Many moms think they have to throw in the breastfeeding towel when it’s time to return to work. Not so! With just a little planning and commitment, plus our step-by-step primer, you’ll be prepared to tackle the logistics of continued nursing.
1. Start giving your baby a bottle fairly early
Many breastfeeding moms make the mistake of not introducing their babies to a bottle until they return to work, only to find that the infants won’t take the bottle. To head off this disaster, you need to get your child accustomed to a bottle at a fairly young age—most experts recommend introducing one filled with pumped breast milk at about 3 weeks of age, when breastfeeding is firmly established.
Don’t give a bottle much earlier than this; if you do, your baby may come to favor its faster, easier flow. If your baby won’t take a bottle from you—and why would she, when the real thing is right there?—your partner or other family member might need to do it.
2. Make friends with your trusty breast pump
In order to give your baby a bottle of breast milk, you first need to express that milk, usually with a breast pump. The best time to do this is typically right after the first nursing session of the day, when your milk supply is at its highest; even after a full session, you should have enough milk to express.
When you’re finished pumping, store your milk in either the refrigerator or the freezer—it will stay fresh for five days in the fridge and five months in the freezer. Be sure to use storage bags made especially for breast milk; they are sanitized, freezer-safe and leak-proof, says Katy Lebbing, an international board-certified lactation consultant and manager of the center for Breastfeeding Information at La Leche League International. Store your milk in 2- or 4-ounce servings (the amount your baby will likely take in one feeding) to avoid wasting any of your “liquid gold.”
Experts recommend pumping once a day, several days per week, to build up your supply for when you go back to work. Plan on giving your baby a few bottles each week; this way, she’ll stay familiar with the bottle and you won’t use up your precious milk supply. (If you pump, say, five days a week and give your baby three bottles, that leaves two bags per week for storage.)
3. Find a suitable place to pump at work
Federal law now requires that companies with 50 or more employees provide the time, as well as a private space other than the bathroom, for nursing mothers to pump. If you work for a smaller company, you may need to be creative in finding a space.
If you’re lucky enough to have your own office with a door that locks, you’re basically set. If not, take a tour through your workplace before you return to work to look for appropriate spaces. If the only place is the bathroom, try to bring in a chair so you don’t have to sit on the toilet. also make sure the area is as hygienic as possible (antibacterial wipes come in handy here), and check that your pump has a battery converter in case you don’t have access to an electrical outlet, advises Kirsten Berggren, Ph.D., C.L.C., the author of Working Without Weaning: A Working Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding (Hale Publishing).
Create a space.
Are there folding screens or cornered-off cubicles that you can use? What about a storage closet? If you play music to disguise the hum of the pump, no one will know what you’re up to.
Use your vehicle.
You can easily pump in your car by parking in a private spot and taking advantage of a few well-placed sunshades. Just make sure your pump can be operated via battery or has an ac adapter to plug into your cigarette lighter.
Did any of your co-workers face the same pumping- at-work conundrum? Ask for their tips. and, perhaps most important, don’t be afraid to ask your employer for help in finding—or creating—a space. Most companies realize the importance of keeping their employees happy and will be willing to help.