“I’ve returned to work now twice, full time. My first child was bottle-fed so I was apprehensive the second time about how breastfeeding would go when I returned. I had excellent information from a breast-feeding counsellor about different options and I’m particularly happy that I kept breastfeeding and working.”
Arrange your maternity leave and negotiate for any changes to your working day. Find out if there are adequate facilities for expressing. You’re entitled to somewhere private and suitable and shouldn’t be expected to use the toilet. Just because no one has asked before, doesn’t mean that somewhere can’t be found for you to express your breastmilk. Contact a breastfeeding counsellor or health visitor for practical advice.
Health and safety legislation should safeguard your health. By not breast-feeding, you’re at a higher risk of developing certain health problems. It’s in your employer’s interest to help safeguard your health while at work.
There are rules too about exposure to hazardous chemicals (see the Health and Safely Executive, HSE website).
The needs of a very young baby, whose mother is returning to work full time, will be different to that of an older baby whose mother is returning part time.
A baby of eight months, who has started taking solid food, will have less need for milk while you’re at work. Your baby can have water or some EBM and water in a beaker rather than milk in a bottle. Your ABM counsellor or health visitor can discuss options with you.
Practise expressing milk and build up a small store for your freezer in advance. Even if you decide not to express enough milk at work for all your baby’s needs, it will be useful to be able to express a little breastmilk to prevent engorgement or leaking in the early days back at work.
Expressing will also keep your supply up for when you want to breastfeed at home. Different methods suit different people and working situations. Don’t be put off if you only get a few drops or don’t succeed the first time.
“I could only get a few drops of milk with my hand pump when my baby was small but when I went back I found it much easier.
The first day the milk took a little while to come, possibly because I was a bit anxious, but after that it wasn’t a problem. I used to express about five ounces every lunchtime and put the bottle in an ice cream carton in the fridge.”
If expressing milk for your baby, check out the storage facilities at work. You may need to negotiate use of a fridge. Check the facilities you need are in place at work before your return date. You may be able to use a medical room or a vacant office for example.
Try to arrange to start work near the end of the week so that you and your baby can adjust gradually to the new routines.
Expect your baby to feed more often when you are at home, at least at first. Your baby will need to do this to increase your milk supply again after you have been apart, and to ‘welcome you back’. Arrange a little extra help if possible or ignore household chores till the weekend.
Try to express at regular intervals while you are at work, ideally when your baby would normally feed.
It can help to have photos of your baby with you as looking at them or thinking about your baby, while expressing, can help the milk to flow.
When not at work you can breastfeed on demand or keep to the same routine as on workdays. Whatever you decide, your breasts and your baby will adapt.
You may leak a little until your body adjusts to a new pattern of breastfeeding and expressing. So remember breast pads when you first return to work and it may be an idea to wear patterned clothing at first.
Get your bag and the baby’s things ready the night before to give you both a little extra time in the mornings.