A guide to breast feeding for mums who are entering or returning to the workplace during the first six months of their baby's life. If it is possible to take a year's maternity leave, breastfeeding and weaning at leisure are relatively easy to manage, but for many women the return to the workplace comes much sooner, often in the first six months of their baby's life. Very slowly, employers are beginning to understand that breastfeeding is an important preventative form of health care - that breastfed babies are less likely to get sick and thus less likely to need a parent's care at home. It is possible to work and breastfeed but it needs careful planning. Basically there are three ways of going about it. The first option is to take your baby with you to work. This, of course, depends on your job, your employer and your baby. If you are self-employed, working from home, or running your own business, and are able to arrange things to suit, including organising a carer for baby when times are busy, this can be ideal. But - having baby with you only works while he is young, and if he is the kind of baby who obligingly sleeps a lot between feeds. Otherwise he may need a permanent carer, either someone who can bring him to you for feeds or a daycare place nearby where you can conveniently go to feed him. The second option is to express breast milk which someone else can feed to baby while you are at work. If you work full-time you will need to be able to express milk at work as well as at home, and for this you will need a private place (not a toilet) and access to a refrigerator to store the milk. Be sure the milk is carefully labelled - unlabelled milk has been known to turn up unexpectedly in morning coffee! The third option is to breastfeed your baby when you are with him and have him fed formula when you are not available. Morning and evening feeds are usually still possible, as are weekend and night-time feeds. For this to work you need to gradually reduce the daytime feeds before you begin work so that you do not suddenly cease feeds and thus affect your supply. Even so you may find that you need to express some milk at work to keep up the supply. Manual breast pumps are available in pharmacies, supermarkets and baby shops. Most are portable, often coming with a handy carry case. Breast pumps, and any container in which expressed milk is stored, must be kept sterilised. Expressed milk must be kept refrigerated, and transported only in a cooler bag. It separates easily, but this does not mean it has passed its use-by date. Generally it will keep for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator, two weeks in the freezer compartment of the fridge, and up to three months in a separate freezer. Once defrosted - always do this in the fridge - it must be used within 12 hours.
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