After having a baby, readjusting to your previous work routine can be challenging. Here are some tips that can help make a smooth transition:
Start back to work in the middle of the work week if possible. This will make it easier for everyone to adjust to the change, since this will provide you with a 2- or 3-day trial period before you take on a full workweek. Plan ahead to take certain items to work with you each day. Many parents get everything together the night before. You will need your pump, a cooler for transporting and perhaps storing breast milk, and a lunch or snacks to help keep your energy up. You may also want to wear breast pads and pack a clean blouse or blazer in case of milk leakage or spills.
If your employer does not provide a lactation room, work with them to identify a space for expressing milk. If possible, visit during your maternity leave to check on the space and to finalize any arrangements. This will ease your mind on that busy first day back.
When you begin your first pumping sessions at work, try to relax and keep your mind off the people waiting for you outside the room. Any stress could delay your letdown reflex or reduce your milk supply, delaying your return even more. Trying to work at your desk or making calls while pumping is generally not effective. Thinking about your baby—how comforted they will be as they drink your breast milk and how good for them your milk is—may help you relax and start your milk flow. Some parents find that looking at a photograph of their baby or even listening to a tape of their hunger cry works like a charm.
Explore ways to integrate your pumping schedule into your day. This will become easier as your co-workers grow used to your brief absences one to three times per day and see that you can still be productive in spite of them. You will learn how to slip discreetly out of a meeting that has run long and is interfering with your pumping schedule—just as another co-worker might excuse themself to visit the restroom. You may even find how easy it can be to recover from or laugh at any snafus—a milk stain on a blouse or an interrupted pumping session—with the help of supportive and empathetic friends.
As you continue to express breast milk at work, monitor how much you are producing. Diminished milk supply is a common problem for employed parents and is most often the result of skipped pumping sessions or not pumping long enough. Also, pumping may not express as much milk as a baby can get from a breastfeeding session if they are an effective nurser.
To increase your supply, pump more frequently for at least 10 minutes per session, even if your milk stops flowing before then. When at home with your baby, offer them the breast at least every two or three hours. If they sleep through the night, consider waking them at your bedtime for an additional feeding. On weekends, breastfeed exclusively and nurse whenever they show an interest. Once your milk production increases again, maintain your supply by drinking an adequate amount of liquids, getting enough rest relaxing as much as possible during pumping sessions.