Going back to work after having a baby can be traumatic for mums. As part of our Happy Baby Corner Series, we’re sharing our tips for returning to work after having a baby.
Having spent your maternity leave at home enjoying your new baby, the time has now come to go back to work. But you’re worried. Getting out of the house for a set time can be daunting for any mum - how will I organise my time, you think. Consider how your daily routine will fit in with work. Why not have a trial run beforehand, to see how it goes?
Being confident in the childcare facilities you have chosen will also make you feel more relaxed about work. If you’re thinking about using a nursery or childminder, give yourself plenty of time to visit different settings before you go back to work. In the early weeks, keep in touch with the nursery or childminder to reassure yourself that baby is settling.
If family and friends are helping out with childcare have discussions with them about your routine and baby’s likes and dislikes. Discussing feeding patterns and dietary needs is a really important part of your child’s care, and whether you’re breast or bottle feeding, you need to be confident in how this will be approached.
If you’re breastfeeding you may also be worried about how to carry on feeding and balance the demands of your job.
Why continue to breastfeed?
Returning to work may be the first time you have been separated from your baby, so continuing to breastfeed can help you to maintain a close relationship and be a comfort to you and your baby at an unsettling time.
It also benefits yours and your baby’s health. If your baby is being looked after in a different place, such as at a nursery or childminder, they may come into contact with more infections, coughs and colds. Your antibodies will pass through your breastmilk and boost your baby’s immune system, protecting them against infections. As a result, employers and employees benefit - less time off work for mums and a happier, healthier family all round!
Your legal rights
The Health and Safety Executive set out guidelines for employers and employees returning to work whilst breastfeeding.
At present, there is no law that gives the right to paid breastfeeding breaks but employers are expected to enable you to continue breastfeeding. A risk assessment should be carried out and any risks removed. If necessary, adjustments should be made to your working environment or hours to enable you to express or feed. Employers should also provide somewhere for pregnant and breastfeeding mums to rest and express in – a toilet is not acceptable!
Breastfeeding mums will need to write to their employers at least seven days before returning to work to inform them of their intention. This allows time for risk assessments to be undertaken and adequate preparations to be made.
Managing breastfeeding and work
Every mum and baby will work out what is best for them – some mums will express whilst at work and breastfeed at home, others may choose to use formula when at work. Whichever way you choose, you may find that you want support with making your plans.
Visiting your local BABES breastfeeding group is a great opportunity to talk to other mums, volunteers and members of staff who can help. At a BABES group, you will have the opportunity to discuss expressing and storing milk and also make a plan suitable for you and your baby, taking into account your baby’s age and the hours you will be apart. Alternatively, your baby may be being looked after close to your workplace and so it may be possible to have your baby brought to you when they need feeding.
Some mums we spoke to said that breastfeeding helped them to cope with being back at work; knowing they could snuggle up with their baby/toddler and give them a bedtime or breakfast feed. And don’t forget, if you work part-time, you have all the other days when you can enjoy your normal breastfeeding routine.
Hannah, from Retford, continued breastfeeding her son, Isaac, when she returned to work. “Isaac was 10-months-old when I went back to work” explains Hannah. “I had always expressed, so I had a stash of frozen milk ready for when I went back to work. I initially expressed whilst I was at work to increase the stash and prevent engorgement but I soon came to realise that, as I worked alternate days, my breasts soon got used to our routine. I would feed Isaac before I went to work and as soon as I came home. He would be very excited to see me when I came home and would go straight for a feed!
“I was quite emotional when I went back to work but soon realised that I needed it for my sanity and Isaac enjoyed being with other members of the family. Breastfeeding definitely helped to continue our close relationship.”
For more information about breastfeeding at work, visit:
For more information about infant feeding support services in Nottinghamshire visit: www.nottinghamshirehealthcare.nhs.uk/infant-feeding