The decision to return to work after having a baby is a significant milestone for many mothers. It’s a time filled with mixed emotions – the excitement of resuming your career, and the challenge of balancing work and motherhood, particularly when you’re committed to breastfeeding. Going back to work while continuing to breastfeed is entirely possible with the right strategies and support. In this blog, we’ll explore valuable tips for breastfeeding moms to ease the transition and maintain their breastfeeding journey successfully.
1. Plan Ahead and Communicate
Before returning to work, it’s crucial to plan and communicate your breastfeeding intentions with your employer and colleagues. Here’s how to get started:
- Discuss your breastfeeding schedule with your employer to arrange for breaks and a private space to pump.
- Inform your colleagues about your need for privacy and express your commitment to maintaining productivity.
- Plan a flexible work schedule if possible to allow for breastfeeding and pumping breaks.
- Make sure there is a designated place for you to pump. Check with your local laws as most states require a place for your to pump
2. Invest in a Quality Breast Pump
A good-quality breast pump is a breastfeeding mom’s best friend when returning to work. Luckily pumps are covered by insurance and your doula can help you decide which one is best for you. Consider these factors when selecting a breast pump:
- Choose a pump that suits your needs, whether it’s a single or double electric pump.
- Look for a portable, efficient, and quiet pump for discretion at the workplace.
- Consider getting a hands-free pumping bra to multitask while pumping.
3. Establish a Pumping Schedule
A consistent pumping schedule is essential for maintaining milk supply. Here’s how to establish one:
- Aim to pump at the same times your baby typically feeds.
- Pump every 2-3 hours during work hours to mimic your baby’s feeding routine.
- Be patient; it may take time to adjust to pumping at work.
4. Build a Stash of Breast Milk
Having a stash of breast milk can provide peace of mind when you’re away from your baby. Here’s how to build one:
- Start pumping and storing milk before returning to work.
- Breast storage bags that are laid flat and labeled helped to save room in the freezer Pro-tip-lay them out on a small baking pan in your freezer and make sure there bags do not have air bubbles
- Label and date your milk to ensure freshness.
- Use breast milk storage bags or containers and rotate your stash to use the oldest milk first.
5. Create a Support System
Support from your family, friends, and colleagues is invaluable. Here’s how to build a support system:
- Educate your partner and family about breastfeeding and pumping.
- Seek advice and encouragement from other breastfeeding moms or join support groups.
- Communicate your needs with your colleagues and superiors to create a breastfeeding-friendly work environment.
6. Dress for Convenience
Choosing appropriate clothing can make breastfeeding and pumping at work more convenient. Consider the following:
- Wear nursing-friendly attire that provides easy access to your breasts.
- Invest in a few button-down shirts or tops with discreet access for pumping.
- Keep a spare set of clothing at work in case of any spills or leaks.
7. Store Breast Milk Safely
Proper storage of breast milk is crucial to maintain its quality and safety. Follow these guidelines:
- Store breast milk in the back of the refrigerator, where it’s coldest.
- Label milk containers with the date and time of expression.
- Thaw frozen breast milk in the refrigerator or a container of warm water; avoid using the microwave.
- Most women bring a small cooler for the commute to keep the bottles cool
8. Balance Work and Baby’s Needs
Balancing work and breastfeeding can be challenging, but with some adjustments, it’s manageable:
- Plan your work tasks and meetings around your pumping schedule.
- Set boundaries and prioritize self-care to manage stress and fatigue.
- Make use of available resources like lactation rooms or pumping pods at your workplace.
9. Be Patient with Yourself
Returning to work and continuing to breastfeed can be emotionally and physically demanding. Here are some tips to stay patient and compassionate with yourself:
- Remember that setbacks and challenges are normal and can be overcome.
- Seek professional guidance from a lactation consultant if you encounter any breastfeeding issues.
- Maintain realistic expectations and celebrate your achievements along the way.
10. Wean Gradually If Needed
If your work schedule or circumstances make it challenging to continue breastfeeding, remember that weaning is a personal choice. Here’s how to approach it:
- Gradual weaning is usually more comfortable for both you and your baby.
- Consider introducing a mix of breast milk and formula until your baby adapts.
- Seek support from your pediatrician or a lactation consultant during the weaning process.
11. Make the Most of Non-Work Hours
While at work, you’re likely to miss some of your baby’s feedings. Make the most of your non-work hours by:
- Engaging in skin-to-skin contact and bonding with your baby.
- Offering breastfeeds whenever possible, even if it’s outside of work hours.
- Prioritizing quality time and ensuring that breastfeeding remains a positive experience for both you and your baby.
12. Stay Informed and Flexible
Breastfeeding, like motherhood, is an ever-evolving journey. Stay informed about the latest breastfeeding guidelines and be open to adapting your approach as your baby grows.
- Keep up with your baby’s changing feeding patterns and needs.
- Stay informed about pumping techniques, breast milk storage guidelines, and nutrition.
- Adjust your pumping schedule and work arrangements as necessary to accommodate your evolving needs.
Here’s how Holistic Family Doulas postpartum doulas can be instrumental in assisting you with planning to return to work and maintaining breastfeeding:
- Breastfeeding Support and Education:
Postpartum doulas are often knowledgeable about breastfeeding and can provide valuable education and support. They can help you establish and maintain a successful breastfeeding routine, ensuring that you and your baby are comfortable with the process.
- Pumping Guidance:
Doulas can help you become familiar with breast pumps, including how to properly use them and maintain them. They can offer tips for effective pumping and storage of expressed breast milk.
- Creating a Feeding Schedule:
A postpartum doula can work with you to create a feeding schedule that aligns with your work hours. They can help establish a routine that ensures your baby continues to receive breast milk while you’re away.
- Transitioning to Bottle Feeding:
If your baby hasn’t been introduced to bottle feeding, a postpartum doula can assist with this transition. They can offer advice on the best time to introduce a bottle and help you choose the most suitable bottle and nipple for your baby.
- Monitoring Growth and Feeding Progress:
Doulas can help you track your baby’s growth and feeding patterns. They’ll ensure that your baby is thriving and receiving sufficient breast milk, which can ease your worries about the transition back to work.
- Addressing Breastfeeding Challenges:
If you encounter any breastfeeding challenges, such as low milk supply, nipple pain, or latch issues, a postpartum doula can provide support and recommend solutions or professional help if necessary.
- Emotional Support:
A postpartum doula can offer emotional support, especially during this potentially stressful time of returning to work. They can provide a listening ear, offer reassurance, and help you manage the emotional aspects of the transition.
- Creating a Calm Environment:
Doulas can assist in creating a peaceful and stress-free environment for breastfeeding and bonding with your baby. This contributes to a positive breastfeeding experience and can be especially beneficial when juggling work demands.
- Balancing Self-Care:
A postpartum doula can emphasize the importance of self-care and help you find time to rest, eat well, and stay hydrated. Taking care of yourself is essential for maintaining milk supply and overall well-being.
- Advocating for Your Needs:
Doulas can serve as advocates for you and your baby, whether it’s communicating your breastfeeding needs to your employer or ensuring that you have access to a comfortable and private space for pumping at work.
- Problem-Solving and Flexibility:
If challenges arise during the transition back to work, doulas can help you problem-solve and adjust your plan as needed. They offer flexibility and adaptability to make the process as smooth as possible.
Returning to work as a breastfeeding mom may seem daunting, but with the right strategies and postpartum support, you can successfully navigate this transition. It’s essential to plan ahead, communicate your needs, and create a supportive work environment. With proper pumping techniques, a consistent schedule, and a network of support, you can continue to provide the best nourishment for your baby while pursuing your professional goals. Balancing work and breastfeeding is a journey filled with challenges and rewards, and by following these tips, you can achieve a harmonious and successful balance.