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Making It Work

Finding a "Breastfeeding Friendly" Caregiver

Edited by Tamela Rich
Charlotte, NC USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 10 No. 5, September-October 1993, pp. 155-6

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

How can I tell if a prospective caregiver is "breastfeeding friendly"? What kinds of differences can I help a caregiver anticipate if she has never dealt with breastfed babies?

Response

Looking for a caregiver for your child is an emotional process. There are many issues to deal with and they are perhaps more complex for a nursing mother. Returning to my teaching position after a year's leave of absence and leaving my fourteen-month-old son in another's care was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. Fortunately, I felt very comfortable with my ultimate choice. Jacob spent the school year in a wonderful environment, a licensed home day care, which I felt to be more natural than the other alternatives. His day care provider is warm and loving, and has become like an extended member of our family.

My advice in looking for a caregiver for your child is to use what I call the IQ Test. Use your "Intuition" and ask lots of "Questions." If you're like me, about 99% of your mothering skills have been based on intuition; you know better than anyone the types of people and environments to which your child responds well. While you interview, really listen with your heart as well as your ears. Trust your instincts.

Prepare a list of questions in advance. Look to the future with your questions, not only the present. Sometimes it is hard to remember that your child will grow quickly from an infant into a toddler. It is important to make sure the environment you select will meet your child's needs in the future as well as now. A caregiver who may respond favorably about a nursing infant may have a different opinion about a nursing toddler. Anticipating your baby's future needs may prevent the need to change caregivers, which is emotionally difficult for young children and babies.

Some other factors to consider:

  • If you're planning to introduce solids according to your baby's developmental needs, make sure your caregiver will allow for that flexibility.
  • In keeping with the need to look ahead, ask what type of discipline philosophy the caregiver uses. I was careful not to plant the "right answer" in my question, and found someone who knew that the best method for toddlers is distraction.
  • Don't be afraid to make several visits before you make a final decision. Visit when you can observe the caregiver's interactions with the other children in her care.
  • Consider easing your baby into separating with the help of an LLL friend. Jacob and I visited with another mother together, then I left him alone with her for an hour, then for a couple of hours, then over naptime. When the transition went well, it was time to go with his regular caregiver. You may even find a La Leche League friend who would be willing to provide your baby's full-time care. If so, she'll support your decision to nurse and will be more likely to treat your milk as the precious commodity it is.

Good luck if you are searching for child care. If you start early (even while you're pregnant is not too soon) and listen to your heart, you too will find someone who will become a loving member of your family.

--Mary Rutherford
North Carolina, USA

Response

My original day care center had three babies in attendance and all were breastfeeding. Even so, the teachers were not used to dealing with breast milk and often wasted that hard-pumped milk. They also thought breastfed babies were too fussy because they always wanted their mothers! Mari did not drink that much milk at day care, which alarmed the caregivers. I made sure to nurse her frequently at home. I finally changed day care centers and found a place that had breastfeeding mothers as caregivers, and they treated the milk much better! I must say that breastfeeding has definitely been worth the effort of pumping at work. Mari is so healthy. We are very close even though I am away from her a lot. Breastfeeding successfully gave me the confidence I needed to be a mother. I hope more working women can breastfeed. It can be hard sometimes when you are in a meeting and you have to leave to pump, but I keep telling myself it is only for this short time that Mari will need my milk. And now, as she nears her first birthday, I am finally stopping my pumping--I really can't believe how quickly the year has gone by.

--Chris Miyach
Massachusetts, USA

Response

My profession as a hairdresser provided me with a lot of flexibility. For example, if Tommy had a fussy day I could call my clients and reschedule. Also, since I chose a caregiver who was close to work, I could go over between appointments to nurse. As for my arrangements with the sitter, I asked her to call me at work before giving him a bottle and if there was any way I could be there soon, she would walk with him or keep him amused until I arrived (without giving him a bottle). My sitter said it was a bit difficult to know if he was getting enough milk, but she trusted me that he was. She liked to use the sling to get him to sleep--since it smelled like me, I think that helped him.

--Margie Langmead
North Carolina, USA

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