Most mothers are able to provide enough milk to satisfy all baby’s needs, even if they are away from their baby. Here is some practical advice for working moms who choose to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months (and longer) …
- Moms should wait as long as possible before going back to work (try to go back on a Thursday / Friday so that you don’t have a full week, and then have weekend to recover).
- Breastfeed exclusively and frequently while on maternity leave.
- Don’t start other feeds before necessary.
- At home, continue breastfeeding at night.
- Learn to express breast milk soon after delivery (while still on maternity leave – don’t wait for the week before going back to work). This will give you a chance to practice (at first you will only be able to express small amounts and slowly) and become confident.
- Build up a supply of expressed breast milk in fridge and freezer.
- While at work, moms should express breast milk two to three times per day (every three hours); carry on expressing over weekends (i.e. don’t just express the night before for the next day – as it may not be enough).
- Plan when you will have time to express during the day and how many times you will need to express.
- Try to plan your day around feeding your baby and expressing (e.g. get up a bit earlier to feed baby or express, spend some time with baby as soon as you get home from work and be prepared for more frequent night time feeds).
- You may experience breasts leaking at work and should be prepared for this (leaking should just be for a few days while your body adjusts to a new routine).
- Make sure that you maintain good health and nutrition and be sure to get enough rest and support.
- Negotiate flexitime with your employer.
- At work, identify a place where you can express – private office, isolated room, (needs to be private, comfortable and relaxing).
- Wear clothes that make expressing of breast milk a bit easier (e.g. a shirt and skirt as opposed to a dress).
- Before going back to work, purchase containers and bags that can be used to express milk and in which to transport milk safely when back at work.
- Start feeding baby expressed breast milk from a cup some time before going back to work (so that baby gets used to it and that there are not too many changes all at once).
- Discuss your feeding intentions with whoever will be looking after baby, before the time. Explain why you don’t want to introduce solids / water before six months, explain that you will be leaving expressed breast milk to be fed from a cup, teach your baby’s caregiver how to warm milk, how to feed baby from a cup and how much to give (demand or cue feeding).
- Try to find a crèche or caregiver close to work, so that you could even go and breastfeed your baby during lunch hour.
Article by: Irene Labuschagne, a dietitian at NICUS (Nutrition Information Centre Stellenbosch University).