For many mothers in Canada, we are lucky to have one year of maternity leave before returning to work. But for some, they need to go back sooner and for those who do get the full year, they would like to continue their breastfeeding relationship. Many ask, “Do I need to wean just because I’m going back to work?” The answer is no. It is hard enough to be separated from your baby, so being able to breastfeed when you are together benefits both of you emotionally and physically.
Here are my top 5 myths about breastfeeding and going back to work after the one-year maternity leave.
1. I need to stop breastfeeding when I go back to work.
Absolutely not! Yes, it may be a bit challenging at first to juggle getting back into the swing of things with working and continuing to breastfeed, but it is just an adjustment. Going back to work is an adjustment in itself anyway. The benefit of continuing to breastfeed, is that you can still renew that closeness and one-on-one time with your baby when you are home – which makes the adjustment of going back to work easier for both of you.
A side bonus is that many children who will go to a daycare setting when mom returns back to work, will come in contact with new and unexpected viruses and germs. When you breastfeed, you pass on valuable antibodies to your baby through your breastmilk. So, although it is inevitable that your little one may get sick, they will most likely recover sooner or not get as ill if you continue to breastfeed.
2. I will need to pump when you go back to work.
Many women have a love-hate relationship with their pump and many haven’t pumped for months. They often wonder “When will I find time in my day to pump? Where will I pump and where will I store the milk?” Of course, this is always an option and you can speak with your employer about setting up a room for you to pump and for you to store your milk (it’s their legal obligation to do so) but you don’t need to pump. Many mothers will simply hand express a bit while away if they feel too full and just breastfeed when they are with their baby. Sure, the first few days when you go back to work may be tough and you may be a bit uncomfortable and leak a little. No problem, bring an extra shirt just in case, learn how to hand express and by the end of the week your body will adjust and you will be fine!
3. I need to start giving whole milk or formula when I’m away from my baby
Many day cares are very accommodating with what you give decide to give your baby. If you have decided to introduce whole milk into your baby’s diet, then they can definitely provide that to your little one. But many families decide not to do whole milk or dairy and know that baby can get their fat and vitamins from food sources. There are many other options. Speak with your daycare provider about what will work. If you have decided to pump and provide that milk to your baby, you can do that. Working with a naturopathic doctor will also help you decide on alternative forms of milk such as almond, cashew, coconut, or rice milk to name a few. You can also just do water during the day and baby can just continue to breastfeed when you are together.
4. My baby has never taken a bottle so I will need to introduce one.
This is not necessary at all. If you are going back after a year maternity leave, most one-year-olds will take a sippy or open cup. In fact, many day cares don’t want to have to deal with bottles and will encourage your little one to use a cup. Even if they never had, you’d be surprised how quickly our little ones pick things up when they are surrounded by their peers in daycare who are all doing the same thing.
5. I will need to wean breast feeds before I go back to work.
Not really. Just enjoy the time you have with your baby. By the time your baby is a year old, the number of feeds has usually decreased and on average, your baby may feed 4 times during a 24-hour period. Remember, when you go back to work you may feel full for a few days but your body will quickly adjust. And your baby will also quickly realize when they are without you that they cannot feed from you so they will find another option while you are away.
Do keep in mind, when you and baby are together your feeding patterns may change. Many babies do what we call “reverse cycling” in which they tend to feed a lot overnight. This is usually temporary when you first return to work. Often its even your baby’s way of just staying close to you as they will miss you when you are gone. But again, your baby will quickly learn the routine. And on weekends, you can resume your regular feeding patterns. On Monday you may feel a bit full again, but your body will once again adjust! Our bodies are just so cool that way!
Anita Arora is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant at The WOMB. Anita’s aim is to help mothers reach their feeding goals in a non-judgmental, accepting and natural approach. Anita sees women both in clinic and in the comfort of their homes to assist them with any and all feeding issues. Anita runs a Breastfeeding Café Drop In Group every month, and leads workshops for parents-to-be and mothers returning to work on a regular basis. Her next Breastfeeding and Back to Work workshop is Thursday November 2, 2017 at 10:30am at The WOMB.