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Breastfeeding and the Working Woman

Dressing for Successful Breast-Feeding at Work
Wearing appropriate attire to work tells your employer and those you work with that you're serious about what you do and that you're dedicated to your job. That doesn't have to change when you become a nursing mother. It's still possible to appear professional, but it will take a little more effort.

Special fashions for the working nursing mother are available in many maternity shops, catalogs, and online retailers; however, you can also adapt your well-fitted, stylish clothes from the same wardrobe you usually wear. Just wear the ones that fit and fill in with some borrowed items. The following suggestions will help you maintain your appearance:

  • Use easy-care clothes—Clothing that is washable and wrinkle-resistant is the best. Avoid solid colored tops and anything that is sheer. Brightly colored, printed tops will help camouflage milk stains if your full breasts leak, especially on days when meetings or presentations are scheduled.
  • Wear plastic breast shields—They will help with leakage during these short periods of time. Wearing these shields for a long period of time can cause problems because of retained moisture on nipples (see "The Leakage Problem," below). A simple black dress with a scarf or a large necklace may help divert attention away from the leaks.
  • Look for easily opened garments—Wear blouses as well as knit pullovers and sweaters. Garments that open at the waist or button down the front can easily be lifted or pulled aside. Try the new nursing-print tank tops under your non-nursing garments. Some of the more popular access options include dual side panels (central slits), crop over top (dual slits), vest front (dual slit or extended arm holes), and central pleat (dual slits).
  • Keep a cover-up handy—Have a nursing cape or a loose-fitting cardigan, for example, at your desk. And don't overlook the cover-up possibilities of ponchos, jackets, scarves, and receiving blankets. A vest with a shorter shirt underneath gives you a polished look and eliminates fabric bunches.
  • Wear a nursing bra—Nursing bras come in lots of different styles, from plain to lacy, and in black, white, and ivory. They are usually sold in medium or firm support (for larger breasts). Sizing is the same as for ordinary bras. Buy your nursing bra towards the very end of your pregnancy; otherwise the fit will be wrong after the birth.

    You'll need at least two or three nursing bras. Because you are constantly producing milk, you'll need to wash your bras frequently, even if you are using a breast pad to soak up the excess. Night time nursing bras are also available. They have all the design features of a nursing bra, but are lighter weight to wear.

    A cotton nursing bra will support your heavier-than-usual breasts and help prevent sagging and stretch marks. The best ones have wide straps of fabric, and drop fronts for quick convenience. If the bra becomes too tight once your milk production is high, buy an extender found in department stores or in maternity shops. Small-breasted women may be able to get by with a stretch bra, which can be lifted up above the breast.

  • Use nursing pads—Always have a good supply at hand. Place a pad on one side while your baby is feeding at the other. Wear them as a precautionary measure when you anticipate leaking. Change pads frequently, and wash them as soon as possible in hot, soapy water. Dry them thoroughly before using again. If you use disposable pads, avoid the plastic-coated ones, which might cause a rash, or wear the plastic side out. You can make your own pads from disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, cloth, or gauze.
The Leakage Problem
The disadvantage of having an excellent milk supply is the problem of leaking breasts. This usually occurs just prior to feeding or expressing time, but it may also happen when you're just thinking about your baby. A working woman has to be especially inventive to avoid embarrassment. Here are some measures you can take:
  • Stop the milk flow—When you feel the familiar tingle associated with milk letdown (or ejection), press against your nipples to prevent leaking. Cross your arms and press the heel of your hand, or one finger, against the nipple. If you're sitting down, rest your chin in your hand and press your breast into your arm.
  • Keep extra supplies handy—Keep at least one breast pad in your pocket and a few more in your purse and desk drawer. Use a cutup diaper, handkerchief, or a sanitary pad in a pinch. Have an extra nursing bra at work in case one gets soaked. And don't forget to have a cover up or two.
FYI: Where to Go for Help with Breast-Feeding
Ask your pediatrician or childbirth instructor for help if you're having problems with feedings. Or contact your local La Leche League. Other helpful sources include the Red Cross, the YWCA, or a maternity center. There are books and videos that address this subject too. The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners certifies consultants who meet with clients, usually for a fee. Some insurance policies cover these consultations.

Guidelines While Traveling
During this breast-feeding period, it would be wise to avoid very lengthy business trips. They would have a negative effect on your milk supply and increase the difficulty of resuming a good feeding relationship with your baby on your return.

  • Out-of-town trips—Some fortunate mothers can take their babies and caregiver with them when they travel. Most mothers, however, must leave their babies at home and express sufficient milk in advance to leave a good supply. If you're one of these working mothers, you'll have to travel with a breast pump to relieve your discomfort and, more importantly, to keep the milk flowing.

    You must allot sufficient time for expressing milk in an unhurried way. Try to pump as close to regular feeding times as possible. Because storing it would be next to impossible, this milk will probably be discarded. Nurse more frequently when you get home and your milk production should soon be back to normal.

  • Short trips—If you will be bringing your baby along, prepare several chilled bottles of expressed milk for local trips of over three hours. Carry them in an insulated cooler with frozen chill packs. Individual foam soft drink can insulators or sever al layers of wet newspapers will do the trick at the last minute.

    Bring a thermos bottle filled with hot water for heating the milk. Simply pour hot water in the cup and set the bottle in it for several minutes. You can also use an electric bottle warmer that plugs directly into your cigarette lighter. Or bring measured amounts of formula powder and a thermos full of boiled water and combine them at feeding time. Ready-to-use, canned formula is another option. Take supplies with you-bottles, nipples, and a can opener-and just pour as you need it.

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© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.


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