Returning to work after having a baby can be tough for many reasons: New moms are worried about leaving their little ones as they try to get families adjusted to a new schedule, settle back into work and – on top of everything – juggle when, where and how to pump at work.
“The stress of pumping can be really overwhelming for moms,” says Carol Chornock, RN, IBCLC, lactation coordinator at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center. “Moms should take comfort knowing that a little preparation can help make the transition easier and encourage their breastmilk supply.”
Start a routine before you return to work
“Moms can start pumping as soon as their baby gets back up to birth weight, or they can wait until about a month before they return to work,” encourages Carol. “Starting before you head back can help get you comfortable with pumping and settle into a schedule that works for you and baby.”
Carol suggests moms add a first pumping session in the morning, when milk supply is usually greatest. “Nurse your baby, and then pump about an hour later to start getting a bank of milk,” she says. “Once you’re used to pumping in the morning, try adding another pumping session.”
Carol shares one schedule that works for many moms:
- Nurse in the morning
- Pump before leaving for work
- Pump twice at work
- Nurse in the evening and night
“Nursing at night can help breastmilk supply, when it’s typically at its lowest,” explains Carol. “Moms can also nurse throughout the day when they’re home on the weekend or off days to help increase supply.”
Create a comfortable environment
“Once mom gets into a routine, she can build a comfortable environment that helps her relax and de-stress during pumping sessions,” says Carol.
For some moms, that may include a photo of their baby or a blanket or piece of clothing to help connect with their child. Others may choose to listen to relaxing music in a quiet environment.
“Find what works best for you and focus on that,” Carol encourages moms.
Another piece of advice from Carol is to avoid the temptation to multi-task. “Hands-free pumps are not great. Breastfeeding is a job, and it should be reflected,” she continues. “Resist the urge to check email, write reports or send texts. Instead, take a moment to sit back and relax.”
One challenge for many new moms is deciding where exactly they will be able to pump at work. Federal law requires that women have reasonable break time and space (other than a bathroom) to express milk for up to one year after childbirth.
“Talk to someone who has pumped at work,” suggests Carol. “They can help share their insight, experience and advice to make it easier and more comfortable for you.”
Carol also recommends women talk to the human resources department to learn where a designated pumping room is in the office.
Focus on what really matters
Feeding your baby is a special moment of love and bonding. Whether you’re nursing at home, pumping at work or using a bottle, you are providing the love and nourishment your little one needs.