Returning to work and continuing breastfeeding is one of the most challenging things a mother can face. Here in the UAE maternity leave is just 45 days, and while you may be able to add on some annual leave to this, most mothers face heading back to work before their baby is 3 months old. If you are breastfeeding, or even mix feeding between breast milk and formula, it is still possible to continue when you return to work. Preparation is, of course, the key to success.
If you are exclusively breastfeeding and your milk supply is well established you’ll probably need to pump at least twice while you’re at work, and possibly three or four times during the entire day to keep up your milk supply up. You will also need to pump enough to provide milk for your baby while you are separated. The best way to do this is to start pumping milk and freezing it 2-3 weeks before you plan to go back to work.
Pump it up:
Choosing a high-quality pump that allows you to pump both breasts at the same time will be vital and save you precious time during your workday. Talk to your employer before you return to work about how you can fit this into your schedule and where you will be able to do so in privacy.
Smart start date:
The first days are likely to be the toughest, so aim to start back on Tuesday or Wednesday, this will give you time to figure out pumping, milk storage and managing work commitments. Having a shorter week to start means you’ll soon have the weekend to evaluate how things are going and make adjustments as needed.
Store that liquid gold:
Once you have a good routine of pumping milk, you need an excellent process of storing to ensure you have enough milk at all times, and that it’s consumed within six months of storing it. We suggest using breastmilk specific storage bags and always marking it with the date that it is frozen. When you need to use the frozen breastmilk, allow it to thaw gradually in the refrigerator, avoid letting it thaw at room temperature. Thawed milk should be consumed within 24 hours.
Be prepared that your little one might start to want more nighttime feedings when you return to work, many babies will start breastfeeding more often during the night than before especially during the first few weeks. The benefit to this is that the levels of prolactin (the hormone that encourages milk production) are higher during night feedings, this will help maintain your milk supply. This, however, can be tiring so try to get early nights as much as possible to maximise your sleep hours.
The struggle many women face when returning to work is that their supply can drop, so aim to breastfeed on demand on weekends. This is a great chance to rebuild it and enjoy the time reconnecting with your baby.
Fed is best:
Always remember that fed is best so don’t beat yourself up if there are times that you need to supplement with formula or switch entirely. The most important thing is that your baby is getting enough milk to thrive and grow. If you are ever at any stage concerned about your child’s nutritional requirements or intake always consult a paediatrician.