More often than not in the modern world we live, many women return to work within the first one to two years of their babies lives.
For some women the choice to return to work is about what fulfils them and helps them feel they are more present as mothers. Other women find that limited paid maternity leave, can force them back into the workforce for financial reasons.
Whatever the basis for returning to work, it can feel especially daunting if you are still breastfeeding your baby, however, with preparation you can continue to breastfeed and/or feed your baby with expressed breast milk. As part of your plan for returning to work it is crucial to have discussions with your partner about your goals for feeding, as their support will ultimately increase your chances of succeeding.
There are some key elements of support that you will also need from your workplace; understanding work colleagues, a private space where you can breastfeed your baby or express breastmilk, and allocated time where you can feed or express. These discussions may be useful to have before you have your baby so some plans can be put into place and a return to work policy for breastfeeding either be created or reviewed. Some workplaces may have been accredited by the Australian Breastfeeding Association as a “Breastfeeding Friendly” workplace, which will help to make the return to work easier for both you and your baby.
If you are not able to breastfeed your baby in the workplace but still want your baby to have breastmilk you may want to look at your options for expressing your milk. To alleviate as much pressure as possible on you returning to work, you want the process of expressing milk to be quick, simple and effective, so the purchase or hire of a good quality pump is essential. In our experience an electric pump will express milk more easily and is the least cumbersome of other methods.
You will also need to consider the best times to express your milk as most women find depending on the age of their baby and their usual feeding times, that the quality and quantity of their milk is different throughout the day. It is also helpful to be relaxed and comfortable when expressing to allow your milk to “let down”. Another consideration is the cleanliness of your hands, the equipment you use to express and sterile storage containers.
Sometimes the change to your usual routine and feeding can affect your milk supply, however, supply issues may be avoided by the consideration of taking a recommended supplement for breastfeeding in addition to eating a good healthy diet and plenty of fluids. Your baby’s “normal” feeding patterns may also change, with your baby wanting to feed more often when they are with you.
Remember it is perfectly normal to have some apprehensions about returning to work but the changes don’t have to be stressful for you and your baby with some careful planning. If you run into any troubles with expressing or feeding ensure you seek support from from a lactation consultant.
Rebecca Denny - Midwife