I spoke to Beverley Rae, MSW, IBCLC, a Board Certified Lactation Consultant at Breastfeeding Resources in Manhasset. We discussed the topic, “What advice do you have for new mothers who have to return to work but want to continue to breastfeed?”
Q: Is there a certain length of time you recommend staying at home during the newborn stage?
Beverley: “Stay home with your baby as long as you can. Buy extra time with vacation days, unpaid leave, working from home, whatever you can arrange.”
Q: What do you say to new mothers who are feeling anxious about going back to work?
Beverley: “Find a breastfeeding support group and attend with your baby while you’re at home. It’s natural to feel anxious about going back to work, leaving your baby, keeping up your milk supply. It helps to talk with other moms in the same situation and form a support network.”
Q: When should a new mother start pumping?
Beverley: “Get breastfeeding going well by nursing exclusively (no bottles) for at least three weeks. Keep your pump in the closet until then – whether you’re going back to work or not. Pumping too early upsets the delicate balance of supply and demand which regulates your milk production. It’s soon enough to introduce a bottle two to three weeks before you return to work. Babies are flexible, though may be more willing to take a bottle when it’s given by someone other than mom.”
Q: Do you have any advice for the first week of adjusting to going back to work?
Beverley: “Go back to work on a Thursday or Friday. The first week is the hardest, so make it a short week with the weekend to recover. Or go back two or three days for the first couple of weeks.”
Q: Are there any laws that address breastfeeding in the work place?
Beverley: “In New York State, breastfeeding at work is protected by law.”
[****N.Y. Labor Law §206-c. Right of nursing mothers to express breast milk. Signed 8/15/2007. http://www.labor.state.ny.us/workerprotection/laborstandards/PDFs/guidelinesexpressionofbreastmilkFINAL.pdf
“An employer shall provide reasonable unpaid break time or permit an employee to use paid break time or meal time each day to allow an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for up to three years following child birth. The employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, where an employee can express milk in privacy. No employer shall discriminate in any way against an employee who chooses to express breast milk in the work place.”]
“Some employers may not be aware of this law. You might need to provide HR with a little education. You could be the first mother at your workplace to request time and a place for pumping. Be positive – bring a pumping plan and make it clear that the bathroom is not acceptable (would you eat your lunch there?). Mention that breastfed babies are healthier, a bonus for your employer since you’d need to be absent from work if your baby were sick.”
Q: How often should a nursing mother pump during the day?
Beverley: “Pump two or preferably three times during your work day. Wash your hands, massage your breasts briefly first, pump with a double set-up for 5-7 minutes, then stop, massage again and pump for a further 7 minutes.”
Q: How does a mother instruct the baby’s caregiver on feeding the baby?
Beverley: “Leave written instructions for your baby’s caregiver about handling your breast milk. Explain that baby should not be fed within a couple of hours of your return, so you can feed him as soon as you arrive.”
Q: Where can a mother find out more about this topic?
Beverley: “A great resource for breastfeeding moms who return to work is www.workandpump.com.”
Please don’t miss my article in which Beverley Rae addresses the question:
“What kind of advice do you have for mothers who plan on using a breast pump?” (See this and other related links below this article.)
• Also see “Returning to work while breastfeeding” (2003) by the American Academy of Family Physicians at http://www.aafp.org/afp/20031201/2215ph.html
Contact information for:
Beverley Rae, MSW, IBCLC
Board Certified Lactation Consultant
64 Manhasset Woods Rd
Manhasset, NY 11030
‘Helping Mothers to Breastfeed since 1986’
*This interview was conducted as part of a series of interviews on breastfeeding by the author with Beverley Rae in August 2010. All contact information is still up-to-date as of this re-publishing o 8/20/2015. Please look for the rest of this series under the topic ‘breastfeeding’ in this column.