Make breastfeeding work (at work)


One of the challenges and fears that many new mothers face: what happens when I have to go back to work? ADSA spokesperson and Registered Dietitian Catherine Day shares some tips that can help mothers deal with returning to work and maintaining breastfeeding:

• Ensure you feed your little one by breastfeeding before leaving for work

• Visit a dietitian and/or lactation consultant so they can help you calculate how much milk you need to express during the day.
• Feed your little one as soon as you get home by breastfeeding.

• For babies older than six months, make sure the caregiver doesn’t give your little one a big meal/ snack before you get home, a smaller snack will be better as your little one with then happily breastfeed and it may also relieve some engorgement.
• Ensure you know how to hand express

•Ensure you have a pump that suits your needs (different pumps are required depending on the number of hours you work i.e. part-time vs. full-time) – get advice if you need some

•    Build up a milk supply before returning to work

Breastfeeding mothers in South Africa are protected by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act  and are legally entitled to two 30-minute breaks per day for breastfeeding or expressing milk if their infants are younger than 6-months!

“Most women do not receive adequate maternity protection and returning to work is often a barrier to breastfeeding because a mother becomes separated from her baby for long periods of time”, says ADSA spokesperson, Catherine Pereira. “Many mothers struggle to balance breastfeeding and paid work, therefore stopping breastfeeding earlier than they should.”

What can be done to ensure that the workplace is breastfeeding- and mother-friendly:

•    Have a breastfeeding-friendly room, corner or space in your workplace where mothers can breastfeed their babies or express milk.

•    Ensure that there are refrigeration facilities for mothers to store breast milk if they are expressing.

•    Support part-time work arrangements for breastfeeding staff.

•    Make sure that your employees or employers know the legal rights of breastfeeding women.

•    Show a positive attitude towards friends and colleagues that are breastfeeding mothers.

•    If you are a woman who managed to breastfeed when you went back to work, share your experiences as inspiration for other women.

•    Fathers and partners should read up on breastfeeding and how they can support women.

•    Breastfeeding women should form or join support groups, such as La Leche League (, or contact a lactation consultant.

•    Listen to women’s needs and respect a woman’s decision on infant feeding and offer support for her choice without prejudice.

First time mom, Michelle Massyn (Medical Rep) went back to work after four months and managed to provide breast milk for her son until he was 15-months old. Here she shares some of her tips:

•    Get a good electric pump. I was lucky enough to have a double and a single. I found I mainly used my single using a rechargeable battery (not plugged in at wall) as it allowed me to do other things while pumping. The other reason battery operated electric pump is this allowed me to be back at work and not have to worry about finding power to connect to, I could pump whenever I needed.

•    Get breastfeeding apron! This allowed me to have the freedom to pop it over my head, undo my clothes to connect the pump and see what I was doing - all the time looking totally normal from the neck up. I used it in my car a lot!

•    A good cooler bag and storage containers are essential so your 'liquid gold' doesn’t leak or go sour.

•    If you can then take advantage of the private hospital system and get laser for your nipples from the beginning (it goes on the in-hospital bill and is covered.) Laser is so quick and painless and I never had a problem with my nipples.

•    Make full use of the amazing network of doulas and lactation specialists in your community. There are many free services (La Leche League). My advice however would be to find one person you trust and go with their advice otherwise you do get overwhelmed. Do not google too much (too many different opinions are too overwhelming).

•    Don’t underestimate the support of antenatal friends or friends with similar age babies going through the same thing. A whatsapp group or a quick drink together always lift your spirits and you realise you are not alone.

•    On the tough days-have a look at your little bundle and realise what you are doing. Know this is one of the best gifts you can give your little one, but at the same time if you are really battling, don’t be too hard on yourself, you are a great mom no matter what you do.

•    Lastly eat a nutritious diet with good energy.  Nutritious because it’s for your baby and you want him or her to taste all the good food from the start and get strong, and nutritious to keep your own energy levels up and health strong.

Dietitians are trained to assist mothers with breastfeeding as well as to assist mothers with continued breastfeeding when returning to work. Click here to find a Registered Dietitian in your area.

Every year, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from 1-7 August and this year’s theme is ‘Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s make it work!’. For information and resources on WBW 2015, including posters, infographics and other documents from around the world, visit

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24