Thursday, July 8, 2010

Your return to work: It’s never too early to start planning

Dr. Pamela Murphy has contributed a number of blog posts to OnCloudMom that tackle the worries of new and expectant moms.

She's talked about vitamin D supplements for breastfed babies, establishing milk supply when your baby is premature and hospitalized, and transitioning that preemie to the breast once they're ready.

Another concern of many moms is the end of maternity leave. We've talked about going back to work a lot here, because that separation is especially difficult when you're breastfeeding. Not only do you have to adjust to life away from your new baby, you also have to get the hang of pumping breastmilk and fit it into your busy schedule.

That's why we asked Dr. Murphy to make her next guest post all about making the return to work smoother for breastfeeding moms. Read on to see what she has to say, and be sure to pass this advice along to your new mom friends!

So you're having a baby and you're planning to breastfeed. In addition to preparing for labor and the arrival of your new little one, it's a great time to start thinking about what to do when you return to work in regards to breastfeeding and pumping.

While fresh milk is better than refrigerated or frozen breastmilk, in general, breastmilk is still better than formula. Remember, the World Health Organization recommends infants receive breastmilk for at least six months.

While you are still working, find out if your employer has private pumping rooms available. If not, try to facilitate such a room before you go on leave so it's there for you when you return.

It's a good idea to find out if you will need to pump on your allotted breaks or if you can extend your day to allow time to pump. Ideally, you should be pumping every three hours while separated from your infant.

In addition, ask if a hospital grade pump is available or if you will need to purchase your own. Check to see if you will have a refrigerator available to store breastmilk. If not, plan on bringing a cooler or an insulated bag.

Ask your potential child care provider what their feelings are on handling your breastmilk. Do they have policies in place at the daycare? Does your nanny know how to defrost breastmilk?

There are many common questions and concerns when it comes to storing breastmilk.

When should you start storing breastmilk? I started as soon as my milk came in. When your breasts are full of milk and your baby hasn't adjusted to the increased volume, you can start pumping. It is important to remember that your body makes milk in response to demand or stimulation and emptying your breasts (although they are never truly empty).

The other breast. When your milk first comes in, it's a good idea to pump the other breast if your infant breastfeeds from only one side. Save that milk. Just remember your body is establishing its milk supply, so if you "empty" too often, you will make lots and lots of milk.

Establish a routine. It's best to establish a pumping routine while on maternity leave. Pump at least once a day to start storing milk. Do this when your infant has a longer period of sleep during the day or at a time when your infant only breastfeeds on one side. Be consistent!

Storage guidelines. Milk storage guidelines vary, but to keep it simple go by the rule of fives: five hours at room temperature, five days in the refrigerator (you can place it in the freezer on day five if not used), and five to six months in the freezer.

This is based on guidelines from Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Keep it in the back of the fridge or freezer, not in the door. And to defrost, simply place in the fridge the night before or place in a warm cup of water or under a running faucet.

When should you introduce a bottle to your infant? Introduce a bottle of pumped milk between four to six weeks of age. Otherwise, you run the risk of your baby not taking a bottle. You may need to experiment with different nipples, so leave yourself time to do so. Do not wait until the day before you return to work!


Pamela is a Lactation Consultant at the Medical University of South Carolina, President at Lactation Resources, LLC, and Designer and Manager at She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, Mass., her master's degree from Georgetown University, Washington D.C., and her doctorate from the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, S.C. Pamela is also the mother of three children who were each breastfed for over a year.


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