Meet our guest blogger Christie MacSween, childcare educator, trained breastfeeding counsellor and creator of Embraced Mummas.
“It can be very difficult making the decision to go back to work after having a baby and for some there is no decision, it’s a necessity. It is no secret that having a breastfed baby makes this a whole lot harder, but this doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You just need to make sure you have thought about it and planned properly for your bundle of joy to start childcare. Then you need to be prepared that all these plans may all be turned upside down and you will need to make new ones!
Finding the right fit for your family
If you haven’t enrolled your bub in a childcare centre yet it is important that you shop around! Don’t just go for the first one that has vacancies. There are a lot of amazing early learning centres out there but it is essential you find one that fits with your family values and that you feel comfortable with. Ask for a tour of the centre and see if you can spend some time in the babies room. Some things to look for are:
Are the babies happy and smiling?
Do the educators introduce themselves and make you feel comfortable?
Do they have somewhere you can sit and feed? Some people prefer a separate room and some don’t but it is nice to have both options.
You can also ask if they are a Breastfeeding Friendly Venue as approved by the Australian Breastfeeding Association or ask if they would be willing to obtain this accreditation.
Establishing a relationship with your educators
Once you have found the perfect day care centre for you and your baby it is time to start establishing a good relationship with the educators and director if you haven’t already. Make sure you take the time to get to know most of the educators. Then, if your child’s primary caregiver is absent or leaves the centre, you won’t be feeling anxious not knowing who is left to look after your child.
It is a good idea to speak to key staff about your breastfeeding relationship. This doesn’t mean going overboard and making a huge deal about you being a breastfeeding mother, just bring it up in conversation. This way you will be able to determine how much breastfeeding education they have and will be able to fill in the blanks if need be.
Something that is actually very surprising is that early childhood professionals do not get any breastfeeding training or education in their studies. So unless they have done further study on the subject or are actually a mother themselves they probably know very little on breastfeeding and how to support breastfeeding mothers. So don’t feel bad about offering them information and pointing them in the right direction.
Does my child need to have an established routine before starting?
It is a common misconception that your baby needs to be in a rigid routine before they start childcare. If you have a good routine for your bub, good, stick with that. If not, don’t stress about it. At the end of they day they are their own little people and will do what they want when they want. If you have a good childcare provider they shouldn’t expect the babies to all conform to the same routine. All the bubs will have their own individual needs and be of different ages which means they will not all stick to the same schedule.
A good idea before you start is to keep a log. Even if you don’t think you have a routine for your baby you will probably realise they do actually follow a general pattern. So if you write down all feed and sleep times for a few days this will be an excellent tool to give your educators.
My baby is so attached what do I do?!
Be assured that most babies are very attached to their mothers and not all know how to self-settle. Be assured the carers will be so used to helping babies drift off to sleepy land and may even have some tricks up their sleeve your haven’t thought of. Most babies just accept they are not going to get fed to sleep and find a new way of doing it on their own. It may even be a god-send and you might be able to use some of the techniques they use at home! If you are really worried you could start introducing some kind of comforter and let your baby hold on to it during feeds. This way they will always have it with them to remind them of you.
It is also very common for breastfed babies to be a bit confused by a bottle and there really isn’t any reason you need to introduce one. So what else can you do?
If your baby is old enough they may be able to drink from a sippy-cup with a straw. The action of drinking from a straw is actually very similar to how they drink from the breast.
They can actually drink straight from a cup (no matter what age)
The educators can feed them breast milk with a spoon (especially for younger babies)
There is some great resources on The Australian Breastfeeding Association website on cup feeding. If you are really worried you can also give them a call on the 24 hour helpline on 1800 MUM 2 MUM (1800 686 268)
The thought of expressing can often bring on a lot of stress especially if you haven’t done it before. What I would suggest is, start a couple of months before they are due to begin at daycare. This will give you and your body time to get used to using a breast-pump. You can then figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. There are many different brands and types of breast-pumps on the market so you may need to do your research to find out what will work best for you. The Australian Breastfeeding Association actually have a breast pump hire service so you could even try before you buy if you wanted to.
There are a lot of resources on the internet about how to encourage a good let down so I won’t go through all of them but I will let you know what works for me. First of all I like to make sure I have a nice tidy space around me, I get stressed if the house is chaos. Then, I will put some nice music on. This could just be some soft Jack Johnson, yoga or meditation music or even nature sounds. I will also diffuse some essential oils, something like clary sage which is a great one for hormonal women!
What if my baby refuses to feed while at childcare?
You need to be prepared that this may happen, but it is a learning curve for both you and your baby and you will get there! Some babies do go on a milk strike and if they are over 6 months and have started solids you may find they will just fill their little tummies with food instead. This is totally fine as long as they make up the feeds after, which both you and I know they definitely will!
If your baby is younger than six months you may need to start off with shorter days or try to go in at lunch time to feed. In fact if you are close enough this is the perfect situation. You can take your lunch with you, sit with your baby and have a nice relaxing feed while you reconnect and have your lunch together.
What do I need to do before we start?
Just chill. No but seriously, try not to stress. Just take it each day at a time. If you’re anxious and stressed your baby will pick up on it. Just remember that if something doesn’t work it’s easy to change. It might take a while to find the perfect solution for your family but that’s okay.
Know that your baby will be fine. He is with people who have a love and passion for looking after children and helping them grow and learn. If for any reason bub is really upset and distressed they will call you and ask your advice or give you the option of coming in to help settle him or her. Most centers have an open door policy so anytime you want to pop in and visit you can!
This is an exciting time for you both! Your baby will start to gain a new sense of independence and you are also getting your independence back. A lot of mothers find that once their kids start in daycare they really cherish the moments they spend together which equals a happier mumma and a happier baby! Good luck and remember you’re not alone! There are a lot of services and people around to support you.
Lots of love