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Returning to Work or School

Nursing Your BEST

It Gets Easier.

It can be hard to think about going back to work or school but preparing for the transition will make it easier for both you and your baby. Before you know it, you’ll both be used to your new routine.

Before you know it

There are many things you can plan and prepare yourself and your baby for the transition back to work. Just take one step at a time, be flexible, and know that it will get easier!

Preparing Your Mind

  • For many new nursing parents, nursing and returning to work can be hard. That’s OK. It’s not about being perfect; it’s about taking things one day at a time. It will get easier. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your WIC clinic.
  • Ask friends and family for support. It’s all right, and even necessary, to ask for help. Who can you count on? Talk to them, tell them your plan to nurse, and tell them what you’ll need to stick to your plan.
  • Take care of yourself. Sleep as much as you can. Cut down on doing things that are not necessary. Pick a bedtime that gives you enough sleep and stick with it. On weekends, nurse often and sleep when your baby sleeps.
  • Take time for yourself. Too many parents take care of everyone but themselves. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent. Do what you can and take one day at a time.

Planning for Work

  • Plan to go back to work or in the middle of your typical work week, if you can. For example, if you work Monday through Friday, have your first day back be on a Wednesday. The first few days are likely to be the hardest for you and your baby emotionally. You will have to balance life back at your job, pump human milk, store your milk, and manage child care. If you have a shorter week when you first go back, you’ll have the weekend to look back at how things are going and make changes as needed.
  • Plan some extra time for getting ready in the morning so you can spend some time with your baby.
  • Have all your equipment ready to go. You will need your breast pump and kit, containers to store the milk you have pumped, an insulated bag, and ice packs to keep it cold (if you won’t have a refrigerator you can use).
  • Make a schedule. Usually you need to pump in the middle of the morning, at lunch, and in the middle of the afternoon to replace all of the nursings you would have given if you were with your baby. If you work a longer shift, remember that you need to pump as many times as your baby eats while he is away from you.
  • Try not to miss any pump times and let your employer know that this is important to you. If the schedule that you had planned isn’t working, come up with a new plan together that will meet both of your needs. The law says that your employer must allow you to pump as often as you need to.
  • When you are with your baby and on your days off, plan to nurse every time your baby shows early hunger cues. If you’ve noticed the quantity of your milk getting less during the work week, you can increase it by nursing and holding baby skin to skin more often when you are together.
  • If you feel your milk supply is getting smaller, check out our information on milk supply.

Getting Baby Ready

  • Once you have built up your milk supply, usually around the time your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old, have your partner, family member, or friend practice Paced Bottle Feeding of human milk. This will help your baby get used to the bottle before you go back to work, and it will help you get used to pumping your human milk. Print a handout on Paced Bottle Feeding:
  • Before you go back to work, take your baby to your child care provider to practice your routine. Do at least one practice run where you leave your baby with a caregiver who will feed him a bottle of human milk.
  • If your baby refuses a bottle, try a cup!
  • If possible, plan to nurse your baby when you drop him off at child care and when you pick him up. Babies often want to nurse as soon as they see their nursing parent, and feeding your baby before you go home makes your trip home more comfortable.
  • Remember, nursing is good for a lot of reasons. When you nurse your baby after a long day apart, he will reconnect with you and feel comforted.

Planning for Child Care

Research

Try to find a child care provider that supports nursing and is close to your work. When you are looking for a child care provider, be sure to ask what policies they have in place to support nursing parents.

Visit

Visit your child care center a few times before baby’s first day there. Touch toys and items in the center. When you do that, your milk will build up immunities to germs in the child care center to protect your baby.

Plan

Make a backup plan. Be sure that you know what to do if your baby is sick or your baby’s caregiver is not available on a day you have to work.