Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s Make it Work!
by Carole Hahn, RD, LD, IBCLC
Many breastfeeding moms face difficult work situations that make continuing to breastfeed when they return to work a challenge. Such situations might include:
- the military mom who is deployed oversees
- the night shift fast food worker who only has a manager’s office with windows and a camera available to pump in besides the public bathroom and she works in a dangerous location in town which doesn’t allow their employees to go to their cars alone
- the ER doctor working a 12 hour weekend shift, not knowing when the next moment would be available to pump where there isn’t a medical crisis needing immediate treatment
- the meat packing plant assembly line employee who has to where full outer protective wear she has to remove and then shower before leaving the locker room to pump
- the dental hygienist who works for a dentist that adamantly has told her he never wanted to see her breastmilk; he was formula fed and turned out just fine
- the police officer who patrols in a squad car with a male partner and wears a bullet proof vest
- a waitress who needs to find a co-worker to cover her tables so she can pump in her car, which depending on the season, can be below zero or over 100 degrees heat index
- the receptionist of a busy office who gets treated poorly by the co-worker who has to cover for her pump breaks (yet the co-worker regularly takes smoking breaks herself)
- a clerk at a busy convenient store working by herself
- a business employee who regularly has international travel
- an employee who has to walk 10 minutes of her 15 minute break just to arrive at the designated ”pump room”
- a nursing student who was awarded a full ride scholarship at a university an hour from home in which she contacted her professors for permission to bring her newborn to class initially. Most instructors approved, however, one contacted the dean of the college to complain and the dean notified the mom she couldn’t bring the baby to class.
The above examples are some of the many reasons the theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week was chosen.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/, coordinated by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) http://www.waba.org.my/, is an annual celebration in over 120 countries. The 2015 World Breastfeeding Week theme is “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s make it work!” WABA calls for international action in supporting women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she claims her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.
So what “rights” do women have returning to work in the United States? Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, employers are required to provide reasonable break time to nursing moms until their child’s first birthday. The employer must also provide a private space, other than a bathroom, for a mom to express her milk. For more information regarding the law, please check out the Department of Labor’s “frequently asked questions” page at: http://www.dol.gov/whd/nursingmothers/faqBTNM.htm If you know an employer wanting to know how to better support breastfeeding families, a good resource is: http://mchb.hrsa.gov/pregnancyandbeyond/breastfeeding/ or http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/business-case-for-breastfeeding.html
Are you a mom returning to work soon? How can you successfully continue to breastfeed your baby when you’re with him or her plus continue to provide your milk while being separated? A couple basic points usually help foster success. One, plan ahead. Two, when you’re with your baby—breastfeed! Leave the bottles for someone else to use to feed your baby.
Planning ahead is key. This involves talking to your employer; Human Resources and/or your supervisor. Find out if your company has a breastfeeding policy for staff. Will your employer let you go back part time at first? If you work Monday through Friday, maybe start your first week back on a Wednesday or Thursday to ease your way back. Some moms are negotiating to do some of their work from home. Other moms may find a daycare close by their work so they can breastfeed during their lunch break rather than pump. Give your boss a general idea of your need to pump 2-3 times in an 8 hour day to express your milk plus, you’ll need a private space, that’s not a bathroom.
Most moms are receiving a breast pump from their health insurance provider. Pumping with a quality double electric breast pump is best. Efficiency is important! Every mother is different, but most pumping sessions take 10-20 minutes. Run the pump at the highest vacuum, comfortable setting. Hands on pumping is also helpful. See Dr. Jane Morton’s of Stanford University’s video on the topic at: http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/MaxProduction.html. Many moms find having a “Hands Free” breast pump bra invaluable.
You’ll most likely be very familiar with your pump by the time you go back to work as you start getting extra milk stored for the return. Time will be a factor on your side with this. If one month before your return you put just 2 oz. away in the freezer every day…you’ll have 60 oz. (or approximately 4 days worth) of breastmilk stashed. Many moms accomplish this by pumping after the first morning feeding and before bedtime when the baby has the longest sleep period.
Concerned if your baby will take a bottle? Start giving the baby a bottle by 3-6 weeks. Use a wide-base, slow flow nipple. Don’t buy a lot of a certain brand until you know your baby will accept it. Have the care giver use a paced bottle feeding technique. This is demonstrated in a youtube video found on the BRC website resource link. https://breastfeedingresourcecenter.org/resources/
A few days before the big day, do some practice runs with the care giver. This helps you and the care giver make any necessary adjustments. Have a discussion with the care provider about not over feeding (most babies drink 3-5 oz. per feeding from 1-6 months of age.) Also, discuss not feeding your baby shortly before you arrive home or pick up your baby. If it’s necessary to feed the baby shortly before your arrival, aim for a partial feeding. The goal… when mom walks in, the grand reunion begins for both mom and baby! Both are happy to be breastfeeding. Again- one of the best ways to preserve the breastfeeding relationship and your milk supply will be to breastfeed when you are with your baby-no bottles! On your day off, maybe even attempt some extra nursing sessions.
So- you can make breastfeeding when you return to work be a success! Plan ahead and breastfeed as much as possible when you’re with your baby. It’s worth it!