It’s that time that many new mothers dread – going back to work after her maternity leave is over. Aside from preparing herself for the time apart and dealing with separation anxiety, mom will have to hire and train a caregiver, train her baby to take breastmilk through the bottle or the cup, and learn to use the pump properly to stock up on breast milk. It is imperative for breastfeeding working mothers to make preparations on how to still provide breast milk for their baby even when they are back at their workplace.
Let’s face it: though there are laws that state clearly that breastfeeding must be encouraged and that breastfeeding mothers must have the support of their employers by providing lactation rooms with amenities specified by law, this is hardly the reality in many offices. How then does a new mom combine breastfeeding and her work?
1. Make the intent known. A few weeks before going back to work, one of the preparations a breastfeeding working mom has to do is make it known to her supervisors at work that she is devoted to breastfeeding her baby, and that some arrangements have to be made before she returns to work to accommodate that. A few weeks’ notice will give the company enough time to figure out and arrange details before mom actually returns to the workplace.
Request a place that can be used for your pumping breaks. A conference room or a private office would suffice provided they have the necessary amenities you will need. Ask for a source of electricity if your pump demands it, and ask for a place in the pantry or clinic fridge or freezer where the pumped milk can be safely stored.
Be firm that the comfort room or lavatory is not an option to be a pumping room. This area would definitely not be a good place to pump and store breast milk for hygienic reasons. It would be a good idea though to ask for a room that is close to the comfort room so that a faucet and sink is nearby.
Another option – though less desirable - is the company clinic, because it unnecessarily exposes the mother to viruses and illnesses.
2. Get into a schedule. By law, breastfeeding moms should have no less than 40 minutes of paid time to take care of her pumping needs with every eight hour work period. This should not mean though that pumping can be done at any which time during the day. Be professional enough to stick to a relatively consistent pumping schedule so that meetings and the like can be scheduled around your breastfeeding breaks.
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Experimenting on the number of pumping breaks can be done and practiced before returning to work. This will ensure that pumping will become easier and more effective because the mom’s body is used to the schedule already.
Once back at work though, make sure to use your pumping break time effectively. No more dilly-dallying or doing anything else other than what is needed to pump and store milk. Maintain professionalism at all times.
3. Get yourself the tools to make breastfeeding easier. Aside from having a pump, reliable storage and a means to transport breast milk from the office to the home, look and see what is available to help make pumping easier at the office. Have a breastfeeding shawl or cover handy for added privacy. Get a cooler with ice packs if there is no fridge available at the office or in case of emergencies so the pumped milk does not go to waste.
Have a bag that is big enough to fit all pumping needs so everything is organized and within reach at each pumping session. Your pumping kit should contain your breast pump and accessories, bottles for storage, ice packs, a towel for clean-up, a shawl for cover-up, breast pads, an extra nursing bra and maybe even a change of clothes, just in case any accidents occur.
Having everything in one bag or carry-on case will also prevent any embarrassing and time-wasting situations where something needed is left in your office or desk or other bag.
4. Plan and strategize pumping breaks. Make pumping more effective in the workplace by planning out what needs to be done to get the privacy and calm needed for pumping. Taking along a picture or two of baby to help induce the flow of milk is something that many working moms do. Some moms even find it effective to bring a used article of clothing with them so they can keep the scent of baby close by. During pumping breaks, it is best to pick a position where one’s back is towards the door whether the room can be locked or not, so that privacy is maintained. Even if someone accidentally walks in, there is less embarrassment and awkwardness. Better yet, use a breastfeeding wrap at all times while pumping to do away with any embarrassing situations.
It would also be a good idea to create a system or a means to convey to others in the office that you are having a pumping break. Maybe hang a cute picture of a milk carton or a baby bottle on the door. Be creative and let the message be known.
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These days, more and more mothers are opting to breastfeed their babies even while working. Because of the quality of pumps and the availability of the tools to make pumping, storing and transporting breast milk easier, it is no longer a feat for moms to provide their babies with the best milk and still maintain a career. All there is to do is to plan well, assert one’s rights and make use of the products available.