First: You can do it. As a working mother of five children who were all breastfed, I can attest to this: You can continue to breast milk feed after returning to work. Medela has a dedicated resource, Medela At Work, for breastfeeding moms seeking information about their breast milk feeding rights, guidance and support at work. Here are my top tips for mothers returning to work or considering it:
- Have a plan: Think about how you want to incorporate pumping into your daily schedule. It helps to know how long you typically need to pump for and your typical routine. If your office has a shared, online calendar it can help to block time off each day, to make sure you don't miss a pumping session at work and are able to pump without disruption.
- Talk to your supervisor/employer: Believe it or not, it can help the transition to let your boss know that you plan on pumping. This provides context for your pump breaks. Let your colleagues know as well. There might be other moms who have advice to share and it sends a clear message that you are prioritizing work while staying committed to your breast milk feeding goals.
- Make sure you have what you need: Some moms prefer to have a pump at work and one at home. It also helps to have a bra that supports hands-free double pumping. Medela just updated its Easy Expression Bustier with reinforced openings for superior no-slip support and an integrated top hook, making it easy to zip. The bustier can be worn alone or over a nursing bra or camisole.
- Keep track of your progress: It helps to track pumping sessions to remember how much you’ve accomplished, how much breast milk you’ve produced and to help you stay committed to your breast milk feeding goals. MyMedela, offers moms real-time activity tracking, customized guidance and a problem solver tool.
Nipple confusion can mean different things at different times. It can represent a time when baby prefers the bottle to the breast because flow is typically faster and requires less effort. This preference for the bottle can impact supply. In these cases, I recommend selecting a bottle with a very limited flow. For some moms, transitioning to the bottle from the breast can mean that baby is refusing the bottle. In these cases, it helps to have someone else (not mom) introduce the bottle and you might need to try more than one product before you find the option that works best. With all aspects of parenthood, the mantra is: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.
I have a few recommendations for increasing supply when mom is exclusively pumping. Pumping more frequently, especially after baby is born, can help initiate and build your supply. Care for yourself by staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet and to the extent you can, eliminating stress. Reach out to a lactation consultant and ask for support. If you have trouble finding one in your own community, Medela has “Ask the LC”, an online form for sending questions to lactation consultants.
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Meet The Expert
Amy O'Malley, Director of Education and Clinical Services at Medela: Amy develops education and programs for both mothers and clinicians to share the latest evidence, develop tools and programs to help mothers to initiate their milk supply and reach their breastfeeding goals. She has presented nationally and authored numerous book chapters. Amy began her practice as a pediatric nurse at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where she was later appointed Director of Nursing Resources. Amy spent several years on the faculty at Loyola University School of Nursing in Chicago where she taught Pediatrics and Community Health. Her greatest accomplishment is her five children, all of whom were exclusively breastfed.