If you told me when I was pregnant that I’d be breastfeeding once I’d returned to work, I’d have said you were crazy. My plan was to breastfeed for 6 months then switch to formula because I thought *that’s what people did*. I’m not sure who these people are, but nonetheless, that was my plan.
When I got to 6 months, I didn’t see the need for switching to formula. I was extremely lucky that breastfeeding was very successful, and I wasn’t going to rock the boat by introducing something alien to Alfie. I also wasn’t going to make my life harder by introducing bottles to sterilise and spending money on formula that we didn’t need.
So I changed my goal.
I was going to feed Alfie until he was one. It is widely recommended that you keep a baby on breastmilk or formula until they are at least one and then you can introduce cows milk (or another type of milk). So that’s what I did.
As my return to work drew closer, I started to think about what I was going to do about breastfeeding once I was back at work. I would return two weeks after Alfie’s first birthday. It wasn’t going to be possible to just stop – it wouldn’t be fair on Alfie and it wouldn’t be fair on my poor boobs.
I knew that legally, my company had to support me in my decision to continue breastfeeding by providing a clean, private room. They also had to provide a fridge for my milk to be stored and adequate breaks for me to pump (although they don’t have to be paid). They are NOT allowed to suggest you use a toilet.
I have to admit I was extremely nervous about approaching my HR contact about this. I was putting in a request to change my hours, and didn’t want this to be used against me. But honestly I had nothing to worry about. My company were beyond helpful in giving me all the information I needed and ensuring that I could pump as often as I needed to when I was at work. At this point, Alfie was still feeding at least 4 times a day, so I estimated I would need to pump twice a day.
The next issue to tackle was nursery. I didn’t know if Alfie would want breastmilk during the day, especially as it would be coming from a cup, not a bottle. Would nursery know how to store my milk and heat it up correctly? With formula being a lot more common nowadays, it was likely they were used to dealing with that and not breastmilk.
As it turned out, I really needn’t have worried so much. I returned to work with my trusted Medela breast pump in my bag, and sent Alfie to nursery on his first day without any milk. He had been on cows milk for two weeks and was loving it! He had cut his feeds right down to just first thing in the morning, one afternoon and an evening feed, so I was confident that he would be fine without his milk in the day.
I didn’t even need to pump at work. To be honest I was more worried about being uncomfortable and having full breasts than pumping to supply Alfie with milk for nursery. But I managed to make it through the whole day without needing to pump. I fed Alfie first thing in the morning before work and when I got home from work. Quite quickly we cut out the evening feed as he was often asleep when I got home as he was so exhausted from nursery!
So all that worrying was for nothing. I didn’t have to give up breastfeeding. Alfie still fed when he wanted to at the weekends, or on days off, but was happy to go without when I was at work. It’s amazing how babies adapt to their situations. I was a bit worried that he might state waking again at night to make your for his lost milk, but that didn’t happen.
If you are worried about returning to work when you are breastfeeding, speak to other mums who have done it. This really reassured me that it was possible. Trust that your baby will adapt to fit in with your new routine and make sure you communicate with your work if you are unhappy about something.
I’m so pleased that I didn’t have to stop breastfeeding once I’d returned to work. It really wouldn’t have been fair to Alfie to suddenly have to stop getting his milk like he had the past 12 months because I was at work.
We came up with a routine that worked from us, and we did that by following Alfie’s lead. I believe our baby-led approach to parenting really helped us have a successful transition.
Have you gone back to work whilst breastfeeding? What was your experience?
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