Many mothers continue to breastfeed when they go back to work after maternity leave. Returning to work may take some readjustment.
How to prepare
There are lots of ways you can continue to breastfeed when returning to work. This will depend on your baby's age and how often they feed during the day.
Breastfeed in the mornings and evenings. You can then express milk during the day or in the evening. Your childminder can give the expressed milk from a cup or beaker while you are at work.
Top up with formula
Breastfeed in the mornings and evenings. If your baby needs feeds during the day, your childminder can give your baby formula when you are at work.
Expressing breast milk
If you want to continue breastfeeding when you go back to work, plan ahead. Start giving your baby an occasional feed of expressed breast milk from about 6 weeks old. This will allow you to become comfortable with expressing your breast milk.
Parents often use a bottle to give expressed breast milk to their baby. Your partner or another family member should help with these feeds if possible. This will help your baby get used to taking breast milk from someone other than yourself.
Paced bottle feeding may help a breastfed baby to take a bottle.
If you plan to take maternity leave beyond 6 months, this may not be necessary. Try and get your baby used to taking milk from a bottle or a cup before you return to work. An older baby may take expressed milk from a cup or beaker. You can do this from around 6 months.
Your baby will still get the health benefits from your expressed breast milk.
A month before you return to work
Begin to introduce an occasional feed of expressed breast milk. Use a cup or bottle for these feeds.
Practice expressing and preparing expressed breast milk feeds. You may want to freeze expressed breast milk to build up a stock to have on hand if you need it when you return to work.
2 weeks before you return to work
Begin leaving your baby with your childminder for short periods to help them get to know each other. You can give your childminder expressed breast milk for feeds.
When back at work
If you decide to express breast milk during the day, make a plan for how you are going to pump and store the milk.
When you go back to work, you may need to express milk during the day. This will relieve breast fullness and help maintain your milk supply.
You can store this milk in a fridge or cooler bag with ice packs. Talk to your employer about breastfeeding breaks. Ask them how they can help you to continue breastfeeding.
If you choose not to breastfeed while you're at work, your milk supply may reduce as it adapts to the change in demand.
Legal entitlements for breastfeeding
In Ireland, by law, you are entitled to 60 minutes' time off or a reduction in work hours in an 8 hour working day. This is without loss of pay for up to 26 weeks after birth.
If you return to work after this time, you do not have a legal entitlement to breastfeeding breaks. But talk to your employer about breastfeeding. Some workplaces have policies that will support you as you continue to breastfeed.