Planning ahead when you return to work is crucial in the transition for both you and your baby. Taking as many weeks as you can to stay home with your baby so you can bond and establish a good breastfeeding routine before you add in being away from home.

While you are pregnant it is a good idea to check with your employer on how many weeks paid or unpaid you can take off in the early days. Also check with your state laws and your company to establish a pumping plan upon returning to work as far as times, place you will pump, place to store your milk, etc. Planning ahead can help  you have more time after birth to enjoy your little one.

Planning for work

  • If you can go back to work in the middle of the week this can be helpful as it will be a little stressful at first between balancing life back at work, stopping to pump, storing your milk, and being away from your baby for possibly the first time. If you are able to say start on Wednesday, then you have fewer days to look forward to the weekend with your baby again.

  • Allow some extra time in the morning getting ready for work so you can spend some time with your baby and possibly nurse before you leave your baby for the day.

  • Have all your equipment ready to go including pump bag, breast pump, extra parts if possible, milk storage bag, cooler/ice packs, breast pads, pumping bra, nipple cream, and even a picture of your baby to help with the oxytocin release during letdown.

  • Talk to your employer about how important this is to you and come up with a plan and let your boss know you may need some flexibility while getting down a schedule, etc. Plan out a place where you will pump, a place you will store your milk, and timing on your breaks. You may have to get creative with a place to pump and store, such as partition, shower curtain, a sign for a door that may not lock, and possibly a mini fridge if needed.

Getting your baby ready

  • Once you have established your breastmilk supply usually around 3-4 weeks it is a good time to introduce the bottle to your little one. Have dad, your partner, or a friend give your baby a bottle as this will help them practice getting a bottle from them or a daycare worker for when you return to work. It will also help you practice pumping breast milk if you have not already done so.

  • Make sure to practice pace feeding your baby their bottle so they will transition back and forth from breast to bottle well. Let your baby’s caretaker watch a video on pace feeding and practice it while you are away from them.

  • If possible plan to breastfeed your baby when you drop them off and right when you pick them up. They usually want to feed once they see mama. When you nurse your baby after a long day at work it is good for both them and you and helps them feel comforted.

Planning for childcare

  • Research places that are breastfeeding friendly and support frequent feeds, pace feeding bottles, and know how to prepare and store breastmilk.

  • Have a back up plan in case your baby is sick or your childcare is shut down for any reason.

  • Visit the childcare location a few times before leaving your baby so that you are comfortable when it comes to dropping off your baby.

Pumping at Work

  • Make a schedule. In general you will need to pump as many times as you breastfeed when you are home with your baby. This is usually every 2-3 hours for babies 6 months and under and every 3-4 hours for babies over 6 months of age. A typical breastfeeding schedule could look like 7am: Before you leave for work, 10am: mid morning break, 12:30pm: pumping during your lunch break, 3pm: mid afternoon break, 5:30pm pumping as soon as you get home or to your childcare location. Making sure you do not wait until you are super full is very important.

  • With a double electric pump your sessions should be about 15-20 minutes. You will also need to factor in time to wash pump parts and store your milk. When storing milk here is a great resource https://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/milkstorage/milkstorage/.

Returning to work while breastfeeding can be overwhelming, but having a plan can help make for a better transition. Try to have as much planned ahead of time with supplies, Just take one day at a time and have lots of patience and grace with yourself. It is okay to be sad and miss your little one. Keeping your evenings free to snuggle with your little one and reconnect can be helpful. If you need any help in your transition do not hesitate to reach out for a lactation appointment, our team can help answer any questions or troubleshoot any issues that arise.

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