I started my leave after my 39th week. I gave birth at 40wks and 4days.. but the 3 months were not enough for me to bond. Luckily for me, I had an understanding boss who gave me 1 month extra (making my total maternity leave 4 months). I still wanted to spend more time with my little one… but mummy had to go back to work. So many new mums face this too, and most companies in Nigeria have a 3-month maternity leave policy (except for civil servants who are entitled to up to 6 months mat leave.
When I returned to work, it was the first time that I was separated from my baby, and it was a tough transition for me. I would regularly go to the restroom to express my milk after going through minutes of engorgement. I finished a pack of breast pads within 2 weeks. Most mums find it transition difficult too… It wasn’t easy for me, but I found a way to balance work and mummy-time.
If you’re thinking about going back to work and you would like to keep breastfeeding and giving your baby breast milk in your absence, then you need a plan.
Talk to other mums about good working solutions for breastfeeding mums
You need to prepare a long time in advance so you, your breasts and your baby are ready for the change in your routine. There are lots of different options that mums explore: different types of work, different hours and different child care arrangements (are you taking your baby to a daycare or will your mum/mother-in-law/nanny stay with your baby while you are at work?- you need to figure out who you want to keep your baby with). It’s a really good idea to talk to other breastfeeding mums for support about how to manage this transition.
How can I continue breastfeeding after I return to work?
- Some mums visit their babies in the work creche or at home (if close by) and feed their baby during the day.
- Some mums work from home. I worked from home for 1 month before resuming work fully.
- Some mums express breast milk at work and at home and their babies continue to have breast milk in a bottle given by their caregiver (mum, nanny or daycare).
- Some mums switch to formula feeding while they are away and they just breastfeed when they are with their baby. I did this when I resumed; weekend and evenings were for breastfeeding, weekdays were for formula.
Can I ask to reduce my working hours when I return to work?
Before your start your maternity leave, you need to do your research and know your rights before speaking with your boss. Nigerian law gives all employees with a newborn the right to feed their babies for 30mins twice a day (a total of 1hr). Most employers give the option of resuming 1hr later than other staff members, closing 1hr earlier than other staff members. Mine was different though. We used to work 8am-5pm, but I closed from work at 3pm for the first 3 months after I resumed work.
Expressing breast milk at work
If you are going to go back to work and expressing your breast milk then make sure you give yourself plenty of time to practise, and get a bit of a supply in the freezer. Having a bank of your breast milk will give you confidence before you begin. Your baby needs a little bit of time to practise bottle feeding. It’s fine for your baby to have a bottle once she’s learnt how to breastfeed.
Big companies may have a room set aside for breastfeeding mums, otherwise ask if you can use, for example, the first aid room, or another quiet, clean space. You will also need to be able to store your breast milk until you go home.
There are all sorts of options for mums to fit in breastfeeding with work and it’s important for mums to realise that they can still breastfeed even if they’re working quite long hours. It’s lovely to come home after work and have a chilled, quiet breastfeed with your baby – and your baby will love to breastfeed when he sees you again. It is also great for his health. If you find it difficult producing enough milk, you might want to try introducing formula to your baby. If you are introducing formula, try giving your baby formula milk at least 1-2 weeks before you resume work so you can have enough time to study how your baby is reacting to the milk brand.