After having my last baby, I returned to part time work when she was 9 months old and still very much a breastfed baby, which meant I needed to express.


“Is that a boob I see? Gimme!”

Expressing at Work.

I have a Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace. Seriously, I know we all love a good whinge about our jobs or our bosses or whatever- but in this regard I honestly can’t fault them and only hope that soon all employers are as sensible and accommodating as mine are. I was allowed paid breaks in which to express, access to a private lactation room equipped with a lockable fridge (or use of my supervisor’s office and fridge if I preferred) and (thankfully) not so much as a whisper of complaint from anyone when I would wander off to express. My one issue with returning to work was my absolutely un-coperative boobs that just did not respond well to pumps. I should know. I have had a manual hand pump and 4 (yes, 4) different electric pumps ranging from budget to hospital grade. I tried single pumping, double pumping, hand-expression. I could barely keep up with the demand. I needed to have around 6 bottles of milk to cover 2 days of daycare, every week.

So, what did I do? I read everything I could get my hands on to do with expressing, of course! I read articles online, I watched videos, I asked my mum friends for tips, I jumped onto parenting forums for advice, I spoke to friends who knew a whole lot about this kind of thing, I rang the Australian Breastfeeding Association. I figured out what did and did not work for me and I went on to express when away from my baby until she was a year old. I was never one to fill a whole bottle in one go, but I got there, a little at a time.

Learning to express and managing it at work was not without it’s moments. I remember a time when I’d opted to use an empty office to express in but failed to lock the door properly and a workmate (married with children and all ) wandered in to get something. He jumped a mile when I said “Oh, Hi! I’m kinda in here…” Then he turned an interesting shade of pink and made a quick exit, much to my amusement!

It wasn't  exactly like this but...

It wasn’t exactly like this but…

Stuff That Worked.

When it came down to it, there were a few things that helped me manage to express.

  1. Looking at photos and videos of my baby on my phone- this can help trigger the hormone release necessary for milk to ‘let down’.
  2. A technique called ‘Hands On Expressing
  3. Keeping shoulders relaxed- I would consciously relax and roll my shoulders before I started. I found if I was tense at all it wouldn’t work, so generally trying to wind down a bit helped a lot.

Medela, Expressing and Bangladesh.

As far as breastfeeding and working goes, it’s do-able. It can be difficult but there is support and resources available to Australian women that many others can’t access. I learned a bit about that recently when I went to the Parents, Babies and Children Expo as a guest of Medela Australia and I have to say, it put things into perspective!

At the #pbc expo #medelaau

A photo posted by Amy@HandbagMafia (@handbag_mafia) on

That’s me, looking very serious, with the toddler in a carrier in the back row!

In Bangladesh, mums in the garment industry have very limited maternity leave and must return to work when their babies are just 2 months old. And when they do return to work, it’s generally full-time. And by full-time, I don’t mean the comparatively cushy 38-40 hours a week that we consider full time. These mums work 10-14 hours per day, 5-6 days per week. As a consequence of these conditions, breastfeeding rates are low.

Here in Australia, we have access to quality infant formulas and clean water. In Bangladesh, that’s not always the case. Studies show that breastfeeding offers protection from diarrheal disease and that babies in Bangladesh who are formula fed are at significantly greater risk of such diseases– and these diseases, especially in developing countries, can kill babies. Medela, together with Scope International and the International Centre for Diarrheal Research, are donating 200 hand pumps and 20 electric pumps and also donating the services of Alysha Harkins to the women of the garment industry in Bangladesh.   Alysha Harkins has had extensive training in all things breastfeeding, expressing and cup feeding. She will be able to provide mums with support to continue providing breast milk to their babies after they return to work and in turn, better outcomes for Bangladeshi families. Also, the University of Toronto has donated a pasteurisation device to help with milk storage because this is another challenge faced by mums who want to keep breastfeeding- a lack of places to store their milk and a warm climate. Medela have given me a $50 voucher to give away, so if you are looking to get yourself a pump or you know someone who might need one- enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


#FYBF @ With Some Grace


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