Breastfeeding is natural, but it’s not always easy. Even the best of nursing duos will probably experience a little poor latch, plugged ducts, or cracked nipples. And when you’re heading back to work, the challenges skyrocket. Six weeks of maternity leave is barely enough time to figure out the football hold, let alone pumping, storing milk and cleaning bottles. Add on difficulties like scheduling breaks and finding a private pumping station at work, and it’s no wonder that many working moms struggle to keep breastfeeding.
No one solution will solve all these problems, but you can make pumping a little easier. Here are three key ways to set yourself up for breastfeeding success.
1. Get the right equipment
If you’re working full-time, you’ll need to pump several times throughout the day. That means a double electric pump is your best bet, since it will enable you to pump both sides at once. Choose a closed system pump, which prevents milk from getting into the tubes, and look for one that allows you to adjust suction and speed separately. One great option is the Evenflo double electric pump: it’s light, portable, and one of the most affordable closed system pumps on the market.
For more information, the video below goes through how to choose the breast pump right for you.
It’s also a good idea to get a pumping bra, which lets you pump hands-free, and bottles designed for breastfed babies like Breastflow, which has a dual nipple that requires a latch very similar to the breast.
2. Get educated.
Pumping, just like breastfeeding, has a learning curve. If you’re not getting much milk in a 20-minute session, try working on your technique. You might be using the wrong size flanges (a lactation consultant can fit you for the right size), or you might be starting your session at the wrong setting (it’s usually best to start with high suction and low speed and then adjust throughout the session). Or you might just need a little help with letdown (a picture of your baby or a blanket that smells like him can do the trick).
And if you’re still struggling, schedule a session with a board-certified lactation consultant (your health insurance should cover it!).
3. Educate your employer.
If you’re an hourly employee, then federal law guarantees your right to a private place to pump (the bathroom doesn’t count!) and reasonable breaks for pumping (approximately 25 minutes every 3-4 hours). If you’re salaried, you may be protected by state or local laws, so do your research.
But there’s no need to turn your desire to breastfeed into a legal struggle. If you aren’t covered by law — and even if you are! — talk to your boss about working together to support your goals and your baby’s health. You’ll actually save your company money by breastfeeding — you’ll take fewer sick days and spend less on doctor’s visits during your baby’s first year. You’ll be a happier and more loyal employee if you feel supported at work, so don’t hesitate to ask your employer for what you need.
Going back to work after baby won’t be easy. But with the right preparation, pumping will only suck the way it’s supposed to.