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Back to work while breastfeeding: Tips to stay on track

Posted on Aug. 3, 2015 ( comments)
Breast pump at the office

Aug. 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week.

Breastfeeding is an important predictor of the health of both a mom and her baby, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least a year. Here in Washington, moms already know breast is best: nine out of 10 babies in the state begin life breastfeeding! However, just 34 percent of babies are still breastfeeding at one year, and only 20 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months.

What’s getting in the way? We’re seeing that moms are returning to work or school earlier than in the past, sometimes as early as two weeks after giving birth.

Keeping up a breastfeeding schedule can be extra challenging when you’re not home with your baby full time. Read these five tips to help you continue achieving your breastfeeding goals when you return to work.

1. Plan ahead

Before returning to work or school, ask yourself these questions to help plan ahead.

  • Will a caregiver bring your baby to work so you can breastfeed during your lunch?
  • Will you be pumping during breaks/lunch?
  • Where will you pump at work?
  • Is there a power source where you will pump?
  • Is there a sink where you can wash your pump parts?

If you are unsure about what accommodations are available at your school or job for pumping, talk with your supervisor in advance to get support. It’s also a good idea to have your baby practice taking your milk from a bottle. Note: He or she may be more successful at taking pumped milk when someone other than mom is offering the bottle, since your baby knows your voice, heartbeat and smells, and will be expecting to be breastfed, not bottle-fed, from you.

2. Know your equipment

If you’ll be pumping when you return to work, make sure you’re familiar with your pump settings. Pumped milk volumes tend to be higher in the morning and decrease in the late afternoon and evening, so don’t be discouraged when your volumes fluctuate. Double check your pump bag the night before to make sure you have enough milk storage bags and bottles. Keep your milk safe by following these milk storage guidelines.

3. Start mid-week

Easing into the routine gradually with a three-day work week may be more desirable than taking on a five-day work week right away. Instead of starting on a Monday, see if you can negotiate starting Wednesday. Don’t be surprised if your baby’s feeding pattern changes after your return to work. Baby will often breastfeed more frequently when you get home from work or on your days off; in effect, reconnecting the breastfeeding pair.

4. Know your rights

Employers are required by federal law to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break times to pump for one year after a child is born, as well as provide a private setting — that is NOT a bathroom — that can be used by mothers to pump. You can read more about the laws that protect your rights as a nursing mom at the U.S. Department of Labor website.

5. Maintain open communication

Talk with a friend or co-worker who’s already returned to work. Call or text your caregiver as you’re leaving work so they know when to expect you, and have a hungry baby ready to nurse once you get home. This not only helps you to reconnect with your baby after the workday, but cuts down on the amount of pumped milk being used right before you get home. 

WIC is…breastfeeding support

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program is a federally supported program helps pregnant women, new and breastfeeding moms, and children under 5 get healthy food, nutritional education, breastfeeding help and more. WIC made a difference for over 304,000 women, infants and children in Washington in 2014.

MultiCare WIC Nutrition Services serves 12,632 clients monthly across 11 locations in Pierce County. Almost half of all babies in our state are on WIC.

You are eligible for WIC if you meet the following criteria:

  • Live in Washington state
  • Are pregnant, a new mother or a child under 5 years of age
  • Meet specific income guidelines

MultiCare WIC Nutrition Services is working hard to increase our breastfeeding rates in 2015! Our goal is for 86 percent of babies enrolled on WIC to go to the breast at birth. At 4 weeks of age, we’d like 64.4 percent of WIC babies to still be breastfeeding and 45 percent still breastfeeding at 6 months.

Some of the ways in which we help our support our clients’ breastfeeding goals include:

  • Breast pumps at some WIC clinic locations
  • Information about the special benefits of breastfeeding
  • One-one-one appointments with a lactation consultant
  • Opportunities to connect with other WIC moms who are breastfeeding

To learn more about local WIC services, including income requirements to enroll, visit the MultiCare WIC website, or call 253-403-1349.

About The Author

Joanna Patraw Joanna Patraw

Joanna Patraw, RD, CD, IBCLC, is a nutritionist and clinical dietitian with MultiCare’s Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Services program. She is committed to helping families make informed decisions that support their health.

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