Your Guide for Navigating Pumping and Returning to the Office

Returning to work after maternity leave can be traumatic in it's own right—not to mention navigating when and how to pump and communicating your needs with co-workers. 

That's why we spoke with April Kerwood, postpartum doula and certified lactation counselor, on most new mom's burning questions when it comes to—ahem—lactating and returning back to work. 

April Kerwood - lactation consultant

April Kerwood, postpartum doula and certified lactation counselor

What are the options when it comes to feeding your baby as an infant? 

There are so many choices on how to feed your baby. You are allowed to decide as you go what is working for you. If at any time your goals or needs change, honor that. Trust yourself when it comes to knowing what you need and find ways to make a new system work for all of you. Breastfeeding from the breast, offering pumped milk, formula, or a combination of all. It’s up to you. 

Here are some tips for infant feeding:

  • Breastfeeding education during pregnancy gets you ahead of the game when it comes to initiating breastfeeding at birth. 
  • Gathering support before and advocating for yourself in the hospital helps too. It’s a short stay when it comes to learning and everything changes quickly so having someone to follow up with you at home is essential. 
  • Most hospitals will have lactation support call in numbers if you can’t find someone in person.
  • Don't be shy about finding local help. The internet is your friend when it comes to local professionals. 

What are some reasons women turn to formula over breast milk? 

Every woman’s journey is different and we can trust women to decide what is right for them. Breastfeeding is natural like learning to walk. Not like breathing. It can take time, patience and practice and you will need support along the way. There are a number of reasons women may decide that formula works best for them. It can be as simple as that is their first choice for whatever reason they deem important. 

Can you explain combo feeding? 

Woman breastfeeding her baby at the office

Combo feeding is a term referring to using a combination of breastmilk and formula to feed an infant. It can be a combination of breastmilk at the breast, pumped milk, and formula. There are many reasons a parent would choose to combo feed and all of them are valid. 

Returning to work is a big change after having a baby—what are some ways to set yourself up for success when it comes to preparing for someone else to feed your baby during the day? 

Be educated about your company’s policies and your rights! Parental leave has changed a lot in recent years. Lots of it has been for the good but there is still work to be done. Making a reentry plan when it comes to return and easing into taking on your previous responsibilities will serve you. A practical tip would be to start midweek instead of a Monday or decide to do a reentry week of every other day. 

Will the stress of going back to work affect my milk supply? 

Breastmilk is supply and demand and while the stress of returning to work can feel overwhelming at times, a good plan will help.
Tips to help with going back to work:

  • Know your rights when it comes to pumping accommodations and breaks. 
  • Talk to your employer about your needs when it comes to a clean,private, and safe space to pump milk. 
  • Be kind to yourself in your transition back and give yourself time to pump as needed and take care of yourself in regards to the emotions of leaving your baby. 

Let’s talk about breast pumps! What are the best ways to utilize a pump and what is the purpose of pumping? When should you introduce pumping? 

Pumping is a great way to manage breastmilk and feed your baby! Establishing breastfeeding early (at birth) is a really important first step. Unless there is a medical need to be away from your baby the need to pump in the hospital is relatively small. Helping a baby become efficient at breast is the best way to ensure success long term. If there are supply concerns or issues with latching or anatomy, professional help should be consulted. 

If you can wait to introduce pumping, it’s one less thing to do. Combo feeding from the start becomes overwhelming quickly and can feel unsustainable, because it usually is!  If you would like to start collecting milk for a safety net, a milk catcher that is left in your bra when you nurse on the other side is a great way to start saving extra milk. If you need to express milk to stimulate production or if you are away from your baby for a period of time, then pumping then is essential.  If you were only going to pump when you return to work, you can wait until breast-feeding is more firmly established and introduce a bottle and expressed milk slowly and without pressure. 

You can find more information on how to best shop for, sell and maintain your breast pump here

What should I request to accommodate my pumping needs at my workplace? Are there laws my employer should be following? 

Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk (Section 7 of the FLSA). Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. 

Knowing what is available specific to your workplace will help alleviate anxiety and allow you time and space to ask any questions or provide your employer to make changes to accomodate you. 

What if my employer doesn’t allow me to take breaks for pumping? 

Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk (Section 7 of the FLSA). Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk. 

The exemption would be an employer with less than 50 employees that can demonstrate that complying with FLSA law would create an “undue hardship.” In this case, it would be wise to refer to your state laws. Some states have additional laws that protect a nursing mother’s rights at work.

Is there a more sustainable way to store my milk if I am pumping at work? Should I worry about other colleagues' food being in the same refrigerator/freezer as my breast milk? 

Some mothers bring their own small fridge to work to avoid having to store breastmilk in a shared workspace refrigerator. This also allows them to store pump parts in between pumping sessions in an effort to alleviate cleaning needs. 

There are so many coolers and new bags specifically made for storing milk too. But if you have a fridge available to you, use a zip close bag for discretion if you like and label things with your name. There is no concern about contamination when storing breastmilk with other people's food.

Should I follow the same pumping routine over the weekends or whenever I am not at work? 

If pumping is working for you then yes! Lot’s of moms take the opportunity to ditch the pump on the weekend. Saving Friday’s pumped milk for Monday and just reconnecting at the breast over the weekend is a nice reset if you’d like. 

What supplies should I bring with me to work if I am pumping? 

  • Your pump
  • collection bottles or milk storage bags
  • a cooler bag for transporting your milk
  • microwave sanitizing bags
  • nursing pads and a spare top in case of milk mishaps
  • clothes that allow easy access to your breasts including a hands free pumping bra 

How will bonding with my baby be affected by me going back to work? Will they not want to latch on as much or at all? 

Your bond with your baby is so much more than how you feed them. They may be slow to take milk from a bottle because they miss you, they may want to eat more because they miss you! You can decide if you would like to do increased sessions at the breast when you are together or if you’d like to just continue pumping even when you are not separated. What feels best will be different for everyone. And what is right for you, is what’s right. 

 

You got this mama. Explore GoodBuy Gear’s collection of gently-used breast pumps or book time with a certified lactation consultants with Tot Squad for more information.

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