What can a woman do during pregnancy to make her transition back to work easier?


What can a woman do during pregnancy to make her transition back to work easier?

Make a commitment to breastfeed. Once a mother makes a commitment to continue to breastfeed, with support, she is more likely find a way to do it.

Talk to her employer. If a workplace has an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Officer, or Human Resources Department, or if a mother is a member of a union, she could check their attitudes and knowledge of breastfeeding policies. Most South African companies do not have a workplace lactation programme, but maybe one can be started. A mother/baby-friendly workplace provides benefits to the mother, the baby and the employer. Companies with an employee lactation support program experience less turnover and lower losses of skilled workers after childbirth. Additionally, these companies are rewarded with lower employee absenteeism, higher employee satisfaction, loyalty, morale, and productivity. Various models and guidelines exist for implementing support for lactation and direct breastfeeding in the workplace.

For a mother, working and breastfeeding requires at a minimum: time to remove milk from her breasts, a place to do this, and a way to do it. When mothers talk with employers they can try to negotiate more flexible working hours and organised space and time to pump.

Various options are: Bring the work to baby. Part-time employment is associated with higher rates AND longer durations of breastfeeding. Bring baby to work. Breastfed babies are very portable. Wearing baby in a sling-type carrier to keep baby close while assisting customers, sort papers, work at the computer, or even attend meetings. Eventually, when the "sling baby" becomes a toddler explorer, one may have to make other arrangements, but by then baby will not be depending on mom for all her/his nutritional needs. On-site day care eliminates the need for pumping, since one can be called to come feed baby whenever s/he is hungry. Nearby day care providers. A mother may be able to go to baby and feed one or more times during the day. She can also feed baby at the day-care centre, before and after work. This will cut down on the amount of pumping a mother needs to do while separated from baby. Visits from your baby. Maybe it's possible for baby to come and visit mom while she is working, during lunch break or at other times during the day. Mothers who make this option work for them often have dad or grandma as chief childcare provider ― someone who's willing to go an extra mile (literally) for baby's health and happiness.

If having baby nearby is not possible, a mother will need to pump at work to protect her supply and provide expressed breast milk for baby during their separation. A “pumping room” can be created in any area that provides privacy. The area should be clean, contain a comfortable chair and working electric outlets. A sink is helpful for cleaning up after pumping. A refrigerator is helpful for storing expressed breast milk. A health care professional can write a letter of support to a mother’s employer that includes the benefits to the breastfeeding mother, her child, and the employer.

A mother may also try taking as much maternity leave as possible. Maternity leave is NOT a vacation, for some women it’s a period of huge adaptation and hard work to take care of a new baby. One may consider taking unpaid leave to stay home longer with baby. Sacrificing some income at this point in one’s life could turn out to be one of the best investments one will ever make. Having the time to really get attached to baby and build the milk supply, will help a mother work hard at maintaining that close relationship after returning to work.

Attend antenatal classes. A pregnant mother can educate herself and her partner (and other main support) about breastfeeding basics to get breastfeeding of to a good start by attending antenatal classes, reading good books, etc. Antenatal education should preferably include information about: • the importance of breastfeeding • importance of skin-to-skin contact immediately following birth • importance of rooming-in • how to recognise when babies are ready to breastfeed • importance of feeding on demand • how to assure enough milk • positioning & attachment of baby IF she does this, by the time baby is born, she will be more comfortable about breastfeeding and be confident about what she has to do.

Write a birth plan. A birth plan can help minimize intervention (and its effect on breastfeeding) during labour and delivery. Normal, natural birth sets the stage for problem-free breastfeeding, what nature intended, while a complicated, intervention-intensive labour and birth sets the stage for problems. The good news is nature wants us to succeed. Lactation is not as fragile as many people think, otherwise the human race would never have survived!

A mother can improve her odds for a smooth start to breastfeeding by planning for a birth with as few interventions as possible.

If she decides on a hospital birth, choose a Baby-friendly accredited Hospital. A Baby-friendly Hospital for baby’s birth will: • have baby placed in skin-to-skin contact immediately following birth for at least an hour and/or until baby has had his/her first breastfeed; • ensure baby receives no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated; • practise rooming-in and breastfeeding baby on demand/cue; • not give a breastfed baby any artificial teats or pacifiers as it may interfere with establishing breastfeeding and establishing the milk supply.

Build a support network. A breastfeeding family can make sure they have a support network ready to support them in breastfeeding, especially if they are not having baby at a Baby- friendly accredited hospital. Support can include an LLL Leader, IBCLC, relatives and friends that support breastfeeding.

Choose a work wardrobe with a breastfeeding baby in mind. Select prints and loose-fitting blouses that camouflage leaking. Two-piece outfits give easier access for pumping and for breastfeeding.

Arrange for child-care before the birth! Choose a breastfeeding-friendly caregiver. A supportive caregiver whose mothering style matches one’s own, someone who will hold or wear baby as much as possible, especially during feedings, who will use mom’s milk and check with mom before offering anything else, who will be flexible, and who will avoid giving baby a big meal just before mom is due to arrive.

• Cohen, R., Mrtek, M.B., Mrtek, R.G. Comparison of maternal absenteeism and infant illness rates among breast-feeding and formula-feeding women in two corporations. Am J Health Promot. 1995; 10(2):148–153. • Ortiz, J., McGilligan, K,, Kelly, P. Duration of breast milk expression among working mothers enrolled in an employer-sponsored lactation program. Pediatr Nurs. 2004;30(2):111–119 • Michelle A. Angeletti, MSW, PhD, Breastfeeding Mothers Returning to Work: Possibilities for Information, Anticipatory Guidance and Support from US Health Care Professionals, J Hum Lact May 2009 vol. 25 no. 2 226-232ILCA evidence based guidelines for breastfeeding management during the 1st 14 days (2005)

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