The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding through a baby’s first year. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t – but as a working mom you face added challenges in trying to hit that one-year breastfeeding milestone.
I was determined to nurse my firstborn through his first 12 months. By 6 months I had exhausted my stash of frozen breast milk and by 11 months my production had ceased completely. Armed with lessons learned from the first time around I’ve managed to keep my daughter solely on breast milk for these first 10 months, with more than enough still in the freezer to sail easily past her first birthday.
While every woman and baby is different, a little knowledge and planning can help you establish concrete strategies to extend your nursing days as long as possible and increase your chances of successfully breastfeeding while working outside the home. The following is the approach I used to increase my breastfeeding success with my second child, and my best advice to help you do the same.
Start strong. For the first two weeks, focus only on establishing the nursing relationship, perfecting your technique, and building your supply. Don’t worry about pacifiers, bottles, or pumping.
Establish a pumping routine. After the first two weeks begin adding pumping sessions to your daily routine. I found it best to pump about 30 minutes after a morning feeding and an hour after baby’s final evening feeding. If bedtime is still a work in progress, don’t worry about the night pumping session and add it when it feels more manageable for you.
Fill that freezer! Your maternity leave is prime time to build up the biggest breast milk freezer supply you can. Your body is most responsive to signals that your milk supply needs to increase during the first four months of your baby’s life – when you add regularly scheduled pumping sessions at the same time each day, your body begins to anticipate the need to produce more milk for that “feeding” and responds accordingly. This means that some of your most productive pumping sessions will come in the first few months. Take advantage of this short four-month window!
Stay organized. Freeze your milk in bags of 4-6 ounces, labeled with the date and volume. Lay the bags flat to freeze for ease of storage. Organize them by date in the freezer so you always know where the oldest milk is.
Know your rights. The Affordable Care Act requires that you have a private space to pump once you return to work and regular breaks during which to do it.
Stick to a schedule at work. Keep a regular pumping schedule once you’re back at work. This will be critical to keeping your supply up when away from your baby. As much as possible, schedule regular pumping times and stick to them. Try not to go more than 3-4 hours at a time without nursing or pumping. Additionally, keep up with your post-bedtime pumping session if you can. And, with all sessions, continue pumping for three minutes after all your milk is expressed to keep your supply up.
Rotate you freezer supply. The rate at which you go through your frozen milk stash will vary from baby to baby. Some reverse-cycle and hardly eat anything at daycare. Mine have both been hungry little darlings that ate nearly twice as much as I pumped each day. Either way, it’s important to make sure you’re regularly using your oldest milk to prevent it from going bad. Each day I fill the bottles with the fresh milk I expressed the day before and thaw the oldest bag of milk from my freezer to make up the difference of what the baby needs. On Fridays, I freeze the milk I pumped from the day at work and freeze everything I pump throughout the weekend. Monday’s bottles are all from the earliest-dated frozen milk to keep any of the hard-earned supply from expiring.
The CDC’s 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card shows that though 77% of infants are breastfed, only 49% are still nursing at 6 months and 27% are nursing at the end of their first year. While breastfeeding rates for working mothers aren’t readily available, we do know that being regularly separated from your baby and using a pump to express milk adds an additional layer to the challenge of keeping up an adequate supply and breastfeeding through your baby’s first 12 months. By using these strategies you can hopefully effectively manage your milk supply and keep nursing your baby for as long as you’d like!
Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk Policy Statement – American Academy of Pediatrics
Breastfeeding Report Card, United States 2013 – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Fact Sheet #73: Break Time for Nursing Mothers Under the FLSA – U.S. Department of Labor
I’m Not Pumping Enough Milk. What Can I Do? – KellyMom
Reverse Cycling – KellyMom