You may have dozens of things you want to do before going back to work, but these are the three you must do.
1.) Talk to your employer about breastfeeding and accommodations
In an ideal world you would work at a company that has such clear and supportive breastfeeding policies in place that you don’t even need to initiate a breastfeeding conversation with your employer. If that’s not the case, a good first step is to familiarize yourself with both your companies policies (if they have them) and your state’s laws on breastfeeding. Knowing both what is required of your company by law and what company policies are already in place can give you a clear idea of what obstacles you might face, or ways in which your employer could improve.
Once you’ve gathered the necessary background information, it’s important to discuss breastfeeding and your need for time and a private place to express your milk with your employer before you leave for maternity leave. If you aren’t sure how to begin this conversation, we have a sample letter for your supervisor that can be a great jumping off point.
If you anticipate a less than enthusiastic response from your boss and you think some outside authority might help, think about getting a letter from your obstetrician or pediatrician. We think this doctor’s note sample letter is a good template to start with. Feel free to use it verbatim, or enlist your doctor’s help to get the wording just right.
2. Talk to your day-care provider about milk storage and feedings
Educate yourself and your day-care provider about proper milk storage, how much a breastfeeding baby needs to be fed and how feeding breastmilk in a bottle is different than formula feeding. In fact, familiarity with breastfeeding may actually be one of the criteria you use for selecting a day-care provider.
3.) Get your equipment ready, and practice, practice, practice
Get a good pump and practice using it. What constitutes a good pump for you will depend on how many hours you will work per week. In general you want a new (so it is reliable and safe) double pump (cutting your pumping time in half). You don’t need a 3-month supply of milk in your freezer before you go back to work, although you will want to have some as a cushion. Usually you will be pumping today for what your baby eats tomorrow. Start your baby practicing with a bottle at approximately 3-6 weeks of age. Practicing doesn’t have to be daily; a couple of times a week will help your baby maintain the bottle skill while still enjoying most of the time feeding at the breast.
Take every opportunity you can to be with your baby during during your maternity leave, no matter how long or short it is. Studies show the chances of a good, abundant milk supply are dramatically improved by unrestricted, frequent access to the breast for the baby from the very first days of breastfeeding.