New mums returning to work in the first year of their baby’s life are often faced with the dilemma of combining breastfeeding and work. It is one of the most common reasons why women stop breastfeeding and make the switch to formula.
Although it can be a challenge, work and breastfeeding need not be mutually exclusive and with a few tips the transition back to work can be made easier.
It is worth investing in a quality electric breast pump particularly if you are returning to work on a full time basis. A good breast pump will allow you to quickly express enough milk for your baby and keep up your milk supply during missed feeds while working.
Make sure you start practising using the pump at least 2 weeks, ideally a month, before you return to work so you feel comfortable and get used to using it. You can then practise feeding your baby the expressed milk in a bottle or get Dad to help with feeds, so your baby gets used to taking feeds from someone else.
You may need to preserve with the bottle particularly if your baby is six months or older as they can refuse it to start with. I know when I returned to work when my youngest son Will was 7 months old, I switched straight to a cup as he refused a bottle.
Start freezing and storing your expressed milk so you have a good supply built up for returning to work. Some people find it difficult to express large amounts of milk in one session, so it is important to start about a month before you return to work.
A good tip is to freeze milk in an ice cube tray (Tupperware ones are great with the lids) and then you have a ready supply to defrost so you don’t waste any!
You will soon have a good supply on hand when you express during missed feeds at work.
See the boss
It is a good idea to speak to your employer about your intentions to continue breastfeeding and express milk at work, as you will need a suitable area to breastfeed that is clean, private and hygienic. You can then negotiate a suitable arrangement for milk breaks and remember that there is legislation in place that protects you from discrimination.
You will also need a fridge to store your expressed breast milk or an appropriate freezer bag with icepacks. Remember to label your milk so it isn’t used in the morning coffee!
Dress for success
You will need to wear clothing that will allow you to express quickly and easily. This is where breastfeeding clothes are fantastic as they allow you to discreetly express at work. Many pieces such as nursing tanks can be easily combined with your existing wardrobe and look great under jackets. No one will ever know. Make sure you wear breast pads to stop any unsightly leaks!
Do your best
Try and persevere if you can because the benefits to you and your baby are worth it. But please remember you can only do your best and some women are unable to express large quantities of milk or lack support to do so. Remember you can use formula during work hours if necessary and then breastfeed as much as you can outside of work hours.