One of the biggest challenges to face after giving birth is returning back to work. All of a sudden, the bliss of maternity leave is met with the stress of having to readjust to your old professional day-to-day routine while continuing to care for your little one.

Combined with the anxiety of figuring out how to maintain your breastfeeding schedule, this could cause a hurricane of emotions. However, many working moms successfully go back to work every day after having a baby. All you need is a solid plan to help you brave the storm of unknowns.

Talk To Your Employer

If you need a little more time before going back to work, simply talk to your employer about it. It takes at least six weeks to physically heal after giving birth, so sometimes paid maternity leaves simply are not long enough.

See if you can use your vacation time at the end of your leave or see about using some of your unpaid time, because if eligible, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) you are actually entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid time following the birth of your child. Just be sure to give your employer enough notice in advance to prepare for your absence.

It’s also important to be clear about your plans to breast pump at work to stay on your pumping schedule and to continue to express enough milk for your baby. This way if your employer doesn’t have a dedicated pumping room available already, they will have time to prepare.

Also, don’t worry, talking about breastfeeding isn’t as awkward as you think it is. Your HR professional is trained on how to properly discuss the matter, and most likely can relate with kids of their own.

Know Your Pumping Rights

You aren’t inconveniencing anyone with your desire to breast pump at work, you’re just exercising your rights as a mother. Under the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law employers must provide a private place to pump, aside from the bathroom. You are also entitled to reasonable break time depending on your individual pumping.

Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out your pumping times at work. Record your daily pumping schedule and length of your sessions to know when you need to plan your pumping breaks.

Scope Things Out

Don’t wait until the last minute to figure out your pumping times at work. Record your daily pumping schedule and length of your sessions to know when you need to plan your pumping breaks.

Practice your new morning routine by getting up and pretending like you’re going to work. See how much time feeding your baby and packing all your supplies takes before embarking your commute. This will give you an idea of how much extra time to give yourself in the morning. Also, figuring what tasks such as picking out your outfit you can complete the night before will let you sleep in longer.

Then go in early to scope out the situation. Maybe take a half day planned around your pumping schedule before your official return to work date, or bring baby in to visit with your friends and coworkers as an excuse to see your pumping room.

This way you will be able to learn if the room has an outlet or if you will need a battery operated pump. Then, of course, stock up on batteries for it. Also, you will be able to see if the room has a fridge to store your milk or if you’ll need a cooler bag with ice packs to keep your milk chilled until you go home.

Another good thing to look for is if the room has enough space for you to comfortably catch up on small tasks, such as emails while pumping.

Plan For Emergencies

Raising your baby and working at the same time can be hectic and exhausting. During this time accidents such as forgetting breast pump supplies at home and spills can happen. Get a second set of everything to keep at your desk, so if you forget something like clean bottles while packing your pump bag, it won’t be a disaster.

As you probably already know, when it comes to pumping, leaks happen, but you don’t want them to happen all over your cute work outfit. Be sure to bring a towel and place it in your lap to protect your pants from drips while detaching your pump. Keep a backup outfit in your car for a quick change in case spills happen.

You don’t want to be walked in on while pumping, so always remember to lock the door. If you have trouble remembering to do so, place a do not disturb sign on the handle. If you don’t have a sign, work with what you have. Leave something like your shoes in front of the door to signal that the room is in use.

Don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly hit with a wave of emotions. You’ll be sleep deprived and away from your baby for the first time, so tears might happen and they’re totally normal. Instead of sobbing into a major breakdown, take a breath and find a quiet place to relax until you’re ready to head back to your desk. Placing photos of your baby around your workspace can help you feel connected and prevent a sudden eruption of tears.

While it never feels good to turn down a work request, it’s time to learn to say no.

Trust In Your Caregiver

New moms don’t hand their new babies over to just anyone, which is why you can relax knowing you chose your caregiver for a reason. They’re going to do a great job watching your little one during the day.

If you start to miss baby, give your caregiver a text or a call for an update. On particularly bad days go ahead and video chat with them so you can see your baby and hear them giggle. Knowing that they’re in good hands can really turn your day around.

Don’t forget to give out your caregiver’s information to your work, family, and friends, so if anyone needs to contact them, they can.

Know Your Limits

While it never feels good to turn down a work request, it’s time to learn to say no. You have less time and most likely less sleep than you’re used to. If you stay up all night taking on more and more projects, you will lose the time to take care of yourself. As sleep deprivation grows, your mood and quality of work could really suffer.


You’ve Got This, Mama!

Many mothers have faced the storm of challenges that come with returning work only to come out on the other side just fine. You’ve already successfully brought a new life into this world, so there is nothing you can’t do. With the right plan put in place, and using your support system, you’ll be prepared to go back to the office like a pro.

Jennifer Jordan is the Director of Mom & Baby at Aeroflow Healthcare, a durable medical equipment provider that has provided breast pumps through insurance to hundreds of thousands of women. Jennifer and her team works directly with new and expecting moms to support their breastfeeding needs.

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