7 Tips to Create Work/Breastfeeding Balance

By Carole Arsenault

Returning to work after having a baby unfortunately makes it difficult for many moms to continue breastfeeding. While it’s absolutely a mother’s right to choose whether to breastfeed at all or to continue doing so by pumping during the work day, there are many ways our society and overall workplace culture can support moms so that the choice is, in fact, a choice.

Texas Tech recently unveiled a nursing room for mothers—a clean, private and comfortable place that enables women to fulfill a natural need. While this is a great step in the right direction for nursing moms, it’s far from the standard workplace environment.

Here are a few tips to help you create a good work/breastfeeding balance:

  1. Introduce a bottle several weeks before starting work. When you do head back to work, you want to make sure your baby will take breast milk from a bottle without any issues. Especially if you’ve not fed with a bottle before, be sure to pump and feed from a bottle a few weeks before (at least a bottle per day) so your baby can get used to it.
  2. Return to work mid-week if possible. This way you will only be away from your baby for three days initially, which will allow you to assess your supply level and how the pumping and bottle-feeding is working out. Then you can adjust your strategy accordingly for the following week.
  3. Communicate your needs. Approach human resources or your supervisor at work about your plans and your need to pump during the workday. Describe how you’ll ensure it will not interfere with work and that those “breaks” will be made up elsewhere (whether it’s staying a few minutes later, coming in earlier, or working a bit from home). Above all, though, know your rights—President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last year that allows you uncompensated time to express milk as needed for your child’s first year of life. Employers are also supposed to provide you with a space to pump (other than a bathroom), so don’t be afraid to ask about your options. For more breastfeeding rights, visit ncsl.org/default.aspx?tabid=14389.
  4. Organize your supplies. Every night, pack up your pumping supplies for the day—your pump with ALL accessories and tubing, empty clean bottles and caps, and a cooler bag with an ice pack for proper storage. It’s a good idea to have at least one extra set of bottles on hand. Frozen milk can be stored in plastic or glass containers, or freezer bags that are specifically designed for storing breast milk.
  5. Mark your breast milk. In order to keep track of what breast milk needs to be used first, you may want to stick labels with dates on the bottles in the refrigerator. Make sure you know how much milk is in each freezer bag. This will ensure no milk is wasted and your efforts at work are not in vain!
  6. Keep a pumping “emergency” kit in your car/desk. Having breast pads, extra shirt and bra, and pump accessories handy will help eliminate stress if for some reason you need them.
  7. Plan pumping sessions. If you work an eight-hour day, try to plan three 15-minute pump breaks. If you are away from your baby for more than 10 hours, try to add another short pumping session if you can. To maximize time and efficiency, use a double electric breast pump instead of a single pump or a hand pump. After your pumping session, seal the bottles and store them in your cooler carrier with an ice pack. When you get home, store the milk in 2- and 4-ounce containers in the refrigerator or freezer.
And remember, when you are home with your baby, keep him/her on the breast for all feedings—this helps ensure an adequate milk supply!

For over a decade Carole Kramer Arsenault, RN, author of The Baby Nurse Bible: Secrets Only a Baby Nurse Can Tell You about Having and Caring for Your Baby, has been helping new and expectant parents seamlessly transition from pregnancy and birth through baby’s first year. Her experience runs the gamut from labor and delivery nurse, parent educator, and lactation consultant at Boston’s top hospitals to founding Boston Baby Nurse and Boston Baby Concierge, where she and her top-notch team provide all aspects of newborn care and postpartum support, as well as baby planning services.