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Working While Breastfeeding

If you have decided to return to work or school after your maternity leave has ended, you may be wondering how to continue breastfeeding while you’re away from baby for extended periods of time. The following tips and links can help make the transition as smooth as possible. As always, we at Southdale Ob/Gyn are here to support you and help you achieve your breastfeeding goals. Please bring any questions or concerns you have to your next prenatal or postpartum appointment.

1. Talk to your employer:

If you can, talk to your employer about your plans to pump at work BEFORE you deliver.  Find out what, if any, policies your employer has in place regarding pumping at work. If necessary, know that your right to pump at work is protected by law and there are several other well documented benefits to employers to accommodate breastfeeding mothers.

2. Daycare/caregivers:

It is a good idea to make sure whoever will be taking care of baby (nanny, relative, daycare, etc.) is familiar with caring for breastfed babies, and the key differences between a breastfed baby and a formula fed baby, such as how much and how often to feed baby, paced bottle feeding, etc. There are many excellent web resources on this topic, including this “Caregiver’s Guide to Breastfed Baby” by Anne Smith, IBCLC and “For the Caregiver of a Breastfed Baby” by Nancy Mohrbacker, IBCLC, FILCA.

3. Preparing for the first day away from baby:  

  • If you can, start back to work with a short week, meaning scheduling your first day back later in the week, such as a Wednesday or Thursday. Consider going back for a half day at first.
  • Try a “practice day” before you actually start helps to work out any snags in your morning routine.
  • Prepare as much as you can the night before.  In order to have enough expressed breast milk to send with your baby, you may need to pump after several breastfeeding sessions.  A typical baby will need 1.0 – 1.5 ounces of breastmilk for every hour away from mom.  Preparing several small bottles at first will help avoid wasted milk until you get a better sense of how much baby will eat while away from you. La Leche League and “Work and Pump” can help you with additional tips.

4. Breast pumps:

Breast pumps come in a wide variety of styles and prices. In general, a mother who is away from her baby more than 10 hours a week will want a high quality double electric pump. If you haven’t already done so, we recommend calling your health insurance and find out which brand/model is covered and how you should obtain one. Some women find having a manual pump on hand as a “back up” to be helpful.

5. Breastmilk storage guidelines: 

It is a good idea to familiarize yourself with safe breastmilk storage and thawing.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a handy breastmilk storage reference chart on their website.

6. Get support!

Consider attending a new mom’s group or breastfeeding support meeting to get advice and tips from other moms who’ve returned to work.  Most are free (or ask for a small donation) and do not require pre-registration.  La Leche League, Baby Love and Amma Parenting are great options.

On a final note, keep in mind that any amount of breast milk that you provide your baby is beneficial and if you find that pumping isn’t going to work for you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to stop breastfeeding entirely.  Many women have been able to successfully breastfeed their babies while they are together and use a supplement while they’re apart.

Written By: Leslie Newman, DNP

Update 2016: Congratulations to Leslie Newman, DNP (Doctorate of Nursing Practice) on the addition of Certified Lactation Educator Counselor (CLEC) to her already impressive list of credentials.  She recently completed the extensive CLEC coursework through the University of California San Diego.