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It is possible to return to work and carry on breastfeeding.
Although it's a challenge to combine breastfeeding and paid employment, it can be done. Women are an important part of the work force. For some, raising children has to fit in with maintaining their standard of living and with their career plans. It's difficult to know how many mothers with young children work, because so many of those who do so work part-time or at home, and their activity is unrecorded by government agencies. The statistics that are available show that only a small minority of mothers with young babies work outside the home; only a few women give up breastfeeding to go back to work; and full-time workers tend not to breastfeed for as long as those who work part-time.
Breastfeeding women either carry on as long as they want and go back to work at a time to suit themselves, or find ways of continuing to breastfeed when they return to work. But full breastfeeding is compatible with full-time work outside the home only with considerable effort and determination. And if you are determined to make it work, then you will!
If you intend to work, the easiest solution is to work at home if you can. All kinds of home-based jobs could enable you to breastfeed and fit in your work to suit you and your baby. The next easiest option is to work part-time and locally. Working locally cuts down on commuting time and means you can pop home easily and quickly in an emergency. With local part-time work your baby may need feeding only once while you're away. If you leave him with a minder, you can put expressed breast milk in the fridge to be given from a cup.
Working part-time a long way from home, or full-time anywhere, means being away from your baby a lot longer. You can express or pump enough milk to leave for him while you're away, but this requires considerable effort, time and determination. A few women manage to leave enough milk for their baby while they're out at work just by expressing after the early morning feed, when their breasts are usually fuller than at any other time of day. However, most need to express milk after each feed at home.
Expressing milkAim to express at least every three hours while you and your baby are apart - more often if necessary. You'll probably get only a very small volume of milk when you express after a feed, but if you add several small volumes together they soon mount up. You'll quickly learn what's best for you.
Reasons for expressing at work
1. So you can add it later to the milk you express at home, and thereby leave enough for your baby the next day.
2. So your breasts don't become too full. If they do, you risk not only discomfort but also a blocked duct or breast infection, and a gradual reduction in your milk supply. You can always throw away the milk your baby doesn't need.
3. So you can make more milk. Expressing boosts prolactin, which encourages your breasts to produce more milk. However, it doesn't stimulate the breasts quite as well as your baby does, so to make up for this you may have to express more often or use a pump as well.
Expressing is rather tedious, takes longer than feeding a baby and calls for privacy and somewhere comfortable to sit. However, one very good reason for doing it is the satisfaction of knowing your baby can still have your milk. If you do it at work, express into a previously sterilised plastic container, cover it, and keep it cold (it can be warmed later for a feed).
If you don't want to express at work, this doesn't necessarily mean you can't breastfeed. You can feed your baby before you go to work in the morning and as soon as you get back, as well as in the evening and at night. However, when deciding whether to go back to work, bear in mind that getting up at night and working full-time can be very tiring. Also, some babies so like to be with their mothers that they get in the habit of waking very frequently at night, as if to make up for lost time during the day. For your sake you should make night-time feeds as boring as possible! So keep the light dimmed or off, and keep quiet. You can make a fuss of your baby in the morning!
When at home in the evenings or at weekends ,or at other times if you work shifts, feed your baby on an unrestricted basis. This, combined with continued regular expression at work, should keep your milk supply going so you can carry on breastfeeding for as long as you and your baby want.
Many women wonder whether they should accustom their baby to a bottle before they return to work. In the first few months, before breastfeeding is properly established, it's better not to. Simply carry on breastfeeding until the day you go back to work. When your baby is hungry he'll almost certainly take your expressed breast milk from a cup given by the minder though he may understandably refuse a cup if you offer it. If the baby isn't interested at first, the minder should just persevere and all should eventually be well. In the early months a cup is better than a bottle because some babies given a bottle soon learn to prefer it to the breast, then make a fuss when it comes to having a breastfeed. Giving expressed breast milk from a spoon is another option. However, if you want your baby to have your milk from a bottle when he's older than four months or so, this should be no problem from the point of view of him continuing to breastfeed when you're there.
Facilities and support for women to breastfeed at work are very important if women are to breastfeed exclusively for six months and carry on for a year or more. In Chile in 1999 researchers found that 53 per cent of working mothers who were given support with breastfeeding continued with exclusive breastfeeding until six months, compared with only 6 per cent of working mothers not give special support.
The International Labour Organisation recommends that nursing mothers should have a break of at least half an hour twice in the working day. Many countries recognise these breaks.
Incidentally, employers MUST allow new mums the opportunity to express milk or even have their baby brought to them for a feed so if this is a possibility for you then take advantage!
If you are going to stop breastfeeding, then it's advisable not to stop feeding suddenly as it's traumatic for your baby and your boobs will become very sore and engorged.
Dr. Penny Stanway
Buy Dr. Penny Stanway's Book 'Breast Is Best' Here
In June 2004 my wife, Jessica, gave birth to a 9lb 13oz baby girl - our second child. It was a short, uncomplicated delivery and we were overjoyed and enthusiastically spread our good news around our family and friends.