Saturday, August 3, 2013

World Breastfeeding Week: Workplace and Employment

Breastfeeding / Expressing at work can be rather cumbersome and not very well supported.  The Circles of Support for Mothers and Children shows that 'Workplace and Employment' makes up one of the circles.  It is with good reason, since this could be one of the areas which could almost 'force Mom's hand' to supplement-feed or stop breastfeeding altogether.

I was VERY fortunate when I returned to work to be able to express when necessary.  Plus, because I work at a school, I was able to use the lunch breaks on top of the given time to express.  Furthermore, we have a fridge in our department that I could use the freezer compartment to store my expressed milk.  I could not ask for greater support. 

When wanting to express at work it is very important to consider the following:
  1. Double electric breastpumps makes the expressing process faster with greater amounts of milk.
    1. Important to note: Is your electric breastpump solely dependent on being plugged in or can it be battery operated in the case of a power failure?  Secondly, do you have batteries with you in the case of a power failure? (Yes, this IS necessary to ask!)
  2. Having a safe place (cooler box / fridge / freezer) to store your expressed milk.
  3. Having an ample supply of containers for expressed milk.
  4. Having a steam sterilizer at work to sterilize your breastpump accessories in.
  5. Where will you express?  Is it clean, private and (yes, this is important) somewhat isolated on an auditory level?  My breastpump's motor was not all that silent, so if you walked past my closed office, you could hear it!
  6. Do you have enough time everyday to express?  Remember, it's important to express to keep your milk supply up, not only to have milk for your baby for tomorrow.
  7. Consider getting a manual pump for travelling purposes - this has been a saving grace for me during sport-events that I had to attend as an official for our school.  I would then express in the back of my car (there are shade socks over both back windows) with my breastfeeding cover intact.  No one even knew and if they did, they never said so.
I read an interesting article today on legislation regarding breastfeeding and expressing at work in South Africa.  Do yourself a favour and go and read it!  It made me realise just HOW fortunate I was.  I turns out that according to our law, my employer only has to give me expressing breaks (2 breaks of 30 minutes each) for the first 6 months of my child's life.

I went back to work when Linmari was 5 months old and I officially stopped working yesterday, Linmari being 11 months and 22 days old.  I was still expressing nearly everyday at work.  WOW, how grateful I am for my work setup which allowed me to continue expressing.  (I plan to breastfeed until Linmari can go over to cow or goat milk, and then still continue with nap-time and dinner-feeds.)

Don't let your workplace be the reason for NOT breastfeeding!  You have rights in South Africa, KNOW them, make sure your employer adheres to legislation.  Remember, they have to reasonably accommodate you.  And you can be creative about expressing!  I remember reading how Ashley from used to express in her car when she was a Barista at Starbucks.

Happy breastfeeding and expressing, Mommies!

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