You’re about to have a baby.
You plan to breastfeed.
You plan to continue breastfeed when you go back to work.
Now, just how is that going to work?
The International Breastfeeding Symbol makes for a great door sign on your office or lactation room while pumping. It is an image designed for the public domain. Mothering.com allows you to download in a variety of forms here.
Despite all the know benefits of breastfeeding for the health and well being of our children, many of us face barriers and challenges when we return to work that derail our efforts to continue to breastfeed. Susan Dennis, one of our wonderful TMC Lactation Consultants, shares her tips for making the return to work and still continuing to breastfeed:
1. Set the Stage-Before Your Due Date
Before your due date talk to your employer or supervisor about your plans to breastfeed and the positive implications for your workplace if you’re able to continue to breastfeed and to express milk when you return to work:
-lower healthcare costs for both mother and child. Breastfed babies have lower rates of infection and illness and breastfeeding has positive implications for mothers too, ex. lower rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.
-lower absentee rates
-higher employee morale (and so productivity)and positive view of a "family friendly" employer.
-retention of experienced employee
If you work at a site with a human resources office you may wish to check in with them first as there may be a site based program to support you. The Federal Government has a wonderful document including compelling data on their WomensHealth.gov page that you might want to share: Business Case for Breastfeeding. Among other items this document includes a list of myths and facts that you may wish to arm yourself with in case your employer or supervisor has concerns.
My personal preference is to lead with the above, all the reasons an employer should be supportive of breastfeeding. However, it is also useful to know the legislative requirement of employers to be supportive. The recent Healthcare Reform Act (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) made clear the responsibility of all employers to provide suitable (private, not a bathroom) space and reasonable time for mothers to express their milk multiple times a day without interruption. You can find more information about the federal law here.
Before your due date, come up with a plan with your employer or supervisor to make pumping successful.
Your plan should include:
-location of a private, non-bathroom space, where you will not be disturbed or viewed while you express milk.
-how your work schedule will allow you two to three approximately 15 minute (plus travel time) breaks every work day.
-where you will be able to store your breast milk. Susan suggests a cooler that you can take to and from work.
-where you will be able to store and clean your breast pumping equipment
-how you might modify your schedule at the beginning to ease into being away from your baby.
For this last point Susan suggests returning to work for reduced hours the first few weeks or starting in the middle of your work week so that you have less time away from baby the first week back.
Once you have agreed upon a plan, write it down and share a copy with your employer and supervisor. I'd also suggest tapping into a powerful resource, your colleagues. Is there someone in your workplace who breastfed their children? Or whose partner breastfed? Can they be a champion for you? Until we have a child and start to breastfeed we may be oblivious to those in our work place who were forging the way with regard to breastfeeding and working. These colleagues may be able to offer support and practical solutions for your specific work place.
2. Breastfeeding- The Early Days Before the Return to Work
-Once your milk supply is established, between days three and five postpartum, choose two times a day to pump and store the pumped milk in the freezer. You will use this milk when you introduce pumped milk in a few weeks time. The La Leche League provides guides for storage on their site, but frozen milk can be stored for up to a year. La Leche League also has guides for what to store the milk in.
-Breastfeed as much as possible in the early weeks before introducing your baby to pumped milk.
-Once breastfeeding is going well and the baby is three to four weeks old, you can introduce a bottle two to three times per week to get your baby use to bottle feeding.
-Consider renting a hospital grade pump or quality double electric pump for use at work. It is more efficient. For more information on pumps including rental pumps contact TMC's Desert Cradle (324 2180). At the Desert Cradle you can buy and rent equipment, AND also get help in understanding how it works. The staff at the Desert Cradle are a superb resource.
3. Back to Work - Making it Work
-When you're away from your baby, pump every 2-3 hours or as much as possible.
-Breastfeed just before you leave for work and as soon as you get home again.
-Help your milk expression by having pictures of your baby with you (I had them on my pump case); record the sounds of your baby on your cell phone or voice mail and listen to them while pumping.
-Try to create a relaxing atmosphere in which to pump. Closing your eyes, breathing deeply and relaxing will help with expression of milk.
-Massage your breasts before and during the middle of the pumping session.
-End your pump session with hand expression to aide breast drainage.
-When home, feed your baby on demand to help maintain your supply.
-Keep talking with your employer/supervisor about what is working and what isn't. Breastfeeding and pumping is an organic thing, be flexible.
Dr. Jack Newman provides many fabulous resources for breastfeeding moms. This link includes techniques for expressing milk successfully when you're away from your baby.
As a working mom, you have many responsibilities and it may be challenging to keep up your milk supply. Food, drink, and lots of cuddling with your baby in addition to frequent breastfeeding on your days off will help maintain your supply. Remember, you are doing a great job. Call our Breastfeeding Support Program ( 324-5730) if you have any questions.
We'd love to hear your input. If you've already breastfed and made the transition back to the work place can you share a little of your experience? How did you make it work? What challenges did you face? Did you have a particularly positive experience with an employer? Give kudos to them.
Useful Resources We Particularly Like:
TMC's Breastfeeding Support Program - Call 324-5730
TMC's Breastfeeding Support Group - Every Thursday from 10-11:30am in the Fireplace Room of the Patio Building (NW Corner of Beverly and Grant)
TMC has lactation rooms for its staff on the postpartum unit. Contact the Breastfeeding Support Program for more information
La Leche League's Work and Breastfeeding provides lots of great articles on the topic
Womenshealth.gov provides a host of information for both employers and employees
In the Literature:
The Milk Memos - At times hilarious, sometimes poignant and always insightful resource that started as a plea from one new mom sitting in a lactation room at IBM to whoever might be also using the lactation room.