Breastfeeding and working

breastfeeding and working

What Every Mom Should Know

Continuing to breast-feed your baby after you go back to work requires dedication and support. Read these tips for pumping on the job.

Despite the known health benefits for babies who are breast-fed, almost a third of new mothers give it up less than 2 months after going back to work, according to a recent survey by the National Women’s Health Resource Center.

Breast-pumping at work

How come? Some mothers think they won’t have time to pump milk or they may be embarrassed to do so. Today’s breast pumps, though, are faster, quieter, and more discreet than ever. You don’t have to give up your commitment to breast-feeding when you go back to work.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast-feeding for at least 6 months, and ideally it should be continued for at least the first year. Some states even protect a woman’s right to pump on the job. Following are some tips on how to make it work.

Discuss your needs with your employer

Plan ahead before you go back to work. If there is no lactation room at your workplace, find out if a private office or room with a working outlet and locked door can be reserved for you a few times each day. Bathrooms lack the privacy you need and may not be clean.

You will need breaks of 15 to 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours to pump. If productivity is a concern, ask your employer if you can come in a bit early or stay late to make up for any time missed.

Pumping basics

  • Choose the right pump. A double electric pump is the most efficient, but a manual pump may be suitable for part-time workers. Keep a spare set of pump parts at work in case you forget to bring them with you.
  • Get baby ready. Introduce bottles of expressed milk when baby is about 4 weeks old. Breast-feeding is usually well-established by then and baby is likely to accept the bottle.
  • Wear the right clothes. Button-down or loose-fitting tops will make pumping easier. Don’t forget breast pads to protect against leaks.
  • Decide how to store your milk. You can pump into feeding or storage bottles. If you produce more milk than your baby wants the next day, freeze the excess in milk-storage bags. A refrigerator is best for storing milk, but a cooler bag with plenty of ice will do.
  • Start a freezer stash. A few weeks before you go back to work, pump once or twice a day and freeze milk in 2- to 4-ounce portions. You can use this milk for your first day back as well as for emergencies later.
  • Clean your pump parts. Wash flanges and connectors with soap and hot water between uses. You can also refrigerate pump parts in a zip-top plastic bag between sessions or buy special antimicrobial cleansing wipes at baby-supply stores.
  • Take care of yourself. If you’re relaxed when you pump, you may produce more milk. Looking at pictures of your baby may enhance this effect. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water during the day.

Do a test run

Before your maternity leave is over, schedule a half day with your baby’s caregiver and practice your new routine. Try to recreate your work day and pumping schedule at home.

Ideally, you’ll be able to pump enough for the next day’s feedings in 2 or 3 sessions. If you aren’t producing enough or notice a dip in supply, contact a lactation consultant for support. Even if you have to supplement sometimes, your baby will still benefit from any amount of breast milk.

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