Breastfeeding and Working: You Can Do It

Breast milk is the perfect nutrition source for babies. Breastfeeding has many health benefits for the baby and mother. To get the most benefits, breastfeeding is advised for the first year. However, many breastfeeding moms return to work during this time. Sometimes this creates barriers that cause moms to stop breastfeeding.

Why Breastfeed After Returning to Work?

Benefits for Breastfed Babies

Breastfeeding provides health benefits to babies. It helps reduce the baby's risk of many health problems, such as:

Breastfed babies tend to be sick less often than babies who drink formula. This means that breastfeeding moms miss less time from work.

Benefits for Breastfeeding Moms

Breastfeeding also benefits moms. It can help moms return to their pre-pregnancy weight sooner. It may also lower the risk of:

Breastfeeding also strengthens the mother-infant bond.

Finally, moms may find breastfeeding convenient. They do not have to deal with the cost and preparation of formula.

The Challenges

Breastfeeding can be challenging when returning to work. Working moms often worry about producing enough milk for their babies. Long work hours and stress can lower their milk supply. In addition, working moms who breastfeed may be more tired. They need to plan their time more carefully than bottle-feeding moms.

Other challenges are finding the time and space to breastfeed (or pump breastmilk) at work. There may also be lack of support at the workplace. How can you overcome these challenges?

Making It Work

Here are some tips to transition back to work while breastfeeding:

  • Do a trial before you actually return to work —Put your child in daycare while you are still at home. Get a feel for the schedule and how things might go after you start work.
  • Talk to your employer —Work with your employer to create a breastfeeding-friendly workplace. Try to find someone at work who is supportive of breastfeeding. This person may be able to help you if any problems arise.
  • Maintain privacy —Make sure you have private space to breastfeed your baby or pump milk. Pumping requires an electrical outlet. You also need a place to store milk and a place to rinse the pump parts. In many cases, your employer is required by law to provide time and a place for you to pump.
  • Buy a good pump —You need an effective pump. If you are away from your baby for a full work-day, a hospital-grade pump is the best option.
  • Dress appropriately —Wear clothing that will hide any leakage. Clothing should also allow for easy pumping at work. Do not wear dresses and clingy or see-through blouses. Use a hair clip to hold your blouse out of the way.
  • Schedule times —Schedule pumping sessions in your date book.
  • Fuel your body —Drink water often while at work. Remember to eat well.
  • Get plenty of rest —The first 2 weeks after returning to work are often the most tiring. Cut back on other activities during that time. Get help with household chores.
  • Talk to friends —Find other moms who have successfully breastfed while working. Seek their support.
  • Ask the expert —Keep the phone number of a lactation consultant ready—in case problems arise.
  • Nurse whenever you can —Nurse often when you are with your baby. This will help maintain your milk supply.
  • Remember that medicine can affect your breast milk and your baby —Talk to your doctor before taking any medicine, herbs and supplements.

It will take a while to adjust to working and breastfeeding. Be patient with yourself. With careful planning, you can do a good job at work and be a nursing mom.

RESOURCES:

Le Leche League International
http://www.lalecheleague.org

Office on Women's Health
http://www.womenshealth.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
http://www.sogc.org

Women's Health Matters
http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

REFERENCES:

Breastfeeding. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/breastfeeding. Accessed October 28, 2021.

Breastfeeding and going back to work. Office on Women's Health website. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-home-work-and-public/breastfeeding-and-going-back-work. Accessed October 28, 2021.

Fact sheet #73: break time for nursing mothers under the FLSA. United States Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division website. Available at:https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/whdfs73.pdf . Accessed October 28, 2021.

Support for breastfeeding in the workplace. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/BF_guide_2.pdf. Accessed October 28, 2021.

Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board   Last Updated: 10/28/2021