Weaning is the process of transitioning from breastfeeding to not breastfeeding at all.
*We've partnered with Lansinoh to help you work it as a working, pumping mom.
You've made it! You're breastfeeding. It's all going smoothly-ish. And boom, you have to go back to work. Now you have to figure out pumping, bottle-feeding, and keeping up a milk supply, all while juggling the demands of your job and mothering! Whew.
If you want to keep breastfeeding after returning to work, it's important to ensure you don't accidentally wean before you are ready. Weaning is the process of transitioning from breastfeeding to not breastfeeding at all.
There is weaning that happens at the child's pace and there is weaning that happens at the mother's initiation because of personal preferences. But there is also weaning that happens because of life circumstances, sometimes unintentionally. And heading back to work is often one of those circumstances.
The good news is, there are plenty of tools and tips to help you keep your breastfeeding journey going, even as a working mom, by incorporating pumping into your routine. So we've partnered with Lansinoh to share the best ways to ensure you don't accidentally wean when you return to work.
1. Double pump to keep up supply when apart. Use a double electric breast pump at work like the Lansinoh Smart Pump, which features three customizable pumping styles to mimic baby's natural feeding pattern to maximize milk production and comfort. This will help you maximize the stimulation your breasts need to keep making breastmilk in the most efficient way possible when baby is not there at the breast. Many high-quality breast pumps are covered under insurance, so yours could be no cost or low cost. And because it links with the Lansinoh Baby App, the Bluetooth connectivity with the pump will automatically record date, time, and time spent pumping so fewer things for you to remember!
2. Schedule your pumping sessions as you would schedule a meeting! If you want to keep your milk supply up, you need to stimulate your breasts regularly, so they continue to produce milk at the same rate as before. Scheduling your sessions to mimic baby's usual feeding schedule is a way to prioritize pumping and avoid engorged or plugged ducts, mastitis, or just extreme discomfort! Plus you can use this milk to leave behind or your baby's caregiver or add it to your freezer stash for later use.
3. Try to breastfeed your baby right before you leave and right after you get home. Breastfeeding when together is an important way to reconnect and to keep up your supply so nursing before you leave and after you are reunited is a good way to ensure your milk supply stays up. Ask your caregiver to be mindful of how much bottle-feeding happens at the end of the day, so that the baby is hungry enough to nurse when you get home. That doesn't mean starving the baby or withholding milk if baby is hungry but it might mean that your caregiver gives just enough to tide the baby over until you get home.
4. Keep a manual pump in your purse. On an extra busy day with meetings or running around, you may not have the time or ability to hook yourself up to your electric breast pump. A manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump will enable you to quickly and discreetly pump your breastmilk without wires or electricity to keep up that stimulation that is needed to keep up supply and have milk for baby when you are apart.
5. Stock up on accessories that will make your pumping journey easier. You'll probably experience breast leakage at work...at the most inconvenient time. Keep a handful of Lansinoh's Ultimate Protection Disposable Nursing Pads in your pumping bag (and in your bra!) at all times. They're as absorbent as they are light (they hold up to 20x their weight in breastmilk, and some days you'll need that), yet keep your skin dry. Plus they don't make your boobs look clumpy or bulky, because the only thing more embarrassing than a leak is when everyone can see you're wearing a breast pad. You might also want to pick up some lanolin to soothe any discomfort you may have as you get more used to pumping.
6. Increase your breastfeeding sessions at night. I know. You're probably asking, “What? Why would I do that?" Well, for many reasons. It keeps milk supply up and provides a lot of closeness and snuggles, which moms miss when they go back to work. Many babies who are separated from their moms throughout the day actually initiate this on their own. It's called reverse cycling. And it will help to keep your milk supply up because no pump can do the job as well as your baby! For some moms, this is welcomed, as it means more time to connect. For others, it can be extremely hard, because it means less sleep after working all day. If you do want to do this and make it easiest on yourself, sleep very close to your baby so you can feed and then easily drift back to sleep.
7. Learn your breastfeeding and workplace rights! Remember most employees have a right to take time to pump. According to The United States Breastfeeding Committee, Section 4207 of the Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide break time and a place for most hourly wage-earning and some salaried employees (nonexempt workers) to express breastmilk at work. The law states that employers must provide a "reasonable" amount of time and a private space other than a bathroom to pump. They are required to provide this until the employee's baby turns one year old. The US Breastfeeding Committee also shares this link for state-by-state laws.
8. Know that it doesn't have to be all or nothing. If you find it too hard to keep up the pumping during the day, or your work simply does not allow it, you can continue to do some breastfeeding while supplementing with donor breast milk or formula. As a doula and lactation counselor, I've seen women continue breastfeeding using many different strategies. Do what works for you. If you can't carve out as many pumping sessions as you would normally be breastfeeding, even pumping a few minutes several times a day will be helpful in maintaining your supply as it's the regular stimulation that your body needs to keep producing. You may want to incorporate pumping into your at-home routine (after nursing, before you go to bed, when you awake in addition to nursing baby).
9. Remember to be gentle on yourself. If you find that working, pumping, and breastfeeding is too challenging, remember there are people to help like doulas, lactation consultants and counselors. It does not have to be an all or nothing scenario and any amount of closeness and nursing, pumping you can provide will be amazing. As they say, your worth as a mother is not measured in ounces. You're doing a great job.
Written by Jada Shapiro, founder of Birth Day Presence and Boober, home of the Breast Start visit, the only on-demand Breastfeeding Help service in the country! Text 917-407-1347 for immediate breastfeeding help in person or on videochat. Birth Day Presence is, NYC's most trusted Childbirth Education Center, Doula Matching Service, and on-demand Breastfeeding Help Service. A birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, and mother, Jada works with first-time parents, A-list celebrities, and everyone in between. She also offers childbirth and breastfeeding advice and expertise in media outlets including the New York Times, The Today Show, The Huffington Post, NBC, CBS, TLC and regularly consults on major films and TV Shows.
Photography by Ren'ee Kahn Bresler for Well Rounded.