It is so hard to think about returning to work after having a baby, but there are ways to prepare for the transition that will make things easier for you and your little one. Making sure your baby will willingly accept a bottle, building a reserve of breast milk in your freezer, and setting up your workspace so you’ll have time and a place to pump on the job, are a few things you’ll want to think about before your return. But have no fear; we’ve compiled a list of our top tips for making your return back to work a seamless one.
Find a pumping routine that works for you. Once you return to work, you’ll be pumping as often as your baby feeds when you’re away (think every 3 hours). While many moms think they need to start pumping immediately after delivery to build an ample freezer stash, you can actually wait until 2-3 weeks before your return to work to start pumping regularly, unless of course you’re dealing with breastfeeding problems that require you to pump before then. If possible, don’t start regularly pumping until your baby is 4-6 weeks old, since this is the amount of time it takes for your milk supply to become fully established. Pumping regularly in addition to breastfeeding before 4-6 weeks can cause your body to go into overproduction mode, which you’ll want to avoid.
How much of a freezer stash do I need? Believe it or not, you only need about two day’s worth (50-70 oz.) of breast milk stored in your freezer before returning to work. As long as pumping remains part of your routine while you’re at work, you’ll always be ahead of the game and have a good backup supply if you ever need it. Of course there are certain instances where more of a milk stash may be necessary (if you travel for work, or won’t be able to breastfeed for a certain amount of time), so figure 25-35 oz. for each day you’re away from baby.
Introducing the bottle. Introducing your breastfed baby to a bottle may sound simple, but for many parents it takes a lot of time and patience. For a smooth transition, you’ll want to start offering the bottle somewhere around the fourth week when your milk supply is fully established and breastfeeding is off to a good start. This four-week window is ideal because waiting longer can result in a baby who might reject the bottle completely. If possible, have someone else give the baby a bottle and don’t wait until your baby is too hungry, as this often results in increased fussiness. If you’re baby refuses the bottle, you can always try again tomorrow.
Know your legal rights. Thanks to the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law, transitioning back to work has gotten a little easier for nursing moms. The law offers protection for mothers who continue breastfeeding after returning to the workplace and requires employers to provide breastfeeding mothers reasonable break time to express milk and a private, non-bathroom space to express milk during the workday through the baby’s first year of life. It should be noted, however, that this law only applies to companies with 50 or more employees. If you work at a smaller company, be sure to speak with your supervisor before going back to work to find a solution that works for both of you. Research shows that breastfeeding is beneficial for moms, babies and employers, resulting in less sick days and lowered healthcare costs, so don’t be afraid to bring it up!
The most important things to consider when transitioning back to work is to take one step at a time, be flexible, and remember that it will definitely get easier!