Infant Tips

Breastfeeding and the Working Mom

By: Allison Katz

My maternity leave with my daughter was a few of the best months of my life. So when it came time to returning to work I knew it was going to be tough, regardless of whether or not I was breastfeeding. Sadly, I had to stop breastfeeding my son D shortly after returning to work the first time around because my milk flow wasn’t as strong, and he had a really hard time switching between breast and bottle. However, with Lulu, my 2nd child, I was determined to continue breastfeeding for as long as I could – or as long as it made sense for our family. Originally I was very nervous about pumping at work and for many reasons, as I imagine many other moms are in the same position. Would Lulu experience nipple confusion like her brother D did, as going back and forth between the bottle and the breast can’t be easy? Would I feel comfortable pumping at work? Would there be a place for me to pump at work? Would my breast milk supply go down? Would Lulu do well taking bottles all day at daycare? Although I realize all babies are different, and every situation is not the same, I was pleasantly surprised with our transition. Lulu did beautifully, and pumping at work was never an issue for me.

To help ease the transition, I started pumping occasionally about a month after Lulu was born so that I could freeze some of the breast milk for when I did ultimately go back to work. We also started giving Lulu breast milk in a bottle early on as well, not only because I knew I would be returning to work, but because my husband wanted to enjoy that special feeding time with her as well. With D we used Dr. Brown’s bottles, but with Lulu we switched to Born Free and she took to them immediately. I was extremely nervous that upon returning to work she wouldn’t be able to switch back and forth between the breast and bottle. She had already been taking the bottle from daddy here and there, but 90% of the time we breastfed at home. I was nervous that she would forget how to latch and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy our time together, both morning and night. I enjoyed every minute of my breastfeeding experience with Lulu (besides the occasional biting – click here for more on that topic!) and was so excited to be able to continue until she was roughly 14 months old.

Things to think about when returning to work:
  1. Talk to your employer in advance. Let them know that you plan to pump when returning to work so that they can help you come up with a plan, or designate a special “nursing room,” for you and other moms in the same situation. You’ll need a comfortable place to sit, a table, an electrical outlet, privacy, and ideally a sink so you can wash off any parts that come into contact with your milk. Oh, and maybe your lunch or paperwork so you’re using this time as efficiently as possible.
  2. Determine your pumping schedule. How many times a day will you need to pump, and at what times? I blocked off two half hour time slots within my schedule so that people would not schedule meetings during those time periods. To be fair to my employer, I of course adjusted those times if needed, but for the most part I was always able to stick to my schedule, and my employer was extremely accommodating to nursing moms. In November, 2012 Summer even won the Silver Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace Award.
  3. Determine where you will store your milk. Many employers have refrigerators that employees are able to use. If you’re able to store the milk in an actual refrigerator, great, but if not a cooler with ice bags will work too.
  4. Pack your breast pump bag the night before. Same as you would do with your child’s lunch bag, get as much prepared the night before so you don’t forget anything and to help make the morning routine a little easier. Keep hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and extra breast pads in your pump bag. All of them will prove to come in handy.
  5. Keep extra batteries in your pump bag. In case there’s a need to pump on-the-go, or pump in the car (I’ve had to do this on occasion) keeping extra batteries on hand could be important, that’s assuming you have a battery pack option.
Lulu is just about 14 months old and I feel so lucky to have been able to breastfeed her for this long. Going back to work and pumping wasn’t an issue for us and I am so grateful for that. I was able to continue nursing her in the morning and at night on workdays, and all day on the weekends. I know it’s not always that easy, which made me treasure those nursing moments that much more. Coming up with a good routine ahead of time, finding the right bottle for your baby, and having patience and determination will help make pumping at work that much easier.

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Dr. Levine

Dr. Alanna Levine is a New York based pediatrician and a mom of two children.