In the latest installment of our conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, Dashea Line, a registered nurse and board-certified lactation consultant at Texas Health HEB, discusses how moms who choose to breastfeed can navigate returning to work. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For a longer version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.

Alexis Allison: So Dashea, for new moms who have chosen to breastfeed but are also returning to work, what are some of the things that they should be thinking about?

Dashea Line: I would definitely recommend that she have a high-quality breast pump. That she has practiced with it multiple times before she goes back to work, that she makes a plan for where she’s going to pump, when she’s going to pump, how she’s going to store (the breast milk), and then how she’s going to be feeding it to the baby when she’s gone.

Allison: What is a high-quality breast pump?

Line: There are lots of different breast pumps out there that are very highly rated. I like to go off of moms’ feedback and ratings on how well they perform. There’s lots of different brands. Typically, mothers get them through their insurance providers. I definitely, for a mother, particularly who is working full time, would recommend a double electric, professional grade breast pump. Anything that makes pumping very quick for her to be able to get back to work.

Allison: What are some recommendations you have for creating that routine?

Line: Address with your supervisor before you return where you’re going to be pumping. I would have a plan for how you’re going to store (the milk). I would try to pump the same time every day so that you could plan your work day around this. I would have it pre-planned.

Allison: You mentioned storing the milk — what does safely storing it look like?

Line: We recommend that you follow the CDC guidelines. So, pumped breast milk fresh can be stored in a cooler with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours. It can be stored in a refrigerator for four days. It can be stored at room temperature for four hours. And you can actually store it in either a regular freezer or deep freezer for six to 12 months. So it actually has a pretty good shelf life. The big thing is, you just want to get it cold as soon as possible and keep it as cold as possible.

Allison: Are there any rights or legal protections that new mothers have when they’re returning to work when it comes to breastfeeding?

Line: Yes. So, anyone can search ‘Texas pump law.’ Women are able to breastfeed in any public space where they’re allowed to be. Public employers must provide adequate break time and a private space for a mother to pump in. 

Allison: Are there other questions or worries that you encounter in your work that you’d like to address here?

Line: Women usually think that they need to have a very large store of breast milk before they go back to work. And it’s recommended from a lactation standpoint that you really only need about a week at a time in your freezer. 

The most important thing is that you are consistently pumping while you’re away from your infant and directly breastfeeding as much as possible when you’re back together to maintain your milk supply. I don’t want to put that stress on moms of, ‘you need this huge freezer full of milk’ when you don’t. 

The other thing I would say is, get in contact with a moms’ group, a lactation consultant, or some type of support before you go back to work. That would be very helpful.

Allison: Why can’t moms just go to work and not pump at all, and then go home and breastfeed?

Line: So that has to do with the way that breast milk is made. Breast milk is made through supply and demand. The breast has to be emptied frequently to make more. That’s why, when moms breastfeed or pump less and less, they start to dry up. And that’s why, when a baby starts to eat, the milk supply also starts to become less and less because the baby is taking less milk.

Allison: Thank you for sharing. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Line: We just wanted to share some resources for moms in case they’re looking for information. Of course, you can go to texashealth.org, and we have information about classes that they can take and information on breastfeeding and support groups. 

Some other good ones: There’s a Texas Lactation Support Hotline (855-550-6667) that’s 24 hours a day. There’s also the Tarrant County WIC page that has a lot of good breastfeeding resources. And then La Leche League is a peer-to-peer support group that’s led by experienced breastfeeding mothers.

Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact her at alexis.allison@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Alexis AllisonHealth Reporter

Alexis Allison covers health for the Fort Worth Report. When she can, she'll slip in an illustration or two. Allison is a former high school English teacher and hopes her journalism is likewise educational....