By Nikkie Kent, Mamava EVP
Nikkie Kent, EVP of Mamava and mom of two, just gave birth to daughter Addison Kent on May 20, 2017 at UVM Medical Center.
So much has changed. You’re coming to the end of your maternity leave, a tiny being has emerged from your body, your hormones are raging, your body is changing, and all the while you’re filled with emotion, exhaustion, and overwhelming love for this new little being in your life.
And on top of all this, it’s time to go back to work.
How does one prepare? Emotionally, physically, logistically, mentally?
Don’t worry, mamas, we’ve done the research for you and have compiled our best tips:
Know your rights.
Make sure you know your rights. Thanks to the Fair Labor Standards Act, breastfeeding moms returning to work are entitled to:
- a reasonable break time to pump
- an intentional space to pump that’s not a bathroom
And unless you’re in Idaho where breastfeeding has yet to be exempt from public indecency/nudity laws, you have the right to breastfeed anywhere you feel comfortable.
For further details about your rights – federal and state level – see here.
Talk to Your Employer.
Think about what you’re going to need from your employer in terms of physical and logistical support, and let them know you’d like to have a conversation about this before you return to work. Here are several of the most common needs for breastfeeding moms returning to work to consider:
- The need for two to three breaktimes daily to pump
- A suitable space in which to breast pump
- Your schedule might not be as flexible if you are on daycare drop-off and pick-up duty
- Fridge space for milk storage
Think of this as a conversation that’s not just for you, but your employer, too. Prepping your employer ahead of time will guide them to support you, and happier employees are more productive and committed employees. Everyone wins.
Talk to Your Team.
As important as it is to chat with your employer about your new needs, you also need to discuss with your direct team – the people it will most impact. As soon as possible, whether that’s before your return or day one, schedule a conversation to talk with them. Let them know how you’ll be blocking out time to pump and that that time is not to be double booked. Share your new hours if they’ve changed, and be forward about your availability outside of work hours. Anything else? Now’s the chance.
Lean in to your community.
Caring for an infant, especially for the first time, is both incredibly rewarding and challenging. Accept help when it’s offered, and talk with other working moms to remind yourself that you’re not alone in this journey. While caring for a new infant can feel incredibly isolating, know that there are more than 3,000,000 new moms every year in the United States alone. Lean in to this community! Talk to mom friends, join the Facebook Group Working Moms Who Make Breastfeeding Work, and learn that many of your challenges are not yours alone. Learn from others and thrive from the support that is there for you.
Work.Pump.Repeat. by Jessica Shortall, and The Fifth Trimester by Lauren Smith Brody are two exceptional books written for working mamas by working mamas. Jessica Shortall packs loads of tips and advice into her brilliantly humorous and witty book that will keep you laughing throughout. Lauren Smith Brody introduces The Fifth Trimester as the birth of the working mom and provides you invaluable advice and the stories of hundreds of moms who’ve all been there, done that. Tried and true, these books will become your mama bibles.
The biggest challenges you’ll need to prepare for, according to Lauren Smith Brody?
1. Sleep Deprivation
2. Schedule time to breast pump when back to work
A few tips we love from Jessica Shortall?
The “mock trial.” Our own Mamavan, Annie Ode, tried this out before returning from maternity leave and loved it. Before your first day back to work, do a dry run as if you were going back to work. That’s right, wake up at the time you’d wake up for your first day of work, pack your lunch, laptop, and pump bag as if you were heading to the office, pump at the times your body needs to express milk, send your infant to grandma’s or daycare provider you’ve lined up. Going through this mock trail will prepare you both mentally and physically for what to expect.
And most importantly, celebrate YOU. You’re working. You’re parenting. You’re breastfeeding. You’re truly a super woman, so be good to yourself and take care of you.