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Breastfeeding For Working Moms: A Guide From Experience

by | August 19, 2019

In today’s society, many women decide to return to work after having a baby. That’s great, of course, but comes with some challenges if you’re planning on breastfeeding — challenges which may make it seem impossible.

So, today, I — Katie Hill, Raise Vegan contributor and intern — would like to offer some helpful tips and tricks from my own experience breastfeeding, commuting, and working full time, with the hope of making things just a little bit easier on you.

Baby and Mom
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Breastfeeding & Returning to Work

Returning to work is an emotional time for many new moms. We’ve formed a bond with our little ones, and it’s time to drop them off at daycare or leave them with a caregiver.

For me, it felt like my heart had left my body and gone out into the world on its own. That’s okay. It’s natural to feel a wave of sadness, guilt, or even a little excitement to be back on your own schedule.

All of this said, you can go ahead and look at breastfeeding or providing breast milk for your little one as a way to stay connected. Not only is breastfeeding an excellent means of ensuring your child gets the nutrients they need, it’s a journey the two of you go on together — even when you’re apart. 

Mom at work
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Labor Laws Protecting Nursing Mothers

It’s important for you to go back to work knowing your rights.

In the United States, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to provide break time for nursing mothers in order to express milk — however often they need.

It’s a good idea to work out a schedule with your manager, and try your best to stick to it. Remember, this is a right protected by law. You’re fully entitled to ask for it!

You’ll surely be pleased to know that you’re also entitled by law to sanitary pumping quarters. This should include a locked room, preferably one with a plug for the pump, a fridge for storage, and a sink for washing the parts and bottles.

Breast milk
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Mother’s Rooms

One of the first orders of business is sorting out whether your workplace has a mother’s room or equivalent. These may be individual rooms you can lock, or communal spaces, in which case you may want to bring a nursing cover.

Perhaps you’ll be lucky to have access to a space which already has pump machines in place, in which case all you have to bring is your containers and hook-ups.

Typically, you can keep a drying rack in the room for the pump parts you clean after pumping, and you can store your milk in the fridge until it’s time to leave.

The Pump Bag

Every breastfeeding working mom needs a pump! Many come in a handy carrier bag, with the pump built-in. You’ll probably want one of those.

It should also include cooler compartments and bottles to store the milk, as well as breast shields, valves, membranes, and tubes which connect to the pump.

Fortunately, most pump bags are unassuming and can be carried easily, even on your commute, to business meetings, or from your car to your office. Having a bag is particularly helpful if you don’t always work in the same location.

Storage
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Storage

Normally, once you’ve pumped and the milk fills the bottles, you will transfer the milk into storage bags.

When it’s the end of the day, just pop the bags of pumped milk into the cooler compartment in your carrier bag and head home! The milk shouldn’t even go bad even on a long commute.

In fact, the CDC indicates that freshly expressed breast milk may stay at room temperature for up to four hours, and that it has a fridge life of up to four days. In the freezer, it’s best to store your milk for no longer than six months, but up to 12 is acceptable.

Pumping on the Go

Are you a traveling professional? Worry not. You can still pump. However, you’ll want to carefully plan ahead because, if pumping times are missed, it can become… uncomfortable.

Anywhere with a plug and a place for you to sit privately can be a place you can pump but, if you want a bit of extra privacy, you may want to bring a nursing cover.

Hands-Free Nursing Bra

Another total lifesaver for multitasking moms is a hands-free nursing bra.

With this, you can keep working (or doing whatever it is you need to do) while you pump. It’s brilliant — and will make pumping on the go easier than you ever imagined.

Supply
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Keeping Your Supply Up

With all the busy days you’ll have back to work and the stress associated with it, you may feel as though your supply is dwindling. It happens. There are a few things that can help with this.

First, pumping frequently can help to keep your body thinking the demand is high, which may cause you to produce more milk. Similarly, pumping after your baby nurses, or while looking at your baby or a picture of your baby, may help stimulate production. Our bodies are sophisticated machines!

You may have also heard of using supplements like fenugreek, which some women have found success in using — perhaps worth a shot.

Extenuating Circumstances

Depending on the circumstances, you may have to “pump and dump.”

Why would anyone do this? Well, being out and about traveling for work, for instance, may prevent you from accessing appropriate storage. Or perhaps you hit your work happy hour. You’re human, too.

If you do drink alcohol, it will be in your milk as long as it’s in your system. So, if you have to pump, you may also need to dump.  Normally, it takes about two hours for one drink to leave your bloodstream.

Have you successfully breastfed your baby after returning to work? Please share in comments!

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