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Go Back to Work and Continue to Breastfeed?  Yes, You Can!

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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 a baby, you might be concerned about how to continue to breastfeed. But don't worry. With some advance planning, it is possible to combine work and breastfeeding successfully.

It is typical for any new mother returning to work to feel fatigued and to experience a sense of loss over leaving her new baby in someone else's care. If you have been breastfeeding your baby, you may feel even more sadness at the prospect of having to cease a natural process that has protected your infant's health and created such a powerful, nurturing bond between you and your baby.

The good news is that you don't have to stop breastfeeding your baby. Medical professionals agree that both you and your baby will gain many health benefits from breastfeeding. You'll need some patience to see you through a period of adjustment. But the choice is yours. Return to work and continue to breastfeed. Yes, you can!

Create Employee Awareness

Fortunately, more and more employers institute company-sponsored support for breastfeeding mothers. For example, a Corporate Lactation Program includes prenatal education and post-natal counseling provided by an on-site lactation professional, as well as time, space and equipment for women to pump their breast milk at work. Other companies may not have a full-fledged program, but will allow women to take the time they need during the day to pump their breast milk.

Talk with your employer before your baby is born. You may want to extend your maternity leave, work part-time for a period, job share, or work at home part of each day or week. If your company does not have a lactation program, now may be the time to investigate starting one. In lieu of a formal program, however, try to make your own arrangements.

Explain to your employer the health benefits of breastfeeding for your baby. When baby is sick, mother often must be absent from work. The prospect of less absenteeism among breastfeeding mothers is a bonus for cost-conscious employers.

Select a Caregiver

Choosing the person who will care for your baby while you are at work is an important decision. You will want to select someone who supports your commitment to breastfeeding. And don't wait until the last minute to start investigating your choices. You will need to find a primary person, as well as several back-ups -- just in case.

Give your caregiver explicit written instructions on how to store breast milk. Explain that, if possible, your baby should not be fed within a couple of hours of your return. That way, he will be ready to breastfeed as soon as you arrive at the caregiver's after work. If baby is hungry before you arrive, the caregiver should tide baby over with some water or a snack-sized portion of stored breast milk.

Breastfeeding Helpful Hints

Take full advantage of your maternity leave to establish a good supply of milk before going back to work.

Once your milk is well-established and your baby is nursing well (at about 3 to 4 weeks), introduce a bottle. 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.

Purchase or rent a high-quality automatic-cycling electric breastpump. For example, Medela's Lactina®  is state-of-the-art in performance, safety and convenience. Or the Pump In StyleTM pump is stored in a stylish designer-look shoulder bag that can be discreetly carried wherever busy mothers need to go. Both run on regular electricity or can be operated by vehicle lighter. The Lactina even has a battery option called the PowerPakTM. Other small pumps may not be able to maintain your milk supply on a long-term basis.

Use a double-pumping kit with your electric breastpump. By emptying both breasts simultaneously, most mothers can complete a pumping session in just 10 to 15 minutes, which easily fits into a break 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 helps increase 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 pump and help build up milk supply start using your electric pump after breastfeeding is well established (three- four weeks post-partum ).  When your infant is three weeks old, or one to two months prior to your return to work,  Double pump (pump both breasts at the same time) 15-20 minutes one time a day 1 hour after a nursing session. You may want to do this 5-7 days a week. Freeze one bottle and use the other to train your infant to take a bottle one time a day. (Good idea to have your caretaker or Dad feed the bottle with an Orthodonic nipple. You ‘ll find freezer storage bags a convenient way to store Breastmilk long term. It’s ideal to have at least 40 bags of milk stored upon return to 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 lunchtime to breastfeed, or have your baby brought to you. If breastfeeding during the lunch hour is not possible, plan to pump two or three times during the day at work. (Remember, if you are using a double-pumping kit, that's just about 45 minutes of your work day.)

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, 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 mothers who are breastpumping, 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 cooler case. Medela offers a number of options, including a soft-sided carrying case for the Lactina Breastpump with a built-in cooler and cooling elements that work with the Pump In Style bag.

Human milk can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5-7 days at 39 degrees F. (Sosa, Roberta; Barness, Lewis: AJDC, Vol. 141, Jan. 1987.) If you must keep it longer, label the bottles with the date and store them in a home freezer. If you plan on freezing freshly expressed milk, do so as soon as possible after expression. Breast milk will keep in the back part of the freezer portion of a home refrigerator-freezer for up to six months. It will keep in a freezer with temperature -20 degrees C for up to 12 months. Thaw frozen milk in warm water; do not microwave or boil it.

Source: Medela

Breastfeeding Management
Sore Nipple Management
Breast Engorgement
Breastmilk Storage
Going Back to Work and Continue to Breastfeed? Yes, You Can!


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