Breastfeeding and returning to work

Lactation room small photoMy girlfriend just returned to work last week after having her baby. I went to visit her yesterday to catch up and see how things were going. While she was glad to be back at work, she was stressing about how she was going to be able to continue breastfeeding. As a Certified Lactation Counselor, I happily told her that breastfeeding after returning to work can be a challenge, but it can be done successfully. Here are some tips to make things a little easier:

Before you return to work

• Talk to your employer and let them know what you need to continue breastfeeding. Employers with more than 50 employees are required to give you reasonable time and a private space (that is not a bathroom) for pumping when you go back to work. If there are less than 50 employees, your employer may still be willing to work with you to enable time and space for pumping breast milk.  It is best to familiarize yourself with the federal and state laws as they pertain to your company, and your specific job (exempt or non-exempt). Here are creative solutions to help you and your employer find ways for you to continue breastfeeding. You can search by industry to find the best solution.  Nursing moms who get support from their employer miss less work and are more productive and loyal to their company.

• Whether you have insurance through the ACA (Affordable Care Act) or private insurance, take the time to learn about your coverage. Here is a great tip sheet from the American Academy of Pediatrics that explains the federal guidelines, the differences in health plans and how it affects breastfeeding. This is a must read! Scroll down to the end for a helpful diagram.

• Start back to work on a Wednesday or Thursday. Consider working a few hours a day at the beginning. Having a shorter work week will allow you to get used to your new schedule and figure out your pumping, milk storage and new daycare routine.

• Get a breast pump. If you need help deciding if you should buy or rent one, read our blog. In many cases, breast pumps are covered through your insurance plan, so be sure to inquire. Proper cleaning of the pump is a must; follow the manufacturer’s directions.

• You will need somewhere to keep your breast milk cold. Make sure you have a small cooler with ice packs to bring to work if there’s no refrigerator, or a bag to keep in the fridge. Have labels handy to mark your bottles with the date you expressed the milk.  Learn guidelines for storing and thawing breast milk, here.

Once you have returned to work

• Express milk during the times you would normally feed your baby.
• Keep breast pads handy in case your breasts leak.
• Pump more on the weekends to increase your milk supply.
• Take care of yourself: get as much rest as you can, eat healthy foods and stay hydrated.

Keep talking with your employer about your schedule and what is or is not working for you.  Share the online resource above, and let them know you’d like to continue working together to make a plan that benefits you both.

Going back to work after having a baby can be a difficult transition for many women. Visit our website to learn tips on how to plan for and manage the transition.

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