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A Guide to Breastfeeding for Working Moms

Family Medicine
July 31, 2019
A guide to breastfeeding for working moms, blog post, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic.

Mothers know that breastfeeding is the optimal way to provide nourishment to their babies. However, it can be tough to breastfeed for working moms.

In this guide, we’ll go over some common concerns you may have as a working mother who wants to breastfeed. We’ll also discuss how you can continue breastfeeding even while you’re at work by using a breast pump.

Should You Still Breastfeed if You Work?

Yes! All mothers are encouraged to breastfeed for at least the first six months of their babies’ lives. It provides the best-possible nutrition for your baby. Even if you work full- or part-time, most moms can continue producing milk.

Most working mothers either take breaks to breastfeed during the day or use a breast pump to draw milk from their breasts and store it for later feedings.

Tips for Breastfeeding While Working

When it comes to your job, hours, and responsibilities, every working mother will be in a different situation. Therefore, what works for you might not work for someone else and vice versa.

In general, however, you can follow these steps to find the best method of breastfeeding while working.
1. Speak with your employer about maternity leave while you are still pregnant.
Working mothers have rights when it comes to their pregnancy and newborn baby. Near the end of your first trimester is usually when parents tell their employers they’re expecting a baby.

Talk to your employer about what kind of time you can have off after your baby is born. Time off of work after baby is born is important for recovery, learning how to breastfeed, and bonding with your baby.

2. Try to only breastfeed for at least the first month.
Right after your baby is born and while you’re still in the hospital, you’ll begin breastfeeding.

For at least the first month after that, try to be near your baby at all times so that you can feed them directly from your breast. They will need to feed about 8 to 12 times a day during this month.

After the first month, whether you plan to return to work at this time or not, it is okay to introduce a bottle to your infant. You can start pumping your breast milk and storing it if you can’t be near them for some of their daily feedings.

3. Decide if you need a breast pump.
Breast pumps use a suction action that is similar to how your baby’s mouth draws milk from your breast.

When you can’t be near your baby for feedings, your breast will still produce milk. You should pump this milk using a breast pump or manual expression.

Manual expression is when you draw milk from your breast using your hands. If you need to do this often, it’s better to get a breast pump.

Remember that if you don’t draw your breast milk frequently, either by feeding your baby, or with a pump or manual expression, two things may happen:
• You may stop producing milk altogether.
• You my experience breast engorgement.
Engorgement occurs when your breasts overfill with milk. It can make your breasts firm, be painful, and complicate breastfeeding.

If you think you may use a breast pump, talk to your provider about how to get one. They are often available for free through insurance or special programs. You’ll also need bottles and breast milk storage bags for the refrigerator or freezer.

4. Learn how to use your breast pump.
There are three main types of breast pumps:
• Manual
• Battery-operated
• Electric
Electric or battery-operated pumps are usually for moms who need to breastfeed frequently. If you only need to pump occasionally, you can get a manual pump.

There are also single and double pumps:
• A single pump takes milk from one breast at a time.
• A double pump takes milk from both breasts at once.

Breast pumps come with instructions you can follow. You can also ask your provider or a lactation consultant if you need help. Pumping should not hurt, but it may be uncomfortable.

5. Speak with your childcare provider about a feeding schedule.
Whether you plan on leaving your baby with a family member, babysitter, or you'll be taking them to a nursery or daycare, speak with your child's caregiver about daily feedings.

If you can arrange it with your employer, it may be possible to take breaks from work each day and coordinate breastfeeding so that you don’t need to pump. This is best for your baby. If you cannot do this, however, pre-pumping your breast milk and having it fed to your baby in a bottle is still better than using formula.

Work with your childcare provider to figure out a feeding schedule. Make sure you’re providing them with enough stored breast milk for each feeding.

When Should You Start Pumping?

When and for how long you pump will vary, depending on your work hours and how often you can feed your baby directly from the breast. In general, you should pump at the same time every day.

If you are away from your baby during a time when you would normally be feeding them, pump at this time. As you plan your return to work, it’s best to start pumping a few weeks before your first day back. This gives your baby a chance to get used to feeding from a bottle and allows you to practice using a pump and storing your milk.

Remember that it's normal to find breastfeeding as a working mom difficult sometimes. Fortunately, support is available. Reach out to your provider or a lactation consultant whenever you have questions about breastfeeding, pumping, or related challenges.