Just as you’re getting used to being at home with your baby, it’s time to go back to work. Leaving your little one while you return to the workforce can be a daunting prospect. There’s mummy guilt, separation anxiety and a multitude of logistics to consider… and then you throw breastfeeding into the mix. How is that going to work when you and bub are apart for nine hours a day? Well, it has its challenges but it certainly is possible. We caught up with Dru Campbell, midwife and lactation consultant at Health Bay Polyclinic to get her 12 tips for returning to work while breastfeeding. Here’s what she had to say…
Returning To Work While Breastfeeding: Before baby arrives
Negotiate your maternity leave
In accordance with UAE Labour Laws employers are obliged to give 45 calendar days (just over six weeks) maternity leave to new mums. It takes around six to eight weeks to establish breastfeeding, so if it’s an option, try to negotiate unpaid leave or perhaps combine your annual leave, so you can take as much time as financially possible.
Suss out your surroundings
Make sure there is a private space at your work place where you can go for pumping sessions. There also needs to be a fridge where you can store the milk until the end of the day. If these facilities are not available it is worth pursuing it with your employer or HR manager so that everything is in place for your return to work.
Ask for flexible or reduced hours
If flexible hours are feasible in your line of work you can ask your boss about it. Perhaps part-time work is a possibility, or you may be able to reduce your working day by one or two hours. It’s also worth knowing that as per UAE Labour Law, during the 18 months following delivery, a breastfeeding mother has the right to two half-hour breast-pumping breaks every day.
Returning To Work While Breastfeeding: After baby arrives
Get off to a good start
The most important thing is to get the latch right as early as possible. If you face issues (tenderness is normal, but pain means you haven’t got the latch right) you should book an appointment with a qualified Midwife or Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
Pump it up
If you are going back to work after 45 days I suggest you start using a pump after four weeks. If you have a bit more time off, you can start expressing one month before you return to work. The best time to express milk is after your baby’s first feed in the morning. You can also express after feeds during the day.
Get a week ahead
In an ideal situation, if you’re able to pump successfully, I recommend stockpiling a week’s supply of milk in the fridge and freezer. This takes the pressure off when baby is going through a growth spurt or he’s thirsty and needs a little extra.
Avoid the bottle for the first six weeks
It takes baby about six to eight weeks to breastfeed efficiently, so if the bottle is going to be introduced it should be after this time. If you introduce a bottle too early, your baby can develop a preference for the bottle and then it may be difficult for him/her to go back to the breast.
Breastfeed during the night
Night feeds are essential because Prolactin, which is the hormone that helps to build and maintain your milk supply, is at its highest at night. Prolactin levels rise with suckling so the more baby nurses the higher the Prolactin levels, which in turn helps to establish a strong milk supply for the duration of breastfeeding.
Returning To Work While Breastfeeding: Back to work
Be relaxed while pumping
It’s not always easy, especially if you are expressing milk in a cupboard at your office, but try to be as relaxed as possible. When you ‘bottle watch’ and count the milliliters, you will start to feel stressed and adrenaline will stop the production of Oxycontin, which stops the letdown reflex. Instead try to distract yourself by watching something on your phone or reading a book. Looking at a picture of your baby will also help with milk flow.
Employ a breastfeeding-friendly caregiver
Whether you’re sending your little one to nursery or hiring a nanny, it’s vital that the caregiver is on board with your plans to breastfeed. Make sure they understand how breastfeeding works (supply and demand) and are aware not to give formula in the place of expressed milk, unless instructed to.
Don’t put pressure on yourself
Remember, as long as you’re giving as much breast milk as you can you’re doing a great job. Some mums feel pressured and this means the whole experience of breastfeeding isn’t enjoyable, which is a shame.
- Use storage bags because they take up less room.
- Always write the date so that you can store the bags for three months in the freezer and five days in the cold part of the refrigerator.
- Store 100ml and 50ml bags of milk. This way smaller bags are available for when baby is going through a growth spurt of feels extra thirsty.
- Never defrost milk in a microwave or boiling water. Instead it should be thawed in the fridge or in lukewarm water.