Breastfeeding at Work
Many mothers continue to breastfeed after they return to work or school. Planning ahead for your return may help ease the transition. Learn as much as you can before you return to work, acquire a breast pump to use if you will be separated from your baby for long periods of time and talk with your employer about your options in advance. This may help you continue to enjoy breastfeeding your baby long after your return to work. It may take some extra planning, but the benefits to both mother and baby are worth it!
Plan for Your Return to Work or Shool
During Your Maternity Leave
- Take as much time off as you can. Having at least six weeks of leave can help you recover from childbirth and settle into a good breastfeeding routine. Twelve weeks is even better.
- About two weeks before your return to work or school, practice expressing your milk by hand or with a quality breast pump, which may be the best method for efficiently removing milk during the workday. Freeze 2 -3 ounces at a time to save for your baby after you return to work. An ice cube tray is a great way to do this.
- Once breastfeeding is established, help your baby adjust to taking breast milk from a bottle or cup at least 2 weeks before you return to work. Babies are used to nursing with mom, so it may be easier for them to practice taking breast milk from a bottle or a cup by somebody else.
- See if there is a childcare option close to work, so you can visit and breastfeed your baby, if possible during your breaks. Ask if the facility will feed your baby your expressed breast milk.
- Talk with your family and your childcare provider about your desire to breastfeed. Let them know that you will need their support.
Back At Work
- Keep talking with your supervisor about your schedule and what is or isn’t working for you. Keep in mind that returning to work gradually gives you more time to adjust.
- If your childcare is close by, find out if you can visit to breastfeed over lunch.
- When you arrive to pick up your baby from childcare, take time to breastfeed first. This will give you both time to reconnect before traveling home and returning to other family responsibilities.
Find a Private Place to Express Milk
Work with your supervisor to find a private place to express your breast milk. Federal and Nevada law require some employers to provide reasonable, unpaid break times and a private space which is not a bathroom to breastfeeding mothers to express milk for the first year of their child’s life. Please note there are exceptions to providing this accommodation.
If your company does not have a private lactation room already established, you could find another private area you can use. You may be able to use:
- An office with a door
- A conference room
- A little-used closet or storage area
The space should be private and secure from intruders when in use. The room should also have an electrical outlet if you are using an electric breast pump, a chair and small table. If possible, having a sink or refridgerator nearby is helpful to reduce your time returning back to work once you have finished pumping. Explain to your supervisor that you cannot express breast milk in a restroom. Restrooms are an unsanitary space to express food for your infant, and do not have the space or equipment (outlets, table or chair) to express breast milk safely or effectively.
When to Express Milk
At work, you will need to express and store milk during the times you would normally feed your baby. This turns out to be about 2 to 3 times during a typical 8-hour work period. Expressing milk can take about 15 minutes. Sometimes it may take longer, but having an electric pump which allows you to express milk from both breasts at the same time will reduce your pumping time. Having a pumping bra may also be helpful if you work at a desk, as you can continue to work while you express your breast milk
Remember to pump the same number of times you would feed your baby in the time you will be separated from your baby. This is your “magic number” which you must meet to maintain your milk supply. As your baby gets older, the number of times they feed during the day may decrease; this is normal. Many women take their regular breaks and lunch breaks to pump. Some women come to work early or stay late to make up the time needed to express their breast milk.
It may take time to adjust pumping breast milk in a work environment. For easier pumping, try these tips for getting your milk to let down from your milk ducts:
- Relax as much as you can while you prepare to express your breast milk.
- Think about your baby — bring a photo of your baby, or a blanket or item of clothing that smells like your baby
- Visualize your breast milk flowing from your milk ducts.
- Gently massage your breasts as you express milk, to stimulate milk production
Find a Breastfeeding Friendly Business
The Nevada State Health Division applauds Nevada Employers for taking the initiative to dedicate the time, expense and space needed to provide their employees with a private space to express breast milk.