Returning to work or study?
Updated: Jan 2
Are you returning to work or study and thinking about how to continue breastfeeding your baby or what your options are? There are lots of things to think about when we return to work or study after having a baby. Getting organised will make this change much more manageable.
Here are my TOP TEN things to think about.
1. How old will your baby be when you return to work/study? This will affect the options you have for giving your baby milk (breast milk or formula) and food (if they are over 6 months old), including how much of each they will need, whether you use a bottle or a cup, and more.
2. How many hours/days you will be away from your baby and what breaks will you have? This will help you decide how you might manage expressing while at work/study, or even breastfeeding your baby during breaks.
3. Have you spoken to your workplace or education institution yet about returning? There are laws in place across Australia to prevent you from being discriminated against for breastfeeding or being a parent. The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) has some great resources for starting the conversation and advocating for what you need.
4. Have you made decisions about who will care for your baby while you are away? Maybe your baby will be looked after by a partner, family member or friend, or maybe you’re considering more formal methods of child care. There are lots of options and it can help to explore what is available in your local area and ask other parents for recommendations.
5. Will your baby be under 6 months old when you return to work/study? If so, they will still be completely reliant on breast milk (or formula). At each feed time while you are away from them they will need some expressed breast milk (or formula). On average, babies who are exclusively breastfed need around 800ml of breast milk each day, and most babies have a minimum of 8 feeds per day, so each feed will likely be between 100ml and 120ml. Every baby is different though, and you can figure out what your baby’s usual feeding pattern is and adjust the breast milk amounts to suit their needs.
6. Will your baby be over 6 months old when you return to work/study? If so, they will have started eating solids (family foods) and will therefore be less reliant on your breast milk. As they get closer to 12 months of age they will need less and less breast milk (or formula). Some babies even at around 9 months will simply have their usual foods at mealtimes and for snacks, plus water for hydration, and mum can breastfeed them at the beginning and end of her working day (with maybe a night feed as well). Babies will usually pick up an extra breastfeed or two before bed on the days when mum has been away. (Remember that babies miss us while we are away and may seek extra breastfeeds for comfort and connection as well as nutrition.)
7. Would you like to continue fully breastfeeding while working/studying? Some mums will choose to continue breastfeeding, which means expressing your milk while you are at work/study, and leaving enough expressed breast milk (EBM) for your baby to have while you are away. Other options for feeds are to either visit your baby for each breast feed (which is manageable if the child care centre or where your baby is being looked after is near where you are), or have your baby brought to you for a feed.
8. Have you decided you would like to wean your baby before returning to work/study? Some mums will choose to partially or fully wean their baby from breastfeeding. Partial weaning means feeding your baby with a combination of formula for some of their feeds and breastfeeding the rest of the time – this is known as mixed feeding. You can choose to replace as many feeds as you like with formula. Baby can then have formula while mum is at work and can breastfeed when she is home.
It’s helpful to plan ahead when transitioning your baby from breast milk onto formula, as it’s recommended to change just one feed per day to formula to start off with, then wait a few days before doing two formula feeds per day, and so on. This allows your baby’s gut to get used to digesting the formula and also allows your milk supply to slowly adjust without the risk of getting blocked ducts or mastitis.
9. Are you sure you really need to introduce a bottle? Remember that from 6 months of age when we introduce solids, we can also start giving our baby a cup with some water alongside their meals and snacks. Many babies, given the opportunity and time to practice, will learn quite quickly how to drink well from a cup. They can then take their breast milk or formula from a cup when you are away.
10. Have you spoken to other mums and parents about how they managed returning to work or study? It can often be helpful to connect with them and ask what they find worked best for them. They usually have some great tips and hacks to share!
There are lots of different ways to manage working/studying and breastfeeding. An IBCLC like me can help you figure out what will work best for you, your baby and your individual situation. Get in touch if you would like an appointment – I’d love to help you find your happy feed! Shona x