Breastfeeding and returning to work
Going back to work can be challenging for both you and your baby, but with some nifty planning you can carry on breastfeeding
By the time you’re heading back to work, you’ll be a pro at feeding. Breast or bottle, on the go or the middle of the night, you’ll know what’s what when baby needs a feed. Don’t panic at the change in routine: when you’re getting near to your return to work, read our breastfeeding tips to survive the transition and keep you and baby as happy as can be.
Breast milk or a mix?
If you’re breastfeeding, you may want to keep your growing baby on your milk. That’s entirely up to you. If you opt to keep your baby on your own milk by expressing at work, you’ll need to stock up on a good breast pump and milk bags. These can be stored in the fridge at work, at home or with your baby’s childcare. If your baby is on solids and only needs a couple of bottles during the day, this can work well.
Many mums opt for a mix of breast and formula, so you breastfeed your baby in the mornings and evening, and leave formula feeds while you’re at work. If you’re lucky enough to work near your baby’s childcare, you may be able to pop by during the day to feed.
• Try out your feeding plan well before you go back to work and see what works best for you and your baby.
• Practise expressing your milk. It may take a while to get the hang of it, but persevere until you get the technique right.
• There are some excellent hand or electric pumps on the market. Ask your health visitor for advice.
• You can express milk by hand (without a pump) by squeezing your breast in a stroking motion from the outside to the nipple, but it can be quite hard work.
• Start introducing your baby to a bottle with breast milk or formula, if you plan on mixed feeding.
• Ask your partner or a friend to feed the baby with the bottle to get them used to other people feeding them.
• Your baby may not take to a teat as readily as your nipple, so introduce one early.
• You may want to give your employer written notification that you plan on breastfeeding your baby. They’re legally obliged to support breastfeeding mums, so should find you a private room to express in and be understanding about your longer-than-average toilet trips.
Take it slow
• Changing baby’s feeding habits can be difficult for you both, so don’t rush into it.
• Start leaving your baby for short periods with other people and build up the time apart.
• Your breasts can become uncomfortably full if you miss a feed when out. Expressing some milk will ease any pain.
• Leave cabbage leaves in the fridge and pop inside your bra to soothe engorged breasts. Sounds mad, but it works! They’re just the right boob shape.
• If you’ve given your employer written notification that you plan on breastfeeding, they are obliged to carry out a risk assessment.
• Workplace regulations mean employers have to provide suitable facilities for pregnant women and breastfeeding mums to rest (not the toilets).
• The Government Health and Safety Executive recommends that employers consider offering extra breaks so you can express milk, or temporarily reduced hours so you can feed your baby.
Need more help?
* The Health and Safety Executive guide for new and expectant mothers at hse.gov.uk/mothers, or their helpline, 0300 003 1747
* National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 0212, or go to breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk
By Julia Shaw