The World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and Indonesian Academy of Pediatrics recommend the provision of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, followed by the combined provision of solid food and breast milk up to the age of 2 years.
By continuing to provide breast milk, working mothers receive several benefits, such as lower rates of missing school due to sickness, maintenance of the closeness between mother and child, and reduction of expenses due to not requiring to purchase formula milk.
But, working mothers commonly encounter several obstacles in providing exclusive breastfeeding, such as limited maternity leave (generally only 3 months) and lack of a supportive work environment to provide exclusive breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the right of every mother, including working mothers. The International Labour Organization Convention has decided that working mothers are entitled to a 14-week maternity leave as well as supporting facilities for breastfeeding at the workplace.
Before starting a maternity leave, mothers should discuss with their superiors regarding the details of when they plan to return to work as well as regarding their breastfeeding plans. This includes the possibility of breastfeeding the child at work or requiring breast pumping, and so on. If breast pumping is required, discuss regarding the time needed to do that, as well as the room to pump and store the pumped breast milk.
At home, parents should discuss regarding how to care for the child when the mother is at work, does the father need to take time off work, or will they entrust the care of the child to their parents, a nanny, or day care centers.
One of the ways in which mothers can provide exclusive breastfeeding is by preparing pumped breast milk. Several weeks prior to returning to work, begin storing breast milk reserves by pumping the breast. Some tips are as follows:
Mothers can pump breast milk using their hands, manual breast pumps, or electric breast pumps. Manual and electric breast pumps are easy to use, Mothers can follow the instructions for use available on the packaging. Emptying the breast can also be done by pumping it using hands. Mothers should select the most convenient and suitable breast milk pumping method for them.
Other than learning to pump breast milk, mothers should also learn how to store pumped breast milk correctly. The storage method will affect the quality of the pumped breast milk, and an incorrect method may destroy the breast milk. Store the pumped breast milk in a glass or plastic bottle in accordance with the amount that is usually consumed by the child at one time. Write the date of pumping on the label and attach the label to the container. If mothers plan to temporarily store the pumped breast milk in a shared facility at the office, they should write their name and the name of the child on the label to ensure that it does not get mixed up. Mothers should also prepare cooling boxes or bags to bring home the pumped breast milk, in order to maintain its temperature.
The recommended durations for storage of pumped breast milk are as follows:
Always wash hands and sterilize the pumping equipments prior to pumping the breast. Both breasts can be emptied by pumping for 15-20 minutes, every 3-4 hours.
Returning to work after maternity leave does not mean stopping to provide breast milk to the child. With good knowledge and preparation, mothers can successfully provide exclusive breastfeeding.
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