Healthy Spaces

Breast-feeding tips for working mums

Mothers breast-feeding their babies in a commuter train as part of World Breast-feeding Week last month. Supportive employers and colleagues, as well as having a private space in the office, are factors that help make the breast-feeding journey successful
Mothers breast-feeding their babies in a commuter train as part of World Breast-feeding Week last month. Supportive employers and colleagues, as well as having a private space in the office, are factors that help make the breast-feeding journey successful for working mums. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Bosses, colleagues can help mothers to keep their supply of milk going at the workplace

You know they say breast is best for baby, so if you intend to keep breast-feeding when you go back to work, plan on making it happen.

Luckily, more employers are getting comfortable with the idea of mothers expressing their milk in the workplace.

During the World Breastfeeding Week last month, NTUC U Family presented inaugural awards to companies with breast-feeding-friendly policies and facilities.

Supportive colleagues who helped make the breast-feeding journey successful for working mums as well as mums with innovative ideas for lactation space also received Liquid Gold Awards.

But there are still plenty of women who come up against hurdles when they try to keep their supply of milk going in the workplace.

Here are some steps you can take before you start to do so.


Let him or her know about your decision, and also how often you will need to be doing this.

The winners in the Liquid Gold Awards' nurturing workplace category, such as DBS Bank, the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore and Sembcorp Industries, provide lactation rooms and flexible lactation breaks to breast-feeding mums. This means they allow employees to take lactation breaks as and when they need it.

Sembcorp Industries, for instance, does not have a strict requirement for mums to make up for the time spent on lactation breaks but, instead, trust that they will deliver on their work all the same.


For hygiene reasons, this should not be the restroom.

You should have a place with an electric socket for your pump and a comfortable seat.

If there is no suitable room available, find out if you can use an unoccupied meeting room, for instance.

Or take the advice of legal counsel Chu Wen Ling, 32, who won an award for creating her own space.

She made a sign that says "milk project is ongoing" and pasted it on an umbrella, which she places on her desk to shield herself when she is pumping.


It is advisable to get a good-quality electric breast pump if you are going to use it at work.

"There are some pumps which are quieter than the others, though the vibration noise can be reduced with placing a soft flannel or a nappy cloth under it," said Dr Mythili Pandi, a general practitioner who is the president of the Breast-feeding Mothers' Support Group.

"There are also hands-free options so mothers can just attach the pump funnels to their bras and continue working."

For those who want to save time, an electric dual pump may be faster than a single pump as it stimulates a faster letdown, said Dr Pandi.

Nevertheless, some mothers prefer having a single pump as they are able to collect a larger yield of milk when they compress their breast while pumping, she said.

For Ms Kristy Melissa, another Liquid Gold Award winner for creative lactation space, a hands-free pump was the obvious choice.

The 28-year-old owner of Little Pancakes cafe has been using the pump while taking orders, scrambling eggs, making coffee and washing the plates.


Ms Melissa said it is important to get a good supportive nursing bra to hold the hands-free pump in place.

"If it is not held properly, milk can leak out," she said.

Ms Chu, the legal counsel, dons a nursing cover - which is like a big poncho or a big piece of cloth that comes with adjustable neck straps that you use to cover yourself while nursing your baby - while she pumps at her desk and advises mothers to get two of them.

Mothers may want a few sets of nursing bras, a cooler bag and an ice pack if they want to maintain their milk supply at work, she said.


Let those you are working closely with know of your decision to pump breast milk at work as they may be able to help out.

Analyst Wang Baoqin, 33, of BNP Paribas Wealth Management Singapore, said her immediate superior reminds her to pump and, together with colleagues, help to cover her work duties when needed.

At the Singapore Eye Research Institute, project coordinator Ho Kee Ka, 28, said that her colleague and her husband bought huge

posters and used them to cover a glass panel so that she can pump in the office room, among other forms of help.


You don't need a special diet for breast-feeding, though you need to eat a balanced diet and you need to continue nursing your baby.

There is no real evidence that any food increases the milk yield, said Dr Pandi."Science tells us that the way to increase milk supply is to remove milk from the breasts frequently," she said. "It is a simple economic supply-demand equation. This is why mothers of twins and triplets are able to produce enough milk to feed her babies."

She added that babies latching on to mothers' breasts at night may help to boost the supply, too. "Often, when mothers engage a confine-ment nanny after birth, they may be coerced to leave the baby in the nanny's care throughout the night.

"This may result in breast engorgement, a dip in the milk supply and, most importantly, nipple confusion in the baby."

So, if your baby wakes up wanting to drink milk in the middle of the night, go ahead and nurse her.

"This can be explained by the fact that the hormone prolactin, which stimulates milk production in the breasts, is at its highest levels overnight," she said. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline 'Breast-feeding tips for working mums'. Print Edition | Subscribe