New mothers are often left wondering if they can successfully continue breastfeeding their babies while they resume work post the maternity break. The answer is a definitive ‘Yes’. While the process of going back to work and managing a breastfed baby’s routine is fairly tricky, a well-planned breastmilk pumping schedule along with a strong determination to keep the practice going can help working mothers fulfill this desire.
The key lies in first assessing how established the breastfeeding journey is. In the case of an infant who has already established the breastfeeding process over a couple of months, it is easier to stock up on expressed breastmilk that can be offered to the infant while the mother is away at work. In cases where the baby is a couple of weeks old and the breastmilk supply is still building for the baby’s needs, the lactating mother would have to ensure she pumps at regular intervals even while at work.
Here are 10 suggestions on how you can make the process of returning to work as a breastfeeding mum easy:
1. Consider joining a breastfeeding support group for working mothers to interact with fellow mums who are willing to share their experiences around breastfeeding while working.
2. Speak with your employer to understand more about any lactation support programme that the company may have for their employees. If your employer is not well versed with the concept of breastfeeding while returning to work, it is a good idea to share with them researched studies showing evidence that mothers who pumped at work were less likely to take time off during working hours as their infants were proven healthier.
3. Explore the option of a child care/creche near your workplace. This could enable you to make time for a quick breastfeeding session with your baby during a break at work.
4. Invest in a high-quality breast pump that allows you to express milk from both breasts at the same time, thereby saving you time and energy, while effectively draining both breasts off the breast milk.
5. Practice bottle feeding with your baby, before you return to work, with the bottle that will be used to feed the baby thereon. This will help ensure the baby is comfortable with the process and prevent meltdowns for both mom and baby. It will also give you the opportunity to explore other bottles or a variety of nipples if the baby were to reject a certain kind of bottle/bottle teat.
6. Ensure you build a good supply of frozen breastmilk a couple of weeks before you resume work. This translates to ample breastmilk being available for the baby and less stress for you about the stock running low.
7. Be thorough in your knowledge about storing expressed breastmilk and heating stored breastmilk. Building a small freezer stash can help store milk in the freezer for anywhere between 6-12 months from the date of expressing. Freshly stored breast milk can also be kept at room temperature (24 degrees Celsius) for up to 4-6 hours.
8. Prolactin levels are significantly higher at night and therefore night nursing your baby directly is a great way to keep the breast milk supply up. While it may seem tiring initially, note that your baby may naturally take to night feeds more (called as reverse cycling, some babies tend to eat lesser during the day when away from their mothers) once you return to work. This practice can also help maximize your breastmilk supply with direct breastfeeds at night.
9. Consider resuming work again before the weekend on a Thursday or Friday. This will help you with the weekend in between to evaluate how the intended feeding schedule went and plan better for the days ahead. It will also help to feed on demand over the weekend to further solidify the breastmilk supply, and soothe the baby of the weekday hours apart.
10. If professionally and financially feasible, try and consolidate the maternity break in a manner where most of the leave is actually utilized postpartum during the breastfeeding phase. If possible, try resuming work once solids have been introduced so that the transition is easier and the breastfeeding journey is less impacted.
Dr. Vanshika Gupta Adukia is a pregnancy/childbirth and lactation specialist, a pelvic floor physiotherapist and founder of Therhappy, Mumbai.