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  • Writer's pictureYour EmmaWell Team

Returning to Work While Breastfeeding - Advice from a Lactation Consultant

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

As more and more professionals are returning to in-person work (again), we’d like to turn our attention to the nursing moms going through this transition.

It can be a highly stressful, emotionally-draining experience when a mom leaves her precious baby in another’s care to resume working life, even in 'normal' times. In the Covid-era, besides figuring out schedules (both mom’s and baby’s) and striking a balance between work and home life, breastfeeding moms have a whole host of other concerns.

We asked Amy Siegrist, an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to share her recommendations for some common questions related to breastfeeding and working. Note that her advice here is general and may not apply to every mom’s individual preferences or struggles. When doing a back-to-work consult, Amy would consider important details about a mother’s situation (e.g. the age of her baby, the nature of her job, her long-term feeding goals, her history of plugs or mastitis) and tailor a custom plan to ensure a smooth return to work.

What are some steps I can take while breastfeeding during maternity leave to make my transition back to work easier for me and my baby?

  1. Try to establish a good milk supply in the first few weeks of lactation. Your body usually gives you extra milk in the beginning, so take advantage of this with frequent breastfeeding and/or emptying your breasts at least 8 times in 24 hours. A good supply in the beginning will make your whole breastfeeding journey easier.

  2. Introduce a bottle around 3-4 weeks if you haven't already. When possible, it's best to exclusively breastfeed for the first few weeks, and then add in the practice bottle. This helps prevent bottle refusal, which can happen as early as 6-8 weeks.

  3. To get started with pumping and bottles, I usually recommend pumping twice a day. Pump once in the morning after breastfeeding to fully drain any leftover milk. Then, around the same time your baby is drinking a bottle, pump again. One pumping session will go towards extra milk for the freezer, and one pumping session will supply tomorrow's practice bottle. Set up a daily routine in which your baby gets one bottle per day or at least a few bottles per week. I suggest using a slow-flow nipple.

What questions should I ask my employer’s HR department about policies for breastfeeding mothers?

It's helpful to know that there is a law that requires employers to provide break time and a private place for hourly paid employees to pump breast milk during the work day [Read more on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act here]. Ask where you will be able to pump, such as a lactation room, private office, or conference room. Discuss break times and scheduling. It will take you about 15-30 minutes to pump and 5 minutes to clean up. After discussing with HR, you might find it helpful to talk to colleagues who have previously pumped at work.

What equipment will I need to pump and store breast milk?