Returning to work after having a baby can be an extremely daunting task. Leaving your baby, sometimes for the first time, to go back to a life you had pre-baby is a scary prospect and learning to juggle the logistics of being a working mum can take time.
The decision to continue breastfeeding after returning to work can also pose some new challenges, at least at the start. Expressing or pumping means that your baby continues to receive the nutrition and goodness of breastmilk and allows you to continue breastfeeding when you're at home as well. The challenge is finding the time and space to express milk in the workplace, in order to maintain your supply and provide milk for your bub.
Top tips for returning to work and expressing
You'll first need to work out how many feeds your bub will be missing while you're at work and how much milk you'll (approximately) need to express to meet those needs. This will usually depend on how old your baby is and whether they're being exclusively breastfed, mix fed (formula and breastmilk) and/or have started solids.
Once you've got an idea of how much milk you need, you can work out how often you'll need to express.
Here are some helpful tips to assist you in easing your way back into the workforce while expressing.
Begin pumping a few weeks prior to returning to work so that you have a stash of milk already built up. This will help you ease into your new routine with a minimum of stress. Many mums use the Haakaa breast pump to easily create that first stash of breastmilk in anticipation of returning to work. You can find out more about using the Haakaa here.
If you need to pump regularly, a good quality electric breast pump is necessary. The Unimom Minuet LCD Electric Breast Pump is a great option for pumping mums. One of the lightest and most compact breast pumps available, it makes expressing quick and easy and maximises output thanks to a host of nifty features.
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!
You will need an area (not the toilet) with a comfortable chair and table.
You will need a refrigerator to store your breastmilk. We 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 (like the Unimom Cooler Bag Set), 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, well, 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!