Breastfeeding and Returning to Work - Part I
Friday, June 22, 2012
It may seem like an overwhelming challenge to continue to breastfeed and return to work full-time. Some moms may choose not to wean before returning to work, especially if you intend to return after only six or eight weeks of leave. Mothers who are able to take a 12 week or longer leave before returning to full-time work or those who are returning to work part-time tend to find it easier to get into a breastfeeding routine.
If you plan to continue to breastfeed after you return to work, be aware that you have a few options. One option is to continue to breastfeed while you are with your baby and pump your milk while you are separated. You can have your child’s caregiver feed the baby pumped milk from a bottle while you are at work. Many workplaces allow moms to take a break to pump during the day, so you can keep up your milk supply. If pumping is too big of a challenge, you can also condition your body to only produce milk during the hours that you are with your baby and have bottles of formula for the times that you are separated. However, if you choose the latter option you will need to give your baby formula on weekends during the hours that you would usually be at work.
No matter which option you choose it is a good idea to start your work routine about two weeks before returning to work. Pumping your milk is a learned skill so start pumping during the times of day that you will be pumping at work. You can nurse the baby on one side while pumping the other side and then give the baby the pumped milk so that he/she becomes familiar with drinking from a bottle and you get used to pumping. If a combination of breastfeeding and pumping is your plan, start pumping after you feel that breastfeeding is going well and the baby is gaining weight appropriately. Having some extra milk in reserve gives you a cushion for those first weeks back to work when life can be hectic. Your baby should be practicing the skills needed to drink from a bottle by three to four weeks of age no matter when you plan to return to work. Continue to give your baby a bottle every few days. It doesn’t need to be an entire feeding but you do want to make sure that he/she will drink from a bottle when you return to work or choose to leave your baby from time to time.
Plan your day so that you are breastfeeding right before leaving for work in the morning and make sure that the caregiver doesn’t feed your baby too close to your return as you will want to feed soon after returning from work as possible. A lot of mothers find that breastfeeding as soon as they get home from work makes them take some time to relax and regroup while spending quality time with their baby.
It is to your advantage to breastfeed before and after work in the location where your baby will be staying each day. Mother’s that spend 20-30 minutes at least once a day in the same location as the baby are exposed to the same things that the baby is and will develop antibodies to germs in the environment which she will then pass along to the baby in her milk. This will help to provide added protection from illness for your baby.
Planning to return to work? Share your thoughts and concerns with other moms.