By Melissa Bugeja
Women of childbearing age make up 60% of the local workforce. Of those who have children, less than 60% continue breastfeeding past 3 months. Worldwide, work is cited as one of the main reasons women stop nursing their infants earlier then intended.
When did working and breastfeeding become incompatible?
Throughout the ages, women always worked. They worked in fields, in community settings and more; and they did so with an infant strapped to them in a sling. Baby wearing has been the established norm on juggling work and breastfeeding. This all changed with the industrial revolution, when women started joining the workforce, mostly as factory hands where infants were not accepted. It was also the time when doctors started recommending feeding on a schedule, which, ended up with mothers not producing enough milk. Thus the two combined confounded first time mothers and breastfeeding rates past 3 months of age started to drop drastically.
The confusion of those times seems to persist into present day with many mothers feeling that breastfeeding once you go back to work is unthinkable- an unsurmountable problem! The reality though, is, that continuing nursing that little one once you go back to work is not as difficult as it may seem.
Myth one: I cannot express enough milk for the needs of my child.
Truth: Once your child is past 8 weeks of age, the amount of breastmilk they consume will remain the same per feed till they wean completely from the breast. This because breast milk changes all the time to cater for the needs of a child – even within the same 24 hour period!
Myth two: My boss will never agree to let me express milk
Truth: While there are some employers who would need to be convinced to accept a breastfeeding mother to express milk while working, most are quite happy to oblige. In fact the idea of employers not providing a space to breastfeed, is not quite true, it is more that mothers feel uncomfortable asking for the space which is theirs by right.
Myth three: The work I do makes expressing milk impossible.
Truth: It is true some jobs like being a delivery person or a school teacher are more challenging when it comes to expressing milk on the job. Yet it is still possible to do so with some creativity and support.
What you need to know when you are going back to work:
- Do advise your supervisor as early as possible that you are breastfeeding and intend to do so till x months. That you would need a clean room with a socket for milk expression and that you might be needing breastfeeding breaks.
- Know that a breastfed infant takes anything between 90-150 ml milk per feed as of 8 weeks of age. This will not change as your child gets older. If they are taking more milk you will need to review how milk is being given to your little one.
- Know that unless the amount of milk removals decrease, or you are going through a rough patch, your milk supply will remain intact. Milk supply is established in those first 8 weeks of life and it is why infants feed all the time – an instinct to make sure their mama has enough milk to nourish them.
- Know you might not need to express milk at work. It all depends on age of your infant and your milk storage capacity. Many Maltese go back to work when their child is 4 months of age. With an average milk storage capacity and working from 8 to 5 it will normally mean expressing twice a day at work. Circumstances can also be that you will not need to express milk at work at all.
- By EU law a nursing mother is entitled to a clean space for expressing milk which is not a bathroom, as well as 2 x 30 minute breaks to express milk if and when necessary which are extra to her lunch break.
* Melissa Bugeja is a Certified Breastfeeding Counsellor & Positive Discipline Parent Educator. She breastfed her two older children into early childhood while currently is nursing her third child. She assists parents through Parental Thriving by organising courses, workshops, doing home visits & online consults. You can find her at www.parentalthrivingmalta.com and on Facebook through her page Parental Thriving.
Melissa is celebrating 10 years breastfeeding and is organising a give away week as of 21 January.