The reality is that most of us have to return to work sooner than we would like after our babies are born. The World Health Organisation’s recommendation for breastfeeding is: “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”
Whilst breastfeeding and returning to work seem contradictory, it can be done, and it’s not that difficult as long as you are organized.
Breastfed babies are very healthy, and are rarely sick, so you are likely to have less sick days; which should be reason enough for all employers to provide facilities to encourage the continuance of breastfeeding!
Ideally, your employer will be supportive, and ideally you would start back to work part time. I would recommend separating the days if possible (e.g. if you were going back 3 days a week then I would try and do Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Especially during the early days of returning to work, babies will want to catch up once you are home and may want to breastfeed a lot during the night, so you may end up quite tired the following day.
A clean private space to express is also essential. In some workplaces in NSW (any public sector workplace) employees are entitled to up to two paid lactation breaks per day of up to 30mins duration. This NSW Government Breastfeeding Policy would be a very useful tool for any employer wanting to be supportive.
The choices you have
In an ideal world either your baby will come to you for feeds or you would be able to get to your baby at feed times during your work day.
But the world is far from ideal. If someone else is feeding your baby your expressed milk via a bottle, this will require you to express at work around the time the feed is due, so that this milk can be used the following day.
If the baby is older (over six months) the milk may be given by a cup.
How to prepare for this
I would advise banking a small amount of breastmilk in the freezer every day for a few weeks prior to returning to work. If you expressed 30mls after the 10am feed every day for a month you would end up with nearly a litre of breastmilk. By only taking a relatively small amount of milk off, you wont be upsetting your supply too much. This is also good practice at expressing.
I would advise using the milk storage bags that most of the pump companies sell; they make it a lot easier and also take up less storage space in the freezer. Label and date the milk in the freezer and use the oldest milk first.
If you plan on giving the baby the Expressed Breastmilk by bottle then have a few trial runs using a bottle – ideally it wont be you doing this as the baby will be confused about the feeding method if you give the bottle.
Give a written list of instructions about the feedings to your caregiver.
Ask that the bottle be given slowly – often the flow on bottles is very fast. Tightening the shoulder of the bottle will slow the flow.
Don’t be surprised or too worried if the baby does not have much to drink while you are away, they will make up for it later.
GUIDELINES ON STORING BREASTMILK FOR HOME USE
Freshly expressed breastmilk into a closed container
Can be kept at room temperature for 6–8 hrs (26ºC or lower). If refrigeration is available store milk there.
Can be kept in a refrigerator for 3–5 days (4ºC or lower) Store in back of refrigerator where it is coldest.
Can be kept for 2 weeks in a freezer compartment inside a refrigerator, 3 months in freezer section of refrigerator with separate door, or 6–12 months in a deep freezer (-18ºC or lower).
Previously frozen breastmilk (thawed in refrigerator but not warmed)
Can be kept at room temperature for 4 hours or less (i.e. the next feed).
Can be kept in a refrigerator for 24 hours.
Do not refreeze.
Breastmilk thawed outside refrigerator, in warm water
Can be kept at room temperature for completion of feeding.
Can be kept in a refrigerator for 4 hours or until next feeding.
Do not refreeze.
Breastmilk infant has begun feeding
Can be kept at room temperature only for completion of feeding, then discard.
Discard once baby has begun feeding – do not refrigerate.
Discard once baby has begun feeding – do not refreeze.
Transporting breast milk
Transport breast milk in an insulated container – an Esky with a freezer brick.
If some milk has thawed it should be used within 4 hours – do not refreeze it.
Place the labelled milk in the refrigerator (or in the freezer if still frozen) immediately upon arrival.