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How to Plan Your Return to Work After Maternity Leave

Planning your return to work after maternity leave starts early. There are certain things that you need to inquire about with your HR department even before you get pregnant.

Learn how to plan return to work after maternity leave
Learn how to plan return to work after maternity leave

When returning back to work, don’t be afraid to talk to your boss about meeting your breastfeeding and pumping goals. You will be surprised how supportive most people are, you just need to ask.

Here is a list of what you need to think about when planning your return to work after maternity leave:

1. Find out in advance where your company stands in breastfeeding matters.

Talk to your company HR to figure out what lactation support program is currently in place.

Is there a lactation room in the building? Is there an on-site day care? Can you bring your baby to work? What are your pumping or breastfeeding breaks? 

Learn what the law says and what your rights are. Then have a friendly conversation with your boss. No need to throw the legislature at him just yet. It is important to keep a good relationship with him/her. Your boss may form your strongest support group after all.

2. Work on a plan for combining breastfeeding and work.

By the time you return to work after maternity leave, you should already have a plan on how you want to proceed with breastfeeding and working. There are several options:

  • Arranging for a flexible work schedule: part-time, job sharing (when two part-time workers share full-time job), teleworking, 4-day workweek with longer work hours, alternating work from home with work in the office, etc. Possibilities may vary by industry and company and depend on the position you have and the type of job you do.
  • Working full-time and pumping: Federal law protects your right to use break time at work for milk expression.  Adhering to federal and state law requirements is the least the company should do.
  • Arranging for the baby to be in close proximity with your work site: on-site/near-site daycare or having a baby-sitter bring the baby to you at work for feedings. This option may not be the most convenient for everyone, but works best for keeping up your milk supply.

3. Use your maternity leave to the fullest to get breastfeeding on the right track.

Many studies have shown a direct relation of how much time a mother takes after the birth of a child to whether she initiates breastfeeding in the first place, how successful breastfeeding is and how long she is able to breastfeed.

Good to Know: According to the National Business Group on Health, only 25% of employed women with children under age of 1 continue breastfeeding after returning to work for at least a month.

4. Avoid bottles and supplementation for as long as possible to build up your supply.

Talk to a lactation consultant if you have any issues or concerns. Do it while you are still at home with your baby. Maintaining your milk supply and successful continuation of nursing when you go back to work is tricky by itself. Take all the other possible issues out of the way. Also, visit Breastfeeding Problems section for more information.

5. Practice pumping.

Pump for a couple of minutes after each nursing session, especially after the first feeding in the morning. This is when your breasts are the fullest and you have the most milk left behind after nursing.

Freeze this milk.

This will help build up your milk supply. Any milk left behind in the breasts gives your body a signal to produce less.

At the same time, pumping and freezing will help you store milk in case your supply drops when you go back to work.

6. Return to work after maternity leave is over.

When the maternity leave is over, return to work and act upon your plan.

Look for like-minded nursing mothers to discuss breastfeeding concerns and find support.

Never feel uneasy about taking breaks and pumping as often as you need. This is the key to successful and stress-free return to work after maternity leave.

Don't mind remarks and glances of the co-workers. If anyone makes you feel particularly uncomfortable, let your boss deal with them, while you do what is important for you and your baby.

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