The Ultimate Guide to Surviving As a BreastFeeding Working Mom
No matter where you work, breastfeeding comes with a variety of challenges. Whether working from home, in the office or off-site, you can be away from your baby for several hours. There needs to be a balance, in order to adjust to your routine, so you are able to go the extra mile for your baby.
The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding exclusively for six months, and yet only 26% of mothers who choose to nurse while working full-time are still breastfeeding to six months. If you are determined to break this statistic, and we know you are, here are our practical tips for surviving your breastfeeding journey. It is worth the effort, we promise.
1. Maximize Maternity Leave
Parents are federally protected under The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can be provided with 12 weeks of unpaid leave, including same-sex parents and spouses. Whilst we understand many don’t get the option or simply can’t afford to - taking at least a month after birth to begin your breastfeeding regimen is important. It can take time for you and your baby to adjust to breastfeeding, so try and do whatever you can to stay home. Your body will also thank you for the recovery time.
2. Know Your Rights
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that employers offer “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has to express the milk.” By law, you have the right to express milk as often as you need for a full year after birth. You have the right to feed your child and have a career at the same time.
If you are not one of the millions of Americans who are protected by the FLSA, ask your employer! Many are happy to and want to help you come up a plan, especially when presented with the facts that supportive workplace breastfeeding programs lead to healthier babies, reduced absenteeism from work, lower healthcare costs, and higher morale (from both mothers as well as other employees).
3. Get Your Pump On!
To keep your milk supply healthy while you are away from your baby, you’ll need a pump! We would definitely recommend investing in a high-quality, electric pump designed for frequent pumping and traveling. It will be your companion for at least a year so needs to be strong! You’ll pay more, but the ease and convenience are worth every penny. If you are looking for cheaper options, try buying and sharing with someone at work or there are also opportunities to rent out top-of-the-line pumps from hospitals.
4. Dress For Success
In an 8-hour workday, you’ll likely need to pump 3-4 times, so your clothes should probably be pumping-friendly. Look for easy access shirts (forget anything that requires you to disrobe completely, like something tight or high-neck) and a hands-free pumping bra that allows you to set the pumps and then check emails, social media or just relax.
A well-stocked pumping bag is a lifesaver for working moms! Whilst your breast pump may be the bulk of your bag, it is always important to include milk storage, wipes, cold packs, and a book! Consider what you can leave at work, and talk to your employer about a locker or cupboard within your lactation room.
If you need a more detailed list: https://pregnantchicken.com/breast-pump-bag-packing-list/
6. Space & Flexibility
Employers must provide a private space, that is not a bathroom, for you to pump. So, if your employer isn’t up to speed on the most recent laws, educate them and search out your pumping oasis. Many companies offer flexible schedules and spaces, due to employees being on shifts, more than one employee is pumping or simply lack space.
You and your employer can make it work. Examples of compromise include creating shift schedules with other employees, either for accessing a pumping space or when you need to be covered. Talk to your employer about a four day week or getting a caregiver bringing your baby in for a midday nursing session.
7. Get A Routine
Like we’ve said before, a schedule is key. It can be harder to stick with pumping if you aren’t sure when you need to pump, so talk to your employer (and your body) about the set times you need to express milk every day. Most women base it on their baby’s actual feeding times at home - so set a timer or add it to your calendar and you will feel more prepared!
8. Learn To Say No
You have just set up your schedule and someone has booked you into a meeting at the same time - Don’t postpone your pumping session. Remind your colleagues that your routine is serious, that you are unavailable during nursing sessions and that you have set them for your baby's health as well as your own. It is not worth delaying a session for business, especially if you are wary of milk supply or infections.
9. Focus On Baby
If you are lucky enough to have a private room set aside for you to pump (complete with milk fridge), turn it into a space that is relaxing and comfortable. A place that you don’t mind spending the next year using three times a day! If you can’t customize the space, consider bringing pictures, videos of your baby or simply something that helps calm you, to encourage comfortable (sometimes quicker) pumping sessions. Research has shown that stressful environments can affect milk flow, especially if your workplace isn’t prepared for you to pump.
If you share your space, a Lactl Privacy Screen can be printed with calming patterns or landscapes to help create a private but comfortable atmosphere. As it is double sided, ‘lactation room’ signage could be added to ensure no one walks in on your oasis.
10. Get A Snack!
Incredibly important when you are breastfeeding is eating well and staying hydrated. Your energy and milk supply will flourish if you focus on healthy fats and nutrient whole food - and stick to organic and chemical / preservative free options wherever you can. If you experience supply issues, there are plenty of lactation cookie or smoothie recipes online that help milk production.
11. Watch Something Else
Nothing affects milk flow like stressing out while you watch your milk slowly fill the bottles. If you watch the clock it will go slower! Distract yourself with a book or magazine, check social media, emails or anything that will keep you from counting down the ounces.
12. Get Support
No matter your situation, there will always be questions, frustrations, and concerns during your breastfeeding journey. Reach out for support as soon as you need it and try whatever you can before throwing in the towel - breastfeeding is important, but so is your health.
Women shouldn’t have to make a choice between having a career and nursing her baby. Is it easy? Not always, but if you are prepared, seek advice and commit, your breastfeeding journey will be worth it.
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