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It's often said that breastfeeding is a full-time job. And in those first few weeks of motherhood, when it feels like you're feeding constantly, it certainly can be. But what happens a few months later when you have to go back to work?
While being a working and breastfeeding mother isn't easy, it's doable with some planning and determination. After all, breastfeeding is amazing for both you and your baby. It prevents various health conditions for your baby (including ear infections and diabetes) and promotes bonding. Here are five tips to help make breastfeeding for working moms more manageable.
1. Know Your Rights
The Affordable Care Act requires certain employers to provide "reasonable break time" for pumping, for up to one year, in a place that is not a bathroom. Multiple states also have laws regarding accommodations for pumping mothers, and some employers have lactation policies. Familiarize yourself with these, and make sure you're aware of your rights regarding breastfeeding when back at work.
If you travel often, make sure that you fully understand TSA regulations around breast milk and pumping supplies, including how many ounces you can carry. The MyTSA app can help.
2. Prepare to Pump
If you're a parent who travels for work or is away from your baby for extended periods, it will be useful to know ahead of time where you can pump. MomsPumpHere is a great database of more than 5,000 lactation rooms in locations all over the world. More and more airports are also featuring Mamava lactation pods, which are great for both feeding or pumping.
Bring a photo of your baby or a clothing item that smells like him or her to help your milk let down.
3. Utilize Helpful Products
These days, the market is flooded with innovative products to make life as a breastfeeding mom easier. Invest in a good-quality hands-free pumping bra and pump, checking regularly to make sure that the pump flanges are the right size for your breast and nipples. It's also key to always have a backup pump charger, as well as a hand pump, just in case your main pump stops working or is otherwise unavailable. Knowing how to hand-express your breast milk can come in handy, too.
Collection cups (which capture the milk that leaks from the other side while you feed baby on one) are a great way to make sure you're utilizing every last drop of milk, even when you're not pumping.
4. Get on a Schedule
Because breastfeeding works on supply and demand, the key to keeping up a milk supply is frequent milk removal. Generally, it's recommended to pump at the times your baby would normally nurse if you were with them. This usually works out to about three pumping sessions in a eight-hour work day. Some moms add additional sessions based on their schedules.
And, of course, when you're with your baby, you'll want to feed them at the breast if possible. Make sure you and your child getting plenty of skin-to-skin time, which helps with both bonding and milk production.
5. Seek Support
It's key that you have a supportive community as a breastfeeding/pumping mom. Make sure your partner, family, and even employer are on board with your breastfeeding goals and are ready to support you in any way they can. Connect regularly with other breastfeeding families, whether through in-person meetings like La Leche League or one of the many Facebook groups dedicated to breastfeeding for working moms.
It can also be helpful to make an appointment with a lactation consultant, also known as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), before you go back to work so you can make a plan for pumping and keeping up your supply. IBCLCs are also terrific if you run into any problems later on, like recurrent breast infections or a dwindling supply.
If pumping and working gets too difficult, you can look into milk sharing or formula. Above all, remember that your baby feels your love for him or her, regardless of whether they continue to breastfeed or receive breast milk. Any amount of breast milk that you've fed or pumped is valuable for your baby's immune system and development.