First of all, being pregnant is work. Giving birth is work. And raising kids is work. You may not get paid for it, but it does require physical and mental exertion and long hours.
Now that we got that out there, let’s put it aside and focus on what happens when you’ve got to get back to the office. How are you going to handle those meetings, conference calls and work trips while continuing to breastfeed? With multi-tasking of course.Spend your maternity leave establishing a good breastfeeding routine. Feed your baby on demand, whenever she shows signs of hunger. Make sure she’s latching on well for each feeding and gaining weight. And if you are having any discomfort or problems, get help as soon as possible from a lactation consultant. It will be harder to take the time to get advice once you’ve gone back to the office.
Wait at least three or four weeks after birth before introducing your baby to bottles. The sucking motion is different for a bottle, and you want your babe to get used to the real thing first. Also, you want to make sure your milk supply is well-established… and that requires a steady “demand” from your baby.
When it is bottle time, you might want another caretaker (husband, babysitter or relative) to be the one to do the feeding as some babies will refuse a bottle from mom. Be sure to show whoever will be bottle-feeding your baby the best way to bottle-feed a breastfed baby to make transitioning between bottle and breast easiest for your child. And while the baby is eating, you can spend that time pumping. Figuring out how to use the pump may seem daunting at first, but just follow the directions, or ask a friend for help, and you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
Before you return to work (preferably before you go on maternity leave), let your supervisor know that you are going to need some time and a place to pump at work. If you have a private office with a door, you’re in luck. If not, then find a conference room or specially designated “lactation room.” And keep in mind, federal law actually requires employers to provide break time as well as a place for you to pump for up to one year after birth.
So what type of breast pump do you need? Something that will get the job done fast. In most cases, that will mean a double electric pump so that you can pump both breasts at the same time. If you have a meeting to go to outside the office, and are concerned about having to pump, consider stashing a smaller, hand-powered pump in your bag. And if you want to really be efficient, consider getting a hands-free nursing bra so that you can pump while you’re checking emails. Just remember, if you’re on a conference call, mute the volume while you’re listening in so the other folks don’t hear the machine whirring along.
The key with all this pumping is to keep your supply in line with your baby’s demand. In other words, any time your baby would be taking a bottle of pumped milk, you’ll need to be pumping. If you don’t, your milk supply will drop. And at the end of the day, consider leaving your pump in the office, and just bringing the bottles of milk home with you. No need to lug the pump back and forth each day.
And one more thing, if you need to go on a plane for a business trip, you can either pack the breastmilk in your checked baggage, or bring it onto the plane in your carry on bag. Just be aware of these rules from the TSA.
Finally, consider this tactic as well: breastfeed your baby right before you leave for work in the morning, and as soon as you get home. It’s one sure-fire way to unwind and bond.