Just because your maternity leave is over and you are heading back to work, it doesn’t mean that you need to throw in the breastfeeding towel. Many new mothers have managed to combine both work and breastfeeding- it’s just another ball in the air in the motherhood-juggling act! If you are going back to work and would like to continue to breastfeed, here are some tips and tricks that will hopefully make the process a little easier for you.
Tip #1 Prepare, prepare and prepare some more
As with everything in life, the more prepared you are, the more smoothly things tend to go; get organised and have a plan in place. Going back to work and continuing to breastfeed requires a strategy and a well thought out action plan.
- start giving your baby a bottle fairly early. Many breastfeeding mums make the mistake of not introducing their baby to a bottle until just before they go back to work. To prevent any drama it is wise to get your baby familiar with the bottle from a fairly early age, so that both you and your baby are used to it. If your baby won’t take the bottle from you, get your partner or another family member or friend to introduce it.
- Sort out your childcare arrangements. Finding suitable childcare can be tricky, especially when it is for a baby. It’s often an anxiety-filled mission, so give yourself plenty of time to find care that is reliable and that you are comfortable with. Also, set in place a ‘Plan B’ in case back-up is required.
- Start stockpiling your milk supply. It can take some time to produce extra milk, so plan in some extra pumping sessions ahead of time so that you can start to accumulate expressed milk as well as get your body use to the process.
- Do a trial run, before you do it for real give ‘going back to work’ a go. See how long it takes to get ready, get the baby to childcare and test what bumps and challenges might arise so that you can head them off at the pass.
Tip #2 Communicate with your boss
It is really important that you talk to your employer about how they can support you as you return to work and continue to breastfeed. Be open and honest and relay from very early on that this is something that you feel is important and that you intend to do. Discuss working hours and the logistics that may need to be implemented in order for you to pump at work, including a private area or space where you can pump in peace. Having a frank conversation from the get go will help to eliminate many problems or issues in the long term.
Tip #3 Strategize your breastfeeding sessions
There is no breast pump as good as your baby, so get in as many feeding sessions with them as possible. Plan ahead so that you can feed before and after work. Also, look at options such as on site day care that may allow you the option of feeding during the working day.
Tip #4 Plan your pumping sessions
In order to maintain your milk supply, it is generally advised that you pump every three hours. Try and put in place a work schedule that allows you some regularity with your pumping. This will help your body to get into a routine as well as assist you in managing your work schedule.
Tip #5 Invest in good equipment
We all like to spend as little money as possible on things, but investing in a good quality, time effective breast pump is well worth every dollar spent when you are a working mum.
Tip #6 Work out your wardrobe
Think practical, not fashionable, although it is possible to combine the two! Make sure that you have some breastfeeding friendly work wear options available, as well as a suitable bra that allows you to pump easily. Keep a supply of nursing pads, as well as a spare bra and change of clothes in your office in case of any mishaps.
Tip #7 Ease back into it
If it is at all possible try and ease yourself back into your work life. Some employees can be very flexible and accommodating towards mothers returning to work. See if your boss will allow you to come back part time initially or perhaps work from home a day or two? You don’t know unless you ask!
Tip #8 Take care of yourself
Going back to work and adding pumping to your daily routine is a lot for you to physically and emotionally manage so be kind to yourself. Make sure that you are eating well and drinking lots of water. When you have a chance to take break or have a rest then take it.
Tip #9 Accept help when it is offered
Achieving a work / life balance is very difficult, especially for a new mum. It is both physically and emotionally taxing, so if help is offered TAKE it. If someone asks if they can do something for you, like making you a meal or picking up your dry cleaning, then take them up on the offer and just say ‘thank you’!
Tip #10 Stop feeling guilty
One of the most common themes amongst all mothers is the feeling of guilt. It’s a bit like you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t, so set yourself free, give yourself a pat on the back, and tell yourself that you are doing the very best that you can do. No situation is perfect and you are going to have some days where you juggle things beautifully and other days where you drop a whole heap of balls. Keep a level head and don’t be too hard on yourself. Embrace the choice that you have made and the reasons that you have made them and feel proud of your achievements and all that you do for your family!