Having a baby is exciting (and sometimes nerve-wracking), and you can’t imagine your life before your baby arrived. While you likely want to spend every waking moment with your new arrival, there may be times when you need or want to go out without your baby and wonder how you can do that when you are breastfeeding. You may also be returning to work and may wonder how to coordinate and balance breastfeeding and pumping. Fear not, we have some tips and guidance for you!
It is important to mention that you shouldn’t be pressured to leave your baby if you are not ready. Babies are very mobile and if you are breastfeeding, you don’t have to bring a lot of accessories with you—one of the many benefits! But if you do decide to leave baby at home, being prepared to ensure baby is taken care of while you are apart can be reassuring.
Breastmilk production works on the premise of “supply and demand,” and baby is generally best at teaching your body how much milk to make based on how much they drink. When you pump, you are tricking your body into thinking your baby is there, so then your body responds in a way that’s similar to when the baby is nursing. This helps with the supply and demand process. Plus, pumping when you and baby are apart will help keep you from becoming swollen or engorged as your body continues producing milk.
When you are together, it’s important to breastfeed on demand, meaning that you feed your baby according to their feeding cues and not stringently on a schedule, especially in the early days and weeks. This helps establish your supply.
When you and baby are apart, it is important for your body to get regular stimulation, so it’s essential to pump on a schedule. This will enable you to keep your supply. Don’t skip a pumping session or your body will think it doesn’t have to make as much milk.
There are many ways to incorporate pumping into your routine—whether you’re preparing to return to work, or preparing to leave your little one alone with dad or a sitter for the first time—and ensure that your baby is at the breast often when you are together:
• Pumping after nursing will remove any milk your baby did not remove from the breast.
• Single pump when baby is nursing from the other breast to take advantage of the natural let-down baby triggers.
• Pump from both breasts regardless of whether your baby has nursed from both breasts, one breast, or one and half breasts. A double electric pump may be best for this job.
• When you start pumping, you may not get a lot of milk at first because your body is so used to how baby nurses at the breast and needs to adjust. Be patient.
• Remember that it is not just about the milk you are getting out, it is the stimulation that keeps signaling to your body to keep making milk.
• Pumping when baby is asleep in between feedings can be helpful especially for storing milk. Baby is generally the best at removing milk, so don’t worry that you won’t have enough if you are pumping and baby wants to nurse.
If you are returning to work, it’s important to prepare as much as possible ahead of time to figure out how best to balance breastfeeding and pumping and have some frozen milk stored. It’s always better to have more milk stored in case you are running late or if you encounter delays while apart from baby. Store breastmilk in smaller increments as thawed milk cannot be refrozen, and milk that has been partially consumed needs to be discarded after an hour or so if baby has not finished it.
Being apart from your baby can be difficult but it can be reassuring to know that you are leaving a part of yourself in your milk. When you are together, feed your baby as much as you can and get in skin-to-skin contact to reconnect. It’s all about a balance and what you can do to ensure that you and your baby can have the breastfeeding relationship you desire.
Gina Cicatelli Ciagne, CLC, is the Global VP, Healthcare Relations, Lansinoh Laboratories, Inc.