Can I continue to breastfeed when I return to work?
Before you go on maternity leave, or before you return to work after your baby is born, talk to your employer about your plan to breastfeed.
Also, take as much maternity leave as you can. This will allow your milk supply to become strong before you return to work.
How can I continue to breastfeed my baby when I’m at work?
What if I decide to pump my breasts?
- How often can you pump your breasts? At what times?
- Where can you pump? Will this area have electricity and privacy?
- What changes might have to be made in your work schedule to allow you to pump your breasts?
Whenever you are with your baby, you can still breastfeed. When you’re at work, your baby’s caregiver can use a bottle to feed your baby the breast milk you pump. However, be careful not to feed your baby from a bottle too early. If you use a bottle too early, your baby may not breastfeed as well. This problem is called “nipple confusion.” It is best to avoid bottles and pacifiers until your baby is 4 to 6 weeks old and has learned how to breastfeed well.
What you need to pump your breasts at work
- Breast pump, plus electrical adapter if needed. Extra batteries if you are using a battery-powered pump.
- A small cooler, plus ice, if a refrigerator is not available for storing your milk at work. If you forget the cooler, breast milk can be stored at room temperature for 4 to 8 hours.
- Enough milk storage containers for the number of pumping sessions you will need during your workday.
- An extra shirt, sweater or vest to wear in case your breasts leak. It is a good idea to wear shirts with patterns on them because milk is harder to see on patterned material.
- Clothing that makes it easy to get to your breasts. Your clothing should open in the front.
- A shawl or small blanket for privacy if you need to pump in a common area.
- A water bottle and healthy snacks. Women who are breastfeeding need extra calories.
- A pillow for supporting your arm while you pump your breasts. This may make pumping more comfortable.
- A “do not disturb” sign if you are pumping in a shared space.
- A portable radio or tape or CD player (plus your favorite music), an entertaining book or a magazine. If you are relaxed, your breasts will release milk more easily (the “let-down reflex”) and you will be able to pump your breasts better.
- A picture of your baby or an item of your baby’s clothing. Thinking about your baby can stimulate the let-down reflex.
Where can I pump when I’m at work?
What if I can’t pump at work and I can’t go home to breastfeed?
If you don’t pump, your breasts will stop making milk during your workday. For the first few days, your breasts may become overly full and leak. You can use nursing pads (breast shells) in your bra to catch leaking milk. Crossing your arms over your breast and applying firm pressure can stop the leaking. If your breasts become very uncomfortable, you can go the bathroom and pump (either with your hands or with a breast pump) just enough milk to feel better.
Who can I talk to when I have questions about breastfeeding and working?
Local breastfeeding support groups or breastfeeding-related Web sites are also good sources of information.
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