Your breastfeeding relationship doesn’t need to end as you prepare to return to work. In fact, there are so many benefits to continued breastfeeding, including immune and nutritional support for Baby and being a source of bonding and reconnection for you and Baby, after time apart.
In Nova Scotia and many other places, you have the right to continue providing breastmilk to your little one when you return to work. Employers have a duty to accommodate a breastfeeding employee and have the responsibility to prove undue hardship should a request for accommodation be refused (NS Human Rights Act). There are, in fact, some wonderful benefits to employers who support women to breastfeed upon returning to work, including more satisfied, loyal employees and cost savings to the business related to retention of experienced employees, reduction in sick time taken by both moms and dads for children’s illnesses and lower health care and insurance costs (See The Business Case for Breastfeeding from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services for details).
Here are my top 5 tips for easing this transition:
- Plan Ahead. Thinking about going back to work after spending time of with your little one is probably one of the last things many Mamas want to think about. Taking some time to consider what will best support you in continuing to nourish your little one with breastmilk will help ease some of the stress when the time comes. Will the person who’s caring for your little one be able to bring her to your workplace to nurse? Will you express milk at work? Where will you express milk at work? What times will be best for you to express milk during your workday? Where will you store expressed milk? What other times of day might Baby nurse? What needs to be discussed with your supervisor or human resources rep? (It’s a great idea to meet with them before heading back to work so discussions and solutions are complete ahead of time.)
- Focus on Minimizing Stress. Heading back to work is a big transition – a big change – and can bring with it a load of stress: new routines, another person caring for your little one, reintegrating back into your workplace after time away and so much more. I’ve heard from many Mamas that they feel like different people, with different priorities, as they head back to work and they wonder how they will juggle everything and how co-workers will respond. Stress reduces breast milk production, messes with sleep and energy and can negatively influence mood. What can you begin implementing now, to help ease the effects of stress on you and Baby? If you’re looking for strategies, check out the Navigating Motherhood with Confidence 21-Day Program. And remember, the hormones of breastfeeding support feelings of calm and relaxation.
- Maximize cuddle time during your parental leave and in your non-working hours when you’re back to work. Savouring the snuggles, no matter their length, can be so therapeutic and nourishing for you and Baby. Take slow deep breaths and engage as many of your senses as possible to take in the moment.
- Remember: Breastfeeding Is Flexible. Have you planned to pump at work and it’s just not working out? Breastfeed whenever you can, when you and Baby are together and chat with your Naturopathic Doctor about recommendations for filling in any nutritional or immunological gaps during the times you are apart. I pumped when Emery started daycare and we discovered soon after that he had no interest in drinking the pumped milk from his sippy cup at lunchtime, so we transitioned to nursing only when we were together. He was over 18 months old at the time, so we just focused on providing nutritious meal and snack options and he drank water and organic soy milk at daycare.
- Explore Local Resources for Support. Whether it’s from other breastfeeding Mamas, a supportive healthcare provider or a community group/organization, connect with others to share your concerns, explore solutions and celebrate successes. In Nova Scotia, there are some fantastic resources – many listed below.