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Tips for breastfeeding moms when returning to work

Published in OB/GYN Services, For the Health of It Author: Jeanne Friebe, BSN, RNC, IBCLC

Returning to work after having a baby has to be among one of the most difficult transitions a woman will ever have to face. It’s a time of new routines and added anxiety that a new mom honestly doesn’t really want to think about too much in advance.

The change can be even more stressful for breastfeeding mothers who are planning on pumping-at-work. To help make this time in your life easier, here are a few items to be mindful of as you get closer to going back to work.

  1. Give yourself time to make the adjustment. If you haven’t pumped before returning to work, select your pump and start getting used to that routine about three weeks ahead of time. Not only will that give you time to get comfortable with your pump. It will also give you time to build up a supply of breastmilk you’ll need in the coming weeks. Most mothers and their infants transition to some bottle feeding with expressed breastmilk between the infant age of 4-6 weeks. If you wait too long your baby might refuse to take a bottle, which can be stressful.
  2. Know breastmilk storage rules. Fresh breastmilk can be kept in a refrigerator for 48 hours. You can also freeze it to use ahead of time. If you use a freezer that has a separate freezer door, your breastmilk will keep for 3 months. And if you keep it in a deep-freezer, it can keep for up to a year. However, when you warm it — make sure to warm it to body temperature (98 degrees). Also never warm or thaw breastmilk in the microwave (that destroys valuable nutritional properties). And even though you can use tap-water to warm or thaw breastmilk, make sure not to contaminate the milk with the water.
  3. Work in advance to coordinate with child caregivers. Whether you have family looking after your baby or if the little one is going to a daycare — make sure everyone is on the same page. Family members may need reminders to know the rules about safe thawing, warming and feeding of stored breastmilk. Each daycare center may have their own rules for how breastmilk is stored and organized. Don’t wait until the last minute to review these details.
  4. Test your routine in advance. Figure out your pumping-at-work routine and simulate your routine about a week before you go back to work. Breastfeed in the morning, then pump during the day about the same number of times as you plan to do so at work, then breastfeed at night again. This can give you an idea of how your body will respond to the change. It will also help you determine how much stored breastmilk you will need to incorporate into your routine each day or if you will also need to supplement with formula.
  5. Get everything you need for work. Besides your pump, think through the other items you’ll need to help you pump comfortably at work. This includes extension cords, breast pads and bags to help you transport bottles. Also think through your access to outlets, hot water and refrigerators. You may also want to have a spare outfit or two at work — just in case leakages occur.
  6. Stay with it. It’s common for a woman’s milk supply to diminish when they go back to work. But don’t get discouraged if you can’t pump as much as you would like. Do what you can because every drop counts. Even if you need to supplement with formula, your child will still receive the benefits of having some breast milk.
  7. Keep these tips in mind to increase your milk supply.
    • Rest, a healthy diet and adequate hydration play a big role. Conversely, stress and worry can contribute to a decrease in your production.
    • Keep breastfeeding as much as you are able to. Regular breast emptying is important.
    • Use a quality breast pump with capability to pump both breasts at the same time.
    • Skin to skin time with your infant and breast massage prior to and during pumping is also proven to increase milk production.
    • When concerned don’t wait too long before you contact a lactation consultant for advice and support. For assistance or for more education, please contact one of the resources listed below.

CentraCare Health Offers the Following Lactation Support

St. Cloud Hospital Breastfeeding Help Line offers lactation resources seven days a week. Help line hours: 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. After hours: leave a message and calls will be returned within 24 hours. Call 320-251-2700, ext. 52311.

CentraCare Health — Long Prairie: Certified lactation consultants are available by phone or appointment for breastfeeding questions and problems for assistance in obtaining breast pumps. For more information, call 320-732-2131.

CentraCare Health — Monticello: 60-minute, one-on-one sessions with a certified lactation consultant are available. For more information or to schedule a session, call 763-271-2218.

CentraCare Health — Paynesville: Certified lactation consultants are available 24/7 by calling 320-243-3767.

CentraCare Clinic Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine offers lactation consulting as well as a monthly support group called The Lactation Club (TLC) for nursing moms and infants. The group meets from 12:30-1:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month in the Kremers Room at CentraCare Health Plaza in St. Cloud. TLC is led by a certified lactation consultant and certified pediatric nurse practitioner. For more information or lactation support, call 320-654-3610, ext. 70268.

CentraCare Health offers the “Successful Breastfeeding” class, designed for expectant and new parents interested in learning more about breastfeeding. Register for the class in St. Cloud or in Monticello.

Your health care provider is another resource for answering breastfeeding questions.