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Many moms know they must prepare to return to work within months after having their newborn. But they also want to continue providing baby the best nourishment they can by breastfeeding. So how do you successfully switch between pumping and nursing once you’re back at the office?
Here are some helpful recommendations from lactation consultant, Victoria Roselli.
When is a good time to start pumping to establish a milk supply before returning to work?
As long as your baby is at least 4 weeks of age, and successful breastfeeding has been established, you can start pumping three to four weeks prior to returning to work. Single pump first, then double pump once you’re comfortable, as double pumping saves time.
Ensure that the flange or breast shield that attaches to your breast is comfortable and not tight or too big as this can affect your supply. Remember: If you have a pump malfunction, contact the pump company. If you forget parts to your pump at work or home, you can hand express: Newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/HandExpression.html
What time of the day is best to pump?
The best time to pump is when you are rested. The morning is a good time if baby is sleeping longer at night and you are rested. Feed baby and pump about an hour after resting. Repeating this in the afternoon after feeding baby and resting will produce more milk. Pumping consistently at these times can increase your supply.
If you are tired or stressed, your milk production can decrease. Pumping more often when not resting can also decrease your supply. To determine how much your body is producing you can pump before feeding and baby can breastfeed after the pumping. This stimulation can increase your milk supply.
Skin to skin stimulates the hormones that relax you and allow your milk to let-down and increase your production. So incorporating 15-30 minutes of skin to skin before a feeding or pumping allows this process to work for you, allowing you to get the rest you need to maintain your supply and enjoy bonding time with your baby.
How much milk will I have to pump and does that amount change?
The answer depends on the age, weight, activity level, and health of your baby. The amount can range from 3 oz.-4 oz. per feeding per day to 5 oz.-6 oz. feeding. To prevent wasting your breast milk, start conservatively at 3 oz. and increase as needed. Ensure that baby is using a slow-flow nipple and angle the bottle so it’s not upright, increasing the flow, but more parallel with baby’s body, so baby is sucking effectively without swallowing air.
What if baby refuses the bottle?
Have someone other than you feed the baby. This will help train her to feed from the bottle and get comfortable with another caretaker. Using one of the expressed bottles of breast milk daily will allow baby to adjust to bottlefeeding. Starting this process after the first month will help make the adjustment easier.
How do I store pumped breastmilk? How long does it last?
While at work, it is recommended you label and date your milk and place it in an insulated cooler bag. As long as your baby is healthy and full-term, follow these recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website:
How do I safely thaw breast milk?
Thaw frozen breast milk by transferring it to the refrigerator or by swirling it in a bowl of warm water. Avoid using the microwave oven. These do not heat liquids evenly and uneven heating can scald or damage milk. Bottles may also explode if left in the microwave too long. Do not re-freeze breast milk once it has been thawed.
Once thawed, test it on your wrist; the milk should feel lukewarm. Do not feed baby cold milk, as she will expend more calories. Milk that is too warm can cause irritation or burn your baby.
What do I do with a bottle of breast milk if my baby does not finish it?
This depends upon a number of factors because once the baby begins feeding, bacteria enters the bottle from the baby’s saliva.
What if I am having trouble producing enough milk when pumping?
When pumping, you don’t have the natural emotions, bonding, and touch of your baby, which may cause a decrease in milk supply. I recommend you try imagining the breast pump as your baby — and imagine the baby latched to your breast. This includes imagining the sounds, sight, and scent of your baby. What may help is having the blanket with you that you normally use when feeding. You can also record the baby with your smartphone, and play back your video as you pump. Try your best to relax, be comfortable, and listen to soothing music. You want to replicate (as much as possible) your normal breastfeeding environment.
Will my baby be okay going back and forth from bottle to breast?
Many moms worry about this. I recommend preparing your baby for breastfeeding by doing skin-to-skin prior to nursing cues and burping baby just before feeding. Also, stimulating your milk ejection reflex (let-down) prior to and during breastfeeding should help keep your baby latched. As always, try to nurse when your baby is in a calm, alert state — rather than showing late hunger cues and acting frantic. Don’t grow concerned if it takes several attempts to latch, this happens. Simply go back to skin-to-skin between attempts and remain patient and calm.
What is my employer required to offer women who choose to pump at work?
Tennessee’s Public Breastfeed Law states that companies are to provide a room that is private, secure, and flexible, with adequate, comfortable seating (and not a bathroom stall). An employer shall also provide reasonable unpaid break time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk. Talk with your employer about your expectations prior to returning to work. • breastfeedinglaw.com/state-laws/tennessee.
— Victoria Roselli is a certified lactation consultant, Lamaze instructor, and newborn care specialist. Learn more at maternalblessings.com
Need Breastfeeding Support?
Call the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline • (855) 423-6667 Counselors and lactation consultants answer calls 24/7.