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15 Things Working Moms Who Breastfeed Have to Think About (and 4 Tips to Make It Easier)

Returning to work post-baby poses more problems than a newbie mother might anticipate, especially if she chooses to continue breastfeeding. Here are some tips to help pumping at work not be such a dump.

Returning to work post-baby poses more problems than a newbie mother might anticipate, especially if she chooses to continue breastfeeding. Here are some tips to help pumping at work not be such a dump.

Breast Pump

(Image Credit: Frederique Voisin-Demery/Flickr)

If you’re like most new moms, you severely underestimated the difficulties that come with continuing to breastfeed (“expressing milk”) and returning to work. In case you needed a reminder, here’s a rundown of considerations “returning mothers,” in general, have to wrestle with – and this is just the tip of the iceburg, folks:

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  1. Wake up brighter and earlier (yeah right) to get yourself dolled up after getting 0.1 hours of sleep, if that.
  2. Feed the baby, yourself and, most likely, anyone and everyone who lives with you.
  3. Beat yourself up about whether you should drink that quad-shot espresso you so desperately need because you don’t want your head to hit the keyboard at 1 p.m. … again.
  4. Sanitize, dry, and pack all (and we mean ALL) of the breast-pumping supplies you will need for the day.
  5. Pack a lunch (yeah right).
  6. Explain to the childcare provider (15 times) how to care for your baby/babies, then do it again.
  7. Head off to work and sit in traffic so you arrive just late enough for everyone to notice.
  8. Check your phone infinite times per minute to see if the sitter has called.
  9. Just when you get in the groove of working, realize it’s time to pump.
  10. Head off to the less-than-desirable “designated pumping station” (a.k.a., the ladies room … a.k.a. where foul-smelling things happen) to suction a noisy contraption to your chest that pumps out, no joke, LIQUID GOLD.
  11. Pretend not to notice the gags from co-workers as they see you wash and sanitize the hundreds of little parts that make up the noisy contraption that pumps out liquid life for your child(ren).
  12. Cringe as you place your “boob milk” next to someone’s tuna sandwich in the communal refrigerator that wreaks of month-old, rotten food.
  13. Return to your desk, only to notice that one of your breast pads has fallen out and is laying like road-kill in the aisle with an audience expelling groans of disbelief and disgust.
  14. Join them and act like you don’t know what it is, either.
  15. Rinse and repeat.

All joking aside, nursing mothers get short-changed when it comes to “expressing milk” at work, despite an amendment enforced by the Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010 under the section “Break Time for Nursing Mothers,” which requires employers to:

provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.

One case that tested the above act occurred in 2010 when a McDonald’s worker, who returned to work after maternity leave, was denied a private, sanitary location to express milk (pump breast milk), according to Huffington Post. Shortly after filing a complaint with the Labor Department, the woman was forced to leave work and pump in a public library bathroom that required a 30-minute round-trip. Investigators concluded that not only were the manager’s actions financially detrimental for the woman, but “retaliatory” as well. However, according to the article, the investigation determined that the “violations were not intentional, but were instead ‘due to naivety of the front line manager.'” The woman was provided a tent in the break room to pump breast milk and was awarded lost wages.

To pump or not to pump, that is the question … and the dilemma. When it comes to mothers, however, where there’s a will, there’s a way! Choosing to breastfeed is a feat in and of itself, but ask any mother who has fought the good fight and continued to nurse after returning to work, the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Here are a few helpful tips to make your nursing-while-working days a bit easier to prepare for and manage:

1. Practice makes perfect. The best way to prepare for the big day is to conduct a practice day beforehand. Use WorkandPump.com‘s easy-to-follow checklist of what to expect the night before and day of your practice run.

2. Stay on schedule. You can also prepare by planning out your first day back on paper. Start by scheduling your wake-up time; keeping in mind the time you need to get ready, eat, pump/breastfeed, pack up belongings, and deal with traffic. A big time-saver is to pack snacks and lunch for work, so you aren’t wasting time running around grabbing a quick (and, oftentimes, unhealthy) bite to eat. Keep in mind the time it takes to set up your breast pump, pump milk, and clean and sanitize equipment.

3. Ease back into work. If your employer is willing, see if you can ease back into work with a modified schedule in the beginning – working three days instead of five – so you’re not overloaded, and also so that your employer gains a bit of perspective of the time allotment required.

4. Don’t beat yourself up. Despite what anyone says, returning to work and continuing to nurse can be a very stressful decision – but, remember, it’s your decision, not anyone else’s. Do what works for your family, schedule, and circumstance, and keep the naysayers at bay.

For more helpful tips on working and breastfeeding, see Dr. Sears’ article, here.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have pearls of wisdom for nursing mothers returning to work? Share your thoughts (and experience) with our community on Twitter.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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