breastfeeding woman in suitIf you are a breastfeeding mother who is planning to return to work, you are probably wondering if you can continue to breastfeed your baby. The answer is yes you can. The benefits of breastfeeding your infant are innumerable. Breastfed babies have fewer illnesses in the first months of life, fewer allergies, better eye, bone, and brain development, and form strong, loving bonds with their mothers. All of these benefits make continuing to nurse after returning to work worth the effort it takes. Here are a few things you can do to make the process successful:

Make sure your breastfeeding relationship is well established: There's a learning curve with breastfeeding, for both you and your baby. Your baby may have trouble latching onto the breast at first, you may experience sore nipples, and sometimes your supply of milk takes time to catch up with baby's needs. The longer you have together to sort through these problems before you return to work, the more likely you'll be to successfully navigate the change.

Talk with your employer ahead of time: Many people are uninformed about breastfeeding. You can smooth your return to work if, before you even start your maternity leave, you have a conversation with your employer. Emphasize your commitment to returning to work and doing your job well, but also let your boss know you are determined to continue breastfeeding your child. Assure your boss that you can do so without disruption of your work schedule and without making anyone else uncomfortable. In fact, if you are discreet, no one else will even know.

Know your rights: There are laws in place to protect new mothers who wish to breastfeed their infants. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows nursing mothers to take up to 12 workweeks of job-protected leave after the birth of a child to "bond with a newborn." The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide a "reasonable break time and a place for nursing mothers to express breast milk for one year after their child's birth."

Purchase a high-quality breast pump: Expressing breast milk by hand can be tedious and time-consuming. However, there are many high-quality breast pumps available that can make expressing and storing milk easy, comfortable and hygienic.

With a little advanced planning and some effort on your part, you can ensure that your nursing relationship with your baby thrives even after you head back to work.

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