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Back to Work -- and Still Breastfeeding

Weaning is no longer a given for moms returning to the workplace. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that baby receive breast milk through the first year. More and more moms and workplaces are coming together to help this happen. Increasingly, employers are willing to accommodate breastfeeding moms, providing them with the opportunity and support necessary to return to work without giving up breastfeeding.

If you're returning to work before your baby's first birthday but want to continue to breastfeed, consider these steps:

Before you go back to work:

  • Talk to your employer. Sit down and explain what your needs will be and see if you can come to solutions together. If you'll need flexibility in your schedule, a private place in which to use a breast pump, or storage for pumped breast milk, be sure to give your boss enough time to make these arrangements happen.
  • Secure your equipment. Purchase a double-pumping kit with your electric breast pump to reduce the amount of time you'll need to express milk at work. Practice with the pump before returning to work so you'll be comfortable with it.
  • Bank your milk. By pumping ahead of your return, you can lay down a good supply in the freezer and reduce some of the stress of your first days back. Breast milk keeps five to seven days in the refrigerator and six months in the freezer. Be sure to label your supply with a date.
  • Choose a caregiver who will support your desire to continue nursing. Your choice of caregiver is important to the success of your breastfeeding efforts. You'll want to be sure this person knows that you want to breastfeed just before leaving for work and as soon as you return. The caregiver should arrange baby's other feedings to accommodate your nursing.

When you return to work:

  • Return to work midweek. That means fewer days to the weekend and this can reduce the stress of the first few days.
  • Stake out your place to pump. Even if you've made previous arrangements with your boss, you might need to let the rest of the office, or at least your immediate colleagues, know what your space and supplies are for. You'll need a private area that is quiet, clean, and comfortable. There should be a sink nearby for hand washing and cleaning the breast pump. A small refrigerator for storage is ideal, but a small ice chest or thermos will do.
  • Bring a picture of your baby to work. Sometimes looking at your baby's picture and imagining him nursing can help the pumping process.
  • Drink plenty of fluids and eat a nutritious diet.
  • Give yourself time to rest when you get home from work.

If you're worried about the transition or you've already returned to work and are having problems, consult a lactation professional. While many moms only turn to lactation consultants in the early weeks of breastfeeding, professional advice can be very helpful for the back-to-work transition.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.