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Breastfeeding and Returning to Work

I have met many mothers over the years who were saddened at the thought of returning to work, says Lisa Wilkinson, eumom Breastfeeding Expert.

For many moms, it feels their breastfeeding journey has to come to an end when they go back to work. Lets be honest, the message we get from media about follow on milk does nothing to convince mothers that there’s any alternative solutions.

READ ALSO: What’s the big deal about extended breastfeeding?

Depending on the age of your baby, there are many options that will extend your breastfeeding journey until both of you are ready to wean.

What are your options?

If you are returning to work before your baby is six months old and taking solids, there are some options you can explore:

Logistics

  • Consider bringing your baby to work with you. There are many workplaces, including my own, where infants can be accommodated. Breastfed babies are very portable and with a safe place to sleep, change and play, it’s quite seldom your workmates are disrupted
  • Wearing your baby may also be an option. This may not be possible in all workplaces but try and get your employer to think outside the box and consider the health of your baby
  • Negotiate working from home. With our seamless information superhighway many jobs can now be done remotely
  • Look for nearby day care where off site boobie visits are possible throughout the day
  • Find a minder who will bring your baby into work or to a convenient spot between work and the minders
  • Ask for a place to pump at work to help keep up your supply. This will become less necessary for babies older than 6 months

READ ALSO: Breastfeeding facts and advice for new moms

According to the maternity protection act, women returning to work with babies under 6 months have rights to feed or pump in the workplace.

Pumping tips

The noise of that machine used to drive me batty! Here are some tips to make it work better for you:

  • A good time to express is first thing in the morning after the first feed of the day when you’re rested and your milk supply is high
  • Try pumping from one breast whilst your baby feeds from the other. Tricky to negotiate but not impossible
  • Get a double pump if you can. Finding a good one is vital.. It can reduce pumping time by half. That may mean nothing right now, but after a few days, those extra 20 minutes free from pumping will seem like a blessing
  • Have snacks,drinks and light entertainment available whilst pumping. Keep up your energy and enjoy it as a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life

READ ALSO: My breastfeeding story

Prepare your baby to drink away from breast

It’s a good idea to prepare your baby early for drinking from somewhere other than your breasts rather than in a mad panic a few days before returning to work. There are many options for you to chose from and bottles are not necessarily the best route to take:

  • Try using an open cup. These are safe from birth and won’t interfere with establishing good breastfeeding
  • A free flow cup without a valve. There are many of these on the market to chose from
  • A bottle. If you chose a bottle ensure that your breastfeeding is well established after two months and if you drop a feed, ensure you pump to make up for it to keep up supply
  • A great facebook group called extended breastfeeding Ireland exists with many mothers offering suggestions for what works for them

Keep your lovely bonding sessions with your baby without turning into a pumping dairy queen. Babies are normally ready to take solids at six months. So when returning to work, it is entirely possible for them to eat their meals during the day, then feed only when they are back with you. Yes, no pumping and daytime bottles needed!

But my baby might not be getting enough?

Not true! - Three or four breastfeeds during any 24 hour period, along with a good variety of solid foods, is enough to give your baby all the nutrition they need. No need for substitute milk at all. Infact, if your baby is eating solid foods and breast feeding a few times a day, formula is not only unnecessary but your baby will probably not benefit from it at all. The need for formula is a very effective marketing campaign, nothing more. If you need a substitute drink, water is perfect. As are some of the other milks such as nut milk, oat milk etc. Note these drinks are not a substitute for the feeds you have with your baby, just for hydration.

Here’s a sample day for a mother with a 6 month old baby who has returned to work. (I’ve left out naps)

  1. Wake up in the morning and feed your baby
  2. Pump some milk for your stash
  3. Go to work
  4. Baby gets some mashed banana and pear for breakfast with a cup of water
  5. Baby gets a selection of snacks they can grab and eat
  6. Baby gets lunch with a cup of oat milk
  7. Baby gets more snacks and a cup
  8. Mummy returns from work at 6:30 and gives a welcome home feed
  9. Mummy eats dinner
  10. Evening feed before settling baby to bed
  11. Late feed for baby before mummy gets to bed
  12. Mummy sleeps through the night in an unrealistic ideal world. More than likely another feed or two or three…..
  13. Day starts over again

And Finally - Mother love

Feeding your baby for extended periods beyond 6 months can be very possible for those who chose to do it. Ignore the pressure to add follow on milk. Your baby simply does not need it. Every mother has the right to chose when her baby weans. Every mother does the best they can for their baby in my opinion.

Let’s not judge anyone whether they wean early on or feed until the baby is a few years old. As mothers lets share our mother love and respect each others choices.


About the Author

A birthing educator helping parents, midwives and other healthcare professionals in their journey into parenthood. www.the-elbowroom.com

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