Dr. Jen Lincoln is a board-certified generalist obstetrician/gynecologist and attending physician in Portland, Oregon.
Returning to work after a baby can be one of mom’s biggest challenges. With a new schedule coming, it’s difficult for priorities to shift, and juggling a new baby and a job can be stressful. Dr. Jen Lincoln is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, here to share some tips and tricks on how new mothers can return to work, while still breastfeeding their new babies.
Bundoo: Returning to work is a major change for moms and dads caring for small babies. When it comes to breastfeeding, is there anything moms can start doing before they go back to work to smooth the transition?
Dr. Jen Lincoln: Yes! Planning as much as you can ahead of time can help make returning to work much less stressful. This means having open discussions with your boss long before you return, especially about topics such as if you need pumping accommodations (both a space and the time to do so) or if you are hoping to adjust your work hours. Try to get childcare arranged as early as you can so it’s one less thing you have to do, and work on learning how to use your pump, store milk, and offer a bottle to your baby. Also, do a trial run. Start back on a Friday, and do a half-day to see how the logistics go, so you can make any adjustments before a full work week.
Hopefully most workplaces, even the ones that don’t have to by law, will provide a private space for breast-pumping. What advice would you give a mom who is considering pumping at work for the first time?
I would definitely be sure to let your boss and co-workers know your needs. You’d be surprised how supportive many people are! Discuss openly your plans, and if you feel you are not getting the accommodations you need, feel free to provide written information about what is considered appropriate. Also, don’t wait until the night before you return to work to look at your pump. Knowing how it works and doing some sessions before you return (so you have a small stash in the freezer as a buffer and so you can become efficient) can help ease your mind. Definitely buy a hands-free pumping bra! This will allow you to pump and multitask — like eating lunch or doing paperwork — which can save you so much time.
Supplementing with formula can be a little controversial. The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, but when some moms return to work they find it hard to keep that up. What are your thoughts on supplementing with formula, and how can moms make it work?
I think the key is to do what’s right for you. If you feel you need to supplement because your baby seems hungrier when you return from work, in truth it may just be that he wants to cluster feed because he has missed you during the day. If you are truly having issues pumping enough milk to leave for your baby, check in with your lactation consultant about how to increase your output, and make sure childcare providers are not overfeeding. If you do choose to use formula, know that any breastmilk is better than none! Still, be sure to avoid the pitfalls of overfeeding, and nurse whenever you are together to keep your supply up.
In your experience, what challenges do breastfeeding moms discover upon going back to work that they didn’t expect? What can a working mom do to prepare to deal with the unexpected and unpleasant surprises that might come up?
I think the biggest one is that moms are surprised by how emotional the return to work is, and how suddenly their priorities have shifted since this little person entered their lives. Knowing that this is entirely normal can be helpful. It’s also important to realize the first day back at work is often the worst, but it does get easier with time. Keep a sense of humor. You aren’t going to be able to do it all, and some days you will literally cry over spilt milk, but you are not alone. Laughing over the insanity of some days can certainly keep you in good spirits!