WBW 2016: 5 tips for a strong nursing relationship while working away from home

wbw2016-logo-textEditor’s note: Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals central to World Breastfeeding Week this year is a call for better workplace support of breastfeeding women. Certainly employers have a large part to play in meeting this goal, but women also need step up to advocate for themselves, their babies, and their right to express breastmilk while at work:

It’s that day…the dreaded day that no new mother wants to face — the last day of maternity leave.

For a mother able to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave afforded by the Family & Medical Leave Act, the last 3 months in baby bliss may instead feel like 3 short weeks, but regardless of the maternity leave length, the end of that special period arouses many emotions, especially for a nursing mother.

Naturally, a nursing mother’s mind becomes occupied with fears and questions:

  • How will I be able to provide enough milk while I am away?
  • What if my baby refuses a bottle?
  • Where will I find enough time to pump while I’m trying to work?
  • How will my boss and coworkers feel when I need time to pump?
  • What will happen to our nursing relationship?

This uncertainty creates even more stress and anxiety for the breastfeeding and working-away-from-home mother for she knows the important role breastfeeding plays in a secure attachment in addition to the numerous health benefits.

Mommy Kissing Baby LContinued nursing after the maternity leave period helps maintain a strong attachment between mother and baby. In his book, The Attachment Parenting Book, Dr. William Sears includes a chapter entitled “Working and Staying Attached,” in which he points out that giving your baby your milk is a very important way of staying attached to your baby after returning to work. Expressing milk for baby to drink during the day allows mother to, in a sense, be with baby while she is away at work. When mother and baby are reunited, their attachment through breastfeeding can resume as if she never left.

Nursing beyond maternity leave not only helps strengthen attachment but also provides numerous health benefits for the nursing mother and her nursling.  In 2012, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published their policy statement, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” in Pediatrics. In this document, the AAP notes the numerous benefits of nursing, including those of nursing beyond 3-4 months. Some of these benefits for baby include a lower risk for developing serious colds, asthma, and other allergies; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; and childhood and adult obesity. For the nursing mother, benefits include a lower risk of diabetes for mothers not diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a lower chance of arthritis, and breast and ovarian cancers. Essentially, the longer a mother can provide her baby with mother’s milk, the more health benefits received by both mother and baby.

In order to continue a secure attachment and experience the health benefits of breastfeeding, nursing mothers can maintain a strong nursing relationship while working away from home by following a few simple tips:

  1. Know your breastfeeding rights — Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many U.S. employers must provide a nursing mother with break time and a place to pump for up to 1 year after the birth of her baby. It is to be noted that companies with less than 50 employees are exempt from this law and instead offer pumping breaks at the discretion of the employer. Information, along with instructions for filing a complaint, can be found through the United States Department of Labor. Many other countries have generous allowances for nursing mothers at work, so be sure to check with your nation’s laws.
  2. Plan a pumping schedule — This schedule will differ from mother to mother. Planning to nurse right before being separated from baby and as soon as mother and baby are reunited can help reduce the amount of pumping sessions needed at work. While at work, a mother should try to pump about every 3-4 hours. For a mom working an 8-hour shift, she might pump once in the morning, once during her lunch, and once in the afternoon. The idea is that for each time baby receives expressed milk from his or her care provider, mother is pumping. In doing this, mother should be able to pump the amount of milk that baby will consume the following day. Talk with a local breastfeeding specialist for a pumping schedule tailored to your work environment and other needs.
  3. Discuss needed accommodations with employer — When a mother meets with her employer, she should be prepared by knowing her legal rights. A working-away-from- home mother should inform her employer of the needed accommodations before returning to work. The employer may need some time to make changes in order to accommodate the nursing mother. When the mother meets with her employer, she should provide her employer with a copy of her nursing schedule. This may also include pumping space accommodations. For example, the room where milk will be expressed needs to have an easy-to-access electrical outlet and should be heated and cooled.
  4. Nurse on demand — Although a working mother must have a pumping schedule while at work, at home, she can nurse her baby on demand. Nursing on demand means that a nursing mother nurses when cued by the baby. This might be every 30 minutes or every 2 hours. Since how much milk produced is based on demand, a nursling can help increase a mother’s supply by nursing frequently. Nursing on demand also allows baby to re-establish the nursing bond that was missed during the day. Nursing on demand can continue during the night. Frequent night nursing may lead to reverse cycling, meaning the baby will nurse more frequently during the night than he or she does during the day. Some mothers who encourage reverse-cycling find that they don’t need to pump as much while at work during the day. For example, a baby may only drink 4-5 ounces of milk while his or her mother is at work, but the remaining amount of milk needed will be attained during the evening and all through the night. Essentially, in 24 hours, the baby will have consumed his or her total amount of milk needed.
  5. Get support — Most nursing mothers need support throughout the breastfeeding journey, and nursing mothers that work away from home are no exception. La Leche League International and other nonprofit organizations provide local and online opportunities for mothers to connect and support each other.

While the end of maternity leave marks a transitional period for mother and baby, a strong nursing relationship can be maintained by carefully preparing for this changed and remaining dedicated to the desire to nourish baby with mother’s milk.


I am frozen. Frozen in the moments that are precious and true.

I recently went back to work. It has been a hard adjustment.  I started in early November. I had to hit the ground running and it has been a blur since I started. I eventually got used to my new schedule and feelings of mom inadequacy. The thing is, I had to let go of the reins of stay-at-home mom and grab the wild reins of working mom. Both are wild horses, but both ride much differently. As they say, balance is key, but I acknowledge that balance is a bit of a myth.  Balance is choices. It’s going to take time and practice to keep all the balls in the air.

I have not been writing (here or on my own blog). This gets to me because I know that writing is my calling.  I wish I could say I have been too busy writing to write for APtly Said, but that would be a lie. I am too busy to write and that is no excuse. I just realize that this is not the best time for me to be writing.  I just can’t seem to get that ball  in the air with the others.

When my son was seven months old, I quit my job as an elementary teacher in the middle of the school year. I tried being a working mom with a new born, but it just was too much for me. When I quit my job, I thought 40 hours would open up. How wrong I was! But that is a different chapter.

My son and I when he is 10 days old
My son and I when he is 10 days old


I was a stay-at-home mom for three years. I loved it and I hated it.  I could not seem to find balance and eventually found there really is no balance – just choices. So I chose to be happy when I was and I chose to be sad when I was sad. I allowed myself to feel angry and I allowed myself to feel joy. I embraced all the emotions that come on the stay-at-home mom spectrum. I wrote a lot about these feelings, as I was also in graduate school for Creative Writing. I wrote my thesis about my feelings about new motherhood and it eventually turned into a book.

Now as a working mom, I am juggling routine with busy and guilt; they smack each other often, knocking the balls out of the air. Meeting goes late at work — I call my husband to pick up our son from my in-laws.  Special Education paperwork to prepare for upcoming meetings — text husband to take care of dinner.

From trial and error, I have learned to just up and leave my classroom to get out the door. The work will be there the next day. My mind scissors the to-do list in a well-needed manner, shredding the ridiculous details that must be accomplished before I go home. But somedays, the list keeps on growing and I’m not the one adding to it. Work. It will always be there, growing. I do love a to-do list slashed though. Oh how I love that sense of accomplishment. The thing about motherhood and parenting is that there is no concrete list — just a liquid that flows into the container available. This container for me is the free time I have with my family after work and I absorb it and let it flow all over me. I saturate myself in it. It is the love of my family. It mends my guilty mom heart and makes me happy.

The alarm on my cell phone goes off at 6 am. I press the snooze alarm three times on days I don’t have to shower, once on days I do. It’s non-stop from there. I put my make-up on at work, sometimes in the car at stoplights. I manage to scramble out the door with my briefcase and purse in hand. To people on the outside of that door of our house, I look polished and poised. Inside I feel frazzled, late, and never enough.

My husband makes our son breakfast and prepares a to-go mug of coffee for me. He hands me my lunch (which he makes) and offers a quick kiss before I head out the door. I am very lucky because my husband is picking up the slack and the role of attached parent.  He gets our three and half year old son ready for pre-school and drops him off. They hold hands and kiss each other good bye like I did during drop-off. I miss drop-off. I miss pick-up. Mostly, I miss that initial hug and that smile and holding hands as he tells me about his day. Ben loves pre-school and we are very lucky with the school we chose.

My son and I in a recent photo
My son and I in a recent photo


We are also very lucky because our son spends the afternoon with his grandparents after my husband takes his lunch with our son and they play.  My in-laws also watch Ben on one of the two days he doesn’t have pre-school. My husband covers the other day as he works from home one day a week.

As a junior high school Special Education teacher, I am constantly on the go. My mind often frazzled, but surprisingly focused.  I am busy during the day like I have not been in a very long time.  I am on the go almost all day long. My head is one long comma splice of to-do lists and I am constantly overriding the least important of tasks to finish.

This brings me back to the frozen moments – the icicles that freeze joy. I choose to spend time after work with my son. This is a priority. Everything else gets put on the back burner – papers to grade, lesson plans to write, dinner to cook (I am lucky because my husband does most of the cooking), house to clean, books and essays to write, laundry to do, laundry to fold, laundry to put away, the list is endless.  I do feel guilty and I often freak out about how messy our house is (I have been struggling with spending the money on a housekeeper).

Back to frozen and true and not writing.  Well, I have chosen to spend time with my son and husband after work. Sometimes I don’t get home from work until 6 pm. Those are the days I choose to be frozen – frozen in the precious hour or two that is mine to play with him. We are still co-sleeping and this time is precious as well as we all snuggle together in a cozy bed. Until the alarm goes off at 6 am the next day.

My husband and son
My husband and son


I also have to choose to not feel guilty about not writing and not being there for pick-up and drop-off and all the fluid moments in-between that used to be my life as a stay-at-home mom. I choose to accept and to be present in the moments I do have with my family.