Working Moms & Breastfeeding
Being a parent to a newborn comes with many obstacles. You may be forced to make difficult choices for yourself and your baby. Many of these choices revolve around breastfeeding.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about eight in ten new mothers choose to breastfeed their babies rather than bottle-feed with formula. If you’re breastfeeding and planning on going back to work after your baby is born, you may be faced with some additional challenges. One of them might be how to do your job and make sure your baby has plenty of breastmilk. After all, newborns eat between eight and twelve times a day.
Here are some things you can do to make that transition easier for you and your new baby.
Know Your Rights as a Breastfeeding Mom at Work
You need to know your rights as a new working mom. Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for you to pump breastmilk for your baby. This law is in effect for up to one year after your baby is born. The law also requires employers to provide a space for you to pump. This space cannot be a bathroom but it must be a private space. Some companies are exempt from these laws. To learn more about your rights as a breastfeeding mom at work, click here.
Tips for Pumping at Work
Pumping breast milk at work takes some planning and preparation. You can follow these tips to make pumping at work go more smoothly.
- Get comfortable with your breast pump. Practice using it at home so that by the time you go back to work, you know how it works and can pump quickly and easily.
- Start pumping early. It’s best to start two to three weeks after your baby is born. This will help your baby adjust to bottle-feeding.
- Use a double-sided pump so you can pump both breasts at the same time and speed up the process once you return to work.
- Try to add in extra pump sessions before you return to work to build up your milk supply.
- Lock down a schedule and work around it. It’s recommended that you pump around the same times that your baby would breastfeed.
- Talk to your employers and make sure they are aware of your needs.
Storing Breastmilk at Work
Plastic bags or bottles? Refrigerator or freezer? Here are the safest ways to store your pumped breastmilk.
- Keep milk at room temperature. Breastmilk is good at room temperature for up to four hours.
- Refrigerate it. It’s fine to leave breastmilk in the refrigerator for up to four days.
- Place milk in the freezer. If you’re not going to use refrigerated breastmilk within four days of pumping, freeze it right after pumping.
- Use cooler packs. You can put breastmilk in a cooler or insulated cooler with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours after pumping. After that, breastmilk should go in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Store the milk in
- breastmilk storage bags, which are specifically made for freezing human milk.
- glass bottles
- BPA-free plastic bottles
Storage bottles or bags qualify as tax-deductible breastfeeding gear. Many insurance plans cover breastfeeding supplies. Call your insurance company to learn more.
New Moms Share Advice on Pumping at Work
So many moms have had to make the transition to breast pumping so they can get back to work. The key is to find what works best for you and your family.
- Kelsey Duncan said that using a strict schedule helped her when she returned to work. “Mark pump sessions on your calendar. I know when I’ve gone back to work — just did with my second too — that I get busy and run around to meetings and sometimes forget, so I made it a priority of my time, no excuses,” she said.
- Lindsay Horn found that keeping extras of everything she needed for at-work pumping kept her organized. “I had a second pump that I kept at work with my pumping bra, but also had a variety of little extras in case I ran out of something or forgot something at home. Extra nursing pads, milk storage bags, lanolin, and a set of spare pumping parts. I even kept a hand pump at work just in case something happened to my pump or supplies. I would keep my parts refrigerated, and that along with my milk was what I would bring back and forth to and from work each day. Having a ready-to-go extra set of parts saved me on more than one occasion when I walked out the door in a rush and forgot my cleaned parts at home.”
- Ellen Manner used a pumping bra when she had to transition to breast pumping. “Find a pumping bra you can wear all day long so you don’t have to switch back-and-forth,” Manner said. “Also refrigerate parts in between pumps so you don’t have to clean each time. Clean everything at night. Make sure you have plenty of Ziploc bags to store parts in the fridge and smaller bags in case you forget storage bottles.”
It is also important to continue to breastfeed as often as possible when you are home with your baby. This helps your milk supply keep up with your baby’s needs. It also allows for the connection and time together with your baby that you both might’ve missed while you were at work. Try not to stress too much. Leaving your new baby at home when you return to work can be a difficult transition. But there are people who can help you if you need it.