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Sunday, August 07, 2011

Breastfeeding at Work: Save the Milk Ta-Tas ™

I believe there are a lot of women who want to continue breastfeeding when they return back to work from maternity leave, but decide to stop nursing because there is no place for them to pump at work. However, I also feel that having a compassionate and supportive supervisor can make a world of difference for nursing moms and can support "Breast Time."

A little over a year ago I wrote an article entitled, “Working Moms: Finding A Balance Between Work and Motherhood,” which was published in the SACRAO Journal, volume 23, pp. 5-10. The study interviews 17 working mothers in higher education and examines if they are able to achieve a balance between their professional objectives and family life. One of the questions asked to working mothers was the following:

(Question) Does your institution have policies that assist working mothers with taking time off or provide on-site nurseries, lactation rooms, etc.?

(Answer) Three mothers praised their institutions for having lactation rooms on campus. One mother replied: “There is only one designated lactation room (that I know of) on campus. It’s in our new law building. I was lucky to have supervisors who supported my pumping milk, which I did successfully with my two children, from when I returned to work at 3 to12 months with each child."

(Answer) Another mother stated: “I was lucky to have my own office and understanding co-workers so that I could "pump", but there is absolutely nothing helpful on campus for others who don't have a private office. A colleague down the hall had to sit in a locked storage closet on boxes. Even my own office is open to a busy hallway, so people would knock on the door even with curtains drawn, recycling staff would unlock the door and find me attached to a pump when I was pumping before a late meeting. Just not a good scene for lactation!”

Sure, working mothers can use public restrooms or their cars to pump (I have girlfriends that have done this), but having a convenient, designated, and sanitary place to pump at work helps with the decision of whether or not to continue nursing their child. According to the CDC more than "three out of four U.S. mothers initiate breastfeeding after giving birth, and more than half of mothers participate in the labor force before their children turn one year old."

Having just weaned our youngest son not too long ago, I understand that it's difficult to get "Breast Time" when you're working a full-time job. It’s hard to schedule time to get away and pump. So what do you do? I suggest you do what I did and ask your supervisor for time throughout the day to pump. Let him or her know that you appreciate their support in being able to provide for your child.

Michelle Obama is on a mission to make breastfeeding easier for women who choose to nurse their children. On Saturday, August 6, the United States Breastfeeding Committee will declare August as National Breastfeeding Month! Megan E. Renner, Executive Director of the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) sent an email out to supporters with the exciting news! Renner also indicated that, "Detailed state reports on CDC's 2009 Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) survey have just been released to facilitate work with hospitals and birth centers in improving breastfeeding care."

My hope is that women will start asking for designated lactations rooms at their place of employment. If a lactation room can not be established, then hopefully a private place can be designated throughout the day for women to nurse and/or express milk. My mom often says, "It doesn't hurt to ask." Go ahead and ask!

How does your workplace support women with children in encouraging them to be productive (flexible or part-time schedules, job sharing, etc.)?

What challenges have you faced as a working mom?

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