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Back-to-Work Tips for Breastfeeding Moms

A new mom breastfeeding her infant.
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World Breastfeeding Week begins August 1. Breastfeeding is an amazing, natural way to nourish and bond with your little one. But it’s not without unique challenges — especially if you’re navigating new time apart.

For the first few months, the two of you have hopefully had the time and space to successfully master latching and feeding and develop a comfortable routine.

Then comes the time for you to head back to work. This break in your routine can bring about new emotions for both you and your little one, especially since many moms have gotten used to working from home during the pandemic and may be getting ready to head back to the office. Whether you’re going back to work after your maternity leave or a longer-term at-home period, don’t worry — together you’ll figure out the best way to navigate this new chapter.

Breastfeeding as a working mom can be difficult, especially at first. Here are a few suggestions to ease the transition:

Pumping and Nursing Beyond Infancy

There are many health benefits to breastfeeding, even after your baby begins to enjoy solid foods. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for two years and beyond. Until your baby is one, solid foods are meant to be additions to breastmilk, rather than their primary source of nutrition.

Heading back to work means there will be times when you won’t be with your child when he or she is ready to eat. If you haven’t started pumping to build a supply of milk to freeze (and you would like to), now is the time. Ask your doctor how to do so without creating an oversupply or increase your risk of clogged ducts.

Our experts suggest finding a breast pump that you like, such as the Medela or Spectra. There are many different brands and types of pumps, from manual to electric to wearable, so doing a bit of research is key. Call your insurance to see if they cover the cost of a pump.

Breast milk is known to protect babies from infections and illness, even reducing the risk for serious diseases such as some childhood cancers. The enzymes found in breast milk can help your baby digest fats and promote the development of their immune system. Continuing to provide your baby with breastmilk after you go back to work may seem like a lot of steps, but it can be rewarding.

Planning for Pumping at Work

You can find a successful balance to be both a great mom and a great employee. Along with getting a breast 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. Ask if they can provide a private space. Make sure you’ll have a locking door, a place to sit and a plug for your pump.

In 2010, Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was amended to require employers to provide basic accommodations, such as time and space, for breastfeeding mothers at work.

Before you go back to work, consider stocking up on extra supplies to store in your car or the office. An additional pump (if 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 breastfeeding, 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 pumping, so a video 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.

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. If you know you’ll be back with your baby around 5 pm, instruct their care provider to 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 plenty of research to support breastfeeding benefits for your little one, don’t stress if continuing doesn’t feel right for you, or if pumping at the office isn’t working out. It’s hard work, and can be physically and mentally exhausting. Plus, the older your child gets, the more you may find yourself chasing after them — and you’re going to need that energy.

Whenever you decide on the best time for you to begin weaning your child from breastfeeding, here are a few tips recommended by our lactation consultants:

  • Because 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
  • Gradually decrease the amount of time you spend nursing/pumping
  • Let yourself process your emotions; you may be relieved, sad, anxious — however you’re feeling, know that it’s okay
  • Say “no” when you need to; your child may have a hard time, but it’s okay to deny the breast during this process
  • Try ice packs and warm compresses to provide relief from discomfort as your milk supply decreases
  • Try removing one feeding/pumping session at a time

Speak with a Lactation Specialist

At AdventHealth, we have certified lactation specialists who are by your side within the first few hours after delivery, and they can be there for you and your little one to provide advice and support 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.

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