Often the best solutions to the challenges of combining breastfeeding and employment are the creative ones. Consider these alternatives to spending the entire day away from your baby.
Keep in mind that your plans may change as your baby grows and develops.
• Bring your baby to work. This may not be possible on an industrial assembly line, but there are many workplaces that can accommodate the presence of an infant. There are mothers who work in shops, offices, family businesses, and in other settings who have just packed up and brought baby along when it’s time to return to the job after a postpartum leave. Breastfed babies are very portable. Arrange a safe and comfortable place for naps, diaper changes, and floor play, and you’ll be all set.
• Try work and wear. Wear your baby in a sling-type carrier to keep baby close to you while you assist customers, sort papers, work at the computer, or even attend meetings. You may have to work a longer day or accept less pay to make up for job time spent attending to your baby, but you’ll save on the expense of child care and there will be less emotional wear and tear on mother and baby. Eventually, when your “sling baby” becomes a toddler explorer, you may have to make other arrangements, but by then, baby will not be depending on you for all her nutritional needs.
• Bring the work to your baby. Working from home is becoming more and more common in these days of telecommuting. Perhaps you can arrange to complete some, or all, of your tasks at home. Even working at home one or two days a week and going into the office the rest of the time will give you more time to breastfeed your baby on cue. Some mothers who work from home concentrate on working during baby’s naps, or they go to bed late or get up early. Some manage to work with baby nearby or even in their laps. (Watch out for little fingers hitting the computer keyboard!) Others find they need in-home childcare when they simply must get something accomplished–but mother is still available for nursing as needed.
• On-site daycare. Family-friendly employers are increasingly making childcare available at the workplace. With this option, you can just go to another part of the building to breastfeed your baby on breaks or at lunch time. daycare workers can call you when baby is hungry, or you can let them know when you’ll be in to visit during the day.
• Nearby daycare providers. Many parents look for childcare near their homes. Sometimes it’s more practical to look for a babysitter near your workplace, especially if you have a long commute that adds an hour or more to the total time you’re away from your baby. With daycare near your workplace, you may be able to go to your baby and nurse one or more times during the day. You can also nurse the baby at the sitter’s home or at the day care center before and after work. This will cut down on the amount of pumping you need to do while separated from your baby.
• Visits from your baby. Maybe it’s possible for your baby to come and visit you while you’re working, during your lunch break or at other times during the day. Mothers who make this option work for them often have dad or grandma as chief childcare provider–someone who’s willing to go an extra mile (literally) for baby’s health and happiness. Perhaps you could meet your caregiver and baby at a convenient lunch spot half-way between home and your workplace.
• Part-time work. Minimizing the time you spend away from your baby will make breastfeeding easier. Many mothers plan on working only part-time while their children are small–either shorter work days or fewer shifts per week. Others ease back into a full-time schedule slowly as they and their babies are ready.
• Try something new. For some women, having a baby becomes a career turning point as well as a personal one, as they make changes in their working lives to accommodate the needs of their child. Some begin a freelance career, others start their own business or go back to school.
• Learn to live with less. A careful reevaluation of your financial situation may show you that it’s possible to live more cheaply. Full-time employment outside the home brings its own expenses: childcare, commuting, clothing, conveniences. Many couples re-evaluate their lifestyles and their job commitments during the years that their children are young. You may decide that you’re willing to trade some of your income for less stress and more relaxed time with your baby.