Balancing Life With Breastfeeding

A mother holding a sleeping baby while she works on her computer

Balancing life with breastfeeding may have its challenges, but having early access to resources offer the needed support and guidance. 

Having a new baby and learning to breastfeed takes time, so it is important for new mothers to take care of themselves. Try to listen to your body so that you can tell when stress is affecting your health.

Take these steps to help make breastfeeding go smoother:

  • Relax. Find a quiet, comfortable, relaxing place to nurse.
  • Rest well. Nap when your baby naps.
  • Surround yourself with supportive people. (It is okay to say no and protect yourself from those who are not supportive. While it might be difficult, reach out to those you trust and let them know what you need.)
  • Exercise. Physical activity improves your mood.
  • Get some sunshine. Take your baby out for a stroll when the weather is nice.
  • Take a shower every day.
  • Check-in often with your lactation consultant for proactive support.

Other self-care tips

Of course, we recognize that it is not always easy to have time for this self-care. Everyone will tell you to nap when your baby naps. This can be hard for some women to do, especially if they have a million things running through their minds worrying about everything that needs to be done. Try to let these things go, so you can truly get your rest. It is important. Don’t stress it if you can. If you need some moral support, you can always reach out to your lactation consultant for advice and guidance.

Breastfeeding in Public

Breastfeeding is easy to do anywhere or anytime. If you choose to breastfeed in public, here are some tips you can follow:

  • Wear clothes that allow easy access to your breasts, such as tops that pull up from the waist or button-down.
  • Use a special breastfeeding blanket around your shoulders if desired.
  • Breastfeed in a women’s lounge or dressing room in stores.

Some women may prefer to nurse discreetly. If you do not want your breasts to show in public, try using the cradle position or put a shawl or receiving blanket over your shoulder to cover your breast. Or, you might want to pump your milk and give it to your baby by the bottle when in public places. Your comfort is important.

Remember a woman has the right to breastfeed anywhere she has the right to be. The federal government and all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming).

You can see the laws in your state at the National Conference of State Legislatures website at www.ncsl.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx.

To get tips and gain confidence about breastfeeding in public, feel free to contact us and make an appointment with one of our board-certified lactation consultants. You have the right to breastfeed whereever you may be.

Supplementation

Supplementation means giving your baby expressed human milk or baby formula in addition to breastfeeding. Formula supplementation is rarely medically necessary, especially when it has been determined that your own or banked human milk is available. 

If you have to supplement, the World Health Organization recommends supplementing with the mother’s own expressed milk, milk from a milk bank, or milk from another mother. During the first few days, a feeding is equal to the size of a tablespoon, and you can usually express some milk using hand expression and supplement your baby this way. If you are at a hospital, asking for donor milk is an option.

Supplementing should only be considered after consulting with your healthcare provider and your baby’s doctor. Giving your baby formula may cause him or her to not want as much breast milk. This will decrease your milk supply.

If you feel that your baby has a need for formula supplementation (or your baby’s provider has suggested or recommended it) and you wish to continue breastfeeding, contact a certified lactation consultant for guidance. A good lactation consultant can assess the need for supplementation and guide you in the use of supplements to support your own breastfeeding goals.

Pumping and Storing Breast Milk

After the first few weeks of breastfeeding, when you and your baby get used to nursing and your milk supply is well established, you can start pumping your breastmilk. Pumping allows you to continue to feed your baby breast milk through a bottle.

Pumping Your Breast Milk

Before you start

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. 
  • Make sure the area where you are expressing and your pump parts and bottles are clean.

If you need help getting your milk to flow, you can

  • Think about your baby. Bring a photo or piece of clothing that has your baby’s scent on it.
  • Apply a warm, moist compress to your breasts.
  • Massage your breasts gently in a cricular motion.
  • Rub your nipples gently in a circular motion.
  • Imagine the milk flowing down.
  • Sit quietly and think of a relaxing setting.
  • Make sure you are in a secure place.
  • Make sure the room is not too cold.
  • Have a beverage and a snack before pumping.
  • Watch or read something about breastfeeding.

How To Pump

You can express your milk either with your hand or with a manual or electric breast pump.

Hand Expressing. You use your hand to massage and compress your breast to remove milk. If you use your hand it requires practice, skill, and coordination. It gets easier with practice and can be as fast as pumping. This is always a good option if you are seldom away from your baby or if you need an option that is always with you. Actually, all moms should learn how to hand express. Watch this video from Stanford to learn how.

Manual Pump. You use your hand and wrist to operate a hand-held device to pump the milk. It requires practice, skill, and coordination as well. It is useful for occasional pumping if you are away from your baby only once in a while. We usually recommend the Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump, which can cost $17 to $24. 

Electric Breast Pump. This pump runs on a battery or plugs into an electrical outlet. It can be easier to use for some moms, and you can either pump one breast at a time or both breasts at the same time. Double pumping may collect more milk in less time, which is helpful if you are going back to work or school full-time. You will need to clean the equipment with soap and water and let it air dry between uses to keep germs from getting into the milk. This type of pump can cost anywhere from $150 to more than $250.

You can rent an electric pump from a lactation consultant at a local hospital or from a breastfeeding organization. This type of pump works well for creating a milk supply when a new baby can’t feed at the breast. Mothers who struggled with other expression methods may find that these pumps work well for them.

Under the Affordable Care Act, your health insurance plan must cover the cost of a breast pump. You may be offered a rental or a new one for you to keep. Your plan may provide guidance on whether the covered pump is manual or electric, how long the coverage of a rented pump lasts, and when they’ll provide the pump.

Check out www.HealthCare.gov to learn more about your breastfeeding benefits and talk to your insurance company to learn their specific policies on breast pumps.

After each pumping

  • Label the date on the storage container, and put your child’s name on it as well, especially if you are taking your child to daycare.
  • Gently swirl (don’t shake) the container to mix the cream part of the breast milk that may rise to the top back into the rest of the milk.
  • Refrigerate or chill milk right after it is expressed. You can put it in the refrigerator, place it in a cooler or insulated cooler pack, or freeze it in small (2 to 4 ounce) batches for later feedings.

Tips for Freezing Breast Milk

  • Wait to tighten bottle caps or lids until the milk is completely frozen.
  • Don’t fill milk to the top of the container–leave an inch or so at the top–because the container will expand when freezing.
  • Store milk in the back of the freezer and not on a shelf in the freezer door.

Tips for Thawing and Warming Up Milk

  • Use the oldest stored milk first.
  • Thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator overnight. 
  • Warm-up milk when ready to use. Place the container in warm water and swirl the container around in the water.
  • Test the temperature before feeding your baby. Put a few drops on your wrist. It should be warm to the touch, not hot. 
  • Don’t use hot water to thaw the milk, as the milk could get too hot and burn your baby’s mouth.
  • Don’t warm up milk in a microwave, as it can damage valuable proteins in the milk.
  • Use thawed breastmilk within 24 hours. Do not refreeze thawed breastmilk.

Feeding Your Baby Expressed Breast Milk

When feeding your baby expressed breast milk, it may look blue, yellow, or brown. Stored breast milk can vary in color. It is also normal for the fatty part of the milk to separate and rise to the top of the container. Gently swirl the bottle or sealed bag and the fat should go back into the milk. If it doesn’t, the milk may be bad. You can always taste it to make sure. If it tastes sour, it is not good to feed it to your baby and needs to be thrown away.

FAQs

Many women start to pump breast milk when they decide to return to work after maternity leave. Others may start when they need someone else to help feed the baby. Whatever the reason for starting, you should practice 1 or 2 weeks in advance to learn how to use your pump. You can pump right after your baby eats or between feedings. You may even pump one breast while you feed your baby from the other.

This advanced planning gives you time to build up a collection of breast milk and store it for your baby’s later feedings.

Pumping breast milk takes about the same time as it does to breastfeed, which is generally about 10 to 15 minutes.

At first, you may not get much milk, but this will change as you continue to pump regularly. The more you pump the more milk your breasts will make. 

The best way to increase your milk supply is to breastfeed or pump more often. This will really work to your advantage when your baby goes through growth spurts at 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months of age–when your baby needs more milk during these growth spurts.

Breast milk can be stored in a clean glass or hard BPA-free plastic bottles with tight-fitting lids. Or you can use sterile, sealable, milk storage bags (don’t use disposable bottle liners or other plastic bags to store breast milk). If your baby eats 4 ounces in a feeding, put 4 ounces of breast milk in the storage container and put a date on the container so you know how long it will last. Storing it in premeasured amounts will help avoid any waste of breast milk.

Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator (39 degrees Fahrenheit or colder) for up to 3 days or 5 days for very clean expressed milk. It can be stored in the back of a freezer (0 degrees Fahrenheit or colder) up to 3 to 6 months or up to 9 months for very clean expressed milk. And it can be stored in the back of a deep freezer (-4 degrees Fahrenheit or colder) for up to 6 months or up to 12 months for very clean expressed milk.

If your breast milk is stored in a cooler with ice packs, it can last up to 24 hours. If it is at room temperature (less than 77 degrees Fahrenheit), it can last up to 4 hours or up to 6 to 8 hours for very clean expressed milk. Throw out any leftover milk within 1 to 2 hours after the baby is finished feeding.

All breast pump parts that come in contact with breast milk, such as bottles, valves, and breast shields, should be cleaned after each use. Sterilization is not necessary to keep breast pump parts safe and sanitary.

If you’d like to add your most recently pumped fresh milk to a bottle of already refrigerated milk pumped on the same day, you need to cool it down first. Place the fresh breast milk into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour. Then, once it is cool, you can add it to the other container of refrigerated milk.

If after feeding your baby, you have half or a quarter of it left, put it in the fridge and offer it again at the next feeding. Don’t keep it beyond that point, as used breast milk can become contaminated since bacteria from the baby’s mouth can get into the bottle while your baby sucks.

Return-to-Work After Maternity Leave

Planning ahead for your return to work after material leave can help ease the transition. With proper planning, you can continue to enjoy breastfeeding your baby long after your maternity leave is over.

Here are some planning tips you can follow to ensure a smooth transition:

During Maternity Leave

  • Practice expressing your milk by hand or with a breast pump, and store the pumped milk in the freezer before you start back to work so there will be plenty of stored milk that can be fed to your baby.
  • Help your baby adjust to taking breastmilk from a bottle. Start giving your baby a bottle a few weeks before you return to work.
  • Talk to your family and friends and let them know your desire to continue breastfeeding. Let them know that you may still need their support.
  • Consider returning to work (or school) in the middle of the week rather than on Monday. This will give you time to adjust to the routine and to be together with your baby after only a few days.
  • Know your rights.

Back at Work 

  • Nurse your baby right before you leave for work.
  • Talk to your supervisor and let him/her know that you plan to use your regular breaks and lunch breaks to pump and/or breastfeed your baby if your childcare provider is closeby. For any overages of time, you can offer to come in early or stay late to make up the time to express milk. 
  • Talk to your childcare provider and see if you can visit to breastfeed during lunch.
  • When you arrive to pick up your baby from childcare, take time to breastfeed before going home and returning to other family responsibilities. If not possible, nurse your baby as soon as you get home.
  • Find a private place to express milk. Work with your supervisor to find a private, secure place that has an electrical outlet for using an electric pump. The Affordable Care Act (the health care law) supports work-based efforts to assist nursing mothers. Employers are required to provide reasonable break times in a private place (other than an unsanitary bathroom) for nursing women to express milk while at work. (Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not required to comply if it would cause the company financial strains.)
  • Talk to your supervisor about the best place to store your expressed milk. If you work in a medical facility, do not store your breast milk in the same refrigerators where medical specimens are kept. Be sure to label the container with your name and the date you expressed milk.

While At Work

  • Try to pump as often as your baby usually feeds. This may be every 3 to 4 hours for 15 minutes each time.
  • Give your baby extra feedings when you are together to help keep up your milk supply.
  • Pump right after your baby feeds to help your breasts make more milk.
  • Store your pumped breast milk in a refrigerator or cooler with ice as soon as possible. 
  • Freeze the milk if you aren’t going to use it right away.

Prenatal Planning for Breastfeeding from Nest Collaborative

If you are looking for help with balancing life while breastfeeding, our lactation consultants at Nest Collaborative can help. Our expert team provides lactation support for prenatal and postpartum moms, during any stage from beginning to end. Book an appointment today with one of our lactation consultants.

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Resource

  1. Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Clinical Protocol #8: Human Milk Storage Information for Home Use for Full-Term Infants. Breastfeeding Medicine (2017); 12(7): 390-395.