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RETURNING TO WORK

What your employer should know about breastfeeding

If you want to go on breastfeeding after you return to work, you should write to your employer in advance and tell him or her what this means in terms of your needs at work. (The Maternity Alliance suggests that you also enclose a letter from your GP or health visitor outlining the health advantages for your baby of being breastfed.) Remember that under the law your employer must ensure that your working conditions and hours allow you to continue breastfeeding.

Your employer must:

• Make sure your working conditions are safe and do not bring you into contact with dangerous substances such as lead or chemicals that might affect your breastmilk;
• Provide a suitable place for you to express your breastmilk. This does not mean the ladies' loo and your employer cannot tell you to go into the toilets to express.

You are entitled to ask for somewhere to express your milk that:

• Is clean, warm, comfortable and private with a lockable door;
• Has a comfortable chair.

You should also have access to a fridge where you can store your milk and a clean place where you can leave your equipment including a steriliser.

"My employer knows I need to express at least once a day," says Marisa, "and he has reluctantly given me permission to use the first aid room at work and a small fridge. But he has made comments about the 'special treatment' I am having and I think if I weren't so determined, I'd have given up breastfeeding by now.'

If your employer is very unsympathetic, go to your union representative or the equal opportunities officer for support. Ask if the place where you work has a written breastfeeding policy. If not, speak to whoever is in charge of health and safety at work about setting one up.

Expressing your milk

Make yourself comfortable and relax. (Think baby, think milk, think flow!)

Some women find it hard to 'let down' their milk when they are not with their baby. Bring a picture of your baby into work, a piece of their clothing or a tape of them gurgling to stimulate the let-down reflex.

Storing

If you are expressing several times during the day, you can add to the same container. However, it is a good idea to cool the newly expressed milk first for half an hour in the fridge before adding it to milk already collected. At the end of the day, the milk can be dated and frozen. It will keep for up to 24 hours in a fridge and three months in a freezer.

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