Ask any mother working outside the home: Juggling family and job responsibilities is a daily balancing act. Mothers with brand new babies face even greater challenges. The longer you are able to stay home the better. However, if you are getting ready to return to work shortly after the birth of your baby, you might be concerned about how to continue to breastfeed. Don't worry. With some advance planning, it is possible to successfully combine work and breastfeeding.
Why Continue to Breastfeed?
Health authorities such as the Surgeon General and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree that breastmilk offers superior infant nutrition. In addition, breast-fed babies have significantly fewer respiratory tract and ear infections than bottle-fed babies. Breastfeeding reduces an infant's risk of food allergy, and initial research suggests that breastfeeding may have a long-term positive effect on a baby's immune system.
For mothers, breastfeeding helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy state more quickly. And with no formula and vitamin costs, breastfeeding is more convenient and less expensive than bottle feeding.
How Can You Combine Breastfeeding With Working?
Create employer awareness: Fortunately, more and more employers are realizing the critical role women play in the work force and are taking steps to make it easier for them to return to the job and continue to breastfeed.
Some progressive employers institute company-sponsored support for breastfeeding mothers. For example, a Sanvita Corporate Lactation Program includes prenatal education and postnatal counseling provided by an on-site lactation professional, as well as time, space and equipment for women to pump their breastmilk at work. Other companies may not have a full-fledged program, but will allow women to take the time they need during the day to pump their breastmilk.
Talk with your employer before your baby is born: You may want to extend your maternity leave, work part-time for a period, job share, or work at home part of each day or week. If your company does not have a Lactation Program, now may be the time to investigate starting one. In lieu of a formal program, however, try to make your own arrangements.
Explain to your employer the health benefits of breastfeeding for your baby. When baby is sick, mother often must be absent from work. The prospect of less absenteeism among breastfeeding mothers is a bonus for cost-conscious employers.
Select a caregiver: Choosing the person who will care for your baby while you are at work is an important decision. You will want to select someone who supports your commitment to breastfeeding. Don't wait until the last minute to start investigating your choices. You will need to find a primary person as well as several back-ups -- just in case.
Give your caregiver explicit written instructions on how to store breastmilk. Explain that, if possible, your baby should not be fed within a couple of hours of your return. That way, he or she will be ready to breastfeed as soon as you arrive at the caregiver's after work. If baby is hungry before you arrive, the caregiver should tide him or her over with some water or a snack-sized portion of stored breastmilk.