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The Best Breastfeeding Tips for Working Moms Returning to Work

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Breastfeeding can be an incredibly rewarding experience for mothers, offering a unique bond with their child while providing essential nutrients for their baby's growth and development. However, for working moms, the transition from maternity leave back to the workforce can present significant challenges in maintaining a breastfeeding routine. Despite these challenges, it is possible for working mothers to continue breastfeeding successfully. Here is a step-by-step guide to follow for your journey back to work.

Before delivery:

  • Discuss with your employer about your decision to breastfeed.
  • Identify an area where you’ll feel comfortable pumping.
  • Review your breast pump options and contact your health insurance provider for breast pump coverage.

First weeks at home:

When baby is four weeks old:

  • Start giving your baby a bottle of expressed breast milk so they can get familiar with it.
  • Give your baby a “reminder bottle” every few days until you return to work, so they can continue to become comfortable with the bottle.

Three to four weeks before returning to work:

  • Begin storing your breast milk for when you return to work.
  • Begin pumping one to two times a day (the most ideal times to pump are in the morning when your breasts are naturally fuller and before you go to sleep, while your baby is sleeping)
  • Visit your childcare provider and give them directions for handling your breast milk
  • Make a “practice run” of your first day: Get up at your regular wake-up time, get your baby ready and go to your childcare provider.
  • If possible, leave your baby with your childcare provider for a short stay with a feeding, and use this time to do something special for yourself.

Five to seven days before returning to work:

  • Plan for your first week back that minimizes your duties outside of work. Try these suggestions:
    • Freeze meals.
    • Stock up on groceries.
    • Plan with your partner to share household duties.
    • Have a family member or friend help support you during this transition.

The day before returning to work:

  • Pack your baby’s bag with clothes, diapers and all other essentials.
  • Cold thaw enough breast milk for feedings.
  • Take a small frozen backup milk supply to your baby’s caregiver.
  • Pack a bag with supplies for pumping, cleaning and storing breastmilk at work.
  • Lay out everything you can in advance.

Day one as an employed parent:

  1. Wake up early and breastfeed. Hopefully, your baby will doze off after you finish breastfeeding, giving you time to dress and feed yourself.
  2. Dress your baby and pack your car.
  3. Arrive at childcare and “top off” your baby with some more breastmilk.
  4. Pump 2-3 times at work (or as often as your baby would normally feed) and refrigerate your breast milk to use for the next day when your baby is at daycare or with their caretaker.

Evening and weekends:

  • In the evening, make the most of your time with your baby and breastfeed as often as they want.
  • Spend some quiet time together snuggling.
  • Spend a few minutes repacking your bags.
  • On weekends, attempt only breastfeeding.
  • On weekends, pump once or twice if you need to maintain your “reserve” supply.

Tips for breast milk storage and handling:

Storing and handling breast milk correctly is vital for the safety and quality of the milk. The following is recommended:

  • Label and date each container. You may use bottles or breast milk bags, whichever you prefer. Make sure to label pumped milk with the date it was expressed and use the oldest milk first to ensure freshness.
  • Use insulated bags for transportation. Store the expressed milk in an insulated cooler bag with ice packs to keep it cold until you can refrigerate it. This preserves the milk’s nutrients. Ice packs are acceptable for up to 24 hours.
  • Clean your breast pump parts with dish soap and water. Sterilize daily. Refer to your breast pump manual for specific manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.

Balancing Act:

Achieving a balance between work, breastfeeding and personal life is a continuing process. Be sure to:

  • Set realistic expectations: It is OK if not everything goes according to plan; be flexible, adjust where needed. Give yourself grace for you and your baby to develop a new routine.
  • Set time management: Effective time management can help you fulfill all your responsibilities. Create a plan that includes time for work tasks, breastfeeding, pumping, and personal time.

The key to successful breastfeeding for working moms is a combination of planning, support, self-care and effective time management. It is possible to have a rewarding breastfeeding journey while maintaining your professional career.

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