To be honest, when I first started expressing, I didn’t even feel comfortable doing it at home.
The first few clumsy times I felt more like an engorged dairy cow than a new mum.
And if I had returned to the job I’d been working at while I was 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 no one barged in for an impromptu meeting. The workforce was relatively young and mostly childless so I’m not sure many of them would truly understand. And I really wouldn’t have enjoyed having a conversation about expressing with my 27-year-old male boss.
Thankfully when I did return to the workforce it was to work here at the Bub Hub. I couldn’t have asked for a more understanding employer 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 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.
7 tips for expressing breast milk at work
Start the conversation early
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.
Know your rights
Remember you are protected by anti-discrimination legislation and your employer has a legal obligation to ‘reasonably accommodate’ breastfeeding mothers.
Know what you’ll need
You’ll need a comfortable chair in a private room (NOT a bathroom/toilet!), somewhere to wash hands and wash and dry your breast pump, a refrigerator to store expressed milk and an insulated bag to transport it home again. You’ll also need a place to store your breast pump and charge it, if it’s electric.
Know how often you’ll need to express
This will depend on the age of your baby and how often you usually feed them. You’ll probably want to express at the same times you would normally feed at home and this will be usually be less often as the child grows older and starts eating more solid food.
So 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.
Consider having your baby brought to you
In some circumstances it may be worth considering 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.
Know exactly what you’re doing
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 (looking at pictures of your baby can help with letdown).
Consider buying an electric breast pump, which may work faster and better for you, especially if you need to express more often or have less time. Manual breast pumps are significantly cheaper however and will do the job. You just have to find which works best for you.
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.