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Going back to work and leaving your baby with a caregiver for the first time is stressful and worrisome for all moms. If you plan to have your caregiver give breastmilk to your baby, then it’s important to make sure they know your baby’s schedule and how to handle breastmilk. This not only includes daycares but nannies and grandparents as well. We suggest that you discuss a feeding plan with your caregiver so you know how they will handle your breastmilk and they know how they should feed your baby. Even if you are not working but do plan to leave your baby with a caregiver from time-to-time, it is still important that they know how to feed your baby breastmilk. Below are important topics to discuss with your baby’s caregiver about giving breastmilk.
Discuss with your caregiver how often and how much your baby should be fed. Typically, breastfed babies drink 1oz of breastmilk every hour, so if it has been 3 hours since the last feeding, the baby will drink about 3oz. This is important to discuss with your caregiver because many caregivers and grandparents are more familiar with babies drinking larger amounts of formula, or thinking that the baby is simply hungry when he or she cries. Without this understanding, the 12 ounces of breastmilk that you think will last for the next 9-10 hours may suddenly be gone before noon. This way your caregiver will know how much milk to expect your baby to drink.
Paced Bottle Feeding
Ensure that the caregiver knows about paced bottle-feeding; this is a method to prevent babies from being overfed and overwhelmed when feeding from a bottle. The baby is in a more upright position and the bottle is held horizontally just enough to keep milk in the tip, and the caregiver encourages the baby to pause during the feeding. Learn about paced bottle-feeding yourself and demonstrate to your caregiver how you want your baby fed.
Daycare Breastmilk Policies
If your caregiver is a daycare provider, then you need to find out what their policies are on handling breastmilk. Some daycares expect that you prepare the baby bottles ahead of time with breastmilk, instead of having them pour the milk in the bottle. Some daycares have policies on throwing out breastmilk after a certain amount of time after a bottle has been offered. Make sure that you understand what their policies are so you don’t wind up wasting breastmilk. If a daycare expects you to prepare the bottles, we encourage putting smaller amounts in the bottles to avoid waste. Give a combination of 3oz, 2oz, or even 1oz bottles of breastmilk, depending on how much and how often your baby eats. So if your baby typically takes a 3oz feeding in the morning, you can provide a 3oz bottle, but if you know later in the day your baby typically is not hungry enough for a full 3oz bottle of breastmilk then provide a 2oz and 1oz bottle for the afternoon and if the baby only wants to take 2oz, then you haven’t wasted the 1oz. It does require more work to prepare the bottles, but it prevents wasting breastmilk that can’t easily be replaced. It is also important that the caregiver knows how to handle breastmilk; for example breastmilk should not be shaken to reintegrate the fat, or overheated. Discuss with your caregiver how they handle breastmilk so you both understand what to expect.
It’s a good idea to have the caregiver write down the times and amounts the baby drinks. You can even make it easy for them by making a little sheet for them to fill out the times your baby was fed and how much they ate. This lets you know a little more about how your baby’s day went and makes it easier to see changes in your baby’s feeding habits over time. This also helps you know if you need to adjust the amounts of milk that you give to your caregiver.
Do a Trial Run
Before going back to work, try to arrange to have the caregiver watch the infant for a short time as a trial run. Or arrange to have your baby start at daycare a few days before you go back to work. This way you and your caregiver can make any adjustments needed to your feeding plan and reduce the worry moms have when they go back to work. If you start with your daycare on a Monday, plan to go back to work on a Wednesday. This way you have a few days to ensure everything is going well, and you and baby can both take time to adjust with a short workweek.
Once you and your caregiver discuss the feeding plan, it is helpful to document it so both of you can reference it. Communication between you and your caregiver is most important to ensure your baby is being fed and cared for as you expect. With a little planning you can leave your baby with a caregiver for work or time away with a little less stress. For more support and advice on breastfeeding and caregivers, attend our Healthy Horizons Back-to-Work Class or Breastfeeding Support Group.