Things to consider beforehand
The amount of maternity leave women get after having their baby, differs from employer to employer.
Before you start at a job it is worthwhile checking what the pay structure is and the amount of time given off after having a baby. It may be something you want to negotiate, should you become pregnant whilst working.
Some employers give only a matter of weeks, which requires planning ahead and combing sick leave and annual leave together in order to collate more time to recover after having a child - its good to find this out as early as possible.
It is very important to consider early on what your childcare arrangements are going to be like. Do you live with family and relatives that can provide you support when you return to work? Do you have a nursery option attached with your workplace? Will you have to employ a childminder or a nanny or put your child into day care and what are the costs associated with this?
Breastfeeding exclusively (with no other food or drink) is recommended for around the first 6 months so its important to take all those things into consideration in order to breastfeed for the recommended time.
Breastfeeding when you return to work may look like:
- Expressing breast milk. This is usually with a manual or electronic pump and allows someone else trusted to feed your baby whilst you are at work with your own breast milk.
- You can combine bottle and breastfeeding, so that you give the breast directly in the mornings before work and in the evenings and night after work- whilst during the day, you give your baby your expressed milk.
- Depending on how close you are to your baby when you are away from them, you may be able to utilise breaks to feed them.
- Request for flexibility in working hours (especially for those that can work remotely) that allow you the ease to work around your needs until feeding changes.
How will I know which is for me?
It will be hard to know before baby has arrived which option is for you, but it won’t hurt to plan ahead. Try and give yourself options, as things can often change (family options fall through eg.)
Your employers should be providing you with somewhere private where you can pump (not the toilet!). By informing them early (often through HR or your manager) they should be able to find somewhere suitable for you to pump uninterrupted. They should also give you adequate break allowances and remember that you will need a fridge to store your breastmilk. (You can place it in a portable freezer bag if they don’t have one, but a fridge would be ideal.)
I personally recommend a fast and easy electronic breast pump. Hand expressing can be quite time consuming and physically draining. The medela double swing pump has never failed me and its often the ones they use in hospitals. They are costly, but the amount of pumping often required- you certainly get your moneys worth. You can also reach out to your local hospital about renting pumps.
What will I need?
You will need comfortable clothing with easy access:
- The Kara Bloom Magnolia dress offers a very suitable smart workwear option offering discrete zips to breastfeed in the workplace.
- A handsfree or electrical breast pump
- Milk bottles for collection (often provided with the pump)
- Storage bags (to place the milk in in the freezer) and I recommend washing and drying your equipment once your home
- Nursing bra (so you can go hands free and busy yourself with other things)
It's important that you realise your employer should be trying to meet your needs as they depend on trusted, loyal, long term employees and so its to their benefit to look after you and support you in the short term. Encouraging you in breastfeeding will also benefit them with reduced absence (as breastfed babies tend to have reduced sickness).
In the UK, the HSE has guidance for employees returning to work and for employers incl risk assessments and policies. Find more information here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/mothers/
Make sure you speak to other mums who have done it. Join groups like the Kara Bloom Breastfeeding group on facebook and ask for advice!
Remember your journey is unique but you are not the first to have walked it