Going back to work certainly doesn’t have to coincide with stopping breastfeeding. It’s widely accepted that breast milk is best for your baby and you should be able to continue until you feel it’s the right time to stop, irrespective of the demands of your job.
‘Many working mothers find they really enjoy the closeness breastfeeding provides after being apart from their baby all day,’ says Ilana King, breastfeeding counsellor for the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers.
Is expressing essential?
‘Depending on your baby’s age, you may find that you don’t need to express milk,’ explains Ilana. ‘For example, if your baby is over a year old, he can have cows’ milk, or if he’s around eight months or so, some milk feeds can be replaced with solids.
‘Some breastfed babies don’t take to bottles,’ says Ilana. ‘If your baby is six months or older, he may drink from a plain or soft-spouted beaker instead of a bottle. You can still breastfeed him before and after work, and during the night.
- If you’re intending to express milk for your baby to have while you’re at work, make sure that whoever is going to look after him – your partner, a nursery or child minder – is supportive.
- ‘Practise expressing milk before you go back to work,’ advises Ilana. ‘It’s useful to build up a store of feeds and keep them in the freezer.’
- Have a trial run at being away from your baby for the same length of time as your working day.
- Don’t be hard on yourself if you find expressing difficult: some women find it physically and emotionally exhausting. If you decide expressing at work is not for you, don’t beat yourself up about it. Your baby will thrive whether he’s having breast milk, formula, cows’ milk or a combination of these.
Inform your employer
Write to your employer to explain that you’ll be breastfeeding when you return to work, and will need to take breaks to express milk. Your employer should (although they are not legally required to do so) provide a suitable clean, warm and private room (not the toilet!) for you to express milk in, plus access to a fridge in which to store it.
At home, breastfeed your baby as usual, and make sure you give him plenty of one-to-one time and attention.
Now tell us what worked for you…
Did you breastfeed when you returned to work?
What made it easier for you?