Most mothers I know are eligible for about a year at home with their babies while their jobs are held for them. For some, including me, finances or personal choices dictate an earlier return to work.
I was back in the office (full time) when Matilda was 6,5 months old but I remember, like it was yesterday, all those nights when I was wondering if it’s possible to continue to breastfeed after returning to work. Tilda is 14 months old now, so fast forward 7,5 months and my answer is yes! Is it trickier, a little bit, but definitely possible.
I get a lot of messages and emails from moms like me who had to go back to work before they and their babies were ready to wean. So here are my tips how to make it all work;
If you live in Ireland, you won’t probably return to work before your little one is 6 months old which means your breastfeeding is well established at this stage. That’s actually great news because it is likely your baby is ready to start on solids and you won’t have to pump at work more than once.
For me the biggest worry was Matilda’s nap time. She was used to nursing herself away to sleep. But, we overcame this. We realised that she can fall asleep while out in a buggy so until this day, she takes naps outside which basically doesn’t require my boob. If your baby doesn’t take a bottle, like mine (I wrote about here for example), and has been always falling asleep while being breastfed, finding a way to put her/him to sleep while you are at work is a must, also for your own peace of mind.
I said on my Instagram many times that we are blessed with our nanny, she is a living Mary Poppins! So before she joined us in this parenting journey, we discussed our feeding plans; what I want her to feed Matilda with, when to do it, how often etc. This is all very important. We moms know best when our babies feel hungry or thirsty so it’s our job to make sure this transition is as smooth for the little ones as possible.
Pumping at work. As you already know I don’t store my milk. Matilda doesn’t drink it (even in a sippy cup) neither she eats it in her morning porridge. So I pump once a day at work and just throw this stuff away (I know, such a waste but milk banks won’t take it). On a positive note, I don’t have to carry my pump with me, it just sits there in my desk drawer in the office.
But if your baby takes bottle, do learn the guidelines for storing your milk. If you are pumping milk for your caregiver to feed your baby, your first choice, if possible, should be to store your milk in a refrigerator, and have it fed to the baby within eight days. Milk that’s been frozen loses some of the protective enzymes and antibodies present in fresh milk. However, it still has more antibodies and more appropriate nutrition for a baby than infant formula, so building a small freezer stash can be helpful in case you aren’t able to pump much on some days, and you can store milk in a freezer for between six and 12 months. Human milk can also safely be kept at room temperature (between 19 and 26 degrees Celsius) for 6 hours.
Re the bottle; if your baby is older than six months, you have other options than a bottle too. Your milk can be given to your baba in a sippy cup, added to solid foods such as cereal, soups, or mashed vegetables.
Going-back-to-work day. If possible, plan to go back on a Thursday, that’s what I did. You may ask why? Well, the first few days are the toughest (figuring out pumping, space to do it at work, milk storage, breastfeeding pads – oh I leaked so many times!). Having a shorter week to start means you’ll soon have the weekend to evaluate how things are going and make adjustments as needed. It really worked for me so trust me on this one.
Weekends are our “on demand days” which means we enjoy the convenience of a more natural nursing relationship 😉
Ok, so this is more less how our days look like now;
We wake up in the morning and Tillie starts a day with a feed. Then I go to work and she gets her porridge (on water) with some mashed banana or pear. Between her brekky and lunch, she usually gets a snack (blueberries or a yogurt) and then lunch; pasta or rice or a soup (very often leftovers from the dinner from the previous night). Between lunch and me returning home, there’s time for another snack; a fruit or a smoothie or a couple of biscuits. Then finally, I return home and she gets a welcome feed, sometimes on both boobs, sometimes only on one, depends on the day. After playing for an hour, we sit at the table and we all eat dinner that Kuba cooked for us (I know, I am one lucky woman to be married to a chef!). After dinner, we play for another half an hour and then we go to take a bath, followed by evening feed before settling her to bed. There are two, three or sometimes four (still!) feeds at night although I am not sure whether she is really hungry/ thirsty or is it a need for reconnecting after all day being apart, to feel comforted and in contact with me. (I read somewhere that the levels of prolactin (the hormone that encourages milk production) are higher during night feedings, so this night feeding helps maintain our milk supply). Next morning, the day starts over again.
As you can see, going back to work and breastfeeding isn’t that difficult. It’s all manageable and in my humble opinion, it is something truly special. I know that breastfeeding is really important for Matilda. And to be absolutely frank, it is to me too. It’s like it bridges the gap between work and motherhood in a really unique way. Give it a go!
As always, I’m dying to hear about your experience or answer any questions you might have.