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Making It Work

Finding Support

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 13 No. 1, January-February 1996, pp. 126-27

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.

"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's lifestyle. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.

Situation

Working mothers who breastfeed need so much support. Those of us who work full-time do not have access to the same support systems that at-home mothers or even mothers who work part-time have. La Leche League meetings that are held in the evening instead of the daytime are helpful, but meetings are only once a month. If I have to miss one, it's a long time until the next one. Where do other mothers who work full-time find the support they need for breastfeeding, baby-led weaning, and loving guidance?

Response

I empathize with your feelings of isolation. When I was working full-time before my first child was born, I was so immersed in my job that I let a lot of time pass between visits with friends, so I didn't have much of a daily support network once the baby arrived. This problem was compounded when I found that my ideas about parenting (breastfeeding, baby-led weaning, loving guidance, etc.) were not necessarily the same as my friends' ideas. There are several places you can find support, though!

In addition to evening LLL meetings, you might want to see if you can take your lunch hour at the same time a daytime Group meets; that's what I did, and it helped me a lot. If you're really lucky, you can take a long "lunch" (it's only once a month), and take your baby, too. I also found great comfort in reading NEW BEGINNINGS and books from the LLL library. If you are unable to get to a meeting to check out books, your Leader may be willing to make them available to you at a different time. If you're not sure which books are available, request an LLLI Catalogue. No time to read? Try reading while nursing. You can also invite mothers you meet at Group meetings to get together with you after work or on the weekend or visit on the phone.

Over time, you will also find others in your community—outside of LLL—who have similar parenting values. Even if all of your parenting ideas aren't the same, you can find support for those that are. You might find these kindred spirits at your daycare provider's, baby classes, parks, church, and even at your workplace or through professional organizations. And don't just look for empathetic mothers—there are also many fathers around who understand and support your efforts.

Another group that is supportive of mothers putting kids first and that is sensitive to the conflicts paid employment brings to parenting is called F.E.M.A.L.E. (Formerly Employed Mothers at the Leading Edge, P. O. BOX 31, Elmhurst, IL 60126, 708-941-3553). Despite its name, it has a mix of mothers working full-time, part-time, on contract, or "sequencing"—taking a few years off to parent without distraction. They have local groups and a national newsletter. Their philosophy is not identical to LLL's but you may find some of their meetings and messages helpful.

I also think the on-line world (the Internet, America Outline, etc.) is potentially a great place to network with other mothers and find support for your parenting style. It makes sense that an at-home mother feeling isolated with a new baby could log on at midday, and a working mother could log on after work or on the weekend, to share questions and answers, tips, etc. I have heard of instances of this, but I don't have specific on-line addresses to contact. Maybe someone reading this can help us both out with a road map to cyber-LLL.

When all else fails, remember that you are giving your baby the best thing in the world: your love, your milk, and your touch. Hang in there! You'll be glad you did.

Marilyn Jordan
Albany OR USA

Response

I regret that I did not learn that LLL was a support network for breastfeeding until I joined LLL eight years after my first child was born, when I became a full-time mother caring for two children. My years as a working mother were lonely, and I missed the companionship of like-minded women. I would encourage working mothers to exchange phone numbers with other women they meet at LLL meetings whether they work outside the home or not. You could talk on the phone, get together for lunch with your babies or arrange a Saturday play group. Many women have husbands who travel and would appreciate companionship when their husband is out of town. Several of my friends from LLL and I enjoy a monthly "mom's night out" dinner with babies and toddlers attending. All mothers need the support and friendship of other mothers.

Laura Beasley
Huntington Beach CA USA

Response

I am lucky to have a job that supports breastfeeding by allowing me time to pump twice a day and also meet my daughter at lunchtime.

When I need a little extra support I go to the other mothers in my neighborhood. Some are home full-time, some part-time, some are also nursing, some are grandmothers. These are the women that are close by and have an extra ten minutes to share (which is all I have!) My life would be much harder without them.

Michele Bellah
Graton CA USA

Response

I agree that mothers who work full-time outside the home need a tremendous amount of support. Although I thoroughly enjoy the monthly La Leche League meetings, many of the women (as well as the Leaders) who attend do not work full-time outside the home. I get additional support from nursing mothers I have met at work or at my son's daycare.

The first place to look for support is at your childbirth class, while you are still pregnant. Try to get as many names and telephone numbers of women who are planning to breastfeed as you can. Check with your daycare provider and see if the mothers of any of the other children are breastfeeding. Don't feel awkward calling--every new mother is looking for someone to talk to.

Erica Roberts
Carol Stream IL USA

Response

I'm a working mother and sought support from my La Leche League group. I worked only part-time during my daughter's first year of life and was able to identify with my Group without much difficulty. I attended almost every meeting, but rarely saw a working mother return to meetings.

Nursing is my profession, and so I became a lactation consultant (IBCLC). In my role as LC, I enjoy supporting and educating mothers in regard to breastfeeding. I help mothers in the hospital or over the phone with pumping, sleeping with baby at night, increasing times at the breast upon returning home from work, etc. Working mothers can successfully breastfeed, enjoy baby-led weaning, and raise their children with loving guidance. I'm still breastfeeding my eighteen-month-old, and my children are raised in a very nurturing environment. There are things to learn to succeed at breastfeeding while working, but it can be done. Mothers need support, and many are available to help.

Carol Chamblin
Des Plaines IL USA

Response

I, too, feel I have no one to turn to. My daughter, Kathleen, is seven months old. I work full-time and, in addition, my husband works approximately sixty hours a week (a lot of evenings). I suppose the real comfort and support I get comes from the love my daughter gives back to me in our quiet moments in the recliner in her room. Tears still come to my eyes as she reaches for my mouth with her tiny hand while nursing herself to sleep. The comfort and recognition also comes back to me in the reassurance that I know she is thriving physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Veronica J. Albano
Schaumburg IL USA

Last updated Thursday, October 19, 2006 by njb.
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