Returning to work is often one of the reasons why mothers stop or don initiate breastfeeding. While breast pumps give the opportunity to express breast milk for when we are apart from our babies, sometimes logistics and the lack of support from employers makes this task challenging.
A woman may have all the support she needs to initiate breastfeeding from her husband and family. However, short maternity leave and the lack of information or misinformation from co-workers and/or employers can make it difficult to continue breastfeeding after returning to work.
In order to express breastmilk for their infants, mothers need privacy and time; these are key elements. Being able to lock the door when going to express is priceless – it gives mom the calm she needs. In March of this year, President Obama included a provision in the Healthcare Reform which requires workplaces to provide reasonable time and a place other than a bathroom for mothers to express and provide breastmilk to their babies for the first year of baby’s life.
If your company is just now working on a lactation accommodation program for its employees, offer to help if your time allows it. A start could be to simply walk around the company and see if there is a room available that could be used as an employee breastfeeding room and suggest it to the team. Busy managers appreciate any help they can get. Be proactive and provide options.
There are corporate lactation programs that help companies set up their employees’ pumping rooms for a fee. Submitting a list of those programs can also benefit your employer if they are too busy and don have the time to implement the program themselves.
Approaching your employer while pregnant is extremely important. Share your wishes to breastfeed your baby not only with your boss, but also with your co-workers. Also remember that some co-workers and bosses don’t necessarily know much about breastfeeding unless they have had a child on their own or know someone who has breastfed, or were breastfed themselves. Share with them the risk of artificial feeding and the impact it has on the health of the baby. A baby’s health problems can negatively effect mother’s workplace performance and can result in work absence, doctor visits, negative impact on healthcare costs, etc.
Connect with the other pregnant women in your company and enquire how they are handling their maternity leave. They may know things you don that can help you optimize your benefits. Talk to the women who have had babies while at the company about their conditions for returning to work. Use the information you gather, add it to your plan and see how the negative (if any) might affect you personally. If you see potential problems, figure out a possible solution and discuss it with your employer.
Try to delay your return to work as much as your benefits allow you. Use your vacation time, sick time and any other exclusive benefit that your company offers. This will allow you to build a solid foundation with your breastfeeding relationship. Returning to work in the middle of the week will be ideal and easier on you and your baby. If for some reason you’ experiencing problems, you will only have a few days remaining in the week. This will allow you time to find a potential solution over the weekend before starting a new work week. If possible, consider returning to work part time in the beginning and work your way up to a regular schedule. Explore the possibility of doing work from home. The magic of technology now allows this with the use of internet, webcam, scanners, etc.
When you negotiate the terms of your return to work with your boss, don forget to put everything in writing and sign it. You never know if your boss will leave the company, be promoted or simply forget about the details of the conversation. If you don feel comfortable talking to your boss, you can always start by emailing him/her your ideas. Just remember that you will eventually have to talk face to face. Rehearsing at home with your partner or in front of the mirror will help. Leave plenty of room for negotiation and don be shy!