Everyone is focused on back-to-school at the moment, but it’s also National Breastfeeding Month! New moms headed back to work might wonder how they are going to make breastfeeding and their jobs work together. Here are some simple tips to make breastfeeding and your transition back to work a little easier!
Before baby is born …
1. Plan to breastfeed. Simply making a plan and setting a time goal for breastfeeding has been shown to improve breastfeeding outcomes. Your commitment to breastfeeding helps pave a path to success.
2. Find a location (or locations) for pumping.You know your job the best. Worried there aren’t space solutions? Check out this tool for your sector of employment for more than 200 space suggestions to accommodate breastfeeding. Consider creative arrangements if need be (e.g. pumping in the car or nursing Baby at lunch).
3. Talk with your employer. Be proactive. Before you give birth, talk with your employer about what you expect you will need (space and break time). Being proactive gives your employer time to set up an appropriate (not a bathroom!) pumping space.
4. Get covered and get a pump. Call your health insurance plan using this tool and ask how you can get your breast pump covered by insurance. WIC mothers can ask about getting a breast pump at no cost from WIC. You will most likely want a double electric breast pump. There is no one bottle that is right for breastfeeding babies; all babies have different preferences. You should use a slow-flow nipple, regardless of your baby’s age, to best mimic the flow of breastfeeding.
5. Plan for a breastfeeding-friendly birth. Where, how, and what happens after you give birth can make a big difference in setting you up for breastfeeding success. If you can, choose a hospital that is designated as Baby-Friendly and follow the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding!
After baby is born …
6. Breastfeed early, often, and ask for help. Babies who go skin-to-skin (baby lying naked on your chest) within the first hours of life often spontaneously breastfeed without assistance! Babies need to feed often, eight or more times in 24 hours. Watch your baby (not the clock) and learn their feeding cues. It is normal and healthy for babies to cluster feed, which means that they feed many times over a period of time, then sleep for a longer stretch. You will feel like all you are doing is breastfeeding! It gets easier as they get bigger. Ask for help if you experience pain with latch or are concerned for any reason. You can find a lactation consultant to help at your hospital or through ILCA.
7. Take time to recover. California has both pregnancy disability leave and paid family leave! You can have job-protected leave for up to 17 weeks, plus income replacement through our State Disability and Paid Family Leave Program. For more information, visit www.PaidFamilyLeave.org.
After you return to work …
8. Secure quality childcare. Moms feel best when they know their baby is well cared for. Check out these tips for breastfeeding-friendly childcare. If family will be your childcare, educate them if they are not familiar with feeding a breastfed baby. Remember, breastfed babies typically need only one ounce of breast milk for every hour of separation. Some babies will even “reverse cycle,” taking in most of their breast milk in the mornings and evenings with Mom and drinking very little breast milk at daycare. As long as Baby is happy and continues to gain weight, this is perfectly healthy. For more information check out Kellymom’s page on pumping.
9. Know Your Rights and Stand Up for Them. You have the right to time and a private, non-bathroom space to express breast milk! You might need to educate your employer about the law. It might also help to inform your employer that breastfed babies get sick less often and for a shorter duration than formula-fed babies; which means fewer sick days and less time away from work for you. Check out BreastfeedLA’s link to laws related to breastfeeding.
10. Travel for work? You can still keep your breastfeeding relationship going! Moms who travel as part of their jobs will want to plan ahead for pumping locations. TSA allows unlimited amounts of breastmilk to be brought on board an airplane. Here are TSA’s specific guidelines.
There is no one perfect way to prepare you and your breastfed baby for your return to work. What will be best for you and your baby will depend upon your individual circumstances, but working and continuing your breastfeeding relationship can be done and you will both be happier and healthier for it.
Genevieve Thomas Colvin is program coordinator of the BreastfeedLA, an organization dedicated to outreach and advocacy to promote and support breastfeeding. Learn more at www.breastfeedla.org.