Returning to Work- Avoiding the Pitfalls

I was lucky enough- and I have to say willing to take some huge sacrifices to do so- I got to stay home with my babies. It is not something every new mom is able to do- no matter the sacrifices. We unfortunately are encouraged to buy homes for instance based on the maximum we can afford- without taking into consideration that we may want to stay home once our babies start being born. So, being a woman who did not experience it first hand, I asked experienced moms what they felt like were the words of encouragement to help a new mom who was returning to work.
working mom pumping
These are some of the comments shared:
  • Know your rights.  I believe it is the law for the employer to provide a room with a locked door.  I’m heartbroken when I hear of women pumping in a bathroom stall. {Here are actually the rights of the nursing mother who returns to work }
  •  Delay the bottle as long as possible so you can store up a lot of milk and also get a good flow going.
  • Try your hardest not to bottle feed on the weekend.
  • Keep trying!  It was not until my third child that I saw a video you posted about hand expression.  It saved my life.  It cut my pumping time in half and doubled how much I pumped.  Who knows what might work for you!
  • I usually had trouble getting a supply when my baby started table food.  {so delay solids and make sure you nurse before feeding food during the first year especially- milk is primary- not solids.}
  • Take one day at a time.
  • Figure out what you need and start a dialogue with your boss at work.
  • Putting baby in bed with you helps with that -you get some sleep and good cuddle time.
  • Saving some placenta pills to take during the transition back to work helped.
  • Staying connected to your work or co-workers (visit during your leave) helps you not feel like you came to a new planet when you return. Work moves on even when you are experiencing a huge life change.
  • For us it was: being able to express milk and work/life balance.
  • I am a salaried/exempt employee so expressing milk isn’t protected by law for me. Also, travel was limited for us. I got our needs met by helping others at work adjust expectations upfront. I am fortunate to work for a very supportive company but still found this critical.
  • Plan for your first day back to be in the later part of the week (Wed, Thurs, or Fri). Those first few days will be tough and you will not want to have to go through a full work week before getting a break on the weekend.
  • Know that it will be rough at first. Hormones will still be all over the place, if you are pumping it will be a disruption to your day, you are trying to get back up to speed with your job, you’ll be missing your baby something fierce, you’ll be dealing with a whole new set of logistics of trying to get yourself and possibly your baby out of the door and then back home again each day, and you may even be dealing with some guilt. Know it, expect it, and cut yourself some slack as you figure out your groove and routine. As someone else already said, take it day by day. It will get easier.
  • I didn’t know anything about building up a stash before returning to work with my daughter so it stressed me out big time when I didn’t pump enough for the next day (yes, your output will fluctuate). So with my son I consciously began working on my stash from day one. After each nursing I pumped. I was simply amazed at how much I was able to freeze, especially those first few weeks when I was really engorged. After returning to work, on those days when I didn’t pump quite enough to get him through the next day, it was such a relief to know I could pull from my stash. And over the weekend I was usually able to get in an extra pumping session or two and was able to continue adding to my stash. {But remember that the breastmilk for a one month old is very different than a four month old and pumping too early can lead to engorgement issues and oversupply can cause problems like plugged ducts.}
  • It is easier said than done, but be gentle and patient with yourself. Nothing will be the same at work or home, and that’s ok. Give yourself permission to mess up now and then. Lord knows I have, and I somehow still have pretty well adjusted kids. It can be done.
  •  Don’t try to do it all. Ask your partner to handle housework or other chores so that when you come home from work you can catch up with baby and nurse nurse nurse.
  • If you have a nanny, consider having the nanny bring baby to you during the day during one of your normal pumping sessions. Of if the daycare is close to work- go there to nurse the baby at lunchtime.
  • When you drop off and pick up the baby- nurse then- before traveling to work or home.
  • There was a ton of suggestions regarding pumping:
    • Double electric hands free pump and hands free bra. Free now through insurance!
    • Wash pump parts and bottles at work so it’s one less thing to do at home.
    • Have spare pump parts that wear out (e.g. Valves).
    • I liked the convenience of the Medela microwave bags.
    • To save time, refrigerate pump parts instead of washing every time – wash at end of day.
    • Use olive oil or coconut oil to lubricate flanges.
    • Make sure you have the correct size flange.
    • Try various techniques to speed up expression (reverse pressure softening, compressions, heat on neck and shoulders, etc).
    • Try and have a stash before returning to work but it’s okay if you don’t. I pumped what my baby needed for the next day straight into the bottles the nanny would use.
    • Make sure your day care provider understands how to heat up breastmilk and that a baby doesn’t need as many ounces as a formula fed baby. Super important and most daycare providers don’t understand.
    • Nurse baby in the AM before work and as soon as you get home after work.
    • Make sure water intake remains high.
    • To save time, refrigerate pump parts instead of washing every time – wash at end of day.
    • I also reverse cycled, but that is exhausting. Have on hand kellymom’s chart for a breastmilk calculator so you know how much to pump (so many over pump and get stressed when they can’t pump enough) and the storage guidelines.
    • There’s not a working mom who hasn’t made the mistake of forgetting to put the pumped milk in the fridge overnight. Set a phone reminder so that it’s the first thing you do when you get home. 
    • Start pumping 2 weeks prior to going back to work.
      Start giving baby a bottle maybe 1-2 times a day so baby can get used to the bottle with breast milk in it. {I disagree with this one if it is the mom giving the bottle- I feel it is best for someone else to do so and not involve moms with bottles- breasts is mom- bottles is someone else.}
    • Schedule 3x pump sessions during your work day and STICK TO IT! It’s important. Treat it like an appointment and make it a priority. Take a picture of baby with you to help with let down. make pumping a part of schedule and honor it like any other work commitment. {Try to pump when your baby is getting a bottle- it will help your supply be on target on the weekends and days you are at home with your baby.}

Some good links to review are:

And a few blog articles on this site that may help:

And the book I most recommend Nursing Mother Working Mother

I am not going to advise on bottle types or nipples but will say- try to find a slow flow nipple that has an areola and nipple for the baby to get both into their mouth- this will decrease the chance for a shallow latch when nursing later. I will also say get a pump that is a closed system so you can reuse it without fear of milk going back into the pump and growing bacteria.