To be honest, at the start I didn’t even feel comfortable expressing milk at home.
The first few clumsy times I felt more like an engorged dairy cow than a new mum. Don’t think I’ve ever felt like a cow before. Don’t have brown eyes. Never felt the urge to eat grass. But I digress…
If I’d have returned to the job I’d been working at while pregnant I’m not sure I would have felt particularly comfortable expressing there either.
I probably would have had to book the boardroom and hope that no one barged in for an impromptu meeting. The workforce was relatively young and mostly childless too – I really wouldn’t have enjoyed having that conversation with my 27-year-old skateboarding male boss.
Thankfully when I did return to the workforce it was to work for a parenting website (this one, of course). I couldn’t have asked for a more understanding company to work for when it came to all things baby-related. I had everything I needed to express for my then 8-month old baby boy … a comfortable and private room (a spare bedroom as the Bub Hub is run from the bosses’ converted garage), a nearby refrigerator, a sink to wash and dry the breast pump, time to express during my lunch break and understanding colleagues.
Unfortunately not all women who want to continue breastfeeding once they return to work are as supported …
If you are hoping to continue breastfeeding when you return here are some tips –
– chat to your employer about the issue before you go on maternity leave, just to start the conversation and gauge their expectations. You’re probably not the first person to express at that workplace and they may already have policies in place.
– remember that you are protected by anti-discrimination legislation and your employer has a legal obligation to ‘reasonably accommodate’ breastfeeding mothers.
– you’ll need a comfortable chair in a private room (NOT a bathroom/toilet!) and a refrigerator to store expressed milk.
– just before you return to work think about how many feeds you’re likely to miss and how often you’ll have to express. Make sure you are clear on what your needs are before you attempt to convey them to your employer.
– you may also consider having your baby brought to you at work so you can breastfeed rather than express. Or if your carer is nearby you may just prefer to go to them during your break.
– make sure you’re familiar with your breast pump and expressing before you return to work. If you’re stressing about how to use the pump, or worrying about running out of time it will make it harder to pump. It is must easier to express if you’re relaxed and thinking about your baby.
– consider an electric breast pump, which may work faster and better for you, especially if you need to express more often. (I only had a manual but I found it fine for my purposes).
We think it is important to encourage workplaces to support breastfeeding mums and to promote the good work that many already do to ensure their breastfeeding employees are made to feel comfortable expressing at work.
Image credit: bds/ 123RF Stock Photo