Breastfeeding exclusively is the path that is recommended for the first six months of the baby’s life to ensure good health and a growing immune system. Breastmilk is best for babies, as it helps to protect them against infections.
Babies that are breastfed exclusively, as recommended by health professionals, have fewer instances of illnesses such as respiratory infections and gastroenteritis. Babies can also be protected against eczema, asthma and diabetes. Breastfeeding protects the mother’s health as well. Those who choose to breastfeed are at less risk of breast cancer and some types of ovarian cancer. Many mothers choose to continue breastfeeding alongside giving their toddler solid food, so some have to juggle it with returning to work.
Employers have legal obligations toward breastfeeding mothers, and they must then conduct a risk assessment. Supporting the practice surprisingly has business benefits too. A female employee may have fewer absences at work thanks to breastfeeding, as her child may not fall ill as often as a bottle-fed child. It may also increase staff morale and loyalty toward the company and lead to a higher number of women retuning after maternity leave, which in turn leads to lower recruitment and training costs.
There are several options open to new mothers. If you live near your place of work, you can breastfeed during breaks or at lunchtime. You can also express breast milk by hand or use a pump so that the nanny or carer can feed your baby while you’re at work. A popular option which many women choose is to work flexible hours around their breastfeeding requirements.
This is a good way of combining breastfeeding and bottle feeding. The most important course of action is to plan early, and when you are on maternity leave, you can inform your employer that you will still be breastfeeding. The human resources department can advise and even recommend a clean, warm, private room with a lockable door in the office block where you can breastfeed or express milk. The toilet is not an acceptable solution. A secure, clean fridge should be made available to the woman to allow her to store expressed milk.
It’s important to bear in mind that if the conditions in your place of employment stop you from breastfeeding successfully, you may have a valid argument that it is putting your health at risk – and that of the baby. It also helps to talk to other breastfeeding mothers who have returned to work. Perhaps you have friends who have successfully gone back to work and breastfed, or you may be able to join groups online for support.
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