Heading back to school while still breastfeeding your baby? You can do it! Careful planning, knowing your schedule, and finding out when breaks are available are the keys to success.
If you have not received your breastpump yet, go get one! Most insurance companies provide you with a pump. Call member services to find out how you can access this benefit. A breastpump is an essential tool to make returning to school possible. Knowing how to hand express in a pinch is also important. There are many videos online that you can view to help you learn, one example is http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/HandExpression.html.
Contact your teacher or professor prior to your return and let them know your plans to express breastmilk. Yes, you might feel uncomfortable talking to your teacher about pumping, but it is your right to be able to continue breastfeeding your baby. The more “upfront” you are, the easier it can be.
- A safe, clean and private place to pump (other than a bathroom) that has a chair and an electrical outlet
- A little bit of flexibility to allow you to pump when needed.
The amount of time you are going to be away from your baby dictates how often you need to pump. You should aim to pump about every three hours. If you’re away from your baby for 6 hours, you will need to pump 1-2 times. It’s important to nurse the baby right before you leave, and as soon as you get home.
Items you might need:
- Breastpump, electric or manual
- Storage bottles or bags
- Cooler bag to transport milk
- Hand sanitizer
- Extra set of pump parts: This will cut down on time, because you won’t need to clean right away. Just rinse off and clean them thoroughly once you get home.
- Breast pads
If there is absolutely no way for you to take a break to pump, but you still want to breastfeed, it can be done. Before you return to school, try pumping once a day after the morning feeding and try to collect as much milk as you can. If you won’t be pumping during school hours, you’ll need to train your body to reduce the supply at that time. Drop a feeding and offer a bottle of expressed milk or formula. Wait several days until your breasts feel soft at that time. Continue this process for each feeding you need to drop. In situations like this, you can always keep a manual pump handy if your breasts get too full and you need to pump for your comfort. Don’t forget to nurse your baby right before you leave and right when you get home!
Once you get into the swing of things when you return, you will figure out your schedule and what works best! You and your baby are a great team!
-Jennifer McClure, IBCLC