One of the most difficult times we encounter during motherhood is the moment we return back to work. The transition from having your baby in your arms at all times, to spending several hours apart weighs heavy on a mother’s heart in many ways. A lot of anxiety starts to roll in, especially if you are actively breastfeeding your baby, and you may even question if it’s possible to continue a successful breastfeeding journey once you return to work. My answer to this, as a full time working mom of four, is that it is absolutely possible for you. Here’s a few tips to help prepare you for that upcoming change and to ensure that your milk supply doesn’t dwindle.
1. Prepare your baby: Find a bottle that they will take easily, even if this means buying several different bottles and experimenting with them all. I suggest adding several single bottles onto your registry and not one specific brand or gift set. Leave your baby for an hour or so at a time with your partner or caretaker to help your baby adjust to others without your presence. I also recommend leaving behind a soft t-shirt or pajama top that you have recently worn. Should your baby present separation anxiety and non-stop crying, have the caretaker nestle it next to your baby so they can smell you and your milk.
2. Prepare your body and supply: Increase your intake of milk producing foods. This includes but is not limited to: almonds, almond milk, oats and oatmeal, water, spinach, etc. and make sure you’re pumping or nursing 8-10 times a day. If you supplement and breastfeed, increase the number of pumps you do during that supplement time to increase supply, or if you primarily nurse, pump 30-60 minutes after nursing or at least one hour before a nursing session. You’ll be able to start building a milk stash this way. I found that staying super hydrated increased my supply substantially. I highly recommend Greater Than Coconut Water to help support hydration and increase and maintain your supply.
3. Prepare food and a gallon of water: I highly encourage you to meal prep full, healthy, calorie containing lunches and snacks. Also, keep a gallon of water handy for you to chug before and during your pumping times.
4. Prepare a pumping and storage supply bag: In a large tote, put an empty lunchbox, icepacks (even if a fridge is available so you can transport the milk home), nipple/breast pads, portable pump and collection bottles (your insurance should provide you with one), breastmilk storage bags, dish soap, pump flanges & extra membranes if washing is not an option, large Ziploc bag if cleaning after every pump is not an option, a permanent marker to notate the date and time on the storage bags, a nursing cover, a spare top just in case you spring a leak, and a supportive-hands free pumping bra (I really like the Kindred Bravely Sublime collection for both nursing and pumping bras).
5. Prepare your schedule: Set an alarm on your phone for the times you need to pump. Remember, your supply is dependent on how many times and the duration you pump. If you can, find a quiet and private spot to pump. If you work in an office setting, it is totally possible to pump and continue to work at the same time (hands free pumping bras help to make this possible!). Depending on the type of work that you do, you can invest in an ear piece to take phone calls. Hopefully your pump is quiet enough that it can’t be heard. I’m sure there were plenty of times I was on a call while pumping and the other person could hear it, but it is in no way shameful! Be proud of what you’re doing and providing for your baby! Pump every 3 hours for 20-30 minutes per session. Set up your baby’s feeding schedule with their caretaker by making sure that baby is feeding at the same times that you are pumping. That way, as soon as you return home you can resume your breastfeeding schedule without skipping a beat.
As you find a routine, it will get so much easier and will become just another natural, normal part of your day. As your baby ages, you can get a lot more flexible with your pumping and feeding schedule. Have confidence in yourself and trust the journey. Every bit of motherhood is an adjustment, but rest assured mama, you got this!