Once you’ve got breastfeeding figured out, for some moms, the next battle is going back to work. It’s a common misperception that women stop breastfeeding shortly after returning to work, but with the right support and the right tools, you can continue to breastfeed for as long as you and baby mutually desire. Before returning to work, here are some things you’ll want to do:
Make sure your breast pump is in good working condition. Take your pump to a local breastfeeding support group or breastfeeding-friendly hospital where a lactation consultant can test the suction of your pump, make sure the tubes are in good condition, and make sure you have the right-sized flanges. Oftentimes women just use the flanges that come with the pump, but on average, they’re the incorrect size and can affect how efficient your pumping sessions can be. Pumping efficiently means pumping more milk in a shorter amount of time, and keeping up your supply while you’re away from baby. Having the right tools is half the battle!
Contact your HR department at work to make sure they have a place for you to pump when you get back. This is something you may want to do before going on Maternity Leave, if you are still pregnant. If you’re already on leave, now is a great time to reach out to them. This will give them time to organize a place for you to safely and privately pump milk for your baby. Under California Law, employers are required to provide a clean, private (meaning a room with a door that locks) place for lactating women to express milk that is not a bathroom.
Here are some resources you can go through with your employer to find the right solution for you:
- Employer Solutions for Nursing Moms at Work
- California Breastfeeding Rights: Workplace and School
- Your Rights as a Breastfeeding Employee
- Break Time for Nursing Mothers
Introduce a bottle to your baby. The best time to introduce it is at 4-6 weeks of age, after you and baby have learned how to breastfeed exclusively for a few weeks. If you miss this window, don’t stress! At least have a 2-week buffer before returning to work so you can slowly introduce it to baby, and give yourself some time to get the hang of pumping. The best time to pump is an hour after your last nursing session, in the morning. If you don’t get much the first time you pump, don’t panic. It takes your body a few times to realize that you’re signaling for more milk. Pump at the same time every day for a few days and soon enough you’ll see more milk! Make sure to stick with a newborn nipple on your bottle of choice – milk flows much slower at breast, and the baby has to work to get it, so the newborn nipple flow will be similar to that of breastfeeding.
Do a trial run before returning to work. The week before you return, arrange for your child care provider to spend a few hours with your baby so that they can get acquainted. This will be a great opportunity to also do something for yourself before returning to work, like getting a massage, or a pedicure. Make sure to inform your child care provider to use paced bottle feeding, and try other comforting options or distraction before offering a bottle to soothe.
Pump both sides at the same time, and at the same intervals you nurse baby at home. When at work, make sure to pump both sides at the same time. This will save you time, and make sure you’re draining both breasts efficiently. Typically, stimulating one breast will trigger a let down in the other, and you can take advantage of the milk expression here by pumping both at the same time. Even if your baby doesn’t nurse on both sides in the same session, the more milk you express while you’re away from your baby, the better your milk supply will be when you’re home. Make sure you’re also pumping as frequent as your baby nurses. This is usually every 2-3 hours, and in California, you have rights to protect your work breaks to be used for milk expression.
As a reminder, all of my clients receive continued email and phone support throughout their breastfeeding journey. I’m here to help you reach your breastfeeding goals, and the best way to do that is to provide you with continued support. If you’d like to set up a consultation for returning back to work so that I can help you with your pump and evaluate your pumping session in-person, please contact me!