How can I prepare while I'm at home with my baby?

Your weeks or months at home after your baby is born are a time of closeness and togetherness. If you plan to go back to work, it is also a time to think about your breastfeeding goals and plan for later. Many of the choices you make now set the stage for your time back at work.

Breastfeed long and often. While at home, breastfeed long and often to bring in more milk. Wait until you're back at work to worry about bottles and schedules.

Wait to give bottles. Many parents wonder when to start a bottle. Here is the latest.

  • Delay bottles until your baby is at least 3-4 weeks old to give your baby a chance to get good at breastfeeding.
  • It doesn't seem to matter how late you start. Most babies take a bottle easily no matter when it's started.
  • Think about asking your baby's caregiver to start the bottle. It will be a part of their relationship. It is also a good idea for your baby to get to know the caregiver before your first day back at work.
  • Many babies refuse a bottle from mother. Some refuse it even if mother is in the building. Babies are smart and know they could be nursing.
  • If your baby won't take the bottle from the caregiver when held in arms, try another way. Sit your baby in an infant seat or with his back against caregiver's chest, facing forward.
  • To keep your baby interested in breastfeeding, limit bottle-feeding to the caregiver and breastfeeding to you.

Wait a few weeks, then pump and store some milk as a reserve. Keep in mind that once you're at work, the milk you pump one day can be left for your baby the next day. But it is good to have some frozen milk as a back-up. Plan to start pumping about 3-4 weeks before going to work. This gives you time to practice with your pump and build a reserve of milk. If you pump just once a day for 3 weeks, you'll have enough milk for your first day back at work and a good reserve.

Plan to ease your transition to work. Think about ways to make your return to work easier:

  • Start on a Thursday or Friday.
  • Ease into work by starting part-time.
  • Start by working shorter days or fewer days per week.
  • Find support by talking to other mothers who work and breastfeed.

 Think also about your wardrobe. Regular pumping or breastfeeding at work helps prevent milk leakage. But it's wise to think ahead and have breast pads and an extra top available just in case. Also, plan to wear two-piece outfits to make pumping easy.

This is general information and does not replace the advice of your physician or healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away.

Every baby is different, and your baby may not be average.
If in doubt, contact your physician or other healthcare provider.

Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding Products
Coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers