Continuing to breastfeed after returning to work
Breastfeeding at work is not just about having a supportive workplace. Yes, that's a huge part of it, but what a lot of mums need to remember is...well, to REMEMBER! If you're anythign like me, you get caught up in a task and can often let hours pass before looking up from what you're doing.
Skipping your scheduled feeding or expressing times will result in either rock hard breasts or reduced supply, so if you think you will forget, an alarm might be the way to go.
It can be done!
As well as making sure you remember to take your breaks, these tips could help you to make it work:
- Find out about your workplace’s breastfeeding policies. You can talk to your work supervisor, human resources manager or your union about it, and discuss your intention to continue breastfeeding when you return to work. Try to do this before you go on maternity leave.
- Arrange for a clean, private area (not a toilet), and make sure you have a fridge to store the milk, and an area to store your manual or electric pump (if you use one).
- How will you express? Decide whether you will express by hand or by using a manual or electric pump. Electric pumps are faster but don’t suit everyone. You could hire a pump to check it works for you before buying.
- If you can find a childcare or a babysitter close to your work you may be able to visit the childcare centre during breaks to breastfeed your baby. Some babies may become unsettled by you popping in and out though, so think about your baby's temperament.
- Be flexible and aim to negotiate a fair trade-off with your employer.
If you are expressing at work, you’ll also need to keep your breast milk safe – if not stored and used correctly, it can make your baby very ill.
Always remember to:
- Use clean hands and equipment when expressing.
- Label each container with the time and date the breast milk is expressed.
- Refrigerate the breast milk within one hour of expressing.
- If you have extra milk, freeze it as soon as possible.
- You’ll need to keep the milk cold on the way home. An insulated bag with a small icepack is ideal.
- Never defrost breast milk in the microwave. Put the bottle or bag in a container of hot water and test the milk on the side of your wrist – it should feel about the same temperature as your skin.
Your breastfeeding rights
It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you (treat you differently or unfairly) because you are breastfeeding or expressing. According to the Department of Labour, employers are required, as far as is reasonable and practicable, to provide appropriate breaks and facilities for employees who wish to breastfeed their infants or express milk during work hours.
Try to negotiate a reasonable agreement first, but if your employer makes it difficult for you to continue breastfeeding, speak to your union representative or contact the La Leche League for advice.
Did you manage to combine breastfeeding with work? Share your stories!