For mothers out there, just as we begin to adjust to some semblance of a routine with our brand-new baby, reality comes crashing back in and it is time to return to work. Those first 6 weeks post-partum are likely a blur of sleepless nights, endless feedings, dirty diapers and unwashed hair…it is a time of simple survival.
Our sore nipples are healing, our milk production has evened out so we can wear a shirt for more than 10 minutes without leaking, and our babies can now latch like a champ. Breastfeeding sessions are longer, less frequent and much more comfortable for us both. Rather than shedding tears as a ravenous infant simultaneously screams, tries to suckle and shoves a fist into its mouth, mother and baby have likely reached the glorious period where they gaze into one another’s eyes as baby breastfeeds.
Unfortunately, all of this comes just in time for yet another major change – mom's return to work. Whether it is the office, the classroom, or the cash register new mamas everywhere dread this moment of separation. While returning to work is hard for us all, breastfeeding mothers face a new set of challenges they must overcome to continue nourishing baby with that liquid gold.
From a practicing trial attorney, mother of 4 rambunctious boys including a 6-week-old infant, and zealous breastfeeding advocate, here are some tried and true back to work tips for the breastfeeding mom.
No longer are you dressing for work simply based on the weather. Turtlenecks, silk blouses and high-neck dresses are out for the foreseeable future as a breastfeeding mom. While some of your pre-baby workwear may accommodate breastfeeding a lot of your clothing likely will not.
This is the perfect time to pick up some new items and just like during pregnancy, the key is to select a few staple pieces that can be mixed and matched making them useful in different settings. Dark, solid colors and dark prints or patterns are always a good bet since they can be paired with a variety of bottoms from black pants to jeans. Generally speaking, solid colors may be more versatile, but patterns are less likely to show any potential milk stains.
Nursing tops and dresses featuring double layers, hidden zippers, or wrap style closures are the simplest choice. Loose and flowy blouses are also accommodating for breastfeeding moms however depending on how you chose to pump may appear wrinkled or stretched out after a pumping session.
We love the Belly Bandit Perfect Nursing Dress. Available in 3 different colors, this dress is ideal for pairing with heels for a day at work, or even a cute pair of flats for a day on the town with your newest addition. With inconspicuous side zippers for super simple breastfeeding or pumping access you will look cute and stylish in this dress.
Crafted of super soft fabric, this dress is comfortable enough to wear all day. Better yet it is sleeveless and cool, but thick enough to conceal all those post-partum imperfections. Finally, the fitted design will make you feel beautiful which is something all new mamas need, especially after spending the last 6 weeks at home in pj’s or yoga pants.
Wear the Perfect Nursing Dress with a pair of Mother Tucker Shorties underneath for an even slimmer and sexier silhouette. With 360 degrees of compression for your tummy, butt and thighs, and designed of a lightweight, smooth and breathable material, this shapewear fits like a second skin. Go back to work looking gorgeous and exuding confidence like the extraordinary mama you are!
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Finally, to accentuate your workwear while breastfeeding you should also consider some stylish yet functional accessories such as a multi-use nursing cover. Able to be worn as an infinity scarf, these trendy threads can come in handy throughout the day. Select a few covers to match your wardrobe because you can wear it as a scarf, cover baby for that last breastfeeding session at daycare drop-off, conceal your pumping flanges underneath for a bit more privacy, and cover-up any accidental milk stains throughout the day.
Oftentimes when back at work, mothers are stuck having to pump in the car while on the go, or in a semi-private room that may be shared with other pumping moms so we love the multi-use nursing covers from Covered Goods. Made of a soft, stretchy fabric, these covers provide full front and back coverage while pumping or breastfeeding, can be worn as an infinity scarf, and also function as a car seat or shopping cart cover.
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Just as you thought getting out of the house with baby and all their necessary gear in tow was a process, now getting to work is the same. Gone are the days where you grab your wristlet and hop out of the car. Instead, you could end up feeling like a pack-mule with all the gear you need to pump throughout the day. Rather than trying to lug around a purse, lunchbox, laptop bag, and breast pump plus accessories, invest in a good breast pump bag that can also hold all (or most) of your other necessities.
Pumping at work presents a challenge for new moms because you not only need your pump and flanges, you also need bottles or bags for milk storage, a cooler, an icepack, a mat or staging area for cleanliness. If you are pumping more than once throughout the day, you also need the necessary items for cleaning your flanges between sessions. Although it sounds like a lot and the first few weeks may be tough, once you get the hang of it you’ve got this!
Luckily, here to ensure you have everything you need in one location is the Jujube Be Pumped breast pump bag. With a compartment specifically made to hold your breast pump, the roomy interior design gives you plenty of space for the rest of your essentials. With an included mini-cooler that holds up to 4-5oz. bottles, a small Be Dry wet bag for all pumping parts, and a staging pad for a clean pumping surface this bag has got you covered!
In addition to the 2 standard shoulder straps, the Be Pumped includes a detachable messenger strap with a memory foam shoulder pad and features a structured bottom with luggage feet for cleanliness. The Be Pumped closes with a full zipper guaranteeing your stuff does not end up all over the car floor if the bag falls off the seat. With a lifetime warranty against defects you will love and continue to use this bag long after your breastfeeding journey ends.
Not using an electric breast pump? Want to simply toss your manual pump in your diaper bag in case? The perfect pumping addition to any bag is the Be Equipped set from Jujube. With a mini wet bag for your pumping parts, a mini bottle cooler and an organizer bag, this set is perfect for mothers on the go so you always have the gear you need in a small, convenient location. Insulated for cold or hot storage, this set is great for storing milk bottles, formula, snacks or any other new mom essentials.
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Make sure to stock your breast pump bag with all the necessities for success including nursing pads, soothing therapy pillows and organic lubricating pumping cream from Bamboobies. Leaks will be likely while adjusting to this new routine and since you don't want unsightly milk stains nursing pads are a must.
We love the Bamboobies Value Pack containing 3 sets of lighter, daytime pads and 3 sets of super-absorbent nighttime or newborn pads. The ultra-soft, washable pads from Bamboobies are highly absorbent to keep you dry, comfortable and stain-free. Bamboobies will keep you feeling more confident and less concerned about leaks through the workday.
Add the BoobEase Soothing Therapy Pillows to your bag as well to help with let-down or discomfort while away from your little one. Without baby around to remind us, we moms often have a tendency to push our pumping times ignoring the fullness of our breasts leading to engorgement or pain. This can then cause difficulty pumping. The BoobEase Soothing Therapy Pillows are perfect for offering quick relief as they can be heated in the microwave for a warm compress or placed in the freezer for cold. The ultra-soft rayon/bamboo blend exterior is soothing on sore or sensitive skin.
Finally, the BoobEase Organic Pumping Lubricant is a pumping mom must-have! This 100% organic lubricant helps ease the friction between your breasts and the flanges making pumping more comfortable and successful for mom.
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The Locations and The Law
As a breastfeeding mother, you are protected by federal law when it comes to breaks and accommodations for pumping at work. That said, for many of us finding a private, quiet, relaxing 15-30 minutes is difficult during the workday and can cause an undue amount of stress. Additionally, for many new moms who are shy about breastfeeding the need to ask for breaks, the sound of the pump or the trek to the office kitchen to clean pumping supplies can be daunting. At first, this may negatively affect your milk supply, but once you have established a routine you have got this!
If you have a private office make sure to request your employer place a lock on your door before your return. If not make it clear to your employer that you are nursing and will need a private space to pump. This space cannot be a bathroom. Many employers have become very accommodating of the new laws and now provide pumping rooms with adequate, comfortable seating and privacy.
Just FYI, although you are entitled to breaks based on the frequency and time you need to pump, you do not have to be paid for pumping breaks unless they are taken during a regular break time provided to all employees.
If you frequently travel for work, or work outside of your office, airports, courthouses, and a variety of other locations now have pumping pods or rooms available to accommodate breastfeeding or pumping mothers as well.
Although you may be breastfeeding like a pro at this point, do not expect your first pumping sessions in a new environment sans baby to provide all the milk baby needs; stay calm and consistent, however, and your body will adjust to the new surroundings.
Whether we like it or not, many of us breastfeeding mamas have to return to work. Although it can be stressful and discouraging at first, you and your baby will get used to this new routine quickly and still have plenty of time for snuggles. Simply plan ahead to ease your mom-guilt and expect a few extra evening and late-night nursing sessions while baby adjusts as well. Motherhood is an incredible journey and this is just one hurdle on your lifelong adventure so don't stress, stay calm, and be the breastfeeding boss you were meant to be.
Photo Credits: Kristin dePaula, Sasha Staton, Jeri Delgado