By Tania P. Nisimblat Bodnar, MD
You’ve enjoyed several weeks or months connecting with your baby. Now it’s almost time to return to work. How do you juggle your job routine with breastfeeding, and still stay connected with baby? Here are a few things to consider.
1. Breastfeeding and bonding. Congratulate yourself on the decision to keep breastfeeding upon your return. You’re really connecting with your baby in a profound way. While this may seem difficult, remember that it’s rewarding for working moms—you’ll soon embrace the physical and emotional connection you have with your baby by making the most of nursing time before and after work.
2. Give yourself time. Start pumping now for storage upon your return to work—about 1-2 weeks in advance. Begin by pumping once a day to help your body learn to "let-down" to a pump. Experts generally recommend pumping about an hour after breastfeeding. Slowly increase to 2 to 4 pumping sessions per day, but always feed baby first. This routine will allow you to provide milk to your baby’s caregiver during the day.
3. Pump at your comfort level. If your goal is to interfere as little as possible with baby’s breastfeeding routine, it may be a good idea to pump one breast while he or she feeds from the other. If your goal is faster pumping, you can use a double collection kit to pump both breasts at once, but begin by alternating between breasts to ease yourself into it.
4. Ask questions. To help facilitate an open dialogue with your boss, it’s a good idea to go back to work with a list of questions. What type of environment can they provide for pumping? Is it private? Is there a refrigerator to store your milk, or should you provide your own cooler? Will you be able to plan pumping around your baby’s usual feeding schedule?
5. Support is important. Compassion and understanding from your boss is the most important part. You should be able to comfortably pump while on the job, as often as you’d breastfeed. That aside, it’s a courteous gesture to inform your employer of your plan before returning to work. Communication is key.
6. Benefits for them. It’s been proven that pumping at work can be good for the company. Support from your employer in this endeavor ultimately results in more productivity on your end.
7. Benefits for you. Pumping every few hours greatly decreases your risk of developing mastitis, inflammation or infection of the breast tissue. The symptoms of mastitis often cause discomfort.
8. Benefits for baby. By now, you’re well aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Many understand that a breast milk-fed baby is a healthier baby.
9. Leave work at work. This is always a tough one for anyone who works. But once you get home or pick up baby from childcare, it’s time to reconnect right away. Try to breastfeed as soon as possible for this reason.
10. Find time to pat yourself on the back. This transition isn’t easy, but you’re doing great—remember that. Take the weekends to reward yourself, whether it’s a spa hour or mani-pedi. After all, you’re succeeding at the most challenging full-time job of all: being a mom.
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