Mothers who are breastfeeding and need to leave their home may find it easier to take their baby with them than make alternative child-care arrangements. Many places can accommodate babies. Sometimes, however, mothers may have no choice. Before leaving their baby, mothers should consider making a plan.
1) Make a milk stash
Many mothers create a stash of frozen expressed breast milk for the baby for emergencies or for when they are away. This is good planning. If mothers don’t already have a stash, they will need to express enough milk ahead of time to cover the baby’s needs for when they are away.
When mothers and their babies are separated, it is best to express around the time the baby feeds instead of skipping a feed and not expressing. The milk brought home after the separation can be frozen and used the next time they are separated.
2) How to express when separated
Mothers who choose to express when separated need to decide whether to:
Some insurers will provide funds for breast pumps if prescribed by a health-care provider.
Mothers should know how to:
- Improve their expressed amounts if they are not expressing effectively.
- Increase their milk supply if it is reduced by extended separation.
Other considerations for expressing:
- Is there a clean, private space to express?
- Where can they wash their hands and their expression tools?
- Where can they store their milk?
- When can they express?
3) How to travel
Before travelling, mothers need to decide how to:
- Transport expression tools, such as pumps and storage containers
- Safely transport their milk
4) How to feed the baby when the mother is absent
The baby will need feeding when the mothers is away. Decisions must be made around:
- Which type of milk should be used?
- How to give milk to the baby?
- How much milk to give?
- Who will feed and care for the baby?
- Are the baby’s caregivers supportive of breastfeeding and breast milk feeding (Dieterich 2019; Gonzalez-Nahm 2017; Schafer 2020).
5) Do a trial run
Even the best plans can go sideways. For example, some may refuse their mothers’ expressed milk if it has acquired an odour. They may not like the taste or smell of infant formula. Other babies may be unable to use bottles.
Mothers should consider testing their plan with a trial run of separation. This is a situation in which the mother can quickly return to the baby if there is a problem during the separation.