Adapted from a magazine Q&A I answered 13 years ago.
Mother’s Situation: I’m six months pregnant with my first child and I’m planning on trying to breastfeed. I’ll be returning to work, though, and I think it might be difficult. I’m considering breastfeeding just until I return to work because I don’t want the hassle of pumping and storing my milk. What inspires other mothers to keep on breastfeeding or pumping even after they resume working?
As a postpartum doula who works with mothers in their homes after they’ve had their babies, I am inspired by the thought you are putting into this important decision. Many of my clients return or will be returning to work, and most of them choose to breastfeed. Many plan to breastfeed until they return to work, and some plan to continue pumping while they are working.
Quite simply, what inspires them to continue are their babies!
“Whether or not I would continue providing breastmilk after returning to work was never a question for me,” says former client Andi. “I knew it wouldn't be easy at first. It was an adjustment in so many ways - prepping what I needed to bring to work, making time to pump, transporting milk, washing parts. Yet, even when it was hard, my drive to keep going was my baby.”
Having pumped a full year for both of her children, Andi created a “how to manage pumping at work” guide that I provide clients today so they can learn from her expertise and not have to reinvent the wheel.
Typically, once the nursing relationship is established, moms quickly learn that the benefits of continuing to nurse and/or pump outweigh the challenges of working and breastfeeding.
Mothers find returning to work difficult enough without giving up the closeness they experience through nursing their babies. Also, the often tough decision of leaving a baby in someone else's care is made easier by knowing that their babies are still thriving and benefitting from the milk only they can provide.
“I loved the idea that even while at work, I was taking time out to do something for my babies,” Andi explains. “I knew breast milk was the best thing for them. It made me so happy everyday when I brought home their food for the next day.”
Of course, many mothers appreciate the cost savings that breastfeeding and pumping their own milk provides. Many find their babies are often healthier, too, thanks to their own immunity-boosting milk, which means fewer visits to the pediatrician.
“Practically speaking, breast milk is free,” Andi says. “I was all about saving some money when possible.”
You probably know the benefits of breastfeeding, which turn out to be the predominant reasons why mothers choose to continue. However, the missing ingredient here for you is your baby. It can be difficult to make decisions about how you will be with your baby when you haven't even met one another yet. Once you have nursed him or her and have some experience under your belt (or bra, as it may be), it will become clearer to you whether you want to continue breastfeeding while working.
There are plenty of resources, including support groups, books, videos, as well as postpartum doulas, to help you choose to continue breastfeeding and/or pumping while working. And, if you decide not to continue, pat yourself on the back for giving your little one a wonderful start in life. It's a gift to your baby and yourself that only you can give.
(If you’d like a copy of the guide to working and pumping, please contact me through our website or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)