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A Beginner’s Guide to Breastfeeding, Part Three

April 27, 2012

Once you’ve gotten the hang of breastfeeding, established some semblance of a schedule, and possibly experienced and resolved one or two of the problems that come up as your body adjusts to its new role as food source for your baby, things may begin to change all over again! After a few months, many women go back to work, which necessitates a more diligent pumping schedule to keep up with your baby’s needs when you’re not with her. But regardless of whether you head back to work, pumping may already be a part of your routine.

Once your milk supply is established, pumping is a great way to continue providing breast milk to your baby while you are apart. It also allows you to get some rest while your partner or another family member does a feeding. It’s a good idea to choose a pump before you give birth, so that you can decide to start pumping as early or late as you like. With so many pumps sold now, ask your obstetrician, pediatrician, friend or even a lactation consultant which one will work for you. A manual pump is less expensive than an electric pump, but is operated by hand! Electric pumps can speed up the process and allow you to pump both breasts at once. Many working moms choose this type of pump for its convenience and speed. Hospital-grade electric pumps are typically available to rent and can be the ideal choice when mom and baby are temporarily separated at birth or having difficulty getting started.

You also may need to try a few different brands of bottles before you find one that work for your baby. If you plan to both breast and bottle-feed, look for a nipple that mimics the shape and mechanics of a woman’s breast. Some mothers report something called “nipple confusion” which results when your baby becomes accustomed to a bottle’s nipple and has trouble latching on to your breast. While it may be time consuming, searching for that perfect bottle can reduce this confusion. And remember the rule of threes when it comes to milk storage. Breast milk kept at room temperature should be used within three hours, refrigerated milk should be used within three days, and frozen milk can be used within three months. Freezing extra milk is a great idea, as an emergency supply can come in handy if you need to go out of town or must take a medication, temporarily, that can be passed through your breastmilk.

It’s best to become adjusted to pumping and bottle-feeding a few weeks before returning to work, so that you’re not coping with these changes along with such a drastic change in schedule and lifestyle. Ask your partner or a family member to bottle-feed your baby from time to time, so that she becomes accustomed to being fed by someone other than you. When you get back to work, you’ll need to pump in privacy two or three times per day, for around twenty minutes each time. Talk to your manager about the short breaks you’ll need to take, and ask where you can pump in privacy. Some offices provide locations for breastfeeding moms to pump milk, but if yours does not, you may consider a vacant office or conference room. If you keep a mini-fridge in your office area, you can store your milk there. Otherwise, you can store it in the common refrigerator in the office kitchen inside your lunch bag to avoid any confusion. Either way, make sure your milk has the date, time and child’s name on each bag per daycare requirements.

And eventually, you’ll need to wean your baby from your breastmilk. The American Association of Pediatrics advises mothers to breastfeed for a year, but many moms choose to wean earlier or later. The decision to wean is personal, and is dependent on your own feelings about breastfeeding, your schedule and health, and your baby’s willingness to feed. You may notice your baby feeding for shorter periods or becoming distracted from your breast, which are cues that she may be ready for gradual weaning. Begin the weaning process by skipping a feeding and seeing how it goes. You can substitute formula if your baby is under a year old, or cow’s milk if she is over a year old. Skipping one feeding every several days may be a good way to begin. Ask your pediatrician for a precise weaning schedule that you can follow that will reduce the risks of engorgement for you and digestive issues for your baby. As your feedings lessen, your supply will decrease, and your baby will become accustomed to new supplies of nutrition. Plus, once your baby starts eating solid foods at around six months of age, her tolerance for new foods will increase and you may even notice that her interest in the breast pales in comparison to her fascination with carrots or sweet potatoes!

Breastfeeding means many different things to many different women. Some mothers love the bond they feel when breastfeeding their baby, and, if they have little to no difficulties, may continue to feed for a longer period of time. Others may find the process frustrating and will desire a bit more independence. Whichever path you take, remember to start by consulting the doctors and nurses in your maternity ward, and continue to solicit the advice of your pediatrician as you and your baby learn the ropes and make transitions together.

Photography courtesy of Flickr.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 27, 2012 11:14 am

    Great info, thank you!

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