No matter when you return to work you may still want to breastfeed. It may seem a daunting thought but, with support from your employer and colleagues and a will to do it you can make it happen. Like everything, prior preparation really helps you to feel comfortable with expressing or breastfeeding at work. Practice really does make perfect. You and your baby have to make some adjustments to make it successful and it’s really important to start this early, even if you are not heading back to work until your baby is 6 months old or you are not heading back to work and just want to share bub around a bit. Don’t leave it until the last minute you don’t want the added stress of your baby refusing a bottle or cup as well as coping with a return to work and separation from your bundle of joy. Here’s a few things to do before you go back to work:
Talk to your employer
It can be a pretty odd conversation with your manager, especially if they are ‘old school’ and male (sorry fellas, but discussions about breastfeeding can make some blokes uncomfortable) but the law is on your side. Consider your business case. Breastfeeding is not only good for your baby but for your employer. Research has shown it can have a positive impact on employee retention, sick leave and staff morale. That backed up by the fact in the Federal Sex Discrimination Act, it states it is illegal to discriminate against a woman on the basis that she’s breastfeeding. Employers must make reasonable attempts to accommodate you if you want to breastfeed or express milk while at work. It can work for you both.
Discuss the logistics?
Is there a comfortable place for you to breastfeed undisturbed? A shared meeting room may not work but a spare lockable office may be a better option if you don’t have dedicated space available near your office. If your employer is new to discussions on breastfeeding, give them an idea of how long it can take. (The idea is to get practicing early so you know yourself.) If you work for an employer who has a childcare centre on site you may use your lunch breaks to feed your child. You need to be aware of your diary when to schedule external meetings or field trips or allocate dedicated time to express or feed your bub so everyone knows. In my day job I have a mostly female team. I made up a poster with a picture of Madonna and it said, “Rebecca is Expressing herself and will be with you shortly”. It made sure no one disturbed me and gave everyone a bit of a laugh.
Day to Day
Block out time in your calendar and inform your colleagues so you are less likely to get disrupted. Divert your phone if you are in your office and try to resist one handed typing. Knocking the seal on the pump can set you back and heavens above you would spill the liquid gold! Have a picture of your baby handy or an item of clothes to smell to stimulate the ‘let down’. You may find if on a busy or stressful day you may spend 15 minutes expressing and its like getting blood out of a stone. Being relaxed can really help the process. You could treat it as a yoga snack and try a 15minute relaxation track or use it as an opportunity to breathe!
Manual versus Electric is your first thought. Manual does the job and is less expensive but the electric pumps can be much quicker and you have the option to hire or buy and to not develop repetitive strain injury. Get pumping early, give it a try around 6 weeks and be persistent. We got lazy for a couple of weeks, which was just enough time for the little fella to develop an aversion to the bottle.
You don’t have to go all out on the accessories. Storage containers or non-leaking sandwich bags, bottles, icepacks or an esky or bottle bag to keep the milk from getting too hot. Make sure you store your milk in a labeled container and don’t forget to write on the storage dates. There are many stories about colleagues topping up their tea with breast milk by mistake – whoops! Some are dying to havea try – you’ll be surprised! Check out the Australian Breastfeeding Association guidelines
For some people organisational skills come naturally, for me, they didn’t. I was forever missing some crucial part of the pump or bottle so incorporate the pump preparation in your pre-work routine so you don’t forget anything.
What bottles are best?
It is a tough one, there are just so many to choose from. If you are transitioning bub from breast to bottle they can be fussy little wotsits so it can be a bit of trial and error to get the right one. Some parents go straight to a sippy cup as bubs can often be stubborn in their preferences so on the nights you work they can make up for their lack of daytime feeds and snuggles.
What to wear?
You can wear anything but depending on where you are breastfeeding or expressing at work you may not feel comfortable lifting your shirt or unzipping your dress at the back and pulling out your arms to comfortably breastfeed or express. Button up blouses provide discrete and easy access, but you will find the outfits that works for you. It’s just something to think about when you are getting your wardrobe ready for your return to work.
What happens if your baby refuses the bottle?
You are not alone on this one. Even if you have been vigilant to include a few bottles in a week, babies can make their feelings pretty clear on their preferences for boob over bottle. If you going back to work and are experiencing this, it will be very stressful with your impending return to work date. It really pays to start EARLY! If you haven’t there is no doubt it is going to be tough.
Why is it tough? Well, depending on babies personality, it’s exposure to a bottle and sometimes in the new carer situation, baby just decides to refuse. In this situation many say if they are hungry enough they will take a bottle and some mums just know, if they’re stubborn, they won’t. Here’s a few techniques mums have tried if bub is refusing the bottle:
– Introduce the same bottle nipple as the babies dummy
– Try someone other than mum giving baby the bottle. (If baby smells the milk they
might be a bit cross it’s not on offer their preferred way)
– Try feeding bub in a completely different position or a position where they are
– Introduce baby to a cup
– Introduce the bottle in the dream feed (this one didn’t work for me, just woke bub
up with a funny look on his face like “what on earth is that?”)
– Take more leave. Some mums, who have this option available take extra leave to
wean baby or wait until solids are introduced.
Some mothers find their baby refuses the bottle in the day or has just a small amount. Baby may then stock up at night or just wake up cause they missed you so much during the day. Babies might not even be hungry when they wake up, they might just be catching up on quality time, although it doesn’t always feel like that at 3:00am.
Human Resources policies in organisations in Australia and the law support women who choose to continue to breastfeed so there is support on your side before you begin.
This is a very brief overview of what to consider when you are thinking about expressing at work. It’s really worth thinking about these things while you are still pregnant to factor in the preparation, cost or hire of the pumps and support from your employer and partner and logistics of how you plan to feed your baby. It is not the end of the world if you haven’t prepared yourself and your baby in advance but it might be a bit stressful and emotional for both you and bub for a couple of months on your return to work if bub doesn’t take to a bottle or cup straight away. Returning to work can be a hard time so try to connect with some mums at your work for some support and guidance.
For further information visit the Australian Breastfeeding Association website or phone their Helpline 1800 686 268. The Breastfeeding Helpline is available 7 days a week. It is staffed by trained, volunteer counsellors who answer calls on a roster system in their own homes.
We endeavour to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information. This information does not replace the advice of an expert in the field, so talk to your friends and gather opinions but also talk to the professionals as returning to work can be a big stressful and emotional transitional period in itself.
If you have any tips or hints to share with other mums, I will happily incorporate them in this fact sheet! Email firstname.lastname@example.org