How to Balance Breastfeeding & Work

Mother breastfeeding a young child while working

Just because you're going back to work, you don't have to give up breastfeeding. Why would you, when breastfeeding offers baby so many benefits, including a stronger immune system, fewer allergies, and protection against many chronic diseases—not to mention precious bonding time for both of you?

With a little planning, you can balance breastfeeding and working. You'll need a quality breast pump, a quiet place to use it and a flexible attitude. A good sense of humor is essential, too. Here's what the experts recommend.

Talk to the Boss

It's up to you, but experts suggest sharing your nursing plans and needs with your employer. For one thing, you'll need to agree on a clean, private place where you can pump. (Find out if you'll have access to an electrical outlet before you buy a breast pump, so you can choose accordingly.)

Your employer may need to approve your pumping schedule, too. If you can't fit it into your lunch hour and allotted breaks, offer to make up the lost work time.

Some employers are more accommodating than others. Tell your boss: working moms who breastfeed miss less time due to baby-related illnesses than moms who don't! And their medical costs are lower, too, thanks to the many health benefits of breast milk, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Finally, know your rights. In some states, there are laws requiring employers to permit breastfeeding and pumping, and even provide a place for it. To research your state's laws, visit The National Conference of State Legislatures website (www.ncsl.org) or La Leche League International (www.llli.org).

What You'll Need

According to the working moms we know, a comfortable, high-performance breast pump makes all the difference. Get a double pump; it will save you valuable work time. Look for one that is lightweight, portable, and quiet, and that includes a discreet carry bag. In addition, you'll need:

  • Access to a refrigerator for storing milk
  • An insulated tote for bringing milk home (this can double as a cooler if you don't have a fridge).
  • Storage bags or bottles
  • Nursing pads

At first, you might find it hard to relax while pumping at work. Some moms trigger letdown by playing the sound of their hungry babies crying, or holding an article of baby clothing that carries their infants' scent.

Practice using the pump in advance. This will allow you to get familiar with the equipment, while building up a supply of milk—two things that can ease the stress of those first on-the-job pumping sessions. If your baby hasn't yet taken a bottle, introduce him. Some breastfed babies are slow to accept a bottle, so the more practice time, the better.

Protect Your Schedule

Most babies love fixed schedules. So do nursing moms. Employ strategies that help you stick to yours religiously. For example, if your office uses a computerized scheduling program, block off your pumping time on your calendar, to eliminate potential meeting conflicts.

In addition, choose a caregiver who will work with you—someone who will arrange baby's other feedings around your schedule, so you can nurse right after work. Ideally, if you can find a caregiver close enough to your workplace, you may even be able to stop by on your lunchbreak for a feeding.

Oops-proofing Your Wardrobe

Expressing milk at work can present some unique wardrobe challenges. Here's where that sense of humor comes in.

  • Wear tops that open in front or that you can pull up for easier access.
  • Dark colors and patterns hide leaking better and camouflage nursing pads. Avoid white and solid pastel blouses.
  • Keep an extra top or sweater at work in case of an accident.
  • If you're pumping in a common area, bring a nursing shawl or blanket for privacy.

If you're nursing—or planning to—you'll want to explore our thoughtful breastfeeding collection. You'll find superior breast pumps and nursing aids, as well as bottles designed to simulate breastfeeding. We're here to help you make it work!

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