Maternity Leave and Preparing to Go Back
As a pediatrician who specializes in breastfeeding, I have worked a lot with working, breastfeeding moms. I was a working, breastfeeding mom myself. I went back to work when each of my kids was 6-7 weeks old and spent a LOT of quality time with my breast pump. Going back to work can be one of the hardest times for new moms. Some moms want to stay home but can’t because of finances or other obligations (in my case, I had a Navy contract that required that I go back to work). Some moms like their jobs and want to go back to work. Whatever the reason, there is often (but not always) guilt and stress with going back to work and maintaining breastfeeding. What equipment and supplies do I need? When should I start pumping? What if I don't get any milk?
What do you need?
Preparing to return to work
Try to pump a supply of breastmilk before returning to work. Of course you want to do this. But how? I recommend that moms spend the first 2-3 weeks of baby’s life focusing on getting to know baby and getting the hang of breastfeeding (and try to get some rest!!). If you have trouble with breastfeeding ask for help. You might need to keep asking for help. Ask baby’s doctor. Ask your friends. Look for breastfeeding support groups in your area. Don’t struggle alone. Once you two get the hang of things, you might wonder why you bother wearing a shirt with all of nursing that is going on. Babies nurse 10-12 times a day in the beginning, and they cluster feed for a lot of that. For now, leave the breastpump in a closet and try to pretend it doesn’t exist. When baby is 2-3 weeks old and (hopefully) nursing well, it’s time to pull out that pump. Read the instructions and give it a try. If you are having trouble, look for videos online. Most breastpump brands have videos on their websites on how to use their pumps. Lactation consultants are also good sources of help. Before you go back to work, just pump once day. The best time to pump is first thing in the morning. That is when your supply is the greatest. Nurse the baby on one side and pump on the other. If you can do that at the same time, great. If you (like me) aren’t that coordinated, that’s OK. Nurse and then pump. You will not fill a bottle. You might not even get much milk. That’s fine. Store what you have in the refrigerator and add to it the next day. The longer you do this, the more you will produce, and you will be surprised how quickly your supply in the freezer will grow.
Come back soon for Part 2: Going Back to Work.