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Returning to work whilst breastfeeding – how can it be done?!

When you first have your bundle of joy (well, bundle of poo, sleeplessness and noise), you are so focussed on your brand new human that you don’t think about your life before baby: the job you did and the job you have to return to. When Squid was about 4 months old, I began to emerge from the baby cocoon and I began to realise that time was starting to run away with me and it wouldn’t be long until I had to go back to work.I was lucky that Squid was born in September because, as a teacher, this meant I only had to return to work for 7 weeks before the summer holidays were upon me! But the closer it got, the more I dreaded my return. As an exclusively breastfed baby, I was worried about leaving Squid and how he would cope. I was due to return to work when he was 8 months old, not long after beginning to introduce food and I was panicking.

Luckily, I know a wonderful Breastfeeding Counsellor who has supported me through so many things in Squid’s 19 months of life, and she allayed my fears with excellent advice about how I could return to work and continue breastfeeding.

If your return to work is imminent, and you’re wondering how on earth you and your little love will cope, then hopefully this guide will help you and put your worries to rest…

Food and water

My main worry about returning to work was how Squid would deal with being away from me for 12 hours a day, 3 days a week. Prior to my return, we had never spent more than a few hours apart. Suddenly, Squid and I were going to have to be separated, which meant no boobies for my wee lad. As a chronic bottle-refuser, and a baby-led weaning baby who wasn’t eating huge amounts, I was so concerned about what he would eat and drink in my absence.

It turns out that I needn’t have worried. When I was at work, Squid was happy to drink water from a cup, and to eat food. Granted, in the beginning, he wasn’t eating a huge amount of food, but he was eating. And he very quickly increased his solid food intake after I returned to work – I think that something must have ‘clicked’ – that food fills you up.

Most mums in the UK return to work around 8 months to a year after the birth of their baby – and at this age, babies are perfectly capable of going for longer periods of time without breastmilk. This is the most common approach for mamas whose babies won’t drink from a bottle.


Practicalities of breastfeeding a baby when back to work

If your baby won’t drink expressed breast milk, and in your absence they have water and food, then when you are reunited, they may go through what is called ‘reverse cycling’. This is where your little one may make up for their missed milk by having a big cluster feed in the evening, and they may wake more regularly in the night for milk. As a bed sharing family, with a small person who has always fed for a lot of the night, this didn’t make much difference to me, and quite frankly I was always so happy to be back with my babe that I didn’t care how much he fed!

It is worth noting here, however, that even if your baby DOES drink expressed milk whilst you’re at work, they may still reverse cycle – they’ve missed you, and after all, breastfeeding never was just about the milk! It’s such a wonderful way to reconnect after a long day apart, and breastmilk is love, cuddles and warmth combined.

Another practical thing to consider is that, when you return to work and are away from your baby, therefore not nursing on demand, your boobs may feel very full and leaky – so make sure you pack extra breast pads in your bag! I had an embarrassing experience of being caught short one afternoon when I was teaching – I looked down to find my top was soaked! Thank God for big, woolly cardigans is all I’ll say!


Expressing – your rights at work

Even if your baby won’t drink your expressed milk in your absence, the likelihood is that you will still need to express during the day in order to relieve your milky Pammy Andersons!

I was really nervous about broaching this subject with my employer – I would need somewhere private to express milk, and in a school, there are not many private places!

What does the law say then, about a breastfeeding mother’s rights at work?

Unfortunately, it actually isn’t exactly law for an employer to provide you with somewhere to express milk whilst at work, however, it IS law for an employer to provide pregnant or breastfeeding mothers with somewhere to ‘rest’ at work. The law is a bit confusing here, as what ‘resting’ entails isn’t actually outlined. However, it is considered ‘good practice’ to be accommodating of breaks for a breastfeeding mother, taking into account the possible negative effects of not allowing such breaks (e.g. the risk of painful engorgement, blocked ducts, mastitis, and potentially even abscesses, and therefore the need for time off work for the employee. It is also worth remembering that a breastfed baby will be healthier and therefore may not require the mother (or parent) to take time off work to care for them). Therefore, if a mother is allowed adequate breaks to express milk, there will be less need for staff absence, the mother will be able to maintain her breastfeeding relationship, and staff morale will remain high.

Where you are allowed to express milk whilst at work depends on your employer. Ideally, the space should be private and comfortable, as well as hygienic. I always think that a good rule of thumb is that if you would eat there, then it’s hygienic enough to express there. Which is why, when I spoke to my work about where I could express, I refused their initial suggestion of ‘in the disabled loo’…

Luckily, this suggestion was quickly followed up with an alternative room. For a while, I expressed here during my breaks. However, as Squid always refused to drink any of the milk I expressed, I actually didn’t end up doing this for very long. In fact, the tipping point for me was when my deputy head teacher nearly walked in on me – thank goodness for locked doors or he would have had an eyeful! – I gradually, over a period of weeks, reduced the amount of times I was expressing whilst at work, starting off at twice a day, dropping to once and then eventually no expressing sessions.

Tips for expressing at work:

Try and relax! You are more likely to trigger a let down if you are relaxed and calm – sometimes over thinking it can delay your let down from happening!

Take something which smells of your baby – this can really help when expressing – to look at and smell an item of clothing, for example, because it will remind you of your little one and may make your milk flow easier!

Look at photos of your small human – similar to smelling an item of their clothing, it can really help to focus on your baby whilst you express!

Don’t panic if you don’t get much milk out – it’s not a reflection of your supply. Some women really don’t respond to pumps, and can barely express a drop – and that’s okay!

Hand expressing might be better – learn how to hand express, because you may find it a quicker and more effective way of removing milk from your breasts.


What about my supply?

Before reducing my expressing sessions, I was concerned about the effect that not expressing at work would have on my supply. However, your milk supply adjusts according to supply and demand, and I soon realised that my body would adjust according to the amount of times Squid was asking for milk. It always helps to remember that breasts are rivers, not lakes; factories, not warehouses: meaning that they are constantly flowing with milk, according to demand, rather than storing the milk that will ‘disappear’ when it’s all gone. It is for this reason, that during school holidays, when I am not at work on my ‘regular’ work days, I can continue to breastfeed Squid on demand – because there is always milk.

Whilst my supply was adjusting, I did find that I had to hand express a few times a day, just enough to trigger a let down, so that my breasts did not feel so full and uncomfortable. Because I weaned from expressing so gradually, I didn’t get mastitis – if you do this too suddenly, your supply won’t have a chance to adjust and you may end up with lumps and painful blockages.


How much expressed milk to leave

If your boobie bandit does accept expressed milk from anything that isn’t the direct source, then it can be really overwhelming to think about how much expressed milk they might need in a day – you have no idea how much milk a breastfed baby takes, and therefore you don’t know what a ‘boobful’ of milk looks like!

It is easy to compare a breastfed baby with their formula fed counterparts, because you often hear of formula fed babies drinking 8oz in one sitting, but things are slightly different when a baby is exclusively breast fed. Breast milk is so easy to digest that they may feed more regularly, but drink smaller amounts, and also formula can stretch a baby’s stomach as it is heavier than breast milk – hence why they need to drink more milk, because they have a larger stomach space! A rough guide for expressed milk is approximately 1oz to 1.5oz per hour (so a baby that feeds every 3 hours might take between 3oz and 4.5oz per feed, for example). If you are at work for 12 hours, you might aim to leave between 12oz and 18oz of expressed milk for your baby. However, you may well find that your baby might not drink as much as this – if they are over 6 months old and therefore having water and food as well, they may not need as much milk – and that’s okay!


I think the best advice is to try not to stress about how much milk your baby is drinking in your absence. There’s some great advice here, about how much milk you might want to leave your exclusively breastfed baby: http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/pumping/milkcalc/

I must mention here too, that obviously the flow of milk is very different between a breast and a bottle: at the breast, babies must work for their milk, waiting for a let down, and then must actively suck and swallow throughout a feed in order to drink. That’s why a breastfed baby can’t be over fed – because they control the amount of milk they take and they stop feeding when they are full. Conversely, with a bottle, the milk flows continuously, so sometimes even when a baby might be full, the milk will continue to flow, and they swallow (because of the reflex telling them to do so). This is why when you bottle feed a baby, and particularly when you bottle feed a breastfed baby, it’s important to do something called ‘paced feeding’ which involves feeding in a more upright position, allowing the baby to ‘latch on’ to the bottle teat, and varying the angle of the bottle so that milk doesn’t always continuously flow without the baby working for it – this is so that it mimics what it’s like to be breastfed and therefore the baby doesn’t over eat! For more on paced feeding see http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/feeding-tools/bottle-feeding/

Other great links regarding returning to work as a breastfeeding mum:

https://www.maternityaction.org.uk/advice-2/mums-dads-scenarios/6-breastfeeding-rights/continuing-to-breastfeed-when-you-return-to-work/
http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/j/k/Acas_guide_on_accommodating_breastfeeding_in_the_workplace_(JANUARY2014).pdf
Have you returned to work, and are still breastfeeding? What worries did you have, and how did you find it? Is your return to work imminent? How are you feeling about it? I’d love to know in the comments below!

Find me on Twitter and Instagram: @squidmamma and on Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/squidmamma/ for daily baby, teacher and life updates!

Love,

Squidmamma x

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4

Things no one tells you about… pregnancy

Warning: not for the faint hearted! This post contains overshares and too much information. You have been warned!

Things no one tells you about…

Pregnancy.

***disclaimer: this is not a pregnancy announcement! I am not pregnant, good God no.***

From a very young age, I wanted to be a mother. I wanted 6 children (and a farm, and a tractor-driving husband and 30 cats…). I wholeheartedly expected that when I fell pregnant, I would be some kind of Earth mother, who relished and adored the whole experience. But let me be clear on this one… I really, really did not like being pregnant. Sure, I was thankful we were having a much-wanted baby, grateful that I was finally fulfilling my dream of becoming a mother, excited to meet our child, and hopeful for our future as a family, but pregnancy was a means to an end for me, and there were so many surprises that pregnancy had in store…

Tiredness

Now, everyone tells you that pregnancy is tiring, and how you should try and get as much sleep as you can, but no one tells you that being pregnant is actually like having 9-month-long (well, let’s face it, 10 month long) jet lag, and a simple task like putting your socks on can mean you need a 90 minute nap. I was so tired, all the time. 7pm became my bedtime, and prising myself from my bed each morning was enough to make me sob. I was so tired, I felt like someone had whacked me round the head with a spade most of the time, and that feeling lasted my whole pregnancy. Funnily enough, as the owner of a sleep thief, I still have never felt as mind numbingly tired as I did during my pregnancy.


Wolverine

Being dark haired and with Portuguese heritage, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve always been a bit hairy. Nothing unmanageable, just a few moustache issues from time to time but nothing a bit of bleach can’t fix…! However, pregnancy makes you next-level hairy. I’m talking Chewbacca style hair. Hair on your belly, on your chin. So much hair. And of course, the bleach isn’t safe to use in pregnancy so you have to rock the hair in an ‘I’m growing an actual human over here’ kind of way. And silently cringe every time your midwife asks you to lift your top so she can check on the sprog.

Undergrowth

Another excellent wonder and marvel of pregnancy is that you can no longer reach places. Places like your feet to put on your socks, your toenails to paint them, and your… ahem… lady parts to sort your bikini line. You try tending to it with a razor when there is a small human in your way. A solid, ball of a human, who won’t move, no matter how hard you try to smoosh your growing tummy to the side. I suggest visiting a reputable salon to have someone else do the job for you, or become one with nature and embrace it…! Oh the glamour.


Fat feet

As if I wasn’t thrilled enough with my ever changing form, another wonderful side effect of pregnancy is that, as well as your tummy (and boobs and face and hands), your FEET seem to grow in size. Given that my feet are already a size 8 when I am not with child, you can imagine my joy when my flippers stopped fitting. Squid was a September baby, and so during the last trimester of my pregnancy it was warm enough to wear flip flops, which was lucky seeing as that was all that would fit my trotters.

Screw driver head

When I was in labour, apparently I told the midwife that it felt like the baby had a screwdriver on his head and was trying to get out. I don’t remember saying that, but I wholeheartedly maintain the sentiment – from the time you’re about 30 weeks pregnant, you get something magical occur pretty regularly – lightening crotch. It quite literally feels as though someone is jabbing a lightning bolt (or screw driver. Or other sharp instrument) at your cervix. It’s barrels of fun, let me tell you. Especially when you’re in the middle of a maths lesson, trying to explain how parallel lines never touch, when you get hit by one of these delightful lightning bolts. You can’t stop it, and it really bloody hurts, enough to take your breath away – I guess it’s all just preparing your body for what’s to come… ha… ha… ha!

Hormonal Harriet

Obviously pregnancy plays utter havoc with your hormones, but until you’re pregnant, you can’t quite appreciate the levels these hormones will take you to. I remember once sitting in the carpark of Sainsbury’s, about 25 weeks pregnant, sobbing my heart out because I had imagined what Squid would be like when he was an adult. I was crying because I was sad that one day he would be an adult, and that would mean he wasn’t a baby anymore. I cried for about 15 minutes before I could get my shit together enough to drive! There were countless times when I cried for absolutely no reason whatsoever, and in fact many times I would pause halfway through my sobs because I actually couldn’t remember why I was crying. Pregnancy is an emotional rollercoaster, and it was not a ride I enjoyed at all!

Smoothie brain

You’ve probably heard of the phrase ‘baby brain’, and maybe even scoffed at the idea, but honestly, pregnancy makes you feel as though as your brain has been put into a blender and blended to a pulp. I would forget where I’d put my keys, forget where I’d parked my car, forget what I was saying halfway through a sentence. This was always particularly bad when I was in the middle of teaching, and my brain would feel like it had shut down and I’d trail off mid-sentence! Having said that, I am not convinced that my brain has returned to its full capacity even now – I am just too sleep deprived!

Burger nips

Last but not least is my favourite surprise that pregnancy brought about… giant nipples. Yes, really. Giant, dark nipples, which just seemed to spread and grow. I was constantly surprised by these throughout my pregnancy, and I was genuinely fearful I was going to be left with burger nips for life. I have since found out that the reason for the growing and darkening of the nipples is so that a new born baby can find the breast themselves, as demonstrated in the ‘breast crawl’ where the baby shuffles up the mother’s body to find the nipple to feed. Amazing really! However, I am thankful to report that my nips have since returned to normal (and when you breastfeed a toddler, you don’t need great big, dark signposts on your boobs for them to find their milk… toddlers can seek that out from across the room!)

So in all, you can see there are so many reasons to feel like you’re blooming and beautiful when you’re pregnant. Of course, I never took for granted the fact that I was incredibly lucky to be pregnant, but the less-talked about side effects of pregnancy took me by surprise, and that, coupled with the heart burn, super sense of smell (the smell of one of my colleague’s aftershaves made me heave – and it’s a really nice scent!), the restless legs, the constant weeing, the tiny feet squashed into my left rib cage and the shortness of breath meant that I really could not wait to get that child out. And the little terror punished me by being 2 weeks late, I guess that was karma!

Squid’s 42 week bump!

What did you find surprising about pregnancy? Did you enjoy it? Let me know!

Find me on Twitter and Instagram: @squidmamma and on Facebook: facebook.com/squidmamma

Love! x

17

9 reasons I breastfeed my toddler


When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to ‘give breastfeeding a go’. I researched, I went to classes, I learnt a lot. I was ready. And then Squid was born and it wasn’t exactly like the books said it would be. It hurt. It was hard. The hardest thing I had ever done. I just wanted to feed my baby and it was really bloody difficult.

Setting small, interim goals helped me. 6 weeks. 12 weeks. 6 months.

But in the beginning, in my mind, when Squid turned 1, we would stop. That way, he would only ever have had breast milk, no need for formula: my job would be done.

Because ‘One’ is big. ‘One’ is grown up. ‘One’ does not need to be fed from his mother’s breast.

Right?

Well, actually: no.

By the time Squid was only a few months old, and things were easier, I knew we were in this for the long haul. I absolutely knew that my lovely boy would be breastfed until he decides to stop, whenever that is. Because the fact is, your baby only gets older one day at a time. The day after Squid turned one, I didn’t suddenly feel that he was ‘too old’ to be breast fed.

At 18 months old, Squid needs breast milk more than ever. So, with that in mind, here is my list of 9 reasons to breastfeed a toddler.

 1. Connection.

At the end of the day, my favourite time is our sleepy, freshly bathed boob cuddles, where Squid will play with my hair, and I will stroke his face and he locks eyes with mine. It is a time filled with love and connection, and is so important to the both of us, especially when I have been working. Toddlers are busy: I spend most of days at home tearing round after our small hurricane of a child; work can be stressful, life can be difficult, but Squid becomes a gentle and peaceful little soul when he’s nestled in my arms and latched on. This quiet, loving time at the end of each day when Squid feeds to sleep relaxes the both of us, and usually the troubles of the day melt away into nothingness.

 

2. Sleep

Breastfeeding my toddler absolutely guarantees me more sleep. Squid wakes several times a night (WHICH IS NORMAL!!!) and without breastfeeding, I would be a walking zombie: when Squid stirs, he’s straight into our bed, latched on and fast asleep again within seconds. Most nights I don’t even fully wake when he latches on, making for a (generally!) peaceful night’s sleep for us all.

Additionally breast milk contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid used in the production of melatonin. Melatonin is, quite simply put, a sleep inducing hormone, which is another reason to love breastfeeding a toddler: magic sleepy dust at your fingertips (well, at your nipples). On top of this, breastfeeding also releases the hormone oxytocin in both the mother and child: this is the ‘love’ hormone, which can help to relax you, so mum can drift off easily too!

 

3. Protection

A child’s immune system is not fully formed until at least 2 years of age (different sources say different things, with 2 years being the minimum but 4-7 years being the ‘internet research average’! – interestingly, children naturally wean from the breast between 2 and 7, with world average being 4.3 years – on a timeline with immunity development, go figure!) and breastfeeding a toddler only serves to strengthen the immune system. Whilst breastfeeding does not reduce the risk of your toddler getting poorly (rather, not breastfeeding increases the risk), it can help to speed up recovery, as well as offer lots of comfort when it’s most needed. Cleverly, breast milk changes in its components when a child is poorly, and will start resembling nutrient packed colostrum again. Our bodies are just amazing!

We have a family history of chronic asthma and serious allergies, and so breastfeeding Squid past infancy is so important to me, because although genetics may dictate that he might be asthmatic, or have allergies, breastfeeding is going to help him through that, strengthen his immune system and help him with recoveries.

 

4. Big emotions

Being a toddler is hard work. The world is confusing, you can’t always express what you want or mean, and sometimes it all gets too much, emotions overspill and expressions of anger, frustration, sadness and confusion (read: melt downs) can occur. When these moments strike, my best approach with Squid is firstly to empathise and recognise the emotion, and then to offer a cuddle and some milk. I guess it comes back to reconnecting and grounding: a breastfeed can settle, calm and re-centre all those big feelings that are hard to deal with. A breastfeed is familiar, quiet and (mostly) still.

This also works well in unfamiliar situations – sometimes Squid will feel nervous or shy when we go somewhere new, and a reassuring cuddle with some milk usually sorts him out and equips him for exploration and mischief.

 

5. Peace

I am absolutely guilty of offering Squid a breastfeed when I myself just need a sit down. Squid is always on the move, climbing, walking, running, and I am always there chasing after him. The fact is, I just don’t have the same energy levels as my one year old and sometimes, mama needs a sit down! The only real way to guarantee this is to offer Squid a boob – he rarely says no, and often the 5 minutes of calm can reset both of our batteries for more fun and exploration!

 

6. Nutrition

Obviously Squid eats actual food, and has done since he was 6 months old. From around the time he was about a year old, he was consistently eating 3 meals a day, plus 2 or 3 snacks, and water. This food obviously provides him with a balanced diet, and we make sure to give him healthy, energy giving foods. However, daily breast milk can provide 29% of energy requirements, 43% of protein requirements, 36% of calcium requirements and 60% of vitamin C requirements in the second year, and beyond, of breastfeeding.

For me, this is a really important one, especially when Squid is poorly. Sometimes, when he’s ill, he doesn’t want to eat, and so knowing that I can still provide some nutrition for him, as well as comfort, warmth and love, is a huge benefit.

 

7. Selfish mama

Breastfeeding can help to reduce the mother’s risk of: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease to name but a few conditions. And of course, the longer you breastfeed for, the more your risk decreases. No brainer really.

 

8. Increased risk of IDGAF-itis

Yes – you guessed it, breastfeeding really CAN increase your risk of something… a chronic condition known as ‘I-don’t-give-a-fuck – itis’. Something I have learnt since breastfeeding Squid, especially now he is a ‘big grown up toddler’ is that I really, really do not care what anyone else thinks. People’s opinions have never mattered less to me. Squid and I are happy doing what we do, and we genuinely do not need other people to express how they feel about breastfeeding to natural term. Which is, by the way, what we’re doing. Squid will finish feeding when he’s ready. I don’t know when that might be, though I imagine it won’t be any time soon. Whether it’s in the next 6 months, the next year, two years or longer, I still will not care what people think. I am nourishing, nurturing and mothering my child in the way that nature intended, and we wouldn’t change it for the world.

 

9. My toddler the feeder

And finally, if the above reasons weren’t enough to give you an insight as to why I do what I do, I give you this…

 ​

Just remember: not your baby, not your boobs, not your toddler, not your tits, not your child, not your… chest? (Tenuous 😂) Not your business!

Are you breastfeeding a toddler or older child? Let me know! 

Catch me on Instagram @squidmamma for sporadically irregular life updates!
 

LOVE, 

Squidmamma x