Helpful Tips for Returning to Work After Maternity Leave
Pump Like a Pro with This Helpful Guest Blog Post From Sarah Wells of Sarah Wells Breast Pump Bags
Returning to work can be one of the most daunting tasks as a breastfeeding or pumping mom. You have already tackled the first few weeks of postpartum, and now it’s time to start your journey as a working mom. We can’t make leaving your little one easier, but we can help you with pumping. In this blog post, you’ll find the tips you need to take the stress out of successfully pumping at work.
Photo Credit: SarahWellsBags.com
Talking to your employer during pregnancy about your rights and need to express milk during the work day will allow you plenty of time to work on a pumping plan before your maternity leave begins. However, if you were not able to discuss it before your maternity leave, or you are starting a new job, it is helpful to meet with your boss and human resources manager at the same time to make a plan before your first day back.
Know Your Rights
In the U.S., you have the right to express breastmilk at work until your baby is a year old. The federal law states that lactating employees may express milk as often as they need. This means your employer cannot tell you when you can or cannot pump. However, the breaks are not required to be paid. Check out the guide to Break Time for Nursing Mothers for more information and print-outs that will guide your discussion with your boss.
Prepare for Your Return to Work
One of the biggest concerns about returning to work is having a “freezer stash” of milk before you head back to work. Great news! You only need to have enough milk stored for your first day back! You don’t need to have a ton of extra milk set aside because you will be pumping at work for the following day.
So, how much milk should you have prepared? If you exclusively pump breastmilk, you have the advantage of knowing exactly how much milk your baby will eat during the time you are away. If you primarily feed at the breast, the general guideline is one to one and a half ounces of milk per hour that you will be away from baby. So, if you are going to be away for eight hours, you should send eight to 12 ounces of milk to your babysitter.
To save up milk, add one extra pump session a day starting a week or two before you are scheduled to return to work. Most people make the largest volume of milk in the early morning hours, so adding a pump session before 11 a.m. will generally result in the most milk.
Photo Credit: Sarahwellsbags.com
Returning to work can be a very stressful time, which may affect your breastfeeding journey. If you feel more secure with a larger freezer stash, that is perfectly normal! A silicone milk catcher like the Haakaa can be an amazing tool for building a freezer stash without the extra work of pumping. Simply suction the pump to your breast while you feed baby on the opposite side.
Set a Schedule
Plan your first day back in the middle of the week, that way you only have a couple days away from baby at first, and you can have the weekend to figure out any issues that may come up at work.
To maintain your milk supply, you will need to pump at least every three hours. If you work an office job, it will be easier to schedule pumping breaks at set times.
A sample schedule could be:
6 a.m. Wake and feed baby, then get ready for work
7 a.m. Leave for work, drop baby off at daycare
8 a.m. Arrive at work
9 a.m. Pump break #1
Noon Lunch and pump break #2
3 p.m. Pump break #3
5 p.m. Leave work and pick up baby
Nurse or pump and feed baby when you arrive at home
Pro Pumping Tips
Here are some tried-and-true tips to make the most of your pump breaks!
Keep extra pump parts at the office. You never know when a spare pump kit will come in handy!
Get a high-quality hands-free pumping bra. Having your hands free will allow you to do other things while pumping, like reading, having a snack, or looking at pictures of your baby (a great way to boost milk-output).
Keep your pump parts clean with a wet/dry bag. After emptying your pumped milk into storage bags or bottles, you can keep your pump parts in a wet bag in a fridge or a cooler bag until your next pump session. This saves you from having to wash parts until you get home.
Schedule your pump sessions on your calendar. Block out your breaks so others won’t schedule meetings and calls during your scheduled pump times.
Try wearable pumps if you have an active job. If you work in healthcare, teaching, or other active professions, a wearable pump might be worth the investment. They will allow you to pump while working, if necessary, to preserve your milk supply even when you cannot take a break to pump.
About Sarah Wells
After the birth of her daughter, Sarah had her entrepreneurial “light bulb moment” and launched Sarah Wells Breast Pump Bags, based on a stylish and functional designer handbag that replaces the frustrating tradition of carrying a cheap vinyl breast pump bag or five separate bags for all a mama’s “stuff”. Since that time almost a decade ago, Sarah’s business has become an internationally recognized brand in the baby products industry. Sarah is a mom, an entrepreneur and a women’s health advocate. Prior to starting her business, she spent 15 years running national nonprofit organizations committed to achieving quality healthcare for Americans, with a personal passion to improve policies for girls and women