The end of my maternity leave is just around the corner, and while there's much to be anxious about., my hope is that by preparing early the transition will be a little easier. Of course, that's just a hope and come September 10 all my preparations could prove futile.

My biggest concern is that my time away from home will compromise the nursing relationship I've built with my three-month-old son. I'll certainly miss the bonding time with him, but I've also struggled with doubts about my milk supply since very early in his life and those concerns have only heightened in the weeks leading up to my return, especially since I've never been able to yield much with the pump. Just the thought of having to pump three times a day makes me tense up, but I have a plan to prep my body and my mind for the task:

Nurse more frequently. In the evenings that is. Everything I've read has suggested that nursing more frequently is the key to increasing supply, so even though we currently feed on a schedule rather than on demand, I'm working on establishing a three-hour schedule during the day and shortening it to a two-hour schedule in the evenings. Hopefully, that will help me produce more in the evenings so that my son won't need as much in his bottles of expressed milk during the day. Try adjusting your nursing schedule to match your work schedule.

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Ensure the efficiency of your pump. Good quality double electric breast pumps are pricey, but apparently they are ideal for helping working moms pump more milk in the least amount of time. I registered for one when I was pregnant and thankfully, several of my good friends pitched in to get it for me. However, I've had a sneaking suspicion for a while that the flanges that came with the  pump don't fit properly, so I just ordered another size so that I can get them in time to try them out and get used to them before my return. Make sure all of your pump parts are working correctly and efficiently.

Start pumping at least once a day. For the past two months, I've been pumping nearly every day after my son's first morning feeding. My hope was to build up a freezer stash and to be able to give him a bottle once a week so that he would be comfortable with it before my leave was over. Though I'd rather spend this time playing with my little one, I have managed to build up a meager stash (again, I don't typically get much when I pump), so if I have trouble pumping at work I have enough in the freezer to supplement with for a week or two, and he now has no problem at all taking a bottle. Make sure your baby is ready for the change in routine.

Try some lactation boosters. I've been drinking Mother's Milk tea twice a day all week and plan to bump it up to three times a day for the entire week leading up to my first day back at work. This weekend I'm going to bake up a big batch of lactation cookies (like these: http://theleakyboob.com/2010/04/lactation-cookies-recipe-2/). I'll bake enough to eat throughout the week and freeze the remaining dough to pull from whenever I feel like I need to boost my supply. I'm not quite sure how much of an effect this will have, but I'm hoping it will help me yield more during my pumping sessions. If you don't get much when you pump, try to build your supply up a bit so that you'll yield more.

Enjoy your nursing sessions. I already know how much I'm going to miss my son during the day, so I'm trying to enjoy every minute of these last couple of weeks. My little guy is a slow nurser--he savors his milk--and while it can be a little frustrating to be strapped down 30 minutes to an hour at a time several times a day, I'm learning to appreciate the uninterrupted hours I have with him. Talk to your baby, cuddle with her, and give her lots of kisses while you can.

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Accept what you cannot change.  It's a little disheartening to me how so many breastfeeding advocates guilt trip moms who have to give up nursing or supplement with formula when they return to work. I know that I'll be sad if despite my efforts I can't continue to breastfeed when I return, but I also know that my son will not starve. Remember that every drop of milk that your child has received up to this point has benefited him hugely and be okay with the possibility that you will have to adjust your plans once you re-enter the working world. Pump and nurse as much as you can, but if you have to supplement, know that it's not the end of the world. Ultimately, a full belly and a happy, stress-free mommy are the best things for the baby.

How did you prepare to return to work when your maternity leave ended?

Image via Thinkstock

About the author

Shayne Rodriguez Thompson is a full-time wife, full-time mom, and freelance journalist trying to balance it all and looking forward to exploring the world with her son and husband. In her rare spare moments, she's a pop culture junkie and kitchen devotee who makes a mean cupcake!

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