If you're a new mom expecting to go back to work, you're not alone. Plenty of mom's enjoy what little maternity leave they have, but eventually end up having to go back to the office. Luckily, The Baby Cubby knows how hard this can be, so we talked to some mom's who know what it's really like. After all, there's nothing like solidarity between working moms, amiright?With everything you're dealing with in going back to work, breastfeeding can be one of your top stresses. But with the help of tips from experienced moms who know and some trusty breastfeeding gear, you'll find your way through those first few difficult months. I personally have never worked outside of my home after my baby was born, so I turned to some mothers who do, and have done so successfully. Each of my sisters-in-law work to bring in a significant income for their families, so I turned to them for advice. Here is what I learned:
Tip #1: Allow Yourself Enough Time to Pump
More than anything, pumping at work takes time. In some vague part of your brain it might be easy to think you'll dash away for a quick pumping session here and there, but don't be fooled: pumping at work requires some real scheduling.
One sister-in-law works as part of a cohesive team in a heart transplant office (she is a nurse practicioner). In her experience, finding the time to pump was difficult because every time she went to pump, it left her team members to pick up the slack. In addition, patients were scheduled in her office all day long. So despite the real need to pump to maintain her milk supply and avoid painful engorgement, she found herself feeling guilty for leaving work to do so.
Something I didn't think about that my sister-in-law also mentioned was that some coworkers were less understanding about her situation than others. Is it possible that the people you work with might get annoyed because of your "extra" breaks? Yes. But knowing this going in makes a huge difference. Just remember that you have a legal right to breastfeed during work hours in a private place.
Tip #2: Schedule Where to Pump and Where to Store
As mentioned above, you have a legal right to request a clean and private space to pump in. For some, this might seem impossible. If you haven't gone back to work yet, scout out some possible pumping spots, and discuss the issue with your immediate supervisor. More often than not, people are willing to accommodate you so you can comfortably pump at work.
After you're done pumping, store the milk in a cool place. The office fridge seems obvious, but it's usually nice to get a cooler of some kind to prevent awkward break room encounters.
When pumping, you want enough space to lay out any equipment you'll need, along with a sink nearby for hand washing and any other necessary hygiene of the bottles and equipment. Keep in mind, it helps loads if you have a compact pump system, like the Medela Pump In Style that we wrote about last week. Speaking of keeping things clean...
Tip #3: Keep all of Your Equipment Clean and Ready to Use
If you will be working more than 3 days a week, it's probably a good idea to invest in a milk storage system along with all the necessities for bottle cleaning and drying. A normal 5-day work week requires preparation before and after work to maintain a good pumping schedule.
The Cubby Community Blog talked a little while ago about best practices for Safe Breast Milk Storage. Remember that prompt washing and drying of the bottles, tubing, and pump is part of those safety guidelines, as well.
It might seem overwhelming, but once you get into the swing of things, it will become routine just like anything else. As soon as you get home from work, safely store the milk you've pumped in the fridge or freezer. Then, wash out all containers, bottles, and tubing/pump equipment. Lay them out to air dry before you pack them away for the next day. (It helps to have breast milk storage bags that lay flat in a milk cooler!)
Don't forget, you might want to bring along a breastfeeding cover for privacy, and a burp cloth in case of spills (and for drying off).
Tip #4: Prepare By Pumping Now Before You Start Work
Other than keeping your breasts from figuratively exploding because they're so full, pumping at work is largely to maintain your milk supply so that you can keep breast or bottle-feeding your baby as they grow. To this end, it's best to remain consistent in your pumping and breast feeding when not at work.
My sources tell me that one great way to prepare is by pumping before you actually go back to work. This will let you start to make a back-up freezer supply, which puts you ahead for when you do go back to work. The earlier you can get used to the whole pumping process (and storing milk), the better. You can try different techniques like feeding your baby one side and pumping on the other for storage.