Breastfeeding when returning to work – The Conversation
If you are breastfeeding when returning to work, the anxiety or worry or how your feeding journey will be impacted can play on our minds. Unfortunately, in some workplaces, the conversation with your manager / team that you are breastfeeding your child and will need breaks and facilities to pump or feed is not a clear cut, straight forward conversation. This breaks my heart, with the reality being that mums are trying to figure out will they pump in their car, how will they store it, can they do it on their lunch break so not to disrupt others in the working day.
As the WHO (World Health Organisation) recommendation is to breast feed until at the child is at least 2 yrs of age, and the new law in Ireland for a 1 hour break to pump/feed now in place, to think there is still challenges, awkwardness, lack of support or understanding in the workplace to support women when they return and are feeding in 2023 is incredibly sad and frustrating.
If you are concerned about having the conversation in your workplace, below are some tips that may support you. The biggest tip I can give, is to communicate your needs around feeding/pumping with confidence, in collaboration and not apologising for requesting the time/facilities in order to feed your child:
Understand your rights
Understanding the individual company policy and your legal entitlements is so important. Have a link, copy of these entitlements in case they are needed. Entitlements set out in Citizens Information .Some sectors, such as education and the HSE introduced the 2 yr rule ahead of the legislation changing, however, mums being able to implement the breastfeeding breaks, is a completely different challenge. The age old theory v’s reality challenge. Hopefully as now written into law under as set out under Section 9 of theMaternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, as amended by the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023.
Preparation and communication is key
Preparation and clear and open communication, is key for your conversation with manager. Give time to consider what your preferred options are.
- If you know there isn’t yet a dedicated space to pump / feed, consider some options that may work for all parties.
- Think about what your ideal scenario is for time. Do you want to break your 60 mins into 3 x 20 mins, all in 1 x 60 mins, 2 x 30 mins. Would you prefer to finish 1 hour earlier. And the reasons why that particular option is your preferred.
- Be clear on what you need and why, and after any conversation, follow up with an email so the requirements are clear for all; for example, a plug, fridge for storage, no clear glass in the room, lock on door.
Who are they key people to speak to?
Know the people you need to engage with. Is it HR, your manager, well-being team, as well as colleagues? Has anyone in the company requested feeding/pumping time before, chat to them about how they managed in your workplace. Talk to other mums in similar roles/industries as you and how they went about it, for examples fellow teachers, health professionals, office based individuals etc.
Be prepared for resistance
Think through any ‘opposition’ or negative comments you may get from the company/manager. Often, when it is an unknown, the immediate reaction is one of “hassle” that you are requesting this, how will it impact others, how will they continue with work need etc. Comments such as “oh your still feeding”, “when are you going to stop feeding” may come. Oh the anger when I hear these ones! Having a few lines prepared so not caught off guard, just a 1 liner on the proven benefits of feeding past 6 mths will hopefully put them back in the box!!
I am only too aware of the theory v’s reality when it comes to feeding when returned to work. For some it will be somewhat straight forward, but for others can it really cause anxiety and worry, and feel like a battle in the workplace. I hope these tips go someway to helping you for these conversations. Please remember to speak to those around you who have experienced this before, these mums can be your guiding light to help you through this part of your motherhood journey.
If you would like to read other blog posts in relation to returning to work after baby, you can find them HERE