Are you a new mum returning to work soon? Worried about how you can continue breastfeeding after your maternity leave ends?
NTUC U Family wants you to know that you are not alone.

To address these worries, NTUC U Family’s Project Liquid Gold has teamed up with the Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy Singapore (ABAS) to organise monthly Breastfeeding Community Circle sessions (pictured below). In each session, mums connect with breastfeeding advocates and get advice on how to prepare for their return to work.

Breastfeeding Community Circle by ABAS and NTUC U Family Project Liquid Gold

In a recent session, ABAS lactation consultants Cynthia Pang and Sharon, who have many years of experience as consultants in a hospital, actively answered any questions new mums had on maintaining their milk supply, proper milk storage, and introducing the bottle. The mums also received practical pumping tips from Alyssa Toh, a Project Liquid Gold mummy who also manages a popular Facebook group for breastfeeding mums.

What should breastfeeding mums do BEFORE they go on maternity leave?

1. Discuss and come to an agreement with your boss on:

  • a fixed timing to express (lunch or tea break)
  • number of breaks you can take (once or twice a day)
  • duration per expression (20 to 30 minutes)

2. Place to express

nursing room at workplace

If your company does not have a nursing room, ask if you could you borrow a meeting room that can be locked during off-peak hours, or set up a portable partition at a quiet corner of the office. Alternatively you could purchase a hands-free pump to use at your desk with a nursing cover. Speak with your boss about these issues so you can iron them out before you pop.

3. Discuss an expressing schedule with nearby colleagues

To minimise disruption to their work (especially if your office is quiet), check with colleagues sitting near you on the times of the day at which you can express without inconveniencing them. Although acceptance of breastfeeding is becoming more common, some people may still be uncomfortable hearing the sounds of the breast pump or notice when you are preparing to pump. In a working environment, helping others cope with your breastfeeding schedule will give you ease of mind when you express.

4. Arrange for a suitable place to store your breast milk

storing breastmilk at your workplace

If you need to store the breast milk in a common fridge, purchase an air-tight container and label your name and the contents clearly. The container can be used to store your milk bottles or milk packs. Mark the date and time on the bottles or milk packs too.

If you do not have a fridge nearby, invest in a cooler bag or an ice box with ice packs. Expressed milk can last 24 hours in these conditions. Use this milk first when you return home or keep them in your fridge for your baby’s feeds the next day. If you have any additional milk, you should store them in your freezer as soon as you get home.

What should breastfeeding mums do DURING maternity leave before going back to work?

1. Prepare a stock of milk in the fridge

This will tide your baby over in the event your supply drops while you are getting used to the rigors of working again.

2. Extend the duration between expressing sessions

Depending on how often you can express at work, you will need to work out the time interval between sessions. For example, if your expressing schedule upon starting work is:

7 – 7.30am: Express at home
1 – 1.30pm: Express at work during lunch time
7 – 7.30pm: Express at home

This means your interval between sessions is 6 hours. However if you are currently expressing in intervals of 3 hours each, you need to gradually increase this interval to 6 hours or you may suffer from engorgement or even mastitis, which will affect your work and milk supply. Usually you will need about 2 to 3 days to gradually extend your pumping schedule by half to an hour later.

An extension schedule could be:

No. of weeks before you return to work

Interval between expressing sessions (hours)

43
3.5
34
4.5
25
5.5
16
Week you start work6

Practise the expressing schedule above while you’re at home before you go back to work to check whether your body is able to adapt. Don’t do this at the last minute as it will only add to your fluster, and the stress may affect your milk supply too.

3. Help your baby get used to frozen milk

If baby doesn’t like the taste of frozen milk, mix a bit of thawed milk with freshly-expressed milk, with the latter in larger amounts. For example, you could try ¼ thawed milk in ¾ freshly-expressed milk, and gradually increase the proportion of thawed milk over time.

4. Introduce the bottle in advance

when should my baby drink from the bottle

If your baby doesn’t like the harder silicone teats, try the softer type or the yellow latex teats first. You can try bottle-feeding once a day as a start when your baby is about 5 weeks old, gradually increasing the frequency until your baby is completely bottle-fed during the day.

5. Let your caregiver practise bottle-feeding your baby

Find a time when your baby is feeling calm to practice bottle-feeding by another caregiver. The caregiver should not force the baby to accept the bottle as this may lead to bottle-rejection, but should wait awhile and coax the baby gently. As your baby may sense that you are around, he/she may reject the bottle and want to look for you, so take the chance to go out of the house for a while, and to give a chance for your caregiver and your baby to get to know each other.

Project Liquid Gold Logo

Project Liquid Gold is a movement started by NTUC U Family to encourage workplaces to be supportive of their employees who need to express breast milk at work. Mothers can refer their employers to tap on the following resources:

Employer’s Guide to Breastfeeding at the Workplace This is jointly published by the Health Promotion Board, Singapore National Employers Federation, and NTUC U Family. An online version of the guide is available at: www.ufamily.org.sg/plg

Workplace Breastfeeding Mentor Programme Passionate about breastfeeding? Want to make your workplace more breastfeeding-friendly? Then you should attend this course to be trained as a Workplace Breastfeeding Mentor and support other colleagues who have to breastfeed at work. Training is conducted by the Association for Breastfeeding Advocacy Singapore (ABAS).

Contributed by Jules of Singapore