When returning to work after maternity leave you are likely to experience a whole host of emotions. Whilst the craving for adult conversation may be high and you are desperate to say goodbye to those never ending diaper changes, many Moms experience sadness, denial, anxiety and even guilt when returning to the workplace, particularly if their baby is still young.
The logistics; both physically and mentally of returning to work can be challenging and for those who are still breastfeeding, one question frequently arises.
Do I need to stop breastfeeding when I return to the office?
The simple answer is that it depends on the age of your baby and of course personal choice; but it is usually possible to continue breastfeeding when you return to work should you wish to do so.
Here are some options to help you continue breastfeeding when returning to the workplace:
Just because you are returning to the office doesn’t mean you have to fully switch to formula feeds. If you are comfortable pumping, either with a manual or electric breast pump, you can express feeds for your childminder or carer to feed your baby in your absence. Alternatively, you may want to consider combination feeding, giving your baby formula milk with other people during the day whilst maintaining breastmilk feeds when feeding at home with Mom.
If you haven’t expressed before, it can take a bit of practice, therefore it is recommended that you try a few times at home before that eventful first day back. It may take a bit of adjustment for your baby who is used to their milk being the perfect temperature and the familiar comfort of nuzzling against your chest. A bottle can be an unfamiliar and alien prospect at first, but they will get there – practice makes perfect!
Remember, many babies may resist a bottle at first – especially if their Mom is trying to give it to them – staying out the room and letting someone else try and feed them is often a far more successful approach. You can find other tips for when your baby won’t take a bottle here.
Depending on the age of your baby, you may want to try and reduce the number of feeds your baby has during the day (feeding only before and after work). If your baby is weaned and eating regular meals then this should definitely be achievable. My own daughter was 11 months old when I returned to work and whilst she was pretty keen for a feed by the time I got home, she coped perfectly fine throughout the day once I was out of sight!
In the run up to my return to the office, we tried over a period of weeks to gradually space out the amount of time between feeds, avoiding offering her a feed and waiting instead until she showed real signs of hunger. It quickly became apparent that she could last far longer between feeds than I expected, with many of our feeds being more for comfort than anything else.
If your baby is still feeding regularly, you may need to speak to your employer about expressing during your lunch break or having small breaks to express throughout the day. This will not only help you maintain your milk supply, but can also help avoid feelings of fullness, discomfort or engorgement if you need to go a long time without feeding your baby.
You may also want to speak to your employer about your hours when returning from maternity leave. It may be helpful to work a little more flexibly and manage your hours to finish early enable you to do that final feed before bed. Depending on your current flexible working arrangements, there may be some options for short term changes to support this transition with your baby.
Continuing to breastfeed your baby when you return to work can actually be a big help emotionally for both of you. Maintaining some consistent breastfeeds that they are used to can help provide comfort after being separated for the day and help them cope better with the change to their routine. The surge of oxytocin can also help lower your stress and anxiety levels, helping ground you when you return home and bond again with your baby.
Whatever you decide to do regarding breastfeeding, remember that the choice is ultimately a very personal one. Like every parenting challenge, there may be a few little bumps along the way, but you will soon find a new rhythm that works for you both! Good luck!