Breastfeeding After Returning to Work
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A guide to breastfeeding and pumping for the working Solo Mom
As a new Solo Mom, and a breastfeeding one as well, I can attest that juggling the daily grind and feeling successful at it is sometimes difficult. I am typically torn between my role as a mother and my many other roles during the day as a boss, daughter, sister, artist, and more. I hate leaving my daughter more than a few hours at a time, but if I didn’t go to work, we would have no roof over our head, no food, and essentially no money from which to live, so mommy goes out into the world and leaves baby to be cared for by a caretaker armed with liquid gold—breast milk.
I have learned several important things over the past nine months that might help you on your breastfeeding and breast-pumping journey.
Get a free pump. Insurance companies are required to provide breastfeeding equipment and counseling for pregnant and nursing women. Those services are available before and after birth. Your plan will have guidelines as to which pumps are covered, the length of a pump rental (if you choose this route), and when you’ll receive it. A popular breast pump company is Medela. You can look up your insurance coverage on the Medela website.
Start pumping right away. Your child is going to need many feedings during the day, and that requires a lot of pumping to get your milk flow going. Don’t wait until you are a week or so out from going back to work. You will want to do this over time, especially if you are not a huge producer of milk. The best results will come from pumping one hour after each feeding. It takes a minimum of three days for your body to become accustomed to the new feeding routine, so be patient and pump as often as you can.
Eat a balanced diet. What you eat will be going straight into your milk supply, so don’t cramp your baby’s style with doughnuts and food from McDonald’s. You want to start your baby off with the best food you can get, including lots of vegetables, fruits, protein, and fiber. Don’t forget to drink extra water. You are producing a ton of liquid, and you will need a lot of fluids to keep up your supply. If you are thirsty, you are probably already dehydrated. Reach for water instead of fruit juice, soda, or coffee to quench your thirst. Your baby will thank you.
Pump at work. Just because you are going back to work doesn’t mean you will need to stop breastfeeding. All employers are responsible for providing a private and clean room for breast pumping during the workday. If you can keep extra supplies and a second pump at work, it can help make things a bit easier, and you will have less of a load to carry to and from work every day. An inexpensive insulated lunch bag is perfect for storing your pumped milk in the fridge at work. Keep a few ice packs in rotation to bring milk to and from work at the end of the day.
Buy a manual pump. There will be days when you will need to pump, and you will be in a situation that doesn’t provide for your electric pump. Manual pumps are inexpensive and fantastic for days when you are in a pinch. Some women find they have better letdown with a manual pump, so if you are struggling with your electric pump, you may want to try a manual pump as a possible solution.
Relax when pumping. It helps to listen to soothing music, watch videos of your baby, and remove yourself from stress when pumping. I’ve even found that muffling the sound of the pump’s motor encourages me to produce more milk flow. I’ve had to pump in bathroom stalls, airplanes, and even a taxi. Do your best, and just smile, knowing that you’re feeding your baby and keeping up on your very busy and challenging life. Just note that most women find that they produce much less milk with a pump than with a regular feeding. As well, you may have a wild variety of production with each pumping. Don’t fret. Your body is normal. If you are noticing a drop in milk production during specific times of the day, try drinking some water and eating a healthy snack 20 to 30 minutes before pumping for an extra boost.
Keep a schedule. Keep a schedule at work with your pumping routine. Many women find the best way to stay on track is to pump right when they arrive at work, midmorning, lunch, midafternoon, and just before leaving work.
Storing breast milk. Keep your breast milk in the fridge for up to three days. If you are planning to pump more than your baby is eating when you are away, freeze the milk using handy freezer storage bags. You can label them to keep track of the date and amount for future usage. When using refrigerated or frozen breast milk, never shake the bottle, as it breaks down the proteins and fat. Gently slide the milk around the bottle while it warms to room temperature by having it sit out or via a bottle warmer.
Bringing your breast milk to day care or feeding with a nanny. Keep in mind the following:
- Always write everything down for your caretakers.
- Never assume the caretaker knows exactly how you want your baby to be fed.
- Put labels on all your baby’s bottles and accessories with your baby’s name if at a day care.
- Portion out your breast milk at home in different bottles for the baby’s various feedings at day care.
- If the caretaker is at your home, write down exactly how much breast milk your baby should drink per feeding and how you would like the caretaker to prepare and handle the milk.
- Use two cold packs and an insulated lunch bag to transport all your baby’s breast milk to and from your home.
Don’t diet. All of us want to get back into our prepregnancy clothes, right? If you use dieting, and especially starvation, as a way to cut back, you will lose your milk production quickly. I was able to shed 50 pounds and get back in shape with a very careful exercise regimen and a healthy diet, consisting of plenty of fats to help keep up my milk flow. Ask your doctor for some nutritional tips, or consult a nutritionist if you are having trouble shedding your pregnancy weight.
Have questions about balancing work and baby? Sister Chat is an excellent source for Solo-Mom wisdom.
Rebecca Cherry is an accomplished musician, writer, and creative seeker. She is enjoying her new role as a Solo Mom to her baby girl. You can follow her on Twitter at @CherryRebecca and Facebook at Rebecca Cherry.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.
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