Tips for Nursing, Working Moms
By Jean Manrique
Maternity leave allows you to enjoy your new baby and settle into life with an infant. For many women, however, there is a point when it’s time to return to work. If this is the case for you, you may be wondering how to continue breastfeeding. With planning and preparation, it definitely can be done!
Angie Best-Boss, senior pastor at Anderson First Friends Meeting in Anderson, Ind., and mother of two, says, “Nursing while working full time is demanding and, at times, inconvenient. But knowing that I am protecting my child’s health is worth every minute of it.”
Breastfeeding is a healthy choice for Baby and Mother. Experts agree that breast milk is convenient and economical, is superior in nutrition to commercial formulas and kills many bacteria and viruses. Breastfed babies have fewer allergies and fewer incidents of ear and respiratory tract infections than formula-fed babies. A breastfeeding mother’s uterus returns to its pre-pregnancy size more quickly. But perhaps the best benefit is the closeness that Mother and Baby sustain through breastfeeding.
If your baby is 3 months or younger, pump at work as often as you normally would breastfeed.
When the time arrives to return to your job, you should continue to nurse on demand (whenever your baby is hungry) in the evenings and on weekends. Breastfeed your baby before you leave for work and as soon as you possibly can upon returning home from work. If your baby is 3 months or younger, pump at work as often as you normally would breastfeed. Older babies require less milk, and pumping two or three times a day should suffice.
But for mothers who have little time or opportunity to pump, even once a day is beneficial. Milk is produced on a supply-and-demand basis, and the more frequently you pump, the better your milk supply will be. Bring along a picture of your baby, and when you’re ready to pump, take a deep breath, relax and think of your baby.
Some people are fortunate enough to be able to leave work during the day or can have their baby brought to them at work to breastfeed. If this is not the case, you will need to pump your breast milk into bottles. Introducing expressed breast milk in a bottle when your baby is 4 to 6 weeks old facilitates this. Have someone other than Mother offer the bottle once or twice a week, since babies associate breastfeeding with Mom and often refuse to take the bottle when Mother is in sight.
What You’ll Need
You can purchase or rent a breast pump from stores, pharmacies, hospitals, lactation consultants, medical supply vendors, the La Leche League catalogue or ordered online.
When choosing a pump, La Leche League instructs mothers to think about cost, portability, noise level, ease of use and efficiency. High-grade electric pumps – such as Medela or Hollister-Ameda – are the most efficient, especially for mothers who have limited time in which to express large volumes of milk. Those pumps that have the ability to simultaneously pump both breasts allow some mothers to complete a pumping session in 10 to 15 minutes.
Some companies offer corporate lactation programs, which not only support mothers’ efforts to breastfeed, but also provide the necessary equipment, space and time, as well as on-site lactation counseling. If your workplace does not offer such a program, you’ll need to scout out a place to pump milk in your workplace. Look for a place where you can relax and feel secure. If using an electric pump, an electrical outlet must be available.
You will want to buy some nursing-friendly clothes to wear when you return to work. “Don’t wait to see where your body ends up, just do it,” urges Karen Steward Nolan, a certified professional coactive coach from Burlington, Vt. “Buy clothes that are comfortable that you can wash at home frequently with minimal pressing. Also look for clothes that you can get in and out of easily for nursing and/or pumping. Dark colors are a plus, but not necessary.”
Store the breast milk in a refrigerator or a cooler with ice. If it will not be used in eight days, place the milk in the freezer. Although special plastic bags for human milk storage are available, any heavy plastic or glass container will do. When the milk is ready to be used, thaw or warm it in a pan of warm water or under warm running water. Do not thaw breast milk in the microwave.
If your supervisor or co-workers are less than supportive of your efforts to breastfeed, explain the importance of providing your baby with breast milk. You might mention that your breastfed baby will be healthier, causing you to be absent from work less often. And if your work environment continues to be unfriendly toward your breastfeeding efforts, La Leche League suggests that you give yourself permission to look for a more parent-friendly job.
Whether you have a caregiver at home or your child is in daycare, the support of your daycare provider is crucial. Explain your breastfeeding goals and needs. If you will be expressing breast milk for the provider to use, give detailed, written instructions on how to store it.
Ann Calandro, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and a registered nurse with certification in Maternal Child Health in Rock Hill, S.C., suggests that you let your provider know that breast milk digests faster than formula, so your baby may need to be fed often. Give her instructions not to feed your baby toward the end of your workday so that Baby will be ready to nurse as soon as you arrive. If necessary, a snack-sized portion may tide Baby over.
Take Care of Yourself
And don’t forget to take care of yourself. “Let family know what your top desires and needs are,” says Steward Nolan. “Working and nursing exact a tremendous toll on our strength, our time, our mind and our emotions. Simplify your life, don’t worry about housework, and let others help.”
Get plenty of rest, eat a well-balanced diet and drink lots of water. Read a book, take a relaxing bath and enjoy meals with friends. Find a babysitter, go to a movie, get a massage, go shopping or get some exercise. “These are all gifts a mother should give herself in order to stay energized and to feel special,” adds Calandro. Finally, it might be helpful to find a new mother support group, read books on nursing and working or take a back-to-work class.
Above all, keep a positive attitude and don’t give up too soon. “Once you are committed to doing this, you can find ways to make it work for your family,” says Best-Boss. “When my daughter is nursing and smiling, and looks up at me with a twinkle in her eye and pats my breast, as if to say that all is right in her world, that makes it worth any minor inconvenience.”