Should I prepare my baby for the return to work?

Should I prepare my baby for the return to work?

When the time to return to work comes, fears and doubts begin to appear: Should I make a milk stash? How do I do it? How do they manage breastmilk when I am not there? Should I prepare my baby to accept a bottle?

Well, today, we would like to talk about these important concerns. Do we have to prepare babies so that they are ready when mothers return to (paid) work? Well, the answer is no. But we are sure you are wondering why, so today, we are going to explore why it is not necessary to “train” the baby before you go back to work.

The most frequent worries usually have to do with the idea of leaving everything under control, leaving instructions to the person who will take care of the baby, and our wish for the baby to suffer as little as possible.

Planning and organizing seem like a good idea, but there is a basic misconception. If we begin to prepare the baby weeks before we return to work by denying her some feeds at the breast and offering them pumped breastmilk in a bottle or any other method, we are anticipating the suffering of both of you. In addition, you will be using up pumped breastmilk that you will probably need more when you are back at work.

mum hugging her baby

I am not sure I understand. Isn’t it better to prepare them?

Let’s try to make a comparison: imagine you are enjoying a summer vacation in a wonderful environment, with all expenses included, relaxed, having a great time, and you have three weeks left to go back to work. And, of course, as the return to routine and work is not at all easy, you are going to prepare for it. 

Every day, to get ready, you get up early, and at 5 a.m., you take the car to the city, two hours to go and two hours on the way back. You get to your job, and you do a little work, a few hours, so as to prepare the mind for what is to come. When you finish, you take the car again and return to your wonderful summer paradise. And once again the next morning and so for three weeks so that when the day comes to return to work, you are well prepared. Would you be excited by this idea? Surely not. And then, why prepare babies? So why should you (and your baby) need to get through a hard time in advance?

Okay, but this is not the same situation. If I don’t prepare my baby, she won’t know how to eat!

This is a very normal and common fear. Separation is going to be a hard time for everyone: first for the baby, then for you as a mother, and finally for the caregiver. Facing this new situation requires time and patience. Bringing forward the moment when you are still together doesn’t seem too logical after all.

If you are still at home with your baby, enjoy this time. Let her nurse as often as she wants; the difficult moment of separation will come anyway.

And be sure then your baby will know how to eat when you are away. You will all find the way, no doubt.

But if my baby accepts milk in a bottle already, it’s better, right?

First of all, we are usually talking about bottles because this is the most common method chosen by families. But there are actually quite a few other methods of supplementation that babies are more likely to accept.

If your baby takes the bottle before you go, you will probably feel better, but accepting it once doesn’t mean your baby will do it the following times.

It may happen that the first time, your baby accepts the bottle out of curiosity. It is quite common for the first one to be taken, but in some cases, babies are less willing to accept it once they detect what we intend to do.

Most exclusively breastfed babies have serious problems accepting a bottle nipple: it makes them gag, they don’t know how to get the milk out, or they just cry desperately.

The fact that they accept the bottle the first time doesn’t guarantee that they want it the next time, and if they don’t want it the first time, you are going to suffer days and days before returning to work. Denying them feeds at the breast and struggling that your baby finally accepts a bottle will only make you both suffer.

But again, what is the need to anticipate these difficult moments?

But my baby’s caregiver is very nervous.

It’s natural because it’s a challenging situation. But remember that the main person affected is your baby. Explanations and attempts to plan the separation are of little use to your baby.

If the baby’s caregiver wants to do something to prepare the baby, what he or she can do is to prepare herself (or himself):

  • Observe the baby while she is with her mother, try recognize the hunger signs, and understand when she is tired
  • Get informed on the different methods of supplementing paced bottle feeding and prepare the different options.
  • Read, read, and read.

Like everything in life, every family and every baby is different, and we really don’t know how they are going to react to such a big change. It will take a lot of patience, accompanying their cries with arms, rhymes, songs, walks, and whatever works best for you. A good idea is to keep a piece of clothing used by the mother and leave it with the baby while the mother is away to help her get through those hours without her.

Do you have any other questions?

You can find more information about all things breastfeeding in our free app, LactApp, for iPhone or Android. In the contact section of the app, you can find an in-app consultation channel where our experts will answer your questions.

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