Becoming a new mom is an exciting time, but can also be daunting as you make numerous decisions before the big arrival. Of course, one of these is breastfeeding! Advice comes from loved ones, doctors, strangers and, of course, Google. Ultimately however, you have to make the best decision for yourself and the new addition. With that, comes the need to understand the benefits of breastfeeding as well as how you can incorporate breastfeeding into your life so that… well, you still have one!
Health and emotional benefits
Breastfeeding is proven to provide many health benefits. In fact, benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first 6 months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that provide defense against illnesses and allergies. In pre-term babies, breastfeeding can not only reduce the risk of inflammation and infection in the tummy, but also protect them from infection. For full-term babies, it reduces the risk of stomach bugs, coughs and colds as well as middle-ear infections. Additionally, breast milk may also help children avoid a host of diseases that strike later in life such as eczema, diabetes and childhood leukaemia.
In addition to the nutritional advantages, breastfeeding also provides health and emotional benefits to you as it helps the womb return to its normal size, while reducing the risk of ovarian and breast cancer, as well as osteoporosis. From the emotional side, breastfeeding also helps you maintain the close relationship that you have built with your baby.
In fact, especially when you return to work, breastfeeding can help you deal with the separation emotionally as you continue to nurture and provide for your child as only you can. Mothers who are unhappy about being separated from their baby have found that continuing to breastfeed has helped them to cope better emotionally. Being separated from your baby for any length of time can be traumatic. In many cases, working moms experience separation anxiety when they first returned to work.
Getting back to ‘normal life’
Most mothers return to work simply because they feel they have to. Whether it is by choice or necessity, working mothers need any help they can get when trying to juggle work and being a full time mom. Some moms feel like they are pressured into breastfeeding and that their lives are on hold while this happens. The good news, though, is that there are options available today that ensure you can experience the true bond that breastfeeding offers while ‘sharing the responsibility’ with your spouse.
There are many ways in which breastfeeding can occur alongside going back to work. If there is a workplace crèche or some form of child care nearby, you could visit your baby during the day. If you cannot visit your baby during the day or bring him/her into work with you, there are products such as breast pumps that can allow you to express milk, milk storage containers that enable you to store your milk for up to 5 days and milk warmers keeping the milk at the right temperature when needed. This gives you the freedom you want without the guilt – while involving the dads in this important task.
Expressing for convenience
Expressing breast milk ensures your baby always gets the very best in nutritional feeding while giving you more flexibility. You may be going back to work, your partner might like to be more involved in feeding your little one, or you may just want to treat yourself to a long overdue rest – or night out. Additionally, there may be times when your breasts feel full and uncomfortable, but your baby isn’t ready to feed yet. That’s when using a pump can give you some relief. Later, once you’re up and running with breastfeeding, expressing can help to build your milk supply, along with your baby suckling. You’ll then have a store of milk handy for when you need it.
Expressing breast milk is really easy with practice, although it’s best to wait four to six weeks after the birth to let breastfeeding become established before you start – unless a healthcare professional recommends otherwise. However, just as breastfeeding is a skill that needs practice, so is expressing breast milk. It is worthwhile to practice at home before you actually go back to work. It is also a good idea to have a pump so that you can store up some milk before you go back to work so that you have supplies on hand before you start working – just in case.
How often you should pump also depends on a few factors. Do you intend to pump enough during the day for the baby to have exclusive breast milk the following day? If you want your baby to drink breast milk alone then it is a good idea to empty your breasts about as often as your baby feeds. However if you can’t pump as often as your baby feeds, you shouldn’t stop nursing altogether. Some workplaces are just not conducive to pumping. This doesn’t automatically mean that you your milk will dry up. Pumping just once a day will give you some stimulation, stop you from becoming engorged, and help maintain your supply.
Arm yourself with info
Bringing a child into this world is certainly an exciting time, but it can also be daunting. Arming yourself with as much information as possible is critical at every point – including breastfeeding. A lack of information can lead to misguided views and choices – so never be too scared to ask! Equip yourself with the knowledge and know-how when it comes to breastfeeding, as well as the benefits and options that are available so that you can make the best decision for you and your family.