The 2015 Philippine Nutrition survey by the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) showed that at least half of Filipino babies younger than age 6 months do not receive the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. Among babies aged 0 to 5 months, only 48.8% was exclusively breastfed compared to 2013’s 52.3%. In the survey, only three out of 10 mothers were aware of breastfeeding/lactation stations while only one out of 10 made use of them.
Coming back to work from maternity leave was a little bit confusing for me. I did not know what to expect when I returned to work. I knew that I’d have lactation breaks, which will allow me to express breast milk while at work, but I honestly did not know how many minutes I’d have, how much milk I’d need to store home — basically, how I’d be able to juggle work and mom life!
My sister was then also exclusively breastfeeding her son, my nephew, who was eight months older than my daughter, now a 1 and 2 months old. She became my go-to person when I had questions about breastfeeding and pumping and storing breast milk. I still had to wing it, though, since not all babies are alike.
The amount of breast milk to stash at home depends on your baby
Back then, I was really scared to leave my then 2-month-old baby at home with just the breast milk I pumped in the office the day before. I chose to exclusively breastfeed and had no formula to substitute.
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I started with four bottles filled with two-ounces of breast milk each for my 2-month-old. I calculated everything, how much milk she consumes, how many times she feeds every day, and my travel time. When I know I’d be coming home a little bit late, I’d prepare extra bottles at home. As my baby grew, she needed more, and so I had to add to my breast milk stash at home, of course.
You just have to observe and learn your baby’s pattern. Make sure you still breastfeed your baby directly to keep your milk supply up.
My breast pump costs only less than Php600, which could be purchased from online stores. A friend of mine had an expensive breast pump but had to replace it when it suddenly stopped working. (Here are your options for manual and electric breast pumps.) I mention it to illustrate that your breast pump can go a long way as long as you take care of it properly.
I sterilized my breast pump at home before going to work and after. Lactation breaks are not that long, so I could only refrigerate my breast pump and its accessories in the office after every pumping break. I got the idea from a breastfeeding group, where most of the mom-members do it. It’s not ideal situation, but a working mom makes do with what she has.
There are a lot of breast milk storage bags and storage bottles to choose from at different prices. Go with bottles if you’re not a fan of plastic. My main concern was the thermal bag, because I wanted my breast pump, dry ice pack and breast milk storage containers to fit in nicely.
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Demand for your lactation breaks — it’s the law
When I returned to work in an in-house contact center, I was proactive in asking that my lactation breaks be plotted on my schedule. We couldn’t just leave the workstation anytime we want. During my one-hour lunch break, I would set aside 30 minutes of the break to pump milk — that’s on top of my plotted lactation breaks.
I learned that some companies do not endorse giving lactation breaks to female employees returning from maternity leave unless the working mom asks for it. “They won’t know if the female employee is a nursing mom,” the companies reasoned.
Committing to breastfeed means exercising my rights as a nursing mom.
If you just came back from maternity leave and you’re breastfeeding, don’t be shy in asking for these lactation breaks because it’s mandated by law. Choosing to breastfeed was a huge responsibility — I had to accept the fact that my one-hour break will never be the same again, well, until I stop breastfeeding.
According to Republic Act No. 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009, both private companies and government agencies, are required to provide lactation breaks, which should not be less than a total of 40 minutes for every eight-hour working period.
Companies are also mandated to provide a lactation station, so working nursing moms are not forced to pump in comfort rooms. Office lactation rooms should have facilities, such as a lavatory for hand-washing unless there is an easily accessible lavatory nearby; refrigeration or appropriate cooling facilities for storing expressed breast milk; electrical outlets for breast pumps; tables and chairs.
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If your company refuses to allow you your lactation break or does not have a designated lactation room, you may report it via the crowd-based Monitoring Milk Code Compliance (CMMCC) app, also known as Mother-Baby Friendly Philippines. It’s a project initiated by World Vision Development Foundation, Inc. (WVDF) in collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH) and its units with the primary goal to strengthen the enforcement of the Milk Code (Executive Order No. 51) and RA 10028.
As a breastfeeding and a working mom, you need to know your rights. Hopefully, the Mother-Baby Friendly Philippine’s initiative will continue to protect nursing moms in the workplace. It might even help encourage new moms to continue breastfeeding, knowing that the option to do so doesn’t have to be such a struggle.