Supporting a Breastfeeding Family

By Val Homanics, RN, IBCLC

As a caregiver, you have an important role in helping mothers succeed in their decision to breastfeed while they are in your care.  Below are some tips that you can use to help mothers reach their breastfeeding goals.

Feeding Plan

  • Parents should provide baby’s usual feeding schedule to their caregiver.
  • Generally, a baby will eat 3 times during an 8 hour period, which is approximately every 2-4 hours.
  • Feed baby when they show signs of hunger instead of on a schedule.
  • Breastmilk digests more quickly than formula, which means breastfed babies usually eat more often and may take less milk per feeding then formula fed babies.
  • Average Feedings: 1-6 months:  3-5 oz. per feeding (25-35 oz. in 24 hours).
  • Follow the “Paced Bottle Feeding” techniques when offering a bottle.  Expect feedings to last 15-30 minutes. This method prevents babies from being overfed and overwhelmed by the bottle. It also allows for the infant’s system to recognize signs of being satisfied before their stomach has a chance to get overly full.
  • Mothers may prefer to breastfeed their baby upon drop off or pick up. Communicate with the parent what their preference is around pick up time. If she would like to breastfeed when she arrives for pick up, try not to feed the baby for about an hour prior to her arrival. Have her alert you if she is going to arrive earlier or later than anticipated.
  • Have a plan in place if baby appears hungry and there is not enough pumped milk available. For reassurance, mothers can be encouraged to bring one to two extra 1 oz. bags of pumped milk as a back-up.

Handling Instructions

  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling breastmilk .
  • Milk should be frozen in small amounts,  1-3 oz. will thaw out more quickly than larger amounts.
  • Parents should label breastmilk bottles with baby’s name, the date and time milk was expressed and thawed.
  • Breastmilk should be thawed overnight in the refrigerator. For faster thawing, the container can be placed under cool running water, gradually increasing the temperature of the water to warm the milk.
  • Thawed breast milk can be kept in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Do not refreeze.
  • Refrigerated breast milk can be heated by placing in a cup/small container of warm water for several minutes. Avoid microwaving breastmilk.
  • Breastmilk separates into layers after sitting for a while. This is normal. Gently swirl milk to mix layers back together after warming. The layers will mix better as the milk is warmed.
  • Prepare a bottle with just enough breastmilk for a single feeding to prevent waste.  Though breastmilk contains antibacterial proprieties that formula does not, it is best to discard any unused breast milk if baby does not finish a bottle. Have smaller bottles available (1-2 oz.), just in case you would need more or less milk at a feeding. You can always add more milk if needed.