One of the biggest questions we get about breastfeeding is how to continue that successful nursing relationship when mom’s maternity leave ends and she heads back to work. Not all mothers plan to stay home with their babies throughout their entire breastfeeding relationship. Many have full-time careers and therefore can’t simply nurse their baby on demand for as long as they plan to breastfeed.

For many new mothers, the idea of pumping throughout their work day and maintaining that nursing relationship once she is away from her baby from many hours of the day can bring a lot of extra stress. Thinking about not only leaving their baby to head back to work, but also about how to successfully pump, keep up her milk supply, and make sure baby’s nutrition needs are being met can bring tons of self-doubt and a lot of questions. So today we’re providing you with some important answers so that you have all the knowledge you need for a successful breastfeeding relationship after you head back to work.

Where will I pump?

It’s important to know that by law, your place of work is required to offer you somewhere to pump your breastmilk. No- the restroom doesn’t suffice. Under the Lactation Accommodation law, you have the right to a separate space to express your milk and a reasonable amount of time to do it. It doesn’t have to be a large space- a small room with privacy would get the job done. But make sure your rights are being upheld here because no mother deserves to be hunched over the toilet with a breastpump. Not only is it unsanitary, it’s also demeaning and an infringements on your rights as a nursing mother. Knowing that it’s fully within your rights to ask for a lactation space can save you from this unfortunate fate. If there is not somewhere to pump and you are worried about asking, chances are you might be surprised that other mothers may chime in once someone gets the ball rolling. If you need help in this area, we are happy to help troubleshoot for you, so please reach out.

When should I begin pumping and how often?

You want to begin pumping at least one month before you plan to return to work. The reason is so that you are able to begin storing milk and have a fair amount stored up before it’s time leave your baby for the first time. Think of it has your little safety net. You likely won’t fret as much about making sure baby’s needs are met when you know you have a freezer full of milk to pull from. For most women, beginning by pumping in the morning works best. Between the hours of 4 AM and noon are typically when your body will have the most milk. Since you’re planning ahead, you only need to pump once a day to build your stash. Pumping more often will create and oversupply, so to prevent engorgement, limit pumping sessions until it’s time to leave your baby. While you’re still home with baby, you can also make use of a pump called the Haakaa which suctions on during nursing, allowing you to nurse baby on one side while it collects milk on the other side. The reason moms love the Haakaa is because it save tons of time that would otherwise be spent pumping on top of feeding.

What kind of bottle should my care provider be using?

Short answer: A bottle with a slow-flow nipple.

Long answer: For pumping moms, choosing a good bottle is extremely important for several reasons. First off, one of the biggest struggles moms run into is believing they aren’t producing enough milk to meet baby’s needs once he or she begins to grow. Most times, minus rare cases where there are true supply issues (which happens in about 1-3% of mothers) this is not the case. What often happens with bottle feeding is that babies tend to suck bottles down quite quickly- much faster than during a breastfeeding session. This might lead the care-provider to overfeed, believing that the fussy baby is still hungry, therefore using the milk supply at a much faster rate than is really necessary. Suddenly, mom feels like she can’t keep up with baby’s needs, even if it’s simply a matter of baby downing the bottle a bit too quickly.

Slowing down the feed is an important tool to prevent overfeeding and make mom’s milk supply last. Using the slowest flow bottle available (we highly recommend the Breastflow) helps baby work a little harder to get the milk and therefore not finish the bottle so quickly. Another great tool to check out is PACED bottle feeding on Youtube which gives great tips on how to make a bottle-feeding session last as long as a breastfeeding session. Things like sitting the baby upright, stopping and switching sides, and really mimicking that breastfeeding experience can be hugely helpful to make sure baby is full and content at the end of each feed.

How much should your baby be eating?

Typically, when going back to work you will feed your baby before you leave the house, then pump several times throughout the work day. As the baby grows, we tend to believe they should need more and more milk. But this is not necessarily true. Most babies don’t need to take in more than 4 oz of breastmilk at a time, even as they grow. This is true because the composition of the breast milk changes to become more dense and meet a growing baby’s needs. The standard rule of thumb is having at least 1 oz of breastmilk available per hour that you’re gone. You should also make sure to communicate with care provider so that baby is not eating right before you arrive home when your breasts are engorged and ready for a feed.

How often should I be pumping while at work?

In order to meet baby’s needs and keep your supply up, pumping frequently is the key. Rather than pumping just once or twice a day and trying to express as much milk as possible, pumping several times (3-4) throughout your work day, will help maintain your supply so that you can keep up with your baby. If you begin pumping less frequently, eventually, your body will assume your baby doesn’t need as much milk and your supply will begin to dwindle.

What are some good tips for expressing milk easily?

Expressing milk doesn’t come naturally to many women. That’s because having a letdown is a normal hormonal response to your baby. Ideally, use a double electric pump and utilize hand expression, too. You can increase supply by 30% by using hand expression after using the pump. Many women find it helpful to Facetime with baby while pumping. But if that is not always an option, you can look at pictures on your phone or have a video handy to help trigger that hormonal response. Anything that helps connects you to your baby can aid in successful pumping sessions.

Heading back to work can bring tons of emotions, but knowing you are armed with the best information on how to keep your breastfeeding relationship strong can be a huge help. Talk to us if you need more tips. We may be also be offering a class to help support moms returning to work, as well, so inquire within.