There have been a few posts recently worrying about returning to work. The truth is, I identify with most of them, because I totally remember this. In fact, I was a nervous wreck in the weeks leading up to when I returned when she was 10 months old; wondering how she would cope (and how I would cope!) when I should have been making the most of my last weeks with her, It totally took over. It is massive step, that’s totally true, but honestly; try not to fret too much – Everything will work itself out and you don’t want to ruin the last bit of your maternity leave fretting about it ending.
Returning to work does not have to mean the end of breastfeeding. Nor does it have to mean you need to introduce formula or cows milk. Every situation is a little different and obviously the semantics depend on baby’s age, but there is often a way round things. There are huge benefits to continuing to breastfeed when you return to work. Firstly, there are the immunological benefits to breastfeeding which can help when your child enters the world of childcare and the multitude of bugs that can plague you! Secondly, it is an absolutely fantastic way to reconnect after work, and help you both cope with being apart. That nursing session when I get home is totally priceless.
She has always had EBM in bottles (although it took quite a while to get her used to them, but that’s a whole other post) so she did have EBM during the day when I was at work; usually 3 2oz bottles over a 9 hour day. However, I know plenty of other mums whose babies (over 6 months) had no EBM, and just had water and food while they were away and nursed through the evening / night to make up for it – this is called reverse cycling. Both ways are fine, both ways are normal.
Another worry I had was surrounding sleep – like I needed to break the habit of nursing to sleep. But the truth is that babies and their caregivers will find their own routine, honest!! She is totally different with different caregivers- with me she still has lots of boob and nurses to sleep. With daddy they have storytime and cuddles, with grandma it’s in the buggy to sleep, with nursery it’s on a mat and bum pats to sleep- each of them works!!! They are amazingly adaptable little bubs.
In terms of expressing everyone is different. Personally, I chose to express as she was used to having EBM. Several of my friends chose not to express, and simply fed before and after work. Again, both ways are fine, both ways are normal. Your supply will adjust to whatever you choose to do.
I started back when she was 10 months. Initially I expressed three times a day- cutting down to twice a day at around 14 months, and down to once a day at 19 months, and now at 2, I’ve stopped expressing as she’s not bothered about EBM anymore. If you do choose to express you will soon get into a routine. The most important thing to remember is everything will work itself out!
Often, some KIT days before you start back can not only help you work out your logistics, but also can take away some of the fear of the return. If KIT days aren’t possible, even some shopping trips (new work clothes?!) can give you trial sessions with your childcare provider.
Good luck to anyone facing this in the imminent future, going back to work is a big deal, try not to let it overshadow your remaining maternity leave- don’t forget, we’re here not just for information, but moral support as you face changes in your life and your breastfeeding relationship.
By Ali. T
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