It’s been 3 months (or less, depending on your maternity leave) since your wonderful bundle of joy went home with you. And you’re looking at the possibility of continuing to breastfeed your baby for many more months. How then, should you go about this possibly stressful task? We’ll look at some preparation work you can do to make things logistically efficient and as stress-free as possible.
1. Investing in a good breast pump
If you haven’t already done so, this is one purchase that could make or break your milk expressing journey when you return to work. The initial amount to pay may seem hefty, but the couple of hundred dollars works out to be approximately the same amount of one would spend on formula milk for a child who isn’t on breastmilk. Do sufficient research on the types and models available as these may change every year. It is advisable to invest in a double electric pump as it would be able to pump your milk out at half the time required as would a single pump. An electric pump would be more beneficial as well, as your fingers may get pretty sore from pumping 3-4 times a day.
2. Stocking up
Depending on your supply of milk, it would be good to start stocking up on your breastmilk about a month prior to returning to milk. This would help in preparing your baby to transit to the bottle if he/she has not been introduced to it yet. It would also come in handy in the event of a growth spurt. Express your milk after each nursing session, and once you have a significant amount of milk stored in the freezer, replace a nursing session by expressing it instead (see #5 for more details).
Your milk can be stored in milk storage bags, bottles or milk trays. For ease of convenience for the office, milk bags may be the best option as they are easier to transport. Ensure that you have a cooler bag roomy enough for your milk bags and an ice pack (or two). All these can be easily purchased in stores or online for bulk purchases.
3. Talking to your boss and your pumping ‘schedule’
This may sound intimidating but don’t let this be the barrier to your desire to continuing breastfeeding your child. You never know how open your boss may be until you speak to him/her. If you know of colleagues who have already been expressing milk at work, talk to them to find out what the arrangement has been for them. It may be wise to express in the morning at home, or arriving at work half an hour earlier to do so. Lunchtime is another good opportunity to do so, so that it does not interrupt with your work process, as in after work at the office. If you are comfortable to do so, you can express your milk at your desk under the protection of a nursing shawl. If you have the approval and the available space to do so, go to a room or the pantry to express your milk to have some privacy.
4. Preparing the logistics
Some breast pumps come with its own travel bag so that you are able to transport it conveniently. If it doesn’t, determine the necessary parts that you need and store it in an air tight box that is large enough to contain it. Nurses at KKH had previously gave me a very useful tip: after expressing your milk, place the pump (without the bottle/container used to store milk) into a large ziplock bag or container and leave it in the fridge. Wash it only at the end of the week (Friday) so that you minimise the number of times you need to wash and sterilize it. There is little risk of contamination as it is kept in the fridge. Just make sure that you label your bag/box and there are no itchy fingers in the office who would open it for a look. This tip was a huge lifesaver for me.
5. Weaning your baby from boob to bottle
Begin to introduce the bottle to your baby at least once a day, if you haven’t already done so. It may take some time to find the right bottle/milk teat for your child as well. It is best that this initial introduction be done by another family member, so that your baby does not fuss for the comfort of your breast instead.
While your child is being bottle fed, express your milk to replace the nursing session. Eventually, may need to decide if you want to give your child breastmilk exclusively through the bottle, or to nurse him/her when you are home and/or on the weekends. Continuing to nurse your child directly allows you to continue to bond with him/her through breastfeeding, while with it comes the possible challenge of rejecting the bottle on occasion in favour of your breast. The choice and decision is ultimately yours.
6. What if my child refuses to wean?
This, unfortunately does happen. I have met mothers who have such strong willed babies that they are willing to starve for several hours than to take the bottle, cup or spoon for milk. Do bear in mind that this statistic is very much in the minority and that in most occasions, the child will eventually give in to taking milk from another source other than the breast.
The breastfeeding journey does not need to stop just because you return to work, as we have explored. It is one that requires hard work from you (such is the sacrifice of a mother!) and kudos to you in advance for it! Work out the process and the challenges with family and the main carer for your baby, and your child will be able to continue enjoying the benefits of breastmilk and for you, much cost savings!
Now you can support breastfeeding culture in your workplace too!
By Ruth Mak
This article is part of Breastfeeding with Love campaign, initiated by The New Age Parents and New Age Pregnancy.
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