Women have always worked and breastfed. The pioneer mother on the prairie had lots to do besides nurse her babies, and even modern mothers who are at home during the day struggle with the work of running busy households while responding to the needs of their infants. Combining working and breastfeeding is not really a new concept.
Here are tips excerpted from Dr. Sears’ website to help you continue to give your baby the very best in nutrition after you return to your job.
YOUR WEEKS AT HOME
Make a commitment. Juggling breastfeeding and working is not easy. There will be days when you wonder if it’s all worth it. You’ll develop a love-hate relationship with your pump. You’ll leak at embarrassing moments, and you may be on the receiving end of less than supportive comments from ignorant co-workers. There will be days when you’re ready to toss in the pump and reach for the formula. Yet, once you make a commitment to continuing to breastfeed, you’ll find a way to do it. If you believe that breastfeeding is important for your baby and for yourself, doing what it takes to continue this beautiful relationship will not seem as difficult. And you’ll enjoy all the practical benefits of nursing your baby full-time when you are together after work and on weekends. You may be worried that nursing and working will be a lot of bother, or friends may have told you about their own difficulties with pumping milk or arranging feeding schedules. Working and caring for a small baby is a juggling act, so you need to think carefully about this choice and how you will manage. If you’re not sure that you want to continue breastfeeding after you return to your job, give it at least a 30-day trial period. This will give you a chance to work out any problems and settle into a mutually-rewarding experience for you and baby. Have confidence in yourself. You can do this!
Get connected. To build a solid relationship with your baby, you must banish the “what if’s.” “What if he won’t take a bottle?” “What if she won’t settle down without nursing?” “When I pump milk at home I can pump only a little bit. What if I can’t pump enough milk when I’m back at work?” Don’t let these worries about the future intrude on your enjoyment of your first weeks with your baby. These are legitimate concerns, but at the same time, they are all problems that can be solved. It’s good to plan ahead–but not too much. Don’t let your preoccupation with the day you need to return to work (“W” day) rob you of the joy of those weeks of being a full-time mother. So even if your maternity leave is only a few short weeks, use this time to allow yourself to be completely absorbed by your baby. Think of this time as a “babymoon”-like a honeymoon, with emphasis on establishing a relationship with minimal intrusions. This season of your life will never come again; treasure it while it’s here. (You can organize those closets next year–or five years from now.) Mothering a newborn will absorb all your time. It should. These weeks after birth are when mothers fall in love with their babies. And, as with any love affair, the two of you need time to get to know one another.
Will focusing on just being a mother now make it more difficult to leave your baby later? It might. We’ve seen many mothers who had thought they would return to the workplace move heaven and earth in order to stay home longer with their babies. We’ve also seen the payoff for mothers who take the time to really get attached to their babies but who do return to their jobs: they work very hard at maintaining the close relationship with their child. They enjoy their babies more, and the benefits to their children are lifelong.
Get breastfeeding off to a good start. Doing everything you can to make breastfeeding work well in the early weeks is important to breastfeeding success after you return to work. You need to breastfeed early and often to encourage your breasts to produce lots of milk. Feeding your baby on cue will get your milk supply in line with your baby’s needs. And your baby needs lots of practice at the breast so that she has good sucking skills that will not be affected by artificial nipples later on. The more you can learn about breastfeeding at this stage, the more easily you will be able to solve any problems that might occur later on.
Plan to take as much maternity leave as you can. The longer you can enjoy this exclusive breastfeeding relationship, the easier it will be to continue when you are back on the job. Use vacation time, or any other time off that is available to you.
Consider taking an unpaid leave to stay home longer with your baby, if that is financially possible. (Sacrificing some income at this point in your life could turn out to be the one of the best investments you’ll ever make.)
Working only part-time will also simplify breastfeeding. If there is a compelling reason why your baby must receive breastmilk, perhaps because of prematurity or allergies, you may be able to prolong your leave time by getting a letter from your doctor.