Returning to Work While Breastfeeding

The first thing you have to deal with concerning your return to work is your commitment to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding while working presents some real challenges. But if you are committed to breastfeeding your baby because of all the health benefits it gives your baby and the special bonding it provides between you and your baby, then you shouldn’t become discouraged by the challenges. And remember that breastfeeding does not last forever, but the benefits are lifelong. So, develop that positive attitude and start planning.

Consider your options — Does your employer offer baby-care options, such as taking your baby to work, wearing your baby in a sling while you work, working at home part of the week, or an on-site day care? Can you find a day-care provider near your workplace so you can visit a few times during the day to cuddle and breastfeed? Can you find a day-care provider, or relative who will bring your baby to you at lunch or meet you half-way? Can you work a part-time schedule for at least a while when you first return to work? If your current employment doesn’t allow any of these options, can you find a new job that will? It’s amazing how some creative thinking about this may produce employment options you didn’t know you had.

Be flexible — There is little in life that stays the same for long. Expect change when dealing with work, your baby, and breastfeeding. You may miss your baby much more than you expected. As your baby grows, her needs may change. Your work schedule may change. Your day-care situation may change. You may be more tired and stressed than you expected. These may present small challenges or big challenges. Be flexible and don’t be afraid to make adjustments for the sake of your baby. Quitting your job, finding a job closer to home, cutting back on expenses so you can stay at home full-time, or becoming a childcare provider for your own baby and others so you can be at home are all changes you may want to consider.

Choose your caregiver carefully — Make sure the childcare provider you choose knows that you will be breastfeeding and all that that entails. She will have to thaw and warm your breastmilk, store leftover milk and feed with supplemental bottles at your direction. If your caregiver isn’t supportive of your breastfeeding, find one who is.

Learn to use your breast pump — Learn everything you need to know about your breast pump, how it works and how to clean it. Use it before you return to work and store up some milk in your freezer before you go back to work. Remember, when you are nursing often and pumping in between feedings, you probably won’t get a lot of milk. But when you return to work and you haven’t been nursing your baby at the breast as often, you will get more milk when you pump.

Get your baby used to the bottle — A few weeks before you return to work, begin offering your baby a bottle. Some babies will take the bottle right away, especially if it has your milk in it. If your baby doesn’t, don’t worry. Your baby may not want a bottle from you because she expects your breast, but she may take it eagerly from a caregiver.

Talk to your employer — Talk to your supervisor about your plans to continue breastfeeding your baby and your need to pump breastmilk during work, so you’re not unprepared when you return to work. Ask if there is a place for you to go to pump your milk and store it. If you need to leave work to attend to your baby, discuss this up front. If you know other women in the workplace who have pumped milk for their babies, they can probably offer helpful advise.

Ease into your back-to-work schedule — Get permission to start back to work on a Wednesday or Thursday, so you will work two or three days and then have two days to rest up. If it’s at all possible, request a three- or four day work week for the first several months, so you and your baby can adjust.


More about Breastfeeding for Beginners

Overview of Breastfeeding
When to Feed Your Baby
How to Feed Your Baby
Breast Care While Breastfeeding
Breast and Nipple Problems While Breastfeeding
Expressing and Storing Breast Milk
Keeping up the Milk Supply
Nutrition While Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding in Special Situations
Returning to Work While Breastfeeding
Resources for Support While Breastfeeding

Mother holding newborn

Tip From Baby:
Because you’re away from me while you’re working, the time we spend together breastfeeding is even more special.

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