Many women go back to work or school once maternity leave is over. Just because you’re going back to work doesn’t mean that you have to stop breastfeeding, though many do. In fact, 80% of mothers who return to work full-time wean before the end of the first month back to work. That said, you don’t need to stop if you don’t want to. This post will help you figure out how you can keep breastfeeding even after returning to work or school.
Step One: Make a Plan
First things first, figure out what your plans and goals are. You’re a new mom, and that inherently changes things. However, you have plenty of options.
Here are some options that you may want to consider.
- Work full or part-time
- Work from home (even if once a week)
- Take longer weekends and start each work-week, mid-week
Once you’ve decided on how you want to proceed, that’s when you can go to your employer with your plan or start creating your plan to go back to school.
Step Two: Talk to Your Employer or Figure Out Your School Schedule
Breastfeeding at Work
Now, this is where you go to your employer, but what exactly do you discuss to enable your success? You’ll need to learn your company’s policy. Most larger companies already have breastfeeding policies in place. If there is no policy in place, your employer is legally required to provide reasonable break time and provide a location other than a bathroom for you to express your milk. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find all of the legal resources and explanations you need (just in case you need them).
Next, you’ll want to get your plan in writing, whether that is by letter or by email. Here are two sample letters (letter one, letter two). Having it in writing protects you and helps you state your intent to advocate for your right to provide breastmilk to your baby.
Breastfeeding at School
Going back to school, like work, can be stressful. After making your plan, your first step will include planning your classes around when you need to pump or breastfeed. Under Title IX, your school is required to provide a place for you to breastfeed or pump (this blog post explains your rights as a student well).
Find out where you can pump on campus by reaching out to the Women’s Services or Women’s Success offices on your campus. Locally, we have UVU and BYU as our major universities. Both have websites with maps to where you can pump or breastfeed. Here is UVU’s website, and here is BYU’s.
It is more important to pump more frequently for less time than to pump less frequently for more time. For example, pump three times for 10 minutes each session versus one time for 30 minutes. Here’s a sample of how you can pump more in less time:
Breast massage (30 seconds)
Hand expression on each breast (2 minutes)
Apply flanges (30 seconds)
Pump on max comfort level (10 minutes)
Hand expression on each breast (2 minutes each)
Place pump parts in one bag and breast milk in another. Place both in the fridge or cooler.*
Tip: Place pump parts in a zip-lock bag and store in the fridge between pumping sessions to save time. Wash when you get home. *This is not recommended by the CDC.
Create a schedule for yourself. Whether you’re at work or school, it’s easy to get caught up in what you’re doing. Reminders on your phone are a must when it comes to pumping. Reminders will help you establish a rhythm. Here’s a sample schedule:
7:00 am – Breastfeed baby (at home or sitter’s) and head to work/school
8:00 am – Work/School Starts
10:00 am – Morning break to pump
12:00 pm – Lunch break and pump
2:30 pm – Afternoon break to pump
5:00 pm – Leave work/school
5:30 pm – Pick up baby – breastfeed at sitters
Evening – Breastfeed several times
Don’t be overwhelmed by social media – you don’t have to have a freezer full of milk before returning to work or school. In general, a breastfed baby drinks about 25-30 ounces daily. If you work an 8 hour day, then you will need about 12 ounces of milk for your baby while you are away.
We want to encourage you to make breastfeeding goals and stick to them. You can absolutely work, go to school, attain your dreams, and provide breastmilk to your baby.
- In the US, your employer is legally required to provide reasonable break time and provide a place, other than a bathroom, for you to express your milk.
- (Sec. 4207) Amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to require employers to provide a reasonable break time and a suitable place, other than a bathroom, for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child. Excludes an employer with fewer than 50 employees if such requirements would impose an undue hardship.
- State Laws – www.ncsl.org