Going back to work from maternity leave can be challenging. Right now, you’re tired and you’re in constant worry and guilt mode. You’ve fallen in love with this new little person in your life. You want the best for your baby and you’re worried about how you’ll juggle breastfeeding and work.
To introduce myself, I am a mother of four. I have a daughter who is 18, a daughter who is 15, a daughter who is 2.5, and a son who is 1.5. I breastfed all of my children and returned to work while continuing to breastfeed. I did return part time when they were babies except my second, who I returned full time. Returning to work is difficult at first, but you will adapt to your new schedule and pumping. New situations that arise in life always become easier over time.
I definitely suggest staying home as long as you can. Utilize the benefits that the state gives new moms. In CA, you have maternity leave (6-8 weeks) and your family leave (6 weeks paid and another 6 weeks that you can take unpaid) if you are eligible. CA paid family leave is for people who have worked in the last 5-18 months and have not taken 8 weeks of paid family leave in the last 12 months. It’s even better if you can work from home. Talk to your employer to see if you could return part time temporarily. This is a critical time for you to breastfeed and build a bond with the baby. Do not over stress when you have to return to work full time. The baby will be okay and you both will get used to your new schedule.
I can say the biggest mistake I made was not introducing the bottle right away. This caused them to refuse the bottle. When I returned to work, they would refuse to bottle feed until I returned home and nursed. I would have the caregiver bring the baby to me at work during my lunch so the baby would at least have that feeding. My babies would eat baby cereal with my breast milk in it when I was at work. Most websites will inform you to start cereal at 4 to 6 months old. My pediatrician told me it was okay to start at a younger age. Talk to your pediatrician about starting cereal sooner if your baby isn’t bottle feeding enough while you are away. Cereal did cause bad constipation because of the increase in solids and decrease in liquids. But it gets better over time. The other suggestions that my pediatrician gave me was to spoon feed the milk (but it didn’t work) use a cup (that didn’t work) and use breastmilk popsicles (use a popsicle tray and fill it with your breastmilk.) The breastmilk popsicles was the only strategy that worked. Soon enough, the baby starts eating more solids and this becomes less of a worry. I was able to continue nursing all 4 of them after 12 months old. Here are my 7 tips.
Preparation before you go back to work:
Discuss with your pediatrician before starting any supplements. There are breastfeeding supplements that help increase your milk supply. I took fenugreek capsules, Earth Mama Milkmaid tea and Novacare breastfeeding support. I do not get any proceeds for recommending these products. It’s just what worked for me.
Pump on a schedule
First thing in the morning, nurse the baby and then pump right afterwards. You will be full because the baby won’t be nursing as much through the night as he does during the day. Pump 3 times a day: morning, noon and night. Pump about 30-60 minutes after nursing to give your body the time needed to produce more milk. I would usually wait 60-90 minutes after feeding to pump. My pediatrician recommended for me not to be the one who gives the bottle to the baby so the baby understands that he nurses with me and bottle feeds with others. This is only important when the baby is under 6 months old.
Introduce the bottle right away
Have someone give the baby a bottle as soon as the baby is nursing correctly. I was told to start bottle feeding 4 weeks before starting work. But the baby refused the bottle and this caused me so much stress.
Inform your boss
Communicate to your boss that you will be pumping when you return to work. You will need special accommodations. According to CA law, employees who breastfeed, must be allowed breaks to pump, a private area, and a place to store your milk. The employer does not have to pay you during your pumping breaks, beyond the required breaks by law. Check out your state laws for employees and breastfeeding.
When you return to work:
Store extra supplies at work
Keep extra supplies at work or in your car. There will be times when you forget to bring something and you don’t want to go all day without pumping. You’ll be uncomfortable, in pain, and not supplying the milk your baby needs. If you don’t pump enough, then your body will produce less milk and soon enough, stop producing milk. Have extra milk storage bags, ice packs, nursing pads, and an extra shirt in case you leak through your shirt.
My pediatrician let me know that your body will produce more milk if you look at pictures of your baby while pumping. I would sit down, turn my pump on and look at photos and videos of my baby on my phone.
When you get home
Nurse the baby right away when you get home. Then, pump right after you nurse. Let the caregiver know not to feed the baby before you get home. So, you need to inform the caregiver when you’ll be home so they know when to feed the baby last.
I was stressed out when I had to return to work. I was worried I wouldn’t produce enough milk for storage when I wasn’t home. I was worried that my milk production would decrease because I was taking so much time away from my baby. I wanted to provide the best for my baby. I was stressed but it all worked out fine. I was able to continue breastfeeding and producing enough milk. I took supplements and pumped on a schedule to keep my milk production up. Introducing the bottle earlier probably would have made my life easier. I notified my manager I would be pumping so she knew I would be taking necessary breaks. There were days that I was missing milk storage bags but luckily I worked at a pediatric office and always had extra supplies. I would bring my phone with me in the room to pump to help me produce more milk. I would always feed my baby and then pump when I arrived home. All these steps helped me continue my career while breastfeeding.
This article was written by Rosita Benyaminheydarlou from Moms Inspire Moms Blog.