Breastfeeding and the Working Mother
Author: Salma Jafri
Since the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding up to a year, many moms want to try and meet this time frame. More moms today are conscious of wanting to give their children the best start in life via breast milk.
It is natural for a new mom to feel apprehensive about returning to work after maternity leave, more so because of the challenge of continuing to breastfeed while working fulltime.
Here are some tips on how you can efficiently handle both working and breastfeeding successfully:
Check Workplace Allowances
Most workplaces are becoming aware of the rights of breastfeeding mothers and making allowances. Check if your workplace offers day care at the office. If this does not exist, there are other benefits that your boss would be willing to offer, if approached with the right mindset.
The breastfeeding mother needs a clean private place (not a bathroom) to express her milk. Regular and frequent breaks of about 20 minutes each are required to allow the mother to express her milk.
It should be emphasized that a breast fed baby will be healthier with less healthcare costs, and thus the mother will potentially take fewer days off from work.
Store Milk Whenever Possible
The Human Milk Bank of America highlights that breast milk stored in the refrigerator is good up to 8 days and in the freezer up to 6 months. If it is stored in a separate deep freezer, it can be used up to a year! Pumping before leaving for work in the morning gives a good head start. Store 2 ounce portions in bottles or storage bags, and label with exact dates.
Express or Pump your Milk
Since exclusively breastfeeding your baby directly will most likely not be an option, it will become necessary for the working mother to establish another means of providing breast milk. Breastfeeding needs to be established before pumping is initiated to ensure a good supply, but be sure to allow enough time to get used to pumping before returning to work. There are a variety of pumps available; the double electric one being widely used. There is also the hospital grade pump, which is pricier, but very efficient because it drains the breasts in minutes. You will also want to be sure your baby is comfortable drinking from a bottle before your maternity leave is over.
Make a Schedule
Your baby is your best guide. If your baby needs a feed every 4 hours, you should try and express that frequently too. Ideally, you should be able to express every 3 hours. If a pumping session is missed once in a while, that's okay. If this happens on a regular basis, it can affect milk production.
A demanding work schedule might not permit pumping more than once during working hours. In that case, you can supplement breast milk with formula. You also want to be sure to start your day with a healthy breakfast, drink a lot throughout the day, and have a nutritious snack during every pumping session.
Find a Caregiver Close to Work
A relative or caregiver close to work would allow the mother to offer her baby a direct breastfeed rather than pump. The caregiver could bring the baby to the workplace too. Since this is not always possible, a good rapport between the mother and caregiver is a must. She should understand you and your baby and your needs.
It is always advisable to have a "test-run" of all these recommendations before you go back to work. This will allow you to detect snags in the routine and make you better prepared for the actual day when you do go back to work.
Today, working and breastfeeding need not be mutually-exclusive activities; you just need the resolve to make it happen.