Not too long ago, a mother with a three months old baby approached me, asking for advice on how to continue breastfeeding when she was back to work. She is a lawyer, and her schedule was pretty hectic at that time. She was required to be in court two or three times a week, which meant that she could be five hours in a row without breaks to pump. Certainly, not an ideal situation.
Many women struggle to breastfeed when they go back to work, especially if this is something they have to do when the baby is younger than six months and utterly dependable on breast milk.
I don’t blame them; it’s tough. The U.S is one of the few countries in the world where Paid Maternity Leave is not required by law, so it’s basically at the employer’s discretion. This unfortunate situation causes many women to have to leave their babies at a very young age to keep their jobs. For sure, breastfeeding couldn’t be a priority in these conditions.
On the other hand, there’s not a perfect scenario, and while I hope with all my heart that one day women’s legal situation will be different in this country, I think we can work on some solutions to make breastfeeding and work possible.
So, this mom was terrified by the idea of quitting breastfeeding, but she perceived it as an inescapable fate. We began working on her pumping schedule; keeping her supply up was a priority. We designed a plan to pump every three hours. There was some flexibility; if she was in a meeting, for example, she could stretch out the pumping session, as long as she met the three pumping sessions necessary during her nine hours journey away from home.
The problem was the days at court, as it was hard for her to take those breaks. We evaluated the option of getting a wireless pump that you can use under your clothes, and nobody notes it. However, it was too expensive, so we decided on a plan to pump in the car right before entering the court building, and once there, taking short breaks to go to the bathroom and hand express a few drops. I told her to hand express as a habit every time she goes to the toilet at those court days and don’t even bother to storage these drops, as it was only to trigger her hormones to produce and release milk and keep her supply up.
At her back to work plan, we discussed many other things, like the best milk storage practices, and a few tricks to pump more milk in less time. She also learned how to bottle feed her child in a “breastfeeding friendly” way and reduce the chances to overfeed her.
Going back to work is a big struggle for many women, but planning ahead can be life-changing. Everyone has her own situation at work and home. Some take their children to daycare, and some leave them at home. There are tons of alternatives, and what matters is you find the perfect combination for you.