Too often parents are led to believe they must give up breastfeeding and should get their child onto artificial milk formula when starting at an early childhood centre. But this should not be necessary.
Ask your early childhood service how it supports the continuation of breastfeeding - hopefully you will be surprised and delighted to find that it provides good support.
Breastfeeding-friendly ECE services will tell you they support breastfeeding. They are the ones that also support parent-child attachment, infant brain development, health, and family well-being (e.g. breastfeeding is a lot safer for the child with no risk of contamination and it costs the family less as breastmilk is free)
Need to know information
An infant should be breastfeed at least until 6 months of age. When solids are introduced after 6 months breastfeeding should continue if possible until 1 - 3 years of age (even if it is only at nights or milk may be expressed for the infant to have in daycare).
Early childhood services should provide a comfortable space and seating for parents to sit and breastfeed, and this space should not be a bathroom or cupboard.
Expressed breast milk should be kept in a sterilised bottle or sterilised plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. It will keep at room temperature for 4 hours and in the back of the fridge for up to 2 days. It may be kept in a freezer for up to 3 months,
Defrost frozen expressed milk in the fridge or place the container of milk in warm water until the milk thaws. Warm it to body temperature in a bowl of hot water. Do not use a microwave for heating or defrosting breast milk. Test the temperature of the milk by putting a little on the inside of your wrist. Use the milk immediately. It is not safe to reheat or refreeze milk.
Water may be given to an infant after 6 months of age. Cows’ milk should not be given before 1 year of age, because it contains high levels of protein and salt which are not safe and doe not have the vitamins and minerals a human baby needs.
At your early childhood service there should be:
1. An openness and willingness among staff and managers to learn more about the necessary requirements for supporting breastfeeding in the childcare setting, including correct techniques for storing, handling and feeding expressed breast milk and appropriate complementary feeding.
2. A written breastfeeding policy outlining support for breastfeeding and breastmilk expression.
3. An awareness among supervisors and staff of their educative role as early childhood education and development specialists. Where appropriate, advising parents about optimal infant nutrition, including ways to continue breastfeeding.
4. Information provided for parents on accessing health professionals and breastfeeding specialists.
5. An emphasis on communication between families and staff. This includes written and verbal communication about the centre’s policies and provisions for breastfeeding, including for storing and preparing expressed breastmilk as well as the parents’ expectations regarding infant feeding, including breastfeeding schedules.
6. An understanding of family requests for infant feeding and identifying ways in which staff can support and encourage the breastfeeding relationship.
7. Provision of reassurance to mothers experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding, and supporting mums with the time they need.
8. A physical and attitudinal environment conducive to mothers wanting to stay in the centre and feeling comfortable about breastfeeding.
- "When I first started coming here, there were often two or three of us sitting in there breastfeeding away, getting each other glasses of water. It was very easy".
- "They have got the parents’ room upstairs and that makes it easy to go up there and feed him and have some quiet time."
9. A non-judgemental and supportive attitude towards families that make or have already made the decision not to breastfeed or to continue breastfeeding, including knowledge and awareness of correct methods of preparing breastmilk substitutes.
Acknowledgement: Material has been drawn from a report by Sarah Alexander and Judith Galtry to the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust.
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