If you plan to return to work while breastfeeding, your transition will be easier if you have a game plan in place before you give birth. Once your new baby is in your arms, the last thing you’ll want to do is deal with any more logistics than absolutely necessary. Here are a few tips that should help you plan if you’re a first time breastfeeding mom.
- Buy a good quality pump. There are so many pumps and setups finding the one right for you can feel overwhelming. Research online, ask other moms at any support groups (like LLLI) you might go to. I love my Medela portable pump: 2 babies and 3 years later, it still works great.
- Start stockpiling. Opinions vary on when you should start pumping, and it all depends on when you plan on returning to work. Since your supply is contingent on demand (the more you nurse, the more quickly you will “refill,”), you don’t want to overdo pumping too soon or else you’ll have so much milk you will feel like the Dairy Queen. About 3 weeks before I returned to work, I began pumping once or twice a day (after my baby nursed to satisfaction) and froze what I got. By the time I returned to work, I had enough milk to last him about two full days of me being gone. This allowed me to have some extra in case I had plans to go out and someone would need to watch the baby for me during an irregular time.
- It is important that you know your rights. Federal law has passed that requires all employers to provide a NON-BATHROOM, private space for mothers to pump and reasonable breaks to do so. Discuss your plans to pump before you go out on maternity leave in order to provide “reasonable” time for your employer to make any necessary accommodations. If your employer gives you a hard time about it when you return, take it to human resources immediately. I know the last thing most of us want to do is start raising a riot at our jobs right after coming back, but it is YOUR RIGHT to reasonable accommodations to pump. Don’t give up on pumping at work just because it’s frustrating. Remember, mommy’s milk is best for babies, you got through pregnancy, labor and delivery. You can get through ANYTHING, especially with federal law on your side!
- Introduce a bottle before you return to work. This is another one of those “opinions vary” situations about how and when, but you definitely don’t want to wait until your first day back to ask the sitter or your mom to attempt giving your baby his first bottle. This Dr. Sears article has some great tips. With my first son, my husband was going to stay home with him when I returned to work. Once a day about 3 weeks before I went back to work, I would give my husband a bottle of about 2 ounces of pumped breast milk to feed my son and I’d disappear out of sight. He protested at first, but only for a few moments. He never developed any “nipple confusion” and everyone had a pretty easy time with the transition. Not everyone is quite so lucky. Talk to other moms about their experiences and see what worked for them if you are unsure or are having difficulties.