We are approaching the end of World Breastfeeding Week and I thought I’d do a little recap on what this year’s theme is really all about and break it down into practical steps that you can use to make breastfeeding work at work.

If you are currently pregnant, congratulations! Just scheduling doctor appointments can be overwhelming enough but if you plan on returning back to work, now would be the time to start getting together a game plan.

In the first trimester, no need to talk to your boss just yet but it might be ideal to scope out the work environment and see if you can talk with another coworker who breastfed and ask about her experiences. Explore the state and federal laws regarding breastfeeding at work as well as look into the benefits for why this would be a good option for you and your employer (fewer sick days, employee loyalty, increased work productivity, etc…). Knowledge is power, so while you may not be able to stop the feeling of nausea, you can boost your confidence to use later down the road.

During the second trimester is the best time to plan a chat with your boss. Don’t just tell them that you plan to breastfeed, tell them what they need to know, like how long will a pump session take, where will you do it, and where will you store the milk. These unknowns are often the reason breastfeeding at work fails because people don’t take the time to think through the logistics of making it work. Breastfeeding friendly workplaces provide a quiet, clean space to pump, like a nursing room, never a bathroom. If your employer asks why a bathroom is so bad, politely remind her that breastmilk is a food and the restroom is no place to eat or prep a meal. Pumping can take about 15- 20 minutes depending on the mom and her stress levels and you will need to do it every 2-3 hours depending on your baby’s feeding schedule. If your boss doesn’t like the idea of so many breaks, see about having your own office or maybe relocating your cubicle in a private spot or even see if you can arrange all phone calls or paper work around that time and use a hands-free pumping bra while you continue to work. If the breakroom doesn’t have a spot you can use, breastmilk is good in a cooler with ice for 24 hours, so no need to have your boss purchase anything. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to politely remind your boss that breastfed babies have fewer sick days, which equates to you having fewer sick days. For more information on how to start a conversation click HERE.

So the conversation went smoothly, now let’s fast forward to postpartum.
During the first four weeks after having baby, don’t stress over pumping just yet if you have at least a six week leave. These first four weeks are all about establishing a routine and focusing on you and the baby. Try not to offer any pacifiers or bottles yet as they can create issues. However, now would be a good time to check with your insurance to see if they provide a breast pump, most do under the new healthcare laws. If you are on Medicaid, check with WIC, if you are not already on WIC, go by the local office to see what you’ve been missing. They also provide help with breastfeeding in addition to giving you a breast pump and so much more.

During week five, begin taking the time to pump in between a day feeding or two to get the hang of using the pump and begin your stash for day one. Don’t worry so much about quantity just yet, it’s about working the pump in not the baby so let baby eat all they want first, wait 45 minutes to an hour, then pump. Just do this once a day for these two weeks. Label each bottle at every pumping session and store accordingly. Ideally, you’ll want to freeze it so it can be used for day one at work. More information can be found at HERE.
Once you go back to work you will quickly realize the pump does not empty the breasts as well as baby. This is due to stress from work and the fact that a pump does not release the same hormones as baby. There are a few things that can help.
– Record your babies sounds on your phone a play them while you nurse. This can help a letdown happen quickly.
– Take deep breathes and massage the breasts so your hormone levels can work right.
– If you see that milk stops coming out after just a few minutes of pumping, take 5 minutes to do more massage and try again.

Remember to pump the same time you would feed baby and don’t wait until you become engorged. Click HERE for more help or information.

Stay positive. It can seem overwhelming at first, but by planning ahead and preparing both yourself and your employer, you can prevent most difficulties and quickly overcome unforeseen ones. By working as a team, everyone can be a part of the success. This is how we make breastfeeding work at work.

LP Guest Blogger: Dolly Weikert