This has to be the most juggling a woman can do – working while breastfeeding. Some women are lucky enough to have their babies brought into the work place or work from home for them to continue breastfeeding. Some women need to express to continue giving their child breastmilk while at work. However you work out our day, know that by persevering and continuing to breastfeed your child you are providing them (and yourself) with so many benefits – well done Mummy!
Firstly, supply=demand. As your baby feeds at your breast he/she is telling your body to make more. So it follows, that if baby doesn’t suck at the breast as often, your supply will decrease. This is where expressing comes in. Not only will whatever you yield be able to be given to your baby in your absence, but expressing will tell your body to continue making milk.
So how do you express?
First, if you are going back to work and expressing you will need to invest in a good quality, electric breastpump. A double pump is better as you can express both breasts at the same time. You can also rent breastpumps from theAustralian Breastfeeding Association, some pharmacies and some companies. When expressing, you need to pump for at least 20 minutes to get the hormone response for a good yield (if this is not possible, any time is better than none). Not every woman responds well to a pump, and a pump will never give you as much as your baby is getting.
Here are some tips to increase the amount you are expressing and to continuing your breastfeeding relationship beyond your return to work:
▪Pump in the morning. Your hormones mean your milk supply is at its greatest from 2am to 6am. While waking up at 2am when your baby is asleep may seem ridiculous, you will get more by expressing at that time. Another option (as a lovely Mummy on my Facebook page Bellies, Births and Babies suggested) is to pump the left side while feeding your baby from the right for the first feed of the day. This advice is excellent as it works two-fold. Not only does it involve expressing in the morning when your supply is at its highest, but you are taking advantage of all those lovely breastfeeding hormones released by feeding your baby to express more from the other side.
▪Pump when your baby would usually feed. If your baby would usually feed at 2pm and you are at work, try to fit in an expressing session then.
▪Breastfeed more when you can. It is logical that is your baby is getting most of their breastfeeds in while you are available, then he/she will ask for milk less when you are absent. So when you get home, feed and feed and feed. Feed before work and feed when you get home. Give your baby unlimited access to your breast particularly at night and on your days off. Many mothers find that bed sharing with their babies gives them all the rest their body needs, whilst allowing their baby to feed frequently throughout the night, thus asking for less milk during the day. Look here for advise on safe bed sharing practices http://safebedsharing.org/safetyguidelines.html
▪Keep your baby close. Lots of skin-to-skin, baby wearing and taking baths together. This is signalling to your body to keep making milk. Bed sharing or co-sleeping (where bub is in their own bed in your room, near your bad) also keeps your baby close.
▪Take baby with you when you pump. This may seem illogical, but what I mean is take things that remind you of your baby when you express. Take yesterday’s wrap and drape it over yourself. The smell will help you to express (if you put it over your head it can help you block out external stimuli and relax). Look at some photos on your phone. Take a video on your phone of your baby breastfeeding, or making their adorable “I’m Hungry Mum” noises and play it while expressing. Play music when you breastfeed your baby and repeat the same music when expressing.
▪Make sure your pump works for you. If the flange is too small or too big, if won’t work as effectively. Start off with the let-down function (short, rapid bursts) for a minute or two, and then switch to the long, drawn out function. You may need to do this a few times during a session. The suction should be comfortable and NOT painful. Obviously, you need to feel the pull, but it should always be comfortable. It may take some experimenting to find which setting works best for you.
▪Try breast compressions while expressing – this can increase your yield.
▪Make sure you are comfortable. This may seem obvious, but trying to relax and be calm whilst reclining in a comfy chair will go a long way to helping you express.
▪See a naturopath, chiropractor or acupuncturist. Natural therapies (particularly a naturopath) will go a long way towards maintaining your supply. There are tonics available online which are good, but a customised tonic from your naturopath will be better. Be careful with online products as not all herbs used to increase supply are considered safe to use during pregnancy, so if you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy be cautious.
▪Get your boss on board. Try to get your employer interested in becoming accredited as a Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace. It may seem like a trivial thing, but your employer is more likely to attract women of childbearing years to their company and retain their employment with accreditation. Women are more likely to return to the workforce when they know their parenting commitments are respected and supported. Win-win!
▪Ensure you know about the safe collection, storage and transportation of breastmilk. You pump and bottles need to be cleaned thoroughly using hot, soapy water, and then rinsed with clean hot water. Store in a container cleaned with the same method. You do not need to ‘sterilise’ your breastpump – although can if you really want to.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association has great information about storage and transport for healthy babies (for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, refer to their hospitals guidelines). https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/breastfeeding-and-work/expressing-and-storing-breastmilk
▪Make sure your baby’s carer (whether it be Dad, Grandma or a day care centre) knows how to handle and use breastmilk safely. It is liquid gold, and should be treated accordingly. To ensure they don’t waste your precious milk (or put unused milk back in the fridge for later) it might be an idea to send bags with small amounts of 20mL’s so careers can simply heat up what bub needs without wasting the rest. This also helps ensure careers don’t overfeed your baby (with the continuous flow from a bottle and the mentality that he/she must finish the bottle this is a real possibility) as you want your baby taking most of his/her milk feeds from your breasts.
Print and give them this handout https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/breastfeeding-and-work/caregivers-guide-breastfed-baby
▪Ask for help. Your partner, midwife, mother, sister, friend, work colleagues and the Australian Breastfeeding Association are all able to help and support you.
Congratulations of breastfeeding your precious baby and enjoy the journey.