How to Keep Breastfeeding When You Go Back to Work
If you're headed back to work and wondering if you should continue to breastfeed the answer is yes. Most work schedules can be combined with breastfeeding. You may just have to get a little creative!
Before You Go Back to Work
Take these steps before returning to work to make a smooth transition.
- Max out your maternity leave - rested moms make more milk.
- Build up a supply of frozen breast milk
- Arrange for child care and establish a relationship with the provider.
- Connect with other women who successfully combine work and breastfeeding.
- Invest in (or rent) a good breast pump and make friends with it.
- Establish the back-to-work routine a couple weeks in advance if possible
- Get your baby sleeping in a crib or bassinet so that you get optimum rest, OR
- Breastfeed a ton at night to make up for missed sessions during the day
One Woman’s Story
This page tells the play-by-play of one woman's work and breastfeeding schedule.
Benefits of Continuing to Breastfeed While You Work
There are too many benefits of breastfeeding to list, but I will name a few just in case you're wondering if it's worth it to continue after you go back to work. Of course the health benefits are amazing. As long as you breastfeed your child continues to receive optimum, one of a kind nutrition and immunity benefits. But it's not all about the baby. Breastfeeding is good for you too, increasing your sense of self-reliance and confidence in your mothering. You may also lose that baby weight quicker and some studies show you're less likely to develop breast and ovarian cancers.
There are other tangible benefits too. Think about all the money you'll save on formula! Not to mention you're saving the environment. No outside resources are used to produce breast milk and no wasteful packaging ends up in the landfill. Your boss will love it too if they understand the fewer sick days you'll need to cash in because your baby is going to be healthier the longer you breastfeed. The company should also appreciate your renewed sense of loyalty when they provide a breastfeeding friendly workplace.
Bottle or No?
If you can breast feed 100% while working, you are an amazing creature indeed. But mst women will need to supplement with bottle-fed breast milk and/or formula. This is okay and don't let anyone tell you different. There's no need to look at breastfeeding as an all or nothing venture. By pumping breast milk during the day when you are away from your baby, you'll maintain a supply of milk, which can be fed to the baby by someone else.
Keeping Up the Milk Supply
As a working woman, you'll need to be especially careful to maintain a plentiful milk supply. Get lots of rest. This not only means sleep. Learn a few relaxation techniques that will work for you so that distressing matters are easily let go. Stress can sap your energy reserves quicker than a lack of sleep. Do not try to be a superwoman. This is not the time to go for that promotion or show the family how many of Martha Stewart's recipes you have improved upon.
Ask for help, especially from your partner, who should be helping out. If you are a single mother, join or create a support network of women who need each other.Make sure that you are stimulating the breasts by nursing or pumping several times a day. The more you stimulate the breast, the more milk is produced. You will also need to drink a ton of liquids. Keep a pitcher of water at your desk, count glasses or bottles of water, and add sugar-free flavorings if you have to. Do whatever it takes to keep your fluid intake up.
My Boss Won’t Like It
Too bad. If your job allows coffee and cigarette breaks to other workers, you have grounds for taking a "pump break". Your boss doesn't have to provide a specific place for you to pump, but you can find a way. If there is no private place to pump, toss a receiving blanket over your shoulder just like you do with your baby in public and express away. I have done it in the stall at an airport bathroom and it really wasn't so bad. If you want it bad enough, make it happen. It shouldn't have to be uncomfortable for anyone you work with.
If you don't have enough time to pump, look first to the pump. If you can afford a high-quality double breast pump, this is ideal. Also, many hospitals will rent very good pumps for a reasonable weekly rate. If yours doesn't, check with others in your area. You may be able to rearrange lunch and break schedules to accommodate spending time with your baby or pumping.
More people are coming around to the idea of breastfeeding all the time. Ask for the support you need and keep trying. If you can swing it, breastfeeding is worth the effort.