Breastfeeding in the Workplace: Working Mothers

Breastfeeding in the Workplace: Working Mothers

Making the decision and commitment to breastfeed a child is not an easy one. When a mother chooses to breastfeed, she is embarking on a challenging journey, one that will affect many, if not every, aspect of her life. She is also embarking on a journey of love, as breastfeeding is arguably one of the greatest acts of love.

For many women, breastfeeding isn't an option due to various reasons, but fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to feed a newborn and meet all their nutritional needs. However, as numerous studies have shown, breastfeeding is still recommended by pediatricians worldwide as the best way to nourish a baby during the first six months of life.

Why breastfeeding?

The importance of breastfeeding goes way beyond nutrition. It improves the health of both the baby and the mother, aids in the bonding period, and serves as a communication channel between mom and baby because milk is specifically tailored for each baby, providing nutrients and antibodies according to their needs. Breast milk even changes during the day to provide the exact amount of fat, vitamins, and hydration for the little one.

Governments and workplaces around the world are encouraging breastfeeding and striving to achieve new goals by the decade. According to the World Health Organization, over the last decade, the global percentage of breastfeeding has increased by 10%, reaching 48%, which is encouraging, but we must acknowledge that each country presents a different scenario.

For example, according to UNICEF data, South Asia has the highest rate of exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life at 60%, while the European region has only 25% of infants being exclusively breastfed. With such contrasting results, many governments are trying to improve their policies to protect and encourage breastfeeding because the long-term health benefits are extremely valuable.

Breastfeeding and the workplace.

This is great news, particularly for working moms, because laws and workplaces aren't specially designed to benefit breastfeeding mothers or to make their lives easier. One of the main challenges every working mom has to deal with is the lack of proper spaces to pump and the flexibility to take breaks to do so.

Multitasking mom working in her home office

It is hard to believe that lawmakers and employers don't consider mothers' needs, given societies benefit from having higher rates of exclusively breastfed kids. When you breastfeed, you give up a portion of your time and your body, and you commit to maintaining healthy habits like getting enough sleep, eating well, and hydrating your body. One would think the least they could do in return is to make it easier for you, right?

Well, if you are a working mom who is already breastfeeding and struggling, or if you are planning to exclusively breastfeed your baby, first of all, we want to thank you for your effort, and second, we want to be a helping hand and provide a bit of light to make your breastfeeding experience lighter and easier. That's why we have some advice for you to navigate the challenges of being a working mother.

First Things First

If you are planning on having a baby, are pregnant, or even if your little one has already come into this world, we must address the basics. Depending on your location and your profession, you need to know your rights. Find out all about the breastfeeding laws in your country and learn about your workplace's policies related to breastfeeding.

For working mothers who have a supportive environment, you could have access to flexible hours, a hybrid system where you can manage the days you attend the workplace and those you work from home. Perhaps you could have access to paid breaks and a private room to express milk. Many of these benefits and laws are available at least during the first 12 months of your baby's life.

Our advice is for you to prepare before heading back to work, from getting to know your electric pump or wireless and hands-free pump, to talking to your employer about your breastfeeding plans. This could help ease the transition and have a schedule ahead so your milk production does not decrease.

Here's Our Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Back to Work 

  1. Find out about the breastfeeding laws and policies in your country and workplace.
  2. Talk to your employer about work schedules, flexibility, and breastfeeding plans. Consider all possibilities, perhaps you can return to work gradually, working only a couple of days a week. A part-time job can also help, especially when you sort out the costs of daycare.
  3. If you need to pump during your work hours, plan ahead a break schedule so you can start pumping at home before, and your milk production doesn't suffer.
  4. Get to know the space where you will be pumping, if possible, before you return to work. This will help you know if you need to bring some accessories to feel comfortable, for example, a pillow, a white noise machine, your earphones, snacks, or anything else you can think of.
  5. Explore the possibility of heading home to continue breastfeeding. For some working moms, if the place where their baby will be taken care of is near their workplace, then it is possible to take breaks to continue breastfeeding during the day.

Schedule to Succeed

You probably know by now how helpful planning and sticking to a schedule can be for managing your personal life and work duties. But if there's anything an experienced mother can share with you, it's the importance of scheduling. This becomes particularly crucial when you have a baby and a job, and it will also be helpful for your baby as the years go by.

Our advice is to make a daily schedule, where you include your work hours, feeding or expressing hours, and, of course, personal affairs. Now you know when you can squeeze in an extra work-related meeting, a family commitment, or any other activity without feeling overwhelmed or affecting your breastfeeding hours and work.

Each day will come with its own challenges, but when you have a plan to tackle the day, you are on your way to success. And believe it or not, being organized can help you make the most out of your day. We advise you to schedule the main activities of your day and leave some room for flexibility in case things need to change.

When you become a mother, you learn how quickly a perfectly crafted plan can go awry. For example, you had it all figured out to go to a meeting while your baby stays with the nanny or at daycare. You packed the bag and had your lunch ready, but when you woke up your baby, you found out it's not a good day. Your little one is fussy, crying, and with a high fever. Now it's time for plan B: reschedule your meeting and run to the doctor's office. Such situations will happen every now and then, so even when you have a schedule, know that you must be flexible within the plan. We know it sounds contradictory, but trust us, sometimes it's better to improvise than to feel frustrated about not keeping up with the schedule.

Find the Right Pump

Having the right pump is crucial for a successful return to work as a breastfeeding mother. When mothers aren't pumping enough milk, it is most likely the pump's fault because when you don't have the right one, your production decreases.

Nowadays, there are so many options to choose from, we are certain you will find the right fit. To have a starting point, we encourage you to consider the following points:

  • Portability: Think about your daily routine. Do you get to your workplace in your own car, or do you use public transportation? Can you carry a large bag, or would you prefer something smaller?
  • Noise: Depending on your occupation, noise could be a determining factor in choosing a pump.
  • Electricity: Do you have access to an electrical port while working or in the space you are planning to pump? Do you need a rechargeable or wireless pump?
  • Strength: Some pumps have different suction settings, which might be helpful to encourage milk production.
  • Milk storage: There are pumps that include every accessory needed, such as bottles, bags, and freezer containers. Others leave it up to you.

Maintaining Milk Supply

Keeping up with your milk supply will become a significant concern as you return to work. You will soon find out your baby does not drink the same amount of breast milk every day. During growth spurts, the demand might be higher, which can be stressful if you only have a couple of breaks to pump during your working hours.

To ensure you have enough milk for your little one at all times, you can plan ahead. Before you return to work, you can start storing milk. Whenever possible, pump at home and begin freezing milk. This can be very helpful during the first days you get back to work, or when you have busy workdays and you can't pump as often as you wish.

Organization is Key

Mom with Baby Carrying a Diaper Bag

Breastfeeding may seem like an easier alternative to bottle feeding because you don't need to carry bottles, water, formula, and figure out how to clean it all. But the truth is, there's much more to breastfeeding your little one when you head back to work. First, you need to take your pump with you. Once you pump, you need bottles or bags to store the expressed milk, then you need a fridge or cooler to preserve the milk. And finally, you need to clean your pump. This will happen probably a couple of times a day, for months.

We understand how overwhelming this can sound, but as we said before, organization is key. You need to have a bag or backpack where you can store your pump and any other supply you might need on a daily basis. Make sure you restock anything that's missing the night before you go to work. If needed, you can add reminders to your smartphone so you don't forget to take the milk from the work fridge.

It is also important to consider that you are not alone, and you don't have to do it all by yourself. Organization does not only imply you; caring for your baby is a shared responsibility with your partner, your family, and your support system, which might include friends, neighbors, and even work partners.


Present Bottle to Breastfed-Only Baby

Mother feeding baby with a bottle

This is an often forgotten step when breastfeeding mothers return to work. When you are exclusively breastfeeding a baby, introducing a bottle is important before you return to work because the transition might not be as smooth as you thought.

Start by presenting the bottle with your milk once breastfeeding is well established, so you don't experience a setback. This should be around four weeks after beginning breastfeeding. Give your little one tiny amounts and try to be patient, as it might take some time before your baby accepts the bottle.

Tips and Tricks for Breastfeeding Moms Returning to Work

  • You will miss your baby. It is natural to feel sad and emotionally down. You are designed to protect your little one and be by its side. Knowing those feelings will come might help you understand the sudden sadness.
  • Share a cuddle before going to work in the mornings. A breastfeeding session and hug will give you both the energy to take on the day.
  • Take a video or photo of your baby so you can watch it as you pump at work. Even a piece of clothing with that unique baby smell can help you relax.
  • Find the right caregiver for your baby, someone who can be with you during the adaptation process, someone who is willing to pick up the phone or text back every time you check on your baby.
  • Try to find comfortable and work-appropriate clothing for those first days. Two-piece sets, comfortable fabrics, and even consider having an extra shirt in case you have any leakage.
  • Consider hands-free pumps and bras. The power of technology has made things easier for busy mothers. A hands-free pump can help you keep up with both milk production and work.
  • Have a moment with your baby when you are back home. You both deserve a comfy cuddle after a long day away from each other.

We hope our advice and tips can be helpful for your transition back to work as a new mom. We thank you for choosing breastfeeding and for making all the effort to give your baby the best. We know it is challenging, but you got this, and we hope our pump can make things easier for you.

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