I went back to work when Charlie was about ten months old.
The timing just happened to be perfect…childcare intake is generally in January and I had planned to go back to work in February.
Because he was starting at the beginning of the year, I knew in November that he had a place in the nursery so I had plenty of time to make adjustments to our routine ensuring that we would both be ready. The schedule that we adapted was a morning breastfeed, formula and solids throughout the day, and a bedtime breastfeed.
While breastfeeding came to us fairly easily, continuing to breastfeed had been challenging. I was hospitalised for a few weeks when Charlie was about four months old and although I kept breastfeeding and I pumped, my supply decreased significantly. We used formula as a fill in while I took supplements and continued to feed and pump. While pumping definitely helped save our breastfeeding relationship, it came to have negative connotation attached to it…I felt awful, the cannulas I had in my arms made bending them uncomfortable(I was hand pumping), I had people telling me I should give up. I know that pumping to ease the transition to work and to childcare would have been a different experience than pumping in hospital, but at the time I wasn’t willing to pump at all. I honestly didn’t even consider it.
I was in such a different parenting place then.
I was eager to get back to work.
I was looking forward to no longer being the only one who could settle our baby.
I was hoping to reclaim a bit of my pre-baby self.
When I returned to work I felt like I had to prove myself a bit and I also felt that I owed my colleagues some big days as they had looked after me so well when I was pregnant. Within that first month of being back at work, I ended up being scrubbed for eight hours twice in one week. It was my choice to scrub and I certainly could had asked for breaks but I stupidly didn’t really think about how no food and no water for eight hours would affect my supply.
My milk dried up and instead of reaching for my empty breasts, Charlie reached for the filling bottle of formula.
Our breastfeeding relationship came to an end.
At the time I was probably slightly relieved.
But, in the beautiful thing that is hindsight, I wish I had persevered.
I am supposed to go back to work in September.
As that isn’t a typical time to begin child care, it is likely I will only know about a week in advance if Lyddie has a spot. And that is a big if…I doubt that she will get a spot until January.
I am not willing to start preparing for separation if it is not necessary.
And when it becomes necessary, I don’t know how I will handle the transition this time.
I know that I want to hang on to those morning and evening feeds…and any other feeds that I can.
I would love to pump on the days that I am at work, allowing me to breastfeed the days that I am at home.
I know that workplace legislation acknowledges my right to pump at work, but practically it isn’t that simple. My work environment does not make it easy to disappear for two fifteen minute pumping breaks. If I go to pump, my colleagues won’t get morning tea or a lunch break. I am grateful that the law provides me with the opportunity to pump but I wish that it was easier to take advantage of that option.
It is tricky.
And I am kind of hoping that we don’t get a child care placement so I don’t have to deal with it.
I started thinking about returning to work when I attended a morning tea, hosted by Medela Australia and Kids Business, at the Brisbane Pregnancy, Babies, and Children Expo.*
Run by Katie, a lactation consultant and Medela’s educator, the session was informative and supportive.
And I got a sense of how fortunate I am to be facing the back to work dilemma at ten months rather than at two months.
Over the past year, I have committed myself to ethical fashion…in part because of the workplace conditions at the factories where cheap clothes are made.
Mothers who work in Bangladesh’s garment industry are often forced to return to work when their babies are around two months old. These mothers are expected to work ten to fourteen hour days, five to six days a week.
This makes breastfeeding impossible.
Infant morbidity and mortality are increasing in Bangladesh. This is in part due to early cessation of breast milk and introduction of formula. Formula is expensive and so mothers tend to dilute it or even give their babies water between formula feeds. Combine those dangerous practices with poor sanitation including unhygienic water and you have a situation where babies are coming to avoidable harm.
Medela is one of the stakeholders in a new initiative aimed at enabling Bangladeshi mothers to feed their babies breast milk for longer.
There are hurdles…ensuring mothers receive pumping breaks at work, unreliable electricity, little access to refrigeration.
But Medela has solutions. They have converted pumps to battery power, a pasteurisation device has been donated, and an Australian lactation consultant will be in Bangladesh providing education and support for the duration of the twelve month project.
I think this is an amazing program.
Facilitating ongoing expression of breast milk and therefore ongoing feeding of breast milk is life changing for these mothers and their babies.
When did you return to work?
Did you continue to breastfeed?
*While I attended the morning tea sponsored by Medela and Kids Business, I was under no obligation to write about it.