When I returned to work while breastfeeding my first daughter, I found myself sorely unprepared for everything it entailed. I can’t even begin to convey the frustration I experienced — though I’m sure a lot of you know just what I’d been through. Add that to sleep deprivation and it was a very difficult time for me.
Cue crying behind my closed office door.
Looking back, I realize there’s more I could have done prior to going back to work, to make the transition a whole lot easier. (Ah, hindsight, right?) Plus, now that there are so many more workplaces doing more for working moms, and so many advances in the world of breastfeeding — like those from our newest sponsor, Lansinoh, for example — I’m hoping the transition is a lot less stressful for nursing moms who work out of the house than it was for me.
I was a huge Lansinoh fan myself back when I was breastfeeding, and I know I’m not alone. (Their nursing pads were my go-to.) And since then they’ve introduced so many terrific new products, like the first-ever Bluetooth-enabled Lansinoh SmartPump. It’s not only actually a great product on its own, but it connects to the Lansinoh Baby App which supports breastfeeding moms when it comes to tracking pumping sessions, logging your baby’s activities, keeping tabs on diaper changes, and more.
So I’m really pleased that on Lansinoh’s behalf I can share my top breastfeeding tips for moms returning to work.
Here’s to hoping these tips make your transition as smooth and successful as possible.
1. Connect with other working moms
When I became pregnant with my first daughter, I was living far away from home, and didn’t have any friends who were moms, so I found myself incredibly isolated from the proverbial village that I needed.
Plus, there were no blogs at the time, really, and no social media networks (gasp) let alone private Facebook groups, so I found myself seeking advice and comfort from books that were, frankly, a little alarmist.
If you are planning on breastfeeding — or are already — I strongly recommend that you seek out a network specifically made up of other working moms since you have your own unique issues and concerns.
- You can use online resources like blogs and social media groups — check out the Mom2Mom Breastfeeding Support Facebook group, for one, or check out the Breastfeeding Message Boards on The Bump. They won’t be all right for you, but poke around and one may feel like it’s made up of “your people.”
- Locally, you can find in-person groups through local breastfeeding advocacy organizations like La Leche League or even your local pediatrician or OB.
- You can also look for a breastfeeding Meetup in your community. (Shown below, Julie’s Mindful Parenting Working Mothers Group in New Jersey, on meetup.com)
- Another great tip: Visit local retailers that sell breastfeeding supplies because they often offer courses and support group sessions, like The Pump Station in Los Angeles and New York’s The Upper Breast Side. (Great names, right?)
What I think is important is that by creating connections with like-minded moms, you’ll get more than just advice and tips; you’ll get essential moral and emotional support from those in a similar situation. All the been-there-done-that shoulders you can find will be invaluable, especially as you start to ease into your new breastfeeding routine.
2. Make a plan. (And know it will change.)
Babies can be unpredictable, but it’s still worth making a breastfeeding plan before you head back to work, with the understanding that the plan could change — several times. And then several more.
Even so, do your best to get a pumping schedule down; make sure you have the gear you need for both pumping and transporting breast milk; and determine how your childcare provider or partner will be able accommodate your breastfeeding plan and make sure they’re prepped and ready too.
Feeling confident about your plan and knowing that others have your back will definitely help to ease the inevitable nerves every new mom has when heading back to work.
3. Be sure your workplace has you covered
Planning also means that you should talk to your boss or to HR to be sure your workplace will be accommodating. Definitely read up on the USBC “Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law” in the United States, which requires employers to provide many working mothers a reasonable amount of break time and a place to pump — that isn’t a bathroom, by the way.
Kelly Mom also has a comprehensive page on Your Rights as a Breastfeeding Employee that’s worth a read.
Plus, if your employer offers a flexible spending health savings account, get it! When setting an amount, besides your own medical visits and pediatric visits, you should also factor in the cost of pumps and pumping accessories which can add up to a sweet tax break since you’ll be paying for them with your pre-tax income.
4. Gear up. It may cost less than you think.
Breastfeeding gear has come a long way since I breastfed my kids, and hooray for that. I still remember being excited for a nursing bra that actually looked kind of attractive and now there are so many cool products including stylish nursing covers, pumping bras, and smart breast pumps like the Lansinoh SmartPump.
Their compact breast pump has customizable pumping styles and adjustable suction designed to mimic your own baby’s nursing style, so you can be as comfortable as possible. Plus, it can be used with AA batteries so you can pump on the go — super helpful for mamas who travel for work or aren’t tied down to a desk all day.
And because it connects via Bluetooth to their Lansinoh Baby App, you can easily track your baby’s growth, breast milk intake, and all your pumping sessions. (No more notes on scratch paper that end up getting tossed, or was that just me?) Plus it’s nice to get phone alerts with tips and encouragement that all new moms could use from time to time.
But here’s the great thing: your Lansinoh breast pump may be tax-deductible, along with accessories and other items that assist with lactation. (At least, provided your medical expenses exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income, which it very well may in your first year after giving birth.)
Just be sure to consult with your accountant or tax preparer and read up on the latest IRS regulations (here’s the 2015 IRS PDF on medical and dental expenses), and you may find it makes all the gear you need that much more affordable.
5. Get used to pumping…before you go to work.
While you’re still able to nurse on demand, take some time to get used to pumping so that you’ll be ready when you have to start pumping and breastfeeding on a schedule. Definitely make sure your baby gets used to taking a bottle before you leave for work that first day! Some babies take to the first bottle right away, some require you try a ton before you find the right one.
My suggestion is that you do a trial run — or as close to one as you possibly can — for 24 hours, so that you can get a sense of how things might go. That means nursing mornings and after work hours, and having the baby take a bottle while you won’t be home. You might even want to have a caregiver, whether your partner, parent, or a sitter, feed the baby during this time.
From there, you can adjust your expectations and be as ready as you possibly can for your first day back.
6. Build your supply of stored breast milk.
A huge way to alleviate the stress of returning back to work as a breastfeeding mom is to have a decent amount of expressed breast milk on hand in the fridge, so that you ease the burden of keeping your personal supply up to its full capacity. It’s common that a mom’s supply drops to some degree when returning to work; partly it’s due to stress, and partly because your body is adjusting to the differences between a plastic pump and cute baby mouth.
Now this doesn’t mean you need to go overboard and pump way more than you usually would. But pumping an extra few ounces of milk a day — try during the evenings when you know you’ll be home after work and will be breastfeeding more anyway — then stashing it in the freezer or fridge will help tremendously.
7. Be kind to yourself!
If there’s one bit of advice you take away from all of my suggestions, it’s to be kind to yourself during this process.
Your physical and emotional wellbeing is important, both for you and for the health of your baby. Even though we mamas get pretty good at adjusting on the fly and tossing out the best-laid plans, the adjustment of going back to work is a huge one no matter how ready you think you are. Especially because with the limited maternity leave offered by most US employers (grrrr…), you may just may be settling into a routine with the baby when it’s time to start a totally new one.
Just know that you’re not alone here. Whether you experience a relatively smooth transition or there are a few (or lots of) bumps in the road on your way back to work, remind yourself that you’re doing the best that you can.
It does get easier.
In fact, I can safely say that all of our staff here who nursed our babies can promise you one thing: In a few years, no one will ever judge you for how much you pumped, let alone when or where or how long you breastfed. One day you’ll blink, and you’ll be more worried about trying to get your child to eat their vegetables and wear matching socks out of the house.
Thanks so much to our sponsor Lansinoh for helping make it easier for working moms to keep breastfeeding. You can purchase the Lansinoh SmartPump at Babies R Us, Target, and through select insurance providers.