Many of us find ourselves in a position of returning to work and nursing our baby. Many women find it hard to return to work but when they think about the struggle of trying to continue breastfeeding their baby while also being away from home and baby, it compounds the stress and difficulty. Please know that these do not need to be mutually exclusive activities.
First of all, you need to commit. Are you all in? Is breastfeeding the right choice for you and your baby as you return to work? If you aren’t sure, you need to think on it a bit. Are you okay with supplementing with formula? That’s a different set of preparation. But if you’ve decided you want to continue nursing and you are committed to it, then it’s time to start bridging some of those hurdles. I do suggest you wait until baby is four weeks old if at all possible. At that point, your supply is established and your baby is old enough to not be overwhelmed by the difference in nipples.
- Start practicing pumping at home. Sometimes pumping doesn’t yield the results you expected. You may not pump all that much. It’s okay. Try again. Have a picture of baby near to look at. Make sure that you are settled someplace you feel comfortable and at ease. Drink plenty of water. Keep trying. Try to pump after each feeding, even if you only get a fraction of an ounce.
- Have someone else try to feed a bottle to your little one. Once you have an ounce or two pumped, pass that bottle over to Dad, Grandma, or someone else that can help you care for your baby. Try bottle-feeding when baby isn’t full but not so hungry either. You don’t want him so hungry that he’s easily frustrated but there’s no sense in trying to feed a full baby! I recommend it being someone other than Mom because baby will know that you have the ability to feed him directly from the breast. Make this a regular action. Maybe one feeding per day or evenings or whatever seems to work best for your family.
- Prepare a stash of milk before it’s time to go back to work. You’ll likely need to pump often and take those little bits and put them together to make a full feeding for your little one. That’s okay. It will start to get easier! Once you go back to work, you’ll be replacing what he eats each day.
- Find out what your options are when you return to work. Do you have the option of on-campus childcare or a childcare option that is close enough to work that you can stop in to feed him? Or maybe even someone who is able to stop by your work with the baby? If so, that will give you a chance to feed directly without having to pump every feeding. Is there a designated room or can you pump in a private office? Make yourself familiar with the accommodations that your workplace provides. And if you are not finding them adequate, please check into the laws that apply. You are protected by law.
- Ideally, you should be pumping as close to when your baby would be nursing as possible. If he normally eats every three hours or at certain times, try to stick as close to that as possible.
- Make sure that you have a refrigerator or a cooler of ice at work and everything else you will need to transport that liquid gold back to your babe! A good pump, milk bags, bottles you like, etc. Check with your insurance company. It is likely that your pump will be covered by your insurance!
You’re set! You and baby will adjust and do fine. Yes, it is an extra task and hurdle but one that you will adjust to quickly, most likely. This is the next step in moving forward with your growing family. You will do great, Mom. You’re already showing your commitment to doing hard things for your little darling!