Breastfeeding and Work

Medical experts recommend breastfeeding your baby until his first birthday. Yet many mothers want or need to return to work far sooner than that.

Feeding your baby while you're at work requires a little bit of preparation, but is still healthier and less costly than switching to formula. Talk to your local WIC office about obtaining a breast pump to use to express milk on the job, to be given to your baby later.

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Before the baby is born

According to Maine law, employers must provide a clean and private place (not a bathroom) for breastfeeding women to express breast milk on scheduled breaks for up to three years after childbirth. During your pregnancy, talk with your employer about your plans to return to work, and ask about arrangements for breastfeeding mothers.

By supporting breastfeeding, your employer actually supports your work! Breastfeeding helps build your baby's immune system, meaning you will miss less work due to your child's illnesses.

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Before you go back to work

Practice expressing milk by hand or using a pump. Freeze 2 to 3 ounces at a time to save for when you go back to work. Ideally, try to pump or nurse at about the same times that you will be taking your breaks at work. This will also give you time to get used to using and cleaning the pump and work out any issues (make sure you have the right size flanges for your breasts, for example).

Help your baby get used to taking milk from a bottle (or, if she is old enough, a cup).

In a perfect world, you would be able to find child care near your work, or a family member willing to bring the baby to you during your breaks, so that you could breastfeed in person. This is not possible for most mothers, but it's worth checking to see what your options are.

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When you go back to work

If you can, arrange to return gradually, so that you and your baby have a chance to settle into the new routine.

Set up a household routine for your return to work. Plan who will do laundry, cooking, shopping, errands and housecleaning. Allow time to clean and sterilize your pump!

Prepare your baby's diaper bag the night before so that you just need to add the milk before you leave.

If you are picking your baby up from day care, see if you can sit for a few minutes together and breastfeed before going home. This will give you both a chance to relax and reconnect, and will make the ride home less stressful.

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Pumping at work

Take a few moments to relax from the stress of the workday. Stimulate your milk flow by breathing deeply and thinking about your baby. Bring a photo or other item that reminds you of your baby. Visualize milk flowing down and nourishing your child. You may need to massage your breasts or gently rub your nipples. If your pump is adjustable, set the suction to feel as much like your baby as possible.

Take the same number of breaks to pump that you would need to take to feed your baby if you were not at work. Usually, this works out to two or three 15-minute breaks in an eight-hour shift. Be sure you and your supervisor have a clear understanding about when you are allowed to take your breaks. If time is an issue, consider using an electric pump that will allow you to express milk from both breasts at once, thus allowing you to take shorter breaks.

Store your milk in a refrigerator (clearly labeled with your name and the date you expressed it) or in a cooler with ice packs until you can bring it home.

Consider keeping an extra top or outfit at work in case of a spill.

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