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Employment and breastfeeding

posted Mar 26, 2015, 4:53 AM by Melissa Bugeja   [ updated Apr 10, 2015, 2:15 AM ]
Now more than ever before, mothers continue working after giving birth whether it is because they wish to or because they have to.   As a breastfeeding mother, this will seem like an insurmountable problem which will give breastfeeding a deadline.  This need not be so! Having some strategies at hand plus basic knowledge on breastfeeding is all you need to make working and breastfeeding a success story..

Strategies to manage breastfeeding and work

Knowing how much maternity leave you are entitled to is the starting point.  In Malta we are entitled to 18 weeks of fully paid maternity leave.  We are also entitled to an extra full year of unpaid leave (both partners),this is a bit tricky though since most businesses are small and will not be able to afford to keep your place for a year.  However, you would be able to ask for an extra 2-6 months off unpaid (depending on the organisations' size).

 My story: When I was pregnant I decided to breastfeed for 6 months so I applied for my maternity leave plus an extra 3 months unpaid leave.  That made sure that my son had my constant presence till the time I planned to wean. However once on maternity leave I decided to continue breastfeeding till my son was 1 year old, so I contacted my employer and told him that I needed to express milk for my son once back to work and that I needed a place where I could do this.  He readily accepted and provided all the necessary space.  In the end I breastfed my son till 4 years of age.

Working from home is a good option for mothers.  At an age were everything is done electronically, this can be a good bargain for you and your employer; or maybe you would like to start your own company... 

Going back to work part time or using flexible hours help because you are away for less time with your child and there is a good possibility that you would not need to express any milk either.

EMB's Story: I breastfed my boy and started going part time work when he was 7 months. Just before he started going to nursery and me back to work, we started giving him fruit and veg purees, baby rice and some water, like that he was covered for those 4.5 hours without breast milk. I was breastfeeding him just before taking him to nursery, giving them the purees to feed him, and breast feed as soon as l was picking him up. While I did try expressing at night, l found it to much time consuming. This way worked for us better and we nursed till 22 months old:) 

Expressing milk at the work place is possible.  All you need is a private space with an electrical outlet to do this and a fridge for the milk and pump.  Considering the length of our maternity leave, leaving your baby in the care of a family member or nursery at approximately 4 months old is not really bad.  The amount of milk you would need to express will depend on how much the baby takes and the length of time you will be away from him.

Christine Zammit's story: Well basically I managed quite well with Breast feeding and continuing to work. I returned to work when Luca was 4 months old and had started to express at around 3 months. I used to BF him before going to work, then he took the expressed milk and then normal feeds follow when I return back home. I never expressed milk at work: we do have the facilities ie clean quiet rooms etc but since I don't work long hours I never felt the need to express at work. When I return at home then I express two 6 once bottles since God Bless I have quite a good flow. At 1 year of age I stopped expressing milk- Luca had started eating well and was also getting used to cow's milk so I BF before going to work and then after I come. He is now 1 year 2 months and we seem to have no intension to stop BF yet .

On average, a baby between 4-6 months of age will consume between 90-120 ml or 3 to 4 oz.  Once solid food is introduced the amount of milk needed will gradually start to diminish.  When you are pumping to replace a feed you can pump the whole feed at a go.  That being said it will depend on your breast storage capacity.  Breast Storage capacity is the maximum amount of milk available in your breasts during the time of day when your breasts are at their fullest.  This is based on the amount of room in your milk-making glands, not breast size and it varies among mothers and in the same mother from baby to baby (Nancy Mohrbacher).

Another option worth mentioning, if your baby has started taking solids, you can find a day care centre near your workplace and go to nurse him there during your lunch break.  It is a good way to keep contact with your baby and a good way to avoid expressing milk if that is what you wish to do.

Ilona Petrovska's story: When I was pregnant I did some research and decided to give my best shot at BF.  I knew I would be going back to work when my daughter was going to be 4 months old but thought I would figure something out nearer to the time.  I started working 4 hours a day and expressed milk in the morning for my little one's use.  I Bf my daughter till she was nearly 2 years old!

Ins and Outs of expressing at work

When you need to express milk at work, you will need:
  • a clean, quiet, private room with an electrical outlet to express milk
  • a fridge where to store the milk
  • your breast pump and containers for the milk 
  • small cooler to carry your milk back home
Taking into consideration the possibility that as a mother you would be working 8 hours a day and are leaving behind a 4 month old baby, you will usually need to take 2-3 x 20 minute breaks to pump milk (the amount of breaks will depend not just on the amount of milk you need but also on how long you normally take to collect said amount).  It is best to pump at the time your infant normally nurses and so if at 1000 hrs you usually nurse your infant you should pump at this time. However it is not essential to do so. Normally your breasts will have given you all the milk possible in 20 minutes - more than that might actually hurt your nipples.

If you do not feel quite comfortable especially the first few days at work you might want to consider bringing a book or some music to help you relax and take your mind away from the pumping.  A picture of your infant might help trigger the let down reflex quicker.

Once you have expressed your first bottle, store in the fridge.  If it is not full you can add to it at your next pumping session.  The pump, simply take out the motor part of it and store the rest of it in the fridge along with the milk.  In the evening while you are at home give it a good wash and sterilise it.

Other Resources:
Maternity Leave by the Maltese Government
Employee's guide to breastfeeding and working by US department of health and human services