Being a parent is no joke. But, being a breastfeeding/pumping and a working parent is one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever hold. No matter how you feed your baby, you are doing a great job and I want you to feel recognized. I see you! Keeping yourself nourished and rested while simultaneously keeping a tiny human alive, nurtured, and content is an accomplishment all in itself!
Returning to work after having a baby can be an experience of mixed emotions and navigating how you will continue to breastfeed or pump at work can be even more daunting. There’s a few things you need to know such as what laws are in place to protect nursing parents, when should you pump to support your milk supply, and how to store breastmilk at work after you express!
Here are a few fun facts about breastfeeding and transitioning back to work:
- - All fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public place. Only 30 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. It seems silly that a woman couldn’t just feed her baby when and how she pleases, but that’s the sad truth. Be sure to check your specific states’ laws about public indecency laws. Remember, always keep yourself and your baby safe which sometimes means leaving a situation or location if you are in danger.
- - The law is on your side. “The federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to provide basic accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work. These accommodations include time for women to express milk and a private space that is not a bathroom each time they need to pump. Learn more about what is required of employers and what employees need to know.” (Taken from https://www.womenshealth.gov/supporting-nursing-moms-work/what-law-says-about-breastfeeding-and-work) Your place of employment is required to provide you a safe and clean place to pump. This place should not be a bathroom and it is required to lock. If your employer doesn’t comply or makes you feel uncomfortable about your request, you can file a complaint here.
- - Transitioning back to work can impact your supply. Going back to works often means your schedule will change, stress will increase, and you no longer have time to rest during the day if you needed to. This can be tricky considering you might actually be trying to build a supply/freezer stash for your babe to eat during the day. Don’t worry, you can prepare beforehand and there are professionals that help create a plan for you! It is recommended to add an extra pumping session in the morning and right before bed in the weeks leading up to your return to work so you can build a freezer stash!
- - You don’t always have control over your schedule at work, but you do have control over your food consumption. Stress and a change in diet are the two things that will deplete your milk supply lickity-split. When returning to work, try setting reminders on your phone to drink water and eat foods that boost supply, also known as galactagogues. Oatmeal, apples slices + peanut butter, and boobie bars are my go-to’s! Often times, food is offered at company parties or business meeting so be mindful of ingredients. Be sure to stay away from foods that impact milk production negatively like peppermint, sage, alcohol, a steep increase in coffee/caffeine consumption, and parsley.
- - Try to pump at the same time your baby would normally eat. If you can pump within 30 minutes of your normal feeding time, you should not see a change in your supply. If this isn’t possible, a pro-tip is to purchase a hand-pump and mini-fridge to keep in your office/at your cubicle to express any engorgement throughout the day. If you find that you have trouble relaxing at work enough to pump, try bringing headphones (listen to relaxing music/nature sounds), a picture of your baby (to elicit letdown), and a cool drink of water (hydration, duh!)
A few other pro-tips from HeHe are:
- - Do a “dry-run” before your first day back to work. The week before you return to work, practice waking up at the time you would for work, getting your baby dressed, “ready for childcare,” into the car, out the door, drive to their childcare place, then drive to work. This will give you a good idea of timing, traffic, and will alleviate some of the “first day jitters” that comes along with going back to work.
- - Have a “reminder discussion” with you supervisor about two weeks before you return to work to jog their memory of your new needs (pumping, time off, schedule changes to get your babe from daycare, etc) and to ensure that your pumping room is all set up. This will help alleviate some of the hustle and bustle of returning after being on maternity leave for a few weeks.
- - Introduce a bottle before returning to work. It is helpful to have someone other than the breastfeeding parent introduce a bottle. Remember to warm the milk (if not freshly expressed) to slightly warmer than body temperature, keep the nipple filled with milk, and hold your baby at a 45° angle.
Transitioning back to work after maternity leave will no doubt have it’s hiccups, but learning how to be a nursing parent while working doesn’t have to be one of them. Remember, the law is on your side and you have more control than you may realize. Take the time to speak with your supervisor before your maternity leave and have a plan in place for when you get back.
To help you transition back to work as smoothly as possible, we have put together a Breastfeeding Basics Bundle for you!