When a Breastfeeding Mom Goes Back to Work

Aside from birth itself, it seems like some of the most common concerns we hear from parents in the early days are all about how to get ready for the transition back to work. Not only are you dealing with the logistical and emotional aspect of planning for yet another big transition, but if you are a chestfeeding/breastfeeding family, you are probably already starting to think about how you are going to manage to keep up with the pumping, maintain your supply, talk to your employer or even get through the workday well-fed. Here, we take on a few of the most common, crazy-making ideas and questions and make them into bite-sized, plannable steps that we hope will help to take the pressure off as you ease back into the workplace.

1.Have you seen those incredible Pinterest pics of the deep freezers FULL of a years worth of breastmilk just waiting to be devoured? US TOO...and let’s just say that was NEVER me. I was lucky if I was ever able to even get a day’s worth of extra milk, my low supply was rarely enough to exclusively feed breastmilk...and you know what? That’s perfectly ok. I recently read something that literally gave me a sigh of relief for all the moms out there…”When preparing to go back to work, one really only needs about two days’ worth of milk in back-up”. Isn’t that so freeing just to see here in writing!?! If you’re one of the lucky ones who has an admirable stash...go YOU and certainly that will come in handy especially if you choose to stop pumping etc. and you want to continue to offer breast milk. BUT for the rest of us mortal milk-making creatures two days of backup is a great place to start. Remember, when you are away from baby you want to be pumping enough to mimic the message your body would be getting to produce if you were with your baby feeding directly. This doesn’t have to mean that you are pumping at the same time she eats, it just means you want to keep up as much as you can with the pace of things. And most importantly, take on a routine that you can maintain rather than setting yourself up for failure. (note: a consultation with an IBCLC or CLEC can work wonders in building a lasting plan to reach your goals, we can’t recommend this enough!)

2. And that brings us to #2. How to set up this routine? Should you talk to your employer/manager/team about your goals for pumping at work? The answer is a big YES YES YES absolutely YES! Where do we begin with this?

  • First, here’s a link to the “Breaktime for Nursing Mother’s Law” , hopefully, you won’t need to refer to this much or use it in your planning- but if you do, you’ve got it in your back pocket.  

  • Secondly, consider this like any other plan that you are implementing at work. Come to your team and employer with an outline of

  • when you plan to pump (block it in your calendar etc.)

  • Where you plan to pump/store etc

  • anything you will need from them (for example if there is not suitable storage option or no private, clean space to pump)

  • Any plans you have to address the challenges this may pose for THEM

This is where you get to set the ground rules and expectations and also where you get to be the educator, workplace culture-shifter that you so badly want to be! Doing this planning upfront really takes the sting out of the day to day of having to remind, approach and mention your needs time and time again and it gives your coworkers the opportunity to step up to the plate while normalizing breastfeeding for all. WIN-WIN-WIN.

3. So now you know that you’re good to go with a couple days worth of milk and you’ve got a thoughtful plan to bring to your team when you head back. What else do you need for a successful pumping journey?

Let’s start with accessories. If you’ve already got a pump, consider borrowing a second from a friend or if that’s not doable at least a second set of all the bits and bobbles that go with it. There is NOTHING worse than getting all set up, sitting down to do the thing and then realizing that you’re short a flange, or you forgot to clean the bottles you used yesterday. By setting yourself up with an extra set or two, you can eliminate the schlepping back and forth of it and the constant management of pump inventory that can make a person nuts!

So you’ve got the extra set of things, hopefully set up somewhere in your office or in a quiet, comfy spot that’s been set up for you. What else do you need to make your pumping moments happen? Maybe a special photo of you and your baby feeding at home, videos and photos on your phone to help you focus and relax, a meditation track even...anything that brings on the love and helps you to step into your mom role for a moment. A great meditation app for expecting parents is Expectful and for general meditation Headspace is also great!

You already know this one but I’ll say it anyways...water water water and snacks snacks snacks! Keep a pitcher and glass on your desk or pumping station at all times and keep easy snacks handy like the Majka bites, lactation protein powder, trail mix, pb&j, apples and nut butter, beef jerky. It goes without saying, but so many of us will just power through our days without considering what our own needs are. Baby can’t be fed if you aren’t nourished and replenished- it really is that simple.

4. My last tip is really just a plea to go easy on yourself. We aren’t all instagram moms, we don’t all have superhuman boobs, and there is no such things as the right way to do this. Having said that, so many of us throw in the towel when it isn’t exactly right- and I want to remind you that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing (it certainly wasn’t for my family). If you find that your supply dips or you have to cut down on pumping sessions and you are ready to move on a bit, you can always offer the breast when you are home in the am and/or pm or anytime you and baby are feeling it. This is your journey, your story, your version of things and it is anything but one size fits all.