Working & Breastfeeding
Ask any mother working outside the home--juggling family and job responsibilities is a daily balancing act. Mothers with brand new babies face even greater challenges. The longer you are able to stay home, the better. However, if you are getting ready to return to work after the birth of your baby, you might be concerned about how to continue to breastfeed. Don't worry. With some advance planning, it is possible to combine work and breastfeeding successfully.
Why continue to breastfeed?
All the same reasons you started breastfeeding hold for continuing when returning to work: superior nutrition, healthier baby, fewer food allergies, protection against breast cancer, easier return to pre-pregnant weight, lower cost than formula. And there is one more: Every mother who leaves her baby has some mixed feelings about it. Continuing to brestfeed after returning to work helps maintain that special mother baby bond you have build while you were at home.
- Take full advantage of your maternity leave to establish a good supply of milk before going back to work.
- Once your supply is well established and your baby is nursing well (at about 4 to 6 weeks), introduce a bottle a few times a week. This step prepares your baby for bottle feeding during the day while you are at work. Keep in mind that babies usually associate breastfeeding with mom. Consequently, in the beginning, some babies are more receptive to a bottle if it is offered to them from someone other than you. (You ay even need to be out of the room!)
- Rent or purchase a breat pump with double pumping capability. By emptying both breasts simultaneously, most mothers can complete a pumping session in just 10 to 15 minutes, which will fit into a breast period or lunch time.
Breast milk availability works on a supply and demand basis. Maintaining a good milk supply depends on the regular stimulation provided by baby or by pumping. Double pumping increases your prolactin levels, which helps maintain milk supply. This benefit is important to working mothers who might have difficulty maintaining their milk supply because baby isn't always available for breast stimulation.
- To familiarize yourself with the process and help build up milk supply, start using your electric breastpump one or two weeks before you return to work. Try to simulate what your pumping schedule will be at work.
- To ease your transition back to work, try to return midweek so that you have only a few days before the weekend. Plan to breastfeed at least once before you leave in the morning. If you can, go home or to your daycare facility at lunch time to breastfeed, or have your baby brought to you. If this is not practical, plan to pump two or three times during the day at work.
- Breastfeed as soon as you can after you return home or reach the daycare facility, during the evening, before bed, and on weekends as often as possible. Depending on your baby's age and the amount of time you spend away from him or her, you might be able to reduce the number of pumping sessions at work to one or two times a day.
- If your company does not make a special room available for pumping, find a spot that is as private and comfortable as possible. Bring along a picture of your baby, something to drink and perhaps a small snack. If you have difficulty letting down, take a few deep breaths, listen to some soothing music or imagine your baby nursing.
You can store the milk you pump each day so that it is available for your baby the following day while you are at work. If a refrigerator is not available, use a portable cooler with refreezable packets for storage and to transport milk home.
You'll need some patience to see you through a period of adjustment. You'll need some practice with the pump. And, of course, it helps to have an understanding employer. But the choice is yours. Return to work and continue to breastfeed. Yes, you can!