Sara Mauskopf is the co-founder and CEO of Winnie, a website and mobile app that helps parents discover daycares, preschools, and more. Winnie is used by over 2 million parents across the United States. She’s also the mom of two young daughters and lives in San Francisco with her family.
Almost four years ago when I had my first daughter, I stopped breastfeeding her after five weeks. There were a number of reasons it wasn’t working out for us, but the number-one factor for me was my maternity leave was six weeks long. I was completely stressed out by the idea of figuring out how I was going to pump at work and how I could have any free time if I was breastfeeding her every three hours. It felt completely overwhelming.
As my six-week maternity leave approached its end, I became more and more panicked about pumping. I heard horror stories about how horrible and inconvenient to pump it was and how it was impossible to pump and simultaneously be awesome at my job. As a result, I made sure I had completely weaned my daughter by the time I went back to the office at six weeks postpartum. I never ended up pumping at work.
When I gave birth to my second daughter, I decided to give breastfeeding and pumping at work another shot. With some simple (in hindsight) changes, I went from despising breastfeeding and pumping to loving it. Here’s what made all the difference.
Create an awesome, accessible lactation space
I literally built my own lactation room so the space is exactly what makes me comfortable. It’s always available so I don’t have to worry about scheduling around when the room will be open. It’s private. It’s clean. There’s a medical-grade pump there. It’s next to my desk so I don’t lose time walking to a different office to pump.
Granted, creating the perfect space can be more challenging if it’s not your company, but I highly recommend you advocate for what you need. Set up the space in advance of your maternity leave and make sure you’re comfortable in it. Knowing exactly the kind of space you’ll be coming back to is super important. Remember, you can do this on a budget so your company has no excuse for not providing you with what you need.
Make it productive time
I find those 20ish minutes, three times a day, to be some of my most productive (excuse the pun) time. Aside from the 5 minutes total time it takes me to set up and break down, I’m working. No one can interrupt me.
Don’t wash your pump parts
Unless your doctor says otherwise, you don’t have to wash your pump parts between pumping sessions. I store mine in a ziplock bag in a minifridge when I’m at work and use it for three sessions. I wash everything when I get home at the end of the day. It is such a timesaver to not have to wash your pump parts all day.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing
One of the biggest stressors of pumping is feeling like you have to produce a certain amount to meet your baby’s needs. With my second daughter, I had formula on-hand from the beginning, and it helped me mentally not stress so much about my production. Later on, as my daughter got older, I stopped pumping as frequently, and she just had formula for whatever gap there was between my milk production and her needs. For me, knowing that I didn’t have to be her sole source of food was a big comfort and allowed me to keep breastfeeding her for longer than if I was always stressed.
Connect with other parents
The community on Winnie was a big source of support for me with questions that came up (what do I do about mastitis?) and finding childcare so I could go back to work. You aren’t alone!