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After spending weeks or months with your little one, going back to work can be challenging, especially if you’re exclusively breastfeeding your baby. While the transition may take some time and effort, you can still continue to breastfeed your baby, if you choose to.
Breastfeeding has a multitude of benefits for both the mother and the child, and yet it is riddled with misconceptions and inaccurate information. As a new mother going back to work, learning and unlearning a lot of what you’ve seen and heard will be a part of successfully reaching your goal — breastfeeding your little one.
While it may seem like you’re doing this all alone, there are so many moms who have gone through this stage and come out stronger. Here are some of the challenges Shruti Kanchan, a mom from Mumbai, faced in the process of figuring out how to continue breastfeeding her twins while she goes to work.
- Finding the Right Breast Pump– Although many brands claim that their breast pump is the best, no one really talks about the frustrating trial and error process a mother has to go through to find the right one for her.
- Adapting to the Pumping Process– If you’re a mom who has only breastfed her child, it will take some time for your body to adapt to the process of pumping. Shruti explains, “A baby’s suckling action is quite different from how the breast pump works. Hence, your body needs time to adjust to the breast pump.” She has also shared a few tips to help you pump, and we’ll get to it in a moment.
- Limited Resources at Work– Not every organisation has a separate room for moms to express milk or a refrigerator to store the milk, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Shruti shared how she would carry a cooler along with all the breast pump gear because of the limited resources at work. It’s a good idea to speak to the HR department and figure out how they can make the transition smoother for you!
- Hand Expressing Technique- A lot of mothers prefer expressing their breast milk by hand over using a breast pump as finding the right pump can be a challenging and expensive affair. Also, some women have experienced a higher yield when they’re hand expressing the milk. Learning the right technique can help you express your milk by hand and store it for when you’re away for your baby.
- Finding Caretakers or a Daycare– You might live with family members who can take care of your little one while you’re at work. However, if you’re living away from family, then finding a caretaker or a daycare centre where your baby is comfortable is another obstacle you might face.
Although every mother faces her own set of challenges when going back to work, knowing what’s coming your way and looking for possible solutions can help make your journey a bit easier. Two moms, who have been where you are, have generously shared some tips and tricks that helped them with the transition.
- Ask for Help– Mothers often hesitate in asking for help from their workplace whether it’s asking the company to arrange for a room where they can express milk or asking their superiors to schedule a meeting around their breastfeeding breaks. Akanksha Sharma encourages women to ask for the facilities they need, even if it means getting some rejection. She says that if mothers keep asking for these reforms, they will become the norm and help the future moms-to-be.
- Don’t Skip Meals– Shruti says a good snack equals a good milk supply. Since your body uses the calories you consume to produce milk, eating a high-calorie meal before pumping milk will help you have a good supply. However, if you’ve missed a meal, grabbing a snack before you have a milk pumping session will help your body produce milk. Also, don’t forget to drink lots of water!
- Before and After a Pumping Session– Before you start pumping milk, make sure you massage your breasts. A massage will help open up the ducts and ensure that you don’t develop any lumps in your breasts. Similarly, when you’re done pumping the milk, hand express for a while to maximise the output of milk, as the pump doesn’t always get all the milk.
- Understand the Breastfeeding Laws– Educating yourself about your rights when it comes to breastfeeding and your company’s policy on breastfeeding at work is an essential step in your transition. According to the Indian constitution, employers have to provide nursing breaks for new mothers to breastfeed their baby. Instead of feeling guilty about expressing milk at work for your little one, understand your rights and educate others as well.
- Avoid the Misinformation Coming Your Way– Right from the time people got to know about your pregnancy till now, you would have experienced an information overload, and a lot of it is often incongruous and incorrect. Shruti talks about the pressure to shift your baby to solids once they turn six months old and stopping breastfeeding earlier than a mother or baby might want. Remember, whether you choose to breastfeed or give formula to your little one, it should be your decision and not one made due to the pressure from family or colleagues.
- Educate Your Caretakers– A big worry for a lot of mothers who switch from exclusively breastfeeding to pumping and giving their baby a bottle is the possibility of nipple confusion or their baby favouring the bottle over being breastfed. One way to avoid this is by adopting the paced bottle feeding method. While feeding a baby from the bottle, the milk moves in a steady flow, and this isn’t the case in breastfeeding. Using the paced bottle feeding method allows the baby to drink the milk at his pace and hence, not develop a preference for the bottle over being breastfed. Tell your caretakers to use this method when feeding the baby too!
- Involve Your Partner– When a baby is exclusively breastfed, fathers can feel left out of this bonding experience. However, fathers can be involved in the process by feeding the baby from the bottle, and also help you out by sterilising the bottles and storing the milk.
- Find Your Community– There will be times when you will feel lost or need to talk to someone who has been in the same position as you. With all of us living in nuclear families, finding that support system can be hard. But there are many support groups where you can get your queries addressed and form connections with other moms. BSIM is one such group that is a wonderful resource of information and a strong community that you can depend on to get through the tough times.
Going back to work and making sure your baby is taken care of may seem overwhelming right now. But it’s important to understand that there are ways you can do both successfully. Let these experiences of real moms help you navigate your own, and give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them. With the world coming to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, working from home will give you the opportunity to figure out the logistics and work towards creating a path you want to choose. Don’t forget to reach out to your family and friends to make this journey a part of the future you see for yourself.
Written with inputs from members of the group Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (BSIM).