Breastfeeding after returning to work
For many women the need to return to work comes too soon after they have got their breastfeeding routine settled and finally feel confident about breastfeeding techniques.
But even with a return to the workplace, continuing to breastfeed is still possible, although it does take organisation and commitment. If you know you will be retuning to while still breastfeeding, you will have a higher chance of managing both if you have a well-considered and practical plan in place long before you actually walk back into the office. You may even choose to discuss your plans with your employer before you go on maternity leave so you have a clearer idea of what your options are.
You will have greater success breastfeeding after you return to work if you have a strong milk supply and so it's best to take as much maternity leave as you can to establish your milk supply.
If you return to work while your young baby is still having multiple feeds a day, try to find a caregiver who will be able to bring your baby to you at work for one breastfeed a day, or consider finding childcare close to you at work so you can visit in your lunch hour and have a breastfeed then.
If neither of these options are possible, the best way to continue breastfeeding while you work is to express breast milk during your work day to maintain your milk supply so breastfeeding before and after work continues to be possible.
Expressing breast milk at work
If you decide to express at work, you will need to make time in your day to pump. The best way to do this is to discuss your plans with your employer so they are aware of your need for a little time away from your desk a couple of times a day-if you don't tell your employer, you run the risk of them thinking that you're constantly sneaking away from your desk.
You need to consider the following points before you can decide whether expressing at work is a practical solution for you:
- How often do you need to express each day?
- How often do you expect to be able to express each work day?
- At what times will you be able to express?
- Where will you be able to express at work?
- If you plan on using an electric pump, will you be able to access a power point to express?
Preparing for your return to work
If you are planning to breastfeed after you return to work, it is wise to start expressing about a month before so you can build a good supply of frozen expressed breast milk that can be given to your baby in your absence.
You will also have to introduce your baby to bottle feeding so his caregiver can feed him your breast milk while you're at work. Introducing a bottle can be a bitter sweet moment for breastfeeding mums - particularly if you are really enjoying the breastfeeding experience. Some babies resist taking a bottle from mum so you may have more success asking dad or your baby's caregiver to introduce the bottle while you are out of the room.
Aside from finding time in the work day, many mums find much of the difficulty of expressing breast milk is that they are unable to produce enough milk each day to sustain a 100% breast milk diet for their baby. The reality for many breastfeeding mums is that their return to work does bring to an end their baby's 100% breast milk diet and for these mums, the best way to continue breastfeeding is to combine formula and breast milk feeds each day.
Breastfeeding without expressing
Even if you can't manage to express while you're at work, it is possible to keep breastfeeding your baby-although many mothers do find combining a full-time job with breastfeeding difficult to sustain.
If you don't express during your working day, your breasts will stop producing milk during the day (although in the first couple of days you will find that your breasts will become leaky and very full) and maintaining a milk supply becomes more challenging - particularly if you are feeding less then 3-4 times in a 24 hour period. To encourage your milk supply, ensure that each breastfeed you give completely drains the breast.
Part-time work and breastfeeding
It is much easier to manage breastfeeding with part-time work, simply because there are fewer hours you will be away from your baby each time you work. Whether you work a couple of days a week, or a couple of hours each day, working breastfeeding into your schedule is more do-able because your breasts have more 'regular' breastfeeding time in which they can keep your milk supply established.
To maintain your breast milk supply, you need to either breastfeed or express breast milk regularly. If you do neither of these, your milk supply will dwindle and you won't be able to maintain breastfeeding.
This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot - New Zealand's leading parenting resource for newborns and baby. Sources include Australian Breastfeeding Association and Tresillian.
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