If you are a working woman in the US, odds are you don’t have much time off with your baby before you must pack up your industrial-strength breast pump and head back to the office. According to data from the US Department of Labor, over 70% of women with children are in the workforce. With a little over 80% of children being breastfed (for any length of time), breastfeeding and returning to work is a common occurrence.
While breastfeeding itself can garner warm and fuzzy feelings, pumping in a cubicle just doesn’t have the same effect. Although some workplaces have programs for new nursing moms in place, for others, it can feel overwhelming. Yet, there are small steps you can take to reduce your stress and feel your best as you make the transition back to work.
In this article, we share seven essential tips for breastfeeding and returning to work.
1. Ask for accommodations at work.
New moms should feel comfortable reaching out to human resources, their supervisor, or other managers about options if they are breastfeeding and returning to work.
Accommodations could include:
- Bringing your baby to work some days, or for part of a day. This could involve setting up a small portable crib in your office and/or wearing your baby.
- Leaving work at lunch or on breaks to go visit and nurse your baby, or having a caregiver bring your baby to you at work. This is a more realistic option if you live near your home or child’s daycare.
- Setting up a comfortable nursing mother’s room (if one doesn’t exist already). This room would have a:
- Private space (not a bathroom). Make sure this space includes a comfortable chair with good back support.
- Relaxing atmosphere. It can be difficult to relax at work, so try playing your favorite music or podcast to make it easier to pump.
- Small table. This provides a place to keep your breast pump and other supplies within reach.
- Refrigerator. Make sure you keep your expressed milk at an appropriate temperature during the workday.
The US Office of Women’s Health has resources to help both employees and employers make breastfeeding and returning to work the norm.
2. Get yourself a good breast pump.
If you are breastfeeding and returning to work, you will need a good breast pump to help you maintain your milk supply. Double electric breast pumps are the most efficient for frequent, long-term pumping, but they can be expensive.
Check with your health insurance provider about coverage for pumps and other breastfeeding supplies. Hospitals also rent out breast pumps.
3. Focus on your health.
You may feel stretched in so many different directions as you return to work – breastfeeding and caring for your baby, household duties, and work project deadlines. It can take a toll on your energy levels and overall well-being. Focus on keeping your nutrition and energy up to continue breastfeeding as you adjust to returning to the office.
Try out these tips to keep you feeling your best at the office and at home:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods. Meals and snacks should include protein (eggs, cheese, beans, nuts, etc.) to make your energy last longer . Keep individual-sized portions (i.e. cheese sticks, hard-boiled eggs) in the refrigerator at work.
- Consider a high-quality breastfeeding supplement to make sure you get all the nutrients you and your baby need.
- Keep a water bottle filled and by your side as you pump or nurse. Drinking water can help ensure you meet fluid needs for both you and baby.
4. Keep Your Baby Close.
Bring photos or other reminders of your baby with you to work to help you feel close to them even when you’re away. Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand, so it’s important to continue to pump at work if you plan to continue giving your baby breast milk. Simple reminders of your little one can help make pumping on the job easier by stimulating the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for letting down your milk.
5. Plan and practice your new “breastfeeding and returning to work” routine.
A few weeks before going back to work, start pumping at home (if you haven’t already). Also, have your spouse or other family member give the baby a bottle.
Stock up on nursing bras, pump sanitizing wipes (for quick cleans – although soap and water work best), and milk collection bottles and bags. Check out nursing bras that allow for hands-free pumping. They can help with a mom’s favorite activity – multi-tasking!
Pack all of these in a lightweight comfortable bag or backpack. Keep extra supplies at work in case you forget something at home.
6. Ask for help often.
Whether it is your spouse, mom, or another family member, your healthcare provider, coworkers, or your mom friends, ask for help often. Having the support you need is essential to successfully working and breastfeeding.
Connect with a local or virtual moms group to share your own experiences and help lift other moms up. Lactation consultants can be great resources for troubleshooting problems with breastfeeding – your insurance may cover this service as well.
7. Know you are giving your baby your best.
Motherhood isn’t without challenges, and sometimes you may feel like it’s all going wrong. Be confident in yourself, your value at work, and your abilities as a mother. You’re doing your best, and it’s enough.
Interested in more breastfeeding tips and resources? Check out this Theralogix blog next: “Breastfeeding Help: Tips, Resources, and Supplements for New Moms.”