Breastfeeding Mama: How to make it work at work

By Yafa’ Ajweh, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

How many working mamas wean their child from breastfeeding earlier than they plan because it was just too difficult to make it work at work? It is hard: blocking out the time, finding a private space, enduring the sounds of the pump itself and scheduling it often to keep up your supply – and all this in the best of circumstances.

Mothers often face discriminatory behaviours in their workplaces, such as employers failing to provide adequate accommodation for breastfeeding. Studies have shown over and over again how a company culture thrives when the team makes it comfortable and convenient for a mother to pump at work after returning from maternity leave. When women feel better about their experiences of breastfeeding at work, not only does their emotional health benefit but their productivity also increases.

Women who pump at work are not only trying to protect a special relationship they have with their baby but are also providing financial benefits to their entire family. Formula is costly, as well as babies who are not breastfed and who tend to get sick more often with ear infections, for example; this means somebody has to take time off work and finance doctor visits and possibly medication.

Tips for the transition back to work

Childcare: The priority is ensuring that you have your childcare sorted. Knowing your baby is looked after and in safe hands is key to being able to focus at work. If you find a nearby daycare, you may be able to take nursing breaks to feed your baby

Building a stash: You can start anytime but it is best to start pumping at least two weeks before going back to work. That will get you used to the pump and prepare your body for pumping. Pumping  at the same time every day tells your body to be ready for a feeding session and that will improve your pumping output

Buying a pump: Using a high-quality electric breast pump will help keep your milk production up. The double pump will save so much time, if affordable. It is important to have a properly fitted flange, both for comfort as well as for maximum breast milk output

How often to pump: Pumping every three hours helps maintain your milk supply. Block off your calendar for pumping times and try to make it consistent. Certain work tasks are more conducive to pumping, like answering emails-save those tasks for pumping sessions to be most productive

Hand expression: Hand expression of breast milk is when you use your hands instead of your baby or a breast pump to get the breast milk out of your breasts. This is an excellent technique to learn in case of emergencies. Be sure not to compress the nipple and make a round movement behind the areola from the chest wall toward the nipple

Disposable breast pads: These will save you the embarrassment of leaking breasts, especially if you’re running into a meeting, making you late for your pumping session

Facilities for pumping. Some offices provide a room with a lock for you to be able to pump in private and without disturbances. It can be a storeroom or unused meeting room – insist on a space other than the restroom

Labour laws: Jordan’s Labour Law allows for breastfeeding mamas to take one hour every day to breastfeed for 12 months after maternity leave. You can take breaks to pump in two shifts or three shifts during the day

Discussing plans with your employer: This may be a difficult discussion but is very important to the success of your breastfeeding journey. Meet with your employer before you go back to work about any changes while you’ve been away and what the priorities are when you get back. Approach the subject of flexibility with your hours in the early stages. Can you work from home one day a week or can you reduce your hours slightly and so on. The answer may be no, but if you don’t ask you won’t know

Ease in: Try not to do a full week your first week back. Maybe start midweek if your employer allows. This way, it won’t be such a shock to your system

Staying hydrated: Always have water at hand and healthy snacks as you may be so busy that you might forget to look after yourself

Plan and prep: Cooking and freezing meals in advance allows you to focus on your baby when you get home

A powerful approach to normalising breastfeeding in Jordan is the domino effect of corporate support – businesses are the gatekeeper of social acceptance.

A business that states you are welcome there not only helps normalise breastfeeding (because it is normal) but also creates a profound impact on public health for generations.

You can contact Ajweh