9 Tips to Return to Work While Exclusively Breastfeeding

Giselle May Katherine Rosman Headshot

Ready to head back to the office after your baby while still exclusively breastfeeding? Here are nine helpful tips from guest poster Giselle May of Katherine Rosman.

Back to Work and Breastfeeding

Returning to work after the birth of a new baby is difficult for every mother. It’s hard to say goodbye to that adorable little bundle, even if it’s only for a few hours. You’ve spent every moment together for about a year. They also came to work with you in your belly before – and the separation anxiety hits hard when it’s time to get back to the ole grind.

It’s especially difficult for mothers who are exclusively breastfeeding. You need to start planning for your return to work. Have a feeding plan in place with plenty of milk stocked up before you go.  You also need to prepare to pump at work regularly to keep your supply up.

This is quite an undertaking. But with a few tips, your return to work while exclusively breastfeeding can be an easy transition.

Invest in the Right Equipment

Pumping at work requires a bit more equipment and discretion than breastfeeding at home. After all, you can’t just whip the goods out whenever you feel the need. So the top things on your shopping list for pumping at work should include:

  • A good electric pump
  • Nursing cover for additional coverage and modesty
  • An abundance of bags and/or bottles for storing your milk
  • A cooler to keep your breastmilk cold until you get home

You will want to get the best breast pump you can afford. So you get long term and reliable use out of it. Ideally, you want an electric breast pump with a closed system to prevent bacterial contamination. That allows you to pump both sides at once, too. You also want to make sure it either comes with a tote bag or is compact enough to transport to and from work.

Some women prefer manual pumps since they can easily fit into a purse or small bag. There is nothing wrong with a manual pump; they’re just not as efficient. So you’ll be pumping longer and might get tired quickly.

If you have your own office with blinds and a door, you might not need a nursing cover. However, most of us don’t have that luxury. So a full coverage nursing cover can allow you to stay at your desk and pump without disturbing your co-workers too much.

It’s imperative that you know how to properly store your milk to keep it safe for your baby (we will talk about this more later). If you work in an office with a fridge, this isn’t usually a concern. But, if your workplace doesn’t have a fridge, you’ll want a cooler with freezer packs to keep your milk cold until you can bring it home later.

Start Building Your Breastmilk Stock

This may be one of the hardest parts of your preparation. It takes quite a commitment to exclusively breastfeed, and when you add pumping into the equation, it can be exhausting. It’s important that you set a schedule for yourself so you can keep your supply up while pumping and breastfeeding.

Start a few weeks ahead of time, pumping both sides about 30-60 minutes after your baby has eaten. This will still allow your body a bit of time (about an hour) to rest and recover before your baby is ready to eat again.

Some mothers will try using a galactagogue during this time. This is an herb or medication that increases breast milk supply. Herbs like fenugreek and fennel can help increase milk supply temporarily, especially when a mother is going to need to pump a lot in a short period of time.

Once you get back to work, you can go back to a normal schedule, pumping at the same interval that your baby would normally eat. You can also stop the galactagogue if you decide to use one.

Set Up Reliable Child Care

You don’t want to leave your little one with just anyone. It takes quite a bit of trust to leave your baby in the hands of anyone other than yourself, even if it is a family member. You need to be selective with child care when preparing to return to work.

If you have a family member – like mom, perhaps – that is able to stay home with your baby, it makes things a little bit easier. Your baby already knows them and all you have to do is leave instructions on how to handle feedings and naps.

On the other hand, if you have to find a nanny or daycare facility, it can be a little more difficult. Be sure to do your research, browsing reviews online, and asking people you know for recommendations. And once you’ve made your selection, allow your baby to have a couple of visits before you go back to work so they can meet their new caretaker(s).

Know How to Store Breastmilk

Breastfeeding your baby directly means not having to worry too much about the condition and quality of your milk. It comes out fresh and at just the right temperature. Pumping is another story.

If you don’t store your milk properly, you may compromise its quality by allowing bacteria to grow which will be eventually ingested by your baby. It is best to store your milk in the fridge if you have one at work. At this temperature (around 39 degrees Fahrenheit), your milk will keep for up to 3 days. If you don’t have a fridge, a cooler with freezer packs is your next best option so that the quality of your milk doesn’t suffer.

Keeping milk at room temperature is not recommended. It is only good for about 4 hours, but it is recommended that you use it in 2 hours or less for the best quality.

Dress for Breastfeeding At the Job

It’s important to plan ahead when you know you will be pumping in public. The fact is some clothes just aren’t compatible with a breast pump, and you don’t want to have to practically get naked every time you need to pump.

This being said, you probably don’t want to wear dresses to work while you are pumping. Unless they have a loose top section that can be pulled aside to expose your breast for pumping. You would be better off with separate pieces, wearing a top that can easily be lifted or moved to place your pump underneath.

You can also find special clothes specifically designed for breastfeeding and pumping. They have little “peek-a-boo” sections that move aside near the breasts to make it easier to latch your baby or use your pump without exposing your belly or back.

Check With Your Company’s Policies

Most companies are legally obligated to provide a place for working mothers to pump and allow for appropriate break times in order to do so. Talk with your employer to find out what policies they have in place. And give them a heads up about what you will need upon returning to work.

Don’t feel bullied or shamed into hiding in the bathroom to pump whenever you can find the time. You should be able to feel comfortable and free to do what you need to for your body and your baby.

Create a To-Go Bag For Breastfeeding At Work

No one likes to scramble around to find what you need before you rush out the door for work. And there are few things worse than getting to your destination to find that you’ve forgotten something at home.

Try to keep a to-go bag packed at all times. Replenish what you’ve used each evening before you go to bed. Some key items include:

  • Breast pump (duh!) with all components
  • Bags or bottles for storage
  • Extra breast pads
  • Extra shirt (in case of leaks)
  • Water bottle and snacks

This will prevent you from trying to find those last-minute things in the morning. Plus, when you are prepared, you have more time to spend with your baby in the morning before work.

Keep Others Informed

Now, you don’t need to announce to the world that you are going off to pump. Not that it’s something to be embarrassed about. But you do want to keep your co-workers informed in case something comes up.

If you have any upcoming phone calls or meetings, schedule them accordingly. So you can get your break in when you need it. Also, let any necessary personnel, like the receptionist or your cubicle neighbor, know that you will be stepping away from your desk for about 20 minutes in case someone needs you.

Don’t Stress

Most importantly, don’t stress. It’s not good for your mind or for your body. In fact, stress can hinder your milk production. Just relax and know that you’ve done everything you need to prepare for this moment. Then count down the minutes until you are able to return home once again to that sweet little bundle of joy.

About the Author

My name is Giselle and I left the corporate world to become a full-time Mom of a beautiful boy, and Editor of katherinerosman.com. This is a small site that we are growing quickly with the aim of becoming a central resource for moms that will provide actionable advice and info guides. I have found so much support through online Mom communities.  I am also grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the information that is out there, and hopefully, help others in their own journey along the way.

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