Maternity Leave is over, returning to work as a breastfeeding mother

With the birth of your baby, you have entered one of the most exciting times in your life! Breastfeeding on demand and being by her side every minute of the day. Now the issue many moms have to face is whether or not to return to work? Since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in March, many new moms now have the luxury of being able to stay home and work remotely. Although working at home with kids present has challenges of its own, nursing moms are more likely able to still nurse on demand. Whether it's a half hour break from Zoom meetings, working on a spreadsheet, number crunching or being able to breastfeed during a Zoom meeting with the camera off (or on!), moms that can work remotely may have a better chance of maintaining their breast milk supply and feeding on demand than nursing mothers who are returning back to the outside workforce. 

Many working, breastfeeding mothers succeed by planning ahead. Be sure to find supportive caregivers and you must be flexible with day-to-day changes in routine. Preparing to combine breastfeeding and employment takes a lot of preparation and commitment but many nursing mothers say “it’s worth it” and that breastfeeding is still much simpler than bottle feeding. A breastfed baby is sick less often and still has an irreplaceable bond with mother, even when she’s working. The relaxation a breastfeeding mother has while nursing baby counteracts the stress of a long work day. For many working moms, breastfeeding is the glue that holds the two halves of their life together. Many nursing moms say the favorite part of their day is reconnecting with baby through breastfeeding after being apart while at work.

Should you return to work?  When is the right time to return to work? These are questions many moms have, you are not alone! It is completely normal to feel a mix of anticipation and apprehension at the idea of returning to work. Reaffirm your priorities and reconsider your reasons for returning to work. Figure out why you need or want to return to work. You miss teaching and being in your classroom, you miss chatting with co-workers during coffee breaks, you miss after work social gatherings, you miss presenting an idea at a conference room table, you miss helping people or children who are sick. But you also don’t want to be away from your precious baby. All moms struggle with this! You are not alone and remember that you can still breastfeed and return to work! Each mother must seek the combination of breastfeeding and working appropriate to her circumstances. Every situation is different and every mother has to make decisions that fit her lifestyle. Here are some considering factors:

Finances: finances are the number one reason that mothers have to return to work, breastfeeding or formula feeding. The question is how soon must you return to the workforce? Can you delay by reducing household expenses? Possibly cutting costs of social activities, dining out, reducing the cable bill, cancelling a landscaping or cleaning service? Maybe you can put off the purchase of a big ticket item such as a new car, a new piece of furniture or postpone a vacation. Thanks to Covid, many of us have stopped spending money of non-essentials and little luxuries such as pedicures, spa days, and getting a new hairstyle. When the pandemic ends (it’s going to end, right?!), new moms can possibly “go back” to their days of quarantine when they weren’t spending as much those little luxuries and put that money aside. Go an extra three months without a manicure, new highlights or a Swedish massage and maybe extending the length of your maternity leave could be more realistic if finances are tight.  

Baby’s Age: the age of your infant can play a huge role in the ease of transitioning back to work. A six month old baby can eat some solids and may even drink from a cup offered by a caregiver, but a newborn nurses up to a dozen times per day for up to 30 minutes at a time. If you are lucky enough to bring your baby to work or able to work from home, your baby’s age may not be a huge factor in deciding to return to the workplace. The first three months postpartum are super important for a breastfeeding mom and baby to establish a bond. Breastfeeding on demand is critical during the first few months. Take advantage of your maternity leave to nurse as much as you can. Build that special bond with your baby, establish your breast milk supply, let your body heal and enjoy every moment.

Your Employer: make sure you are upfront with your employer about your desire to continue to breastfeed. An employer who understands the importance of breastfeeding is more likely to be flexible and make necessary arrangements for you. Make sure you are given ample time to pump. Know your rights about breast pumping at work. Employers must provide reasonable break times to pump milk each time that you need to throughout the day, which is typically every few hours. This break time not only includes the time it takes to pump your milk, but also any time you need to retrieve and use your breast pump. Make sure your workplace has a private room or area that you can feel comfortable in to use your breast pump. Make sure there is a refrigerator for you to store your pumped milk as breast milk should be chilled as soon as possible after being expressed. As a side note, breast milk can be stored at room temperature up to 4 hours after expression. Ask your employer if you can return to work on a Thursday rather than a Monday and if possible, see if you can take Wednesdays off or work remotely on those days. In the beginning, this can help as you won’t be working more than two days in a row and it will give both you and baby more time to adjust to your new schedule.

Work Flexibility: weigh baby’s needs versus your employer’s expectations. Be creative. Creativity can come in many forms. Maybe you can go back to work part-time for a few months before returning full time. We have several customers that work in restaurants and they often are able to switch shifts with co-workers, especially in the beginning. Swap out your lunch shift with an evening shift when your partner is home to be with baby. Shift swaps could also be done with other professions that have flexibility: nurses, home health aides, therapists, stylists among many others. You will be surprised at how many people love to help a new mom with her work schedule! Don’t be afraid to ask your co-workers or boss for a shift change. If your job allows, go for it! If you work close to home, you may be able to drive home on your lunch break to nurse baby. Your employer may allow you extra time during your lunch break to do this. Some places allow babies and children at the workplace, or have an on-site daycare or a daycare nearby. If your job requires travel, make arrangements to take baby with you along with a caregiver or request for a temporary territory change so that you can be closer to home. Many new moms often decide it’s time for a career change – start a home based or internet business. Apply your skills and become the next mom-preneur! Whether it be catering, photography, art, blog writing, social media influencing or perhaps starting a home based daycare to help other moms and make money at the same time.  Home based businesses allows for more flexible scheduling. Remote work is more popular now than ever thanks to Covid-19, we have to take the good with the bad of the pandemic, right? Now more than ever, nursing moms are able to work from home and may be able to into the future as many companies are deciding to have the option of working from home even when a vaccine becomes available.

Your Breastfeeding Wardrobe: many of our customers buy underwire nursing bras when they return to work for both shaping and support. Our selection of underwire nursing bras fit cup sizes B to P, you are sure to find your perfect fit with Nursing Bra Express. Our top picks for underwire nursing bras are the Anita 5068 Seamless Underwire Maternity Nursing Bra for moms that want natural shaping and simplicity. Want more shapely breasts under your work shirt? Try the Anita 5010 Underwire Spacer Maternity Nursing Bra with light padding. If you have a larger bust size, the Elomi Molly Full Bust Underwire Maternity Nursing Bra fits up to P cup size. Prefer a wire free bra with lots of support? The Elila Great Support Cotton Wireless Maternity Nursing Bra fits the widest size range with the most support in D to M cup sizes. You also may choose to invest in a hands free pumping bra so that you can multitask while pumping. It’s best to wear button down shirts for easy access or a shirt with a lot of stretch. Before you return to work, you may also want to start wearing a postpartum belly band to strengthen and slim down your midsection. Wear loose, comfortable clothing to work for the first several weeks until you and your body adjust to your new routine.

Pumping at Work: expressing milk at work can often be a touchy subject, especially if you work around a lot of men, with people who aren’t parents or haven’t experienced someone close to them who has breastfed. Some co-workers may not like the sight of your breast milk in the fridge when they go to get their lunch. Not all work environments have the space or privacy that nursing moms need to use their breast pumps. There are hurdles with pumping at work that you may not even know exist until you actually do it! It may take some time, there is a learning curve. Don’t give up! Over the years, we have heard many funny and not-so funny stories about pumping moms at work. Make sure your co-workers understand the privacy that breast pumping requires. Store your milk in a concealed container if possible, or at the back of the fridge. Make sure your pumping space is quiet and clean. If there isn’t a designated lactation room, try to use an empty office, a conference room or clean storage room. If your office is private, you may be lucky enough to be able to pump at your own desk!

Your Breast Milk Supply: when nursing on demand isn’t an option anymore, your milk supply can dwindle. Start pumping your milk two to three weeks before returning to work to get in the habit. Store your milk and introduce baby to the bottle. Make sure your chosen caregiver also practices feeding baby with the bottle a few weeks before returning to work and make sure you are present. Many babies will refuse to take a bottle from someone other than you, so it’s important that baby can see you while being fed by someone else. If baby goes to daycare, try to visit the daycare a few days beforehand to feed baby in the new surroundings. Many daycare owners are flexible, especially with infants. If that it’s an option, have friends and family practice bottle feeding baby so that he is used to new people feeding him. Many moms need to supplement and keep a healthy lifestyle to maintain their milk supply after returning to work. Make sure you get adequate sleep. Try to keep your stress levels low. Many moms panic and experience anxiety weeks before having to return to work and especially the night before. Get the support of your partner, family and friends to ease your mind about your return. Listen to calming music, breathe deeply and slowly. Practice mediation. Stress plays a huge role in decreased milk supply, do your best to keep stress out of your life. Massaging your breasts and nipples as much as possible while feeding and pumping also helps to keep the milk flowing. Apply a warm compress to your breasts before feeding and pumping. Maintain a healthy breastfeeding diet. Eat foods rich in galactagogues. What is a galactagogue, you may ask? A galactagogue is a popular term used in the world of lactation. It is a substance that promotes lactation and is often used in humans and animals to increase breast milk supply. Foods rich in galactagogues are leafy greens, garlic, chickpeas, nuts and seeds, whole grains like oatmeal and our favorite, lactation cookies. We sell delicious and nutritious lactation cookie mixes by Lactation Cookie Express. We encourage all breastfeeding and pumping moms to give them a try! Each lactation cookie mix makes 2 dozen (24 cookies) and most moms see an increase in their milk supply within 48 hours. Just add your own butter and egg, mix, bake, boost and breastfeed! 5-star rated and mom’s favorite oatmeal chocolate chip lactation cookie mix is made with Hershey’s chocolate chips. Wholesome and all natural oatmeal raisin lactation cookie mix is made with plump flame raisins from the sunny farms of California. The sweetest confection is oatmeal white chocolate chip lactation cookie mix and the basic, oatmeal lactation cookie mix is available for moms who want a basic lactation cookie. Do you have Amazon Prime? Shop Lactation Cookie Express on Amazon and have delivery at your doorstep within two days. 

The best and last piece of advice we can give to you, as a breastfeeding mom returning to work, is to connect with other moms who have been in your shoes! No one can help a mom out more than another mom who has been there and done that. We, as moms, are each other’s best resource.