Breastfeeding and returning to work

What you need to know for a smooth transition

For many, breastfeeding is a natural part of becoming a mother and a priority for the health of the baby.  With the right preparation and support, you don’t have to give up your breastfeeding goals when you go back to work.

Nearly 75 percent of women of childbearing age work outside of the home, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.  Most working mothers go back to work six to eight weeks after having a baby.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the baby’s first six months of life, with the addition of complementary foods after that,” said Elizabeth Doyle, M.D., pediatrician and director of lactation at Norton Healthcare. “So the majority of working breastfeeding mothers will have to pump at work.”

If you have made the decision to breastfeed your child, you should — and can — continue to do so as long as you are able. There are benefits to breastfeeding for as long as mother and baby want to continue. Pumping and working can be challenging, but planning ahead will help you be successful.

Plan during pregnancy
Don’t wait until you are ready to head back to work to start thinking about your breastfeeding plan. Consider these tips before your baby arrives:

  1. Create a breastfeeding plan with your boss: Talk to your manager about your proposed breastfeeding plan, including where you plan to pump, where you plan to store your milk, and the number and duration of breaks you’ll need for pumping during work hours. Get your manager’s approval before your maternity leave.
  2. Locate your child care options: Investigate child care options to determine if any are close to work, which could allow you to breastfeed your baby on longer breaks. If your breaks aren’t long enough or a child care facility is not close enough, ask if the facility can store and use your pumped breast milk to feed your baby during the work day.
  3. Practice makes perfect: Get a quality electric breast pump and practice expressing milk before returning to work. Contact a lactation consultant, your health care provider, WIC program or a public health department if you have difficulties pumping or have questions.

Returning to work
Eliminate the anxiety of returning to work by following these simple tips from moms who have made a successful transition back into the workforce:

  1. Ask questions: Find a strong support system of women who have been there before. Talk to your friends and family to learn from their experiences with breastfeeding and working, and ask co-workers about their experiences pumping at work.
  2. Locate a lactation space: Map out the quickest route to and from your workplace’s lactation space or the place where you plan to pump. Make sure the door locks and provides enough space for you to pump.
  3. Evaluate your lactation plan: What works on paper may not be effective once put into action. After a few weeks of using your lactation plan created with your manager prior to your maternity leave, take a look at how it is going. Discuss any changes that need to be made.

Pumping schedule
Creating a pumping routine is the key to a successful transition to work. Most moms will need to use their morning and afternoon break times and part of their lunch break to pump. If you don’t have usual break times, talk to your supervisor about scheduling times for this process.

“Currently any business with 50 or more employees must provide a private place to pump — not a bathroom — as well as sufficient break time to pump,” Dr. Doyle said.

With a double-sided electric pump, each pumping session will take about 15 to 20 minutes; however, some women might pump for a longer or shorter time. You also will need time to get to and from the lactation space and to wash your hands and equipment. A hands-free pumping bra allows you the flexibility to eat or drink, answer emails or just play a game to pass the time.

Sample pumping schedule for 8-hour work day – first 6 months

Before you leave home

Morning break
2 hours into your work schedule
Lunch
5 hours into your work schedule
Afternoon break
6 to 8 hours into your work schedule
At the child care
site or home
Breastfeed Breastfeed

Sample pumping schedule for 12-hour work day if doing first and last feedings at home – first 6 months

Before you leave home

Morning break
2.5 hours into your work schedule
Lunch
6 hours into your work schedule
Afternoon break
9.5 hours into your work schedule

At the child care
site or home

Breastfeed

Breastfeed

Need more support?
Elizabeth Doyle, M.D., is a Norton Healthcare internist and pediatrician who specializes in breastfeeding.  She sees both mothers and babies for breastfeeding issues such as latch problems, low supply, adoptive nursing, going back to work and breastfeeding, and medication and breastfeeding questions. Dr. Doyle offers breastfeeding support and expertise. To make an appointment, call Norton Children’s Medical Associates – Broadway at (502) 629-8990.


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