It can be hard to think about going back to work, but preparing for the transition will make it easier for both you and your baby. Before you know it, you'll both be used to your new routine.
It Gets Easier
There are many things you can plan and prepare yourself and your baby for the transition back to work. Just take one step at a time, be flexible, and know that it will get easier!
Preparing Your Mind
For many new moms, breastfeeding and returning to work can be hard. That’s OK. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about taking things one day at a time. It will get easier. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your WIC clinic, a lactation consultant, the hospital where you gave birth, and other working moms who have successfully gone back to work and continued to breastfeed.
Ask friends and family for support. It’s all right, and even necessary, to ask for help. Who can you count on? Talk to them, tell them your plan to breastfeed, and tell them what you’ll need to stick to your plan. Will you need help with dinner or child care? Ask for it.
Take care of yourself. Sleep as much as you can. Cut down on doing things that are not necessary. Pick a bedtime that gives you enough sleep and stick with it. On weekends, breastfeed often and sleep when your baby sleeps.
Take time for yourself. Too many moms take care of everyone but themselves. Take time to relax in the tub after you put the baby to bed or unwind with a favorite book or soft music. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good mom. Do what you can and take one day at a time.
Planning for Work
Plan to go back to work in the middle of your typical work week, if you can. For example, if you work Monday through Friday, have your first day back be on a Wednesday. The first few days are likely to be the hardest for you and your baby emotionally. You will have to balance life back at your job, pump breastmilk, store your milk, and manage child care. If you have a shorter week when you first go back, you’ll have the weekend to look back at how things are going and make changes as needed.
Plan some extra time for getting ready in the morning so you can spend some time with your baby.
Have all your equipment ready to go. You will need your breast pump and kit, containers to store the milk you have pumped, an insulated bag, and ice packs to keep it cold (if you won’t have a refrigerator you can use).
Bring extra breast pads. If you feel a tingle in your breasts, like your milk is about to let down, and you are not ready to pump or express it, you may be able to stop any leaking by pressing on your nipples. Try wrapping your arm across your chest over both breasts and pressing down firmly, holding it until the feeling passes.
Make a schedule. Usually you need to pump in the middle of the morning, at lunch, and in the middle of the afternoon to replace all of the breastfeedings you would have given your baby if you were with him. If you work a longer shift, remember that you need to pump as many times as your baby eats while he is away from you.
Try not to miss any pump times and let your employer know that this is important to you. If the schedule that you had planned isn’t working, come up with a new plan together that will meet both of your needs. The law says that your employer must allow you to pump as often as you need to.
When you are with your baby and on your days off, plan to breastfeed every time your baby shows early hunger cues. If you’ve noticed the quantity of your milk getting less during the work week, you can increase it by breastfeeding more often when you are together. Spending time holding and enjoying your baby is your chance to build your milk supply up again.
Once you have built up your milk supply, usually around the time your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old, have your partner, family member, or friend practice feeding your baby a bottle of breastmilk. This will help your baby get used to the bottle before you go back to work, and it will help you get used to pumping your breastmilk. This is a great time for you to take a walk, run an errand, or treat yourself to some time alone.
Before you go back to work, take your baby to your child care provider to practice your routine. Do at least one practice run where you leave your baby with a caregiver who will feed him a bottle of breastmilk.
If possible, plan to breastfeed your baby when you drop him off at child care and when you pick him up. Babies often want to nurse as soon as they see their mom, and feeding your baby before you go home makes your trip home more comfortable. Child care licensing requirements in Texas say child care centers must have a place for moms to breastfeed their babies.
Remember, breastfeeding is good for a lot of reasons. When you nurse your baby after a long day apart, he will reconnect with you and feel comforted. Even if you are also using some formula, breastfeeding during the times you and your baby are together is still very important to your and your baby’s relationship.
Planning for Child Care
Try to find a child care provider that supports breastfeeding and is close to your work. Texas Child Care Licensing Minimum Standards for Child Care Centers says that a comfortable place for breastfeeding and supportive policies must be provided in Texas child care centers. When you are looking for a child care provider, be sure to ask what policies they have in place to support breastfeeding mothers. Also, ask if they are a Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite that supports their employees in breastfeeding.
Visit your child care center a few times before baby’s first day there. Touch toys and items in the center. When you do that, your milk will build up immunities to germs in the child care center to protect your baby.
Make a backup plan. Be sure that you know what to do if your baby is sick or your baby’s caregiver is not available on a day you have to work.