In my opinion one of the scariest things about having a baby is the day you leave them to return to work. As a breastfeeding mum the chances are you haven’t spent a large amount of time away from your baby until this point and suddenly your expected to leave them for long periods of time. I can still remember the complete horror of my last day before I returned to work and despite everyone telling me it was going to be fine, I didn’t quite believe them. Well obviously everyone was right and both me and Felix adapted to our new way of life very quickly. I started by doing one and a half days a week and then when Felix was 16 months increasing to another half a day. My biggest concern about leaving Felix was he was a complete boob monster regularly feeding 12+ times daily and was concerned my supply would be affected. I need not have worried, after 6 months your milk is made on a supply and demand basis. My advice for anyone returning to work after maternity leave? It will be ok.
Before returning to work it is a good idea to be familiar with the laws protecting you. Your employers will need to conduct a risk assessment for you, they will also need written notification that you are breastfeeding. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that it’s good practice for employers to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for breastfeeding mothers to express and store milk. The toilets are not a suitable place to express breast milk. As with any breastfeeding situation you are protected by the Equality Act 2010 which states it is sex discrimination to treat a woman less favourably because she is breastfeeding.
Practicalities of returning to work
Before returning to work it is a good idea to see if your baby will take milk from either a bottle or a cup. Try seeing if the person looking after your baby will be able to feed them. Many breastfed babies refuse at first and need to try different bottles or cups. With regards to what kind of milk you leave them you can do formula, expressed breastmilk or a combination of both. I couldn’t express enough for Felix to only have breastmilk all the time I was working so he had a bottle of formula as well. It’s important to practice pace feeding and to make sure your babies care giver does as well. As a basic rule you need 1-1.5oz of breastmilk per hour. Lots of women find it helpful to express whilst at work to help reduce the fullness feeling from not feeding your little one. Regardless of how much you can express this is no indication of supply. Personally, I found it very helpful to have a picture or video of Felix to help stimulate the feeling of feeding with my breast pump. Making sure you stay hydrated at work is still very important even if you’re not feeding.
Fellow host Heidi
As Felix took a bottle very easily, I have asked fellow host Heidi how she found a solution.
Heidi: Amelia was 9 months old when I returned to work. She refused all expressed milk whilst I was away and only had water and food whilst I was gone. I left her for 9hrs 3 days a week. I’d feed her before I left and the minute I walked in the door, but she never asked for boob whilst I was gone. For the first few weeks I expressed at work for comfort but then my supply just sort of got used to it so I gave up expressing. Within 6 weeks of returning to work she was back into a new cycle that worked for both of us. I was really lucky because my work were amazing with breastfeeding support, I could even have Amelia brought into work if needed to feed! She’s nearly 3 and still feeds when she wakes before bed and at least once at night.
My final thoughts are remember you’ve managed an incredible achievement with breastfeeding and if it’s the end of your journey you should still be proud of what you achieved. If, like me, it comes to a natural end a few months later that’s great too. Or if you’re like Heidi and still feeding a long time later – fantastic! Returning to work does not have to mean the end of your breastfeeding journey, just the next stage of your experience together.