Breastfeeding: Getting ready to return to work

I am a new mum with a three-month-old son and I am getting ready to return to work in four weeks. I have not been supplementing and my baby has not had a bottle. Can you please tell me how to prepare?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

About two weeks before you return to work, your husband or your baby's caregiver can offer your baby a bottle. Many babies will not accept a bottle if their mother is nearby. In this same time frame, it is wise to begin building your supply of frozen expressed milk.

You might want to try expressing in the morning, in between feeds, and/or express following several feeds a day. You can also express your milk from one breast while your baby nurses at the other. Be sure to use a good quality breastpump (hospital-grade electric) if you will be regularly separated from your baby for eight or more hours each day.

Freeze milk in varying quantities from two to four ounces. You can freeze directly in bottles, allowing about one inch at the top for expansion. If you prefer, you can express directly into milk storage bags, though many moms find these more difficult to handle. Always add chilled breastmilk to previously chilled or frozen milk.

Once you have built up your supply of frozen milk, I would recommend trying to feed your baby freshly expressed, refrigerated breastmilk in your absence. Breastmilk can be safely refrigerated for up to eight days. You will have the frozen milk available for backup as needed.

While at work, plan on expressing your milk about every three hours. Double pumping saves time at work, taking only about 15 minutes. If you can't take a full 15 minutes for each pumping session, it is better to express your milk for 5 to 10 minutes than not at all.

Regular stimulation and "emptying" of the breasts is important in maintaining a good milk supply. Nurse your baby before you leave for work, when you get home, and in the evening/middle of the night when you are together. On weekends, allow your baby unrestricted nursing. It is not necessary to follow your workday supplementation schedule on weekends.

I saved the most important item for last. Be sure that your baby's caregiver is supportive of breastfeeding. This can make all the difference in the world. Wishing you the best as you return to work!

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