Every mother is a working woman whether you work inside or outside the home. It is not often realised that women have productive (paid and unpaid) and reproductive (birthing and breastfeeding) work to do. Both of these are important aspects of women’s lives that can be combined.
Having children and breastfeeding is a beautiful, life-enriching and rewarding experience and can certainly be combined with working at a fulltime job. Breastfeeding is smooth and satisfying when the mother has the knowledge, skills, the confidence to breastfeed, the support of health professionals and family members and to empower herself to decide what is best for herself and her baby.
For the best health and development of the baby and mother, World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for a full 6 months. Thereafter, breastfeeding is continued with the addition of appropriate complementary foods to 2 years and beyond.
How to successfully combine work and breastfeeding?
Breastfeed the first hour after delivery and thereafter 2 hourly during the day and before 12 midnight and 3 hourly in the night. Completely satisfy the baby on one breast and feed on the other breast the next feed, 2-3 hours later. Make sure the position of the baby is correct (baby lies on his side and faces the breast) and properly latched (baby suckles the nipple and about 1 inch of the areola to prevent sore nipples).
- • Practise makes perfect. Start practise expressing and storing breast milk two weeks before returning to work. Express and freeze a packet of breast milk a day so that you will have about 14 packs of milk stored before you start work. The amount of milk initially will be small but will eventually increase as you go along.
- • Continue expressing after you start work. Express at 7.00am, 9.00am, 1.00pm, 5.00pm and at 8.00pm so that there will be milk for the baby the next day.
- • Explore your options. You may express breast milk by hand or with a manual or electric breast pump. An electric pump with a double pumping kit can be faster, although more costly. Expressing by hand is cheaper and is easier on the breasts. Regardless of which method, make sure that it’s comfortable and convenient for you.
- • Speak to your employer. Talk to your employer about your needs. It is important that your workplace is motherfriendly. This includes a place for expressing and storing breast milk, breaks for breastfeeding and a supportive environment. Having children, and breastfeeding are normal, must be brought mainstream and not marginalised.
- • Make necessary preparations. You may need an icebox to keep your milk if your work requires you to travel. Wear nursing pads if you have no time to express your milk, rather than letting it dribble and wet your clothes. You can also cross your arms and use your fists to apply pressure directly on your nipples and breasts and after a few minutes, to stop the milk from flowing.
- • Date expressed breast milk that are kept in the freezer and thaw a few packets the day before to prepare for the next day. Always make a list of the things you need to do.
- • Good time management. Spending quality time with your family, especially baby and spouse is important. Healthy relationships will most certainly make up healthy homes. So set your priorities right and make a timetable if you need to.
- • Get the support you need. Have family members and friends provide extra help while you are breastfeeding. It is also vital that fathers do their part by helping to give emotional support to mothers.