Breastfeeding is teamwork. These tips – for breastfeeding mothers and their partners – can help prepare you for a less stressful return to work after parental leave.
- Talk about it with your partner: Do some blue-sky thinking around your expectations and roles in relation to breastfeeding, including: What are your feeding preferences before/after your return to work? How could the non-breastfeeding parent help? What scares you?
- Get informed as a team: Breastfeeding is natural, but getting it right is not an instinct. Educating yourself and anticipating common challenges can help set you up for success. Take antenatal courses and ask your doctor to check for preconditions that could make breastfeeding more challenging for you/your baby.
- Build a support system: Even if you’ve prepared yourself, breastfeeding can be a challenging journey. Find, and if possible speak to, a lactation consultant before birth so that once you’re in the trenches – you already know whom to call.
- Talk to your employer: Getting familiar with breastfeeding policies and practices in your company, hearing other colleagues’ experiences, and expressing your intention to breastfeed, can help you plan ahead and feel confident once it’s time to return to work.
- Invest in a double electric pump: This will help you pump more efficiently and effectively, saving you time and effort. There are plenty of hands-free pumping options out there that will allow you to multitask while you pump.
- Optimise sleep and nutrition:…as much as is feasible with a baby! Partners can help by taking over a late night/early morning bottle feed, and making sure the breastfeeding parent stays hydrated and well-nourished (adequate protein intake is essential!)
- Introduce a ‘dream feed’ early on: Introduce a night-time bottle feed as soon as the breastfeeding mother and the baby are comfortable with it and have mastered a good latch. This lets partners get involved, gives breastfeeding parents a longer stretch of sleep, and helps to prevent bottle rejection later on.
- Do a trial period as a team: Make a feeding and pumping plan ahead of your return to work, and start practicing it at least two weeks in advance. Make sure to include what the role of the non-breastfeeding partner will be.
- Monitor your mental health: No matter how much prep and planning you’ve done, juggling breastfeeding and work might get challenging. Weigh the benefits of breastfeeding against the impact on your mental health, and remember: breast milk may be the most natural option, but it’s not the only safe and adequate option.
- Review your support system: Remember the blue-sky thinking you did with your partner, and the external support figures you identified before giving birth? Things change, so revisit those plans and make necessary adjustments. For example, what extra support can you tap into now that you’re back to work, and how can you start that conversation?
Breastfeeding has many benefits, but it’s rarely a breeze. So remember: keeping an eye on your physical and mental wellbeing, and knowing when and how to ask for support, are just as important as keeping your baby well-fed and healthy.