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Breastfeeding Made Easier at Home and at Work

Breastfeeding is a unique experience for each woman and her baby, and each woman has to find her own routine, setting, and positions that work best. Today, many mothers return to jobs outside of their homes after their babies are born, and the breastfeeding routine that they’ve set up while on maternity leave has to change. Many women continue to breastfeed successfully though, with the help of a breast pump. Whether you choose to stay at home to care for your baby, or choose to return to a job outside your home, here are some tips about breastfeeding and pumping to make breastfeeding easier and safe for you and your baby.

Breastfeeding Made Easier at Home and at Work
Breastfeeding Made Easier at Home and at Work

1. Before Your Baby is Born

(i) Nipple Type

Before your baby is born, it is helpful to know what type of nipples you have.

A flat nipple lies flat against the areola (darker circular area around the nipple) instead of protruding outward like a normal nipple.

Inverted nipples seem pushed inward to the areola. Both flat nipples and inverted nipples can make correct latch-on more challenging for your baby since they are not easy for the baby to grab in his or her mouth. One solution is to wear a breast shell (a round plastic shell that fits around your breast) in your bra to create a moist environment around the nipple to help it protrude for easier latch-on.

Regular, flat, and inverted nipples
Image: Regular, flat, and inverted nipples

Some basic tips: Breastfeeding Know-How – Tips for Making it Work

(ii) Medications

Before the birth of your baby, know what medications you are taking or may have to take after the birth, and how they will affect your baby through your breast milk. Talk with your health care provider about their safety, and about possible alternative treatments that won’t affect the baby. While breastfeeding, if you become ill and have to take medication, tell your health care provider that you are breastfeeding. It may be possible to temporarily pump and discard your breast milk while taking the medication. During this time, you can use previously stored breast milk or formula to feed your baby, but you will be keeping your breast milk supply at a level that will meet the baby’s needs when your treatment is over.

Also read: Is it safe to take medications while breastfeeding?

2. Family Support

Fathers and other special support persons can be involved in the breastfeeding experience. Breastfeeding is more than a way to feed a baby, it becomes a lifestyle. While no one but the baby’s mother can provide breast milk, it is helpful for the mother and the baby if the father or support person encourages this healthy relationship. Fathers or support persons play a major role in the breastfeeding experience by being sensitive and supportive. They can encourage breastfeeding when the mother is feeling tired or discouraged. They can affirm their love, approval, and appreciation for the mother’s work and time that she puts into breastfeeding. They also can be good listeners and provide understanding to the mother’s and baby’s needs to accommodate breastfeeding in the home or when traveling. All of this support helps the mother feel better about herself and proud that she is giving her baby the best. Many people also feel warmth, love, and relaxation just from sitting next to mother and baby during breastfeeding. Fathers and support persons also can help when the mother begins to wean the baby from breastfeeding by giving emotional nourishment to the child through playing, cuddling, and giving a bottle/cup.

3. Pumping

No matter what type of job you have, if you go back to work after having your baby, it should be possible for you to take time to pump your breast milk. You can talk with your employer about why breastfeeding is important, why pumping is necessary, and how you plan to fit pumping into your work schedule. Pumping while away from your baby on the same schedule that he or she breastfeeds ensures that you keep up your milk supply to meet your baby’s needs. If you are staying home to care for your baby, having an effective pump at home is also helpful. You can use it to help relieve engorgement, especially when your milk supply first comes in, or for when you need to be away from your baby for any amount of time, such as an evening out with your partner. If you have to temporarily take medication that may harm your baby, you can pump and discard your milk during this time.

Also visit: Breastfeeding Clothing and Pumping Accessories

Prepare for pumping before you go back to work. Let your employer know that you are breastfeeding and explain that, when you’re away from your baby, you will need to take breaks throughout the day to pump your milk to give to your baby at a later time. Ask where you can pump at work, and make sure it is a private, clean, quiet area. Also make sure you have somewhere to store the milk. Discuss how you plan to fit pumping into your workday. You can offer to work out a different schedule, such as coming in earlier or leaving a little later each day to make up for any lost work time, if this comes up as an issue. If your day care is close by to your job, you may be able to arrange to breastfeed your baby during work time. Make sure to discuss the benefits of breastfeeding with your employer, especially that breastfeeding mothers miss fewer days from work. If your direct supervisor cannot help you with your needs, you should be able to go to your Human Resources department to make sure you are accommodated.

Some mothers start pumping and storing their milk ahead of the time they will be returning to work in order to have a supply available for the first week when they are separated from the baby. The number of times you will need to pump your milk depends on the length of time you are away from your baby. But, it is usually not best to go for more than three hours without removing some milk from your breasts. If you are leaving a very young baby who eats very often, you may have to pump your milk more often at first so that your breasts do not become uncomfortable or leak.

Worth exploring: Guidelines for Storing Breast Milk

Expressing milk through pumping is a learned skill that’s both physical and psychological. It takes about the same time as breastfeeding, unless you are using a “double” automatic breast pump. The let-down reflex is important during pumping in order to express a good amount of milk. If you are having problems getting your milk to “let-down” at the start of pumping, you may find it helpful to have a picture of your baby close-by. You also can try other things to stimulate the let-down reflex, like applying a warm, moist compress to the breast, gently massaging the breasts, or just sitting quietly and thinking of a relaxing setting. Try to clear your head of stressful thoughts. Use a comfortable chair or pillows. Once you begin expressing your milk, think about your baby.

It is best to wash your hands before pumping your breast milk and to make sure the table or area where you are pumping is also clean. Each time you are done pumping, it is best to thoroughly wash your pumping equipment with soap and water and let it air dry. This helps prevent germs from getting into the breast milk.

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