Nature designed human milk especially for human babies, and it has many advantages over formula. Your milk contains just the right balance of nutrients, contained in a form most easily used by the baby’s immature body systems. Medical authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, strongly recommend breastfeeding. International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Carol Olsen offers guidance to expectant mothers, “I have counseled mothers for over thirty years, explaining the many reasons why breast milk is the best milk for babies. Breast milk provides the perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat – everything your baby needs to grow. And it’s provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula.”
Benefits of Breastfeeding include:
- Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria.
- Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies.
- The physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact help your baby bond with you and feel secure.
- Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight children.
- The AAP says breastfeeding also plays a role in the prevention of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Ms. Olsen adds, “Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor.”
There are also many benefits to mothers. She continues, “Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth.”
Returning to Work
Many mothers find they maintain milk production more easily if they breastfeed before showering or getting ready for work and then breastfeed again just before leaving the baby with the care provider.
If possible, develop a pumping routine based on when the baby would normally breastfeed, especially when first returning to work. However, you, your baby, and your milk production will adjust to a new routine if you are able to pump often enough. Many mothers do find pumping sessions go more quickly when they are able to pump at about the same time each day.
Plan to breastfeed your baby as soon as you are back together. Ask your care provider to try not to feed your baby for 1 to 2 hours before you arrive. It may help to call the care provider when you are ready to leave work so he or she knows when you are on your way.
You may need to arrange your evening schedule so you can spend more time with your baby when you get home. Breastfeeding more frequently in the evenings and on weekends can help you better maintain milk production. And, you and your baby will enjoy the time together after separation.
The first few days or weeks after you return to work may be difficult until you and your baby develop a new routine. You can expect a period of adjustment as your body and your baby respond to the change. Some mothers experience a decrease in milk production the first week they return to work due to the stress and changes in schedule. If this does occur, it should increase with frequent pumping sessions. Continue to breastfeed your baby as often as possible when not at work.
Support at Work
Employer support will be beneficial to successfully continuing breastfeeding. Discuss your plan to continue to breastfeed, and your need to pump or express breast milk during the workday, with your employer when you are pregnant or before you return to work. Be sure your employer understands that continued breastfeeding, and providing your milk by pumping at work, are not just good for your baby–they also are good for the company. Evidence indicates that employer support for continued breastfeeding, and the breast-pumping breaks it requires, results in fewer employee absences and increased worker productivity.
Let your employer know that frequent workday breast-pumping breaks do not continue indefinitely. The number will decrease during the second half of your baby’s first year, as he or she develops and eats more solid foods.
“Motherhood can be extremely stressful for new moms. Not only are you healing from labor and often sleep deprived, but you are now solely responsible for a new life. It is an overwhelming time, but trust in nature. Once you learn the proper techniques including guiding your baby to latch properly, breastfeeding will become easier. Building your confidence is so important. Know that you can do this,” shares Ms. Olsen.
Talk with your doctor or a lactation consultant to discuss breastfeeding and what is best for your baby and you. Resources are available on Staten Island – Richmond University Medical Center’s Lactation Support Center offers consultation services and resources for new mothers having difficulties with breastfeeding. For more information, call 718-818-4375.
This month’s Ask the Doctor column is written by Carol Olsen RN, BSN, IBCLC at Richmond University Medical Center. Mrs. Olsen, a former neonatal intensive care unit nurse, works at Richmond University Medical Center as a Lactation Consultant.