Returning to work while Breastfeeding

Returning to work while Breastfeeding

Room with a view

As the end of my year off on maternity leave was approaching, I met with my boss for an update and mentioned that I was still breastfeeding.

To back track slightly, this was my second maternity leave, as I’d taken a year off after the birth of my first daughter too, but I didn’t return to that job as they made it impossible to return to work on a part-time basis. I had a 4-month battle with them but they were adamant that they didn’t want any part time or job share roles within the (56-strong) team. This was in spite of job share roles and part time roles being common-place and successful before I went off on maternity leave.

So I sought alternative work and found a lovely part-time role at the Forestry Commission which I absolutely loved. The people, the organisation and the role itself were just fantastic. Soon after starting the role however, I found out that I was pregnant again. My manager and the team were all really supportive and kind. So…here I was almost a year later, and now with a new boss too.

She was really nice when we met up. Although my role was already part-time, I had been hoping that I’d be able to use some of my holidays to enable me to do less hours each week for a short period by staggering my holidays, so I was returning one day a week. I didn’t even really have to ask as she’d already thought of that and suggested it.

She arranged a room for me to express in, taking me to see it first to make sure I was happy with it as it was actually within a toilet.

Breastfeeding in comfort

I was more than happy with it as it’s a large room with yes, two toilet cubicles in it but the room was lovely with a large table and a chair and it was on the upper floor of the office which is in Queen’s House, in the stunning Lyndhurst countryside. The view of the forest from the window is beautiful. The only thing I wanted to know was whether it had a plug socket, which it did and which meant that I didn’t need to buy a hand pump.

She also told me that there was a special fridge that they would put in the kitchen for me to store my milk. It later transpired that the fridge had gone missing so I’d have to use the main one in the kitchen but I was fine with that anyway!

My boss had also had a sign made for me to put on the door so that I would have privacy, and she’d got me an extension lead which was in there on the chair. So welcoming, organised and thoughtful.

So on my first day back, after lunch, I felt the need to express so I got all my things together and went upstairs, placing the sign on the door. I moved the chair, removed everything from my bag and then tried to plug in the extension lead, only to find the plug socket was broken, with something wedged in behind it.

I spoke to one of the Estates team (a very helpful man called John) and explained that there was a broken plug socket in the ladies.

Room in Use Sign

He asked me to show him so I took him up there to see. He had a look at it and said he’d try to fix it or get an electrician in to replace the socket. Then he asked me why I needed it. I explained that I needed it to express milk. He looked at me and laughing, said ‘you’re joking’. I laughed too, feeling a little embarrassed and told him that I wasn’t joking. He then asked me if I couldn’t do it in my office downstairs. This really amused me as I work in a small room admittedly, but with 4 women and 1 man whom I’m sure wouldn’t appreciate me sat there with my boobs out. I could not stop laughing for ages after that. He came to see me shortly afterwards and promised to have it all sorted by the next time I was in the office.

I left the office a little early that day in order to get home and feed the baby. The following week when I was back in the office everything was fixed and set up ready for me and so my breastfeeding journey continues.

Just because you are returning to work it doesn’t mean that your breastfeeding journey has to end. Before you go back, it’s best to speak to your employer and let them know that you are breastfeeding. Ideally let them know in writing too.

You can’t just suddenly stop feeding as that can lead to blocked ducts and other problems like mastitis, so if you are still feeding your baby during the day, chances are you will become uncomfortable throughout the day at work and need to express. If you want to store and use the milk (why waste a precious drop, right?) then you’ll need somewhere to express.

Workplace regulations require employers to provide suitable facilities where pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can rest.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that it’s good practice for employers to provide a private, healthy and safe environment for breastfeeding mothers to express and store milk. But whilst it is good practice for employers to have a policy to support breastfeeding it is not a legal requirement. A breastfeeding policy could include allowing breaks for mothers to express milk, provision of a clean, warm and private room (not the toilet) for expressing, a secure, clean fridge to store expressed milk, flexible working hours for breastfeeding mothers.

Although the room I’ve been provided with IS in a toilet – it’s not like sitting in a cubicle to express – it’s actually a large, comfortable room as described. I was given other options as well but I really felt this was the best.

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