One of the biggest challenges that new mothers face is going back to work after having a baby. This can be a highly emotional experience with new mums wondering how to balance their demanding careers, while spending adequate time with their families. In other words, new mums often want to “do it all.”
The good news is that, with a bit of planning and preparation, you can smoothly manage the process of returning to work. Here are a few of the most common concerns that working breastfeeding mums have, and, more importantly, some tips for how to deal with them.
Get Ready to Juggle Work and Baby
Caring for a new baby is already a 24-hour-a-day job. When you add a busy work schedule into your childrearing routine, things can get a little overwhelming. There is no “perfect” balance between work, family and other commitments. So, don’t be too hard on yourself.
Keep in mind that, as a mum, you need to take care of yourself as well. If you’re not healthy, rested and relatively stress free, you won’t be able to do any of these things well. Your life will eventually return to a more balanced point. In the meantime, it’s best just to enjoy the ride as much as possible.
Consider the Following at Day Care
In an ideal world, you would be able to bring your baby to a day care centre at your place of work or leave them with a trusted in-home child minder or nanny. Even if this isn’t possible, there are plenty of other options.
When choosing a day care provider, make sure that they are accredited, trained in CPR and have a safe, clean environment. Do a background check on their employees, ask for referrals from other parents and do whatever you can to make sure that your child is safe.
If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll want to be sure that your day care centre is prepared to feed your baby with your milk, using a teat like Calma helps your baby continue to use a similar sucking behaviour as when feeding at your breast.
Consider Breastfeeding and Pumping at Work
Some women are concerned about whether they’ll be able to keep breastfeeding after returning to work. Will they be able to express enough milk? Will their employer provide a breastfeeding-friendly environment for expressing? Will colleagues understand? These are legitimate concerns, but, most of the time, things work out just fine. Have confidence in yourself. You can do this!
What type of breast pump is the best pump for a working mum? Check out our article on “How to Choose the Right Breast Pump” if you need some help on this.
The reality is that you will most likely need a double breast pump that can pump both of your breasts simultaneously. Not only will this save you time when expressing, but for Medela’s double breast pumps, it’s actually shown through research that they remove a similar amount of milk as the baby does and thus can help maintain your breastmilk supply.
Understand Breastfeeding Rights in the Workplace
What are your rights when it comes to breastfeeding at work? The Australian Breastfeeding Association state “Australian employers are not legally obliged to provide lactation breaks to their employees. However, the International Labor Organization (ILO) recommends that breastfeeding women be entitled to at least one break per day for lactation, and that can also be accessed as a reduction in hours. The ILO further recommends that these breaks should be treated as paid working time.”
There is now a general awareness across the country that breastfeeding working women should be accommodated. Don’t be shy about asking what your company can offer and always offer positive recommendations.
Will Colleagues Understand?
How will you explain to colleagues? Most people understand that a woman’s life changes forever after having a baby and are likely to be supportive. If necessary, have a discreet conversation with trusted colleagues.
Try to use humour to show others that this is just another thing working mothers sometimes have to do. It’s all just part of taking care of a new baby. Hopefully people will understand and appreciate your dedication to your family while also keeping up with your job!
Adapt to a New Work Style
Now that your baby has arrived, it might be hard to keep the same travel schedule or work the same hours that you used to. Consider asking your supervisor to help you arrange a more creative work schedule that could be a win-win for the company and for you.
If you are working full time, could you work a compressed week (4 days a week at 10 hours per day), or telecommute one day a week? What about suggesting a part-time schedule or job share arrangement? The key is to have a plan before you go back to work, and present your ideas in a way that reinforces its benefits to the business.
Stay Positive and Maintain Self-Confidence
Many working mums are highly established in their careers before having a baby. Even so, they may feel exhausted or even trapped. If you start to feel this way, remember that you are not alone. Contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association and read their informative web pages on returning to work and your rights as a mother in the workplace. You don’t have to let feelings hold you back in your career or personal life.
Monitor Your Relationship with Your Partner
Going back to work as a breastfeeding mum opens up a variety of potential relationship concerns. You might worry about financial concerns. Or, perhaps your partner feels somewhat unclear about their role.
Try to encourage your partner to be honest about their feelings. Having children can make your relationship stronger, but you have to keep reaching for each other, carving out time, and assuming the best about each other’s intentions.
Working mums want to be independent, powerful and self-sufficient – but we are only human, we don’t have to be strong all the time. If you are feeling emotional, know that you are processing some of the big moments in life that motherhood brings. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Try to use motherhood as an opportunity to create a wider circle of friends for you and your family. No one is an island, and motherhood makes this clear more than ever before.
What are your biggest concerns when it comes to breastfeeding and returning to work? Do you have any advice for new moms who are in this situation? Please add your thoughts in the comments section or join the conversation on our Medela Australia Facebook page.