Baby ProblemsBottle FeedingPumpingWorking Pumping Mama

Daycare and You: Working Together to Maintain Milk

Photo credit for featured image: Angie Gray

Many new mothers worry if they will be able to keep up with their baby’s demand after returning to work: Will pumping be as effective as nursing? Will my baby need more milk than I can produce as he gets older? Maybe you have heard your colleagues or relatives tell stories of how they lost their milk after going back to work and how their babies stopped nursing sooner than expected and you are scared that the same thing could happen to you.

In general, moms should not have much problem keeping up with baby’s needs while pumping at work if they are following the Pumpin’ Mama’s Blueprint, getting in the appropriate number of pumps per day, eating well, and following the steps to boost a decrease in milk supply if necessary. In many cases, moms feel they aren’t able to keep up because of the way their breastfed babies are fed while apart from mom.

You need to be able to trust that your childcare provider will follow your instructions when it comes to how your child is to be fed. Remember that your provider works for you and that you are the one in charge of what and how your baby eats.

It is important to tell your child care provider about how breastfed babies eat differently from formula-fed babies. Remember these guidelines and give them to your provider when your child begins attending daycare.

Breastfeeding is a very important part of your baby’s life and the way that your baby is fed impacts your breastfeeding relationship. Your baby isn’t used to drinking from a bottle, and that is okay. There are a number of ways a breastfed baby is different from a formula-fed baby:

  1. Breastfed babies eat less volume than formula-fed babies. 
    A breastfed baby eats 24-30 ounces in 24 hours, or about one ounce per hour. This number changes very little in a baby’s life. Don’t expect significant changes in the size of baby’s bottles as he gets older. When estimating the size of his bottles for the day, it depends on how much he nurses at home with you. You will estimate how much expressed milk to give your daycare provider by dividing 24 ounces by the number of feedings he has in a 24-hour period. Don’t be surprised if your baby eats less volume than formula-fed babies or even other breastfed babies. He is an individual and shouldn’t be compared to any other babies.
  2. Breastfed babies eat more frequently than formula-fed babies. Breastfed babies continue to eat every two to three hours during the day for most of their first year. Breastmilk is so easily digested that they are able to process it fairly quickly and be hungry again with a few hours. Formula is more difficult to digest and therefore formula-fed babies simply don’t feel as hungry as soon. These small, frequent breastfeedings should be mimicked when bottle feeding so that your baby is not overfed and your direct breastfeeding relationship isn’t impacted. Keep this in mind: breastfed babies virtually never eat more than two to four ounces at a single breastfeeding session. If your childcare provider attempts to feed your baby a larger bottle to space feedings further, she runs the risk of frustrating your baby when he returns to your breast and damaging your precious breastfeeding relationship. This is because your breasts will generally not contain as much milk as the higher volume bottle.
  3. Breastfed babies drink bottles quickly. Breastfed babies have a very powerful suck—stronger than it needs to be for bottles. Therefore, breastfed babies often drink bottles very quickly and show hunger cues once they have drained the bottle. Breastfed babies are used to non-nutritive sucking time on the breast that allows their brains to catch up with their bellies and realize they are full. It is critical that the person feeding your baby slows down your baby’s bottle feeding so it takes 10-15 minutes to complete. They need to let your baby take pauses, burp intermittently, and suck a pacifier after the bottle is drained so she can have sucking time while her brain decides if she is full or still hungry. This bottle feeding is called “paced bottle feeding.” Want to see it in action? Watch the videos here.
  4. Breastfed babies are always held closely while they eat. Breastfed babies should be bottle-fed in a similar way to breastfeeding. Close physical contact and eye contact are important. An exception to this is that baby should be in a semi-sitting position, not laid horizontally, to decrease the gravitational force of the milk pouring into the baby’s mouth. Leaning baby back and having the bottle at a sharp angle can increase the speed of the feeding. Ask your provider to hold your baby close while feeding him and to pay close attention to and interact with him.
  5. Breastfed babies are fed on cue, not on schedule. Your baby should be fed when she shows early signs of hunger. Your baby should be offered the bottle nipple by brushing it against her lips, not by putting it in her mouth. Your baby should root and latch onto the bottle similarly to how she nurses on the breast. Your baby should be watched throughout the feeding for cues that she needs a break or that she is full. Your baby should not be forced to finish a bottle if she is showing signs that she is full.
  6. After a breastfed baby eats, he often needs to be held or entertained. Breastfed babies are not sluggish after a bottle as many formula-fed babies are. If your baby fusses after finishing a bottle, it is more likely that he needs comforting or entertainment rather than food. He may also need time to suck on a pacifier and be rocked.

By following this plan, you and your childcare provider become a team in preserving your breastfeeding relationship with your baby.