I gave birth in the Philippines and by Anaiah’s 8th week I need to be back to Singapore to work. I was anxious to plan, read and consult friends on how to continue breastfeeding and work at the same time. For mothers how want to do this it is imperative that you plan things before the day you return to the workforce.
Here are the things I did to make it work:
A. Let your boss understand how important breastfeeding is and that you have decided to express milk during office hours. It is important that your boss know beforehand that you intend to express milk at work. This is to manage expectations because you will be having extra 15 mins break every 2-3 hours every working day. It is also good to mention that breastfeeding will help boost your child’s immune system and in turn will require you less child care leave. In the Philippines, there are breaks for moms to do this but here in Singapore it is more of a case to case basis. Good thing that Singapore society gives high importance to breastfeeding so they fully support it.
B. Build your starter stash after your little one’s 6th week. Oversupply may lead to breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts or worse mastitis so it is advisable that on the 6th week is the perfect time to express milk whenever possible. This week is the stage when your milk supply has stabilized. For Aia, I expressed milk twice at night and every after her feeding. Do not panic if you do not have stash that can last a week. I started with a 2- day stash. I leave around 12-15 ounces of milk a day and what I express in the office will be her stash the following day. By the way, it is okay to hand carry expressed milk on the plane.
C. Have a trusted “Express Kit”. I invested on my “express kit” as I only have limited time and space in the office. I bought a cooler bag (Ezzy Bag) where my Medela Freestyle Pump set can fit. The bag can stay cold up to 12 hours. I have 4 milk bottles and in the event that those are all full I just transfer it in milk bags. I have cleaning wipes (Dr.Brown, the Medela version of this is very expensive) in case i dropped any of the bottles, or stuff for expressing. I do not wash my kit every time I express as my bag mimics of a fridge. I just clean and sterilize it when I get home. I also have a nursing cover. Singapore is a multi racial country and as a courtesy to all, I use a cover in the office when expressing and also when breastfeeding in public. My Medela Freestyle is quite noisy but it is very portable and efficient so I love it! I just have to charge it once in a week, no power source needed! My colleague uses Lacte, it is effective in expressing milk, just heavier than freestyle. It is my personal choice not to do hand expression as I only have limited space (my colleagues just made a make shift “mommy corner” for me) and time in the office but the later is actually the best way to express.
D. Have a Schedule. Breastfeeding runs on a law of supply and demand so it is essential to mimic your child’s feeding schedule in expressing milk. I work from 9 am to 6pm and I need to get out of the house at 8 am every morning. So what I do is, I feed Aia around 6:30am then I do my first mommy duty break at 9:15am after I have checked my emails and replied to all whatsapp messages. Then another one at 11:30am, 2:00pm and last is 4:30pm. By 7:00pm I will be home. If Aia has taken her milk I will still express one time at home if not then we will unlilatch. Because we follow the 1-1.5ounces per hour rule my daughter will drink more milk when I arrive home so we do unlilatch. It also helps that we do night feeding to maintain a good milk supply. The schedule is to be followed everyday. Yes, it is tedious and sometimes expressing is hard to do after meetings after meetings but I just think of my child’s smile every after feeding and everything will be easy.
E. Have a trusted “breastfeeding partner”. A breastfeeding partner can be your mother, your mother-in-law, husband or anyone who will take care of your little one while you are away. There is a saying that it takes two to tango and for this particular dance you must trust your partner. You must teach her the right handling of breastmilk and the correct feeding of it. You may encounter resistance and questions on this one as the ways on formula feeding and breastmilk feeding is very different. It will take time to teach and explain it but do not lose hope and just put your trust on that person that she/he is the right breastfeeding partner for you.
E. Love what you are doing. Of course, a stressed mom will really have a hard time producing milk. Just enjoy what you are doing. If you are having a hard time of having a let down then maybe you can bring a picture of your child to the office to help you visualize or think of your happy feeding moments with him/her.
My daughter is now 7 months and people are asking why am I still breastfeeding her. She has surpassed the “exclusively breastfeed until 6 months” mark and I can already give her formula milk. But, it is actually more than the money saved and the “best” nutrition given. It is the bond that has been formed through all those hours of feeding and re assuring. It is the unique smile I see every time she is full. It is the comfort of her head on my arm. It is the feeling of being needed and important.