Ideally, babies should be exclusively breastfed for at least six months. During this time, you should avoid feeding your baby other foods or drinks. After the first six months, continue breastfeeding while gradually introducing solids to your baby’s diet.
Because of this, it is highly likely that you’ll still be breastfeeding when you go back to work after giving birth. For a lot of moms, this is where the challenges start.
Going back to work while breastfeeding can be very difficult. If you want to ensure that your baby is well-fed, pumping or expressing is a necessary evil. Not only do you have to carve out time and find a comfortable place to pump, but you also need to find the right equipment to pump and store the milk with.
The good news is that going back to work doesn’t have to mean the end of breastfeeding. Here are a few tips to help you juggle breastfeeding and work.
1. Keep your milk
Try to have a supply of frozen breast milk before returning to work. This will help you ease into working while breastfeeding as you come up with a routine for pumping breastmilk.
A great way to do this is to start expressing and saving your breast milk a few weeks in advance while still on maternity leave. Starting early will also allow you to get your baby used to bottle-feeding. This will make your transition to work much easier.
At the end of the day, preparation is important. You wouldn’t want your first time using a breast pump to be in the workplace.
2. Inform your employer
Before returning to work, make your employer aware that you’ll be pumping or expressing milk at work.
In Malaysia, there is no clear provision in the law that gives working mothers the right to breastfeed their babies in the workplace. Giving your employer a heads up will therefore help them start to plan where you will pump within the office. You’ll also be provided with reasonable break time to pump or express breast milk.
While not all employers may understand the requirements of a breastfeeding mom, having strong support from the workplace including the support of your colleagues will encourage your employer to promote and support your right to breastfeed.
Do not forget to discuss your pumping needs with your employer. Plan your pumping schedule and find a space to pump milk. Request for a place with privacy, a chair, and an outlet. You may also need a refrigerator, a cooler with ice packs, or an insulated bag where you can safely store your pumped or expressed milk for the rest of the workday.
Pumping breastmilk at work is only the tip of the iceberg. The real work is ensuring that the milk is stored well enough and bringing it home to your baby. Plan for this and have standby pumping and storage equipment. This will ensure that you have a safe and reliable way to store and transport everything you pumped at work.
The best way you can store breast milk is in a refrigerator. However, not all workspaces have refrigerators. Thus, you may be forced to think of ways to store and keep all milk safe until you get it home. There is also the risk of your milk being mistaken for regular milk by your colleagues. Therefore, try to store it in a safe space separate from other foods, or at least mark it clearly.
If there is no refrigerator in your workplace, get an insulated bag or a cooler with an ice pack. These will play the important role of preserving your breast milk until you get home and put the bags or milk bottles in a freezer. You should also place labels on the milk bottles indicating when they were pumped.
When placed in an insulated bag or in a cooler with an ice pack, breast milk can last for 24 hours. At room temperature, breastmilk can be kept safely for up to 4 hours. It can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and frozen for up to 6 to 12 months. You should always use the oldest milk first when feeding your baby.
4. Dress code
When going to work while breastfeeding, wear outfits that are pumping-friendly. An essential part of any nursing wardrobe is a good nursing bra or tank top. A good nursing bra has special snaps, clips, or hooks that let you fold down a section of fabric, allowing you to pump comfortably without affecting the structures of the bra. Having a tank top underneath gives you a better feeling of privacy and coverage.
You should also go for button-down shirts. These shirts are very convenient since they allow you a simple way to open your shirt whenever you need to pump. You also have the option of leaving the lower buttons done while pumping. This provides a feeling of coverage, helping you feel more secure. You are also less likely to show more than what you intended with a button-down shirt. Apart from that, they also look really professional, making them a wonderful choice for working moms.
You’ll also want to bring spare clothes with you to work for emergency purposes. Your breasts may leak while at work staining your shirt. Having extra outfits will help you avoid the discomfort of working with a stained shirt. You should also bring enough breast pads to protect your outfit from being stained by breast milk.
5. Keep receipts
Remember to keep your receipts when purchasing breastfeeding equipment.
The government recently set up a tax relief of up to RM 1,000 for the purchase of breastfeeding equipment. The equipment could be a complete set or in separate parts.
Breastfeeding equipment refers to a breast pump kit, milk collection or storage equipment, an ice pack, and a cooler bag or set.
As you can see, going back to work while breastfeeding is not easy. However, when you prepare for it well and you do it right, it becomes a lot more manageable. Good luck!