You’ve spent the last several weeks knee deep in dirty diapers, figuring out this whole breastfeeding thing, and of course bonding with your precious new bundle of joy; but maternity leave is coming to an end, and you will be returning back to work before you know it. You’re probably going to be experiencing a wide range of emotions during this time. You’ll be sad to have to be away from your little one and nervous about your leaving your little with someone else, but also excited to get out of the house, get some adult time, and remember that you are still “you.” Us breastfeeding moms have the additional stresses of pumping at work and making sure that our little ones will take a bottle. All in all, this time can be overwhelming. Here are 5 must-know tips to make the transition from maternity leave back to work a little smoother when you’re a breastfeeding mama.
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1.) Know Your Rights
I hope you don’t have to deal with an unreasonable and unsupportive employer when you return back from maternity leave, but unfortunately some women do go through this, and this is when knowing your rights when it comes to pumping becomes so important. According to federal law, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), companies with 50 or more employees must provide non-exempt employees with reasonable breaks and a private place, other than a bathroom, to pump. The break does not need to be paid, unless other employers are getting paid breaks which you are using to pump, such as a paid smoke break or lunch break. Here is a link that covers this law in more detail. Print it out and give it to your employer if they are giving you a hard time.
2.) Create A Freezer Stash
Start pumping a few weeks before you head back to work to start building a freezer stash. Don’t pump any earlier than you need to, as introducing a bottle to little one too early can sometimes create nipple confusion, and pumping too much in the early days can create an over-supply, which trust me, isn’t necessarily a good thing.
You will need to stash enough milk for the full first day of work, plus extra for times when you are sick, or about to start your period, or maybe you start not responding to the pump as well as you had been. Pump once a day after baby’s first morning feeding. Your milk supply is greatest first thing in the morning, so this is the optimal pumping time.
3.) Practice Getting Baby to Take a Bottle
When you are getting close to returning back to work, practice getting baby to take a bottle, but do NOT do this yourself. Most breastfed babies will never take a bottle from their mom or even if mom is anywhere nearby. My little one was certainly not a fan of the idea. My advice would be to leave the house completely (because baby will know when you’re just in the other room) and have your husband bottle feed baby. My husband found what worked best for our little one after a few days; he would have to take off his shirt and lay baby semi upright with her cheek touching his skin. He spent a little bit of time playing around with different bottles and nipples that were supposed to closely resemble breastfeeding, but the standard Dr. Browns bottles did the trick. Those are the only ones she would take. They also worked out perfectly, as the caps were interchangeable with the Medela bottles that came with my pump. I have also heard people say that having a shirt that has mom’s smell on it really helps to get baby to take a bottle as well.
4.) Make Sure Your Provider Knows How to do Paced Bottle Feeding
Sit down with your provider and be sure that they know how to pace bottle feed a breastfed baby. If your provider does not know how to do that, then your baby will most likely get over fed, and you’re provider will tell you that you need to provide them with more milk and your freezer stash will get depleted QUICKLY. That golden milk is so precious, and you spent so much time and effort pumping out that milk for your baby, so that’s the last thing you want to hear. Plus, over-feeding can cause baby’s stomach to stretch and could cause gastrointestinal issues.
As a general rule of thumb, breastfed babies should be getting 1-1.5 oz. for every hour that mom and baby are apart. Most breastfed babies typically eat somewhere between 3-5 oz. per feeding. It’s a good idea to pre-make your bottles with the desired amounts to send to day care, so they can just pull it out and warm it up. Also, be sure you are using slow flow nipples, and It may be a good idea to go over proper breast milk storage and warming with your provider as well.
5.) Prepare Yourself for the New Routine
A week before you head back to work, act as if you are going to work. Wake up at the time you would need to in order to get to work on time. Get into a set morning routine. Maybe even drive to the daycare and your work to see if you’ll get there on time. But we all know that babies are unpredictable, so this time may take you longer on some days. I was still always so late to work most of the time. I needed to give myself much more time to get to work. Learn from my mistakes, and be sure to give yourself PLENTY of time to get to work. But, let’s face it, kids just make you late. 😉
There you have it; my 5 must-know tips for returning to work when you breastfeed. Remember to know your rights when it comes to pumping at work, build a freezer stash and have someone else practice giving baby a bottle a few weeks before you go back to work, be sure your care provider knows how to do paced bottle feeding, and give yourself plenty of time to get into this new routine. This time can be overwhelming, but I hope these tips will help make your transition back to work a little smoother.
What About You?
What helped make the transition back to work easier for you? Did you find this post helpful? Feel free to leave a comment or share this post with your breastfeeding mama friends.
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