Breastfeeding is finally becoming easier, you’re in a manageable routine, your baby is finally falling into a more predictable feeding pattern and now you have to prepare to go back to work. Sigh. The thought of leaving your baby can cause a lot stress, especially when it’s time to begin preparing for your absence. How and when do you start building a breastmilk stash for baby before you start working? How do you introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby? How do you determine how much milk your baby will need when you’re at work? What should your pump schedule look like when you’re away from your baby? How should you store your milk? Will your baby be willing to take a bottle while you’re gone and breastfeed when you’re together? These are some of the common key questions I hear from working moms and I’ll answer them for you!
How do you begin building a breast milk stash for your baby before you start working?
Believe it or not, you don’t need a huge stash of breast milk saved up before you start work. You really only need 1 days worth of milk saved for your first day back. When you’re at work, you will pump the milk you need for the next work day and so on. Friday’s pumped milk will become baby’s bottle feedings for Monday. If you nurse your baby right before you leave for work and immediately upon return, you will need to leave baby approximately 1-1.5 oz of breastmilk per hour you are separated. With this in mind, you can calculate how much milk you will need saved before that first day back to work. Start collecting milk a minimum of 2 weeks before you start back to work. You can collect milk by adding in pumping sessions after a few nursing sessions throughout the day, especially in the late evening or early morning when your prolactin is the highest. Some moms can collect the amount of milk they need just by using the Haakka on the opposite breast baby is feeding on. Don’t be discouraged if you’re only getting 1/2oz-2oz of milk per pumping session. This is normal! Keep pumping and collecting and eventually you can accumulate the milk you need for your first day back to work.
How do you introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby?
Ideally you’ve started introducing the bottle to your baby around 4-6 weeks old so it’s not completely foreign to them. If you haven’t, that’s ok, start introducing it now (or at least 2 weeks) before you return to work. Get a slow flow nipple for the bottle you’re using and start trying to feed your baby small amounts with the bottle about 1 hour after a nursing session. Always use the paced feeding method when offering the bottle. If you’re unsure what paced feeding is, check out my past blog or look up paced bottle feeding information from La Leche League or KellyMom.
How do you determine how much milk your baby will need when you’re at work?
Plan to nurse your baby right before you leave for work and as soon as you return from work. That way you won’t have to pump as soon as you get to work and right before you leave work. You will need to leave your baby approximately 1-1.5oz of breastmilk per hour of separation.
What should your pump schedule look like when you’re away from your baby?
Ideally Pumping should mimic your baby’s feeding pattern while you’re at work. Since this is not always an option, you can plan to pump at least every 3 hours for 15-20 minutes while you’re away from your baby. Talk to your boss ahead of time and secure a designated quiet place to pump to save time and added stress.
How should you store your milk?
Refrigerate your expressed milk as soon as possible if you don’t plan to feed it to your baby within 4 hours. If you don’t have a refrigerator at work, use ice packs in a cooler to keep the milk cold until you get home. Once you’re home, refrigerate milk you plan to use within 5 days and freeze milk if you plan to use it after 5 days.
Will your baby be willing to take a bottle while you’re gone and breastfeed when you’re together?
Every baby is different! Some babies will find it hard to toggle back and forth from bottle to breast and some transition perfectly. An important step to take to ensure baby comes back to the breast is to make sure your caregiver uses the paced feeding method when bottle feeding. Nurse your baby just before you leave for work and as soon as you arrive home. Plan for extra skin to skin time when you’re together and nurse whenever your baby wants. You might find baby wants to nurse more at night to make up for the time missed with you during the day. If your baby is having a hard time taking a bottle when you’re at work, check out my blog about bottle refusal.
Going back to work can cause a lot of stress for a breastfeeding mama. Keep in mind that you and your baby will eventually fall into a routine and the transitions from breast to bottle will become easier. If you’re having trouble with anything mentioned in this blog, please reach out to an LC! We can help you make a smooth transition from home to work with a care plan tailored just for you and your baby.