Breastfeeding and working

Returning to work or study – Transcript

If you are returning to work in a few weeks time or maybe about to start studying or going back to study, certainly a lot of women in this situation start to wonder whether breastfeeding can continue, and I do get a lot of ladies coming along to the drop ins, asking me how to stop breastfeeding because they’re returning to work.

The good news is though that breastfeeding can absolutely continue and that close bond that you’ve kept with your baby can go on into the future, even while you’re back at work, with all that comfort and security, as well as the antibody protection (benefits of breastfeeding video and how long video)from illness too. It really is a wonderful thing to be able to reconnect with your baby at the end of the day, and for you both just to unwind together through breastfeeding.

So there are some really practical things that you can do to help you prepare for going back to work – and the first one is to actually get your milk supply well established (how breastfeeding works video) first, and that usually does take a few weeks. The reason I mention that is because some women, especially those who maybe have their own business or something like that, they tend to go back to work quite early. So lots of exclusive breastfeeding to get your supply up and running beforehand.

naked baby with mother lying on a white soft blanketAnd the second thing to think about is where the childcare will be. It’s a really good idea if you can to have the childcare nearest to your workplace or your place of study just so that you’ve got longer time with your baby.

You can feed your baby just before you go into work and just after. It might be even that you go and feed your baby in the break time. So that can be useful. But I know it’s not always possible depending on your circumstances.

There’s also different options in regard to how you feed your baby when he is away from you. What a lot of women do is to breastfeed solely when they’re at home with the baby, but give expressed milk (expressing by pump video) so that the baby’s carer can give that expressed milk when separated from you. But many women give formula as an option too. So there is flexibility. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and your body will carry on making as much milk as emptying of your breast is going on.

And remember that when you contact your employer to let them know that you’re returning to work, please let them know that you’re breastfeeding and also about your requirements that you may have for expressing your milk at work, if that’s what you’re choosing to do.

expressed breast milk packed in storage bags and frozen in the freezerI do meet a lot of breastfeeding mothers who believe that they have to stockpile milk months and months before they go back to work, and I can understand the rationale there. These ladies are filling their freezers full of expressed milk – probably not enough room for any food I suspect! But the truth is that you don’t have to do that. One month before you go back is a good time to start expressing, and your baby can be given this milk by a bottle (safe bottle feeding video)if your baby is under six months or maybe an open lidded cup can be used after six months.

But I must admit a lot of mothers find that the baby is reluctant first of all to take milk from a bottle or a cup, (alternative feeding methods video)and it can be a bit of trial and error, trying to find the thing that the baby is going to take milk from. So be assured that with time and patience you will find something that will work. That might be that you have to ask somebody else to give the milk to your baby while you’re practicing because some babies are very reluctant to take that from the mother themselves – but know that when the carer gives that milk it’s usually a lot easier.

I think it’s also important to mention that many babies will not really take as much milk as you were expecting from the carer who is looking after them, and that can be really disturbing in some ways, and worrying – but babies do what they call reverse cycling (normal patterns video) where they will make up their supply when they see you again, and sometimes they are waking more at night, as well, just to get that milk that they need.

So as a good rule of thumb, express maybe just two or three ounces of milk (that would be 30 60 90 mls) (storage of breastmilk video) at a time to leave with the carer, because babies often only take about that much of milk at the breast, and rather than filling a whole bottle full and then have some wasted, it it’s a good rule of thumb to put it in smaller amounts.

Of course you will be able to work out whether your baby is getting enough milk (reliable signs video) by looking at the weight gain and the wet and dirty nappies – remind yourself of these things with the videos that we’ve got in this package, because all of that information will help you to feel confident in this new situation that you are finding yourself in.

If you are expressing your milk and finding it difficult to keep up with the supply, spend a lot more time feeding your baby at home. Extra feeding sessions and extra pumping sessions at work, if you can.

Another tip for going back to work is to try to just make the first week back at work a short one, and go back maybe towards the end of the week, Thursday or Friday, just to ease you and your baby in very gradually and slowly and to make it easier for you both. Very soon things will settle down.

But prepare ahead as well – the day before, get the nappy bag organised, get the clothes for you and your baby out, prepare to make things as easy as possible for yourself.

Very soon you and your baby will settle down into this new routine.

I find that most breastfeeding mothers will tell you that the worst time for them was actually BEFORE they went back to work. Just trying to work out how it was actually going to work out, then thinking maybe it wouldn’t – but this is a very common time to feel that anxiety, and very soon things will fall into place and there IS flexibility. Nothing is actually set in stone. Whatever you’ve arranged may change over time, and be willing to adjust some of those things.

Review dates, references & further resources

Review Dates

Version 1.1 published in March 2019. Next review date: Jan 2022


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