Term 1 is over. I have survived 10 weeks of full time work while continuing to breastfeed my baby, who was 6 months old when I returned to work. In my last post, I shared my challenges to continue providing my baby with breastmilk while working full time. Since that post was published I have received many comments on this blog and from Facebook and Twitter from mothers-to-be and mothers soon returning to work on how the post has given them an insight into how they can continue to breastfeed their children when they return to work.
Continue to breastfeed while working full time is challenging for anyone. However, being a teacher is particularly challenging. A non-breastfeeding teacher will tell you how little time there is during the school day. Most teachers, without need to express breastmilk, are already so busy they do not have time to use the bathroom. Many teachers don’t even have time to eat.
So after completing a term of school, I’d like to share again my experience at breastfeeding my baby while working as a full time teacher. The main purpose of this post is like my previous post – to share my experience and hopefully someone else can benefit from it. It is also to get breastfeeding ‘out there’, as breastfeeding is often an issue that is hidden and not spoken about. This I believe is the main challenge of breastfeeding. The community knows almost nothing about it and the more everyone knows the more they can support breastfeeding mums returning to work.
As a teacher, these are the things to consider and talk with your school leaders before returning to work:
- Where to express – Negotiate a place to express that is private, can be locked, has electricity and close to a fridge and freezer. The place preferably will have a sink with an area where you can leave your expressing equipment to air dry. Staff should know that this room is for mothers to express. I express in my classroom as it is not being used much this year for timetabled classes. I can leave my equipment there to air dry and it is extremely close to my staffroom where I use the fridge and freezer to store expressed breastmilk.
- Let the relevant colleagues know that your availability is limited at recess and lunch (even if you are expressing at times outside of recess and lunch, you need these breaks to eat and drink). I told my faculty that I will be expressing twice a day. None of my students have asked about expressing yet. If they did, I would tell them like it is. This of course is a personal choice. It also means negotiating around recess and lunch staff meetings.
- Let coordinators of whole day events like swimming carnivals of your expressing requirements. At my school’s swimming carnival, I was able to use the pool’s freezer. I was assigned carnival duties that enabled me to leave and express twice. I had to express in my car in the pool car park but that’s ok for a one off event.
- Be aware that whole day excursions will be extremely difficult. I let my school’s leaders know that I will not be able to go on excursions until my baby turns 1 year old.
- Work out how you are going to handle student issues that are usually handled at recess and lunch. For example, recess and lunch detentions cannot be part of your classroom management plan if you are expressing during these times.
If you are a public school teacher in NSW, there is a breastfeeding policy. Ask for it from your principal. NSW DEC is very supportive of breastfeeding.
I am hoping that this post will make it easier to other mothers to continue breastfeeding when they return to work, particularly teachers. I’m also hoping that this post will raise awareness amongst all educators so they know what they can do to support their colleagues who are breastfeeding. Support from colleagues and the school is vital to making breastfeeding work when a mother returns to work, which is why I like to thank my wonderful colleagues and school for making my transition back to work such a positive experience.