The UK has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world, with just 34 per cent of babies receiving breast milk at six months of age, compared to 62 per cent in Sweden.
For some mums, it is the work-life balance that puts an end to this or even prevents them from breastfeeding in the first place. So, what if you are breastfeeding and ready to return to work?
As part of World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 2018) mum of 2, Mumtrepreneur and Author Donna Davies shares her thoughts on advice around breastfeeding at work.
So, you’ve reached the end of your maternity leave. You have your back to work date, childcare is in place and you’ve planned to within an inch of your life so you know it will all go smoothly… there’s just one thing bothering you, what are you going to do about breastfeeding? You don’t want to stop but how will you go all day at work without expressing?
Well, it’s a common scenario faced by many mums returning to work.
Unfortunately, some mums feel work won’t support them so they stop breastfeeding before they are emotionally ready – a compromise mums shouldn’t have to make.
What are your rights if you wish to continue breastfeeding when you return to work?
There are many horror stories… I know of a mum that had to express milk in the disabled toilet because it was the only private space she could find and we all know the dreaded milk leakage that you can’t hide and how uncomfortable it is when you need to pump.
Here are a few pointers:
If your childcare provider is within close proximity to your workplace, you could see if it’s possible to visit your baby during the day and breastfeed as normal.
If this isn’t an option, you can express breastmilk whilst at work. Firstly you must inform your employer that you intend to continue breastfeeding and they will then complete a specific risk-assessment. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that it’s good practice for employers to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for breastfeeding mothers to express and store milk. However, it’s not a legal requirement so you should talk to your HR department about their policy on it.
Where you express your breastmilk will depend on where you work. A large employer may have a ‘mother and baby room’. Smaller organisations may offer you the use of a first aid room, spare office or meeting room, as long as it’s private, hygienic and preferably with a lockable door. It is not acceptable to express milk in the toilets due to hygiene risks.
How often and for how long you express will depend on your baby’s usual routine and your employers’ policy on this. You need to take into account how many feeds there are when you are not with your baby and how much milk your baby normally takes. Ask your employer if you are allowed to take breaks when you need them or if it has to fit in with your existing breaks and lunch hour. Legally an employer does not have to pay you for additional breaks to express milk.
Think about how you will store your milk. Most companies will have a fridge and may consider allowing expressed milk to be stored there, perhaps secured in a re-sealable container for hygiene purposes. Again please discuss this in advance.
Another consideration is your colleagues. Don’t shy away from telling them you are breastfeeding, be transparent and honest about why you are needing some extra time away and manage their expectations.
For local advice, information and support around breastfeeding check out BOOBS Salford – http://www.breastfeedinginsalford.org.uk/