Going back to work after maternity leave is challenging. It’s almost impossible to leave those adorable little chubby cheeks with a sitter or family member. And if you’re breastfeeding, it can be even more difficult because you have to figure out how to pump at work, which means finding time to pump breast milk or feed at work to keep your supply up. If you’re worried about breastfeeding your baby or pumping at work, here is a list of everything you need to know before you head back to the office after maternity leave.
Pick a Pump
Choosing a breast pump might seem easy, but it’s important to pick the right one for your needs when you’re heading back to work. A lactation consultant can provide information to help you choose the right one for nursing, but a few things to keep in mind if you don't speak to a lactation consultant include:
-Electric vs. manual pumps — An electric pump is more efficient, but they can be bulky and hard to transport. Manual pumps might not work as well, but they can usually be easily dropped into a purse.
-Battery vs. plug — If you’re going to need to pump more than a few times every day, a battery-powered pump might run out of power before the end of the day.
If you need to buy a breast pump, check with your insurance provider — many plans cover the cost of a breast pump. If the supplies aren’t covered by insurance or you just choose to buy your own, keep your receipts. The cost of breastfeeding supplies is tax deductible.
Know Your Rights
Your employer is required by law to provide a private space that isn’t a bathroom for employees to pump, as well as make reasonable accommodations for the time you need to pump. Depending on how often you need to pump, you may be able to work around your existing break times.
Make Your Case
Just because your employer is required to allow any nursing mother to pump during your shifts doesn’t mean they are willing to do so. Talk to your employer, preferably before you are scheduled to return to work, and let them know about your needs.
If you can do so during your scheduled breaks or lunch hour, let them know. It always looks better if you appear to be trying to minimize the impact that your pumping has on your daily tasks.
If they don’t want to accommodate your pumping times, be prepared with the applicable state or federal laws. As a last resort, if you’re dealing with a particularly stubborn manager, you may have to reach out to your company’s Human Resources department to be sure your rights as a breastfeeding mother are enforced. It might seem like a dramatic step, but if it comes down to it, don’t hesitate to reach out to HR.
Once you’ve spoken to your employer, it’s time to prepare for your first day back. Here are a few things to keep in mind in the milk production arena.
-Get used to your pump — Don’t make your first day back at work the first day you use your breast pump. Take some time to get used to it, figure out which settings work best for you and learn how to assemble and disassemble it.
-Take snacks and water — It takes calories to generate that breast milk after all, so if you’re pumping at work, take the time to eat a healthy snack and drink some water. You’ll feel better, and it helps your milk production too.
-Keep milk storage in mind — Your milk needs to be refrigerated after you’ve pumped. If you’ve got a fridge in your office, that is a great storage option for your supply. Just make sure you label your milk very well. If a fridge isn’t an option, you can store milk in a cooler for up to a day as long as it’s well cooled.
-Clean and store your pump — You’re going to want to take apart and clean your pump after each session. A bathroom or hand-washing sink is a good option.
Schedule Your Day
Once you’re used to pumping it and have an idea of how long it will take to express during each session, it gets easier to schedule your day. Schedule your day, and your breaks, so you can pump efficiently and effectively without negatively impacting your day. Enjoy the time you’re taking to take care of your baby even when you’re away from home.
Pumping or breastfeeding after you’ve gone back to work can be a challenge, but if you know your rights and are prepared, it isn’t impossible. Just be prepared to pick up a pump, talk to your boss and schedule your break time accordingly, and pumping at work will be a breeze.
More of a visual learner? Here's another way to digest some great pumping at work tips and info:
You Have The Right To Breastfeed Your Baby--
Sarah Landrum is an expert career blogger and the founder of Punched Clocks, a career and lifestyle blog helping professionals create a career they love and live a happy, healthy life. For more from Sarah, follow her on social media and subscribe to her newsletter.
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