World Breastfeeding Week: Continuing to breastfeed when returning to work

Yes, you can continue to breastfeed if you’re going back to work.

One of the reasons for not breastfeeding at all or stopping breastfeeding is returning from maternity leave and going back to work. While you may not be able to physically breastfeed your child while you are at work (more on this later), it is still possible to continue breastfeeding your child. Regardless of how you feed your baby, going back to work is difficult. By continuing to breastfeed your baby after your return to work, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you are providing a priceless asset for your child even when you are not together.

Ideally, you work near your childcare provider or your employer provides on-site daycare. If that’s the case, you may be able to take breaks throughout the day to nurse your baby. See if your childcare provider can bring your child to you so you can breastfeed him.

If that’s not a possibility, you can express your milk, collect it and bring it home for your childcare provider to give the following day while you are at work.

To express your milk, you will need to buy or rent a pump. There are many types of breast pumps on the market but if you plan to pump at least 3 times a day, 5 days a week, for many months, the best kind of is a hospital grade pump (which you can rent) or a high-quality automatic electric breast pump which you can buy. With breast pumps, you really do get what you pay for so it does pay to spend a little more. Here are some of the best electric pumps:
Ameda Purely Yours (starts at $150) (pictured) (highly recommended)
-Nurture III Electric Breast Pump ($169)
-Whisper Wear Double Pump Kit ($219)
-Medela Pump In Style Original and Advanced ($349)
If you pay a little more, you can get a bag to carry the pump to and from work and a cooler for the milk. If you have a drawer or closet you can lock, you can even leave the pump at work (bringing the collection pieces home to wash or washing them at work).

When and Where to Pump
You will need to take breaks throughout the day to pump. Depending on your child’s age, you’ll need to pump around every 2-3 hours for 15-20 minutes at a time. You should try to pump as often as you would nurse your baby, and at the same time every day to maximize your milk flow. Ideally, you have your own private office or your workplace will have a lactation room. If not, get permission to borrow an office or a room that locks and has an electrical outlet to plug the pump into.

If your boss suggests you use a bathroom, gently suggest that perhaps there may be cleaner places for you to express your milk. Sometimes people suggest nursing in a bathroom because they don’t understand your needs. You need a place where you will be comfortable and balancing on a toilet or having people constantly walk in is not an ideal setting.

To stimulate let-down of your milk, try looking at some photos of your baby, holding a piece of his clothing, and thinking about him in general. All of these will help your milk ejection reflex.

Maximize pumping by pumping both breasts at the same time. If you need to do something else with your hands while you pump (like type or read), you can buy a special bra that holds the breastshields.

Negotiating with your employer
Many companies have space and equipment for women to pump their milk at work. If your company does not have a lactation program, this is the best time to create one. Even if a formal program is not created, you can make arrangements with your boss. You may face some resistance from your employer about taking time to express your milk.

To avoid issues, speak to your surpervisor before you take your maternity leave. Let your employer know that the AAP and UNICEF encourage employers to accomodate breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. Request a copy of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Alliance’s booklet, Women, Work and Breastfeeding: Everyone Benefits from your local La Leche League International office. Explain the health benefits of breastfeeding to your boss. You should let your boss know that your pumping won’t interfere with your work and that by continuing to breastfeed, your baby is less likely to get sick and therefore you will be less likely to need to take off to care for your child.

Explain that you are not looking for extra time off- just rearranging breaks differently. Instead of taking an hour for lunch and 15 minutes here and there, take 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes at lunch and 30 minutes in the afternoon. You can also politely remind your boss that you are using the time to provide nourishment for your child, not to smoke. (This won’t work if your boss smokes!)

Storing your milk
After you pump, you can store your milk in glass or plastic bottles or in milk collection bags. Label them and store them in a refrigerator or cooler, making sure they are clearly marked. If your commute is longer than half an hour, it’s a good idea to carry the milk in a cooler with an ice pack. (Your milk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days and in a home freezer for 3-4 months. It lasts 4 hours at room temperature.)

If you can’t pump at work
If you are not able to express your milk while you are at work but want to continue to nurse your child when you ARE home, you can pump while you are home and on the weekends. You can also always have your childcare provider supplement with formula while you are at work. Remember that whatever breastmilk your child gets is wonderful.

What chall
enges have you had continuing to breastfeed your baby while returning to work? Do you have any recommendations?

Click the extended post for resources on breastfeeding at work.

Working it Out: Breatfeeding at Work

Going Back to Work and Want to Continue Breastfeeding? Yes, you can!

La Leche League International: Pumping, Working and Breastfeeding,%20Working,%20and%20Breastfeeding

United States Breastfeeding Committee: Workplace Breastfeeding Support

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