Returning to Work as a Breastfeeding Mom

Returning to work can cause you to have mixed feelings. This parenting milestone occurs when you are under sleep deprivation, learning new household dynamics and struggling with real concerns about baby care and work re-entry. Millions of women have made the same journey, and you can do this too. Be realistic, don’t try to do it all. Be kind and patient with yourself as you adjust to your new life and learning new skills.

You want to learn to hand express before you transition to using a breast pump. Hand expression can make it easier for baby to latch, for you to pump, and can increase your milk output and expression overall. In one study published in 2009, moms who hand expressed AND used a breast pump (called “hands-on pumping”) provided 48 percent more milk than moms who used a breast pump alone. Hand expression allows moms to manually express their milk regardless of timing or supplies available. Don’t forget to reach out to Lovelace Lactation Services for support, education and resources even after you have returned home.

It helps to discuss where you will be able to pump with your employer before you return to work. In New Mexico, employers are required to allow flexible break times and provide private space that is not a bathroom for lactating employees to pump. You will also need to determine how and where you will store your breast milk while at work. Some employers encourage moms to store their breast milk in the department break room refrigerators, while others support moms by providing ice packs and insulated lunch totes for breast milk storage. 

You may also consider pumping and storing milk before returning to work. Remember in this early time, what you are pumping is the extra you still have available after feeding baby. You will be surprised at how quickly your supply can increase to support breastfeeding and breast milk storage.

Create a practice day, where you get ready for work, pump and pack all the things you will need on a typical day. Arrange childcare and leave home. Arrange to pump on the schedule you think will work for you and your employer and return home around the same time you would if you worked this day. You can do this for a full day, or a half day. You will learn what you forgot, if you have enough milk banked for a day away from your baby, and provide you pumping practice.

When you are pumping away from your baby, here are a few tips to support optimal milk production:

  1. Drink plenty of water.
  2. Pump in a private space.
  3. Look at photos or videos of your baby as you pump.
  4. Use this time for relaxation techniques to support stronger let down and milk ejection.
  5. Pump both breasts simultaneously using a fully automated hospital grade electric pump.
  6. Incorporate hands-on pumping into your practice.
  7. Whenever you are with your baby, breastfeed! There's nothing more effective in removing milk from your breast than your baby.

When you get home from work allow yourself snuggle time. Housework can wait, or you can ask for help doing those chores. You deserve time to hold your baby, smell that sweet baby scent and just be a mom for a little while. Sometimes, those minutes or hours at the end of the day can remind you that all your hard work, patience and worries are worth it.

Submitted by Kym Halliday Clear RN, CCRN-K. Manager Outpatient Programs, Lovelace Women’s Hospital. 



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