If you are worried that breastfeeding and working won't go together, be reassured. Plenty of mums combine the two successfully. It just takes a little forward planning.
Can I breastfeed when I go back to work?
Yes. Breastfeeding and working may seem hard to combine, but it can be done. The way you do it needs to suit you, your baby, and your childcare provider. You'll then know that your baby is getting exactly the right food, and the health benefits that come with breastmilk, even though you are not there to feed her all of the time.
How can I prepare for breastfeeding and working?
Breastfeeding at work will be much easier if you've made a few preparations. So start expressing milk a month or so before you return to work, so you get the hang of expressing milk as well as have a good quantity of milk to freeze and store, if you want to. This will reassure you that your baby will have plenty of food while you are away. You should also prepare your baby if she is going to change from breast to bottle. If she is used to the breast and nothing else, you will need to patiently help her learn how to feed from a paladai, katori, glass or bottle.
If your baby is older than eight weeks and has only ever fed from your breast, you may want to try going straight to a glass or katori. This may avoid the problems that man mums experience when changing from breast to bottle later than eight weeks. If you want to continue giving your baby only breastmilk, you will need somewhere to express milk at work, as well as the co-operation of whoever is feeding your baby. It is becoming more common for working parents to leave some expressed breast milk (EBM) with the person looking after their child. This is an important factor to consider when you are choosing childcare.
Your mother, mother-in-law, or a live-in maid may be looking after your baby. Talk about why it is important your baby drinks breastmilk even while you are away. Instruct her on how the milk needs to be thawed and warmed for your baby. If your baby is going to have the breastmilk in a bottle, you should clearly instruct her on sterilising bottles. You need to ensure that they are well aware of this situation and comfortable with the arrangement.
What is mixed feeding?
Mixed feeding is when your baby has formula milk while you are away, and breastmilk when she is with you. This means that you don't need to express milk, and you and your baby still have the togetherness of breastfeeding both before and after work. Your body will need to adjust to making less milk, so you'll need to gradually reduce feeds during the month before your return. If breastfeeding is well-established, you may still be able to breastfeed fully during weekends and evenings.
If you are considering mixed feeding, choose formula milk over milk from cows or buffaloes. If you have already introduced your baby to solids and she is having other liquids, you can instruct your baby's caregiver to give her some fruit or vegetable juice in portions advised by your baby's doctor.
What the pros and cons of breastfeeding and working?
For your baby, there are only pros, because she'll be able to continue to benefit from your breastmilk. And you can store freshly expressed milk in the fridge at four degrees C or colder for up to five days. As convenient as it is to freeze milk, once it's frozen, it may not protect your baby as well against infections. However, frozen breastmilk is still healthier for your baby than formula milk. For you, there may be a few cons at first. It can take a little while for your breasts to adjust to the spaces between feeds, especially if you are mixing breast and bottle-feeds. Take breast pads and a spare top to work with you, in case your breasts leak. You may find that breastfeeding and working is tiring, as you'll need to do a lot of organising and planning. But like any routine, once you've invested the time and effort in setting it up, it should get easier after a couple of weeks.
What if my employer says that I can't express breastmilk at work?
It may be a good idea to discuss with your employer or your HR Manager why breastfeeding is important to you. Do focus on issues such as reduced absenteeism in working mums whose babies are breastfed, and less prone to illness. If you feel uncomfortable to talk to a male HR manager, you may try to get help from female colleagues in the HR department. Not all work places are mother-friendly. It may be a little awkward for you to express breastmilk at work. But, with the support of your Human Resource manager you may be able to identify a comfortable and hygienic place to express breastmilk and manage the required breaks for this purpose. Some women feel uncomfortable using the common fridge in the office to store their breastmilk. If you feel the same way, you may want to consider carrying a handy, well insulated ice-box to work. Place it in your cabin or under your desk. While most ice boxes will keep the contents chilled for five to six hours, you may want to carry a few extra non-spill ice packs. These can be easily frozen in the common fridge and will give you the option of keeping the ice box chilled for a longer time.