Before we tackle other strategies it’s important to acknowledge that going back to work is often met with trepidation, conflicting emotions and major mommy guilt. Whether you have to go back to work or you choose to, it’s vital that you step into this new routine with your head held high. Acknowledge that you will need to be patient with yourself and your baby as you both adjust to a new pumping and nursing schedule. It might feel overwhelming at first, but soon this routine will become the norm.
Moms who work full-time need to have a strong electric pump that can handle multiple pumping sessions a day. Consider a dual electric pump so that you can pump both breasts at the same time, and we recommend buying back up parts in case you have a malfunction while at work. And if you can swing it, consider buying two pumps — one for work and one for home.
We recommend these items in addition to your pump:
A sturdy pumping bag that has a side zipper for easy access so that you can easily carry your pump to and from work.
A handsfree pumping bra keeps your hands free during your pumping session so that you can continue to work if you desire.
A cooler to store breastmilk in.
Bottles or breast milk bags to transport expressed breast milk.
Once all of your tools are in place think through your breastfeeding schedule. If you can squeeze one breastfeeding session in before dropping your child off at daycare, factor in that time, as well as whether or not you can breastfeed them as soon as you pick them up. If you are away from your child for an 8 hour work day, an average pumping schedule would consist of 2-3 pumping sessions per day.
Effective March 23, 2010, the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" federal law requires employers to provide break time and a place for most hourly wage-earning and some salaried employees (nonexempt workers) to express breast milk at work. The law states that employers must provide a "reasonable" amount of time and that they must provide a private space other than a bathroom. They are required to provide this until the employee's baby turns one year old.
This federal law applies to nonexempt (hourly) employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. (FLSA) It’s a good idea to read through this federal law as well as look up specific state laws so that you can communicate with your employer accurately.
The United States Breastfeeding Committee shares some great examples of ways to openly talk to an employer who might be resisting your rights.
Before you return to work it’s important to begin your breast milk freezer stash. One way to boost your milk supply so that you can build up a freezer stash is to eat Milkful Lactation Bars.
In the weeks leading up to your transition back to work add in an additional pumping session once a day. Before you know it, there will be dozens of ounces stored in your freezer waiting for you! The more ounces you have in your stash, the more you can feel relaxed about maintaining your breastfeeding goals.
It is also important to slowly introduce bottle feeding to your baby. Don’t wait until the week before you go back to try this new method of feeding. Get baby used to taking breast milk from a bottle or a sippy cup. Don’t panic if they don’t take to it at first. Introduce a bottle every few days and allow them to explore this feeding method without stress or pressure.
Wash your hands before you begin pumping. For the first pumping session of the day, you can pump into the collection bottles and then keep the breast shield attached and put everything into a refrigerator. (Tip, buy a small hard-sided cooler so that your bottles won’t get knocked over your parts can be discreetly stored in the company fridge.) Then for the second pumping session you can add to the previous milk. Once you have finished for the day simply rinse out the parts and store them so that you can wash them in a more sterile environment at home.
Breast milk can be left out at room temperature between 4-6 hours and remain safe in the refrigerator for up to five days. Breast milk can be stored in a refrigerator freezer for 6 months or in a deep freezer for one year. Develop a system for how you freeze and thaw breast milk. We recommend building up a freezer stash that gives you at least three days of leeway.
Watch a video of your little one for a surge of hormones to jumpstart your letdown. You can even bring one or two articles of clothing so that you can breathe in their precious scent! (Sounds crazy, but it works.)
Keep a water bottle at your desk or workspace to stay hydrated, and pack convenient healthy snacks to keep your calories up.
If you keep a shared calendar, block off pumping times so that meetings aren’t scheduled during your routine. While it might seem harmless to be loose with your schedule, it can drastically reduce your milk supply to go too long in between sessions.
Send your child to a daycare or preschool that is convenient to work rather than to home. This will allow you to nurse right when you get off from work and can be more convenient if you want to breastfeed in person during a lunch break.
And finally, give yourself a huge pat on the back! Breastfeeding and working requires dedication, commitment and love. You rock mom!
Keep Reading Tips for Traveling with Breast Milk in an Airplane or Car ›
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Folate and folic acid play a vital role in embryo development, healthy pregnancies, and infant survival rates. Up to 50% or more of neural tube defects could be prevented with proper folic acid supplementation prior to conception, reports The American Academy of Pediatrics. Read more about this important micronutrient for women of childbearing age and learn the recommended daily intake as well as foods that provide folate.