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Making It Work

Breastfeeding When a Working Mother Travels

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 11 No. 4, July-August 1994, pp. 119-20

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

I am not a flight attendant but my job does require periodic and occasionally extensive travel. How can I maintain a breastfeeding relationship with so many interruptions? Have other mothers faced this situation?

Response

Because I think of breastfeeding as more than just a method of feeding a baby, but also an emotional and intellectual bonding, I am more committed to making it work despite the challenges presented by my work schedule. I had to return to work when my son was two months old. I realize now that he was a high-need baby. I nursed on demand whenever I was home, including throughout the night. I pumped my milk before going to work in the morning, again at lunchtime, and anytime in the evening that I could find time. This provided enough milk to eliminate the need for formula when I was gone. When I returned home we snuggled and nursed frequently. Carrying him around in a backpack and taking him with me almost everywhere I went when I wasn't working helped preserve the emotional dimension to our nursing relationship. I believe that this also helped to minimize his attachment to "things" like bottles, stuffed animals, and blankets as a substitute for me. You might also consider bringing your baby into your bed if your baby likes to nurse at night. This helps to keep up your milk supply and maintain a high level of prolactin. It also helps everyone to get as much sleep as possible.

I wish you well and commend you for taking your commitment to breastfeeding so seriously.

Robyn Gunderson
Auburn WA USA

Response

During the nine months that I breastfed my baby, I maintained a position as an associate attorney. This required several day trips which involved air travel. I always took my breast pump (an electric Medela pump) along so I could pump whenever I had the chance. A woman traveling with a breast pump should remember to bring along the instruction booklet to help the sometimes suspicious airport personnel understand what this "machine" is that has set off the metal detectors! It is much easier to have the literature handy than to try to explain on your own. Another benefit is that the instruction booklet is often printed in more than one language. This is especially helpful if you don't happen to speak the language of the country that you're traveling in.

Jane Ferrall
Upper Montclair NJ USA

Response

Do you want to maintain a milk supply for when you're back at home again, or do you want to ensure that your baby receives nothing but breast milk while you're gone? The longer you exclusively breastfed, the longer you can maintain your milk supply, whether it be on a full-time or part-time nursing basis.

It usually takes three to four weeks to establish a milk supply for a normal, healthy, full-term baby who is exclusively breastfed. After that, if you can pump two or three times a day, you can usually avoid the use of artificial feeding products entirely. If you choose not to pump while you're at work, you can probably maintain an adequate part-time supply. Individual results vary from woman to woman, but the longer you nurse your baby full-time, the longer you'll be able to nurse part-time.

As to the question of travel, some flight attendants have been able to successfully breastfeed because many are gone only about half of the month and they're home the other half. Many must discard their milk after it's pumped because there's no way to store it safely, but at least by pumping while they're away, they have milk when they're home.

There's a story about a mother away on business who made arrangements with her hotel restaurant to use their freezers for storing milk. She then bought a block of dry ice and brought the milk home with her. Another woman sent her milk home by next day-air when she had to be away for several days. If you choose to try this, get accurate information on the how-to's of proper breast milk storage.

There are breast pump rental stations all over the world, and the leading pump companies can supply pumps that are compatible with local voltage requirements.

Robin Carter, RN, BSN, IBCLC
Charlotte NC USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
Page last edited .


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