Child care, breastfeeding, mom going back to work

Child care options

Your maternity leave is ending soon and you are feeling anxious and uncertain about resuming work, and adjusting to the working routine after such a long break. To ensure a smooth transition, you might want to start exploring your child care options before returning to work. Are your parents, parents-in-law or other trusted family members able to care for your baby? Should you have your baby cared for by a domestic helper, a nanny or in an infant care centre? You may also have to learn to work with your support system to help with the care of your baby while you are at work. There is bound to be some separation anxiety but you can overcome this by planning your care arrangements early and assuring yourself that your child is in good hands. 

Family member 

Getting a trusted family member like your parents or parents-in-law to care for your baby is a good option. You can be assured that they would love your baby, are reliable and trustworthy, and will therefore look after him well. They are also likely to care for him in your home or theirs, which is a familiar environment for your baby. However, if your parents or parents-in-law are elderly, they may or may not be equipped or able to deal with strong-willed babies and toddlers. 

The care and development of children has seen much change over the years so your parents may have different views on how to care for your baby. 

Tips 

  • Discuss with your family member who is the primary caregiver on your expectations on how you want your baby to be looked after. If you are still breastfeeding, ensure she supports your decision to breastfeed. 
  • Check that she is physically up to the job. 

Domestic helper 

Some families may engage a domestic helper to look after the baby. A realistic expectation​ of the domestic helper in managing the household chores and caring for the baby should be set. Having a trusted relative at home to supervise and oversee the helper is a good option. 

Tips 

  • ​​Set clear rules and expectations from the beginning so that she is able to balance handling household chores with caring for the baby. Get her to follow your methods of child care. Observe that she understands what is expected of her and reinforce through further explanation and clarification. 
  • In your selection, do take note if the domestic helper has children of her own or has experience caring for a young child while working for a local family with children previously as this would be a good reference to gauge her competency and ability. 

Nanny 

Nannies look after children in their own homes or in the baby’s home. There are agencies that can help you find a nanny who lives near you. Nanny services are not licensed. ​

Tips 

  • Get feedback from parents who have used her services; ask for a trial run to see if it’s going to work out. 
  • Visit her home to check the environment and have a chat with her before you hire her. 
  • Choose one who lives near you so that it will be more convenient dropping off or picking up your baby. 
  • Set ground rules from the start. Tell her what you expect regarding your baby’s feeding, sleeping, TV-watching and discipline. If you are still breastfeeding, ensure that she supports your decision to breastfeed. 
  • When you have decided, bring baby to spend some time with her and see how they interact with one another. Do this for a couple of weeks before you return to work as your baby needs time to adjust. 

Infant Care Centres 

There are infant care centres providing full ​and half-day care programmes for babies from 2 months - 18 months old. Some centres offer flexible programmes that cater to different work arrangements. Before you decide on an infant care centre, it is important to know and understand the programme at the centre. 

Information: 

  • ​​Child and infant care centres are licensed by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports (MCYS) and are required to meet acceptable standards of health, safety, nutrition and hygiene measures. 
  • Parents can receive a subsidy on fees for children of Singapore citizens. 
  • Teachers and educarers (personnel working with children below 3 years of age) have relevant training in early childhood education. Some centres also have a registered nurse on site. 
  • The staff to infant ratio set by MCYS is 1:5. 

Tips 

  • ​Visit the centre prior to registration. See if the teachers and the children appear happy and comfortable. 
  • Observe how the teachers interact with the children. 
  • If you are still breastfeeding, make sure the centre supports breastfeeding. 
  • Talk to parents whose children are in the centre to get first-hand feedback on the place. 

Visit the Child Care Link website at www.childcarelink.gov.sg or call 6258 5812 for more information on centre-based infant and child care.​

​​​​What you need to know about tobacco products

  • If a family member or someone at the nanny’s place smokes, request him to avoid doing so when your baby is at their home. This is because babies exposed to second-hand smoke can suffer from chest infections, ear infections and have a higher risk of cot death. 
  • Opening windows and doors does not protect your baby from second-hand smoke. Research has shown that toxins from tobacco smoke (now known as third-hand smoke) settle on surfaces such as sofas, curtains and carpets, as well as clothing and hair, and can take a long while to go away. These toxins may get into your baby’s body, through contact while he plays or crawls, or while being carried by a smoker.​


Breastfeeding at Work

There is no need to stop breastfeeding just because you are returning to work. With a bit of planning, your baby can still be fully breastfed and receive the best nourishment for him. Here are some tips to help you juggle with resuming work and the desire to continue to breastfeed: 

  • Two weeks before your maternity leave ends, start expressing and storing your milk. 
  • At the same time, introduce your baby to the bottle by replacing one or two feeds with the bottle. Get someone else other than yourself to feed the baby. 
  • Feed the baby just before you go to work and as soon as you arrive home. 
  • Select clothing that facilitates milk expression such as a front-buttoned shirt. 
  • While you are at work, express and store your breast milk in the fridge (usually at lunch break and just before leaving) or at regular intervals. 
  • If your office does not have a dedicated breastfeeding room, speak to your boss about using a spare room or the meeting room. 
  • Get support from your colleagues and thank them for covering for you while​ you are away expressing. You need to be relaxed and comfortable to express. Thinking about your baby or looking at a picture of him can stimulate milk flow. 
  • Have a balanced diet and totally avoid alcohol and tobacco products as these can affect your milk production. ​

Expressing breast milk 

You can express your breast milk manually by using your hands or with a manual or electrical breast pump. ​   

How to express breast milk with a breast pump?

  • Wash hands thoroughly before expressing milk. 
  • Ensure all the equipment are clean and sterilised. 
  • Use your pump correctly, starting with low pressure and switching between breasts after 5-10 minutes of expressing milk. 
  • Express your breast milk every three hours and store the breast milk in the refrigerator or freezer. 

Storage of the expressed milk

Place of Storage ​Recommended Storage Duration​​
​Expressed milk at room temperature of 25°C ​4 hours
​Expressed milk in a cooler with ice pack at 15°C ​24 hours
​Breast milk freshly expressed and stored in the fridge at 4°C​48 hours​
​Frozen milk in 2-door fridge stored at -5°C to -15°C ​3 - 6 months​
​Frozen milk in deep freezer at -20°C ​6 - 12 months​
​Thawed breast milk stored in the fridge at 4°C ​24 hours​

​​Thawing process

  • Thaw frozen milk in the refrigerator or in a cup of warm water. 
  • Use the milk immediately and discard the leftover. 
  • Avoid boiling or heating breast milk in a microwave. ​Do not re-freeze or re-warm the breast milk. 

​​​​​If you have problems with breastfeeding or are worried, be sure to speak to your doctor, lactation consultants or mothers who have managed breastfeeding successfully despite returning to work.