Breastfeeding is well regarded as one of the most nutritionally beneficial bonding experiences between a mother and her new baby. While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers continue this intimate interaction for at least six to 12 months, many moms find that timeline logistically and physically challenging as they continue to breastfeed through their return to work.

"The primary issues are having the allotted time in the day to allow a breastfeeding mom to pump or nurse, as well as having a safe and private area to do the same," says Lauren Gordon, one of three co-founders of the Stork Childbirth Education in D.C.

In fact, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, almost all employers are required to provide a sanitary, private space, other than a restroom, in which nursing mothers can breastfeed for up to one year after their baby's birth. The act also stipulates that employers must provide adequate break times for mother's to pump according to their own schedules.

While there is plenty to be done to ease the transition back to work, Gordon recommends starting the process even before your baby's birth planning and talking with your employer.

The First Steps

Having an open conversation with your employer is a good starting point in planning for your return to work, Gordon said.

"The best thing to do is contact your manager or supervisor in advance of your return to work and have a conversation with them about your return and what you'll need," she says. "It may be that you need three, 15-minute windows per day to pump, or it may be two, 30-minute windows. Whatever it is, let them know ahead of time so they can accommodate you."

For Amanda Venkatesan, of Herndon, VA, this conversation made for a great experience as she worked and pumped for her twins, Elijah and Jackson, who are now toddlers. She knew she would have an adequate pumping space since her company had plenty of experience with nursing moms. Even so, she recommends that new moms plan ahead and determine what their pumping space may be and how often they will utilize it.

You can also utilize your time on maternity leave to invest in a pump you like using, practice pumping and establish a pumping schedule. Also, use this time to do some research on storing your breast milk in the appropriate temperature and location at work.

Danni Starr, the former local radio co-host of the Kane Show, and mom of MJ, 3 and DC, 1, advises that making a schedule is one of the most important and most challenging aspects of this transition.

"Your work schedule doesn't necessarily work on the same schedule as your body," she says. "It was just one of those things where I was like, 'OK, this is what I want to do, and I need to make this happen.'"

Starr added that her commitment and dedication to breastfeeding both of her daughters, as well as the support she received throughout this experience, were integral in making the experience viable and easier.

Back to Work

As Starr mentioned, finding a group of supporters during this new routine can be helpful in overcoming challenges and seeking advice.

"Make sure you have a support team at work, even if it's just a fellow girlfriend who happens to be a mom," says Venkatesan.

Gordon offered similar advice, and added that it is possible to join a support group outside of the work environment.

"The best resource for other nursing mothers is other nursing mothers," says Gordon. "Support groups are available, new mom groups, anything that gives you an open line of communication with other women who have been where you are - or better yet, are right there with you now."

Even through all the challenges of balancing pumping and working, it is important to remember that this experience should fit your own needs and your own level of comfort. Both Starr and Gordon added that you should also keep in mind that pumping is not a viable option for some mothers, and they deserve encouragement, too.

"Be flexible and don't stress over it," says Gordon. "Pump or nurse for as long as it works for you, and then pat yourself on the back for making it that far. If it's something that is important to do, do all that you can to set yourself up for success."

Starr extended her congratulations to any women who have undertaken this journey, and added that it is essential for all women to reassure each other.

"You just have to say, 'Good job, momma,' because it is a lot of work and I don't think that people understand the commitment or how much work it is, especially doing both things, working and doing this," says Starr.