Whether you’re planning on returning to work and need to prepare for having your little one at daycare or just need a sitter for the night, it’s important to have a plan in place for feeding baby when you’re not there. Unfortunately, not all childcare providers are up to speed on proper techniques for storing, handling, and feeding breast milk. Even if your sitter or daycare manager has lots of experience with children, make sure that you very clearly communicate what you and your little one’s needs and preferences are – after all, you’re the mom and only you can decide what’s best for your baby.
Prepare a schedule that allows your baby’s feedings while you’re away to fit in with your feedings at home. For example, if you will pick up your little one at 5 p.m., instruct your childcare provider not to feed your baby for 1 to 2 hours before you arrive. This ensures that when you get home, your baby will be ready to nurse (if you feed at the breast) or snuggle and share a feeding with you (if you exclusively pump).
Inquire about breastfeeding on site, if it’s a possibility for you. Many daycares encourage moms to nurse before leaving in the morning, over their lunch break, and when they pick up their baby from the program. Not only can this help your little one feel more secure in a new and different environment, but it can help maintain your supply and allows you to spend as much time as possible with your baby.
Ask questions about policies and practices involving breast milk feeding, cleaning, and storage. Here are some questions to start with:
- Does the daycare utilize a bottle-warmer? Are all staff members trained to never use a microwave to warm bottles?
- How are bottles, nipples, and cups cleaned?
- How often are dates and times on labeled bottles checked? Is there a system for organizing and storing breast milk on site?
- Can freezer storage be arranged so you can provide frozen milk for 1-2 additional feedings?
Plan for storage to and from daycare in addition to safe storage at the location your little one will be staying and playing at. Transporting breast milk in a cooler bag with ice packs can help keep it at a safe temperature until you arrive. Storing milk in portions that are enough for one feeding can simplify things, plus some daycares cannot handle or transfer breast milk and require you to bottle your own milk. You’ll also need to label your breast milk containers or bottles with your baby’s name and the date that the milk was expressed.
If you receive any questions or criticism on your decision to continue breastfeeding, you may also wish to share the many benefits of breastfeeding. Your childcare provider can be an important member of your support team and help you find success in your breastfeeding goals.