Breastfeeding Tips - How to continue breastfeeding after returning to work?
How to Continue Breastfeeding After Returning to Work
If you are a full time career woman and wish to continue breastfeeding when you return to work, it can be quite a challenge. The key ingredients to successfully maintaining total breastfeeding when you return to work are determination, planning, and support from family and friends. Without these, it is easy to become discouraged and to give up soon after returning to work. Read on to find out how to manage a full time job and a new baby at the same time.
Prepare yourself.Before returning to work, you need to plan ahead and prepare early. This means building up a stockpile of expressed breast milk (EBM) and establishing the infrastructure for successfully expressing breast milk at work. If you invest the time and effort to get this done first, it will be less challenging once you are back at work. Build up a stockpile of EBM while still on maternity leave. This is achieved by expressing extramilk in between feeds and freezing them for later use. The stockpile serves the purpose of providing you with a buffer that will help minimize the stress from adjustments in the early weeks when you return to work.
Manage your EBM’s.EBM’s can be kept for up to 3 months in a freezer. Assuming that you are in a job that does not require you to travel, a small stockpile of 3 to 4 days of day feeds (about 4 to 5 bottles a day) should be a good buffer for a 3 month old baby. If you have a job that requires you to travel away from home, then you will need a larger stockpile andmore advance planning and preparations. It is important to rotate your frozen milk, so none of it goes to waste. Send some each week or each day with your baby, and freeze some each week to replace it.
Make an appropriate amount of EBM’s.You should be able to start expressing breast milk for storage once your supply is well established around the 2nd to 3rd week after giving birth, if you have been exclusively breastfeeding all the time. The best time to express is in the morning, in between feeds, approximately 1 to 1.5 hours after a feed. Start by initially expressing a third to half of a feed (so that when the baby wakes, you will still have sufficient milk to satisfy) at a time 2 to 3 times a day. Combine these at the end of the day into a full bottle that you can then freeze for later. Doing so, you will be able to put aside one bottle every day whilst you are still on leave. In terms of volume, you will have to gauge based on your baby's appetite. A rough gauge for a 3 month old baby would be between 120 to 160 ml per feed.
Get the baby used to the bottle early.Once breastfeeding is well established, you will need to start getting your baby used to bottle feeding as well. Always have someone else other than yourself feed a bottle of your EBM to avoid confusing the little one. It helps if the person is an experienced care giver. Doing this earlier rather than waiting until you are about to return to work also helps. A good time to start is around 3 weeks old. When the baby is being fed by bottle, express your milk for storage. Once the baby is used to getting both a bottle feed as well as feeding direct from the breast, you should maintain this familiarity by having the baby bottle fed two or three times a week (and again, express your milk for storage when this is happening).
Get support from your family and friends.It is important to train the care giver on how to give EBM and establish a system that both can agree on. For example, if you are using milk bags to store your EBM, you will need to explain to the care giver how to manage the milk bags and also the amount of time needed to get the milk to the right temperature. It can be very tiring working a full day, expressing on the side, and then coming home to breastfeed the baby directly, so it is important for your family to be supportive.
Find help at work.Getting your supervisor's support is very important as you will need to excuse yourself 2 to 3 times a day for between 20 to 30 minutes to express your breast milk. It is important to assure him or her that this will not affect your work quality and delivery as well. If you know of other mothers who have or are currently expressing milk at work, connect with them as they will be a valuable support network for advice and resources. Find out in advance if there is a lactation room available at your office location and if so, what equipment might already be provided for. If there isn't a lactation room, consider requesting this early in your maternity leave. If that is not possible, you will need to find a discrete and private room that is available. This may be a meeting room with a lockable door that you could book in advance.
Get the right equipment.Here is a list of important equipment that you will need:
- Breast Pump: There are many types and brands in the market. The most suitable will be an electric double breast pump, as this will half the amount of time you need to express breast milk. An electric pump, and a hands free pumping strap or band, also means you will not end up with aching arms and hands at the end of everyday and you would still have your hands free during pumping to read a report if you are pressed for time at work or have a drink or take a bite. If you can, find one that can operate both on electricity and batteries so that you have maximum flexibility at work.
- Tupperware: Depending on your breast pump, you may require Tupperware to store the funnels and keep them sterile. Some pumps have covers that are designed to keep them sterile, so Tupperware will not be required. Tupperware is handy for transporting the pump to work after you have sterilized it at home.
- Bottles: Although there are milk bags available on the market, bottles are the most reliable way to transport EBM. The last thing you would want to find when you get home is that the bags have burst or leaked and you have wasted your time expressing milk. If you store EBM in milk bags, transport the EBM back home in bottles and then transfer them to milk bags at home.
- Cooler bag: A small cooler bag with ice packs will keep the milk cool on the way home. You can get these from shops that sell camping gear instead of paying a premium for special equipment from the manufacturers of the pumps. If you do not have a fridge at work to store EBM during the day, you may wish to consider either buying a small bar fridge or electric cooler. Another alternative that recently became available is "Fridge to Go" which is a cooler bag with embedded ice packs that promises to cool liquids down and keep them cool for up to 12 hours.
- Sterilizer: A sterilizer will be needed if you are going to pump more than once in your workday. If the lactation room in your office does not have one, you may wish to buy a small sterilizer. There are some small sterilizers that can hold 2 normal bottles. An alternative is to use sterilizing tablets and have a container at the office to hold the liquid. The advantage to this is that you do not have to wait for sterilizing cycles and you can keep all your equipment sterile throughout the day by leaving them submerged in the liquid. Another alternative is to buy extra funnels and parts, sterilize all of them in the morning and keep them in a Tupperware till you are ready to use them. Microwave sterilizing bags are also another alternative, readily available at baby stores.
- Breast Pads: Breast pads are absolutely necessary to help you avoid accidents and unsightly milk stains at work. If you are concerned about the environment and do not want to use disposable breast pads, consider buying washable ones.
Have a rehearsal.It may be useful to have a "rehearsal day" a few weeks before returning to work. About 2-3 weeks before you are due to return to work, you may wish to go to work for a full day. This will help the baby and care giver to get used to a full day of bottle feeding and for you to get used to working and balancing the time required to express milk. This is especially helpful if it is your first time doing so. The experience will help you to test your system and check your equipment. If you have any problems or questions, you will then still have some time to address these before you are back to work full time. You may also consider taking a day off every week when you first come back to work. The best day to do this is on Wednesdays. If you have returned to work after just 3 months of maternity leave, your baby may not yet sleep through the night and this will provide you with a welcome break after 2 nights of disrupted sleep. Taking the middle of the week off will allow you time to recuperate and rest and regain your milk supply if it was disrupted by the stress at work. Do not plan errands or chores for the day itself, focus only on resting and feeding the baby direct from the breast.
Plan and schedule your days while at work.Block off time in your calendar in between meetings explicitly to express your milk. If you do not do so, you may get caught up with work and won’t be able to find the right time to excuse yourself when required.
Make compromises.You may have to be prepared for some trade-offs so that expressing at the job does not affect your work. Instead of lunching with colleagues, you may have to multi-task by having lunch while expressing. Be clear on what you want up-front and what you are willing to trade-off so that it does not become a point of stress for you.
Stay relaxed.Be aware that stress at work will affect your supply of milk. It is important to take it easy and not get overwhelmed by work. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids and eat well (something you may tend to overlook when you get really busy), so have a jug of water and some snacks within easy reach to keep you energized and your milk production up. If your milk supply does get disrupted due to work schedules and stress, your stockpile at home as well as your day off will be useful buffers to help you establish your rhythm.
Keep things in perspective.To sustain this over many months, you need to be relaxed and enjoy this and not see it as an obligation or commitment. If maintaining breastfeeding when you return to work adds a lot of pressure to you and sends your stress levels through the roof, continuing to do so will lead to you becoming a cranky and guilt-laden mother. If maintaining your breast milk supply at work interferes with your enjoyment of motherhood and your bonding with your child, do consider seriously if you should stop. If you take it one day at a time, the task will seem less daunting and eventually you will meet your goal. There are many ways to be a great mother and they all begin with a happy and relaxed one!
QuestionWill contraceptive pills reduce breastmilk supply?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerMost hormone-based contraception options will affect supply to some extent. Contraceptive pills change the hormone levels in a woman's body. Since breastmilk production is also a hormonal process, many contraceptive pills can decrease breastmilk production and supply. There are some pills on the market that are less risky if you don't want to affect your supply, but every mom is different. Talk to both your ob/gyn and a lactation specialist about your options so you can make the best decision for yourself.Thanks!
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