Breastfeeding 101: Returning to Work
Now that we've spent some time looking at the “normal” course of breastfeeding (assuming there is any such thing), it's time to talk about how to do it when life happens.
Many women work. For some reason, there seems to be some kind of holy war between women who do and women who stay at home. Personally, I think children are better off growing up in households where their mothers feel good about themselves and their lives – rather than in households where their mothers think they “should” stay at home or “should” return to work. (I have seen the pressure both ways.) So please, do what you need to do for yourself and your family. If you are doing what makes you happy then I applaud you and will move on to helping you decide what to do about breastfeeding.
THE BASIC OPTIONS
I'm going to outline some of the things working moms do to continue breastfeeding their babies. Obviously, they won't all work for you, but hopefully you can find the best option.
1.Work at home. (I am fortunate enough to be able to do this.)
2.Bring your baby to work. (I personally know two women who were able to do this, so it's not as far-fetched as some of you may think. It requires a certain kind of job, though. My SIL had a job doing in-home care for an older woman who loved having the baby around. My neighbor had a baby-sitter watch her baby in her office while she taught college classes. She also did a lot of work from home.)
3.Have your baby close enough to your work place that you can leave to nurse at least once a day. (Many women nurse on their lunch breaks.)
4.Pump at work and provide breast milk to your child's caregiver.
5.Provide formula while you are at work and nurse when you are with your baby – this can include mornings, evenings, nights, and lunchtime nursing (if you are close enough to your baby).
Any amount of breast milk is good. Some women are even able to get away with nursing one time a day, although some women's milk will dry up if they only nurse once a day, so for that and other reasons, the more the better. And remember – it never hurts to try.
LENGTH OF MATERNITY LEAVE
Some women are unable to take very much maternity leave, and this does make things more difficult. Not impossible – but difficult. As I mentioned in my previous topics, the first 6-8 weeks are the hard part. For those of us who are still at home with our babies after that time things get easier because our supply is well established...not to mention our breastfeeding relationship. If you have to return to work between 6 and 8 weeks, you will have to prepare to return to work before your supply is well established and maybe even start working/pumping while things are rocky. Don't be discouraged – many women do this successfully! I just want you to be aware of the added hassles so that you are prepared. Also, if you have the means of taking even a slightly longer leave then this may be something you want to consider.
Those of you who are able to take longer maternity leaves should find the situation easier to handle. You can start preparing after your supply and your breastfeeding relationship are well established and have a bigger freezer stash ready to go.
The best time to introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby is around 6 weeks of age. If your return to work does not allow for that, then introduce the bottle 2 weeks before you go back.
You don't want to be the one to give your baby a bottle. One way to avoid nipple confusion and bottle preference, even in older babies, is that moms nurse...bottles come from someone else. Babies are also often more willing to take bottles from someone else. If you offer the bottle, they may pine for their preferred food source right there under your shirt!
Here are some additional tips for getting a breastfed baby to take a bottle: www.breastfeed-essentials.com/offerbottle.
I just stumbled across a terrific website specifically for women who want to work and pump: www.workandpump.com/gettingstarted.htm
It's got tips on choosing a pump, talking to your employer, how to pump, storing milk, starting bottles, how much milk your baby will need, and more!
Kelly Mom also has a great article for those of you who find you are having trouble pumping enough. (Remember, pumps aren't as efficient as babies.) www.kellymom.com/bf/pumping/pumping_decrea
Those of you who plan to try the formula at daycare/nurse at home approach will need to start your baby on formula and wean them from worktime feedings. As I mentioned in my topic on weaning, it's always ideal to space 2-3 weeks between eliminating a feeding. However, for many moms who are returning to work this simply isn't possible. If you return at 6 weeks, you'd have to start before your baby is born! And it's definitely better to get them nursing before you get them taking formula from a bottle, if you want to do both.
So, for those of you who have some time (3 months +) I suggest cutting one daytime feeding a week, starting 3-4 weeks out (depending upon how long you will be at work and how many feedings you will need to cut).
For those of you returning at 6-8 weeks, I still think it is best to wait until your baby is at least 4 weeks old to begin a bottle. It's not just about nipple confusion, although that's huge – you want to have as good a supply as possible before you start cutting back so that you won't have a problem with your morning/evening feedings.
This may be one of those cases where you will have to eliminate some feedings a little more quickly than is ideal. Your breasts may feel a little engorged and you may want to invest in some nursing pads. If your breasts feel painful, you can hand express to relieve some pressure, but only do as much as you have to. Remember, your breasts work on supply and demand and you want to stop demanding milk during working hours – that way, they stop producing as much at that time.
At this age, many babies may take formula with no problem, but if you have trouble getting them to take it, you can always try mixing it with some breast milk (which is sweeter) and gradually tipping the balance to all formula.
ANY QUESTIONS OR SUGGESTIONS?
I would like to give a sweet mama from babyfit a special thank you for giving me permission to use her info. Thank you Christine Amsden!! Also, I want to invite you all to look at her new website! www.christineamsden.com
Edited by: ROAD2HEALTHY at: 1/5/2009 (16:23)
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