We have a special guest on the blog this week - Anna Murphy, the mama behind Curate Mum! She supports mamas in their back to work and career journey…AND she has an e-book coming out next month! I’m super excited for the tips she’s sharing with us this week, so let’s get to it!
Returning to work can be a stressful time for any Mama, there are lots of things to consider and if you are continuing pumping or breastfeeding, there are some practical steps you can take to help make the process easier. Here I’m sharing my top five tips for a successful return to work while continuing your breastfeeding journey!
When you know you are going back to work, or you are ready to start a new role, speak to your employer about the fact that you plan to continue breastfeeding and that you will need suitable facilities to use for pumping.
Employers in the US have to provide you with reasonable break time to express breast milk up to a year after your child's birth AND provide you with a private place, that is not a bathroom, to express breast milk.
Top tip: Always advise your employer you plan to pump at work via email so that you have a written record of your request and your employer's response.
This is key! Don’t wait until the weekend before you go back to work to purchase your pumping equipment. I’d suggest getting your equipment at least a few weeks before your return to work date, so you have time to test it out and make sure you know how to use it properly. If there are any issues with the equipment, you’ll have plenty of time to get it exchanged and any new equipment tested. Make sure you practice using it a good few times before you start work.
I recommend you wash and clean the equipment before heading back into the office so that you’re familiar with how to take all the parts apart and clean them.
Think about how you are going to carry your pumping equipment around - if it's workable for you - have equipment for home and work so you are not transporting it. Alternatively, invest in a strong and comfortable bag to use. You will also need a cooler bag to transport pumped milk - there are many great options on the market that double up as breast pumps and cooler bags. Test out the bag you are going to be using a few times - with all the pumping equipment and bottles inside. Practice walking out of the house carrying it to make sure the bag is comfortable and not too heavy. Also think about purchasing collection bottles, nursing pads and spare clothes in case of milk leaks, ready for your first day.
Top Tip: Practice, practice, practice with your pumping equipment before you return to the workplace.
Think about how you are going to store your pumped breast milk at the office. You need somewhere secure and free from any possible contamination. Speak to your employer about whether they have an appropriate refrigerator. If you plan to use a company refrigerator, make sure you clearly label any bottles stored in the fridge and that the containers are secure (don’t store them in the door for example or on top of peoples lunch boxes!). Alternatively, you could look at a cooler bag or even a mini-fridge for your desk.
Top Tip: Think in advance about where you are going to store your pumped milk. Make sure you have enough bottles to store pumped milk in.
How often you will need to express milk - every 90 minutes? Every two hours? Plan to pump in line with your baby's regular feeding schedule and book diary appointments in your work calendar so that you protect the time! Don’t forget to factor in time for getting to and from the room that you will use and time for storing your milk and cleaning equipment. For example, if you know you need to pump for 20 minutes, add in an extra 10 minutes to clean equipment, store milk and get to and from the room. Mark the appointments as private and let your manager know you will express milk during that time.
Top Tip: Putting the time you plan to pump/express milk in your diary, ensure other people don’t book any other appointments with you!
You can find practical and stylish clothes to wear to work that supports your breastfeeding journey! Think about clothes that are comfortable to wear, that allow you to attach a breast pump and that makes you feel confident. It’s also important to think about a well-fitted bra that is easy to use with a breast pump.
Top Tip: A great place to start is the Ailana J. website!
Remember - Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
This is my most important tip! As a mother returning to the workplace, it can feel like there is a tremendous amount to think about and plan for - but there is help available!
Reach out to friends and family for support, and seek supportive professionals that can help guide you and make your return to work journey a success! You’ve got this Mama!
About the author
Anna Murphy is a Senior HR professional with over 17 years in the HR field. Her last role was Head of HR before she took maternity leave followed by a career break. She is passionate about supporting Mums in their back to work and career journeys. Her first e-book will launch soon, which provides support to Mums returning to work after maternity leave or career break. Follow her @curatemum.