Good news: Successful breastfeeding and working do mix. As long as there is a private place for you to pump at work and reliable refrigeration for expressed milk, it's relatively simple to continue providing baby with the benefits of breast milk for as long as possible, even while you're on the job.
Express yourself. Practice pumping at home, beginning two weeks before you return to work. That leaves you plenty of time to become acquainted with expressing milk and allows baby to get accustomed to drinking your milk from a bottle instead of directly from you. Pump at work every three hours or so, more often if you feel the need. Promptly refrigerate or freeze expressed milk.
Baby, meet Mr. Bottle. Wait at least two weeks after delivery before offering a bottle to your newborn, but don't delay the introduction until just days before returning to work. Waiting until the last minute could mean that baby refuses the bottle, and then you're in trouble. Have another person, such as your husband or partner, a babysitter, or a grandparent, offer bottles to your baby, beginning two weeks before you return to your job.
Timing is everything. On work days, breastfeed your baby just before you leave the house and when you get home. Chances are, this will take some doing. You may have to wake up earlier to make sure that you can get ready to go out and still have the time to feed the baby. Depending on your schedule and when your day care provider gives baby a bottle, you can nurse right when you get home, before your baby's bedtime, or both.
Plan ahead. On the evening before a workday, pack everything you need to pump milk on the job. Don't forget to take along a healthy lunch and snack. That way, you won't waste time rounding up food or equipment in the morning.
Choosing a Breast Pump
Consider your needs. Most pumps are portable, efficient, and easy to use. How often you intend to pump dictates the durability of the pump you need. In turn, durability drives cost. Bottom line: the more durable, the more you can pump, but the costlier the machine.
Manual, or hand-operated, pumps can cost the least amount of money and are the most useful for women who pump on an occasional basis. Electric pumps depend on batteries or AC adapters for their power supply. Automatic electric pumps tend to appeal to women who must express larger volumes of milk in a limited time frame, such as working women and mothers of premature babies. While costlier, some of these efficient pumps can express milk from both breasts simultaneously, which cuts your pumping time by half.
Collecting, Storing, and Handling Breast Milk
At home or at work, there are certain guidelines to follow when using a breast pump and handling expressed breast milk.
- Wash your hands well with warm soapy water before starting.
- Make sure all of your breast pump equipment is clean from the last time you pumped.
- The best time to pump is midway between feedings. If your son or daughter skips a feeding or skimps on one, express the remaining milk in the breast for later use. When you're away from the baby all day, pump every three hours or so to keep up milk production.
- You can store pumped breast milk in a number of ways. When I pumped at work, I would express milk directly into a small baby bottle, and then seal it and refrigerate it. I toted the milk home in a cooler bag. Once home, I placed the milk in the refrigerator to bring to my babysitter the next day. When I pumped at home to stockpile milk for when I was away from my children, I preferred plastic bags for freezing milk I wouldn't use within a day or so. You pump into the bottle that comes with your pump, then transfer the milk to storage bags such as Gerber's Seal 'n Go Breast Milk Storage Bags. Don't forget to record the date and amount before refrigerating or freezing breast milk.
- Refrigerated fresh breast milk is good for up to forty-eight hours as long as your refrigerator registers 39°F or slightly below. (Get a thermometer if you're in doubt.) To freeze breast milk, leave some space at the top of the container, as breast milk expands as it freezes. Always mark the date and use the oldest milk first. Frozen milk is good for up to two weeks. Place breast milk in the back of the freezer for maximum coldness; don't place it on the door since it may not freeze to the proper temperature. Freeze in small portions so that you won't waste breast milk, and never refreeze thawed breast milk. Discard any milk that you don't use during a feeding. Freezing does not significantly alter either the nutrients or the immunological components in breast milk.
- For quick thaw, place frozen breast milk in a bowl of warm water and wait a few minutes, then gently swirl to promote melting and to mix any fat that may have separated and stuck to the sides of the container. Always test a drop of milk on the inside of your wrist to make sure the milk won't burn baby's mouth. Use refrigerated, thawed breast milk within twenty-four hours.
- Never microwave breast milk. It decreases the nutrients and raises the possibility of burning your baby's mouth.
Every infant requires a vitamin K supplement at birth to prevent a bleeding disorder. Experts say healthy breastfed infants typically do not need any other supplemental vitamins or minerals with a few exceptions. Dark-skinned infants require extra vitamin D when they are exclusively breastfed, especially if they don't get much strong summer sunlight. Ditto for heavily clad babies whose skin doesn't see much sun. Why? Summer sunlight sparks vitamin D production in the body.
There is no need to give nursing infants supplemental iron until four to six months of age. That's when their own iron stores become depleted. Breastfed babies do not require fluoride supplements during their first six months but may need them thereafter if the water they drink is deficient in fluoride.