For many moms, their first concern is that they won’t be able to express enough milk. The solution is to concentrate on getting breastfeeding established in the early weeks and months of maternity leave, says Rosemary Gauld, an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), “Allowing baby to feed according to his needs will ensure a good milk supply for later.”
Lynne Heydenrych, IBCLC, explains why: “Early, frequent feeding, where baby is suckling effectively, ensures a good supply of milk by activating all the milk-producing cells in the breast. If the milk-producing cells in the breasts aren’t stimulated adequately from the outset these cells ‘shut down’.” Scheduling and timing feeds in the early weeks of breastfeeding can therefore lead to compromised milk supply, cautions Heydenrych.
1. Express solution
About two weeks before returning to work, Gauld suggests practicing hand-expressing or pumping a few times a day. She says that you shouldn’t be concerned over the amount you’re initially able to express or pump. “Many mothers produce very little milk when they first start pumping,” she notes. Once you’re back at the office with no baby to drain your breasts, it’s easier to express or pump, she reassures.
2. Store milk to tide you over
Store the milk from your practice sessions. You can use this to supplement the milk you initially pump while adjusting to expressing in the workplace.
Freeze the milk in covered ice trays, so that it can be thawed easily in small amounts.
When you’re back at work, you can store your expressed milk in sterile, covered containers in a cooler bag with frozen icepacks. You can then place the milk in the fridge when you get home from work and use it the next day.
3. Transition success
It may take some time for your baby to accept another feeding method. “Once you’ve started practicing expressing, leave your baby with a carer for an hour to two as a way of preparing for the separation.
4. Negotiate office politics
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act allows for two 30-minute breaks per day for breastfeeding mothers to express milk in the first six months of a child’s life. Also, you can pump or express during your lunch hour and try to squeeze in an extra five to ten minutes in the morning and afternoon.
But not all employers are happy to have a breastfeeding mom as a staff member. It may be necessary to negotiate how breastfeeding is going to fit into your working day.
5. Keep your supply up
Remember, skipping milk expression sessions will cause your milk supply to dwindle. I f there are days when you struggle to fit in enough time for a full expressing session, rather reduce your session to five to fifteen minutes than skip them altogether. Also allow your baby to feed at night and breastfeed exclusively on the weekends.
If you choose to supplement with formula, continue to express. This will ensure that your supply doesn’t diminish. This will also help avoid plugged ducts or mastitis.
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