Updated: Feb 2
Congratulations! Whether breastfeeding has been one of the hardest things you have ever accomplished, or a mere breeze, you deserve major kudos for the many hours of nursing (both day and night!) you have put in thus far, the commitment it took to nurse through sore nipples as both you and your baby overcame the breastfeeding learning curve, and the responsibility you undertook to provide your baby with the greatest source of nutrition she could ever have.
When I say major kudos, I am talking a live band playing music, confetti raining down on you, fireworks exploding in the background.
Our bodies were made for breastfeeding, but that doesn't mean that it is easy.
As you plan to return to work, you may feel a little nervous about maintaining the milk supply you and your baby have worked so hard for.
And rightfully so. Maintaining your supply after returning to work is no small feat.
However, as with any new challenge or unknown territory, we must not let our anxiety overtake our will.
Remember how you felt when you first became a mom? Did you question whether or not you'd be able to breastfeed at all? Whether or not it would be right for you? And here you are, planning how you will continue to breastfeed after returning to work. You've got this!
Check out these tips for breastfeeding after returning to work.
Your schedule will be one of the most important factors for successfully incorporating pumping into your work schedule AND for maintaining your supply for an extended period of time.
Pump as frequently as you intend
If you pump the same time each day, you are much more likely to stick to your schedule and not miss a pumping session. Depending on the type of work you do, this can be challenging.
Flexibility to Your Schedule?
When I was nursing my children, I actually found myself to be more productive during the time leading up to and the time directly following a pumping session, since I wanted to finish what I was doing before I stepped away to pump, and make up for my time away when I returned.
If you have at least some control over your work schedule, be sure to plan your daily "tasks" accordingly so you can accomplish the necessary work before, in-between, and after your pumping sessions each day.
Limited Flexibility To Your Schedule?
If you have little or no control over your work schedule (nurse, teacher, waitress, factory worker), you can still try to pump at the same time each day.
In fact, the consistency of your schedule will allow your colleagues to anticipate when you will be gone each day and have a plan to cover your work if need be.
It also allows you to anticipate your pumping sessions and manage your work accordingly (dispense your meds before a certain time, put your customers' food orders in, complete a lesson and give your students an independent assignment).
Maintain your supply
This next piece of information may be the single most important piece of information for helping you maintain your supply.
Lengthening the time between feedings/pumping leads to weaning.
This is because <ALERT, SCIENCE NERD INFORMATION > lengthening the time between feedings leads to lower prolactin levels (the hormone that stimulates production of breastmilk) and leads to less rise of prolactin when you do pump or feed your baby, even if you pump/nurse the same total amount of time. Therefore...
...it is better to pump more frequently for a shorter period of time, than less frequently for a longer period of time.
So what type of schedule should you create?
Keep your work day in mind
No one schedule works for every working mother. Keep in mind your ultra busy times of the day and avoid planning to pump during these times. You want to set yourself up for success, not failure!
Mimic your baby's feeding schedule
Although you likely won't be able to duplicate your baby's feeding schedule exactly, plan to pump as frequently as your baby' nurses. Beginning at around 3 months, babies typically eat about every 3 hours.
This is my favorite part of being a working and breastfeeding mama. I LOVE being productive while pumping.
Things you can do while pumping: