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Here are five helpful tips to better prepare for breastfeeding and going back to work
Whether you are six weeks postpartum or six months, going back to work as a breastfeeding mother requires preparation. For example, accessing breastfeeding support, building up a stash of breast milk and planning your schedule ahead of time are all ways to make breastfeeding and going back to work easier so you can provide for your family while also providing essential nutrients for your baby. Here are some ways to prepare for the change to make it work for you and your baby.
Know Your Rights As Nursing Mom
Especially for first-time moms, making the transition from full-time nursing to pumping at work may feel intimidating. The good news is that moms before you have paved the way. In fact, there are laws in place to protect nursing mothers just like you. If you’re going back to the office, review the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law. This federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for a nursing mom to express breast milk for her baby during the year following birth. It also requires employers to provide a private place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and not open to non-nursing coworkers or the public. Make sure to familiarize yourself with additional breastfeeding and pumping at work laws specific to your state because some extend the benefits for working mothers.
Then, set up a time to talk with your employer before your maternity leave ends to explain that you’ll need breaks throughout the day and a clean, quiet place to pump. Your human resources department will also be a valuable resource. Maintaining open communication will help make sure that you have the support you need—whether you are working at home or on-site.
Start Building Up a Freezer Supply
For working moms, a breast pump becomes a lifeline. Having a supply built up in advance will give you added peace of mind as you prepare to go back to work. After your baby is six to eight weeks old and your milk has started to regulate, go ahead and get to know your breast pump. If you don’t have one already, take our quiz to find the right pump for you.
Remember, you can start small. You don’t need to stockpile a month’s supply before you head back to work. Stock up about two days worth of breast milk and then keep replenishing that supply while you pump at work. We recommend pumping after or in between breastfeeding sessions to start building up your stash of frozen breast milk. Get some good breast milk storage bags—we love the ones from Lansinoh—and then check out these guidelines on safely storing your freshly expressed milk.
Plan Your Pumping Schedule Ahead of Time
Even if your baby doesn’t follow a strict schedule doesn’t mean you can’t at work. When you’re mapping out your pumping schedule, consider how often your baby eats—usually every two to three hours—and how many feedings they will need while you’re at work and on your commute. Then plan your pumping sessions accordingly, counting forward from your morning nursing session. When scheduling at-work pumping sessions, be sure to block this time in your calendar and clear it with your boss.
Finally, because you won’t have a lot of time on your pumping breaks, know how to use and clean your breast pump at work and make sure to practice in advance. Most breast pumps will come with brand-specific guides. Pro tip: Keep your breast pump parts in the refrigerator so that you don’t have to scrub them after each use, which takes up a ton of time.
Make Your Mental Health a Priority
However you feel about heading back to work, whether you’re racing to the office or getting dragged there so you can pay the rent, remember: You’re amazing for breastfeeding and providing for your family. Especially when you’re dealing with the stress of work and life while breastfeeding, make sure you’re looking out for your mental health. Self-care practices like meditation and mindfulness can make a huge difference in your daily routine. Scheduling girls’ nights and taking time for a hobby you love are also small but effective ways to mitigate the stress of working and having a new baby.
It may also benefit you to connect with a therapist or another mental health expert so you have a safe space to unload and get professional advice. For new moms, it’s especially important to be aware of the dangers of postpartum depression and anxiety. Sometimes mistaken for “the baby blues,” a condition that typically goes away after a few days, postpartum depression (PPD) is a serious mental health condition that can have long-lasting effects on everyday life. Signs and symptoms of PPD include prolonged crying, a sense of hopelessness, intense guilt, anxiety, irritability, difficulty sleeping, rapid mood swings, loss of pleasure, thoughts of harming yourself or your baby and difficulty bonding with your newborn.
Postpartum anxiety (PPA), is a similar condition that often manifests as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). PPA leads to sleeping and eating disturbances, constant and debilitating worry, racing thoughts and the general feeling that something bad is going to happen. Those who suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety may also experience panic attacks. Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are treatable conditions and their symptoms usually improve with appropriate treatment. If you suspect you may be suffering from either or both of these conditions, consider taking a screening test like this one, and get help as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have PPD or PPA, reaching out for support is a good idea for any new mom. Identify local support groups, connect with friends and dont be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Connect With a Lactation Consultant
For breastfeeding moms going back to work, meeting a lactation consultant before the end of your maternity leave can empower you to stick to your breastfeeding goals and gain their expert tips. The Lactation Network exclusively works with IBCLCs, or International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. These certified healthcare professionals are breastfeeding experts accredited by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) who assist moms throughout their breastfeeding journey by providing individualized support either in their office or in your home. Some IBCLCs offer virtual visits as well.
Visiting with a lactation expert should be the standard of care for people who choose to breastfeed. Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act requires that insurance plans cover lactation care, so you should be able to meet with an IBCLC at no out-of-pocket cost. Before going back to work, take steps to ensure you have the support you need. We can confirm your coverage and set up a visit for you with an IBCLC in your area, so you can concentrate on taking care of yourself and your baby as you head back to work.