back to work and breastfeeding

It generally takes a couple of weeks to settle into life with a new baby. After two or three months you may start to feel as though you have finally got things under control, your milk supply is established and baby has settled into some sort of a routine… and then, life throws a spanner into the works and things must change – this is when many mom’s return to work.  For the majority of women this is the reality and though most of them would love to stay at home with their babies, it is simply not an option.

Breastfeeding is recommended for the first six to twelve months of life and many mothers may feel sad or even guilty at the thought of being forced to give ups successful journey after just a few weeks. These days, as the advantages of prolonged breastfeeding become more prevalent, so more mothers are exploring ways to continue feeding their babies as they go back into the work place.

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I wish I could tell you that most companies are pro breastfeeding and will give you everything you need to continue your breastfeeding journey, but in reality, few women are blessed with a supportive work/pumping environment. Many women have told stories of pumping in boardrooms, cars and even bathrooms… and I solute every single one of you! YOU are AMAZING!!

Does this obstacle stop me from encouraging moms to continue breastfeeding? Absolutely not… it takes bravery, organisation and at the end of the day guts – guts to stand up for what you believe in and to push through all the flack – but it remains to be, the very best thing for your baby.

And so, if you are going to give this thing a go, here’s what you need to know:

  •  You’re going to have a great breastpump with storage accessories – I adore the Medela swing which can be bought along with a stunning carry bag, bottles, cooler bag and ice brick. It also works off of batteries or electric outlet.
  • Find your support – this may be a clinic sister, lactation consultant, mother or friend.
  •  Read up – learn about pumping, storing and maintaining your milk supply
  • Stock up – it is helpful to have a little bit of a stockpile in the freezer to begin with
  •  Arrange for work breaks at regular intervals – ideally, you are going to need to pump every 3-4 hours for roughly 15 minutes  p/side (massage and a double pump will reduce your pumping time considerably).
  • Be open to what works for YOU – this is a big change for both you and your baby. It may take some time to get it right or to adjust to what is going to work for you and your family. Some baby’s will drink very little while mom is away but then catch up as soon as she is home and may have an extra feed at night. Sometimes substituting a few feeds with an alternative baby-specific milk is absolutely necessary, don’t beat yourself up.
  • Look after you – the demands of going back to work as well as juggling this new life at home can be all consuming. Make yourself a priority, do things that relax you, eat well, rest well and take the time to enjoy your little one. They really do grow up too quickly!

Ideally, a mother who is providing only breastmilk for her baby would have a daily schedule that looks something like this:

5:30 nurse baby on waking
6:30eat a nutritious breakfast
6:45offer a feed before leaving (some babies will accept while others are too full)
10:00 mid-morning pump with a high protein snack & rooibos tea
12:30 if possible go to your baby's daycare / home to nurse during lunch or have your caregiver bring baby to you
15:30mid-afternoon pump & snack
17:30nurse baby as soon as you get home / pick her up
19:00stay ontop of your own nutrition and eat a healthy nutrient packed dinner
20:00 nurse through the night as baby needs

In a perfect world, every working mom would be able to put a schedule like this into place, but we do know that this is not possible for everyone. Don’t throw in the towel if your day simply cannot look like this… figure out what works for you, be flexible, give your baby what you can and continue to enjoy your breastfeeding journey, even if nursing is not happening as often as you imagined it would. Please remember to consult your lactation consultant, paediatric dietitian or clinic sister if your baby is refusing feeds, drinking less than they should, not gaining adequate weight or if you have any questions or concerns regarding feeding your baby.

Article by breastfeeding consultant Jenna Richards