You know you’ve got to go back to work and you know you want to keep breastfeeding your baby, but how are you going to make breastfeeding at work, well, work?
We all know that the longer you breastfeed, the greater the health protection is for your baby and you. You have already given your baby the most wonderful gift by choosing to breastfeed. Now you may be wondering what to do when you return to work. Below are some answers to common concerns.
How can I continue to breastfeed?
It helps to plan ahead before you return to work. You will be making arrangements for childcare. Think about the childcare option that suits you, your working hours and your plans to continue to breastfeed. If you are planning to continue breastfeeding when you go back to work you should start giving your baby an occasional feed of expressed breast milk from about six weeks old. This will allow you to get the hang of expressing and help your baby to get used to taking breast milk from someone other than yourself.
Supply and demand
Depending on the age of your baby when you return to work, you and your baby’s needs will vary. For example, a seven-month-old baby may still be feeding at regular intervals during the day. A baby who is near to his first birthday may just be feeding in the morning and evening. Feeding patterns will vary from one baby to the next, but older babies will tend to feed less often. Practise expressing your milk by hand and pump until you decide which one suits you best and you are confident about doing it. You may choose not to express at work and just breastfeed while you are at home. Your milk supply may go down as it adapts to the change in demand. You can ask the childminder to give your baby formula or expressed breast milk while you are at work.
Breastfeeding and employment
Under Section 9 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004 certain women in employment who are breastfeeding are entitled to take time off work each day in order to breastfeed. The provision applies to all women in employment who have given birth within the previous six months. Employers are not obliged to provide facilities in the workplace to facilitate breastfeeding if the provision of such facilities would give rise to considerable costs. At the choice of her employer, the woman may therefore opt to:
- Breastfeed in the workplace or express breast milk, where facilities are provided in the workplace by the employer.
- Have their working hours reduced (without loss of pay) to facilitate breastfeeding where facilities are not made available.
Go to www. citizensinformation.ie for more information on the above.
If you find breastfeeding difficult, there are many people who can help and reassure you:
1. At the hospital or at home.
Your midwife will have had much experience with breastfeeding mothers and will be able to help you get started. Some are “lactation consultants” and have specific training in breastfeeding support. In addition, most hospitals run a weekly drop-in breastfeeding clinic.
2. At the local health centre.
Breastfeeding support groups are run by the public health nurse. Meetings take place weekly, where you and other mothers can meet the nurse to discuss any problems you might have and to seek her advice.
3. Breastfeeding counsellors.
Cuidiu – The Irish Childbirth Trust has a list of trained breastfeeding counsellors who will answer any queries you might have. They are available all over the country. Contact Cuidiu for the name of your nearest counsellor. In addition, the La Leche League is a voluntary group, which provides information and support to women who want to breastfeed their babies. Their services include telephone counselling and monthly group meetings.
Methods of expressing your milk
There are three main methods of expressing breastmilk.
- By hand
- By using a hand pump
- By using an electric pump
Whichever method you choose, the milk may take a minute or two to flow after you start expressing. If expressing from one breast at a time, Express from one breast until the flow slows or stops. Change to the second breast and when the milk stops flowing from that breast return to the first breast and start again. Repeat this several times until you can no longer get any milk from either breast.
To express by pump
A variety of different pumps are available to buy or rent and suit different situations or women. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and more information.
There are a number of different designs, all of which work in slightly different ways. Some are operated by hand and some by battery. They all have a funnel that fits over the nipple and areola. Different pumps suit different women – it is therefore best, if at all possible, to try out a pump before buying.
These are fast and easy because they work automatically. They are particularly good if you need to express for a long period. It is possible to express both breasts at the same time using some electric pumps that have a dual pumping set. This is quicker than other methods and may help you to produce more milk.
- Label and date expressed breast milk before putting it in the fridge or freezer so that your childminder knows which one to use first.
- Have a trial run with childcare before returning to work.
- If you’re using milk within five days of expressing it, it’s better to store it in the fridge than in the freezer. This means milk expressed at work on Fridays can be taken home and stored in your fridge to be used on Mondays.
For more information, the HSE ‘Breastfeeding and Work – guide for parents and employers’ can be downloaded at http://www.healthpromotion.ie/publications
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