Returning to work is a big change in routine, but with thoughtful planning and preparation, it can lead to a long and special breastfeeding relationship, which is a great way for you and baby to stay connected as you spend more time apart.
In preparation for your return to work, begin pumping a few weeks before you plan to return. The best time of day to begin is after baby’s first feeding of the day, pump both breasts with a double electric breast pump for about 15-20 minutes. You may not see much at first, but by placing an additional demand each day, you will see an increase in your production within a few days. Also, most mothers see more volume in the morning hours, so this time of day is when you will get the most results for your efforts. This will help you build a “stash” of expressed breast milk to start with for the first days of your return. After that, what you pump at work, you can add to your “stash” and build it from there.
It is also a good idea to begin offering baby a bottle of expressed breast milk here and there, a few weeks prior to your first day back. This will get you, and baby used to feeding this way. You can also have other family members try to offer the bottle to baby, so baby will get used to being fed by others. Your baby may more readily take a bottle from others if you are out of sight.
You may need to try a variety of bottles and nipples to see which your baby does well with. Sticking with a “slow flow” nipple, along with the paced bottle feeding technique, is recommended to aid in baby going back and forth from bottle to breast with ease.
Other helpful tips for returning to work:
1. Talk to your employer in advance about your plans to breastfeed to discuss the details: designated times, space in which you will pump, and where you can store your milk. Being proactive can help you get support from your employer to continue breastfeeding!
2. Speak with your childcare provider about paced bottle feedings, storage, and handling of breast milk ahead of time. This can help ease the stress of this change in routine and to ensure you and your care provider are on the same page.
3. Try going back to work mid-week, and even making a “test run” day where you bring baby to your care provider to see how they do before you officially return to work. This can give you an idea of the amount of expressed breast milk your baby will need while you are away, as well as how often you will need to pump while you are away.