Most mothers find returning to work after giving birth nerve-wracking enough. But if you are also a breastfeeding mother, it can be tough to get your head around how you can continue to nurse your child whilst being separated for large parts of the day.
It is possible, however, to juggle breastfeeding even a young infant with your career, if you are organized and prepared.
Wouldn’t It Be Easier to Formula Feed After Returning to Work?
Not necessarily! Like many aspects of parenting, continuing breastfeeding may seem like a hassle, and weaning onto formula milk may be the easier option. However, when you consider that switching to formula can be costly and that not all babies take to a bottle or the taste, as well as the fact that babies often quickly grow out of the need to nurse in the daytime, it isn’t necessarily the simplest option.
Most mothers breastfeed because it is universally agreed to be the healthiest option for their baby, and they wish to continue for as long as possible. If you are committed to continuing after you return to your career, there are a few options to make it possible, as long as you give it some thought in advance.
How Do I Prepare?
The very first step is to find out where local employment law stands on breastfeeding mothers in the workplace. Many offer a degree of protection to ensure that you can continue to breastfeed.
In the UK, for example, it is the law that employers must provide an area of rest, and European Commission guidelines suggest that mothers can access clean and safe refrigeration for storing breast milk and areas to clean equipment. When you have this information, you are in a better position to approach your employer for help.
Many women find approaching their employer daunting, but remember that legal obligations aside, good employers know that if employees feel supported in decisions like this, then they are less likely to leave the company and more likely to work hard thanks to adequate job satisfaction.
You then need to explore the reality of getting breast milk to your baby and changing working arrangements if necessary. Obviously, this will vary greatly depending on the age of your baby when you return, how often your baby requires milk, whether he is happy to take a bottle of expressed milk, and many other factors.
Here are some options to consider:
- Can you request flexible working hours (i.e., a longer lunch break, an earlier or later start and finish) which would still enable you to be with your baby at feeding times?
- Do you have a childcare that could bring a baby to you to nurse during the day?
- Could you work fewer days, working longer hours on those days to make up the time if necessary?
- Could you work from home at times? Or could you explore more flexible employment, including self-employment?
- How about expressing breast milk, thus allowing others to feed baby your milk?
Expressing Breast Milk for a Bottle or Cup
This is a popular option for mothers returning to work. To make expressing easier, it is probably worth investing in a good quality electric pump for ease and speed. Also, practice, practice, practice, especially when using a hand pump; it often takes a few goes to get the hang of it.
To avoid making your return to work as stress-free as possible, you need to be confident that you are expressing enough milk and that baby is happy to drink it from a bottle or cup, so start practice for both you and baby at least a couple of weeks before your return date.
Finally, make sure that any breast milk you pump either at home or while at work can be safely stored until needed.
If It Gets Tricky?
If you find the transition overwhelming or the practicalities awkward, try to remember why you have chosen to stayed committed to breastfeeding your baby, and continue to explore options that can make it possible. However, most importantly, remember not to put too much pressure on yourself either, since neither you or baby will benefit from you feeling stressed.
Finally, remember that if you do continue to breastfeed once you return to work, nursing your child is the perfect way to reconnect after time apart, and you will both treasure this time at the end of the day.
At 16, Merril Bainbridge began her career in the Australian fashion industry. In her early 20’s she left to launch a successful Pop Music career which saw her at the top of the US Music Charts. Retiring to start a family, she found a new purpose helping breastfeeding women with her fashion label, Peachymama.