The working mom’s guide to breastfeeding

By Drum Digital
25 July 2014

The idea of having to continue breastfeeding after going back to work is so challenging for some mothers they simply accept they’ll only be feeding while they’re on maternity leave. But this expert has help!

The idea of having to continue breastfeeding after going back to work is so challenging for some mothers they simply accept they’ll only be feeding while they’re on maternity leave. But this expert has help!

While many moms in South Africa have accepted they’ll only breastfeed while on maternity leave the World Health Organisation (WHO) still recommends moms to breastfeed exclusively for six months, introducing solids at six months and then continuing breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond. So what do you do if you want to give your baby more time on the breast but you have to return to work?

Anelle Greyling, lactation consultant at the Panorama Breastfeeding Clinic in Cape Town, says though two years isn’t possible for everyone she tries to motivate moms to do feeds in the morning, evening and over weekends, and to express breast milk during the day for as long as possible.

“Three to four months can’t offer the same immune protection that feeding up to six months does. If you don’t want to express, another option is to give formula during the day and breast milk in the evenings and over weekends. This will however mean that your baby is more susceptible to infections, especially if you’re putting your child in a crèche where he’ll be exposed to viruses and bacteria. Every bit of breast milk helps!”

Some experts also warn that supplementing breastfeeding with formula might influence your milk production negatively so be aware of this when you decide to go the formula route.

Greyling answers some of the questions working moms might have about the process:

Will it influence my milk production if I go back to work?

“Your production will definitely be affected,” says Greyling. “One of the first things that influences milk production is stress and if you’re feeling rushed and very busy at work you might experience a drop in production. It happens fast and you could notice the drop within a few days if you don’t pay attention to it.” But don’t despair, Greyling has some tips for moms who want to keep up giving their babies breast milk:

  • Express often. The more you express the higher your milk production will be.
  • Relax. Try to be in a relaxed space when you need to express, and think of your baby. This will increase production.
  • Record your baby. To get the milk flowing Greyling suggest you make a recording of your baby crying to listen to when you need to express.
  • Stay healthy. Drink enough fluids, eat enough and take a natural supplement that could help with breast-milk production. Chat to a breastfeeding consultant about this if you need to.
  • Do a feed when you get home. There’s nothing better than a good feeding cuddle with your baby after missing them the whole day – it helps with bonding and may help ease some of mom’s guilt for having been at work all day.
  • Have a few days’ worth of expressed milk in your freezer when you go back to work. “It takes off some of the stress if you know you have extra milk for a few days, which will most likely improve your milk production. You can store milk for three to six months in the freezer.” Click here for more information on breast-milk storage.

What if my office doesn’t have a place where I can express milk?

“Be creative,” says Greyling. “Does your office have a sick room or an unused store room? A tea room, a conference room or even a private office can work. If you park under cover and it’s quiet you can also sit in your car with a breastfeeding apron over you.”

What if my boss doesn’t like it?

“Unfortunately not all employers recognise that a mother who takes time to express milk will be less likely to take time off because of a sick child but don’t let that stop you,” says Greyling. According to the employment act employers need to allow employees time to express milk during the day for the first six months after the birth of their baby.

How do I store the milk if we don’t have a fridge at the office?

“You don’t need a fridge to store breast milk – a cooler box with a block of ice in it is more than enough. Breast milk can be stored at room temperature for up to eight hours.”

-Dalena Theron  

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