Returning to work isn’t a barrier to breastfeeding and your employer is obliged to make it possible for you to continue breastfeeding once you return. The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for around six months, and there are benefits to continuing breastfeeding for up to two years after this.
Every mum’s circumstances are different and there are lots of ways you can incorporate breastfeeding into your working life, whether it’s using nearby childcare, expressing milk or working flexible hours, there’s a solution to suit each mum.
It’s a good idea to let your employer know as early as possible that you intend to breastfeed so you both of you have time to prepare.
Expressing milk for your baby to be given by a carer when you’re at work
With a little forward planning it is perfectly possible to continue to combine breastfeeding and working. If a mother intends to return to work very soon after the baby is born (for example if they are self-employed) then it is essential the she ensures that breastfeeding is well established and she feels confident with feeding before she starts back at work.
Depending on the times you’re at work, you might need to express your milk at work so that your baby has enough milk for the following day. Expressing can also be important to stop your breasts getting too full and to keep up your milk supply.
You can express by hand or use a pump to express milk. How often you need to express will depend on how much milk your baby needs and how often they feed. Expressing milk can take between 10 and 40 minutes: every mum is unique.
You should discuss with your employer how you are going to manage expressing at work. There are health and safety guidelines protecting breastfeeding mums at work. Ideally, you should have access to:
- a clean, warm room with a low, comfortable chair. If the door doesn’t have a lock you can put a sign on it to protect your privacy. The toilet is not a suitable place.
- an electric point for an electric pump if you wish to use one.
- Hand washing facilities close by.
- a hygienic area where you can clean your pump and store your sterilising equipment.
- a fridge for storing milk. If this isn’t possible, a cool bag is an alternative.
Working flexible hours
You could talk to your employer about the option of working flexible hours, allowing you to work around your breastfeeding times. Or, you could negotiate shorter working hours in the short term until your baby needs fewer feeds during the day.
Combining breastfeeding and formula feeding
You can breastfeed your baby when you are together, and leave formula milk for them while you’re at work. Most mothers who decide on this option find that once breastfeeding is well established their breasts quickly adapt, and that they have plenty of milk to feed their baby at evenings and weekends.