In celebration of International Breastfeeding Week, one of our Natal teachers shares her personal story of returning to work while breastfeeding. Thanks to Laura for sharing this story of how she made breastfeeding and work, work for her!
With baby number 1, my breastfeeding journey when I returned to work was fairly straightforward – she was 12 months old, and I was able to feed her in the mornings and evenings. During the day she used to take cow’s milk from a sippy cup without a problem – of course she liked her Mummy Milk but would happily guzzle whatever was put in front of her. Baby number 2 is a completely different kettle of fish…
First of all, my return to work this time came earlier than planned – I had an offer that was too good to turn down, so I returned to work when my baby was only 8 months old. This meant that she was still having around 4 feeds in a 24-hour period, two of which were during the day and therefore totally reliant on me. I had been lazy with expressing – she was waking up so often in the evenings that I rarely ever left her, and with me around there was no need to store expressed milk in the freezer. But of course when I decided to accept the job offer, I had to start expressing to get a bit of a store. My daughter had had expressed milk from a bottle a few times before, so I wasn’t too concerned about her taking the milk – I just felt hugely guilty that she wouldn’t be getting milk directly from me.
I’ve always found expressing my milk a bit of a chore, and the second time around it was a lot trickier as well. I had less time, and my baby had no pattern to her wake up times – there were many occasions when I would sit down to express, and she’d wake up taking all the milk I’d planned to pump. A few times I also found that I’d try to pump and barely anything would come out, whereas with baby number 1 I sat and expressed every evening at 9pm, meaning that my body got used to it, and I invariably got 3/4oz each time, making up quite an impressive stash. My store of milk this time is quite substantially less, but I scrape by and usually have at least 1-2 days’ worth of milk on ice!
Working out how much milk to send with her each day is always a challenge as I have no idea how much she takes at each feed. However, seeing that my average expressing amount was approximately 4oz, I started off by sending a bit more than that for each of her feeds taking place at her Grandparents’, and this seems to be working nicely for us. I still have no idea how much she drinks when she feeds from the breast, but I always send a little bit extra than my average expressing amount per feed, just to be on the safe side, and there is usually a bag left that wasn’t needed, rather than not enough.
My return to work went smoothly – my baby went off to her Grandparents’ successfully, along with a couple of sterilised bottles and bags of expressed of milk. She happily takes the expressed milk from her Nana, although I know she’d rather have it from me – when I get home from work some days she literally jumps me, but I know that she’s happy, and if anything she quite enjoys spending her days with Nana, Grandad and the dog. I don’t feel so guilty about not being able to feed her myself, as I know that she is still getting my milk, just via a bottle.
Replacing daily breastfeeds with bottles of expressed milk hasn’t been the only change for our family though. Returning to work in the day also coincided with my return to teaching BabyNatal classes in the evenings. We had organised the timings to make sure that I could feed baby before bed, so she’d have a nice full tummy, but one evening things didn’t go as planned, and we actually had a bit of a lightbulb moment…
That evening I had settled baby to sleep as usual, and I had left to teach. While at home with Dad, my toddler was having a mini drama and inadvertently woke baby – as she’s still very reliant on me to settle her back to sleep, as a last resort, Daddy decided to take the freshly expressed milk from the fridge, warm it through and settle down to feed her. There were a good 7/8oz in there, so there was no expectation that she’d drink much but… lo and behold! She drank the full bottle and slept through until around 5am! At that point we started to acknowledge that one of the reasons she was still waking in the night was perhaps also due to her still needing to feed, and not just a matter of ‘comfort suckling’, as it had been suggested to us. I had always wondered whether she was eating enough in the day to then be able to sleep for longer stretches at night, and so I often offered milk to her in the day, but she always turned it down. It looks like my intuition was correct after all.
So, all in all my return to work has actually been very good for all of us – I got a much needed break (yes, going to work was a break!), our baby gets some quality time with her Grandparents and is still getting her Mummy Milk! Everyone’s a winner!
Laura is a mum of two and Natal Family teacher for Thurrock and Romford.
Find out more about Laura and her classes on our main website here.