Yes, it is possible to return to work outside the home and continue to breastfeed your baby. Give yourself a lot of credit, because in many ways you are doing the work of both a breastfeeding and bottle-feeding mom.
With a little extra thought and preparation, you can do it! Here are answers to some of the questions new moms commonly ask when they contemplate juggling breastfeeding, working and new parenthood.
There are so many kinds of breastpumps out there. How do I know which one is right for me?
Short of endorsing specific name brands, a double electric pump (rental or good-quality retail) would be the ideal choice if you will be working full-time outside the home. You may opt for the rental version if you don't anticipate pumping longer than four or five months. For part-time working moms, a smaller mini-electric or good manual pump may do the job. Many of these pumps work well, though the motors make some noise and it will take longer to express than using a double pump.
If you need more guidance in your selection, please speak with a lactation consultant who will help you choose the best pump to meet your individual needs. You might also consider taking a working and breastfeeding class.
Each time I pump I get only a little bit of milk. How am I ever going to have enough milk for my baby when I return to work?
Relax, this is normal. When you are with your baby all the time, you do not get a lot of extra milk out because your body has adjusted to make just enough for your baby. However, on the day you return to work and are not with your baby, you will be able to express quite a bit.
To save up enough milk for the first day or two back at work, begin pumping once each morning two or three weeks before you plan on returning to work. You can do this by putting the baby on one side and the pump on the other, or by pumping about an hour after a feeding. Every couple of days put the amounts together in the same container in order to get enough to freeze. Note: Cold milk may be added to already-chilled milk but it should not be added to warm milk. As a general rule, freeze breastmilk in small amounts, two to four ounces at a time, so that the milk may be thawed easily without wasting leftovers.
Continue pumping once each day and you will have enough milk for the first day or two back. Once you are at work, try to make arrangements to pump about every three hours if your baby is less than four months old and about every four hours for older babies. You may find it helpful to pump once a day on the weekends (or on your days off) to keep up your milk supply.
What is the best way to store the breastmilk, and how long can it stay in the refrigerator or freezer?
When possible, give your baby fresh breastmilk that has never been frozen. It is tastier, healthier, and slightly more nutritious this way. Freshly expressed breastmilk may stay in the refrigerator for as long as 3 to 5 days, depending on how cold your refrigerator stays. The fat in the milk will rise to the top, making it appear as though it has gone bad. Simply shake the container very gently and place it under warm running water or in a bowl of heated water before serving it to your baby.
Many mothers find it easy to freeze milk in disposable bottle bags. These are easily secured with a twist-tie or some brands come with plastic clips. Be sure to leave a little room at the top of the plastic bag for the milk to expand as it freezes. Once frozen, double the disposable bottle bag by placing it in a ziploc-type freezer bag. Store frozen breastmilk in the back of the freezer where it is not subject to temperature variations. Remember to label and date the milk and serve your baby the oldest milk first. Chances are high that the baby will drink the milk long before the three to six months that it stays good in most home freezers.