Going Back To Work   Bookmark and Share

Ahhh yes.  Going back to work.  When I went back after having Alex, I cried every day for about seven weeks, and I never even tried to pump.  With Ryan, I was ready and even though it wasn't the easiest thing in the world, I pumped two or three times a day until he was one.  I hope to get you ready to go back, if that's possible, and I'm going to include some of the experiences other moms in my practice have had.


Learn Before You Return Class

Before the Baby Comes

I think it makes sense to talk to your employer and find out what opportunities you'll have to pump.  If there is a lactation program at your company, then get the details. If there isn't, ask.

From Tori:  I presented the problem to the HR manager - a man, talk about uncomfortable. Basically, I told him that we weren't expected to prepare our OWN lunches in the bathroom - why should I be expected to prepare my son's meals in the bathroom? This was a company were even the president was in a door- less cubicle and there were only two offices that had real walls and locks on the doors, and they were both in HR.

The response really surprised me. I could not believe how accommodating they were. They put locks on the doors and blinds in the windows of two conference rooms. The HR manager also said that if both of those conference rooms were being used during my breaks, I could use his office.

I don't work there anymore, but to my knowledge, those rooms are still being used by nursing moms. And all I had to do was ask. I couldn't believe the ladies before me resorted to the bathroom. If they would have just asked, those rooms could have been setup that way so much sooner.

If other women at your company have been able to successfully pump, ask them where they pumped, where they cleaned the parts. You'll need to know if there is a refrigerator to store your milk, or if you need to bring a cooler.  Find out if your employer has flex-time, part time or at home working options, since the less pumping you have to do, the happier your work experience will be.

After the Baby, Before Going to Work

I have lots of people, right in the nursery, asking me when they can start to pump to start to store stuff for when they go back to work.  And I know how much anxiety is caused when you don't have enough "milkcicles" stored up. But, at least in the first couple of weeks after the baby comes, your "job" is getting to know your baby, forgetting about the pump, and letting the baby do the work of getting your supply up.  The kids have a little software program in their heads that tell them to eat a lot, even when they are not hungry, in those first couple of weeks.  If we mess up that program, we can wind up with a milk supply that does not meet the baby's needs...including the potential for too much milk.  Too much milk can lead to the baby getting too much foremilk and not enough hindmilk, and becoming a gassy, cranky baby.

So priority one is establishing a good milk supply.  That means the baby eats on demand for as long as they want and that we avoid pacifiers and bottles until they are about 3 weeks of age.

Then, at about 3 weeks of age, you can have somebody else give the baby a bottle of expressed breastmilk.  That way, you get to practice using the pump and the baby gets to practice taking a bottle.  I do not care what kind of bottle or nipple and I have no recommendations as to which one to get.  And I'm sure you can guess what I have to say about those nipples that advertise that they are closest to breastfeeding!

We need somebody else to give the bottle, because if the baby knows mom is around, they will not usually take the bottle. When they are near mom, they know what they want, and it isn't a hard piece of cold plastic.  The baby's expectations for somebody who isn't mom are very different, and we have a bunch more success getting the kids to take the bottle when mom isn't the one giving it.

When the baby is about 3 weeks old, we can start saving milk for work.  After each feeding the baby does, pump for about 10 minutes afterward.  You won't get much as first, but the increased demand will create and increased supply over time. Then store what you pumped.

When you are looking for childcare providers, this is a good time to confirm that they will be comfortable with giving your expressed milk.

Try to arrange going  back to work on a Thursday or Friday, so you can do a short week and a few trial runs.

Going Back After Maternity Leave

Click here for some pumping rules.

This is all about relaxing.  Most likely, you're going to be pumping, unless you are lucky enough to have your baby visit you at the workplace.  Pumped milk volume (actually all milk volume, but it's easier to notice when you are pumping) is greater when you are well rested and relaxed.  And creating a relaxed setting at work is really important.  I shopped online for jewelry when I was pumping.  Here's some other ideas (I like Lisa's advice about listening to me!)

From Lisa:

From Tori:

We had two scheduled 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch, so that's when I pumped. And to relax, I'd usually try to doze off during those times. The bells at the end of the breaks would always wake me back up again. They had a little kitchenette with full size fridge, microwave and sink available for employee use. I'd put the milk bottles in a brown paper lunchbag and put them in the fridge and then rinse out the pump parts in the sink before I put them back in the bag for the next break. I washed the pump parts at home in the dishwasher every night.

From Mary:

The hardest part was relaxing, and staying motivated to deal with that contraption everyday. I mostly went on the computer during those times to try to get my mind off of it. I would constantly worry about not getting enough milk…even though I never ran out. To stay motivated, I would just think about my son and the benefits it gave him…then there wasn’t a question as to why I was doing all of this.

It's easiest to nurse right before you leave for work, and nurse as soon as you get home.  Make sure you tell your childcare provider to hold off on late afternoon feedings until you know when you can get home.  It's a bummer when you come home and the baby has just eaten, because then you have to pump again, and feeding the baby at the breast is sooo much nicer.

Try to pump at when you are at work about every three or four hours.  But really, we don't need to find huge segments of time or uninterrupted time.  Pumping twice or more in a row, 10 minutes to 30 minutes apart can work too and those interrupted clusters together would work as ONE pumping.  You do what you can. 

In general, you should expect to pump once ounce for every hour since you last fed or pumped, and that's a two-breast total.  So if it's been 3 hours since you last pumped, then your next pumping should yield 3 ounces total.

You should expect that they baby might take, at any one feeding, about half of what they weigh...meaning, if they weigh 8 pounds, they'll take about 4 ounces.  And maybe that's even inaccurate: they'll puke if they get more than that.  They certainly don't have to take that at any feeding. In fact, some kids do something called "reverse cycle nursing" where they eat more when they know you are going to be home and eat just enough to tide them over when you are at work.  Your babysitter may tell you that your baby barely ate anything and then the baby eats all the time when you are together.  Smart kid.




updated April 13, 2007