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Tips for breastfeeding and going back to work

by Whitney Poma |

You’re just starting to get the hang of the art of breastfeeding when, like all things motherhood, a change is afoot. Preparing to go back to work is nerve-wracking for many reasons – the most obvious is the sheer thought of being away from your baby for that long. The emotional toll is agonizing. The next wave of thought is that you’ll need to figure out how to continue striving for your breastfeeding goals while also meeting your career goals.

These tips will get you on your way to a successful transition back into the workplace.

Find your tribe:

It’s always our number 1 tip. Find your support system of fellow moms and/or lactation experts that are going to give you the community support you’ll need to make your way back into the workplace.

  • A coworker who also works and breastfeeds or recently has done so
  • A lactation consultant that can give you tips ahead of time or be on call should an issue or question arise
  • A mom friend who has also breastfed and gone back to work
  • Your boss, member of the HR team, or someone within your company that can help champion your goals

Check in with your employer:

Prior to going back to work, schedule a quick call with your boss to talk about the details of your return, focusing on what that first day and week back in the office will look like. You’ll of course want to talk about your role and responsibilities, but this is also a good time to let them know about your commitment to breastfeeding and to discuss the associated logistics. Use this time to also familiarize yourself with any breastfeeding resources issued by your employer and to know your federal rights.

Check in with your child’s caregiver:

Daycares and nannies may have suggestions or even legal requirements they need for you to help them follow when it comes to feeding your baby while you are away. This can include how to properly label, transport, and store your breastmilk or other feeding supplies while you’re working. Knowing this information ahead of time will save you some headache later so reach out prior to your return to work to ask them what you’ll need to prepare.

Get acquainted with your breast pump:

If you haven’t already, figure out how to use your breast pump. This is definitely not the thing you want to be figuring out on your first day back in the office. Call up a friend who has pumping experience or a lactation consultant to help you for those first few times. It can be pretty overwhelming!

Pack your bags:

Make a list of all the things you’ll need to take with you to work (or have convenient access to at home, if you’re working from home during the pandemic) and begin assembling them into a go-bag in addition to whatever bag you may carry to and from work each day. Nothing’s worse, relatively speaking, than getting to work and realizing you’ve left a vital piece of your pump at home.

Prepare to multitask:

If the nature of your job is desk work then now is the time to get a handsfree pumping bra so you can work on your computer while pumping. Once you're back in the routine of work, it can also be helpful to prioritize your day’s work by what can only be done while you’re pumping and saving that work for your pump sessions so you’re maximizing the workday.

Plan out your day:

The goal is to pump as much as your baby will consume while apart from you each day. This could easily mean that you’ll need to pump 3 or more times per 8-hour workday. With each pumping session lasting 15-30 minutes, you’ll want to be intentional about when these sessions will happen so that the day doesn’t get away from you. An example schedule could look like:

  • 9am Arrival and pumping session
  • 12pm Lunch and pumping session
  • 4:30pm Pre-Departure pumping session

Do a trial run:

Just as you might prepare for your first day at a new job, it’s a good idea to test your plan for the day. This can include literally driving your route to daycare drop-off then work, testing your pumping schedule to see if it yields enough output for your baby during the same time period, and trying to give your baby a bottle for the first time. Doing this roughly a week or more prior to your actual return can give you time to correct the things that didn’t go well during the test.

Expect fluctuations in your supply:

A new routine, potential for additional stress, and getting used to a breast pump are all things that can impact your supply. Mentally prepare yourself that your supply may fluctuate, either positively or negatively, during this transition and beyond. Our Ounces lactation supplement can be great to have on hand to take during times when you’re feeling a little depleted. You can even take more or less to help you meet your needs. 

Another great resource to check out is available here from the Office on Women’s Health

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