Read below stories from mothers' who returned to work at an accredited Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace organisation
Tehani is a scientist who has worked for Geoscience Australia for 12 years. She is a petroleum systems modeller and member of GENGA (Gender Equity Network at Geoscience Australia).
Tehani has two children and she returned to work when both children were 10 months old. She says her ability to continue breastfeeding was the most important issue when deciding to return to work, and she credits Geoscience Australia for having both the infrastructure and supportive environment in place that allowed her to do this.
She describes her experience and why she felt it was important for Geoscience Australia to gain Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace accreditation.
‘I was lucky that Geoscience Australia had recently built a new childcare facility onsite and that I had very supportive managers and colleagues (both my children required breastfeeding before the implementation of our BFW accreditation). I was able to pop down a couple of times a day for the first few months to breastfeed my children until they began to require less breastmilk during the daytime.
I generally did this during morning and afternoon tea breaks but never felt like I was on a clock or limited time. My colleagues were also very supportive and never minded if I needed to pop out of meetings early to attend to my child’s needs (or because I was feeling engorged and needed to feed my child for that reason!). Meetings were usually scheduled around my feeding schedule as I had that time blocked out in my calendar, and everyone supported me in that need.
By helping Geoscience Australia gain accreditation, I wanted to pass this forward to all parents so they can have the support that I had when I needed it.
The space available to breastfeed/express at Geoscience Australia has been made as comfortable as possible, with comfortable chairs and everything within reach that you might need. Everything is in one room (including a storage fridge and lockers), and the room has nice pictures to help make it more homely looking to help encourage mothers to relax and express more effectively.
To other breastfeeding mums thinking about making the transition back to work, I would advise that, if possible, return to work slowly at first, and then increase working days as you and your baby feel comfortable (in my experience this happened quite quickly). It’s a nice adjustment to find a new routine and you may find you and baby enjoy the new routine of combining family and work. Having a supportive employer is key to make this happen and to enjoy the return to work.’
Before going on maternity leave in 2013 I approached my employer, a small not-for-profit organisation, about a flexible return to work. They were happy to negotiate an approach that worked for both of us which was a relief as I have three young children to juggle. I had intended on returning to work when my daughter was 8 months old but wasn’t comfortable leaving her in care at that age and don’t have family nearby to help. Instead I returned a bit earlier doing project work from home which allowed me to work at night rather than being available to speak with clients during office hours. This arrangement was in place until she was 12 months old. During this time I travelled interstate for work twice and expressed breastmilk at home in advance to leave for her. On returning to my regular contracted hours we agreed that I could continue to work from home. Rather than taking the paid lactation breaks provided by my employer I negotiated a reduction in my part-time hours instead. This has enabled me to spread my work hours over the week so that I can work in the afternoons. My husband has adjusted his hours and gets home earlier on my work days so that I can work through the baby’s sleep and he is there to care for her when she wakes up. The current arrangement is due to be reviewed when my little girl is 16 months. I’ve really appreciated that work has been open to discussion and finding the best solution for everyone throughout the process.
I returned to work when my son was 5 months old. I invested in a quality electric breast pump and combined expressing and going to feed him in my lunch break. It was tricky but I found people were very understanding and encouraging. Sometimes, it was incredibly tiring, but I knew it wasn't going to be forever and it was worth the hard work.
My daughter didn't accept a bottle and I was applying for a new job when I returned to work when she was 5 months. I was determined to negotiate conditions that would allow her to continue to be breastfed especially as she didn't accept food until she was 7 months old! I was surprised and relieved at the support I received from my boss and colleagues. I would strongly encourage women to have the confidence to negotiate for conditions conducive to continuing breastfeeding their baby. My employer gives me adequate breaks to go and feed my daughter and in return he has a grateful and loyal employee!
I consider combining returning to work and continuing to breastfeed as one of my greatest and satisfying achievements. I couldn't do it without the support and encouragement of my husband, employer and colleagues.
I looked into returning to work when I was offered a part time position. It was a bit of a spontaneous decision and I was lucky enough to grab a childcare spot about 5 minutes from work.
My son was about 11 months old and he was breastfed. He fed about 12 times a day on average (or more than that J if I am honest); and wasn’t a terrific food eater due to a terrible case of reflux. I was concerned about the way that childcare, work and breastfeeding would work. I was very clear with the childcare service about what was needed and I spent a long time introducing Jacob into the childcare space and getting to know the carers. This helped his and my anxiety. He wasn’t a terrific sleeper or eater. However, the days he didn’t sleep at childcare he caught up on the way home from work or we had a big sleep in the first part of the night. He also started to eat better as the other kids were eating as well, so he gave into the peer pressure and ate the lunch that was provided through the childcare. I would drop him off in the morning and give him a breastfeed, then pop in before his lunchtime sleep and then when I picked him up I would feed him as well. On the days when we weren’t at childcare or working I would breastfeed him as normal. He flicked back and forth fairly easily. Jacob had also not been terrific at taking a bottle, but the childcare centre asked if he could have a bottle of expressed breastmilk in the afternoon, as he was really sad when all the other kids were having a bottle and he wasn’t.
From a work perspective I approached the organisation about taking regular breaks during the day to either drive to the childcare or express. This conversation then led to me writing the policy around breastfeeding and work. It helped that I worked in the policy area. I found that by not apologising for breastfeeding my son or our parenting choices that I made and embracing the new work me, made dealing with work much easier to deal with. I never tried to be the same work employee that I was prior to having my son. For the most part work was very open to the breaks or flexibility that I needed to work and breastfeed. It was busy and I will admit to more than once dropping my son off at childcare still in his pyjamas as we didn’t have enough time to have the morning breastfeed, breakfast, get me dressed and him dressed. But that was okay and it all mostly worked. He was in childcare for nearly 12 months until his younger sister was born and he played, laughed, cried and had a great time and I earned some money. All in all it was a positive experience.