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Breastfeeding And Working: Making It Work

Feel good about your efforts to continue breastfeeding for as long as you can. It’s a decision you will always be proud of as a mother.

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Breastfeeding is a precious aspect of motherhood with enormous health benefits for both mother and baby. The Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for first 6 months of life and it’s continuation up to or beyond 2 years. However, it’s a fact that many mothers with young babies need to return to work either out of need or choice. Continuing breastfeeding is a challenge for these mothers. But it can be done with some support from employers and families and it’s definitely worth the effort. Infact it has become more convenient for working mothers to breastfeed exclusively because of the 6 months maternity break made mandatory by the Government.

Breast milk is much more than the best source of nutrition for your baby. Studies show that babies who are breastfed for a longer duration score better on emotional and intellectual development.  In addition, breastfeeding protects mothers against several serious illnesses including breast cancer and reduces the risk of post-partum depression. What’s more, continuing breastfeeding promotes a working woman’s confidence to be a “good mom”. With the right information and planning, you can let your baby receive the benefits of breastfeeding even after you join work.

Managing Breastfeeding and Working 
While you are on maternity leave, prepare a solid ground for continuing breastfeeding when you return to work. Feed your baby frequently and on demand. Developing good feeding technique at this stage will help you build a good milk supply which will make breastfeeding easier when you join work. 

It would be great if you are entitled to six months of maternity leave as it makes exclusive breastfeeding much simpler. If you can’t, negotiate options of working from home or working part time with your employer. Ideally, organizations with a sizeable female staff must provide a crèche or a nursery. The other option is to put your baby in a crèche close to your office, where you can come and feed at intervals. Along with these arrangements prepare and plan for expressing breast milk which can be fed to your baby in your absence. 

Practice the technique of expressing breast milk. You can express manually, though a good quality electric breast pump makes it relatively more quick and convenient. Expressed breast milk should be collected and stored in sterile containers. It can be kept at room temperature for up to 6 hours. Otherwise, it may be safely refrigerated at 4₀C for up to 3 to 5 days. For prolonged storage the milk should be frozen and thawed before use. Few days before you start work, get your baby accustomed to taking expressed milk. Also, train the baby’s caregiver in handling stored breast milk. 

A major challenge that women face once they return to work is maintaining their milk supply. Physiologically, the most important factor influencing milk production is frequent breast stimulation and milk removal. In general, a woman must breastfeed six to eight times a day to maintain good milk supply. When you are away from your baby you must substitute the missed feedings with milk expression. Even while expressing at work, continue direct breastfeeding during the hours you are at home. Most mothers can fit in one morning feed and a couple of evening and night feeds in their schedule. On non-working days, enjoy nursing your baby full time. 

Feel good about your efforts to continue breastfeeding for as long as you can. It’s a decision you will always be proud of as a mother.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Dr Ravneet Joshi

Dr. Ravneet Joshi has over 20 years of experience and is a Lactation Consultant at Manipal Hospitals in Bengaluru. She completed her MBBS from Government Medical College, Patiala, Punjab University and her MD from KIMS, Bangalore.

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