Preparing for Daycare When Breastfeeding
Your breastfeeding journey doesn’t have to end once your child goes to daycare. Many new mothers understand the benefits of continuing to breastfeed once they have returned to work.
“Even though I am returning to work, I want to make sure that my son continues to get all of the health benefits from breastfeeding. For me it is especially important to continue breastfeeding so that my body could build up proper antibodies and strengthen his immune system after he is exposed to germs.” –Stephanie G.
Read our tips for how to select a breastfeeding-friendly daycare, what questions to ask, and how to successfully transition into this new routine.
Chose a Daycare that Supports Breastfeeding Moms
The daycare you select should play an active role in supporting, nurturing and understanding the importance of continued breastfeeding.
Bright Horizons champions breastfeeding mothers with this statement:
“For working moms returning to their careers after maternity leave, all of our centers accommodate breastfeeding, allowing for the transition back to work to be smoother. A comfortable area is provided in the center for mothers who are breastfeeding and have the ability to go to the center. For mothers returning to work after having a baby, the ability to continue breastfeeding and visit their child throughout the work day also provides an invaluable support.”
Many daycares offer a space just for breastfeeding moms to feed their child. Take a look at this breastfeeding station at a KinderCare in Cary, North Carolina. We love it!
Inquire About Breast Milk Procedures and Training
Each daycare should have a standard procedure for how employees handle, store and serve breast milk. Do they use a bottle warmer? Are employees required to wash their hands beforehand? How long can they store breast milk onsite? Ask questions about their breast milk policies and staff training. (And if staff can’t readily go over their rules with you, this might be a red flag that they are not breastfeeding friendly or particularly sanitary.)
Licensing standards and requirements for daycares are different state to state; so specific policies differ facility to facility.
Bright Horizons utilizes a color-coded system to ensure that each child correctly receives the right expressed breast milk.
“In regards to staff handling the breast milk, there is a color-coding system in place in each infant classroom for bottle/food storage. To keep the system organized, each child is assigned a color. Children have their own basket marked with that color which is used only for bottles/food, and a list of the color codes for each child and a description of the system is posted in the classroom.”
KinderCare also uses separate labels and warming devices for breast milk.
“The KinderCare supplies red breast feeding labels for the bottles which include the child’s name, date and contents. The bottle is matched to the child using the name to face concept. Separate bottle warmers and/or crock pots must be used for formula and breast milk bottles. Label the bottle warmer and/or crock pot “For Breast Milk Only.”
Some daycares will store frozen breast milk on site for you, and others like KinderCare in North Carolina require fresh milk each day, ready to feed in a bottle.
“Breast milk must be delivered to the center in liquid form and in a ready to feed bottle. We do not store or thaw frozen breast milk. All milk is thrown out if it not consumed in an hour. All unused milk is sent home at the end of each day, no milk is stored over night.”
Good Questions to Ask
Better understand their methods by asking these questions:
- How do you ask for breast milk to be labeled?
- How do staff warm milk?
- How are bottles and nipples cleaned?
- What is the time limit for disposing of unused milk?
- Can you store frozen breast milk at the daycare?
- What is the back up plan if for some reason there is not enough milk for my baby?
- Is there a breastfeeding area on premises so that I can feed my baby in person?
Prep Your Supplies
- Pumping Materials – While your baby is at daycare you will need to pump expressed milk for them to eat in the following days to come. Pumping materials include a manual or electric pump, a pumping bag, bottles and breast milk bags, and a hands free pumping bra. Read our post about how to handle a pumping schedule and routine here.
- Bottles – When it comes to bottles, our motto is to buy one brand and stick with it and to think ahead. Don’t waste money on the tiny newborn bottles that your child will outgrow in a month. Go ahead and invest in the larger 8 or 9 ounce bottles even you are only filling them halfway way. (This time passes in the blink of an eye!)
- Coolers for Transport – Purchase at least two mini coolers for transporting breast milk. You will need to send one along with your child and bring one to your workplace to transport your pump milk back home.
- Bottle Labels – We spoke with parents and daycare facilities alike and found that most parents label their child’s name on their bottles and caps with something permanent (with a printed label or permanent marker) and then wrote the date on a piece of masking tap or stick-on label. Each day this date label is removed and a new label is added. But if you want to go all out, you can buy customized bottle bands with your child’s name and a place to write in the date.
Additional Tips for Success
Remember that daycares have to follow strict rules for throwing away warmed milk after one hour. Send smaller amounts of milk in more bottles to minimize the risk of unused ounces being thrown away. For example if your child eats 12 ounces of milk send four bottles with three ounce quantities rather than two bottles with six ounces.
Many mothers want to increase their milk supply to build up a freezer stash before going back to work. Boost your milk supply with Milkful Gourmet Lactation Oat Bars. One to two bars per day have helped hundreds of women pump more ounces per session.
Nurse at the breast on nights and weekends to keep your supply up. Babies are more efficient at emptying the breast than pumping so this helps maintain a higher supply. Plus you get all of that great snuggle and skin on skin bonding time!
Chose a daycare closer to your workplace rather than to your home so that you can feed right when you pick up your child. Ask your daycare not to feed your child for 1-2 hours before picking them up.
Keep Reading 25 Terms Every Breastfeeding Woman Should Know ›
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