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Nursing After You Return to Work

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Erin Patrice O'Brien

After hiring a caregiver for your baby, the toughest decision many working moms face is whether to wean or continue breastfeeding. To nurse while working outside the home, you'll need to feed your baby immediately before and after work, and, if you decide to nurse exclusively, you'll have to express milk on the job and then transport it home. You'll need a powerful electric breast pump (those that can be used on both breasts at one time are, obviously, the most time efficient), a portable freezer pack or access to a refrigerator at work, and clothing that conveniently and quickly buttons down the front or lifts at the waist.

Despite what sounds like a lot of inconvenience, pumping has many advantages. Not only will you be able to keep giving your baby all the benefits of breast milk, including a decreased risk of allergy and illness, but nursing will also provide some valuable skin-to-skin contact and emotional closeness that you'll both appreciate as you spend more and more time apart.

If you decide to continue nursing, both you and your baby need to prepare for the separation ahead of time. Once your milk supply is well established-usually after about six weeks-have your husband feed the baby an occasional bottle filled with breast milk or formula. (Offering a bottle earlier than 3 weeks may lead to nipple confusion and interfere with milk production; if you wait too long, however, the baby may become so attached to your breast that he will refuse the bottle.) It's not a good idea to bottle-feed the baby yourself at first, since he's accustomed to nursing at your breast and may become confused.

While your husband is feeding the baby, practice expressing milk in another room, using either a pump or your hand. To do so by hand, gently massage your breasts first to stimulate letdown, and switch to the other breast as soon as the milk flow slows. Afterward, freeze the milk so you'll have an emergency supply. Do this several times before you go back to work. Breast milk can be refrigerated for 48 hours, or frozen in a conventional freezer for up to two months. It's important to remember, however, that you should never warm frozen or refrigerated breast milk in a microwave-this reduces its infection-fighting properties.

If you decide on weaning instead, start several weeks before you're expected at work. Sudden weaning can be traumatic for a baby (especially when coupled with separation) and can cause engorged breasts, clogged ducts, and infection for you. Have your husband (or someone else) introduce a bottle filled with breast milk, formula, or water, and give the baby a chance to become used to it.

Begin by replacing one breastfeeding a day with a formula feeding, and wait a week until your breasts and your baby have adjusted. It'll be easiest if you start with a feeding that the baby is least likely to miss, such as one at midday. Then drop another feeding and wait a week for your child-and yourself-to adjust.

Even if you're working full-time and decide to wean your baby of her daytime feedings, you may want to continue to breastfeed when you're at home in the mornings and evenings. This way, you won't have to bother to express milk during the workday, and both of you can still enjoy some of the intimate benefits that breastfeeding brings.

Having Fun With Baby's Development

What can he see?
By the end of this month, your baby should be able to focus clearly on your face. To check his vision's progress, hold a finger 8 to 10 inches from his eyes; move it 12 inches to the right, then 12 inches to the left. He should track it about 180 degrees, a vast improvement over the 6-inch side-range he had as a newborn.