Balancing Career and Breastfeeding: Returning to Work as a Breastfeeding Mother
I know first hand as a once breastfeeding working mother how exciting and daunting the prospect of returning to work can be, the desire to continue breastfeeding while resuming professional responsibilities is a journey that requires careful planning and support.
Workplace Flexibility: Embracing New Possibilities
One of the significant changes in the working world is the increasing availability of flexible work options. As you prepare to return to your career, consider the following options that might be available to you:
- Work from Home: If your job allows, consider working from home and having your baby with you. This setup enables you to be close to your child and breastfeed on demand.
- Baby at the Workplace: Some workplaces now offer the option of having your baby with you at work, either for some or all of the time. This arrangement allows for seamless integration of work and motherhood.
- Baby's Caregiver at Work: If having your baby at the workplace is not possible, you can explore the option of having your baby's caregiver bring them to your workplace for breastfeeding sessions.
- Nearby Childcare: Consider enrolling your baby in childcare close to your workplace, allowing you to visit and breastfeed during breaks.
- Expressing Milk: Utilise your work breaks to express milk using a breast pump and store it in the freezer. This way, your baby can be fed with your expressed milk by the caregiver while you are at work.
Know Your Rights and Advocate for Yourself
As a breastfeeding mother returning to work, it is essential to be aware of your legal rights. By law, your employer must provide you with unpaid breaks to breastfeed or express milk at work. Moreover, they must provide suitable facilities to accommodate these needs. To ensure a smooth process, explain to your employer the minimal requirements for breastfeeding or expressing:
- Private Space: Request a clean, warm, and private room for breastfeeding or expressing. Ideally, this room should have a lock, but you can also use a 'busy' sign to indicate its use.
- Comfortable Chair: A low, comfortable chair is essential for comfortable nursing.
- Additional Needs for Expressing: If you are expressing milk, ask for a power point for your electric breast pump, a clean area to store equipment, a basin with running water for handwashing, and a fridge or chilly bin with ice packs to store your expressed milk.
3 tips to help you navigate your rights in the workplace:
- Be Prepared: Familiarise yourself with the legislation, your employment terms, and the company policies related to breastfeeding
- Plan Ahead and Clearly Define Your Needs: Discuss your plans for breastfeeding and returning to work with your employer well in advance. Address your overall wishes and needs, present your breastfeeding requirements with specific solutions and suggest workable options for combining breastfeeding and work. When at work expressing for 15 minutes on average for each 4 hours that you are not with your baby is recommended.
- Don't Rush Decisions: Take time to consider any proposed arrangements and don't feel pressured to accept conditions you're not comfortable with. You come first!
Returning to work as a breastfeeding mother is an empowering journey that requires careful planning and communication. Embrace the flexibility offered by the changing work landscape, know your rights, and advocate for yourself to ensure a supportive and nurturing work environment. It’s my hope that with preparation and support you can seamlessly balance the joys of motherhood and a successful career. You are never alone; there are resources and people available to guide you through this incredible phase of life. Happy breastfeeding and happy working, you’re incredible! X