Returning to work after completing your maternity leave can be a bittersweet time. While you’re excited to get back into your routine and build a life with your newborn, you’re also nervous about how you will be able to balance everything you did before, along with being in charge of another human being!
We congratulate you on this motherhood phase and offer 5 pumping tips for the working mom to give you the best foundation for creating a successful back-to-work routine for you and your baby.
It's a good idea to remember that while trying to put these steps together, there might be hiccups and setbacks, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is that you and your baby are healthy and working together to build a routine that truly works for you. Each breastfeeding schedule will be unique, and that is one of the things that make it so beautiful and special.
Develop a Plan
One strategy that can help put a new mom’s mind more at ease is having a roadmap and not constantly worrying about the “what-ifs.” You can do a few things to develop a plan for pumping at work even before you head back to the office.
Get to Know Your Pump
Don’t wait until the first day back to use your pump for the first time. Try it out a few times before so that you are familiar with the pump parts and procedures and will be more comfortable with it when you need to use it.
This is also a great way to begin a small freezer stash for those first weeks you are developing your schedule so you won't have to add worrying about baby getting enough milk to your list of stressors. A great number to keep in mind is about 1-1.5 ounces of breastmilk for every hour you will be gone. If you are away for about 8 hours, a stash of 8-12 ounces will be perfect. Don’t feel like you need to fill an entire freezer!
Another great trick is to run your pump while you’re at home nursing your baby and help your brain associate the sound of the machine with releasing milk. You can also cover the bottles with a sock during your pumping session so that you aren’t stressing about how much milk is being released.
Visit Your Office and Find Where You Will Pump
Knowing there is a comfortable place available can help lower your anxiety about where you will need to do your pumping at work. You can also use this time to talk with your employer so that you both have clear expectations of what will be expected when you make your return. This would be a good opportunity to discuss the number of times you might need to pump during work hours, whether or not a lactation room is available, and how much time you feel will be needed for each session.
Become Familiar with your Childcare Provider and Their Facilities
Be sure to visit your childcare facilities and discuss with the provider if space is available for you to nurse when you drop off and pick up. Being able to plan for this will help ensure that your baby doesn’t go too long between feedings due to traffic, unplanned distractions once you return home, or many other things that can come up unexpectedly.
Trying to keep your pumping schedule as close to your baby’s normal feeding schedule will help keep the supply and demand flowing more consistently and help your breastfeeding journey go a little smoother. There will definitely be days when that isn’t possible, but just try your best as you go.
Invest in Proper Pumping Supplies
There are many different styles and options for breast pumps, and you will want to find one that you feel will work the best for you. Many working moms have succeeded in using a double-electric pump as their top tip for pumping at work. By stimulating and pumping both breasts at the same time, you will not only be more efficient, but it can also help boost your milk supply.
There are also traditional pumps, a single electric breast pump, a hand pump, in-bra pumps and many other options for pumping moms, whether you are doing exclusive pumping or supplementing with formula and other foods (depending on your baby's age when you return to work). You will also want to find extra bottles with lids and storage bags for all that liquid gold produced with each pump session.
Another great breastfeeding staple to keep on hand are some Hands-Free Pumping Bras. These allow you to use your hands-free pump; as the name implies, your hands are free! If you want, this can allow you to check e-mails or scroll through more mindless tasks as you go through your pumping session. Sometimes not focusing on just pumping can help increase your milk production!
You will want to keep in mind that your breasts will probably leak, especially when you first get back and are developing your routine. For this purpose, you will want to keep some breast pads and possibly an extra shirt with you, just in case. While leaks and baby spit-up are now a common part of your routine, you can still keep yourself looking and feeling as professional as possible while at work.
Know Your Pumping Rights at Work
Each work environment is a little bit different, especially with many moms now working from home, but it is important to know your pumping rights at work in case you ever need to. The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law requiring employers to allow nursing moms a break time for pumping and a private room to express milk. (a private bathroom isn’t sufficient to meet these requirements)
Create an Environment for Efficient Pumping
When you are pumping, you will want an area that is private and set up properly for you to complete your session efficiently and effectively.
A few things you will want to make sure are available to you are:
- A safe place where you can lock the door, so you don’t have to worry about unnecessary distractions and interruptions
- A table you can set your pump and supplies on
- An electric outlet where you can plug your pump in
- A refrigerator you can store your milk (and pumping supplies between sessions, so you don’t have to sanitize each time)
- Small cooler and ice packs to transport pumped milk to and from the office
- Videos or pictures of your baby to help stimulate the brain to begin expressing milk
- A blanket or piece of clothing that smells like your baby
Give Yourself Lots of Grace
Returning to work and breastfeeding your baby are very big jobs to complete successfully. When setting your breastfeeding goals, it's important that you give your mind, body, and baby lots of patience as you go about this experience together. Try your best to take in these tips from other moms who have made it through, but remember that your journey is your own and will always be slightly unique to anyone else’s.
You will never be in this exact moment of time with your precious baby again. Soak up the little moments, take a deep breath in, and remember that as long as you try your best each day, it is enough! You are doing a great job, momma, and we are so proud of you!
If you’re getting back into the work routine and having some struggles with a dip in your milk supply, be sure and check out our blog for some possible answers and solutions!