It’s #NationalBreastfeedingWeek from the 27th June to the 3rd July, 2022 and the key focus this year will be the difference that can be made if everyone supports breastfeeding. At ELHT we work to ensure our breastfeeding colleagues have the support they need and Grace, one of our Breastfeeding Champions, wants to share her story about returning to work as an Anaesthetic and Recovery Operating Department Practitioner whilst breastfeeding as a new mum.

20210415_114908 (1).jpgI was really nervous about returning to work after my maternity leave, I think having a pandemic baby and being isolated didn't help. We'd worked so hard to breastfeed through limited face to face support, mastitis and sore nipples but neither of us were ready to stop when I returned to work. I'd only left Freddie a handful of times but was returning to work full time just before he turned 1. I'm lucky to have such a friendly and helpful manager who had kept in touch during my maternity leave. I'd only done one Keeping In Touch day, in hindsight I wish I'd done more to practice the set up and routine at work.


Before returning to work I let my manager know I wanted to continue breastfeeding and she was so supportive. I was given a copy of the breastfeeding policy and we discussed my options for expressing and storing milk. On my first day back a private lockable room with a comfortable chair had already been prepared for me so that instantly put me at ease. Everything was done on my terms, I was able to add a table to the room so it was easier to transfer milk from my pumps to storage bags (only a breastfeeding mum knows that you do cry over spilt milk!). I have an extra locker to store all the equipment I need to express and snacks needed to get me through the day - after all, breastfeeding can burn an extra 500 carlories a day.


It took a while to get into a routine as I needed to express atleast twice on my ten-hour shifts and in the beginning, I had to remind my colleagues I needed extra breaks but as time went on everyone became used to it and I was met with nice comments. As I settled back into work I talked more openly about breastfeeding which in turn meant I had lots of questions from colleagues. Breastfeeding rates in the UK are the lowest in the world so by openingly talking about breastfeeding I hope to change the way it's seen. This is how I discovered becoming an ELHT Breastfeeding Champion.


I have now been back at work for ten months, we are still breastfeeding but I no longer need to express at work. I slowly reduced the amount of times I would express and went longer between pumping sessions to phase it out all together. Freddie is very adaptable and took it all in his stride. I am often asked about 'extended' breastfeeding now I'm nursing a toddler and have been met with some negative comments. I am able to teach and explain the benefits of natural term weaning which I hope changes the way it is perceived. The more breastfeeding is seen and talked about the more it's normalised. Since becoming a Breastfeeding Champion and having the poster up in work I've had questions from expecting Mother's and Dad's which has been lovely to share my experience and give advice. I have written some tips on returning to work and breastfeeding in the hope that they help someone else worrying about if it's possible and how it will work. Especially working in healthcare, a busy environment with limited breaks can be challenging to continue breastfeeding. With the right support it is absolutely possible. You can view the top ten tips here.