You want me to what? 10 Tips on going back to work while breastfeeding

Written by Jennifer Shaer MD, FAAP, IBCLC

The working mother has a lot of responsibilities. She is usually expected to run the household, take care of the kids and succeed at the office. She is expected to do all of this and make it look effortless. Now, throw in a new baby and a mother is expected to breastfeed while going back to work. The modern day mother has a lot on her plate. Here are 10 tips to help ease the transition back to work for the breastfeeding mother.

  1. Set your goals and expectations: Doing something for your baby while you are at work often helps you feel connected despite being separated. As in everything you do, setting a goal will help you achieve success. If you plan to pump when you return to work then you will succeed.
  2. Plan in advance: Think about your day at work. When can you pump, where will you pump and where will you store your milk? Speak with your employer about your intentions. Many states have labor laws requiring employers to accommodate nursing mothers. Don’t forget to plan your clothes. You will need easy access for pumping at work.
  3. Ease back into the workforce: If at all possible, start back to work midweek. This way you will have a weekend home with your baby in just a few days.
  4. Take one day at a time: You do not have to plan to pump milk for the next year. Each day that you bring home a bottle of pumped milk is a gift for your baby.
  5. Take time for yourself: As difficult as this seems, it is critically important to your mental health. A happy woman makes for a much better mother. Figure out what works for you and make it happen. Less stress is healthy for you, your baby, your family and your job. It also helps protect your milk supply.
  6. Multitask: Most women are masters at multitasking. Often work does not need to stop while you are pumping. With hands free breast pumps, many women can pump while working at their desks. Some women even pump while commuting to and from work.
  7. Find a breastfeeding friendly daycare or supportive babysitter: In general, it is best to surround yourself with people who are supportive of your breastfeeding goals.
  8. Continue nursing when home: Plan to nurse before work and when you get home. Tell the sitter when to expect you and do not give a bottle just before you arrive. Nursing when you are home and on the weekends helps maintain supply and helps you feel close to your baby.
  9. Be flexible and reassess your goals: If you do not maintain a full milk supply, do not get upset. There are many things you can do to increase your supply. Nursing at night and on the weekends often helps. You might want to seek help from a professional lactation consultant. Remember, if you do not have enough breastmilk then you should use formula. It is not the end of the world if you can’t keep up completely. If your supply is not complete, it does not mean you should quit. Partial breastmilk is always better than no breastmilk. Keep it up and be happy for what you can give.
  10. Enjoy: You CAN do it all and you should enjoy the process. Have fun, enjoy your baby and be proud of yourself!
Dr. Shaer is a pediatrician, board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) and a member of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. She is founder of the first breastfeeding medicine practice on Long Island. Dr. Shaer is dedicated to helping nursing mothers achieve their breastfeeding goals.