National Breastfeeding Week: Breastfeeding and Employment

Women need adequate time and support in order to breastfeed, however those with 3 months or less of maternity leave report a much shorter duration of breastfeeding than those who have more than 3 months of leave.
Workplace challenges remain to be the most common reason for women deciding against breastfeeding, or stopping breastfeeding earlier than they feel ready. The recommended duration for exclusively breastfeeding (no other source of food or drink besides breastmilk) is 6 months; after this it is recommended to introduce solid foods whilst still offering breastmilk.

This means that it is very likely that a mother will still be breastfeeding when it is time for her to return to work.

In the UK, we have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, with 8 out of 10 women stopping breastfeeding before they want to and only 1% of mums reporting to be exclusively breastfeeding for the recommended 6 months.

Tips For Breastfeeding and Working:

  • Arrange childcare close to your workplace so that you can breastfeed your baby during break, or before and after your shift.
  • Express (pump) your breastmilk into bottles – this way other people can feed your baby whilst you are in work, but you can still feed directly from the breast during times at home.
  • Ask your employer about the possibility of flexible hours so that you can work around your breastfeeding needs.
  • Trial run your childcare plan prior to going back to work, this can help to prepare you for the change.
  • Make sure that you are correctly storing your milk to ensure that your baby is still receiving fresh, nutritious milk.

Storing and Using Breastmilk:

  • If you have no access to a fridge; then your freshly expressed breastmilk needs to be used within 6 hours. However, if your baby has been ill, or they are premature, it is best to speak with your healthcare professional as they may suggest different guidelines to you.
  • When being refrigerated, if the temperature remains at 4 degrees, then your milk should be okay to use for up to 5 days. However, if the temperature is between 5-10 degrees, then it should be used within 3 days.
  • If you have frozen your milk, this will be fine to use for up to 6 months.

One healthcare professional suggested sticking to a 5-5-5 rule!
– If not in a fridge – it is good for 5 hours
– If it is kept at 4 degrees or lower – it is good for 5 days
– If it is frozen – it is good for 5 months

Tips For Breastfeeding:

  • Breastfeeding is a skill that both you and your baby will learn together.
  • It may take some time to get used to it and to get the hang of it, but that is normal!
  • There are different positions that you can use for breastfeeding, it is important to trial different ones to find which is the most comfortable and effective for you and your baby.
  • Your shoulders and arms should be relaxed.
  • The baby’s body should be in a straight line – it can be hard for them to swallow the milk if their head/neck is twisted.
  • Bring the baby to your breast, allowing them to latch themselves. If you tilt your breast towards the baby, this can lead to poor attachment.
  • Position the baby so that their nose is level with the nipple – this encourages them to open their mouth wider, enabling a much better latch and making it easier for them to get the milk out.
  • If you are worried about whether or not your baby is getting enough milk, you can look out for these signs…
    – They should start off with some small fast sucks followed by longer sucks.
    – Their cheeks should stay rounded and not sucked in.
    – You should be able to hear them swallowing the milk.
    – The baby should seem calm during feeds and will come away from the breast by themselves once they have had enough.
    – They are appearing healthy and are gaining weight (It is normal for a baby to lose a little bit of weight during the first week after birth, but they should start to slowly gain after this. If you are concerned about your baby’s weight, it is important to speak to your healthcare professional.)


Unicef – Breastfeeding Week

NHS – Breastfeeding and Work

Breastfeeding Network

Michigan Medicine: Are You Properly Storing Your Breastmilk and Formula?

NHS – Support with Breastfeeding

Pampers – Tips for Breastfeeding

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