Your bundle of joy has arrived and things have changed. Between the naps, feeding schedules, and care, with giggles and laughter interspersed, the time has flown by. Suddenly, maternity leave is up and it is time to go back to work. The baby’s feeding schedule has to be taken care of.
The baby needs breast milk and while it is advisable to breastfeed for at least six months, some mothers breastfeed beyond that age. While this may seem daunting at first, a few easy steps will set you up for success in the long run.
1. Get your baby used to the bottle
Your baby has to get used to a bottle, and this cannot be done overnight. The baby has to get used to feeding on the breast and introducing a bottle too early may hinder the process of learning how to extract milk from the breast. It is recommended that a feeding bottle be introduced only about three to six weeks after birth. This ensures that the baby is well versed in feeding on the breast.
Also, the process of feeding on the bottle is significantly different from breastfeeding, so it is imperative that the baby has mastered nursing first. As the baby associates the mother to nursing, it is recommended that a caregiver like your partner or the nanny introduces the bottle. Timing of the bottle is imperative, as the baby should not be overly hungry and a good time to do this is around an hour after a regular feeding.
2. The bottle nipple makes all the difference
While nipple confusion is a great fear for moms when it comes to bottles and pacifiers, it is not as much a concern as flow preference. If the flow from the bottle is too fast, the baby will not have to use its muscles the same way as to extract milk from the breast.
Faster flow also means that there is a chance of too much milk going in, and inciting a gag reflex. A slow flow bottle encourages the baby to suck on the nipple better and regulates the flow of milk. A slow flow bottle is recommended for babies in the introductory phase, and it is encouraged to change the bottle with a faster flow as the baby advances in age or gains proficiency in bottle feeding.
Pro Tip: If the flow is too slow for the baby, especially as the quantity of milk consumed increases, babies can get tired and distressed with the slow flow. Too much time spent sucking with small output will lead to fussing.
3. Training caregivers with bottle feeding
Balancing time between work and a baby is quite a task and can get exhausting, so make sure you get enough rest and take all the help that is on offer. Whether help comes in the form of a nanny or your partner or caregivers from your family, train them on the feeding schedule that your baby is on and paced bottle feeding.
Paced bottle feeding mimics the tempo and feel of breastfeeding, which your baby is already used to. Caregivers should be made aware that there are other ways to soothe a baby, not just feeding, and to feed babies on demand and not on the schedule. The baby should be held upright and the bottle horizontal, so the flow is not too fast.
4. Get used to the pump
A good quality breast pump goes a long way in making the whole process easier. The advent of the breast pump meant that mothers could now spend extended amounts of time away from their babies, without worrying too much about feeding.
Pump every two to three hours to ensure a good milk supply and have an adequate amount of milk for every time the baby needs milk. Expressed milk can be refrigerated or frozen. The aim is to pump at least three hours during a typical eight-hour workday. Use a plug or sealing disc for safe storage of breast milk, without exposure to the environment.
5. Create and stick to a schedule
When your day is planned out, it makes everything easier. Before starting your workday, take a look at your meetings and to-do list and schedule your pumping sessions around them. If there is a meeting in the morning, schedule pumping for the afternoon, and vice versa. Blocking outset time periods and putting it on your schedule ensures that coworkers are aware of your timetable and will know not to disturb you while you pump.
6. Let your manager know about your schedule
As you step into work, talk to your manager about using a small conference room or an unused room in the office for the times when you need to pump. Let others at the workplace know, and maybe put a sign on the door of the space you are using. Coworkers are very understanding and you will probably get some tips from experienced mothers. As babies grow up, you can start spacing out feedings and need not use the pump as often.
7. Supplies that you have to have on hand
Most offices have refrigerators and you may request to have a small shelf to yourself to store your milk. If a refrigerator is not available, carry a cooler with ice packs. Make sure that there are enough ice packs to last the whole day, including commute time.
Make sure you have plenty of clean bottles, hand sanitizer, tissues, chargers, and batteries for your pump. Labels come in handy to identify the bottles of breast milk and store all of them together. The right attire makes it easier, and make sure you dress comfortably for easy pumping.
8. Nurse as often as you can
While the baby is used to the bottle and feeding from the bottle seems easier, breastfeeding is the time when mothers and babies bond the most. Make sure that you nurse your baby as often as you can, even if it is during a break, using the office daycare. Babies associate breastfeeding to comfort and no bottle can ever replace that feeling.
9. Prioritizing your baby’s needs
It is not uncommon that babies will seem to nurse more often after you come back from work. They want to make up for time lost with you and may spend less time on the bottle during the day. This is known as reverse cycling and leads to the baby eating more during the night and less from the bottle during the day. Try to slowly wean them away from this, while not forcibly trying to make them stick to a schedule.
10. Take care of yourself
The most important thing to do if all of this has to go right is for the mother to relax. While juggling work, taking care of the baby and other work around the house can be exhausting, all the help is available as long as you ask for it. Making sure that the mother is relaxed ensures a happy baby, and what more could one ask for.