Combining motherhood with paid employment is a challenge—but continuing to breastfeed can make it easier. Stopping breastfeeding increases your baby’s risk of illness, and the effort involved in buying, preparing and storing formula can be a major hassle. Continued nursing can be a comfort to you and your baby as you adjust to and cope with separation
“Finding a supportive childminder round the corner from work has been super—I pop round and nurse my son at lunchtimes.”
- Protection from illness means you’ll need to take less time off to care for your baby. This is good if you’re paid by the hour and will keep your employer happy too!
- Your breastmilk is FREE so that saves you money.
- You will miss your baby. How good to connect with him during the working day, whether you express milk for him or get the chance to breastfeed.
- Your baby will miss you. How lovely to have precious nursing time together at home. If you feel guilt or conflict about returning to work, continuing to breastfeed will help you feel you’re stilldoing the very best you can for your little one.
- Returning to work will be hard work whichever way you feed your baby. Sitting down to breastfeed lets you rest and recharge.
Prepare the day before to help mornings go smoothly—pack your baby’s nappy bag, make a packed lunch, prepare your pump and check that everyone’s clothes are ready.
Set your alarm for a feed just before you get up, so your baby is content while you dress and get ready. Then nurse him again just before you leave. You’ll start the day with comfortable breasts and your baby well-fed.
If possible, breastfeed as soon as you collect your baby. When you get home, plan to have a drink and a snack and nurse or play with your baby for a while. Lying down to nurse and even having a nap may help you cope with the evening rush. Cuddles and a chat over a snack can also help you reconnect with older children. Everyone will be happier if you and your baby are more relaxed, even if dinner ends up a little later.
Babies and children often save up their frustrations until the person they trust most is available. It’s normal for a baby to fuss and cry more than usual when his mother collects him. Accepting your baby’s emotions is usually more helpful than trying to force independence
Pump at work and breastfeed frequently at home to keep up your milk production. After any non-working days when you’ve been nursing your baby, you will probably experience more leaking and be able to pump more milk. If you feel the tingling of your milk letting down, fold your arms tightly across your chest and press firmly on your nipples for several seconds to stop milk flow. Some breast pads also work this way to prevent leaking. But full breasts are a sign to express some milk. You’ll probably have fewer problems with leaking after a few days at work, but be able to pump less milk. It’s also common to be able to express more milk in the morning than in the afternoon.
Listen to your body. To avoid problems with blocked ducts and mastitis, express frequently enough to keep your breasts soft and comfortable while you are away from your baby. Full breasts reduce milk production.
Nurse often when together
The more often your baby gets to nurse when you are together, the less milk you’ll need to pump when away. Be prepared for more evening, night-time and early morning feeds—this reverse-cycle nursing is common. If you keep your baby with you in the evening they can nurse frequently before bed and you may get fewer night-time awakenings.
For part or all of the night can make it easier to sleep whilst meeting your baby’s need for closeness.
Keep an emergency supply of frozen expressed breastmilk. Take prompt steps to increase your milk production if you need to dip into your supply. A ‘babymoon’ day, afternoon or evening with your baby, resting and breastfeeding frequently, can really boost your milk supply. Be aware that medications such as decongestants and the contraceptive pill can lower milk production. You may also notice a temporary drop in milk during your menstrual periods. If your baby is over six months it can help if the caregiver gives them any solid foods and other drinks whilst you are away, as this may reduce the amount of milk you need to pump. You can then concentrate on nursing when you’re at home.
Your biggest problem will probably be tiredness.
- Getting enough rest and early nights can help you cope. Use days at home to recharge—take things slowly and have an afternoon nap if needed.
- Use breastfeeding and pumping sessions as rest times—a chance to sit or lie down and relax.
- Find ways to take short breaks during your day, using any unexpected opportunities.
- Establish priorities for what needs doing at home and share responsibilities with your partner, older children and others.
- Pace yourself, and reserve your time and energy for the most important tasks.
- Try to fit in a little fresh air and exercise such as a regular walk. Some errands may be nearly as quick on foot as by car.
Eating regular and nutritious meals will help sustain you. Drink according to your thirst. Avoid using caffeine drinks (coffee, tea, cola) to keep you going.
Running late is a common cause of stress. If you leave home in plenty of time to get to your caregiver’s, you can spend a few minutes settling and nursing your baby before leaving for work. Consider having a flexible arrangement with your caregiver in case you run late at the end of the day. Paying for 15 minutes extra childcare may reduce your stress levels, even if you rarely use it. Plan backup childcare options in case your baby is ill. You or your partner may have to take a day’s leave, one of you may have to work from home, or your baby could go to family or a friend whom he knows well.
Remember that what you are going through is because you are a working mother. It’s work that’s tiring— breastfeeding makes being a mother easier. Developing a support network of like-minded mothers gives you people to turn to when needed. The hardest part of returning to work is missing your baby. Be kind to yourself, especially when you start back. Nursing, carrying your baby in a sling or backpack and sleeping with him nearby can all help you compensate for the time apart.
Many of the challenges you’ll experience are shared with all mothers, including getting necessary jobs done with a crawling baby or active toddler. Being flexible will help you cope with what each day brings when your baby is into everything. Avoid doing everything at home in addition to your paid job. Discuss with your partner and older children how the jobs at home can be more equally shared. Use this as chance for everyone to learn new skills and become more independent.
“Breastfeeding simplifies many things for me, plus it helps to ensure that when I am at home, I am spending time with my baby.”
Make time for yourself
Make time to relax and enjoy your favourite hobbies. Use your baby’s nursing or nap times to give you a chance to read, play music or do a craft. A sling or backpack can also help for gardening or other activities you enjoy. Babies and toddlers can play close by too and may enjoy watching or joining in with your interesting activities.
Keep breastfeeding options open
Once back at work, you can always make changes if you find things aren’t working out as planned. However, if you decide to stop breastfeeding before you return to work, it can be difficult to reverse this decision later on.
Breastfeeding doesn’t last forever
At some point your baby will outgrow the need to nurse. And well before then you will be able to reduce and stop expressing milk whilst away. You will both benefit physically and emotionally from ending breastfeeding gradually. LLL meetings can continue to be a good source of support after you return to work. If you’re unable to attend every meeting, your local LLL Leader can still listen to any concerns you have and offer support.
Written by Sue Upstone and mothers of LLLGB.
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You may also wish to look at the following guidance:
Maternity Action and their guidance on Breastfeeding at Work
ACAS: accommodating breastfeeding in the workplace
The Health & Safety Executive: Protecting pregnant workers and new mothers