Return to Work
By Michelle Branco
Q: I am
returning to full-time work in two months and want to keep nursing my
eleven-month-old baby. I want to prepare to make this go as smoothly as
possible. Should I gradually stop nursing her while during the hours
that she’ll be at daycare to get her used to it?
to work outside the home after being with your baby for her whole
existence is a big step – planning ahead is key. However, actively
discouraging breastfeeding throughout the day may cause premature
weaning, which doesn’t seem like your objective.
different strategy. Maximize the breastfeeding you do when you are with
her and plan ahead for when you are not. There’s no need to “train” her
not to expect the breast when you’re not there: She’ll know!
months, many babies will do fine without breastmilk during the working
day – preferring to breastfeed more in the evening and at night. While
mothers may need a few days to regulate their supply, many find that
they can comfortably be away from their baby for nine to ten hours
provide breast milk for the first few weeks and see how she’s doing. Let
her take the lead. If she’s not eating very much food (not all babies do
at this age) or you have other concerns about her growth, encouraging
that breast milk during the day may be necessary. Offer breast milk in a
cup; bottles are not necessary at this age. In fact, doctors and
dentists usually suggest recommend weaning from the bottle at this age.
Expressing milk a couple times a day to build
up a bit of “stash” over the next few weeks will give you practice and
also take some of the pressure off in the early weeks. Hand expression
is an important skill to learn, if you haven’t already mastered it. Even
if you use a mechanical pump, you never know when you’ll be unexpectedly
without it. There are excellent online videos – you can reach them
through the resources page of my website
or Google “Marmet technique.”
not you need a mechanical pump really depends on how quickly and how
much you need to express. Some mothers get great results from hand
expression, but sometimes we just don’t have the time to devote to
perfecting the technique. If you were feeding a younger baby, a double
electric pump would usually be the most appropriate choice. You may
already have one; if so, you can certainly use it. Many pumps convert to
a manual mode that can be less cumbersome to transport.
Breast milk storage depends on how long you
need to store. Freeze breast milk in glass containers in small amounts
(2-3 oz/60-100mls). Once you are regularly expressing and sending milk,
you can also just refrigerate it for the new day (or several days). La
Leche League International publishes storage guidelines.
provider who is supportive of you as a family is respectful of your
parenting decisions. A daycare provider should learn how to serve breast
milk, provide an opportunity for you to breastfeed at drop-off and
pick-up, and not suggest weaning as a solution to separation anxiety or
sleep troubles. Weaning is not a solution to either. Reach out to other
mothers who have also returned to work, either through formal groups
like La Leche League or just within your group of friends. Often the
most creative solutions come from other mothers, not the “experts.”
how to manage your life after you return to work is about more than
having breastmilk on hand and choosing the right daycare provider. Going
back to work has a lot in common with adjusting to a newborn – it’s
often harder because family and friends don’t recognize its
A Few Tips
* If you can
return gradually a few days a week over several weeks, consider it. If
you can’t, then at least return mid-week so that your first week is not
a whole five days of being away.
* Eating nourishing, whole foods is even more important as you and your baby
spend more time out in the world with all its germs and stresses.
* Time to refill the freezer! Easy meals means you’ll feel less rushed after work
when baby really wants to reconnect and you’ll be less likely to fall
into the fast food take-out trap.
* Re-balance the sharing of household chores, recognizing that the priority is
spending time with your baby.
* Go easy on yourself – transitions take time.
breastfed for almost a year already, you have a big advantage: You know
that breastfeeding changes over time. The periods of change are usually
not very comfortable – often, weaning seems like the only possible
outcome. Yet, the connection with your baby overcomes the problems – and
breastfeeding becomes an integral part of the new routine.
Branco is a lactation consultant in private practice, La Leche League
Leader, and mother to Isabelle and Thomas, both breastfed. She provides
evidence-based breastfeeding care to mothers at Latch Lactation through
phone, email, and in-person consultations.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.