Many mothers continue breastfeeding when they return to work or school. Here are some tips for continuing to breastfeed and providing expressed breast milk for your baby when you are away.
The first few weeks after baby’s birth, it is important for you and your baby to learn how to breastfeed well and establish milk production to meet baby’s needs. When those goals are met, you can begin extra pumping and introducing a bottle.
The better personal breast pumps and hospital-grade rental pumps help mothers express the most milk in the least amount of time. If the flanges (breast shields) feel too tight or uncomfortable, you may need a larger size. The proper fit will help you to obtain more milk.
Begin pumping three to four weeks before you are planning to return to work or school. Many mothers find they obtain more milk volume when pumping immediately after the first morning breastfeeding for 15 to 20 minutes. Be consistent and after seven to 10 days your body will be making more at that time. Do this as many times a day as is convenient for you. Milk can be expressed in storage bags or containers. (Follow milk storage guidelines.) Storing two to four ounces per container will help prevent unnecessary discarding of extra milk. As your baby takes more milk, you can combine containers to make bottles.
After baby has established the motor pattern for breastfeeding, allow learning time with the bottle. Have your partner or baby’s caregiver offer it. A slow-flow bottle nipple may help baby manage milk flow and encourage him to continue using a sucking pattern similar to breastfeeding.
If possible, locate a private place to pump before going on maternity leave. Ideally it will have a sink for cleaning your pump equipment and it is not a restroom. Check with your supervisor or human resources representative if you need assistance.
To get a better idea of how many hours you will be away from baby, drive to the child care provider and then to work at the time of day you will be normally be going. Then drive from work to child care at that time of day. Add in the time you will be at work to get your total time away from baby. Then, divide by three. This is the number of times you will need to pump at work.
Most women are pumping two to three times per day, during morning and afternoon breaks and lunch time. Talk with your manager and co-workers about the times you will need to pump.
Pumping plus clean up time usually takes about 20 minutes. Pumping every three hours will help maintain milk production. Stretching out pumping session times longer than four hours often leads to a decrease in milk production.
There are cleaning wipes and methods for cleaning your collection kit in the microwave. A hands-free pumping bra will enable you to eat your lunch and carry out other tasks while pumping.
Continue breastfeeding when you are at home with baby in the mornings and evenings as well as on days off. Express your milk when you are away. Some mothers visit baby at child care to breastfeed on their lunch break. If possible, talk with your child care provider about timing baby’s bottles so you can breastfeed when you pick baby up or as soon as you both get home.
If possible, delay your return to work until breastfeeding is well-established. Returning to work in the middle of the week allows you to have a shorter week and weekend to re-group before starting again. Some mothers return to work part-time at first in order to ease their transition back. Cooking meals on days off gives you more time with baby after work to breastfeed.
Providing breast milk for your baby takes some planning and perseverance, but the rewards are a healthy mother and baby. Studies have shown that breastfed babies are sick less often. Mothers miss less time off from work when babies are healthier.