Returning to Work or School

Before Returning to Work or School

Communicate with your supervisor/ academic advisor before returning to work or school to let him/her know that you will be breastfeeding and will need time to use a Lactation Room during the day. 

    When scheduling your return back to work or school, consider discussing your transition plan and flexibility needs with your supervisor/academic advisor, or applying for formal flexible work arrangements (if applicable). You might want to begin mid-week or start off part-time; it can be overwhelming for a new mom to go back to work/school again, so if it’s possible, try starting off slow.

    Keep in mind that New York State Labor Law § 206-C (established in May 2008), requires employers to allow working women to use unpaid break time or paid meal time to nurse their babies or express milk for up to three years after the birth of their child. It also requires employers to provide a reasonable space where an employee can express milk in privacy and prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee who exercises this right.

    When arranging for child care, consider communicating with the provider about your infant’s feeding needs, scheduling and preferences. If you need any help finding a child care provider or have any other concerns about child care and schooling, contact the Office of Work/Life's School and Child Care Search Service.

    Introduce bottles to your baby no later than his/her fourth week so that he/she can become comfortable with being fed by a bottle. Babies who don’t start using the bottle by the fourth week may reject a bottle at a later date.

    Try to start expressing breast milk and establishing your pattern in the days or weeks before returning to work/school so your transition back is easier. 

    Have a supply of breast milk prepared before you return to work/school. Breast milk can be stored in a refrigerator for 4-8 hours, or you can freeze the milk for up to 3-4 months.

    You might want to consider purchasing a nursing bra for easier access when pumping/feeding, as well as support and coverage from breast milk leakage.

    Contact the Office of Work/Life for access to the lactation room ideally ten days before returning to work/school, and for more details on the pump and attachments needed.

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    When You Return to Work or School

    You should bring enough milk storage containers for the number of times that you wish to pump throughout the day.

    If you decide to store your breast milk in one of the rooms that provide refrigeration, please make sure to label your container to decrease the risk of contamination or accidentally swapping bottles.

    Consider wearing “breast-feeding friendly” shirts/blouses that open from the front for easier access when you are pumping.

    Bring an extra shirt/sweater/vest to wear just in case your breasts leak. 

    Seeing pictures of babies will not only help stimulate the “let down reflex” and help your breasts pump better, it is also a great way to show off your baby to other mothers using the rooms.

    Being relaxed will also help you pump better. Read a magazine, listen to music, and practice relaxation or breathing techniques.

    Women who are breastfeeding need extra calories and proper hydration so having a handy snack and beverage will help.

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    Need more support?

    Office of Work/Life Resources

    The Office of Work/Life develops and offers programs and initiatives designed to help you adjust back to life at Columbia after childbirth.