Breastfeeding and the working motherWhen maternity leave ends and the return to work begins, new moms muster up the courage to ask: “So... where can I pump?” “Pump,” short for “expressing milk,” is the customary new-mother dance, waltzing her to a private room every three to four hours to sit alone as an inanimate object gets, well, up close and personal.
When maternity leave ends and the return to work begins, new moms muster up the courage to ask:
“So... where can I pump?”
“Pump,” short for “expressing milk,” is the customary new-mother dance, waltzing her to a private room every three to four hours to sit alone as an inanimate object gets, well, up close and personal.
Pumping is the featured subject on U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin’s “Call to Action” released this month. According to the report, 75 percent of new mothers start breastfeeding, but by six months, only 13 percent of babies are exclusively breast fed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers breastfeed for at least 12 months, and thereafter, as long as mother and baby desire. The World Health Organization recommends mothers breastfeed up to 2 years of age or even older.
That may be difficult for mothers returning to work, especially since most go back by the time a baby reaches 3 months old.
Pumping before, and then not again until after, work is not an option for many women. Not pumping or nursing for extended periods can lessens a mother’s milk supply, said Lindsey Cramer, La Leche League leader in Jamestown. La Leche League is a mother-to-mother support group promoting a better understanding of breastfeeding. And in addition a dwindling supply, many mothers complain waiting too long (like an eight-hour shift) is either uncomfortable or downright painful.
For Jamestown resident Stacey Hunt, however, pumping at work was “pretty easy.” She nursed her 9-month-old daughter and just recently weaned her.
Hunt had her own office and coworkers didn’t intrude when the door stood closed. Nobody said anything negative, but the process itself can make a woman feel uneasy, she said.
“It’s just weird to have your boobs out at work,” Hunt said.
And that’s just the stigma Benjamin’s “Call to Action” aims to overturn.
New mothers face many obstacles when breastfeeding, she said.
Some of them are time and fatigue, Cramer said. The stress of having a baby plus adding a full-time work schedule can be stressful. Moms should make sure to take care of themselves, she said.
“It’s hard to be a new mom whether it’s your first child or your fourth child,” Cramer said.
Another obstacle to breastfeeding at work is the public perception leading mothers to feel sheepish or embarrassed about expressing milk during the work day.
“Many barriers exist for mothers who want to breastfeed,” Benjamin said in a press release. “They shouldn’t have to go it alone. Whether you’re a clinician, a family member, a friend, or an employer, you can play an important part in helping mothers who want to breastfeed.”
The perception of breastfeeding in the U.S. is different than in other parts of the world. In Mongolia, for example, mothers breastfeed their children until they are 2-, 4- and even 9 years old, according to “Breastfeeding in the Land of Ghenghis Khan” an article by Ruth Kamnitzer posted on www.naturalchild.org. The Natural Child is a parenting site devoted to “natural” child-rearing practices. In Mongolia, women breastfeed in restaurants, city streets and even in the back of a cab.
“Instead of looking away, people would lean right in and kiss Calum on the cheek. If he popped off in response to the attention and left my streaming breast completely exposed, not a beat was missed. No one stared, no one looked away — they just laughed and wiped the milk off their noses,” Kamnitzer wrote.
That reaction is uncommon in the U.S. where a picture of model Miranda Kerr, also known as Mrs. Orlando Bloom, nursing her newborn son incited comments of disgust. Kerr posted the photo on her website, http://koraorganics.com/blog, on Jan. 18.
“What can you see? Nothing else that you can’t see in Victoria’s Secret,” Hunt said.
Hunt said one of the reasons she chose to continue nursing was the health benefits.
A study published last year in the journal “Pediatrics” estimated that the nation would save $13 billion per year in health care and other costs if 90 percent of U.S. babies were exclusively breastfed for six months, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Other benefits include baby’s resilience to disease and infection early in life. And mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of some health problems, including breast cancer and type 2 diabetes, according to womenshealth.gov.
Formula is not the enemy, however, Benjamin said. And no woman should be put to shame for not breastfeeding her child.
Under the new health care law, employers are required to supply a clean and private room (bathrooms excluded) for mothers to express milk.
At Jamestown Hospital, mothers work with their department managers to find space and time to express milk, said Ricki Ramlo, human resources manager.
“We don’t have a policy but we try to be family-friendly,” she said.
Ashley Miller expressed milk for her three children while working as a radiologist technologist at Jamestown Hospital. She said it’s a big commitment and not always easy, but she continues to pump now for her daughter Tessa, 1.
“It’s a really, really great thing for your baby,” she said.
In addition to the health benefits, nursing is typically less expensive than buying formula and nursing creates a bond between mother and child, she said.
Benjamin’s “Call to Action” listed other methods of making breastfeeding easier on mothers.
She said communities should improve mother-to-mother and peer counseling programs, health care systems should provide more breastfeeding education and employers should work toward establishing paid maternity leave, allow nursing mothers to have their children nearby for daily feedings and provide break time and private space for women to express milk.
Cramer said the most important aspects of a healthy breastfeeding relationship while at work are supportive daycare, supportive work and supportive family.
For more information, visit http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/breastfeeding/index.html.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at kryan-anderson@ jamestownsun.com