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Breastfeeding is one of the most important aspects of early development for a child, though it is a topic whose importance is continually debated, especially in the context of women in the workplace. Women have always worked and breastfed. But, in light of the continual presence of more and more women in the workforce, it becomes highly important to consider how and when to breastfeed at work, some of the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding at work, and what the duties and obligations of someone in that position might be.
Can You Breastfeed at Work?
It is important to note that, by all accounts, it is perfectly acceptable for a woman to breastfeed at work. While the schedule of breastfeeding and childcare might seem hard to reconcile with that of a busy job, it is possible to do so and can be done in a way that is flexible to the needs of you, your child, your family, and your caregiver.
While we will not discuss herein the exact health benefits to children of breast milk, needless to say, the benefits of breastfeeding at work are that you can ensure your baby is getting exactly the right food it needs, that you are able to express breast milk in line with your body’s rhythms. If you have any questions, you should seek out local and national legislation, and understand what you are entitled to in your workplace.
Do You Need to Inform Your HR Manager About Breastfeeding?
Legally, you are entitled to breastfeed at work, usually in prescribed breaks for the duration of the first 12-15 months of your baby’s life. While you are not required to talk to your HR manager, it is good that you do so and create a plan. Don’t be afraid to talk to your HR manager because most companies will be incredibly supportive of the need for a mother to breastfeed at work. If you are afraid to talk to a male HR manager about breastfeeding at work, or if it makes you uncomfortable, you should request to talk to a female HR manager.
You can (and should) work together with your colleagues to create a more collaborative environment that is at once both helpful and accommodating to mothers. Women need privacy and time to express milk, and you should not be afraid to stand up for your rights to get what you need. In most cases, everyone involved benefits, including your business. There are health benefits to both babies and mothers, but there are also business benefits such as lower turnover, less absenteeism among female employees, improved productivity and morale, and even lower medical insurance claims.
Do not be afraid to talk to your HR manager, but know your rights and obligations before you do so.
How to Prepare for Breastfeeding at Work
Try to take proactive steps, including contacting your employer before you return to work and letting them know that you will need to express milk two to three times per day upon returning to work. It is good to consider what policies are in place, as well as what the institutional and legal context is for breastfeeding is at your work and in your jurisdiction.
Before returning to work, you should also create a plan with your caregiver to determine when and how to feed your baby while you are at work. This can include stocking up on breast milk before you get back to work, introducing the baby to the bottle before you go back to work, and getting ready for how to use a breast milk pump regularly.
By most studies and accounts, the vast majority of women find breastfeeding at work somewhat difficult, for a variety of reasons. These reasons can range from finding time in the workday to talking about and feeling comfortable about it in the presence of other employees to physically expressing the breast milk itself in the midst of a busy workday. But, it is important to make a commitment. Juggling working and having a child is not easy, let alone the specific act of juggling working and breastfeeding.
Upon returning to your job, consider the difficulties and make a plan for you, your family, your caregiver and the healthcare provider that works best for the needs of both you and your child.
What Is Mixed Feeding?
Essentially, mixed feeding means combining the two different types of feeding your child in modern child-rearing. One involves giving your baby breast milk, and the other involves giving your baby formula milk. With mixed feeding, when you are away from your child you will give them formula milk, but when you are with you will at all times possible give them breast milk.
Some proponents of this method argue that it gives nurturing and togetherness for mother and child before and after work – as well as the health benefits of organic breast milk – while still giving the mother time off during work where she does not have to express milk. Some other mothers will even have the option of using a machine to help produce breast milk that can be consumed by the child when mother and baby are separated. When doing the mixed feeding, it is important to consider formula milk over other forms of milk, such as those from cows or buffaloes.
Whether you choose to breastfeed at work, mixed feeding or moving to formula milk entirely, consider the pros and cons of every approach and make the decision that is right for you.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Breastfeeding While Working
While breastfeeding at work might seem like the obvious option, there are both advantages and disadvantages in doing so, and you will need to make a decision that is right for you.
Some of the advantages of breastfeeding at work include:
- It is a great option for helping to keep a routine and maintain a connection that can have positive health benefits for your child.
- Breastfeeding in the workplaces means you know that your baby is getting exactly the right food and all the health benefits of breast milk, even if you are not there to provide it.
- Being able to breastfeed at work can lead to more confidence and support in your daily life.
- Breastfeeding at work will probably improve your productivity and morale, as it will give you regular breaks and lower your cognitive load about your child when you are at the workplace.
Some of the disadvantages of breastfeeding at work include:
- The act of breastfeeding while working can be very tiring, and hard to incorporate into a routine that you find comfortable for yourself.
- Not all workplaces are going to be mother-friendly, but you can work with HR to help develop a plan that suits your need and create a comfortable and hygienic workplace to express milk in.
- Breastfeeding and working can require a lot of planning and organization – such as with pumps and bottles – and is not always suited to the routines of all women or employees.
- It can take a while for your breasts to adjust to the spaces between feeds, especially if you are also incorporating mixed feeding or bottle feeding into the routine of you and your baby.
Tips for Breastfeeding for Working Women
While there are advantages and disadvantages to breastfeeding at work, if you make the decision, there are many issues to consider. The following are tips on how to best manage to breastfeed and work at the same time.
1. Prepare for Going Back to Work
Do an assessment of where you are at with your breastfeeding and what the necessary preparation you need to do to be ready to breastfeed at work is. Consult your caregiver and your family and determine what the best strategy is for all those involved in this process.
2. Consider Timing
Have a night and weekend plan, and consider when to express milk during the days and weeks. Make sure to return to work when you are ready, and try to make plans with your employer regarding your breastfeeding before you do.
3. Have a Strategy for Your Company
Be proactive about talking to your company before you return to work, and have a plan in mind before you talk to them. Fight for your rights and have a strategy for working with not only your company but other employees as well.
4. Think About Pumps
Get a good pump that will help you to express milk even when your child is not present. While a single, manual pump can be tempting because of its affordability and ease of use, it might be worth considering something like a double, electric pump, which can save a lot of time and is often more efficient.
5. Be Creative
Find the best place and time to breastfeed at work, and be creative in the way that you do it. Try to establish a routine and find novel or clever way in which you can make that routine easier for yourself, such as wiping pumps down between uses or stocking up on tools that make the whole process easier.
6. Do Your Research
Research and ask questions about everything you do not know, such as the best guidelines for storing milk and whether or not to use a bottle. Make sure you have all the necessary information before you make a decision, but also don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially to other mothers who have gone through what you are going through.
7. Know Your Limits
Understand your own limitations and the stress that might be put on you by breastfeeding at work and create a strategy that works best for you. Whatever you decide when you go back to your job, give it a trial period – such as for 30 days – and then see how that goes.
8. Connect With Your Child
Whatever you decide on for how to nourish your child – and whether or not to breastfeed at work – make sure not to lose the connection with your baby. Nursing, even if you give formula milk during the day, can be an important way to reconnect with your baby after a long day apart.
Breastfeeding at work is an important reality in the lives of modern women. While all women have the right to breastfeed in the workplace, there are many things they should do to prepare. Breastfeeding at work can be difficult and time-consuming, and while it is manageable, there are advantages and disadvantages to doing it. Before returning to work, you should make the appropriate arrangements with your family, your caregiver and your workplace to make sure that breastfeeding at work is doable for you as a mother.