Maternity leave is a precious time for bonding with your new baby. As you learn your little one’s cues, navigate nutrition, and get up to speed on the new sleep schedule, you may find yourself glancing at the calendar: At some point, it’s going to be time to head back to work.
When that day comes, you’ll want to be ready. Especially if you’d like to continue breastfeeding.
Thankfully, there’s an army of moms that have gone before, proving it can be done. You can juggle breastfeeding and work successfully. All you need is a little foresight, realistic expectations, and a plan.
Here’s how to incorporate breastfeeding into the average workday.
Breastfeeding in the Workplace
Some employers have on-site day care. Others let workers head home a couple times per day to nurse. A few offer flex time and remote work. There are even companies that provide a designated nursing lounge or private room. Explore these options first, since if yours is a benefit-oriented work place, you may have access to some of these perks
Speak with your employer before taking your maternity leave to discuss your needs and fully understand your benefits.
Stock up on Breastfeeding Supplies
Start with supplies. You’ll need a handful of items for going back to work while breastfeeding.
- A high-quality electric breast pump. According to the Federal Government, you won’t have to pay for this vital piece of equipment. Read reviews to choose one that addresses your needs. For example, if a user claims one model is louder than the others, consider that as you envision pumping at work.
- Sterile, water-tight containers. Your breast pump may include two collection bottles with caps and/or a starter pack of breast milk bags. These will work … at first. You will generally need more for storage in advance and when you return to work. Don’t wait until they’re gone to order more online
- An insulated bag. Some pumps come with a stylish exterior and carrying straps, but you’ll still need a small cooler bag.
- Ice packs. Choose reusable ice packs, and ensure they fit inside your insulated bag.
Talking to Your Employer About Breastfeeding
Dust off your old employee handbook and see what’s already been communicated about your options for pumping at work. Then, prepare to talk with your boss.
Fortunately, breastfeeding and working is now a national conversation, and most employers are prepared. Often, you’ll find your workplace has a room designated for breastfeeding mothers to take breaks. Once you find it, ensure there’s a lock on the door, a comfortable chair, and a working electrical outlet.
If your employer does not fit under the Affordable Care Act regulations and/or does not have a space set aside for pumping, consider alternatives such as an unused conference room, a storage room, or even your car. Contact your lactation consultant for additional ideas.
Establish Your Breastfeeding Routine
Don’t wing it. Instead, set your alarm early, since you’ll now get both yourself and baby ready each day. Check your pump and supplies. Plan to nurse before your breakfast, then again just before kissing your baby goodbye for the day.
Structure is important when breastfeeding in the workplace. So, for your co-workers’ sake, try to pump at the same (two or three) times each work day. Flexibility is also helpful though, so if ever you feel uncomfortably full, don’t hesitate to take an extra break.
Discuss with your manager ahead of time how you can structure pumping around your work. Some employers have their employees “sign up” for pump times. Others are open to you pumping when the time fits into your work schedule. What is most important is to try to pump as many times as the baby will feed while you are away.
You’ll settle into a rhythm in no time. Until then, the thought of breastfeeding as a working mom may be nerve wracking. Give yourself — and your coworkers — grace as you establish your new normal. Before long, you’ll be encouraging another new mom with your wisdom.