Tips on how to return to work and continue breastfeeding
A recent study showed that approximately 118,000 women in Australia return to the workforce before their child is 6 months of age. The World Health Organisation (WHO) advocates that exclusively breastfeeding children for at least 6 months will give them the most optimal start to life and that they should continue to receive breast milk along with complementary foods till two years of age. Many mothers successfully combine work and breastfeeding with no issues but here are some handy tips to make it easier!
- Choose how you are going to continue your breastfeeding relationship and maintain your supply. Options include:
- Having your baby bought to you for feeds
- Taking breaks to go feed your baby off site
- Expressing for missed feeds whilst at work and baby is fed expressed breast milk (EBM), donor milk and/or formula whilst you’re away
- For older children – Feeding at the breast before and after work and they have solids and water while you’re gone.
- How will the baby be fed your expressed milk – Cup, syringe, SNS, bottle etc.
- Increase your knowledge of how supply works
- The amount of milk you produce is directly proportional to the amount the infant/hand/pump removes the milk. Frequent removal of the milk is associated with adequate supply levels. Determine how many feeds you will be missing whilst at work to help work out what options may work best for you.
- Know the law and your rights in regards to breastfeeding at work.
- Breastfeeding and/or expressing at work are usually discussed with the employer on an individual basis and the onus is on the individual employee to negotiate with their employer around their breastfeeding needs.
- In Australian Federal Law breastfeeding is a right, not a privilege. Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding. All states also have additional legislation that protects your right to combine breastfeeding and paid work.
- There is no legislation in Australia to give mothers paid breastfeeding breaks; it is up to the individual employee to negotiate these breaks (paid or unpaid) with their employer.
- There is also no legislation to cover a baby or child being at a workplace with a parent. It is difficult to have a standard law on this, as it is often dependent on the type of employment, work environment and OH&S issues.
- Discuss your needs, expectations and questions with your employer early (even prior to taking maternity leave!!)
- How many days will you be working? How long will the workday be? Would a flexible approach such as a gradual return, part-time hours or working from home be suitable? Is there a possibility of flexible working hours?
- Are they an accredited breastfeeding friendly workplace? Do they have an enterprise agreement in relation to lactation breaks or a breastfeeding policy?
- Will lactation breaks be in addition to regular breaks already offered? You will need adequate time to pump or feed but also eat and go to the toilet!! Using a double pump can yield the largest amount in the quickest time for most women, so might be a good investment if you’re only getting a combined break
- What facilities can/will they provide? You will need a private lockable room (and no.. not a toilet!) with a comfortable chair and somewhere to plug in/store your pump if you’re using one.
- Where can you wash your pump parts? You do not have to sterilise your pump parts after each use, but they should be rinsed well in cold water to remove any breast milk and then stored in a clean, closed container. Clean them really well in hot soapy water at least once every 24 hours while it is in frequent use.
- Is there an onsite child minding facility? If you’re having your child brought in to you to feed, how will this work? If you are leaving work to feed your child nearby, how much travel time will you need?
- Where will you store your EBM at work? Is there a communal fridge? Sometimes putting your expressed bottles and in a cold bag is best so that they won’t be seen/discarded/moved/used by others.
- Increase your knowledge about safe storage of breast milk- so none of it goes to waste!!
- Think practically!
- How will you transport your milk home? A cooler bag and ice bricks is usually the best option and then straight into fridge or freezer at home
- Do you need to buy or hire a breast pump? What other equipment do you need e.g. bottles, freezer bags? A hands free pumping bra can be good if you need to eat your lunch at the same time
- Have you got work clothes that are easy to breastfeed/express at work in?
- If you’re going to express, familiarise yourself with pumping prior to returning to work. This can reduce stress and help build a stash in the freezer
- Speak to your baby’s caregiver about handling, storing, preparing and feeding expressed breast milk whilst you are not present.
- Calculate the amount of expressed breast milk your baby will require while you are gone. A baby usually consumes approximately 800ml of milk in 24 hours. This amount very individual and can be less if baby is on solids. Have your milk stored in small amounts so as not to waste any.
- If you are unable to express enough breast milk to satisfy your baby, your will need to use donor milk or formula until 1 year of age. Gradually introducing a bottle/cup of donor milk or formula prior to starting work will give yourself and baby time to adapt
- Be prepared for baby to make up for feeds when you’re home, overnight and on weekends.
Returning to work can be stressful for both you and your baby but by being prepared and following these helpful hints, you are giving yourself the best chance of being able to continue your breastfeeding relationship.
ARDO ‘Calypso- To- Go’ breast pump review
The ‘Calypso To Go” by Ardo is a fantastic all inclusive breast pump package that makes combining working and pumping stress free. The Calypso is an electric, BPA free, closed system breast pump that can be used as a double, single or manual pump.
The pump design is lightweight and simple, with an LCD screen displaying the individually adjustable, vacuum (suction strength) and cycle (speed) settings. By altering the vacuum and cycle settings you are able to design a pumping session that closely resembles your baby’s feeding pattern and tailor it to your letdowns. An a/c mains adapter powers the Calypso or 6 AA batteries (I suggest investing in some rechargeable ones as a set of batteries will last approximately 5 hours on medium settings) but had no noticeable change in suction when changed to battery-operated mode. The pump has very powerful suction (which is only reduced slightly when using as a double pump) but remains very quiet, enabling you to pump at your desk or even continue answering calls whilst pumping (try a DIY pumping bra to remain hands free). At the back of the machine is a handy detachable bottle holder to ensure that precious pumped milk isn’t spilt!
It is very simple to swap from double to single mode as you just closing a tubing connector and you are able to continue pumping with only one pump set. This is very handy at the end of a pumping session to allow you to use your hand to compress the press while pumping to ensure the most milk is removed. By just swapping the top mechanism (to the Kombikit) you can make the pump set into a handy manual pump (The Amaryll). The manual pump attachment has 3 handle positions to make it very ergonomical and fits perfectly into your handbag for meetings that are off site so you won’t miss a pumping session.
Being a closed system with the added vacuum seal technology prevents milk getting into the tubing and pump. This makes it a great option for work, as there is no risk of mould or nasties growing in the tubing and there is less to clean. Ardo recommend washing in warm soapy water after each use and sterilising the pieces outlined, once a day for a well healthy infant or child.
The kit comes complete in an over the shoulder (pram/public transport friendly) bag that contains everything you’ll need to pump and store your breast milk. The small soft-sided cooler bag fits 3 reusable freezer blocks and 6 bottles, ensuring you can store and transport your precious cargo home from work safely. It also means you can store your breast milk in a communal fridge discreetly if you wish. The kit also includes 3 different flange (breastshell) sizes to cater for a large range of women but also your nipple size may change throughout your pumping journey. A simple change in flange size may mean a significant increase in milk yield when pumping. The kit does not include teats for the bottle as to be able to remain WHO code compliant, but they will fit any narrow neck teats if you so wish to feed your breastmilk via a bottle. The WHO Code was implemented in the 1980’s to stop the aggressive marketing of artificial baby milk and protect breastfeeding mothers and their babies.
By equipping yourself with a great pump that suits your needs you will be able to continue and sustain your pumping and/or breastfeeding relationship much longer.
Check out the ARDO breast pump range at: https://www.ardo.com.au/breastpumps
All ARDO breast pumps are endorsed by the Australia Breastfeeding Association. ABA members also receive a 10% discount when purchasing.