Breastfeeding and Returning to Work
Once your employer knows you are pregnant, you may want to start discussing your options. Some of these include maternity leave and what types of services may be offered to help you breastfeed after you return to work. Some companies may have a lactation support program for employees. In some workplaces, there may even be on-site daycare, where you can have easy access to breastfeed your little one.
If possible, you may want to try to find a caregiver who lives close to your work so that you can nurse at least once during your workday. If this isn't possible, you will need to prepare a pumping schedule.
Your coworkers can also be a great resource for you. Talking to them about your plans to breastfeed may open up the door for them to tell you about their own experience. Or they may know of other women at your company who have successfully breastfed after returning to work.
Getting the discussion started while you are still pregnant helps to prepare not only yourself, but also your employer and coworkers for your return.
Even if you are a workaholic, try to take as much maternity time as you can. It can take at least six weeks alone just to recover from childbirth. If possible, 12 weeks of maternity leave is an ideal amount of time. This will allow your milk supply to become well established before you return to work.
During your maternity leave, there are several things you can do to help prepare you and your little one as you transition back to work. When it's getting close to the time for you to return to work, you can start preparing your baby to take breast milk from a bottle (unless you will be able to physically breastfeed while you are at work).
However, keep in mind that once you have introduced your baby to a bottle, he or she may develop "nipple confusion." This can happen when a breastfed infant starts using a bottle. It takes different muscles for a baby to suck on a bottle than the muscles used to breastfeed. Often, babies quickly realize that it is less work to take a bottle and they can get their milk faster. This can lead to problems when you try to breastfeed them again.
To help avoid nipple confusion, try to avoid bottles and pacifiers until your baby is four to six weeks old and has learned how to breastfeed well. Don't wait too long, however, or your baby may completely reject the bottle.
Also, talk to your friends and family members before you return to work. Having their support and help can go a long way. Mothers who also work may feel extremely overwhelmed with the new juggling act they are performing -- trying to balance a new baby, work, chores, and other daily activities. Your family and friends may be able to help relieve some of these mounting burdens, especially when you are just starting back to work and getting back into a new routine. Asking family or friends to help with dinners or housework so you can get the rest you need can make a big difference as you adjust to your new life.
Another thing you can practice while you are on maternity leave is expressing your milk. If you are not going to be able to physically breastfeed your child, you will have to express your milk and store it. There are several methods for doing this (see The Whys and Hows of Expressing Breast Milk).
Start pumping at least one or two weeks before you return to work. You can pump after you breastfeed your baby to help empty out your breasts and start building up a supply of extra breast milk (see How to Store Breast Milk). You can also pump in between feedings. Using the pump after and/or between feedings will help boost your breast milk production and help it become well established.
Although you may not express much milk when you first start pumping, keep doing it -- your body will start to realize that the demand for breast milk has increased, and will increase your milk production to help keep up with the demand.
By pumping at home before you return to work, it will help get the process running smoothly. It also helps build up your storage of breast milk that you can use to feed your infant when you are unable to be there to physically breastfeed.