Make you sure that you check out other articles in the Working Mother series if you are feeling stressed about going back or putting your child into care, or just the general juggle of trying to do everything.
When you are going back to work for the first time after having your
baby, there’s a lot to think about it. It’s very normal to have some concerns.
Make you sure that you check out other articles in the Working Mother
series if you are feeling stressed about going back or putting your child into
care, or just the general juggle of trying to do everything.
This article delves into the particularly special juggle that is
dealing with breastfeeding and work.
When you return to work, you may need to face the reality of expressing
while you are there. If you want your baby to keep having breastmilk while you
are working then you want to keep your
If you are trying to stop breastfeeding, you still may need to express
a bit at work at the beginning for your own comfort, because a whole day
without letting some out can get both painful and leaky.
If you are lucky enough to be able to take your baby to work or have
them in childcare nearby, then you may be able to actually breastfeed while at
For many women, the idea of getting their breasts out at work might be
a bit foreign, and it’s normal and quite
sensible to be a bit self-conscious about this. Your usual work identity does
not involve exposing your nipples for feeding or any other reason, so you may
feel uncomfortable about that mum-identity creeping in and confusing things
Every state in Australia has legislation that prevents discrimination
on the basis of things like sex, that you are a parent, pregnant or
breastfeeding, and there is also a federal law to protect you as well. The Federal
Sex Discrimination Act 1984 was amended in 2011 to strengthen the law
specifically regarding the rights of breastfeeding women.
Talk to someone at your work before your return to let them know that
you will need somewhere to express as well as somewhere to store your milk.
You are entitled to a private, lockable space to do this, that is not
just the women’s bathroom. If you have the opportunity to actually breastfeed at work then you are entitled to a
space to do this.
Failure for an employer to provide a suitable place for you, and allow
you to adjust your work breaks to fit with when you need to express/feed, can be
considered discriminatory and you may be able to pursue legal action.
All of this depends upon whether your requests are reasonable, or any
refusal on the part of the employer to accommodate them is unreasonable when taking into consideration the
specific practicalities of the business and workplace.
The onus is on you however to negotiate
this. You need to ask for these rights and ensure you are getting them, so it
may be helpful to arm yourself with all the relevant knowledge about the laws
around this. It helps if you pump up your own confidence a bit too before
asking for these rights, or perhaps having a support person coaxing you through
it if you think you might struggle.
and hints to help you become a fantastic breast juggler
Get breastpads to wear while you
are at work; you will need these and be very thankful for them.
Wear clothes that you can express in (similar to what you would
actually breastfeed in). Don’t wear shift dresses or jumpsuits that you will
have to take off entirely to get access.
You will need to express in the beginning at the same times that you
would normally have fed your baby. You can reduce this after a little time and
probably combine them into just one expressing time. Once your baby is on
solids and you are feeding less often you may be able to get through the whole
day without needing to express.
You obviously need to leave your baby with the amount of breastmilk
that he would normally consume if you were together. Helpfully, while he is in
childcare drinking this amount, you are at work expressing his feed for
tomorrow, so the pattern will continue nicely.
Tip #1: When you
When you get home, you may need to express again immediately to relieve
discomfort or make sure you have enough for tomorrow. This can be a difficult
time because you are just walking in the door, seeing your baby and partner for
the first time all day, needing to fix dinner, possibly feed your baby again,
then wash and sterilise all your bottles
and expressing equipment.
All of this does sound like a bit of a juggling act, but of course, it is all doable. It helps to plan and
schedule a little bit so that you know what you are going to be doing when you
first get home.
Work out what is most important, and then prioritise everything after that.
Ask for help from your partner whenever you need it, and don’t feel
guilty for this. If you need some downtime for yourself, or you would just
rather cuddle with your baby than cook or organise
the house, then do this, and don’t feel bad for anything you are putting off.
Consider planning your meals beforehand, such as cooking in bulk on the
weekend, getting fresh meals delivered, or getting your partner to be cook for the nights when you are working.
Tip #2: If you
want to keep exclusively breastfeeding
It helps to get your baby used to a bottle before your first day at
The bottles with teats designed to imitate the shape of a breast can be
the best transition bottle to use.
It may help if you are not in the room when someone is trying to give
your baby expressed milk for the first time. Babies understand that you are
right there and have perfectly good boobs which can do this for them, so may be
reluctant to take a bottle initially if they know you are around.
Tip #3: If you
are going to mixed feed
Introduce formula before your first day of work so he is already
accustomed to it. Breastfed babies often struggle a little when moving to
formula because of the change in consistency, so you might need to have a few
goes, or dilute the formula a bit with breastmilk or boiled water to get them
used to the thicker consistency.
Some babies hate the taste of some formulas, and some react to cow’s milk-based ones, so leave a couple of weeks
before you start work to try a few formulas until you’ve got one that your baby
will happily take.
I have breastfed three babies while returning to work. My bubs went
into childcare at around 5 months of age so I could keep working. It can be a
difficult juggle, but I felt it was worth the effort. Plus I was lucky, I
really loved being able to breastfeed.
Each baby was a slightly different story. My first went into a
childcare right near my work, so I could duck over and feed him during the day.
This made life easier for me (I’m sure he wouldn’t have cared either way) and I
did like having a little snuggle with him during the day.
By my second baby, I was at
another workplace, and she was a suburb away, so was fully subsiding on
breastmilk. I tried to get her to have formula as well so I wouldn’t have to
express quite as much, but she wasn’t having any of that discussion. She
rejected every formula we tried, and in the end stayed on breastmilk until she
12 months old and we could move her to milk.
By my third baby, I tried to
continue to give her breastmilk while I worked, but found after a few months it
was all just too hard. Not only was I working and breastfeeding, but I had
three kids to look after by now. We switched her to formula at around six
months old, purely because I couldn’t keep it all up logistically.
I felt quite guilty about that at the time
because the first two babies got to wean themselves in their own time, but my
third child is 4 now and a force to be reckoned with, so I don’t think she
works, and treat yourself with compassion
Working mums are rockstars, and working mums who breastfeed at the same
time are the bomb.
There is a lot going on at all times, and the best thing you can do is
be kind to yourself wherever you can. Don’t feel bad if things like ironing or
housework slide so that you can prioritise
feeding and looking after your baby and managing your worklife as well.
At the same time handling all of this is HARD. If you continue to work
and breastfeed that’s fantastic, but if
it is too much to manage, then it is completely reasonable
to switch to formula if it will save your sanity.
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