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Finding The Balance: Breastfeeding and the Working Mom

businesswoman with baby leaving for work, baby wearing, working mom

Breastfeeding Starts During Pregnancy

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in life, but it can be challenging at first for some women, especially if it’s her first baby. Pregnancy is a good time to educate yourself by gathering resources, information, and joining support groups. Most hospitals and birthing centers offer breastfeeding classes. When you attend these classes:

  • Bring your support person with you if possible

  • Jot down any questions you and your partner may have and bring them to class

  • Take notes you can refer to later

The more prepared you are before delivery, the less stressed you may feel when you begin your breastfeeding journey.

Seasoned breastfeeding moms can offer a wealth of knowledge and encouragement. La Leche League has a good resource tool for finding a support group in your area.

Plan of Action

Talk to your supervisor about breastfeeding. Have a plan in place beforehand so everyone is on the same page when you return to work. Be clear with how much time off you will need for maternity leave. It will also be helpful to both you and your supervisor to come up with a pumping schedule together. This will allow your supervisor to have a plan in place, ensuring there is appropriate staffing during your pumping breaks. Talk to your employer about providing a private and clean setting to pump.

Maternity Leave

When on maternity leave establish a good breastfeeding routine. Babies will ideally nurse on demand 8-12 times a day. Before returning to work, you can begin to build your milk supply by hand expression or pumping. There are a wide range of breast pumps on the market to choose from:

  • Manual

  • Electric

  • Single

  • Double

  • Haakaa

  • Hands-free

Once you find the right pump for your body you can begin to pump and store milk. You can have peace of mind when returning to work, knowing that your baby will have an ample supply of breastmilk while away from you.

If able, try to wait at least 1 month before offering your baby a bottle. This can help avoid nipple confusion. Allow someone else to feed your baby their bottle in preparation of being fed by someone other than mom at childcare.

When at Work

Keep your supervisor informed. If your pumping schedule at work needs to be adjusted, let them know. It may take a few days to get it right. Try to nurse your baby when you drop him or her off at childcare, and if your childcare is close enough, you may be able to nurse baby during your lunch break. The Office On Women’s Health (OWH) recommends nursing babies when picking them up from childcare before the ride home. This gives you the opportunity to reconnect with your baby after being apart and before the busyness of your home responsibilities.

The Affordable Care Act states that employers are required to provide both the time and a private, clean setting for working moms to pump. Restrooms should not be an option. Not only is it an unsanitary location, but it is also unpractical due to the lack of outlets for an electric pump. Here are a few ideas of places to pump while at work.

  • Lactation room

  • Office with a door

  • Conference room with a door

  • Storage area with door

Pumping and Storing Breastmilk

If you have trouble getting your milk to flow when pumping, there are a few things you can try:

  • Relax as much as you can. Your area should be quiet, or you can listen to calming music.

  • Use of a warm compress.

  • Look at a photo of your baby.

  • Bring an item of clothing or a blanket that smells like baby.

Below are the CDC Guidelines for Human Milk Storage:

Freshly Expressed or Pumped Milk

  • Countertop, 77° or colder: up to 4 hours

  • Refrigerator, 40°: up to 4 days

  • Freezer, 0° or colder: best to use within 6 months; acceptable up to 12 months

Thawed, Previously Frozen Milk

  • Countertop, 77° or colder: 1-2 hours

  • Refrigerator, 40°: up to 1 day (24 hours)

  • Freezer, 0°: NEVER refreeze human milk after it has been thawed

If your baby does not finish his or her bottle, make sure the leftover milk is used or thrown out within 2 hours.

Bottom Line

While the thought of breastfeeding and returning to work may seem overwhelming, there are many resources available to help you and your baby navigate this new journey.

Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness program offerings by downloading our brochure.

Written by: Jennifer McGlone, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern


1. CDC


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