclaimed, "There's your road block. You're not broken, you're healing." Not fully understanding, I listened, captivated by what the angel was telling me. She explained to me that our bodies can almost always produce milk for our babies, but major blood loss was one hindrance that halts milk production in its track. My body was healing me so it then could support my baby.

A woman - a new mom, rather - on a mission, I spent 24/7 learning how to help kickstart my supply, all the while supplementing at the breast, and educating myself on how to properly feed my baby. This harrowing and hormonal journey took a couple weeks, but my milk eventually came in and I had a new routine. I referred to myself as "The Dairy Queen," and I was always open for sweet treats!

Realizing quickly, in order to be successful with breastfeeding, I also needed to be knowledgable. This, after all, was one of the most important jobs I'd ever had. My short eight-week maternity leave was filled with work, just not the type of work I was accustomed to. My 13-year-old older child, my business, was doing well, but still needed my care. Much like a regular teen, it seemed as though it could self-manage, but a true mother, I realized it needed me to continue to grow. A new balancing act had begun. My new baby and breastfeeding also needed my constant care, and as the weeks passed, I slowly figured out how to balance my three Bs.

The key to success in working and breastfeeding, I have found, is to set boundaries with myself, my clients, and colleagues. Making food for my baby was just as important as my business. My work schedule has a pump break every three hours and for no circumstance should that pump break be booked - after all, it is my most important appointment of the day. When traveling for my company, it's made known that pump breaks must be allotted in order for me to take the job. Compromising my need to feed is not an option. My hands-free pump bra and car adapter for my breast pump have become my best friends. They really do support me. The ladies at the drive through coffee shop now know me as the pumping, purple haired mom as I pull through for my iced coffee while pumping on my way to work. My friends on speaker often ask, "Is that noise I hear your pump?" I say, "Sure is" with a smile, knowing that I am finding balance.


My flanges might not be a Marc Jacobs accessory, and my black pump bag may not be Prada, but I wear them with the same sense of excitement because I'm doing something I thought I couldn't achieve. They are also symbolic reminders of a label I do wear: mother, maker of milk and master of the Three-B balance, business, baby, and breastfeeding. My journey has not been lengthy, but on August 1, the first day of World Breastfeeding Week, I will celebrate my six-month "nurse-iversary." I've always argued that you can't hold a driven woman back, and now I know another word synonymous with driven woman is "mom!"


Breastfeeding Memoirs: Trusting My Body When Returning to Work

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2015, we are sharing inspirational stories from breastfeeding/working moms.  Today’s story was written by Georgina.


When I had to go back to work I knew I wanted to keep providing my son with the very best I could offer and one of them was his dear breastmilk.  I was very confused with the whole pumping at work idea. I had done some research at work before delivering as to where the lactation room was and what the process was to reserve the room.  I work at a hospital and I thought that just by going to the L&D department everyone would know where our lactation room was and it was going to be very easy to find.  Well to my surprise, no one knew exactly what I was referring to, all the nurses looked at me with puzzled faces and confused as to why an 8 month pregnant employee was asking about this room and they didn't even know where it was!  When I finally found it, it was a rather disappointing, sad room that looked like a utility closet, but at least it was clean and it had the necessities: a chair, a desk and a fridge.  

I took the longest maternity time off I could take with and without pay and in the meantime I read and read and read everything I could about breastfeeding and pumping at work.  Breastfeeding had its challenges, but we quickly adapted to one another and it started to feel like a breeze.  It was near the end of my baby bonding time that I started to become stressed about the whole logistics about pumping at work. The  more I researched, the more confused I got. How many hours can breastmilk be in the fridge? What if he didn't finish the whole bottle?  Was it safe to use it again? How many ounces to feed? How often? What if I don't make enough milk? Ugh! Sooo frustrating! So many doubts! So many mixed emotions!!  I joined several breastfeeding support groups and would often go to baby weight-ins just to make sure baby was eating enough only through my breast.  But, how would I know if we were overfeeding him when using the bottle while I was at work? What about underfeeding him,? Would he prefer the bottle over me?   I decided to attend a Breastfeeding for the Working Mom class through the SD Breastfeeding Center by Robin Kaplan.  Even though I had already read what she said, it was extremely reassuring to hear it by a someone who had gone through it before. Robin was very patient.  She sat with me and we made a "pumping at work plan."  How many times and the estimated hours that I would be pumping.  I still remember my pumping schedule as if it was yesterday. Nurse at 5am,  pump at 8:30am,  pump at 11:45am and nurse at 3pm.  Slightly adjust schedule as breasts were engorged when I would feed the baby earlier than 5am. It worked like a charm!

It was definitely a learning curve for the nanny and our family members who were taking care of our little guy while we were at work.  We had to teach everyone not to shake breast milk - only swirl.  Fat particles in breastmilk are normal.  It’s normal to have different colors.  And never ever dump any breast milk that smelled fine... we could always make breastmilk soap, lotion and even use it for rashes and cuts.  Everyone, myself included, has been amazed about the little we knew about the amazing properties of breastmilk and how powerful it is.  We learned about paced feeding and growth spurts the hard way and we succeeded.


I pumped until little dude was about 11-13 months.  That was last year when our summer in San Diego was just extreme.  During the day while I was at work he was asking for more water than breast milk and shortly after he refused to drink breastmilk from his sippy cup only from the tap :)   He is past 2 years old now and we are still nursing strong.  It has been a marvelous, unexpected experience for both of us.  

Every once in a while I still pump to make our little dude some breast milk soap and I was very happy to find a beautiful bright freshly remodeled lactation room at the hospital where I still work.

If I could go back in time I would tell myself to trust my body to do its magic.  Eat oatmeal, drink lots of water, watch pictures/videos of baby while you are pumping, relax and watch your baby being nourished by your wonderful body.  Take advice with a grain of salt.  Everyone is different, trust the relationship you have with that amazing human creature your same body nourished for 9 months in your belly.  You can do this! You are meant to do this and you can!



Breastfeeding Memoirs: Returning to Work in the Navy

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2015, we are sharing inspirational stories from breastfeeding/working ---moms.  Today’s story was written by Cinda Brown.


I’m an active duty Navy officer and mother of two girls. My journey to becoming a working, breastfeeding mother started almost 4 years ago with the birth of my first daughter. Breastfeeding was challenging in more ways than I could have imagined. I thought that it would just be easy and natural, not knowing that those two little words can mean so many different things.

My baby had a high palate combined with tongue and lip tie. I had no idea what this was. All I knew is that my nipple was damaged and cut from her very first latch and that it hurt each time there after. Soon I was scabbed and crying each time she latched. So much pain. I didn’t know where to get help and the nurses at the hospital told me it would get better with time. When my daughter was about 5 weeks old I finally met a nurse who promptly referred me to a pediatrician who was also an IBCLC. Her issues were diagnosed and we were then set up for a revision. I learned so much from this IBCLC. He taught my husband what to look for and we both were sent home with more knowledge that helped us on our road to success. My husband knew what looked wrong and was there to help me reposition. He supported me through all of the pain and sleepless nights. He did diaper changes and baths and allowed me to keep working on breastfeeding, instead of asking to bottle feed so he could bond. He found other ways to really bond with our baby girl while ensuring that our breastfeeding relationship would be preserved. Partners play such an important role and I can’t say this enough!

Once my daughter and I finally started to get the hang of breastfeeding, it was time for me to go back to work. I struggled with a very intense oversupply and was worried about how I was going to manage it when I was back at work. It had been difficult enough to manage it when I just had to take care of my baby at home, but now I was looking at adding in daycare, going back to work full time, and still trying to keep up with everything else that needed to be done at home. While many people I’ve encountered have told me how lucky I am to have oversupply, I also know that it’s very difficult to manage. It takes an extraordinary amount of time to pump, collect, freeze, and store the milk not to mention the washing of all of the pump parts. Adding this extra needed time into an already compressed day was overwhelming to think of, much less try to put into action.

We were very lucky to find a daycare teacher who was experienced with bottle-feeding breastfed babies. That was hurdle #1. She was an amazing communicator, which helped the process so much more. The day came to go back to work and I still remember it like it was yesterday because the experience is forever imprinted in my memory. Leaving my baby girl with someone new for the first time to go back to work was just devastating to me. And her. For me I felt like it absolutely went against my innate knowing to separate us. But yet I had no choice and my leave was over so it was time to go back. In that moment I would have given anything to stay home with her. Having a caring provider and making the most of the time that I did have with my baby while at home helped to ease the separation but it definitely took time before that ache started to subside. I really had no idea about the obstacles I was about to encounter and had no one to guide me along the way.

Day one back at work, I found myself in a land of cubicles, with no place to pump breastmilk. Over the next several months I improvised wherever I could to find a place to  pump when I needed to. I pumped in bathrooms, in my car in the parking lot, in my car on the way to and from meetings, basically anywhere I could find that would provide some sense of privacy and still allow me to complete work requirements. It was far from ideal and was super stressful, and mastitis and clogged ducts became more usual than unusual. I had to wake up super early before work so that I could pump since I would be so engorged. Wash parts. Try not to forget parts, bottles, or storage bags. Or the plug for the pump! So many things to remember!

My job had been so busy and intense before I had my baby and I knew that it was going to be no different when I returned. The biggest challenge was trying to coordinate pumping between meetings that for the most part I didn’t have a lot of control over scheduling. Many times meetings would come up at the last minute, or would be rescheduled right in the middle of when I’d need to pump. I had to figure out a way to talk to my supervisors about my need to pump, the importance of keeping a regular schedule, and at the same time keep my head held high.

In the military culture, it can be intimidating to ask your supervisor for permission to do things outside of the norm or what’s expected. I wanted to be able to show that I was able to handle it all: be a successful officer and a successful mother. But the reality is that each demands 100% or more of a person, and there’s only so much effort and time that can be allotted to each. Some compromises had to be made, and it was up to me to advocate for myself and my baby. I’m not going to say that the conversations were the most comfortable that I’ve ever had or the most easy, or that they were well received. They certainly were not. But I thought of all of the other more junior women going through the same journey and realized that if I couldn’t advocate and speak up for myself, then there’s no way that my example would set other women up for success.

I asked for what I needed and over time it became more normal for everyone I worked with. I did find out something very interesting in that most of the people I worked with were male, and that their wives/partners were full time stay at home parents. None of them were mothers who had breastfed and many of their wives had not breastfed. Education and communication with my male leadership helped them to realize the importance of breastfeeding and how it could in fact make the workplace better for everyone since breastfed babies tend to get sick less often. Mothers are able to get back into fitness standards more quickly since breastfeeding can help mothers lose weight. These are only a couple of examples amongst many. I know that the Navy is keenly interested in retaining females in order to have females rise in the ranks of leadership. Advocating for breastfeeding is one step in the right direction to retain mothers in the military. Mothers who are shamed or made to feel that they can’t fit in are not likely to want to stay as a part of an organization that can’t accept them for doing something that’s good for both their baby and themselves.

After several months of making do, a fellow military breastfeeding mother and I set out on a journey to have our commands come into compliance with current Navy breastfeeding instructions and guidance. This meant that our command was required to provide a room that wasn’t a bathroom space, with privacy, a locking door, a refrigerator/freezer, outlets, and furniture. It also allowed for time to pump milk that would accommodate what the mother would need to maintain her supply. It was a long process, but with diligence and help from many people, by the time I left my command there were 5 mother’s rooms set up for breastfeeding mothers to pump milk and an instruction that provided guidance so that mothers were protected in their ability to pump breastmilk.  Each room had a multi-user pump and pump kits donated by the San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition. The command won the SDCBC Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Award in 2014, which was such an amazing accomplishment given where it had started from. A monthly breastfeeding support group led by Sarah Lin, IBCLC, started in 2013 and continues to this day. She selflessly stepped up to donate her time to help countless mothers who have so benefitted from her expertise when there was a definite need.

I’m now a mother of two and I honestly thought that going back to work for the 2nd time with an infant would be easier since I had done it before, but it’s been just as challenging. I’m at a new command, so I have new people to interact with. Dynamics are different and the juggling act of timing pumping around work requirements is still as alive today, if not more than it was when I went back to work with my first daughter. Mastitis and clogged ducts continue to make their presence known, which was disappointing since I thought that I had them figured out. Goes to show that just because it worked last time doesn’t mean that it will work this time. Each baby is so very different, as is each pregnancy and postpartum period. I’ve been known to excuse myself from meetings with very senior personnel so I can go pump, which hasn’t been easy. I know that I need to take care of myself so that I’ll be at work tomorrow. Sacrificing today isn’t worth getting sick tomorrow and I keep telling myself that. Because there’s a part of me that still struggles to have a voice and speak up for what I need.

I pumped for 2 years for my first daughter. She will be 4 this fall and breastfeeds right along with my infant. I’m pumping for my infant at work and will continue to do so until it’s the right time to stop. I never thought that I’d make it this far in our breastfeeding journey, but now I can’t imagine it being any other way. There have been so many that I can attribute our success to in our San Diego community. The amazing support of IBCLCs and mothers has carried me when I needed to be lifted up too many times to count. I hope that through my efforts I can help other military mothers achieve the success that they envision for breastfeeding their children, whether it be for days or years.