The time has come. Your maternity leave is slowly coming to an end. Whether you are sad to be leaving your little one for a portion of the day, excited to have some adult interaction, or a combination of the two, it is now time to consider how and what you will feed your baby during this time of separation. I remember feeling somewhat overwhelmed about this whole process. What was my son going to eat when he was away from me? How was I going to stockpile enough breastmilk before my first day back to work? Where was I going to pump while at work? The list went on and on in my mind and made me a little crazy. Yet, once I sat down and made a plan for myself, everything seemed less daunting and more feasible.
Well, ladies, my plan for the next few blog postings is to help make your 'back to work transition' easy and manageable. Are you ready? Here we go:
Starting the Pumping Process
As soon as your baby has gone through his/her growth spurt (around 2-3 weeks old) and if breastfeeding is going well, you can start pumping to get breast milk for bottles and your stock pile. Now you may ask, if I am exclusively breastfeeding, how I am going to have extra breast milk to pump? Well, usually your baby will remove about 75%-80% of your breast milk during a feeding, so there should still be some milk in there to pump out. Also, you may find that there are certain times of the day where you feel fuller, even after your baby has had a full feeding. I found that this time for me was in the morning. Even though I wasn't sleeping THAT much at night, my body was resting and replenishing while I was sleeping.
After our first mid-morning breastfeeding session, I would pump afterwards and save the little I got (usually .5-1oz) in the fridge in a milk storage bag. After pumping at this time for a few days in a row, I had about 3oz in the fridge….a perfect amount of breast milk for my 3 week-old son.
Introducing the Bottle
So, mamas, how do we introduce this first bottle of liquid gold???? Have someone else do it! Yes, you read correctly. Your baby can smell you from practically a mile away (well, maybe not that much!) and will probably have no interest in a bottle if he can have the real boob. Instead, hand your bundle of joy to dad, grandma, etc and immediately leave the room. And wait. And wait. Caution: Do not pump in place of this feeding session until you receive the 'All Clear' that your baby happily drank the bottle of milk and is as happy as a clam. I made the HUGE mistake of pumping as I THOUGHT my hubby was giving our son the bottle. Long story short, my son didn't take the bottle the first day. I had pumped because I thought he was drinking from the bottle. We ended up with a screaming little boy, empty breasts, and a frustrated mama. Moral of the Story: Wait until your baby takes the bottle and then pump in place of the breast feeding session. Now baby is full, mom has empty breasts, and now you have breast milk for your next bottle.
How Often Should I Give a Bottle?
If you are going back to work, I would recommend giving your baby a bottle a few times a week. That way, she/he gets used to going back and forth between bottle and breast and will continue to take a bottle once you return to work.
For a great resource about the different types of pumps and which ones are best for moms going back to work, check out one of my favorite web site: Breastfeeding for Working Mothers. As for bottles, always choose a slow flow nipple that looks most like your own anatomy.
If breastfeeding is still a challenge by 2-3 weeks, please see a lactation consultant before starting this process, as it could cause more difficulties if breastfeeding is not going well.
Making Plans with your Employer
So, now you should have mastered the pump, built a small supply of milk in your freezer, and introduced a bottle to your little one. No problem, right? Next step, get your employer on board for giving you your well-earned break to pump while at work. Sometimes, this is a no-brainer. If you live in a state like California, businesses with more than 50 employees are mandated to give breastfeeding moms pumping breaks and supply a clean, private space to pump (which cannot be a bathroom stall.) Other states do not have such laws in place, so you might be paving the way in your business for you and future breastfeeding moms. Either way, it is helpful to know your rights and how to be proactive to get what you deserve: time to pump so that you have something to feed your breastfeeding baby. Let’s get all of your ducks in a row so that this is an easy process for you.
Reasons Why Pumping at Work is Good for Your Employer
Sometimes it is helpful to have a list of reasons why allowing a mom time to pump at work is beneficial for her employer. Bosses like to look at the bottom line. Here’s a handy-dandy list of reasons to share with your boss:
• A study of multiple companies with lactation support programs found an average retention rate of 94.2%
• One-day absences to care for sick children occur more than twice as often for mothers of formula feeding infants.
• Businesses with lactation support have lower turnover rates, higher employee satisfaction, and additional health care savings.
All of this information, and more, can be found in the Business Case for Breastfeeding: For Business Managers
What You Would Like for Your Employer to Provide
A pumping mom needs very few things from her employer to continue making milk for her baby. Really, all you are looking for is a private, clean space (that is not in a bathroom) with outlets, a comfy chair, and a lock. An optimal break time is about 20 minutes: 15 minutes to pump, 5 minutes for set-up/clean-up. You should be able to take a break every few hours, since you will need to pump as many times as you are missing that breastfeeding session with your baby. It is amazing how efficient you will become in your pumping space. The supplies you will probably have to provide will be a pump/pump pieces and freezer bags (in which to keep your pumped milk.) Some savvy employers may provide a small fridge to keep your milk in and a super comfy space. Others may provide the bare minimum. Regardless, it is your right and you can make it happen!
What Should You Do if Your Employer Does Not Provide Pumping Breaks for You?
Check out your federal rights at the Workplace Support in Federal Law web site. All of your rights are there in front of you. You can make it happen!