Returning to Work While Breastfeeding: A Checklist for Moms
Every nursing momma who’s heading back to work experiences a little uneasiness about how things will go once she’s back in the office. Questions swirl like, “Will my baby eat?”, “Will I produce enough milk?”, or “How awkward is it going to be around my co-workers?” Thankfully, this back-to-work checklist from Mom Loves Best will help ease your mind about what to expect, and make sure you’re properly prepared well before your maternity leave ends.
When your baby is brand-new:
You shouldn’t even be thinking about heading back to work yet. Your main concerns should be snuggling your babe and establishing your milk supply. But during this period do make sure you’ve got a good-quality pump, and once your baby is three weeks allow friends or family members to start giving your baby the occasional bottle. This will help your little one get accustomed to switching between bottle and breast, but also send the message that mom is only available for breastfeeding.
About a month before heading back to work:
It’s time to start building a freezer stash of milk. At a minimum, make sure you have one day’s supply (about 25-30 ounces) in your freezer. You should also begin to talk with your boss about your return-to-work plan along with your pumping needs. You should be provided with a clean, private space that has an electrical outlet to plug in your pump.
The week before your maternity leave ends:
It’s time to do a trial run. Start pumping every three hours to get your body ready and to start building a regular pumping habit. Arrange a “practice day” at daycare, or invite your nanny or babysitter over to the house for a few hours. This will allow you to see if there are any unexpected challenges with your arrangements that need correction.
Your final piece of preparation will be to gear up emotionally for your first week back at work. Expect that you’ll be tired and cranky. Expect that your baby will be, too. Expect that you will feel mom guilt. And also, expect that it will get better.
The first week back:
The first week back is always the hardest, so if you’re emotionally prepared it won’t catch you off guard. You’re likely to feel a lot of stress during this time, so don’t panic if your milk supply takes a bit of a dip.
Once you’re back at work find ways to connect with your baby through evening play, frequent nursing, and lots of snuggle time. And be sure to keep your off-hours schedule clear – this adjustment week is not a time to make lots of social commitments but is instead a time to give yourself lots of grace and rest. Order take-out for dinner and leave the laundry for another day.
Before you know it, your “new normal” will actually feel normal. You, your baby, and your family will adjust. You’ll fall into a groove, and it will feel comfortable. Don’t let planning for your return to work overtake your precious maternity leave, but do be mindful of small preparations that will make your transition more smooth. One step at a time, momma. You can do this!
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