In the past, staying home until our wee ones began school was prevalent. However, it no longer is – it has become increasingly common for babies to enter some sort of childcare not just before school, but often even earlier – before three years of age, and even while still breastfeeding (and more on that in a bit). In fact, in 2017, a whopping 64% of all preschool-aged children were enrolled in some form of formal early childhood education – this includes kindergartens, preschools, kōhanga reo, playcentres and other childcare centres1. This number grows at individual year levels as children get older – from 68% of two-year-olds to 84% of three-year-olds. In addition, 60% of those children aged 13 and under who were in formal childcare (including after school and holiday programmes) were there because their parents had to work or study2.
As you can see, if you’re one of those parents who is finding that the need to return to work means you’re having to put your child (or children) into daycare, you’re not alone. Even knowing that, it can still be tough to know where to start. One of your earliest decisions may be which type of centre would you like to send your children to – kōhanga reo, kindergartens, and early childhood education centres can be run quite differently, and knowing what it is you want out of the place that will be taking care of your little one is an important first step. Once you’ve made that decision, you can start looking for places near you – a lot of centres can have waiting lists, so if it’s possible, getting an early start can be beneficial.
During your search for a centre that best suits your needs, you can look into how much they will cost and whether you qualify for any subsidies. While New Zealand has 20 hours free childcare, this only applies to children three years and over, so if you’re planning on sending your wee one before they turn three, it is important to remember this. Work and Income also provides an extra subsidy for low-income families – it’s worth seeing if you meet the criteria while sorting everything else out.
For those who are sending their still-breastfeed babies to daycare, it can be even more stressful. It can be challenging to figure out the logistics involved when breastfeeding a baby while you’re working, whether that work is full-time or part-time. Luckily, with a bit of hard work and planning, there are ways to keep your routines up.
The first thing is to make sure you discuss your needs with your employer – in New Zealand, employers are required to allow unpaid breaks to either breastfeed your baby (if they are near enough to be able to feed them while you’re at work), or to express milk at work, and there is a requirement to provide facilities to enable you to do so3.
If expressing milk at work is the path you decide to take, the next thing you’ll need to organise is storage. Fridge space at work is ideal, but if you don’t have access to that, a chilly bin filled with ice packs will do you for the day. Either way, just don’t forget to take your expressed milk home! And having dedicated, reliable containers to store that milk is essential – here Haakaa have you sorted with a couple of different options.
If you’re already using the Gen. 3 Breast Pump, you’ll know how versatile it is! Begin by pumping as you usually would, then let this pump work its magic. It transforms with no effort at all into a storage container just by swapping the flange for the compatible 100% medical-grade silicone Sealing Disk! Once you’ve finished expressing, simply remove the flange from the bottle, making sure to take it out of the attachment ring. Pop the Sealing Disk into the attachment ring, and you have a leak-proof lid for your bottle! No pouring from one container to another needed. You can even swap the sealing disk for a bottle teat (anti-colic or orthodontic) once you’re home, keeping things even simpler.
You may, of course, already have the Gen. 1 or Gen. 2 Breast Pumps and just be needing somewhere safe to store your milk, or you need extra storage options for your Gen. 3. In that case, our 260ml Silicone Milk Storage Bags are ideal for you. Not only are they made of 100% silicone, removing nasty plastics that can leach into your milk, but their stable, flat base and wide neck make transferring your milk from pump to bag a breeze. The stopper seals the bag tight, meaning it can be stored lying down or standing up – whichever works for you! The Milk Storage Bags also have the benefit of being able to be reused even after breastfeeding and milk storage has ended – use them as a food pouch to store and transport baby food or yoghurt! There’s also the smaller 130ml Yummy Pouch and its accessories, including the Sippy Spout and Squeeze & Feed Attachment. The accessories are even interchangeable between the two bags, so there’s no need to buy one for each – mix and match as needed!
The important thing to remember when expressing milk, whether at work or home, is to follow the breastmilk storage guidelines of your country. In New Zealand, the guidelines are as follows4:
- Room temperature (< 26°C) – Use within 4 hours. Keep the containers covered, and if possible, wrap a cool, damp towel around the bottles (or other containers) to keep them cooler.
- Refrigerated (2-4°C) – Use within 48 hours (2 days). Store the milk at the back of the lower half of the fridge if possible – the temperature is more consistent in this area.
- Freezer box in the fridge – 2 weeks
- Separate fridge/freezer – 3-6 months
- Separate deep freeze – 6-12 months. For each freezer option, keep the milk at the back (or the bottom in the case of chest freezers), where the temperature remains most constant.
Make sure each breastmilk container is labelled with the date and time it was expressed. It’s also important to not add freshly expressed, warm breastmilk to milk that has already been chilled.
It can take some work, but it is possible to continue breastfeeding even when you have to return to work. If this is something you know you want to do, then getting started on your planning early and knowing what it is you’ll need to make your transition as smooth as possible can be a great help.
1Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa (2017) More toddlers in formal early childhood care. https://www.stats.govt.nz/news/more-toddlers-in-formal-early-childhood-care/
2Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa (2018) Over half of children in formal care there due to parents’ work arrangements. https://www.stats.govt.nz/news/over-half-of-children-in-formal-care-there-due-to-parents-work-arrangements/
3Ministry of Health (2021) Breastfeeding and returning to work. https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/pregnancy-and-kids/first-year/helpful-advice-during-first-year/breastfeeding-perfect-you-and-your-baby/breastfeeding-and-returning-work
4Plunket (n.d.) Expressing breastmilk. https://www.plunket.org.nz/caring-for-your-child/feeding/breastfeeding/expressing-breast-milk/