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The United States is last in the world in maternity leave which means that women are returning to work soon after birth and before breastfeeding is established. 

Just the idea of going back to work in the first few weeks or months causes some women to rule out breastfeeding. Research shows that ANY amount of breastfeeding is beneficial and women should breastfeed at least until they return to work. However, even after breastfeeding is going well, going back to work increases the risks of early weaning. And all mothers acknowledge that working and breastfeeding is challenging.

Women often lack the support of their employer to pump at work, even though studies show that mothers who breastfeed take fewer sick days than mothers who formula feed.

Not sure if you want to breastfeed because you have to work?

1.  Do a cost analysis and see if it even makes sense to return to work. Add up the costs of daycare, transportation, work clothes, convenience foods and the likelihood needing to supplement or switch to formula feeding.

2.  Talk to your employer while you are pregnant about pumping schedules and a clean, private place to pump. Share “The Business Case for Breastfeeding” with them.

3. Try breastfeeding and see how it goes. You might be pleasantly surprised. Women who never intended to breastfeed are shocked when their baby finds their breast and begins nursing. Often, their reluctance to breastfeed fades and they enjoy it. is You really can’t predict how breastfeeding will go or how you will like it, until you start.

4. Don’t be afraid to combine breastfeeding and formula feeding after you go back to work. Some breastmilk is always better than none. Breastfeeding is a wonderful way for you and your baby to reconnect after being separated. Accepting that you may need to use formula takes the pressure off you pumping enough milk every day for your baby. You may find that you actually are able to pump more milk because you aren’t tense and anxious about starving your baby.

Being the mother of an infant, breastfeeding and working is overwhelming. Something has to give. The first thing to go should be zealous perfectionism. Don’t compare your “insides” to someone else’s “outsides”. 

When you look at Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, you may think everyone lives in super clean houses with perfectly cooked and presented dinners and wonder why your family is having pizza on paper plates for the third time this week. It takes a lot of time and energy to run a family in a showcase style. When you work full time and have a baby, you don’t have a lot of extra time to create a showcase lifestyle. It’s possible, but if you feel stressed, something has to go.