How can we expect 90 percent of new moms to breastfeed without support in the workplace?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  April 5, 2010 02:07 PM

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The importance of breastfeeding is underscored in the recent Health Care Reform law, which requires employers to provide "reasonable" unpaid breaks for breastfeeding mothers to pump. And a study published today in the journal Pediatrics make clear the benefits of breastfeeding: If 90 percent of new moms in the United States breastfed their babies exclusively for the first six months, researchers estimate that as many as 900 more infants would survive each year, and the country would save about $13 billion in health care costs annually.

Which is wonderful, but without paid maternity leave, consistent workplace accommodations, or a way to implement the new law, how are 90 percent of new moms supposed to pull that off?

Dr. Larry Gray, a University of Chicago pediatrician, called the analysis compelling and told the Associated Press that he thinks it's reasonable to strive for 90 percent compliance. But exclusive breast-feeding is easier said than done, at least for women in the United States: According to BusinessWeek, "Of infants born in 2006, 43 percent were breast-feeding at 6 months and 23 percent at 12 months. Just 14 percent, however, had been exclusively breast-fed for six months." And as any mom who has lugged a breast pump with her to the office for any length of time knows, returning to work can make it even harder to continue to nurse. 

Just 24 states, along with Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have laws relating to breastfeeding in the workplace. (Massachusetts is not one of them.) In Allen v. totes/Isotoner Corp., Ohio's supreme court ruled that it was legal for Isotoner to fire LaNisa Allen, the mother of a nursing 5-month-old, taking unauthorized breaks to pump -- and for "choosing to breastfeed" (Leah at Working (on) Motherhood had a great take on the case at the time).

Companies often encourage their employees to take advantage of healthy eating programs and gym memberships, but when it comes to facilitating breastfeeding, many working moms feel like they're on their own. "I pumped in my car twice a day, there was no other place to pump," Andysmama wrote at Work It, Mom! "I have pumped in 10 degree weather and 90 degree weather. I work at a ski resort, and many times would have to walk a mile just to get to the car." Julie B wrote: "When I first came back to work, the only place I could pump was in a public restroom with an extension cord running into the closest stall from the nearest outlet."

 

"Obesity campaigns, diabetes prevention... why isn't breastfeeding included?" asks Gina Ciagne, a certified lactation counselor and director of Breastfeeding and Consumer Relations at Lansinoh Laboratories who blogs at By Moms For Moms. "We really don't make it that easy. It's possible, but the burden is shifted on to the moms -- you find the room, you find the accommodations, you talk to your boss. What about the moms who don't feel safe to do that?"

 

"Inclusion of the workplace accommodation language in the Health Care reform bill is huge, but it has to be implemented," she adds.

 

One thing seems pretty clear: If it's in the country's best interests to have new moms nurse their infants exclusively for at least six months -- and the billions of dollars in health care savings indicates that it may be -- then new moms should get at least six months of paid leave in which they can do so. The United States and Australia are the only two industrialized countries in the world that do not offer paid maternity leave. And moms in the Outback have a sweeter deal than we do: In Australia, your job is protected for a year, but in the United States new working moms only get that guarantee for 12 weeks.

 

For many moms, dropping out of the workforce simply is not an option, so let's not feed into the stay-at-home vs. work-outside-of-the-home mommy wars here. But weigh in, readers (Dad are welcome, too): If you (or your wife) nursed your child, how long did it last? Working moms, did the end of maternity leave mean the end of breast-feeding?

 

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at lalphonse@globe.com.  

 

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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37 comments so far...
  1. My daughter is two and we are still nursing full time. First 7 months were exclusive breastfeeding. I went back to work part time at 3 months, and full time at 5 months. I nursed right before child care drop off, went over at lunch to nurse, and nursed immediately upon arrival at day care, as well as evening and weekends nursing. I also pumped until 18 months twice a day. My job gave pumping breaks, and offerred a locked room to pump in, and I bought a mini fridge for storage. Since maternity leave paid like in Europe will never happen in our lifetime, the key is being able to pump, or have close by/on-site day care to nurse at lunch. I did a lot of reverse cycle feeding also (more nursing at night, less in the day). It can be done!

    Posted by Amy April 5, 10 04:16 PM
  1. I SO appreciate the well-balanced approach to this issue in this entry and today's Boston Globe article. Thank you! I wish the article, like your blog, had also mentioned the paid maternity leave issue. I am one of the 12% of women who exclusively breast-fed my son for the first 6 months (and he weaned at 21 months). Hearing this, so many people assume that I'll be judgmental. But I've seen too many of my sisters and friends struggle as they deal with pumps, work, and cultural pressures. I don't feel anything but grateful that I had the freedom to stay home and sympathy for those who struggle.

    Posted by Carriefran April 5, 10 04:25 PM
  1. I was able to breastfeed both of my children for 12 months back in the 1980's. I took a split-time maternity leave and worked half-days during the last part in order to get myself and the baby into a workable schedule; the total was 6 weeks. That actually worked out well for my employer, too, as I was able to handle the most pressing items myself. The BF setting was not great, but the other women at the office "dedicated" one of the stalls in the ladies room exclusively to me for that time. It was kept extremely clean (no one used it for its' original purpose.) We had a good number of office smokers then, so my morning and afternoon breaks of 15-20 minutes pretty much equaled the time spent by others on the "smoker's patio." The milk was safe in our department's fridge until closing time. I wish every mother could have this chance.

    Posted by TM April 5, 10 04:49 PM
  1. I don't even think the absence of the Mommy Wars could completely solve this problem. I have never worked since my first child was born, and I was unable to cope with exclusive breastfeeding for longer than 5-6 months. Lose your baby weight, work out every day, keep a germ free and clean house, keep up with the laundry, shop all organic (including personal care products and cleaning products), prepare all meals from scratch including whole grains and eating the rainbow, keep to the budget, make time for extended family and travel, be sexy for your spouse, don't forget date night, don't forget quality time, don't forget to read with your child every day and limit tv to under two hours per day (and even doing that can raise eyebrows)...aye aye aye...impossible standards. Something's gotta give. Different women make different choices about where to stretch their time even when working is not a factor.

    Posted by RH April 5, 10 05:34 PM
  1. Yeah right.... Blame the employer or the myth that "dropping out of the workforce simply is not an option."

    My employer offers a "pumping room" -- a private office with a chase for worker to pump if they'd like. There's even a little fridge. The vast majority of new moms never bother after returning to work. The few that do try give it a week or two before giving up. While my company does it best to accomidate, no one takes advantage.

    As for those wheo "can't" drop out of the workforce, I see it all the time. The new moms say, my husband and I simply can't afford to live off one salary as they step into their 7-series BMW, wearing Prada shoes, and carrying a Coach purse.

    I compare this to my wife who left her six-figure professional job to stay at home, raise our kids, and breast feed the way you're supposed to (through human contact, not by plastic nipple). We did have to drastically change our lifestyle and reduce our expenses in half, but the whole family is exponentially more happy.

    Nothing is more important than the 3+ hours a baby spend each day embraced by his/her mother during breastfeeding.


    Posted by Andrew William April 5, 10 05:40 PM
  1. I read the article last week on "Nursing Nudges" elsewhere on the BoMoms site, and I think its interesting now that instead of calling breastfeeding supporters "nudges" we now find out a week later that, in fact, the nudges can save lives by encouraging women to breastfeed. According to the commenters on the site, "any reason" from the Mom is fine if they don't want to feed their baby. But now we know it can even SAVE LIVES. Seems sort of shallow to pick worrying about the shape of your breasts or what your husband/mother-in-law thinks over that.

    Posted by Issybelle April 5, 10 06:06 PM
  1. Myth? Not at all. Single parents, households with onw breadwinner, moms who carry the health insurance... There are plenty of situations in which dropping outof the workforce is not an option. -LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page April 5, 10 06:18 PM
  1. I returned to work full-time when my son was 12 weeks old and it was not a choice - my husband works as a contractor and I carry all of our benefits. I was lucky enough to have a private office (for a while) and female supervisor with whom I shared my desire to pump and continue to breastfeed my son. I pumped every 2-3 hours while at work and drove 20 minutes to and from my son's daycare to nurse him at lunch - I did this until he was 14 months old. He was breastfed exclusively until almost 7 months and never had formula. I survived thrush, being walked in on while pumping by a male coworker, many supply dips (in which I added pumping sessions, drank tons of water, and ate copious amounts of oatmeal), and when our company moved and I lost my private office, I pumped in the server room twice a day for several months. He is 19 months today and we are still going strong. He does quite a bit of reverse cycling so we bedshare for part of the night. I think of it as bonus time since I have to be away for part of the day. Bottom line is that it CAN be done. It's not easy but women have to be willing to make sacrifices and not be embarassed to ask for what they want. And employers have to be willing to listen and give these new moms the flexibility they need.

    Posted by Marisa April 5, 10 07:58 PM
  1. I completely agree its not all on the workforce. It starts with changing the mindset of the pregnant mother and young girls growing up. Get them to want to breastfeed, rather than it be a 50/50 toss up, get them the education that IT CAN SAVE LIVES, most societies outside the US do it for YEARS, get them this info as early as possible, then they own it more, push through the societal barriers, ask their employer to provide what is rightfully theirs. I am so happy this study came out b/c it quiets down what moms see all the time in magazines and store shelves. And guess what, if your employer won't provide a space, medela sells a car adapter and BRU has hooter hiders. If you want to BF, you will. The desire has to be there too

    Posted by 13moEBF April 5, 10 07:59 PM
  1. I am a currently BFing/working mom of a 5 month old baby boy. I work 8-4 and am lucky enough to have a schedule and boss that gives me flexibility during (most) days. I get two 15 min breaks and an hour lunch... all paid! My biggest problem was where to pump. My boss first offered his office, but this was not practical, I would be kicking him out three times a day. The next best option was a small storage room with a lock. I found a table and chair that were not being used and cleared a path to an outlet. I went back to work 8 weeks pp due to financial reasons. I have not had any major bfing problems as a result of going back to work... other than my sweet little boy throws a fit because I am not a bottle (aka he has to work a little harder to get the milk out of me)
    My boss was VERY uncomfortable talking about BFing so he doesn't bring it up to me now... and he handed over the storage room key no problem. My co-workers joke with me "is it milking time again?" I am glad everyone has had a positive attitude! I know that God has provided for my family yet again, my little guy is sensitive to dairy and soy so I have to be on a special diet...can you imagine in I had to give him formula? It would be many sleepless nights for me and a crabby woman at work the next day.

    Posted by Sarah April 5, 10 08:37 PM
  1. The point that we need more support for breastfeeding mothers from the top down is an excellent one! When I travel outside of the US, especially in Scandinavian countries where mothers can take a 1-2 year maternity leave (because they know it is better for society overall), I feel we are so inhumane in the US that we don't understand and prioritize even the most obvious and basic needs of a baby and mother. I have a Facebook fan page on this very subject http://www.facebook.com/pages/Employer-Incentives-Support-for-Breastfeeding-Mothers-in-the-Workplace/193252924268

    Posted by Granny Pants April 5, 10 08:41 PM
  1. Still going strong at seven and half months. I chose to go back to work at 5 months, and to reduce to a three day a week schedule, but by the third day I am sick of pumping and ready to be home nursing my infant the way I want to be. My company strives to be 'family friendly' but is lacking in terms of pumping accomodations - its the disabled stall in the ladies room, which also doubles as a locker room for the other 40 or so female employees in the office. Why is the US so far behind other industrialized nations in terms of supporting and nurturing the growth and development of the next generation?

    Posted by Sara April 5, 10 09:05 PM
  1. Give every mom a breast pump kit in the hospital, not a formula promoting diaper bag! I was fortunate to have supports to successfully breastfeed both my kids to toddlerhood. I found that breastfeeding helped me feel connected and kept them healthy as I returned to work. It helped that I had her infanthood summer off and did not return to work till baby Irene was 5 months old. Starting off with family and Doula support, private space at work, cooperative daycare provider, cosleeping at night and experienced moms advice helped me keep going. Avoiding obstacles and naysayers is crucial. Key times to get support is at birth, at overproducing 1 month, at teeth coming in 10 month, at don't be shy breastfeeding toddler and at enough already weaning time!

    Posted by Nora April 5, 10 09:51 PM
  1. This is going to sound funny but I loved pumping. I loved the break in my work day, the thought of feeding my little guy with my own milk and the $$ saved not buying formula. With my second child, my milk supply couldn't keep up with his demand so he got some formula along with milk the last few months of his first year before he weaned. Still, overall, with a borrowed pump I saved a chunk of change, my children drank milk at daycare and I was able to continue nursing morning, evening and weekends. I'm sure there are jobs where pumping would be almost impossible to accomplish but if at all possible, I highly recommend it.

    Posted by sumppump April 5, 10 09:54 PM
  1. I don't have kids. If nursing mothers get 'extra' breaks, then the rest of us should get them, too. Why should I work harder while someone else gets an extra break?

    I feel the same for cigarette breaks, too.

    Also moms taking sick days or unpaid days when kids are sick. This just makes the single people have to work harder.

    If my company were to provide on site daycare for someone's kids then I should get equal compensation in the money that parent is saving in daycare costs.

    Single people bear all the extra burdens at the work place. We deserve the same breaks.

    Posted by anon April 5, 10 10:01 PM
  1. You make a good point, anon. The Family and Medical Leave Act protects the rights of childless people, too -- you can use the time to take care of an elderly family member, if necessary. I'm glad you brought up the cigarette break angle, though I don't think taking a break to smoke a cigarette is on par with pumping. -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page April 5, 10 11:00 PM
  1. I am glad the health and lifesaving benefits of breastfeeding are in the news. I breastfed my oldest while working full time. It really was not easy but doable and I am so glad I did. I pumped for her for an entire year and loved being able to provide my own milk for her and nursing at nights and on weekends and vacation. With my younger children I stayed at home. Some sacrifices but to me totally worth it.
    New moms need plenty of information, encouragement and support.

    Posted by Kat April 5, 10 11:15 PM
  1. I returned to work 12 weeks after having each of my three children and pumped. My oldest is 12 and that was like the stone age of breastfeeding, so I exclusively BF'd/and pumped until introducing solids at 4 months - which was the recommendation at the time - and continued to nurse him until he was 12 months old, which again was the standard recommendation at the time. My younger kids are now 4 and 6 and things changed by the time I had them so I did exclusively BF/pump until they were 6 months old (7 for the youngest) and continued to pump until they were over a year old and nursed until they were 2.

    With my first, I shared an office with three other people and would kick them out and put a sign on the door when I had to pump. I don't know where I got the chutzpah to do that as I was 22 and single and in my first real job but there was no way I could afford formula so that was that - I overcame some initial discomfort and embarrassment and we all got used to it.

    With my younger kids, I worked for a larger company that has breastfeeding rooms with sinks, fridges and comfortable chairs so everything was easier and more discreet. Even someone who is shy about this sort of thing can manage with such support. I don't think we'll see mandated paid maternity leave in our lifetime but having this as part of healthcare reform is a great step in the right direction. Mothers returning to work and pumping should be the expected norm, not some rare exception exercised by the privileged few who work for progressive, supportive employers.

    Posted by Jen April 6, 10 12:34 AM
  1. Well you don't ask for enough. We don't just need 'breaks' at the paid job to permit us to breastfeed. That still looks on breastfeeding as a kind of pathetic thing we need to be excused to do, like blowing our nose. PIck up your courage and ask for what women really deserve which is value placed on breastfeeding in society, value placed on nurturing the young. It should be recognized as vital work and money should flow to new mothers with maternity funding, not linked to the other role, the paid role, but based on the fact of having a baby.

    It is offensive how much women have been conned into thinking we only have value if we earn money and we have to go hat in hand, on bended knee asking please sir would it be Ok if I took a few moments away from toting that barge and lifting that bale to feed my baby?

    The women's rights movement needs gutsier advocacy. Make government fund birth bonuses themselves, at about $5,000 per child as in Australia, and universal maternity benefits, and universal funding per child till age 18. It is about rights of women and if that is not convincing enough, it is for the children. We all know that babies need not just milk but love.

    Posted by Beverley Smith April 6, 10 08:12 AM
  1. I wanted to respond to "anon" about disparity in the workplace. "Single people bear all the extra burdens at the work place. We deserve the same breaks."

    I had a child later in life, so for about 20 years I was one of those single people who supposedly bore extra burdens. I never resented any woman who took breaks to pump. They weren't getting an extra break for themselves because pumping is super fun and awesome; they were getting it for their babies, who needed milk. We might not all be parents, but we were all once babies. So let's not begrudge them sustenance, okay? Those two 15-minute breaks aren't going to bring your workplace to its knees, and if your workload is severely imbalanced by someone taking two breaks a day (and every worker should get two 15-minute breaks plus one 30-minute lunch every day), then the problem is with your workload, not your coworker.

    Posted by EZ April 6, 10 08:59 AM
  1. I returned PT at 3 months and FT at 6, and pumped durig the work day until about 7.5 months... I had a private office to use (not my office and as there is a shortage of private offices in our building I did get the evil eye on occasion for going in there so often, though I doubt most knew what I was up to!), but I had to secure it myself and had to occasianally tell a male co-worker that no, he couldn't book it for the day unless he wanted me to stay home! I was spending too much time pumping and still not getting enough milk for the 2x /day DD ate...

    With #2 up and coming, I am hoping to work from my house full time until I am done pumping - this is somewhat harder for me mentally, but doesn't make one iota of difference for my job - baby will be at daycare, which is near home, so I hope to visit to nurse and obviously will be free to pump as required. Target this time, as last, will be 6 months and we'll go from there.

    Posted by canukmom April 6, 10 09:26 AM
  1. "If you want to BF, you will. The desire has to be there too."

    That's simplistic and also not true. I'm troubled by the emphasis that many comments I saw on yesterday's article and today's post place on the "choice" women make to not breastfeed. I see it as more of a "decision" which is based on many MANY factors for most women.

    Yes, lots of women MAKE IT WORK. But why does it have to be so darned hard for women who want to breastfeed in the first place? I don't know many women who did NOT have some sort of struggle to make breastfeeding work for them, whether it was an actual problem with breastfeeding itself or a logistical issue related to work.

    It's not enough to issue reports that say "breastfeeding saves lives" if it's not accompanied by a campaign to provide more support for women who DO want to breastfeed. Yes, plenty of women have been making it work ... imagine how many more women might breastfeed if there were some cultural sea change to provide compassion and support instead of marginalization and isolation.

    Posted by hot-tomato April 6, 10 09:41 AM
  1. I am about to deliver my first child any day now and I will not be breastfeeding. I have to return to work 7 weeks after I deliver because we are a two income household. I laugh at the comment about people using this as an excuse while we carry Prada bags and drive fancy cars. That is so off-base when it comes to reality.

    Although my employer does offer private rooms for pumping, there are not even in the same building as me and I cannot afford to jeopardize my career / relations at work by constantly disappearing to another building to pump breast milk. I've worked too hard for my place at my company and regardless of what is recommended, it is always frowned upon to bring your personal life to work in any form, even through breastfeeding.

    Paid maternity leave is the only way to get this number up. There is a correlation between how much time you have to care for your children and the quality of care you can give them. I only get 7 weeks to care for my child exclusively, while others may get 12 weeks, 6 months or longer.

    Posted by Sabs April 6, 10 10:15 AM
  1. I breastfed my first child for a total of nine months but supplemented with formula (my milk didn't come in for a week). I was working for a small company and there was no place to pump--no offices and a tiny restroom. I nursed mornings, evenings and more on weekends. My maternity leave fro my daughter was longer 4 months and I nursed exclusively and pumped/froze milk. I had a great milk supply, and an office so I pumped every lunch hour and refrigerated the bottles. I was lucky! I had a portable battery/electric pump that I left at the office during the week. My next job had no place for moms and some used a storage closet to pump until the company set up some rooms when a women's group formed. My current employer is pretty family friendly but with space at a premium, a "phone room" is the only place a mother can go to pump. To sabs--you can still do both. Try breastfeeding in mornings, when you get home from work and all the in-the-middle of the night feedings. Your milk supply will adjust. And I got more sleep because it took less time to nurse than fix a bottle.

    Posted by sandy April 6, 10 11:33 AM
  1. I nursed both of my children for approximately 14-16 months. My company provided a wonderful room where I could express. I planned for this well before the children were conceived. When my husband and I wanted to start a family I looked for a "family friendly" company that would pay for my maternity leave AND support my decision to nurse. I honestly do not know what I would have done had I not had an employer (and manager) that was both understanding and flexible.

    Posted by Karla Trotman April 6, 10 01:54 PM
  1. My kids are both now in their 40's and I breastfed them both for more than 6 months--BUT I WAS NOT WORKING. And I had the very active support of LaLeche League that got me through the breast infections and the sore nipples and the disapproving in-laws. At that time, there was no question of working as a new Mom--Michigan State University wouldn't let me attend classes while my pregnancy "showed" (and I was married). UK provides 6 months of maternity leave--if U.S. really cared about this issue, it could do the same

    Posted by Eileen Thompson April 6, 10 04:31 PM
  1. For the most part, our country doesn't believe in long leaves. Just like we don't believe in long vacations. We are a nation of workaholics. When I was working in a law firm, taking time off for kids or going part-time was not acceptable (beyond the bare minimum, which, I appreciate was longer than at most places). But, going beyond that point meant lay-offs, etc.

    In Europe, they have very high taxes, universal health care, paid maternity leave (some for as long as a year), and real vacations. People here don't want their freedoms imposed upon in that way. (At least, whenever I bring it up, that's what people say to me!) I would trade the ability to make a lot of money for lifestyle--but, again, would be reminded that it's not my place to impose that upon others.

    When traveling in 2001, we met a lovely family from New Zealand. Two months vacation was standard! That's how they could go as far as Europe for vacation. I explained that I was using up my entire vacation for the year for that 3-week vacation in July; they were a little surprised.

    So, again, I think it's our culture that is very different. Formula is felt to be there for a reason--to keep women in the workforce, no matter the consequences to anyone's health, now or in the future.

    I didn't end up going back to work after my first was born; I was fortunate in that regard, and appreciate that.

    Posted by Beth April 6, 10 06:44 PM
  1. I went back to work after 14 weeks for my first child and 12 weeks for my second. I BF exclusively until they were both 6 months and pumped 2x a day while at work during that time. Initially, when I introduced solid foods I thought my kids wouldn't drink as much milk, but that just wasn't the case. In addition to the 3 bottles/day they each had at daycare, I needed extra milk to mix in w/ the rice cereal! At that point, I started supplementing formula w/ the solids and by 7 months each child was up to 1 bottle of formula/day and I still pumped, but only once a day. By 9 months, I stopped pumping and only BF in the morning and at night, until each child was approx. 14-15 months.

    As for taking those extra breaks in the day, it was not to the detriment of my employer - - I work in a business where you charge all of your time to clients, so I had to work extra to still work my 8+ billable hours/day. I was able to pump in a small room (w/ a lock!) which wasn't necessarily meant as a pumping room, but it became one and has continuted to be used for that purpose for the past 5.5 years since my oldest was born. While I may have my own office, none of our office doors have locks (and each has a glass panel next to it) and I didn't feel comfortable putting a sign on my door saying "pumping in progress" or something like that - - I didn't need everyone else to know what I was doing. I did howeveer create a reminder in my Outlook calendar (marked private) so I would schedule the time in my day and people couldn't book appointments/meetings for me during that time.

    For new mothers, I would recommend, trying to do your best, but I do realize that it doesn't work for everyone. My initial goal was to BF exclusively until I went back to work and after that, I figured I would just see how it was going. I'm glad I was able to do it for so long, but even so, my kids still got sick, very sick, at times. BF is a personal decision and each mother can make that choice.

    Posted by AJC - Newton April 6, 10 07:27 PM
  1. One thing I haven't seen brought up yet is that it's my understanding from reading and from talking with my son's pediatrician that babies become ready for starting solid foods at some point between 4 and 6 months - the 6 month 'exclusive' breastfeeding recommendation is the absolute maximum to cover all children, but most can and should start on some solids before then. I think the goal of 'exclusive' breastfeeding until 6 months for all is not even a valid one - perhaps it should be 'exclusive breastfeeding until some point between 4 and 6 months when the baby starts on some solid foods'

    Also, I am baffled by the people who think it's a good idea to have year-long maternity leaves. I suppose there are some jobs in which it wouldn't matter to leave for a year (or two, or three, over a few years period depending on how many children you have) but it seems like there are more where this would clearly lead to a second-class status for all women of childbearing age - and an unwillingness to give them important responsibilities - that would affect the rest of their careers as well.

    I also question the concept that it is best for babies to be exclusively with their mothers for the first 12 months of life. I think that other loving caregivers, including fathers and grandparents as well as paid care providers, can benefit the baby.

    I have a two-year old son. I went back to work half-days two weeks after he was born, and full time when he was six weeks old. My husband worked from home at that time, so he took care of our son when I was at work until he was six months old and he started at a wonderful day care. I should note that I am not opposed to starting day care earlier than that, but the day care we use is on a school-year schedule, with entrance only allowed in September. My son is an absolute delight, and the close relationship he and his father have is wonderful for both of them.

    I pumped breastmilk at work at my desk in my own office, and my son received nothing but breastmilk until he was about 5 months old, when he started on some mashed fruit and moved into solid foods. I kept pumping at work until he was about 11 months old and his doctor said he could start on cow's milk, and he breastfed at night and in the morning until he was about 15 months old, when he naturally lost interest and self-weaned.

    Posted by elfette April 7, 10 05:52 AM
  1. I returned to work after three months. I nursed my daughter for four months exclusively, then (with a milk supply problem) we continued p/t until she started solids, and ended at a year when she was clearly ready to move on.

    I talked with my doctor, and she said that many working moms lose their milk -- she did, too, with three children -- and she said I held on much longer than she was able to.

    I pumped in airports, in the car, on international travel. I'm glad I did it -- my daughter seemed to get through the first year without health problems, even if it wasn't 100% nursing for 6 months. I have to work -- with a disabled husband, it was the only option.

    Many moms congratulated me when they saw me with the pump but many also shared stories about losing their milk. Although it's valuable for mom and child, clearly the stress of working and having a young child makes the 100% goal extremely challenging.

    Posted by Mary April 7, 10 07:17 AM
  1. Thank you for this balanced post and for not turning this into another mommy war article.

    I think support is really key here and breastfeeding and pumping if needed have to be viewed as the norm, not the exception. I have two children and work full time. I nursed the older for 14 months and the younger for a year. I pumped for a year with each.

    My workplace was very supportive. My boss worked with me to find a private place where I felt comfortable pumping. I'm in Vermont and last year our legislature enacted a law requiring workplaces to give new mothers accommodations for breastfeeding. My work took it a stop further and set up centrally located nursing rooms for new moms.

    Posted by Lisa April 7, 10 08:27 AM
  1. I smile at Eileen Thompson's post regarding nursing her children during what must have been the latter part of the 1960s decade.
    Most of us baby-boomers were bottle-fed thanks to successful advertising campaigns after WW2 claiming that formula and bottle was healthier and more sanitary than breastmilk and breast. Moreover by bottlefeeding you have stepped into the middle-class (or above) since only poorer, less educated women could not afford formula and were left with no other option. (Would make for an episode of "Mad Men" if it hasn't already)

    This baby-boomer personally attributes the reemergence of breastfeeding to some of the prominent songwriters of the sixties such as Joni Mitchell (we've got to get ourselves back to the garden) and other female folk singers who projected the earth-mother archetype. By the early 70's young mothers began to reject those "Mad Men" claims and re-embrace breast-feeding even if it was only for the first six weeks. Fortunately, breastfeeding had finally met its rebirth(!) and continues to flourish despite the uphill battle.

    Posted by Jeanne Dark April 7, 10 09:14 AM
  1. I'm glad that this hasn't turned into a breastmilk vs. formula debate, although they always tend to in some way!

    I went back to work at 10.5 weeks and while I had a locked closet to pump in at the office, my job entails that I travel to other clients often, and therefore I lugged my pump and cover with me everywhere I went. I managed to pump 2-3x a day for over a year in various places (bathrooms, my car, closets etc.) and was determined to make it happen for my daughter. She was exclusively BF for the first 6 months and then we introduced solid foods. She just recently weaned at 20.5 months and I'm pregnant with her little sibling. I plan on doing the same that I did for her, and while it's not always easy, I tried to make the most of it. While it would be nice to have all this paid maternity leave and all the bells and whistles, it's not going to happen anytime soon, so we have to make do with what we have.

    More support and education would help more mothers to be able to nurse as long as they desired. I work in a male-centered profession and the majority of my co-workers have been very supportive.

    Posted by Lostgrouse April 8, 10 10:19 AM
  1. My son needed supplemental formula because he wasn't gaining enough weight on breast milk alone. When I went back to work, he was fourteen weeks old. I could have just switched him over to formula full time, but I made the choice to pump and to continue nursing at night and on weekends. I weaned him at seven months, mostly because he didn't seem interested in nursing anymore since we started introducing solids. My company has two mother's rooms and I never once felt like anyone begrudged me the thirty or forty minutes a day I disappeared to pump. I shifted my schedule so that the time I was away from desk didn't affect my work (came in early or worked through lunch, etc).

    I do think we need a federally mandated paid and lengthy maternity leave and was disappointed the new health care bill didn't address that question specifically. It's disappointing that for all the rhetoric about how families come first, we still have so far to go when it comes to actually being able to do so.

    Posted by KMarie12 April 8, 10 03:25 PM
  1. Not sure anyone has mentioned that many women are fulfilled by their jobs, just like men, and shouldn't have to give them up entirely to give their children the benefits of breastfeeding. In my case, I would have ended up unalterably changing my career trajectory if I took more than 6 weeks of maternity leave. So that's what I did. And then was criticized by some in my field as "selfish" for "choosing to have a baby" at the stage of my career I was at, while was criticized by others as not putting my baby first. For many women the pumping/breastfeeding issue becomes symbolic of choices about career vs. family, which remains a significant issue for women AND men in our society. And while it's certainly doable, it is really hard to keep nursing when you go back to work and your milk supply drops off (because guess what, pumping is not the same, for either of you.) With the very strong support of my spouse and close colleagues, my daughter and I managed 15 months of happy breastfeeding, but it wasn't easy and did come with certain professional costs. Bottom line, I think it's a fallacy that this is somehow a question of individual choices and not about workplace policy and, even more, about the US culture of "personal responsibility" in which we don't prioritize (with taxes or policy) taking care of one another until it's too late to prevent problems.

    Posted by caz April 12, 10 11:18 AM
  1. I'm willing to bet that even if every Mom stayed home with her kids, there would still be a fairly high percentage that would not breastfeed for a full year. Maybe more Moms would start and many would go longer with it, but I maintain that the workforce is not the elephant in the room here. A major cultural priority shift would need to take place for every Moms to put breastfeeding above all else.

    Posted by RH April 13, 10 03:21 PM
  1. I was fortunate enough to get 6 weeks 100% paid "disability." I worked part-time 3rd shift. My DD was exclusively breastfed for those 6 weeks. When I returned to work, I fed DD at night before I left, she slept through the night, right up til I got home, where I fed her. I was living with my mother at the time, and she watched DD while I got my sleep in for the day. I woke up for the mid-morning feeding and the afternoon feeding, then I was up for the day. The schedule really got to me. I had known it might, so I had pumped extra for a backup supply. My mother took over the mid-morning feeding, feeding DD my expressed milk from a "nipple-like" bottle. After 2 weeks of feeding from an easy bottle nipple for that one mid-morning feeding, DD began refusing to nurse at the breast, and my pumping supply was lessening each time I pumped, taking 2 days of pumping each feeding to get enough for 1 bottle a day. I had to switch to supplementing formula with the expressed breast milk for the remaining supply I had stored until eventually she only had formula. I was very frustrated that it happened this way. I had hoped to breastfeed exclusively for a year. I was committed to it, but she just would not nurse long enough and would refuse it after that. I read everything I could, but I think I just didn't have enough because of lack of sleep. She stopped exclusively feeding at the breast at 8 weeks, exclusively having breast milk at 10 weeks and stopped having any breast milk at 3 months/12 weeks.

    Posted by Suzette September 26, 12 04:25 PM
 
37 comments so far...
  1. My daughter is two and we are still nursing full time. First 7 months were exclusive breastfeeding. I went back to work part time at 3 months, and full time at 5 months. I nursed right before child care drop off, went over at lunch to nurse, and nursed immediately upon arrival at day care, as well as evening and weekends nursing. I also pumped until 18 months twice a day. My job gave pumping breaks, and offerred a locked room to pump in, and I bought a mini fridge for storage. Since maternity leave paid like in Europe will never happen in our lifetime, the key is being able to pump, or have close by/on-site day care to nurse at lunch. I did a lot of reverse cycle feeding also (more nursing at night, less in the day). It can be done!

    Posted by Amy April 5, 10 04:16 PM
  1. I SO appreciate the well-balanced approach to this issue in this entry and today's Boston Globe article. Thank you! I wish the article, like your blog, had also mentioned the paid maternity leave issue. I am one of the 12% of women who exclusively breast-fed my son for the first 6 months (and he weaned at 21 months). Hearing this, so many people assume that I'll be judgmental. But I've seen too many of my sisters and friends struggle as they deal with pumps, work, and cultural pressures. I don't feel anything but grateful that I had the freedom to stay home and sympathy for those who struggle.

    Posted by Carriefran April 5, 10 04:25 PM
  1. I was able to breastfeed both of my children for 12 months back in the 1980's. I took a split-time maternity leave and worked half-days during the last part in order to get myself and the baby into a workable schedule; the total was 6 weeks. That actually worked out well for my employer, too, as I was able to handle the most pressing items myself. The BF setting was not great, but the other women at the office "dedicated" one of the stalls in the ladies room exclusively to me for that time. It was kept extremely clean (no one used it for its' original purpose.) We had a good number of office smokers then, so my morning and afternoon breaks of 15-20 minutes pretty much equaled the time spent by others on the "smoker's patio." The milk was safe in our department's fridge until closing time. I wish every mother could have this chance.

    Posted by TM April 5, 10 04:49 PM
  1. I don't even think the absence of the Mommy Wars could completely solve this problem. I have never worked since my first child was born, and I was unable to cope with exclusive breastfeeding for longer than 5-6 months. Lose your baby weight, work out every day, keep a germ free and clean house, keep up with the laundry, shop all organic (including personal care products and cleaning products), prepare all meals from scratch including whole grains and eating the rainbow, keep to the budget, make time for extended family and travel, be sexy for your spouse, don't forget date night, don't forget quality time, don't forget to read with your child every day and limit tv to under two hours per day (and even doing that can raise eyebrows)...aye aye aye...impossible standards. Something's gotta give. Different women make different choices about where to stretch their time even when working is not a factor.

    Posted by RH April 5, 10 05:34 PM
  1. Yeah right.... Blame the employer or the myth that "dropping out of the workforce simply is not an option."

    My employer offers a "pumping room" -- a private office with a chase for worker to pump if they'd like. There's even a little fridge. The vast majority of new moms never bother after returning to work. The few that do try give it a week or two before giving up. While my company does it best to accomidate, no one takes advantage.

    As for those wheo "can't" drop out of the workforce, I see it all the time. The new moms say, my husband and I simply can't afford to live off one salary as they step into their 7-series BMW, wearing Prada shoes, and carrying a Coach purse.

    I compare this to my wife who left her six-figure professional job to stay at home, raise our kids, and breast feed the way you're supposed to (through human contact, not by plastic nipple). We did have to drastically change our lifestyle and reduce our expenses in half, but the whole family is exponentially more happy.

    Nothing is more important than the 3+ hours a baby spend each day embraced by his/her mother during breastfeeding.


    Posted by Andrew William April 5, 10 05:40 PM
  1. I read the article last week on "Nursing Nudges" elsewhere on the BoMoms site, and I think its interesting now that instead of calling breastfeeding supporters "nudges" we now find out a week later that, in fact, the nudges can save lives by encouraging women to breastfeed. According to the commenters on the site, "any reason" from the Mom is fine if they don't want to feed their baby. But now we know it can even SAVE LIVES. Seems sort of shallow to pick worrying about the shape of your breasts or what your husband/mother-in-law thinks over that.

    Posted by Issybelle April 5, 10 06:06 PM
  1. Myth? Not at all. Single parents, households with onw breadwinner, moms who carry the health insurance... There are plenty of situations in which dropping outof the workforce is not an option. -LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page April 5, 10 06:18 PM
  1. I returned to work full-time when my son was 12 weeks old and it was not a choice - my husband works as a contractor and I carry all of our benefits. I was lucky enough to have a private office (for a while) and female supervisor with whom I shared my desire to pump and continue to breastfeed my son. I pumped every 2-3 hours while at work and drove 20 minutes to and from my son's daycare to nurse him at lunch - I did this until he was 14 months old. He was breastfed exclusively until almost 7 months and never had formula. I survived thrush, being walked in on while pumping by a male coworker, many supply dips (in which I added pumping sessions, drank tons of water, and ate copious amounts of oatmeal), and when our company moved and I lost my private office, I pumped in the server room twice a day for several months. He is 19 months today and we are still going strong. He does quite a bit of reverse cycling so we bedshare for part of the night. I think of it as bonus time since I have to be away for part of the day. Bottom line is that it CAN be done. It's not easy but women have to be willing to make sacrifices and not be embarassed to ask for what they want. And employers have to be willing to listen and give these new moms the flexibility they need.

    Posted by Marisa April 5, 10 07:58 PM
  1. I completely agree its not all on the workforce. It starts with changing the mindset of the pregnant mother and young girls growing up. Get them to want to breastfeed, rather than it be a 50/50 toss up, get them the education that IT CAN SAVE LIVES, most societies outside the US do it for YEARS, get them this info as early as possible, then they own it more, push through the societal barriers, ask their employer to provide what is rightfully theirs. I am so happy this study came out b/c it quiets down what moms see all the time in magazines and store shelves. And guess what, if your employer won't provide a space, medela sells a car adapter and BRU has hooter hiders. If you want to BF, you will. The desire has to be there too

    Posted by 13moEBF April 5, 10 07:59 PM
  1. I am a currently BFing/working mom of a 5 month old baby boy. I work 8-4 and am lucky enough to have a schedule and boss that gives me flexibility during (most) days. I get two 15 min breaks and an hour lunch... all paid! My biggest problem was where to pump. My boss first offered his office, but this was not practical, I would be kicking him out three times a day. The next best option was a small storage room with a lock. I found a table and chair that were not being used and cleared a path to an outlet. I went back to work 8 weeks pp due to financial reasons. I have not had any major bfing problems as a result of going back to work... other than my sweet little boy throws a fit because I am not a bottle (aka he has to work a little harder to get the milk out of me)
    My boss was VERY uncomfortable talking about BFing so he doesn't bring it up to me now... and he handed over the storage room key no problem. My co-workers joke with me "is it milking time again?" I am glad everyone has had a positive attitude! I know that God has provided for my family yet again, my little guy is sensitive to dairy and soy so I have to be on a special diet...can you imagine in I had to give him formula? It would be many sleepless nights for me and a crabby woman at work the next day.

    Posted by Sarah April 5, 10 08:37 PM
  1. The point that we need more support for breastfeeding mothers from the top down is an excellent one! When I travel outside of the US, especially in Scandinavian countries where mothers can take a 1-2 year maternity leave (because they know it is better for society overall), I feel we are so inhumane in the US that we don't understand and prioritize even the most obvious and basic needs of a baby and mother. I have a Facebook fan page on this very subject http://www.facebook.com/pages/Employer-Incentives-Support-for-Breastfeeding-Mothers-in-the-Workplace/193252924268

    Posted by Granny Pants April 5, 10 08:41 PM
  1. Still going strong at seven and half months. I chose to go back to work at 5 months, and to reduce to a three day a week schedule, but by the third day I am sick of pumping and ready to be home nursing my infant the way I want to be. My company strives to be 'family friendly' but is lacking in terms of pumping accomodations - its the disabled stall in the ladies room, which also doubles as a locker room for the other 40 or so female employees in the office. Why is the US so far behind other industrialized nations in terms of supporting and nurturing the growth and development of the next generation?

    Posted by Sara April 5, 10 09:05 PM
  1. Give every mom a breast pump kit in the hospital, not a formula promoting diaper bag! I was fortunate to have supports to successfully breastfeed both my kids to toddlerhood. I found that breastfeeding helped me feel connected and kept them healthy as I returned to work. It helped that I had her infanthood summer off and did not return to work till baby Irene was 5 months old. Starting off with family and Doula support, private space at work, cooperative daycare provider, cosleeping at night and experienced moms advice helped me keep going. Avoiding obstacles and naysayers is crucial. Key times to get support is at birth, at overproducing 1 month, at teeth coming in 10 month, at don't be shy breastfeeding toddler and at enough already weaning time!

    Posted by Nora April 5, 10 09:51 PM
  1. This is going to sound funny but I loved pumping. I loved the break in my work day, the thought of feeding my little guy with my own milk and the $$ saved not buying formula. With my second child, my milk supply couldn't keep up with his demand so he got some formula along with milk the last few months of his first year before he weaned. Still, overall, with a borrowed pump I saved a chunk of change, my children drank milk at daycare and I was able to continue nursing morning, evening and weekends. I'm sure there are jobs where pumping would be almost impossible to accomplish but if at all possible, I highly recommend it.

    Posted by sumppump April 5, 10 09:54 PM
  1. I don't have kids. If nursing mothers get 'extra' breaks, then the rest of us should get them, too. Why should I work harder while someone else gets an extra break?

    I feel the same for cigarette breaks, too.

    Also moms taking sick days or unpaid days when kids are sick. This just makes the single people have to work harder.

    If my company were to provide on site daycare for someone's kids then I should get equal compensation in the money that parent is saving in daycare costs.

    Single people bear all the extra burdens at the work place. We deserve the same breaks.

    Posted by anon April 5, 10 10:01 PM
  1. You make a good point, anon. The Family and Medical Leave Act protects the rights of childless people, too -- you can use the time to take care of an elderly family member, if necessary. I'm glad you brought up the cigarette break angle, though I don't think taking a break to smoke a cigarette is on par with pumping. -- LMA

    Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse Author Profile Page April 5, 10 11:00 PM
  1. I am glad the health and lifesaving benefits of breastfeeding are in the news. I breastfed my oldest while working full time. It really was not easy but doable and I am so glad I did. I pumped for her for an entire year and loved being able to provide my own milk for her and nursing at nights and on weekends and vacation. With my younger children I stayed at home. Some sacrifices but to me totally worth it.
    New moms need plenty of information, encouragement and support.

    Posted by Kat April 5, 10 11:15 PM
  1. I returned to work 12 weeks after having each of my three children and pumped. My oldest is 12 and that was like the stone age of breastfeeding, so I exclusively BF'd/and pumped until introducing solids at 4 months - which was the recommendation at the time - and continued to nurse him until he was 12 months old, which again was the standard recommendation at the time. My younger kids are now 4 and 6 and things changed by the time I had them so I did exclusively BF/pump until they were 6 months old (7 for the youngest) and continued to pump until they were over a year old and nursed until they were 2.

    With my first, I shared an office with three other people and would kick them out and put a sign on the door when I had to pump. I don't know where I got the chutzpah to do that as I was 22 and single and in my first real job but there was no way I could afford formula so that was that - I overcame some initial discomfort and embarrassment and we all got used to it.

    With my younger kids, I worked for a larger company that has breastfeeding rooms with sinks, fridges and comfortable chairs so everything was easier and more discreet. Even someone who is shy about this sort of thing can manage with such support. I don't think we'll see mandated paid maternity leave in our lifetime but having this as part of healthcare reform is a great step in the right direction. Mothers returning to work and pumping should be the expected norm, not some rare exception exercised by the privileged few who work for progressive, supportive employers.

    Posted by Jen April 6, 10 12:34 AM
  1. Well you don't ask for enough. We don't just need 'breaks' at the paid job to permit us to breastfeed. That still looks on breastfeeding as a kind of pathetic thing we need to be excused to do, like blowing our nose. PIck up your courage and ask for what women really deserve which is value placed on breastfeeding in society, value placed on nurturing the young. It should be recognized as vital work and money should flow to new mothers with maternity funding, not linked to the other role, the paid role, but based on the fact of having a baby.

    It is offensive how much women have been conned into thinking we only have value if we earn money and we have to go hat in hand, on bended knee asking please sir would it be Ok if I took a few moments away from toting that barge and lifting that bale to feed my baby?

    The women's rights movement needs gutsier advocacy. Make government fund birth bonuses themselves, at about $5,000 per child as in Australia, and universal maternity benefits, and universal funding per child till age 18. It is about rights of women and if that is not convincing enough, it is for the children. We all know that babies need not just milk but love.

    Posted by Beverley Smith April 6, 10 08:12 AM
  1. I wanted to respond to "anon" about disparity in the workplace. "Single people bear all the extra burdens at the work place. We deserve the same breaks."

    I had a child later in life, so for about 20 years I was one of those single people who supposedly bore extra burdens. I never resented any woman who took breaks to pump. They weren't getting an extra break for themselves because pumping is super fun and awesome; they were getting it for their babies, who needed milk. We might not all be parents, but we were all once babies. So let's not begrudge them sustenance, okay? Those two 15-minute breaks aren't going to bring your workplace to its knees, and if your workload is severely imbalanced by someone taking two breaks a day (and every worker should get two 15-minute breaks plus one 30-minute lunch every day), then the problem is with your workload, not your coworker.

    Posted by EZ April 6, 10 08:59 AM
  1. I returned PT at 3 months and FT at 6, and pumped durig the work day until about 7.5 months... I had a private office to use (not my office and as there is a shortage of private offices in our building I did get the evil eye on occasion for going in there so often, though I doubt most knew what I was up to!), but I had to secure it myself and had to occasianally tell a male co-worker that no, he couldn't book it for the day unless he wanted me to stay home! I was spending too much time pumping and still not getting enough milk for the 2x /day DD ate...

    With #2 up and coming, I am hoping to work from my house full time until I am done pumping - this is somewhat harder for me mentally, but doesn't make one iota of difference for my job - baby will be at daycare, which is near home, so I hope to visit to nurse and obviously will be free to pump as required. Target this time, as last, will be 6 months and we'll go from there.

    Posted by canukmom April 6, 10 09:26 AM
  1. "If you want to BF, you will. The desire has to be there too."

    That's simplistic and also not true. I'm troubled by the emphasis that many comments I saw on yesterday's article and today's post place on the "choice" women make to not breastfeed. I see it as more of a "decision" which is based on many MANY factors for most women.

    Yes, lots of women MAKE IT WORK. But why does it have to be so darned hard for women who want to breastfeed in the first place? I don't know many women who did NOT have some sort of struggle to make breastfeeding work for them, whether it was an actual problem with breastfeeding itself or a logistical issue related to work.

    It's not enough to issue reports that say "breastfeeding saves lives" if it's not accompanied by a campaign to provide more support for women who DO want to breastfeed. Yes, plenty of women have been making it work ... imagine how many more women might breastfeed if there were some cultural sea change to provide compassion and support instead of marginalization and isolation.

    Posted by hot-tomato April 6, 10 09:41 AM
  1. I am about to deliver my first child any day now and I will not be breastfeeding. I have to return to work 7 weeks after I deliver because we are a two income household. I laugh at the comment about people using this as an excuse while we carry Prada bags and drive fancy cars. That is so off-base when it comes to reality.

    Although my employer does offer private rooms for pumping, there are not even in the same building as me and I cannot afford to jeopardize my career / relations at work by constantly disappearing to another building to pump breast milk. I've worked too hard for my place at my company and regardless of what is recommended, it is always frowned upon to bring your personal life to work in any form, even through breastfeeding.

    Paid maternity leave is the only way to get this number up. There is a correlation between how much time you have to care for your children and the quality of care you can give them. I only get 7 weeks to care for my child exclusively, while others may get 12 weeks, 6 months or longer.

    Posted by Sabs April 6, 10 10:15 AM
  1. I breastfed my first child for a total of nine months but supplemented with formula (my milk didn't come in for a week). I was working for a small company and there was no place to pump--no offices and a tiny restroom. I nursed mornings, evenings and more on weekends. My maternity leave fro my daughter was longer 4 months and I nursed exclusively and pumped/froze milk. I had a great milk supply, and an office so I pumped every lunch hour and refrigerated the bottles. I was lucky! I had a portable battery/electric pump that I left at the office during the week. My next job had no place for moms and some used a storage closet to pump until the company set up some rooms when a women's group formed. My current employer is pretty family friendly but with space at a premium, a "phone room" is the only place a mother can go to pump. To sabs--you can still do both. Try breastfeeding in mornings, when you get home from work and all the in-the-middle of the night feedings. Your milk supply will adjust. And I got more sleep because it took less time to nurse than fix a bottle.

    Posted by sandy April 6, 10 11:33 AM
  1. I nursed both of my children for approximately 14-16 months. My company provided a wonderful room where I could express. I planned for this well before the children were conceived. When my husband and I wanted to start a family I looked for a "family friendly" company that would pay for my maternity leave AND support my decision to nurse. I honestly do not know what I would have done had I not had an employer (and manager) that was both understanding and flexible.

    Posted by Karla Trotman April 6, 10 01:54 PM
  1. My kids are both now in their 40's and I breastfed them both for more than 6 months--BUT I WAS NOT WORKING. And I had the very active support of LaLeche League that got me through the breast infections and the sore nipples and the disapproving in-laws. At that time, there was no question of working as a new Mom--Michigan State University wouldn't let me attend classes while my pregnancy "showed" (and I was married). UK provides 6 months of maternity leave--if U.S. really cared about this issue, it could do the same

    Posted by Eileen Thompson April 6, 10 04:31 PM
  1. For the most part, our country doesn't believe in long leaves. Just like we don't believe in long vacations. We are a nation of workaholics. When I was working in a law firm, taking time off for kids or going part-time was not acceptable (beyond the bare minimum, which, I appreciate was longer than at most places). But, going beyond that point meant lay-offs, etc.

    In Europe, they have very high taxes, universal health care, paid maternity leave (some for as long as a year), and real vacations. People here don't want their freedoms imposed upon in that way. (At least, whenever I bring it up, that's what people say to me!) I would trade the ability to make a lot of money for lifestyle--but, again, would be reminded that it's not my place to impose that upon others.

    When traveling in 2001, we met a lovely family from New Zealand. Two months vacation was standard! That's how they could go as far as Europe for vacation. I explained that I was using up my entire vacation for the year for that 3-week vacation in July; they were a little surprised.

    So, again, I think it's our culture that is very different. Formula is felt to be there for a reason--to keep women in the workforce, no matter the consequences to anyone's health, now or in the future.

    I didn't end up going back to work after my first was born; I was fortunate in that regard, and appreciate that.

    Posted by Beth April 6, 10 06:44 PM
  1. I went back to work after 14 weeks for my first child and 12 weeks for my second. I BF exclusively until they were both 6 months and pumped 2x a day while at work during that time. Initially, when I introduced solid foods I thought my kids wouldn't drink as much milk, but that just wasn't the case. In addition to the 3 bottles/day they each had at daycare, I needed extra milk to mix in w/ the rice cereal! At that point, I started supplementing formula w/ the solids and by 7 months each child was up to 1 bottle of formula/day and I still pumped, but only once a day. By 9 months, I stopped pumping and only BF in the morning and at night, until each child was approx. 14-15 months.

    As for taking those extra breaks in the day, it was not to the detriment of my employer - - I work in a business where you charge all of your time to clients, so I had to work extra to still work my 8+ billable hours/day. I was able to pump in a small room (w/ a lock!) which wasn't necessarily meant as a pumping room, but it became one and has continuted to be used for that purpose for the past 5.5 years since my oldest was born. While I may have my own office, none of our office doors have locks (and each has a glass panel next to it) and I didn't feel comfortable putting a sign on my door saying "pumping in progress" or something like that - - I didn't need everyone else to know what I was doing. I did howeveer create a reminder in my Outlook calendar (marked private) so I would schedule the time in my day and people couldn't book appointments/meetings for me during that time.

    For new mothers, I would recommend, trying to do your best, but I do realize that it doesn't work for everyone. My initial goal was to BF exclusively until I went back to work and after that, I figured I would just see how it was going. I'm glad I was able to do it for so long, but even so, my kids still got sick, very sick, at times. BF is a personal decision and each mother can make that choice.

    Posted by AJC - Newton April 6, 10 07:27 PM
  1. One thing I haven't seen brought up yet is that it's my understanding from reading and from talking with my son's pediatrician that babies become ready for starting solid foods at some point between 4 and 6 months - the 6 month 'exclusive' breastfeeding recommendation is the absolute maximum to cover all children, but most can and should start on some solids before then. I think the goal of 'exclusive' breastfeeding until 6 months for all is not even a valid one - perhaps it should be 'exclusive breastfeeding until some point between 4 and 6 months when the baby starts on some solid foods'

    Also, I am baffled by the people who think it's a good idea to have year-long maternity leaves. I suppose there are some jobs in which it wouldn't matter to leave for a year (or two, or three, over a few years period depending on how many children you have) but it seems like there are more where this would clearly lead to a second-class status for all women of childbearing age - and an unwillingness to give them important responsibilities - that would affect the rest of their careers as well.

    I also question the concept that it is best for babies to be exclusively with their mothers for the first 12 months of life. I think that other loving caregivers, including fathers and grandparents as well as paid care providers, can benefit the baby.

    I have a two-year old son. I went back to work half-days two weeks after he was born, and full time when he was six weeks old. My husband worked from home at that time, so he took care of our son when I was at work until he was six months old and he started at a wonderful day care. I should note that I am not opposed to starting day care earlier than that, but the day care we use is on a school-year schedule, with entrance only allowed in September. My son is an absolute delight, and the close relationship he and his father have is wonderful for both of them.

    I pumped breastmilk at work at my desk in my own office, and my son received nothing but breastmilk until he was about 5 months old, when he started on some mashed fruit and moved into solid foods. I kept pumping at work until he was about 11 months old and his doctor said he could start on cow's milk, and he breastfed at night and in the morning until he was about 15 months old, when he naturally lost interest and self-weaned.

    Posted by elfette April 7, 10 05:52 AM
  1. I returned to work after three months. I nursed my daughter for four months exclusively, then (with a milk supply problem) we continued p/t until she started solids, and ended at a year when she was clearly ready to move on.

    I talked with my doctor, and she said that many working moms lose their milk -- she did, too, with three children -- and she said I held on much longer than she was able to.

    I pumped in airports, in the car, on international travel. I'm glad I did it -- my daughter seemed to get through the first year without health problems, even if it wasn't 100% nursing for 6 months. I have to work -- with a disabled husband, it was the only option.

    Many moms congratulated me when they saw me with the pump but many also shared stories about losing their milk. Although it's valuable for mom and child, clearly the stress of working and having a young child makes the 100% goal extremely challenging.

    Posted by Mary April 7, 10 07:17 AM
  1. Thank you for this balanced post and for not turning this into another mommy war article.

    I think support is really key here and breastfeeding and pumping if needed have to be viewed as the norm, not the exception. I have two children and work full time. I nursed the older for 14 months and the younger for a year. I pumped for a year with each.

    My workplace was very supportive. My boss worked with me to find a private place where I felt comfortable pumping. I'm in Vermont and last year our legislature enacted a law requiring workplaces to give new mothers accommodations for breastfeeding. My work took it a stop further and set up centrally located nursing rooms for new moms.

    Posted by Lisa April 7, 10 08:27 AM
  1. I smile at Eileen Thompson's post regarding nursing her children during what must have been the latter part of the 1960s decade.
    Most of us baby-boomers were bottle-fed thanks to successful advertising campaigns after WW2 claiming that formula and bottle was healthier and more sanitary than breastmilk and breast. Moreover by bottlefeeding you have stepped into the middle-class (or above) since only poorer, less educated women could not afford formula and were left with no other option. (Would make for an episode of "Mad Men" if it hasn't already)

    This baby-boomer personally attributes the reemergence of breastfeeding to some of the prominent songwriters of the sixties such as Joni Mitchell (we've got to get ourselves back to the garden) and other female folk singers who projected the earth-mother archetype. By the early 70's young mothers began to reject those "Mad Men" claims and re-embrace breast-feeding even if it was only for the first six weeks. Fortunately, breastfeeding had finally met its rebirth(!) and continues to flourish despite the uphill battle.

    Posted by Jeanne Dark April 7, 10 09:14 AM
  1. I'm glad that this hasn't turned into a breastmilk vs. formula debate, although they always tend to in some way!

    I went back to work at 10.5 weeks and while I had a locked closet to pump in at the office, my job entails that I travel to other clients often, and therefore I lugged my pump and cover with me everywhere I went. I managed to pump 2-3x a day for over a year in various places (bathrooms, my car, closets etc.) and was determined to make it happen for my daughter. She was exclusively BF for the first 6 months and then we introduced solid foods. She just recently weaned at 20.5 months and I'm pregnant with her little sibling. I plan on doing the same that I did for her, and while it's not always easy, I tried to make the most of it. While it would be nice to have all this paid maternity leave and all the bells and whistles, it's not going to happen anytime soon, so we have to make do with what we have.

    More support and education would help more mothers to be able to nurse as long as they desired. I work in a male-centered profession and the majority of my co-workers have been very supportive.

    Posted by Lostgrouse April 8, 10 10:19 AM
  1. My son needed supplemental formula because he wasn't gaining enough weight on breast milk alone. When I went back to work, he was fourteen weeks old. I could have just switched him over to formula full time, but I made the choice to pump and to continue nursing at night and on weekends. I weaned him at seven months, mostly because he didn't seem interested in nursing anymore since we started introducing solids. My company has two mother's rooms and I never once felt like anyone begrudged me the thirty or forty minutes a day I disappeared to pump. I shifted my schedule so that the time I was away from desk didn't affect my work (came in early or worked through lunch, etc).

    I do think we need a federally mandated paid and lengthy maternity leave and was disappointed the new health care bill didn't address that question specifically. It's disappointing that for all the rhetoric about how families come first, we still have so far to go when it comes to actually being able to do so.

    Posted by KMarie12 April 8, 10 03:25 PM
  1. Not sure anyone has mentioned that many women are fulfilled by their jobs, just like men, and shouldn't have to give them up entirely to give their children the benefits of breastfeeding. In my case, I would have ended up unalterably changing my career trajectory if I took more than 6 weeks of maternity leave. So that's what I did. And then was criticized by some in my field as "selfish" for "choosing to have a baby" at the stage of my career I was at, while was criticized by others as not putting my baby first. For many women the pumping/breastfeeding issue becomes symbolic of choices about career vs. family, which remains a significant issue for women AND men in our society. And while it's certainly doable, it is really hard to keep nursing when you go back to work and your milk supply drops off (because guess what, pumping is not the same, for either of you.) With the very strong support of my spouse and close colleagues, my daughter and I managed 15 months of happy breastfeeding, but it wasn't easy and did come with certain professional costs. Bottom line, I think it's a fallacy that this is somehow a question of individual choices and not about workplace policy and, even more, about the US culture of "personal responsibility" in which we don't prioritize (with taxes or policy) taking care of one another until it's too late to prevent problems.

    Posted by caz April 12, 10 11:18 AM
  1. I'm willing to bet that even if every Mom stayed home with her kids, there would still be a fairly high percentage that would not breastfeed for a full year. Maybe more Moms would start and many would go longer with it, but I maintain that the workforce is not the elephant in the room here. A major cultural priority shift would need to take place for every Moms to put breastfeeding above all else.

    Posted by RH April 13, 10 03:21 PM
  1. I was fortunate enough to get 6 weeks 100% paid "disability." I worked part-time 3rd shift. My DD was exclusively breastfed for those 6 weeks. When I returned to work, I fed DD at night before I left, she slept through the night, right up til I got home, where I fed her. I was living with my mother at the time, and she watched DD while I got my sleep in for the day. I woke up for the mid-morning feeding and the afternoon feeding, then I was up for the day. The schedule really got to me. I had known it might, so I had pumped extra for a backup supply. My mother took over the mid-morning feeding, feeding DD my expressed milk from a "nipple-like" bottle. After 2 weeks of feeding from an easy bottle nipple for that one mid-morning feeding, DD began refusing to nurse at the breast, and my pumping supply was lessening each time I pumped, taking 2 days of pumping each feeding to get enough for 1 bottle a day. I had to switch to supplementing formula with the expressed breast milk for the remaining supply I had stored until eventually she only had formula. I was very frustrated that it happened this way. I had hoped to breastfeed exclusively for a year. I was committed to it, but she just would not nurse long enough and would refuse it after that. I read everything I could, but I think I just didn't have enough because of lack of sleep. She stopped exclusively feeding at the breast at 8 weeks, exclusively having breast milk at 10 weeks and stopped having any breast milk at 3 months/12 weeks.

    Posted by Suzette September 26, 12 04:25 PM
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Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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