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When Jo Anderson became pregnant, she knew she wanted to breastfeed her baby for as long as possible, even after she went back to work. But when she returned to her job as a public relations executive, she found that continuing to breastfeed was more difficult than she had anticipated.
“Finding the time to pump was hard,” says the 37-year-old Anderson. “Even though my employer was understanding and supportive, my job is pretty demanding, and it was tough to get away from my desk three times a day for the 20 or so minutes it took to pump.” But the work didn’t end there. “When I got home at the end of the day,” Anderson says, “the last thing I wanted to do was wash and sterilize the pump and bottles and then get my milk ready for the next day.”
Yes, continuing to breastfeed once you’ve returned to work takes commitment, but it’s well worth the effort. Not only does it allow you to meet your baby’s nutritional needs in the best possible way, but it also helps make long separations more bearable by knowing that you’re giving him a special gift several times a day — even when you’re far away from him. “Sure, pumping was inconvenient at times,” Anderson says, “but I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”
Here are tips to help you make your return to work as smooth as possible:
Continuing to breastfeed once you’ve returned to work can add time and work to your day, but the health benefits for your baby — fewer ear infections and respiratory illnesses to name just two — are endless. “Breastfed babies are much less likely to get sick during their first year than formula-fed babies,” says Marsha Walker, R.N., I.B.C.L.C., a lactation consultant in Weston, Mass., and former president of the International Lactation Consultant Association. Furthermore, Walker adds, since their babies are sick less often, breastfeeding mothers who work have three to six times less absenteeism than those who exclusively formula-feed their babies. And that’s good for everyone in the office.
The choice is really up to you; since you will be pumping several times a day, just make sure that you choose a dependable, efficient model that can pump both breasts simultaneously. You may be able to rent a hospital-grade pump from the birthing center or hospital where your baby is born for about $1 to $3 a day, but if you plan to continue nursing for several months (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding your baby for at least the first year), in the long run, it may be less expensive to buy. (Electric pumps range in price from about $120 to $300; manual and battery-operated pumps are less costly but may not be sufficient for frequent, long-term pumping.)