Back to Work and Breastfeeding

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By Jayme Jo Ebert, PD(DONA), CLC

After the initial wave of adjustment to life with a baby has just started to settle out, many new mothers find themselves having to face a second, sometimes more intimidating transition in having to return to work. Below you’ll find all of our most common questions on this subject, and we’ll discuss how to approach continuing to breastfeed while returning to work. Hopefully, we will leave you feeling a little more prepared for this next step. Let us know if you’ve got more wonderings for us. We are happy to help!

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How much expressed milk does my baby need?

For exclusively breastfed babies, milk intake varies in the first few weeks of life and then stays roughly the same (barring small periods of growth spurts) from months one to six. After baby begins to eat solids (usually 6-8 months old), they will often continue this same intake for a while and gradually decrease over time. Though it will vary slightly from baby to baby, the average daily intake of exclusively breastfed babies is 25oz/750ml. To help find a more exact calculation for your baby, check out this handy dandy milk calculator that Kellymom has made.

How much milk should I freeze?

We currently live in a culture that pretty much worships the “freezer stash”. While these photos of hundreds of ounces of milk look very impressive, it is often the case that much of these mega milk stashes get either donated or thrown away. Unless you are going to be away from your baby for months at a time, this is just not necessary for a majority of working mothers (queue deep breath). So how much milk should you freeze? To start, see if you can squeeze in one pump session per day. Many mothers find an early morning pump more doable and productive. With each morning pump you will begin to build a small stash in your freezer, eventually working to a day’s worth (around 25-30oz) and then adding 10 or so more ounces just to give you some extra coverage. This way, on your first day back to work, the frozen milk will be used with baby while you’re away. Throughout the day you will be pumping (ideally every 2-3 hours). The milk you bring home from that first day will be the milk that is used the next day, and so on. By doing this we also are feeding your baby fresh and recent milk, which will meet the current developmental, immunological, and nutritional needs of your baby more effectively. Over time, you can freeze any extra milk you have or squeeze in an extra pump here and there if you know you will have a night away. For more info on breastmilk storage guidelines, check this out.

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When should I introduce a bottle?

In the first eight to nine weeks of life, most babies will suck on just about anything: your breast, elbow, chin, whatever is around! After this point babies will start to develop a little more preference for what they are sucking on. Because of this, it can be much more tricky to introduce a bottle after the eight week mark. While it is very important to wait (unless medically indicated) until breastfeeding is well established, it is also equally important to introduce a bottle before the eight week mark (ie. when nipple preference starts to develop). For most breastfeeding families, introducing a bottle around the 4-6 week mark tends to work well.

How do I bottle feed my breastfed baby?

This article is jam-packed with great tips on how to introduce bottle feeding to your baby. It is important to remember that like breastfeeding, bottle feeding is a skill, and skills require some practice. Think of these early days in introducing the bottle as just that. Start with 1-2oz when baby is calm and happy. This sometimes works the best right after a breastfeeding session. When we do it this way, there is also no pressure on baby to take an entire feed via bottle. It's also helpful for the bottle-giver to be the partner or another friend or caregiver, as babies often won't accept a bottle when they're in the arms of the milk source herself. When you’ve got a few feedings under baby's belt, perhaps days or weeks after beginning to practice, you can start to work yourself up to a full feeding. Paced bottle feeding is a great way to give your baby more control over how much they eat as well as being supportive of your breastfeeding relationship. Here is a video on how to do it.

Lastly, this final link is full of resources for the breastfeeding working mother. Check it out if you need further information on any of the above subjects and more.  

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