The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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When Jo Anderson became pregnant, she knew she wanted to breastfeed her baby for as long as possible, even after she went back to work. But when she returned to her job as a public-relations executive in San Diego, she found that continuing to breastfeed was more difficult than she had anticipated. “Finding the time to pump was hard,” says the 37-year-old Anderson. “Even though my employer was understanding and supportive, my job is pretty demanding, and it was tough to get away several times a day for the 20 or so minutes it took to pump.” But Anderson’s work didn’t end there. “When I got home at the end of the day,” she says, “the last thing I wanted to do was wash and sterilize the pump and bottles and then get my milk ready for the next day.”
Yes, continuing to breastfeed once you’ve returned to work takes commitment, but it’s worth the effort. Not only does it allow you to meet your baby’s nutritional needs in the best possible way, but it also helps make long separations more bearable because you know that you’re giving him a special gift several times a day. “Sure, pumping was inconvenient at times,” Anderson says, “but I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”
Following are answers to some of the questions you may have about pumping and tips to help you make your return to work as smooth as possible.
I really want to breastfeed, but is it worth the hassle once I return to work?
As Anderson points out, continuing to breastfeed once you’ve returned to work can add time and work to your day, but the benefits to your baby are endless. Short-term perks include fewer ear infections and respiratory illnesses and less diarrhea. Longer-term benefits include a reduced risk for asthma, allergies, childhood obesity, diabetes and some childhood cancers, according to Marsha Walker, R.N., I.B.C.L.C., a lactation consultant in Weston, Mass., and former president of the International Lactation Consultant Association.
I know I need a good breast pump. Should I buy or rent one?
You may be able to rent a hospital-grade pump from a birthing center or hospital for about $1 to $3 a day, but if you plan to continue nursing for several months (and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding your baby for at least the first year), in the long run, it may be less expensive to buy. Whether you choose to rent or buy, consider getting a double pump (one that can pump both breasts simultaneously).
When should I start pumping?
For the first 10 days to three weeks after your baby is born, your life will revolve around nursing. “This is the crucial time for establishing an adequate milk supply,” Walker says. For this reason, breastfeeding experts recommend against using pacifiers, bottles or formula until breastfeeding is going smoothly for you and your baby. After those first three or so weeks, try to pump daily after the first morning feeding. You can either store your milk in the freezer for when you return to work or, when your baby is a bit older, your partner or other family members can give the baby breast milk from a bottle.