Back to Work & Breastfeeding
It is no secret that the United States consistently under-performs in the area of maternal and child health. Offering paid leave to new parents is no exception. Many mothers across the U.S. are returning to work well before their child is 6 months old and it is very possible that breastfeeding is still not going 100% as planned.
Step 1: Speaking with your employer
Before you have even delivered your baby and if you plan to return to work, it is a good idea to begin the conversation about pumping with your employer. The NC Department of Public Health created a really cool agreement that you can bring with you to your employer to guide the discussion (downloadable here).
If you have already delivered your baby and you have not spoken to your employer, you may want to reach out before returning to work to speak to them, to ensure you have the proper support for when you go back.
If your employer gives you a bit of a hard time, there are a few resources for that as well.
- The NC Department of Public Health created another cool resource (found here) that can be provided to your employer that outlines the benefits of supporting breastfeeding employees
- Federal Law: For now, the Affordable Care Act requires that organizations employing more than 50 people are required to provide hourly employees who are nursing with reasonable breast time and a private, non-bathroom place to express your milk for the first year of the infant's life. You can see the Department of Labor Factsheet here.
- North Carolina Law: N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-190.9 (1993) states that a woman is allowed to breastfeed in any public or private location, and that she is not in violation of indecent exposure laws. (HB 1143)
- South Carolina Law: S.C. Code Ann. § 63-5-40 (2005) provides that a woman may breastfeed her child in any location where the mother is authorized to be and that the act of breastfeeding is not considered indecent exposure. (2008 HB 4747)
- For a full list of breastfeeding laws by state, click here.
Step 2: Obtain a pump
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies must now cover the cost of a pump. You can contact your insurance company after the baby is born to order one - and some insurance companies let you order before the baby is born. The brand of pump may be determined by your insurance company, and most insurance companies allow you to pick between a few different kinds.
Step 3: Introducing pumping
Two weeks before you return to work, you can begin to add 1-2 pumping sessions per day to your schedule. You can either pump after a feed or you can pump when your breasts feel full in between feeding times.
Try not to overdo it with additional pumping sessions. You don't want to cause an issue with oversupply.
At the beginning, you may not get much milk when you pump, especially if you are pumping after a feeding session. Tips for relaxing when you are pumping include having your baby or a piece of your baby's clothing nearby, having a photo of your baby, listening to relaxing music, or pumping in a low-light/low-distraction setting.
Each time you pump, combine that milk in a milk storage container and put it in the freezer. You will want to store your milk in small quantities (2-3 ounces) to ensure that none of your milk goes to waste once it is thawed.
*Note: do not combine warm and cool milk. Instead, place the milk in the fridge until it is cool and then combine with other cool milk.
Step 4: Introduce a bottle
Introducing a bottle can be challenging. Make sure that you try bottle feeding at least 5-7 days before returning to work so that you have time to navigate any struggles. It is not uncommon for breastfed babies to be hesitant, confused, or frustrated when moving to a bottle.
There is a really great 3-part blog series about bottle-feeding the breastfed baby: post 1: choosing a bottle, post 2: proper bottle-feeding for breastfed babies, and post 3: dealing with bottle refusal. I would recommend reading these for more information about introducing a bottle.
Step 5: Go be a lady-boss.
Yep, going back to work can be difficult. Leaving your baby for the first time can be sad, anger-inducing, and scary - especially if it is not your choice to return to work. But remember - your milk is valuable whether they are at the breast or feeding from a bottle.
Make sure that you try your best to feed/pump at least 8 times every 24 hours. You can minimize the need for pumping at work by feeding the baby right before you leave the house for work and directly after returning home from work.
Take your time away from your baby to show those you work with how amazing you are. Whether you are an hourly employee at the corner store, or a salaried CEO - you are amazing, your body just created ANOTHER HUMAN! You can do it, whatever "it" is.
*We will talk about safe milk storage, finding breastfeeding-friendly child care, and how to be a supportive friend/family member in future blog posts!
If you have any questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment. Phone/skype consults are available.