Working Breastfeeding moms – what to do about your supply
A big worry many moms have is what happens to breastfeeding when mama has to head back to work. When I talk to friends around the world, many are aghast when they hear that American working women have virtually no support. Working breastfeeding moms need support, before birth and during that transition time and beyond.
First issue is that women in the US do not have guaranteed paid time off. This means many women are forced back to work before a breastfeeding relationship is set. Post birth, most corporate women get 12 weeks unpaid leave, but may have some sick or vacation time they banked up to help cover the monetary gap. That’s best-case scenario. Worse case scenario is an hourly worker who heads back to work at 6 weeks when day care will accept baby and the OB clears her back to work. So what happens to working breastfeeding moms?
Working mamas: Congratulations on your determination to breastfeed. It matters.
To help that transition time, women need support and knowledge on how supply works. It is also good to know your options at work before you even head on maternity leave. But if you’re back at work now, it isn’t too late either to ask questions.
How does breastfeeding supply work?
Your body was made to make milk. KNOW that breastfeeding does and can work for you. Confidence is key with breastfeeding.
Breastfeed on demand. With my first, I breastfed every 2-3 hours because I had read that in a book. When I went to her 1 month pediatrician visit I was still timing the feeds! She asked why… I said because no one told me when to stop! Do not do that to yourself. Nurse baby when baby is hungry. Watch for the early cues (moving head, licking lips. If baby is crying, then next time watch for what happens before crying starts – because crying is AFTER the hunger cues) to nurse. That made it much easier! I worked until around 10 months ago, so even though I telecommuted, I did travel and I did have to have our nanny or au pair use pumped milk at times.
Know the different positions for nursing and latch so that you can find something that is comfortable. This La Leche League link is great on nursing positions.
In general, the more you nurse the more milk you make. There are external factors at work as well, but if you feel supply is an issue, adding formula will not help – keep nursing – more milk will come. If you have concerns see an IBCLC – not all doctors are versed in breastfeeding facts! (Read this article I wrote on what your doctor MAY not know about breastfeeding).
When I had my second kiddo, I’d have my daughter (2 at the time) bring me water (my husband helped) so she felt involved. She was also nursing still so it helped with jealousy I think as well.
6 hints for making breastfeeding work for working moms
- RELAX. Have faith in your body to do it and know you’re not alone (yes I’m calling that one hint!)
- Do start pumping a few weeks before you head back to work. Young babies only need 2 oz bottles at a time. If you pump on both sides an ounce each
- If you have a single pump, pump one side while you nurse on the other.
- Make it a habit to eat oatmeal for breakfast, drink water through out the day, have mother milk’s tea for an afternoon drink and then
- If you can work it for lunch hour or other times, have baby meet you to nurse. Some work places allow it. Others have made it successful by nursing during the lunch hour either at day care or having a nanny or au pair bring baby to you.
- Take a babymoon at least once a week. Spend an hour or two (or a day if you are pumping less once you transition back to work) where you and baby snuggle skin-to-skin. Let those hormones work!
What are your breastfeeding rights?
According to HealthCare.gov, you do have breastfeeding rights. In fact, some states even have more breastfeeding protection. Breastfeeding, working moms should know the following basic rights. Also, even if you work for a small company, it cannot hurt to ask them to apply the rules to you.
- Breastfeeding supplies may be covered by insurance and MUST cover a pump (manual/electric and/or rented may matter, but talk to your pediatrician and OB/midwife to discuss what is best for a working mom)
- Those who are WIC eligible may be able to get a free pump (as well as additional food)
- You may have services by a lactation consultant covered. This MAY be a god-send. See one before you have an issue (in fact, attend La Leche League while you are still pregnant. Hearing stories boosts confidence and you’ll have a ‘what worked for me, may work for you, situation).
- Most states permit breastfeeding in any place the mother is legally allowed to be in – so keep this in mind and know your breastfeeding rights by state.
- Companies and enterprises that do business in more than one state and/or do more than $500,000 in business must have a place and time for non-exempt moms to pump. Think about it, if a small company can offer time for a smoke break, they can likely offer you a pumping break. If you’re a salaried employee you may not be covered, but FLSA recommends they cover you. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees total (as in not per work site) must still comply. According to the law,
“Employers with fewer than 50 employees may not presume that having a smaller workforce by itself sufficiently demonstrates that compliance would pose a significant difficulty or expense; the difficulty or expense must be shown in light of the factors listed in the law.” If you aren’t covered, help enact something in your business (heck EVERY company should do this – here is a case study on how companies who implement supportive work environments save money and time)
In the end, let me say to all working breastfeeding moms: you can do this. Do your best and know that there are a multitude of benefits to breastfeeding. Whether your child is cared for at home or at a day care or by a family member, what matters is the love. Don’t let what someone else does get to you. There will always be people who do things differently, what matters is that you know, in your heart of hearts, that what you’re doing is the best for both of you. If you want to work or if you have to work, be happy.
Pumping can be that time when you reconnect with your baby, even if you aren’t holding the little bundle of pooping joy Keep a photo of baby with you to help bond.