Working mothers have successfully continued to breastfeed and work. It just takes some planning ahead, family and workplace support, and a high quality breast pump!
Above all, you should be congratulated on your decision to continue protecting and nourishing your baby through breastfeeding even after you return to work!
Why Continue to Breastfeed?
Babies who have working mothers can still receive the same great benefits that other babies receive by continuing to breastfeed after mommy goes back to work.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least 12 months. Statistics show that the longer babies are breastfed, the greater the health effects for both mommy and baby.
Believe it or not, breastfeeding is good for your employer too. Because breastfed babies are healthier, it will reduce the number of absences from work due to your baby’s illnesses.
How Do You Prepare to Go Back to Work While Still Pregnant?
One of the keys to successfully continuing to breastfeed after returning to work is to do some advance planning. Some of the things you should do to prepare for breastfeeding while you are still pregnant are:
1. Discuss your plans with your employer or make sure that you will have adequate accommodations for expressing breast milk at work. (If you need to help convince them of the advantages of a “breastfeeding-friendly workplace, click here.)
2. Try to arrange childcare at or near your work. Find someone you can trust who is supportive of breastfeeding to care for your child. Consider sharing childcare with another friend or family member. Our handy childcare guide can make the process easier.
3. Find a support group near you with other working women who breastfeed (or start one if there are none available!)
4. Invest in a high quality breast pump! For our recommended breast pumps, click here.
5. Look realistically at your work options. Can you telecommute? Work some days from home? Switch to part-time? Know your options so that you can make the best choices for your growing family.
Ten Breastfeeding Tips For New Working Mothers
After your baby is born you will enjoy the benefits of your planning. Here are some additional tips for working mothers:
1. Consider a trial run a few days before you actually return to work. Go look at the space you will be using and make sure it has a convenient electrical outlet if you will be using an electric breast pump.
2. Determine if there will be a refrigerator available for storing breast milk and a sink for washing your hands and your pump supplies. (You can store your breast milk in a community refrigerator in a lunchroom. Just remember to label containers or keep it in a bag). If you work in a warehouse, on a farm or other location where there is not a good private place to pump, refrigeration, or washing facilities, just use whatever sanitary precautions you can. You can pump in your car and store breast milk in a cooler. (Some breast pumps, like our recommended Pump in Style, have handy cooler compartments to store milk until you return home. (Click here to read more about our recommended pumps.)
3. Establish a good breast milk supply— Early breastfeeding is the time when the milk supply is set. Breastfeed frequently to help make lots of milk. Enjoy the time right after your baby is born, and rest to regain your energy. Avoid frequent bottles when you and baby are together, but begin offering small bottle feeds when the baby is 3-4 weeks old to help your sweetie get used to bottles or try reverse cycling.
4. If your breast pump does not have one, remember to bring an insulated container to work with you to transport your breast milk back home.
5. Get plenty of rest and eat healthy food. Make sure you are drinking lots and lots of fluids.
6. Consider sleeping near your sweet baby. Some working mothers claim that they get more rest and that is makes night nursing less disruptive. Just remember that it is normal for infants to nurse at night. It not only provides valuable calories and comfort to your baby, but also helps to maintain a good breast milk supply. In addition, studies show that putting your baby to sleep on his back and sleeping in the same room as your baby decreases the risk of SIDS. Click here for our co-sleeping information and helpful tips.
7. Try breastfeeding exclusively whenever you and your child are together. (Avoid bottles and formula.) You may even want to consider providing extra nursing time at night, days off, weekends and before and after work to help you keep a good milk supply and avoid separation anxiety. If you think your supply is starting to get low, nurse more frequently whenever you are home.
8. Check your wardrobe. Two piece outfits or clothes that fasten in the front will be more convenient for working mothers who are pumping at work. Patterned washable clothing can hide wet areas if your milk leaks. In fact, some breastfeeding mothers always keep a cardigan or jacket nearby. It is also helpful to invest in some tops or tanks that are especially designed for nursing mothers. Click here for our favorites.
9. Plan ahead. Many working mothers find it less stressful to organize lunches, pack the diaper bag and prepare clothes etc. the night before. (Also, don’t forget to freeze any ice packs!)
10. Remember to keep your focus on the things that really need to be done…try not to be supermom! Try to prioritize. Don’t hesitate to accept some help from family and friends.
Do what you can and be proud of your efforts! Remember that some breast milk is better than no breast milk!