Breastfeeding and Work

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Most organizations offer a few months after childbirth for recovery of the mother after surgery or vaginal birth as well as for fostering breastfeeding and care of the newborn.

A six week leave is good to ensure that the breastfeeding routine is established. Getting a twelve week leave is even better.

Joining work after maternity leave need not mean stopping breastfeeding. The transition needs to be planned ahead to facilitate the change and working hours as well as baby care.

Some steps and tips that may help a smooth return to work while continuing best baby care include:-

  • Planning ahead for the change.

  • Speaking to the employer about options. This can help a new mother decide on work schedules, working hours, facilities for split shifts, part time work, working options from home etc. Many organisations provide a lactation support program for employees. This helps foster continued breastfeeding after joining work.

  • Talking to other mothers and breastfeeding support groups who are continuing breastfeeding after joining work.

  • Finding out private areas within the office premises where employees who wish to continue breastfeeding may safely express milk. In the United States of American, The Affordable Care Act (health care reform) supports work-based efforts to assist nursing mothers. In the UK the Workplace Regulations and Approved Code of Practice require employers to provide suitable facilities for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers to rest. In addition The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that employers need to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for breastfeeding mothers to express and store milk. Toilets are not suitable for this purpose.

  • Asking for help from a lactation consultant or a physician.

  • Practicing expressing breast milk well in advance before joining work. This can be done by hand or with the use of a mechanized or manual breast pump. An electric pump is one of the most efficient since it reduces pumping time and ensures both breasts are emptied simultaneously. Once breastfeeding is established the baby should be made accustomed to taking breast milk from the bottle as well. For infants less than 3 to 4 months a bottle is appropriate. For an older infant (over 4 months of age) a cup is appropriate.

  • Finding a childcare option close to work. This helps the mother to visit and breastfeed her baby if possible during breaks. The childcare facility may also used pumped milk that may be provided by the mother during her breaks at work.

  • Seeking support from friends, family and colleagues to continue breastfeeding.

  • Finding time to breastfeed the baby before travelling home from childcare after work. This helps both the mother and baby to reconnect before going home.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Feb 28, 2013

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