Equipping Caregivers

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated February 5, 2013.

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Pumped milk can

Milk can be labeled so the bottles are not mixed between babies.

When equipping caregivers it is important to choose someone that you are comfortable with and that will work with you to honor your desires for caring for your baby while you are away.  There are many issues to be discussed including diapers, nap times, daily schedule, adult-to-baby ratio, when you can pop in to visit, whether she is comfortable with you nursing at drop-off and pick-up, starting solids, potty training, and more.  One of the most important issues you will need to discuss is feeding your baby.  Whether your caregiver has decades of experience taking care of little ones or is brand new, you will need to share with her your desires and discuss how feedings will go.  The following are five issues you will need to consider.

  1. How to Feed Baby (Feeding Method)
    Since you are not around, your baby will be taking milk from some other source than nursing at your breast.  The most common feeding methods are a bottle, cup, spoon, syringe, and/or sippy cup.  While many moms assume caregivers will use bottles this does not have to be the case.  Whatever you choose, it will be up to you to educate your baby’s caregiver as to how to use your preferred feeding method.
  2. How to Give a Bottle
    Since bottles are most common, we assume everyone knows how to give a baby a bottle.  However, many babies are fed a bottle in a way that does not take into account all factors.  A bottle, when turned upside down, drips even without a baby sucking.  So, a baby could be full but still have to gulp or swallow milk just by the nature of how the bottle is given. In contrast, a baby must suck at the breast to elicit a letdown of milk.  When nursing, there are natural pauses in the milk flow as the baby must wait for the next let down of milk.  Please read these bottle-feeding tips for how to educate your baby’s caregiver in bottle feeding.
  3. How Much Milk Your Baby Will Need
    Knowing how much milk your baby drinks while she is away from you will help you plan how much milk to give to your caregiver.  It will also help your caregiver know how often she will need to feed your baby.  Make sure you know how much milk your baby drinks in an average day.
  4. What if my baby’s caregiver says my baby needs more milk?
    There are two things to consider.  First, breastfed babies, unlike formula-fed babies, take in roughly the same amount of milk during months 1-6.  Babies grow faster during months 1-3 than 4-6 and smaller babies exert a lot of calories just to maintain their body temperature.1  Breastfed babies take in an average of 25% less milk than formula-fed babies.2  So, it is probably more of a matter of educating your baby’s caregiver as well as working with her on how to give a bottle.Secondly, there are times when your baby goes through a growth spurt.  These don’t last long and your baby will often nurse more frequently when with you during the evening, night, and early morning.  Don’t worry about these growth spurts.  Your body is amazing and milk volumes adjust according to your baby’s needs.  If your baby begins to eat more while away from you for a few days, try to pump more often as well.  A growth spurt won’t last long and then you can drop this additional pumping session when the growth spurt is over.
  5. Bringing Milk to your Caregiver
    Make sure to send more milk than you think your baby will need during the first few days/weeks as you figure out a routine of how much milk your baby will drink while away.  Be sure to label your milk with time, date, and quantity so your baby’s caregiver can easily see which milk to serve first as well as measure the correct quantity to offer at each feeding.  Finally, don’t worry if your baby refuses to take a bottle from you.  Babies are smart!  Many times babies will refuse expressed milk when mom is either the one trying to give it or is simply nearby because they prefer to have milk at the breast.  When you are away, though, these same babies will take expressed milk from their caretaker.  Also, remember that it is common for babies to reverse cycle which means they may decrease how much milk they take in during the day while away from mom and then nurse more frequently in the evening and at night to make up for what they didn’t take in during the day.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Kent, Mitoulas, Cregan, Ramsay, Doherty, and Hartman.  Volume and Frequency of Breastfeedings and Fat Content of Breast Milk Throughout the Day.  Pediatrics.  Accessed October 1, 2012 from http://www.pediatricsdigest.mobi/content/117/3/e387.full
  2. Butte, Garza, Smith, &Nichols, 1984, accessed October 20, 2012 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6694010