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Making It Work

Tips for Single, Employed Mothers

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 6, November-December 2004, pp. 231-33

"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 life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.


I’m about to be a single mother, so not returning to work isn’t an option for me. I have no family near me, so I will be parenting pretty much on my own, with only a few friends to help me. Are there any other single, working mothers out there? My biggest concern is finding the right situation for my baby while I am at work, especially as I have no family to watch my baby. What are some good interview questions and what sort of things do I look for when I visit a day care provider? I absolutely will be breastfeeding, so how can I insure that my day care provider will respect that relationship and also feed my baby my milk?


Like any other challenge within a breastfeeding relationship, surrounding yourself with a good support system is essential—and you have taken the first step by reaching out to those within La Leche League! You have also identified some of the specific aspects of your challenge—maintaining your breastfeeding relationship while recognizing the needs of your baby as well as your financial needs. Having a child care provider who shares these same values will help both of you to remain sensitive to the needs of your baby. As you talk with potential child care providers, some of the topics you may wish to address might include:

  1. Providers’ breastfeeding background—personal or in other child care situations.
  2. Knowledge of current breastfeeding practices, including use of pumped and stored milk.
  3. Comforting techniques used with other children currently in her care or for whom she has cared in the past.
  4. Ability to either bring your baby to you or have you come to your baby as quickly as possible for direct breastfeeding as well as for emergency care situations.

Local governmental agencies might provide checklists that address more general safety and health issues which you may also wish to discuss with any potential day care provider.

You may find that speaking with your employer provides you with other options. Some mothers have found that employers are willing to provide flexible hours, change lengths of breaks or lunches, or provide additional options that allow mothers to connect with and feed their babies during the work day. Another option that might be available is for you to work fewer days, or to work from home at times. Providing your employer with information on the many health and emotional benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby, and for the employer, may assist you to discuss such possibilities further. Be certain, also, to utilize the resources of your local La Leche League Group. Brainstorming with a Leader, or further discussion with the Group during a question and answer time, might yield additional helpful ideas specific to your situation and location.

Even in the hours that you are separated from your baby, you remain a mother as well as your baby’s advocate! As a breastfeeding mother you can provide something for your baby in a way no one else can. Not only will you be providing your baby with the ultimate nutrition, but breastfeeding will benefit both of you emotionally, helping you maintain the closeness you desire. It sounds as though you are well on your way to making a plan that will help you through this very difficult situation.

Meg Sondey
Torreon Coahuila Mexico


I am also a single working mother. I went back to work when my son, Aidan, was only four months old. I nurse him every day during my lunch, which has really helped me deal with the pain that I have had to deal with in leaving him every day. It was very hard finding a child care provider to meet all of my needs. Therefore, my best suggestion is to start early.

Find out if your community has a child care resource and referral agency. If so, they will be able to provide you with listings for licensed day care centers and homes in your area as well as provide you with a guide of what to look for in choosing a child care provider.

When you contact potential day care providers, let them know you will be breastfeeding and how important it is to you. Make sure to ask them how they feel about breastfeeding and how they feel about you coming during your lunch to nurse (if that is what you would like). I found that this question eliminated many providers. I was surprised at how many of them said that, for one reason or another, they would not be able to accommodate my request.

Amber Myers
Anaheim CA USA


Finding a day care provider who respected my choice to breastfeed was very important to me. When interviewing, I asked each provider if they schedule feedings because I wanted my daughter fed according to her hunger cues and schedule. I also mentioned that i would like to come and breastfeed during my lunch hour, even if they were not close enough for me to do that. I wanted a provider who was open to my requests.

When I went back for a follow-up visit at my preferred provider’s house, I brought my daughter with. When she started to fuss, I asked if she minded that I nurse her. This situation gave me a lot of information about my provider. I also asked my provider how she handled fussy babies and her thoughts on letting babies cry (letting babies cry it out as opposed to holding and comforting them as they cry). My daughter was colicky, so this was an important issue to me, as I did not want her to be crying all day.

Once you choose a day care provider, take the time to write up a few notes on your child’s feeding and sleeping habits. I included information on how to handle human milk and how my daughter liked to be burped, swaddled, and soothed. I also label each bottle so the day care provider is sure to use the oldest milk first. She thanked me for the notes, especially the ones about handling human milk. (She had breastfed her boys almost 20 years ago and was not aware of some of the new findings!) My last piece of advice is to trust your instincts! Finding a day care provider is a daunting task and finding one who supports breastfeeding can be a little challenging but patience and perseverance will pay off.

Penny Kim
Orange CA USA


I am a single mother who had very few resources nearby when my daughter was born. I returned to work on a part-time basis when my daughter was about one month old and was back to full time when she was four months old. When you start interviewing potential day care providers, be sure to ask how she feels about breastfeeding: her thoughts on feeding your child only your milk in the early months and if she has breastfed children.

Other topics you’ll probably want to discuss include her thoughts on discipline, watching television, nap times, and age-appropriate activities. Also ask about previous experience including the ages of children she has cared for.

Talk to as many references as you can or at least enough to make you feel comfortable that you have honest responses. Some questions to ask of people given as references include:

  • How old were your children during the provider’s care?
  • Did you breastfeed your child? Were there any problems?
  • How long did she care for your child?
  • Did more than one of your children go to this provider?
  • If you needed a day care provider again, would you use this one?

As you go through the interview process, be aware of your feelings about the day care provider. Does she make you feel comfortable? Do you like the way she interacts with your child? How does your child react to her? I found that, even at an early age, my daughter could distinguish between those she was comfortable with and those that she was not.

Lastly, be sure to invest in a good breast pump. It will more than pay for itself with the speed and ease of expressing milk while you are at work, especially if you plan to use it for a while. I found that as long as I had a sufficient supply of my milk for the day care provider to use, she was not tempted to use anything else. My daughter will be turning four in September. I expressed milk for more than a year after she was born.

Breastfeeding can be so rewarding, especially at the end of the work day. When I would pick up my daughter from day care, I almost always nursed her before we left the day care provider’s home. It was a wonderful way for us to reconnect and relax at the end of the day.

Pamela A. Lemme
Royal Oak MI USA


It might help you to imagine what sort of day you would like your baby to have while you are at work. While it’s true that complete control is not possible, envisioning it in your head may help you look for clues in the environment when you visit. You mention you have a few friends willing to help you. Do any of them have similar parenting values to your own? Could any of them help you find a solution? If so, you may want to ask them to do some pre-screening with you. Have questions written down that are important to you. Asking for past experiences will also give you an idea of her attitude toward caring for breastfed babies.

Many mothers who work find it is easier to have the baby close to work rather than close to home. This makes it possible to nurse the baby an extra time at the babysitter’s house right before work and then again upon picking up the baby before returning home. This makes the time without mother shorter and reduces the number of feedings you will have to provide by pumping. If you’re close, you may even be able to nurse the baby during your lunch break.

You do not say how long you will be able to take off from work after your baby is born. Some really creative thinking is in order here. It may seem at first that taking time off is not possible. Anywhere you can cut back to make extra weeks at home possible will be very helpful. Working part time or from home are options to explore. Perhaps your employer would allow you to bring your baby with you to work for some number of weeks. This is not a common solution, but it has worked really well for some.

Keep in mind that your baby will be growing and changing very rapidly so the time you manage to have with her in the first few months will be worth a lot to both of you. If there are friends and family (even distant ones) who want to do something for the baby, you could suggest that contributing to the fund to help you stay home a bit longer would be more appreciated than new baby things. If your friends are aware of it, perhaps they could encourage this kind of giving instead of a baby gift registry at a shower.

Krisula Moyer
Huntington Beach CA USA

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