Learning to juggle the demands of work with the needs of your new family is hard no matter how you feed your baby. Pumping at work allows you to continue the special breastfeeding relationship you established and reap the health rewards for you and your baby.
Legally, your employer must provide break time and space for mothers to pump breast milk. Getting familiar with your rights as an employee and the logistics of pumping can help you feel more confident in your decision to continue breastfeeding.
Prior to Returning to Work
- Learn how to juggle it all. AAMC’s Breastfeeding and the Working Mother class will teach you the secrets to maintaining a good milk supply, the proper use of your breast pump and proper feeding of baby while away from mom.
- Get familiar with your pump. At least two weeks before you plan to return to work, get your pump out of the case and figure out how to make it work. Check to see if the maker of your pump has a helpful online tutorial. Remember, most insurance companies now cover the cost of your pump. Talk to your insurance company for their policy.
- Start freezing. Don’t stress thinking you need to stockpile frozen milk before you return to work. Ideally, each day you will pump enough milk at work to feed your child the next day. Having some frozen milk can be helpful though. Before you return to work, find a time you can pump each day. Pumping after your morning feeding, when you tend to have the most milk, is recommended. Freeze the milk in the amount your baby takes in a bottle. Get familiar with tips for storing, freezing and thawing breast milk.
- Discuss logistics. Talk to your employer about where you will pump and store your milk. Remember, the law is on your side. Legally, the space for you to pump must be functional for expressing milk, shielded from view, free from intrusion, available as needed and NOT a bathroom.
Back to Work
- Block off your schedule. If you control your schedule, block out 30-minute time slots every three hours. Try to estimate when you will last feed your baby before heading to work, and go from there. Consistency in your pumping time will help you maintain your milk supply and help pumping become part of your routine, but your body can be flexible. The most important thing is to not skip pumpings. The number of times you pump will depend on how many feedings you miss while you’re away from your baby.
- Find support. Get support from other women who are working and breastfeeding. Talking about the challenges, offering tips to simplify the process and sometimes just laughing about how you’d like to throw your pump out the window will keep you motivated. Join AAMC’s Back to Work and Breastfeeding Support Group or AAMC Smart Parents on Facebook to connect with other moms.
If you’re not sure if you want to continue breastfeeding after you return to your job, it could be helpful to set up a ‘trial period’ for yourself. Trying it for a set amount of time will give you a chance to get familiar with a routine and help you make the ultimate decision of how long you’d like to continue.