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Breastfeeding and returning to work

Set up the best arrangements for your needs

by Marjorie Greenfield, M.D.  |  10341 views  |  1 comment  |        Rate this now! 

Many mothers and babies really enjoy nursing, and the moms find a way to continue to nurse upon their return to work -- whether by running out to the baby during the day or having the baby brought in, pumping milk, or breastfeeding during just the morning and evening. A lot of different arrangements have allowed mothers and their babies to enjoy the intimacy and wonderful health benefits of breastfeeding even around a busy work schedule.

Pumping milk from the breast isn’t like sucking fluid through a straw -- more suction doesn’t equal more milk. Instead, nursing depends on “letdown,” the milk ejection reflex, which is triggered by touch and emotions, and mediated by hormones. When letdown occurs, muscles in the breast contract and the ducts widen, pushing milk toward the nipple. You may feel tingling or a sudden heaviness in your breasts. Unfortunately, anxiety, tension, and distraction can interfere with the flow of milk. In order to successfully pump, you will need to feel relaxed and in the nursing groove.

Benefits of pumping at work

  • More breastmilk for the baby.
  • Less discomfort and leaking from engorgement at work.
  • Continuing to burn extra calories.
  • Maintenance of your milk supply. Mothers who give their babies formula during the work week may have less milk for their babies on days thatthey aren’t working.
  • The satisfaction of giving something to your baby that only you can provide.

But how do you actually make it happen?

Finding a place to pump at work

Workplaces vary tremendously in their accommodations for breastfeeding moms. The best scenarios are having your baby with you at work, a childcare center on site, or a pumping room with hospital-grade electric pumps provided, but unfortunately, these opportunities are only rarely available.

To set up the best arrangements for your needs, it may be helpful to talk with your employer beforehand about pumping accommodations. An office with a door that closes is enough for some dedicated nursing moms. Some women still find themselves sneaking off to their cars or to the bathroom (the handicapped stall has the most room and often has a shelf for supplies) -- though if you want to avoid using the public bathroom, try reminding your supervisor that you wouldn’t prepare food there. Your colleagues may provide support by helping protect you when you are pumping or by loaning you a private location.

Finding time to pump at work

Some jobs provide breaks and a lunch hour that can be used for pumping. Other jobs are less flexible or less predictable, but many arrangements that allow breastfeeding have worked out for moms with those sorts of jobs, too -- from pumping just a minute or two multiple times a day, to formula feeding instead of pumping and just nursing nights and weekends.

About the Author

Marjorie Greenfield, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist and the author of The Working Woman’s Pregnancy Book. She has practiced and taught obstetrics and gynecology since 1987, and is currently associate professor on the full-time faculty at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Read more by Marjorie Greenfield, M.D.

1 comment so far...

  • I pumped at work and the law firm I worked for was very supportive. All nursing mothers received a floor to ceiling curtain for the glass partition in the door, plus locks on their office doors. It was a common occurrence to find jars of baby milk in the employee kitchens. It was quite hard to find that time to pump since we had billable quotas and it was a 24/7 stress environment. I even traveled for work without my daughter for a week. I pumped and sent the breastmilk home via Fed Ex every night. I asked the firm to cover the supplies and Fed Ex expenses. The most interesting meeting of my entire career! They tried to balk at first (being all men in charge), but I simply told them it was @ $150 in expenses and I would be happy to give them all the details about breastfeeding in order to validate the expenses. They decided to skip the descriptions and cover the amount.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by InstantMom on 11th August 2008