It’s always difficult to find that balance when you return to work as a mum. Your priorities and identity and have gone through a major transition. You might have mixed feelings such as guilt at ‘leaving’ your little one, positive about a new challenge, daunted at the prospect of managing your time or enthusiastic to resume your career…and sometimes all of these in one hour!
The decision to continue feeding your baby breastmilk while working has its own unique benefits and challenges. Expressing or pumping means that your baby continues to receive the nutrition and goodness of breastmilk and allows you to continue breastfeeding as well. The challenge is finding the time, space and peace to express milk in the workplace, in order to maintain your supply and provide milk for your bub.
Here are some helpful tips to assist you in easing your way back into the workforce, while continuing to breastfeed and express milk:
Begin pumping a few weeks prior to returning to work so that you have a reserve of milk. This will help you ease into your new routine with a minimum of stress. Many mums use the haakaa breast pump to create that first stash of breastmilk in anticipation of returning to work.
Make sure you discuss your breastfeeding and expressing needs with your employer before you return to work. Be realistic about the time and how often you will need to express – you’re not going to be able to relax and express effectively if you’ve only given yourself five minutes before the weekly staff meeting, and everyone is next door complaining loudly about the utter boredom of staff meetings!
The ABA has some really helpful templates to guide you and your employer through the return to work process.
You will need an area (not the toilet) with a comfortable chair and table.
You will need a refrigerator to store your breastmilk. I would also recommend placing your storage bags or bottles in a large plastic container with a lid if it is a communal fridge...some people just get curious and want to touch stuff…who knows why. A cooler bag is also a great option to keep your breastmilk cool between the office and your home.
You’ll need somewhere to store your breast pump and a power point close to a table, if you’re using an electric pump – this is where having a rechargeable battery feature on your breast pump can come in handy.
A sink to wash your hands and rinse out breast pump parts.
Sometimes headphones and a meditation podcast or audiobook can help you block out work stress and background noise so you can relax.
It seems like a lot to start with but it does get easier as you get used to a new routine. Make sure that you give yourself enough time and space to express and that you use your lunch break for, I don’t know, actually eating some lunch!
Make sure you are clear about your needs in the beginning and that your employer is supportive. According to the Federal Sex Discrimination Act, it’s illegal to discriminate against a woman on the basis that she is breastfeeding. Employers must make reasonable attempts to accommodate you if you want to breastfeed or express milk while at work.
Good luck as you return to work and remember that you have the hardest job on the planet – working mum – and it might not always feel like it, but you are doing a great job!