Breastfeeding is an amazing, natural way to nourish and bond with your little one. For the first few months of their life, the two of you have hopefully had the time and space to successfully master latching and feeding, finding your favorite positions and developing a routine that you’re both comfortable with.
Then comes the time for you to head back to work. This break in your routine can cause new emotions for both you and your little one, but don’t worry — together you’ll figure out the best way to start this new chapter to make sure both mom and baby are happy.
Breastfeeding as a working mom can be difficult at first, so just know that it’s OK if it doesn’t come easy for you both right away. Here are a few suggestions to ease the transition.
Pumping and Nursing Beyond Infancy
There are many benefits to continue breastfeeding, even after your baby begins to enjoy solid foods. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years and beyond, since even after baby starts eating solids, these foods are meant to be an addition to breastmilk, rather than the primary source of nutrition.
This means there will more than likely be times where you won’t be with your child when they’re ready to eat, so if you haven’t started pumping and building a supply of milk to freeze (and refrigerate, for shorter-term), now is the time.
Our experts suggest finding a breast pump that you like, such as the Medela Pump In Style or Spectra. There are many different brands and types of pumps, from manual to electric to wearable, so doing a bit of research and finding one that works best for your needs is key.
Breast milk is known to protect babies from infections and illness, and even serious diseases such as childhood cancers. The enzymes found in breast milk can help your baby digest fats and promote the development of their immune system. So while continuing to breastfeed after you go back to work may seem like a lot of steps to continue providing your baby with your milk, it is worth it.
Planning for Pumping at Work
You can find a successful balance that helps you be a great mom and great employee, but a little planning may be required to help achieve it. Aside from seeking out a pump you’re comfortable with, be sure to talk with your employer beforehand.
Let your boss know in advance, perhaps when you discuss your return to work date, that you’re planning to breastfeed and how often you need to do so. You may also want to ask what private space they can provide, and make sure you’ll have a locking door, place to sit and a plug for your pump.
Before you go back to work, consider stocking up on extra supplies to store in your car or the office. An additional pump (if you feel it’s necessary), nursing pads, milk storage bags, a cooler with ice packs and an extra power adaptor will all come in handy.
If you find it difficult to pump at first, especially if you’re used to exclusively breast feeding, save some video recordings of your baby to watch while you’re pumping. Being away from your little one may impact your ability to produce milk while trying to pump, so a video reminder could help.
Finding a Balance
It’s only natural for this to be a difficult adjustment at first. When you leave work for the day, nurse as soon as you are reunited with your baby and as often as you can on days off to continue maintaining your bond.
Pumping often will help maintain your supply, since milk is produced on a supply and demand basis. You can try to create a schedule to time your pumping sessions at work with your little one’s schedule at home or daycare.
For example, pump about three times during an eight-hour shift, and if you know you’ll be back with baby around 5 pm, instruct their care provider refrain from feeding them for about two hours beforehand (this will vary based on your baby’s age). This way, your baby (and you) will be ready to breastfeed as soon as possible.
Ready to Wean
While there is certainly lots of research to support the benefits of breastfeeding your little one, don’t feel bad if continuing doesn’t feel right for you or if pumping at the office isn’t working out. It is hard and can be physically and mentally exhausting. Plus, the older your child gets, the more you may find yourself chasing after them — you’re going to need that energy. Whenever you decide is the best time for you to begin weaning your child from breastfeeding, here are a few tips recommended by our lactation consultants:
- Slowly decrease the amount of time you spend nursing/pumping
- Try removing one feeding/pumping session at a time
- Since breastfeeding is a form of comfort for most children, plan for extra snuggle time with your baby — maybe reading a book in your favorite rocking chair
- Say “no” when you need to. Your child may have a hard time with that, but it’s ok to deny the breast during this process
- Stock up on ice packs. You may feel discomfort as your milk supply slowly decreases. Ice packs and warm compresses can provide relief
- Let yourself process your emotions. You may be relieved, sad, anxious — however you’re feeling, know that it’s ok
Speak with a Breastfeeding Specialist
At AdventHealth, we have knowledgeable lactation specialists who are by your side within the first couple of hours after delivery, and they can be there to provide advice for months, or even years, down the road.
Our breastfeeding team is available to answer questions or arrange for lactation consultations. Find support and resources near you.