Your maternity leave is winding down, you're preparing to transition back to work and suddenly it hits you: You're going to have to pump at the office.
Until now, you've been breastfeeding your precious baby several times a day, and you want to ensure she continues receiving the benefits of your breast milk long after you return to work. You've used the breast pump before, but never in an office setting.
So many questions. Where do you even pump in an office? Is it cool to store pumped breast milk in the kitchen fridge?
Here are nine breastfeeding tips to make the transition easier.
1. Get Your Baby Used to a Bottle
Start your baby on a bottle, but not too soon. Lisa Hugh, a registered dietitian who works with breastfeeding moms, recommends introducing a bottle about three to six weeks after birth. Because your baby associates you with being nursed, start by having your partner or the nanny give her the first few bottles. Also, offer the bottle an hour after your baby's regular feeding so she's not overly hungry.
2. Create a Schedule
Jessica Shortall, author of the upcoming book "Work. Pump. Repeat.," recommends that new moms pump every two-and-a-half to three hours, or three times in a typical eight-hour workday (about one-and-a-half ounces of breast milk for every hour at work). As your baby gets older, you'll need to pump less often. "As babies grow and space out feedings, many moms drop to two or even one pumping session a day," says Shortall.
3. Stick to Your Schedule
Before you start each workday, schedule a time to pump that fits your daily agenda. Look at your to-do list and your meetings for the day. If you have a meeting in the morning, block out time in the afternoon. Put it on your work calendar so no one schedules a meeting when you need to pump.
4. Be Flexible About Where You Pump
Many modern offices have private rooms for moms to pump, but if yours doesn't, you need to be flexible. Use unoccupied, private office areas or book a small conference room for a half hour, close the blinds and set up shop. Be transparent with your co-workers by putting a sign on the door -- just in case your intern barges in.
5. Stock Supplies with Extras on Hand
Make sure you pack plenty of clean bottles, hand sanitizer, chargers and batteries for your pump in case a plug is not available. Also, have everything you need to label and date the containers of breast milk. Keep the containers together in a large Tupperware or lunch bag, and store them in the refrigerator in a safe place. If your office doesn't have a fridge designated for breast milk, Hugh recommends using a cooler with ice packs. "Make sure you have enough ice packs to last the whole day, including commuting time," she says.
6. Dress to Pump
The right work attire can set you up for pumping success. "The trick is to look for dresses and tops that will allow you pumping access without taking the garment off or pulling it up around your neck," says Shortall. You might need to hold off wearing some outfits, but for the most part, you can don just about anything. She recommends crossover or overlapping V-neck shirts, button downs, cowl-necks or camisoles with another shirt on top.
7. Nurse to Boost Your Supply
It's common not to have as much breast milk while pumping as you do while nursing. To help maintain your breast milk supply, Shortall recommends, "going on 'nursing vacations' (exclusively breastfeeding and not doing any pumping). Plus, most women enjoy the break from the pump."
8. Find an Experienced Co-Worker
One surprising benefit of returning to work is the support you'll find. Ask around your office. A friend who has been in your shoes can help you navigate the transition and provide invaluable breastfeeding tips. Coordinate with the other pumping moms in the office by starting an email group where you can keep each other posted when the room is open or trade spots if needed.
Above all else, relax. The first few months back at work after maternity leave can be stressful. Don't feel as though you need to schedule conference calls or get through all your emails during your pumping breaks. "It's important to be kind to yourself throughout this process," says Shortall. "No matter how breastfeeding turns out for you, you're a great mom doing a hard job."