Working and breastfeeding: 9 tips after returning to work

Either you are working from home or fully concentrating on raising your children at home, juggling daily routines while breastfeeding your baby is a real struggle. Even more for some women who have to work at the office while at the same time trying to keep the breastfeeding going.

“Having family members and spouses who may not be knowledgeable about breastfeeding could even make it worse. While new mothers may receive inaccurate information about breastfeeding from well meaning relatives, some mothers may decide to discontinue breastfeeding because of this,” stated Prof. Dr. Norimah A. Karim,  a professor of Nutrition from Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, International Medical University, who is also a Medical Advisory Board member for Mama Net, a locally flourishing educational parenting App.

Why should you breastfeed your child?

As nature’s perfect food, your breast milk is exquisitely tailored to meet the nutritional needs of a baby. Not only you get a special bond with your baby at every breastfeeding session, it also gives a meaningful emotional experience for both of you. Here are some of the plethora of benefits that breastfeeding offers for you and your baby:

Benefits for baby:

  • Getting all the essential nutrients that your baby needs in the right proportions and consistency.
  • Breast milk is easily digested, making it easier for nutrients to be absorbed and results in a better stool pattern.
  • Breast-fed babies are less prone to acute and/or chronic infection in their early months.
  • It is free of charge and comes readily warmed!

Benefits for mothers:

  • Helps mothers get back their prenatal figure by burning up fat stored during pregnancy
  • Provides protection against cancers of the breast and ovary.
  • Reduces risks of getting osteoporosis and heart disease.
  • Aids in natural spacing between each child, as it causes a slower return of menses.
  • Hassle free – it is convenient, available anywhere, anytime and completely gratis!

Tips on how to make breastfeeding work for you at the workplace

It is generally recommended for a baby to be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months. That means their diet must only be breast milk and no  other foods or drinks. After this period, you can introduce solid foods (complementary foods) along with breast milk. During this period (first 6 months), there are a few options that you can consider:

  1. Continue breastfeeding while at work. You can arrange childcare close to your place of employment so you can breastfeed during your breaks.
  2. Expressed breast milk. You can express your breast milk ahead of time so that someone else (husband/ caretaker) can feed your baby while you are at work.
  3. Change your working hours. If your work permits, you can ask for flexible working hours to make time for breastfeeding.

Tips #1: Plan ahead – Inform your employer even before you deliver your baby that you plan to breastfeed your child. Let them know and check the company policy regarding expressing breast milk at work. If your company does not provide designated space for expressing breast milk and storing expressed breast milk, you probably need to make arrangements to allow you to do so. You may also use nursing covers while continue doing your work, if it is difficult to get privacy. Find out where you can store your expressed breast milk and where you can express your breast milk in privacy earlier.

Tips #2:Increase your milk supply – If you have been breastfeeding, the amount of breast milk secreted will reach the balance between supply and demand (the breasts will produce as much as the baby consumes breast milk). But before you go to work, make sure you have one or two bottles of milk in the refrigerator every day. With the increase in milk volume, you can stock up your breast milk supply at home.

Tips #3:Start using a breast pump – You can start using breast pumps one month in advance to increase your milk volume. The main aim is to imitate baby sucking and give the body a signal to make the body feel that the baby’s demand has increased.

Tips #4:Train your baby to drink from milk bottle – Babies who are used to exclusive breastfeeding are quite resistant to bottle feeding. Mothers should start training the baby to drink breast milk through the feeding bottle at least half a month before returning to work. Choosing the appropriate teats is important. Find the teat which mimics the mother’s nipple and the baby can adapt to.

Tips #5: Inform your colleagues about your plan – Let them know your baby-feeding plans and when do you take breast pumping breaks as well as get them enrolled in your informal support group. Explain and assure your colleagues that your decision to continue breastfeeding would not affect your job productivity.

Tips #6: Use time wisely – Some works like catching up on your work emails, writing and reading can still be done while you pump.

Tips #7: Practice healthy eating and drink lots of water – Keeping yourselves hydrated by drinking lots of water (at least 6-8 glasses per day) and choosing a healthy diet, such as a  variety and colourful fruits (2 servings per day) and vegetable (at least 3 servings a day), whole grain rice, breads and pasta and breakfast cereals,  less sugar, salt and fats, while avoiding caffeine and alcohol will help you maintain a balance milk supply. You should follow the Malaysian Food Pyramid 2020 as suggested by the  Nutrition Division, Ministry of Health, Malaysia.

Tips #8: Manage your stress – Keep your expectations real. Stress can affect your breast milk production so think positively. Being able to keep nursing your child when you return to work is a huge achievement on your part. Admiring your cute baby’s photos or videos while pumping may also make you feel relaxed, calm and hence increase your milk flow.  

Tips #9: Create support groups – Flock together with a group of positive people who are currently breastfeeding, pregnant or previously breastfed their children. You can support each other by giving tips and encouragement by sharing experiences.

Mothers in Malaysia are in dire needs for support and understanding from the community to encourage them to start  and continue breastfeeding. Breastfeeding should be made more welcomed at the workplace and public places, even with the already introduced nursing friendly policies. The impression and belief that choosing to breastfeed implying female employees are unproductive and lazy should be discouraged and stopped. More awareness and correct information about breastfeeding should be instilled in new mothers, while more education and promotion on the advantages of breastfeeding should be carried out to the community at large.

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