There is no question about it. Continuing to breastfeed when going back to work can be tricky, but you’ve come this far momma, and we are here to guide you!
There are many advantages to continuing breastfeeding for longer than the first 3-4 months of your little one’s life. For mosts moms, the only way to continue breastfeeding when going back to work would be to express during the day. This ensures your milk supply remains stable while also providing the milk that you leave at home the next day.
But what if I don’t express enough milk?
The idea of choosing to express milk for your baby and then failing to produce enough is daunting. This is also why most moms stop. Don’t be so hard on yourself momma! Supplementing with formula is OK- you can only do your best, and if you are giving your baby any breast milk while working you should be really proud of yourself.
Investing in a pump
If you are planning to express while back at work, your breast pump will play a big role in your success. You will need a pump with a strong enough motor to provide the suction strength and speed that you need to maintain your supply. Many moms who give up on this process would have been able to continue if they had the right breast pump. This does not mean that you need to purchase the most expensive pump on the market. Read our blog on how to choose a breast pump for more in-depth information on this topic.
If you are still not sure, you can contact All Things Breastfeeding for assistance from a lactation consultant in choosing a pump. Depending on where you live you may also be able to book a breast pump demo session and test a pump before purchasing. If at all possible you should do this as the same pump won’t work for all moms. Their demo consultants can also assist you with choosing the correct flange size and can offer general expressing support and follow-up care.
What will I need?
Apart from your breast pump and its parts, you would need storage containers, and a fridge or a cooler box to keep the milk cold. There are also other tools that can make things easier for you – click here for the full list of what you need for expressing breast milk at work.
Mastering the skill of expressing
In expressing breast milk, as with most other things in life, practice makes perfect. You will get better with this process as you go along. Your baby will always get out more milk while latching than you will with a pump, so please do not use the volumes that you express as an indicator of how much milk you have. Here are some tips for expressing milk to help guarantee your success.
Building a stash – when should I start?
The general recommendation is that you should not start expressing before baby is 6-8 weeks old. Please note that this recommendation refers to expressing for building a stash. It is not aimed at the mom who needs to express for medical reasons like a having a baby who is not latching or not gaining weight.
Starting to express too early is discouraged as you are busy establishing your supply and need to focus on just caring for your baby and yourself. Expressing too much too early on can also create an over-supply.
I do feel though that this will depend on your individual circumstances. Some moms need to go back to work already after 6-8 weeks. They are far more likely to struggle with low supply than with an over-supply when they return. They may well benefit from starting a bit earlier so that they are ready when they need to go back.
How should I store milk?
You can store milk in various ways:
- Special breast milk containers like the BabyWombWorld’s 125ml storage containers. If you use plastic containers make sure it is BPA free. You can mark the container by writing the date on a piece of masking tape and sticking it on.
- Breastmilk storage bags – these are more expensive, but they take up less space in your freezer and they defrost much faster than a bottle. You can also write the date directly on to the sachet. Some moms use general ziploc bags, but these were not meant for storing milk and were not sterilized to start off with, so they should not be used.
- You can also freeze some milk in an ice tray. This will enable you to just add one or two ice-cubes if you short an amount for a bottle, rather than to defrost a whole container.
How long can I store my milk?
The Centre of Disease Control still state the following guidelines.
- Milk can stand at room temperature for 4 hours before being fed to baby (so if you are planning to use it later it would be best to get it in the fridge or cooler box asap).
- In the refrigerator it can last for 4 days
- In the freezer for 6-12 months
How much milk should I leave?
Different babies drink different amounts, and you will need some trial and error to determine your baby’s need. I generally suggest that you leave bottles/sachets of about 100ml per feed, with some ice-cubes that the caregiver can add if baby wants a bit more. Most babies will want a bottle every 2-3 hours, and it would always be good to have a few extra feeds in the fridge, in case a bottle gets knocked over or should your baby have a hungry-day (like we all do!). Within the first few days you will have a better idea of what your baby needs.
How long will I have to do this?
This really is your choice, and will depend on your long-term breastfeeding goal. Generally milk becomes less important and food more important in babies’ diets after one year, and around this age many moms find that baby are able to wait for them to come home to breastfeed.
A last word
Expressing while working is not easy, but you also won’t be doing this forever. Within a few months this phase will be over. The advantages of breastfeeding baby for longer will last for years to come. If you are up for the challenge you will reap the rewards!