Employment and Breastfeeding – Continuing the Breastfeeding Relationship When Separation Must Happen

So you made it to the 6 weeks mark. You’ve overcome the breastfeeding learning hurdles and are starting to feel a little more confident about this new relationship. Your healthcare provider has released you from care and you are feeling better physically. But now comes the challenge of dealing with the realities of your life. You have to go back to work. Many women, and especially first time moms, fear this pending separation.

Some of the questions that may run through your mind include:  What if my baby won’t take a bottle while I’m gone? What if my baby likes the bottle better than me? What if I don’t have enough milk? What if my boss won’t allow me time to pump? Can I juggle my work and all the responsibilities of being a mother? And what about my other relationships – partner, family and friends – can I fit all of this into my life?

Let’s take these questions one at a time.

  1. Baby won’t take a bottle? See my post on how to bottle-feed a baby.
  2. Wondering about pumps and choosing the right bottle?  See my post on pacifiers, pumps and choosing bottles.
  3. What about the workplace that doesn’t support breastfeeding?  See this article on Federal law and the workplace. Here is an article that you can use to talk to your employer about supporting breastfeeding.  http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/BF_guide_2.pdf
  4. Start saving milk for your “stash” early. Most moms have more milk than babies require by the 3rd to 4th week after birth. Get your pump and learn how to use it and start saving. Many moms find they have an abundance of milk in the morning. Nurse first, then express the remaining milk and freeze. This will serve as your back up supply for any emergencies and when you first return to work.  After you start back to work, what you pump one day will be the feeding for the next day to work. Freeze what you pump on the last day before a stretch off work and use some of your stash on your first day back.
  5. If you haven’t learned to nurse in bed, it’s time to learn. By the time a baby is 6 weeks old, she should have enough head control so you don’t have to hold her head and her latch should be secure. Check out side-lying positions. Put your co-sleeper crib next to your bed so it’s easy to transfer her into her own bed once she has nursed to sleep. Keep things simple so nighttime feedings are short and uncomplicated. Unless absolutely necessary to maintain your milk supply, do not pump in the middle of the night.
  6. If your baby starts sleeping longer than 5 hours at night, pump right before you go to bed to keep your breasts from getting uncomfortably full during the night. You will rest better and the extra milk goes to your stash.
  7. Try to make life simpler at home. Crockpots and quick meals will save time in the kitchen. Simplify clean up and household duties and of course, enlist help from anyone available to you. There are lots of websites out there that have suggestions for this.
  8. Make sure you continue recommended vitamins for yourself, including adequate Vitamin D. Here’s a technical article supporting the recommendation for nursing mothers to get an extra 6000 IU of vitamin D daily for improving their own and their baby’s health.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17661565
  9. Most importantly, try to take some time for refreshment for yourself. Eat healthy as you can. Take naps. Put baby in a front carrier and get outside when the weather permits. And take lots of selfies! This time will pass quickly!
  10. Remember that breastfeeding is not just about the milk you provide your baby. It’s about the special closeness that comes when your baby looks in your eyes while you are nursing her and she begins to realize that YOU are her source of life and nourishment, when she smiles at you and then buries her head in your breast as if to say, “I’m home!”

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