Returning to Work or School and Breastfeeding
Things you can do during your maternity leave to prepare:
- Take the maximum maternity leave possible.
- Breastfeed only. This will establish your milk supply. Do not introduce formula. You can always use lactation supplements like breast milk cookies or vitamins specific for breastfeeding supplements to help your supply.
- Practice expressing milk using a breast pump. Test some out to find the best breast milk pump for you. A pump that fits your body size and lifestyle will be the best breastfeeding pump regardless of what other use.
- Begin storing your breast milk in the freezer to have available as needed. Sanitized breast milk freezer bags tend to be the easiest for travel, giving to caregivers and storing.
Going back to work or school:
Ask your employer if there is a separate, private, quiet space for pumping. Your office may work too if you have a door and ability to cover any windows that are transparent.
Ask about using the guidance counselor’s or other office for pumping. The nurse’s office can be busy and often the private areas are taken for sick students.
- Prepare yourself to deal with pumping and possible leaking. Know which clothes will make using a breast pump easier and disguise any leaking. Breast milk leak pads are also very helpful. You can get reusable or disposable pads.
- Make a trial run before returning to work. Try spending some time away from your baby. Introduce a breastfeeding bottle of expressed breast milk before returning to work. You may find that your baby will take a bottle better from someone other than you. You may need to try different types of bottle nipples.
Making your plan work:
During the first months of life, babies need to breastfeed 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. This will maintain a sufficient amount of milk for your childcare provider to feed your baby while you are at work. The number of times you need to express milk at work should be equal to the number of feedings your baby will need while you are away. During the first few months, many women express milk for 10 to 15 minutes approximately 2 to 3 times during a typical 8-hour workday. When babies are around 6 months old and begin solid foods, they often need to feed less often and many moms find they can express milk less often while at work.
Keep your milk safe in breast milk storage bags, breast milk storage containers or breastfeeding bottles. Use an employee refrigerator or a cooler with ice packs. Store milk in small amounts, write your baby’s name, and the date on the breast milk storage bags.
Storing breast milk:
- Put breast milk on a shelf in the refrigerator or in a cooler with ice.
- Use pumped milk within 4 days or freeze it to use later.
- Breast milk can be frozen for up to 6 months. Freezing breast milk in breast milk freezer bags is the easiest expressed breast milk storage method.
- Once it has thawed, use it within 24 hours.
- DO NOT re-freeze breast milk.
- Thaw or warm breast milk under warm running water.
- Never microwave breast milk. It can cause hot spots that will burn the baby’s mouth and too much heat can destroy nutrients.
- Do not save pumped breast milk left in the breastfeeding bottles after a feeding.