Returning to work after maternity leave does not mean the end of a breastfeeding journey. With proper planning and strategies, mamas can continue providing breast milk for their babies even when they are away. I pumped more than a year at my office job for each of my babies. Although pumping multiple times a day at work seemed daunting at first, I soon fell into a routine, and I was able to meet my pumping and breastfeeding goals. Here are some of my strategies for successfully pumping and maintaining milk supply while balancing the demands of work.
- Start Planning Early:
Start planning for pumping at work in advance. Familiarize yourself with your workplace policies regarding breastfeeding and pumping breaks. Know the law! In the USA, The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to provide a reasonable break time for an employee to pump breast milk for their nursing child for one year after the child’s birth in a private location. Remind your employer of this if needed. It’s great if you have an idea of when and where you will pump before returning to work.
- Invest in a High-Quality Breast Pump:
Choosing the right breast pump is crucial for successful pumping at work. Consider investing in a high-quality electric breast pump that suits your needs. Double electric pumps are efficient and save time, allowing you to express milk from both breasts simultaneously. Wearable pumps may be a good option for teachers and medical professionals who need to pump discretely.
- Establish a Pumping Schedule:
Maintaining a consistent pumping schedule is essential for maintaining milk supply. Ideally, try to pump around the same times your baby would typically feed. Aim for pumping sessions every 2-3 hours initially, gradually adjusting the frequency as needed. Consistency in pumping sessions helps your body adjust to the new routine and ensures a steady milk supply.
- Build a Freezer Stash:
Before returning to work, try to build a freezer stash of pumped breast milk. Start pumping and storing milk a few weeks before your first day back. This will give you a reserve to rely on initially and provide peace of mind. Use breast milk storage bags or containers that are labeled with dates for easy rotation.
- Nurse Frequently When Together:
When you are home with your baby, make the most of the time by nursing frequently. Breastfeeding on demand during mornings, evenings, and weekends helps maintain the bond and stimulates milk production. Encourage skin-to-skin contact and utilize breastfeeding as a way to reconnect and nourish your baby during these precious moments.
- Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle:
A healthy lifestyle contributes to maintaining a good milk supply. Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. Maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Adequate rest and stress management techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, can also support milk production.
- Store and Transport Milk Safely:
Proper handling and storage of expressed breast milk are crucial. Label each container with the date and time of pumping. Store milk in clean, BPA-free containers or breast milk storage bags. Use insulated cooler bags with ice packs to transport the expressed milk home safely. Follow guidelines for storing and thawing breast milk to ensure its quality.
- Seek Support and Resources:
Don’t hesitate to seek support from a lactation consultant, breastfeeding support groups, or online communities. They can provide guidance, troubleshooting tips, and emotional support. Connecting with other working mothers who have successfully navigated pumping at work can be invaluable.
Breastfeeding and returning to work can be successfully combined with careful planning, dedication, and support. By investing in a quality breast pump, establishing a pumping schedule, building a freezer stash, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and seeking support, mothers can continue providing breast milk to their babies even when apart.