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Breastfeeding and returning to work or school (part 3)

Just at the point when you are beginning to get the hang of this whole mothering thing and are settling into a routine, it is time to go back to work or school. Here are some tips to help you adjust. (Read the first part of this article here.)

Places to pump
Given the fact that, in many cases, we are light years away from a uniform breastfeeding friendly work environment in the US, here are some suggestions on places to pump: lounge, locker room, unused conference room or office, your car (yes, that’s one reason that Medela makes vehicle lighter adapters), or a women’s restroom. As yucky as it sounds, for many mothers pumping in the restroom is the only option they have. Make sure you have hot water available for cleaning pump parts, and bring your own soap. You may even want to bring your own basin from home if you don’t feel comfortable with the cleanliness of the sinks.

Try to find a comfortable space with an electric outlet. If you absolutely don’t have a place to plug in your pump, you can use a small battery pump (which is less effective than the Pump In Style or the Lactina) or you can rent or buy a PowerPack. Medela offers this option that allows you run either the Pump In Style or the Lactina on battery power, and it also contains a vehicle lighter adapter for pumping in the car.

Before returning to work, you may want to discuss your options with your employer. If at all possible, try to return on a part-time basis, even if only for a week or so. You may also try to return to work on a Friday rather than a Monday so that you’ll have the weekend to recover from your first day back. While all employers should be supportive of your efforts to continue nursing, you may occasionally encounter a boss or supervisor who not only is not supportive, but may actually be hostile when you try to pump at work. In situations like this, sending a copy of the following letter may be helpful:

To whom it may concern:
Jane Doe, the mother of a six-week old breastfed infant, will be returning to work on a full time basis on March 11, 2001.

While nursing an infant this age, it is important for the mother to empty her breasts at regular intervals (ideally every two to three hours) in order to maintain her milk supply and prevent medical complications such as plugged ducts and mastitis (breast infection).

My recommendation is that Jane be allowed several fifteen minute breaks each day, in addition to her regular lunch break, in order to express her milk with an electric breast pump.

I hope that you will be willing to work with her regarding this matter, since regular milk expression during prolonged periods of mother-baby separation is in the best interest of both mother and child.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions that you might have.


Anne Smith, IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant)

Leaking at work is much more of a concern than leaking at home. Soaking through your shirt may be inconvenient while you are at the grocery store or visiting a friend, but when you are making an important presentation in front of your boss and a roomful of clients, it can be disastrous.

That’s why I offer the BLIS (Breastmilk Leakage Inhibitor System) This product can be a lifesaver for moms who leak a lot and have to be separated from their baby for extended periods of time.

Here are some other tips for dealing with leaking:

  • If you feel your milk letting down, cross your arms across your chest and apply pressure for about 10 seconds or so. No one but another nursing mother will know what you are really doing.
  • Choose bright or dark colored prints. Avoid white and pastel colors. They show leaks more. Cotton and synthetic fabrics show leaks less than silks, linens, and clingy fabric
  • Wear a loose jacket or blazer to throw over your blouse.
  • Keep the clothes loose and comfortable. You may find that your pre-pregnant clothes don’t fit well anymore, so invest in a few multi-purpose outfits that fit loosely. Choose outfits that button in the front or two-piece outfits that you can pull up easily.
  • Keep a spare blouse at work (one in a neutral color that can be worn with most outfits).
  • This may seem obvious, but choose clothes that are washable and don’t require ironing. Your life is complicated enough right now without adding ironing to your list of things to do.

Continuing to breastfeed after returning to work or school is a real labor of love, but it is well worth the effort. No, it isn’t easy, and requires a great deal of commitment and work on your part. Only you can provide the best possible nourishment for your baby, and there is no doubt about the physiological benefits (immunities, fewer illnesses, less time missed from work/school), the financial benefits (cost savings associated with fewer doctor visits and not buying formula, which can cost anywhere between $100 to $200 per month, depending on the type), and the psychological benefits (the closeness, bonding, and skin-to-skin nurturing) that only you can provide.

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