Employers are required by federal law to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break times to pump for one year after a child is born, as well as provide a private setting (that is not a bathroom) that can be used by mothers to pump. Courtesy photo

Employers are required by federal law to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break times to pump for one year after a child is born, as well as provide a private setting (that is not a bathroom) that can be used by mothers to pump. Courtesy photo

Back to work while breastfeeding: Tips to stay on track

Here in Washington, moms already know breast is best.

Courtesy of MultiCare Health System

Breastfeeding is an important predictor of the health of both a mom and her baby, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least a year.

Here in Washington, moms already know breast is best: nine out of 10 babies in the state begin life breastfeeding. However, just 34 percent of babies are still breastfeeding at one year, and only 20 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months.

What’s getting in the way? We’re seeing that moms are returning to work or school earlier than in the past, sometimes as early as two weeks after giving birth.

Keeping up a breastfeeding schedule can be extra challenging when you’re not home with your baby full time.

The following tips from MultiCare nutritionist and clinical dietitian Joanna Patraw can help you continue achieving your breastfeeding goals when you return to work.

Plan ahead

Before returning to work or school, ask yourself these questions to help plan ahead.

Will a caregiver bring your baby to work so you can breastfeed during your lunch?

Will you be pumping during breaks/lunch?

Where will you pump at work?

Is there a power source where you will pump?

Is there a sink where you can wash your pump parts?

If you are unsure about what accommodations are available at your school or job for pumping, talk with your supervisor in advance to get support. It’s also a good idea to have your baby practice taking your milk from a bottle. Your baby may be more successful at taking pumped milk when someone other than mom is offering the bottle, since your baby knows your voice, heartbeat and smells, and will be expecting to be breastfed, not bottle-fed, from you.

Know your equipment

If you’ll be pumping when you return to work, make sure you’re familiar with your pump settings. Pumped milk volumes tend to be higher in the morning and decrease in the late afternoon and evening, so don’t be discouraged when your volumes fluctuate. Double check your pump bag the night before to make sure you have enough milk storage bags and bottles.

Start mid-week

Easing into the routine gradually with a three-day work week may be more desirable than taking on a five-day work week right away. Instead of starting on a Monday, see if you can negotiate starting Wednesday. Don’t be surprised if your baby’s feeding pattern changes after your return to work. Your baby will often breastfeed more frequently when you get home from work or on your days off; in effect, reconnecting the breastfeeding pair.

Know your rights

Employers are required by federal law to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break times to pump for one year after a child is born, as well as provide a private setting (that is not a bathroom) that can be used by mothers to pump.

You can read more about the laws that protect your rights as a nursing mom at the U.S. Department of Labor website.

Maintain open communication

Talk with a friend or coworker who’s already returned to work. Call or text your caregiver as you’re leaving work so they know when to expect you, and have a hungry baby ready to nurse once you get home. This not only helps you to reconnect with your baby after the workday, but cuts down on the amount of pumped milk being used right before you get home.

MultiCare Health System is a not-for-profit health care organization with more than 18,000 employees, providers and volunteers. Visit multicare.org.

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