Returning to work after the birth of a new baby can be a trying time for new mothers attempting to do their best for their child. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization suggest that infants be exclusively breast fed (exclusively means without supplementation of formula or solid foods) for [Ed note: at least] the first six months of life. A working mother who decides to abide by these recommendations, as I have done with each of my sons, is often left no choice but to express breast milk while working away from her child.
An increasing number of businesses are providing employees with designated lactation rooms, however, these numbers remain low. If fears of expressing breast milk in a bathroom stall or storing milk in a public refrigerator leave you feeling squeamish about pumping at work, take comfort in a few simple ways you can make breastfeeding at work more comfortable and sustainable.
Prepare yourself for success
- Start by purchasing a good breast pump. This is one purchase where you definitely get what you pay for and a good pump may cost upwards of $300. However, this initial investment will allow you to pump longer and with more ease ensuring a savings over the cost of formula feeding your child.[Ed Note: Some hospitals will rent pumps like this, which can help offset the cost of a large purchase like this, though if you plan to have more than one child, buying a pump will probably be more cost effective in the long run.]
- While still at home with your baby, pump enough milk to cover your first week back to work. Pump first thing in the morning when your milk supply is greatest or pump through those few days of engorgement right after your milk comes in.
- Gather all the supplies you will need when returning to work including extra bottles and breast pads in case of an emergency. Also, pictures of your baby and soothing music can make pumping at work easier.
- Before returning to work, consider when and where you will pump throughout the day. Begin to adopt that schedule in your last week at home.
- Easy, open communication with your boss will ensure you get what you need as a breastfeeding mom. Express the importance to you and your baby of continuing to breastfeed after returning to work. Further, stress that breastfeeding provides benefits to the company. Breastfed babies require fewer doctor's visits and breastfeeding moms have lower rates of postpartum depression. Both of which mean fewer absences from work.
- Make sure your boss knows when you will be taking breaks to express milk and if necessary, who will be covering your responsibilities during those times. Pumping should take only as long as it takes for your infant to breastfeed, less time if you have a double pump.