FAQs about breastfeeding and working mothers

How much milk should I leave for my baby?

Once baby is a month old they will take on average about 800-1 000ml of milk per day (before one month they’re building up to this, once established on solids they may take less).

If you’ll be apart for 8 hours, that is one third of this time, so baby would need one third of this amount, which they’ll take in a number of small feeds during that time. Remember to include travel time in your calculation. Breastfed babies take in small amounts frequently rather than large amounts infrequently – 80-120ml per feed is a rough average.

How do I introduce a bottle?

The aim with introducing a bottle is purely to help your baby to learn that milk can come out of it. About two weeks before going back, a bottle with a little milk can be given to baby as a toy. When mom is at work the care giver can offer milk to baby frequently, if baby is hungry, they’ll take it.

If baby does refuse the milk, don’t worry, they won’t come to harm, they may not be that hungry and be willing to wait for your return later and make up for the lost comfort time and milk needs then. Milk should continue to be offered frequently.

My baby won’t take a bottle, what do I do?

Some babies are happier using a cup or sippy cup or a straw. Syringes, eye droppers, spoons and even partially defrosted ice blocks of milk are other options. Watch some videos of cup feeding on YouTube, it isn’t as messy or slow as it sounds.

Some babies like to be reminded of breastfeeding – held in a breastfeeding position, bottle under the arm or wrapped in a shirt mom has worn, teat warmed, milk warmed. Other babies don’t want any reminder –teat cold, milk cold and even to sit upright.

I’ve heard of paced bottle feeding, what is that?

This method of feeding allows baby to self regulate as they would at the breast. Basically, baby is held in a breastfeeding position and the bottle teat is touched to their lips for them to suck it in. The bottle is held horizontal so that it must be sucked rather than the milk just pouring out.

When baby pauses, the teat can be angled into the roof of their mouth, they can then resume sucking when ready. When baby pushes the teat out, the feed is over, or if they do a big burp, put the teat to their lips and they’ll suck it in again if they want more.

Help, I can barely express anything at all.

It can be distressing to look down and see only a few droplets of milk. Remember that even the best pump cannot remove as much milk as a baby does, and expressing is not an indication of supply. Expressing is about triggering the let down reflex. Something that helps moms learn to get a let down is to express on one side while baby feeds on the other.

It can be a bit awkward to keep baby’s hands off the pump though. Don’t worry, baby can still feed from that side when you’re done – the breast is never empty – whatever is asked of it is made while baby sucks. Also remember that you’re expressing between feeds while at home, at work you’re expressing the whole feed.

I keep getting asked for more milk?

Sometimes baby is having a growth spurt and after a few days their normal pattern will resume. However, it is wise to ask some questions. Is paced bottle feeding being used? Is baby being made to finish bottles? Is left over milk being thrown away?

Must leftover milk be discarded?

is pretty tough stuff. For a healthy baby born full term, milk left over at the end of a feed doesn’t need to be thrown away, it can be used to start off the next feed, and possibly even the one after.

I’ve tried everything and I can only express 150ml a day, shall I give up?

Only if you want to. Every drop you provide counts, you can carry on providing whatever you can, and if baby needs to have some formula too, don’t worry about it, focus on what you are giving, not what you can’t. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Try to express as frequently as you can, even if sessions are shorter.

When you express, keep going for a set time, even if the milk is no longer flowing. Try to trigger a let down by looking at photos and videos of baby on your phone, smelling baby’s night clothes and using breast compression. Hand expressing after using the pump can often add quite a bit of extra milk. After a bit of practice, some moms find hand expressing quicker and easier than using a pump.

There is no fridge at work

That is OK, your milk can safely stay in a cooler box with an ice pack for the day and then in the fridge at home or day care until baby drinks it in the next few days.

What tips do you have for moms who breastfeed while working?

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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