Working four 12 hour days

I am a Police Officer and will be returning to work in shortly, working four 12-hour days. My daughter will be seven-months-old. I expect that it will be very difficult to pump at work because I have to be available to answer calls at any time. I have enjoyed breastfeeding and hope that it will be possible to continue to nurse. Do you think I can continue nursing while working this type of schedule?

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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

It's absolutely wonderful that you plan to continue nursing your daughter once you return to work. I do know it can be worrisome, wondering how you will transition from regular feeds, to working and being separated for four (long) days each week. Many working moms find that maintaining the connection with their little ones through breastfeeding really helps to ease the adjustment.

Hopefully you will be able to find a bit of time in your work schedule for expressing your milk, especially as you first return to your job. Your breasts, accustomed to nursing at this time will fill up and your milk will really need to be expressed - at least for your comfort (and health!) If you can not find the time to express milk for 15 to 20 minutes, even 5 minutes of milk expression is preferable to no pumping at all. If your breasts are full and uncomfortable, it is very important to express just enough milk for comfort. You can hand express in the privacy of the rest room. Sometimes, expressing just a few drops of milk will make a significant difference in your comfort level!

If you are unable to find any time to pump at work, you might want to begin expressing milk now, and freezing, in preparation for your absence. You can also express milk at home once you are back at work -- to be fed to your daughter while you are at work.

I would recommend using a good quality breastpump (hospital-grade electric) with a double pump kit. Choose a time of day to express your milk when your supply is especially abundant. You might want to try expressing some milk when you wake up in the morning -- an hour or so before your baby typically nurses. Then, allow enough time in the morning so that you and your baby can enjoy a nice relaxed feed. If it's very early, and you wake her before you leave for your early starting time, she will very likely drift back off to sleep -- content, and well-fed. You might also want to try expressing in between feeds, following a feed, or from one breast as your baby nurses at the other. Freeze in small quantities of two ounces, so none of your precious milk will be wasted. You can store in clean glass or plastic bottles, allowing about one inch at the top for expansion.

When you are at home, frequent nursing and nighttime feeds are very important in helping to keep your milk supply abundant. Continue to nurse your little one as usual before you leave for work, when you are together at night, and on your days off. Your body may take a while to adjust to your new schedule. As long as you continue nursing (even part-time nursing) you will produce milk, though your supply may diminish somewhat from not expressing for missed feeds. My best wishes to you and your family for a smooth transition back to work!

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