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Making It Work

What Inspires You to Keep Breastfeeding?

From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 2, March-April 2005, pp. 60-63

"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.

Mother's Situation

I'm six months pregnant with my first child and I'm planning on trying to breastfeed. I'm going back to work, though, and I think it might be rather difficult. I'm considering just breastfeeding until I return to work because I don't want to go through a lot of hassle with pumping and storing my milk. What inspires other mothers to keep on breastfeeding even after returning to work?

Mother's Response

There are many things that inspire me to keep breastfeeding while I work full-time, but my chubby 10-month-old baby boy and his big smile are at the top of my list! I highly recommend the book Nursing Mother, Working Mother by Gale Pryor. It will answer many of your practical questions about working and nursing. I also recommend that you speak with other mothers in your place of employment to find out where they pump and how they store their milk and supplies. Other mothers in my office were, and continue to be, a huge source of support.

Keep in mind that breastfeeding mothers have legal protections in the workplace in certain states. Don't hesitate to speak up and secure your accommodations before going on maternity leave. You have nothing to lose and your baby has everything to gain from your desire to provide him with only your milk while you are separated.

By default, working has made breastfeeding the easiest alternative for nourishing my son. Yes, handling, storing, and preparing bottles for his care provider does take time, but knowing that he is getting the very best while I am not able to be with him makes all the difference in the world. Leaving him every morning is the hardest thing I do each day. To make up for lost time, cosleeping has become a way for our family to reconnect and share more time together. I have also eliminated all non-essential activities and commitments so that we can spend as much time together as possible. In my opinion, weaning at the time I returned to work would have only increased the amount of stress for me and my son. I know that I will reconnect with him at the end of the day in this very special way, which no care provider can replicate. I am irreplaceable. I am his mother! Watching him crawl toward me when I walk in the door after work, with a big grin on his face, and climb into my arms eager to nurse makes our separation a little more bearable.

Sage Drake
Independence MO USA

Mother's Response

I am a postpartum doula who works with mothers in their homes after they've had their babies. I am inspired by the thought you are putting into this very important decision. Many of my clients return or will be returning to work, and almost all of them breastfeed. Many plan to give breastfeeding a try, at least until they return to work. Quite simply, what inspires them to continue are their babies! I find that once they have established their nursing relationship, they quickly learn that the benefits of continuing to nurse and/or pump outweigh the challenges of working and breastfeeding.

My clients find returning to work difficult enough without giving up the closeness they experience through nursing their babies. Also, the often tough decision of leaving a baby in someone else's care is made easier by knowing that their babies are still thriving and benefiting from the milk only they can provide. They find their babies are often healthier than other babies in their day care centers who don't have the bonus of their mother's own immunity-boosting milk.

You probably know all the benefits of breastfeeding, which turn out to be the predominant reasons why mothers choose to continue. However, the missing ingredient here for you is your baby. It can be rather hard to make decisions about how you will be with your baby when you haven't even met one another yet. Once you have nursed him or her and have some experience, it will become clearer to you whether you want to continue breastfeeding while working.

There are plenty of resources, such as LLL meetings and other support groups, books, videos, and postpartum doulas, to help should you choose to continue breastfeeding after returning to work. And, if you decide not to continue providing your milk for your baby, pat yourself on the back for giving him or her a wonderful start in life. It's a gift to your baby and yourself that only you can give.

Pamela Diamond
Raleigh NC USA

Mother's Response

I have been back at work since my son was 11 weeks old, and he is now approaching the eight month mark. We are still breastfeeding full-time since he clearly enjoys my milk more than baby food. I was inspired to continue breastfeeding for a number of reasons.

Since Robert is in day care while I am working, I want to be sure that he has the immunity boost that breastfeeding provides. I also love the fact that my milk is my connection to him when I'm away.

I found that pumping was not as much of a hassle as I thought it would be once I had a routine established. I pump twice a day for 15 minutes and I nurse Robert on my lunch break. We return to full-time nursing on any days off. Storing milk is easy. There are plenty of bottle systems that adapt to my pump so that I can pump directly into the bottle. Then, it goes right into the refrigerator or freezer.

I am the only one who can provide my son with the gift of milk. Even though someone else needs to care for him during the day, I know that I am still nurturing and fostering his growth.

Elizabeth Piccinnini
Hackettstown NJ USA

Mother's Response

I went back to work part-time when my daughter was 11 weeks old and returned to full-time work by the time she was about four months old. I continued to pump at work for the next five months. It was challenging because I shared an office with a male colleague. An older woman who had breastfed both her children helped me to find an unoccupied room where I could lock the door and pump in privacy. My decision to pump at work was inspired by reading THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING while pregnant and noting the numerous health benefits of human milk. I also began attending La Leche League meetings when my daughter was five weeks old—this was another inspiration.

I continued pumping at work for as long as I could because that time during my busy work day allowed me to stop and think about my daughter for at least 20 minutes regardless of what else was going on. I also felt that this was something that I could do for her that no one else could.

Pumping is not that difficult. Storing the milk is relatively straightforward as long as you follow a few guidelines. I read Nursing Mother, Working Mother for extra tips on stockpiling frozen milk before going back to work. Give pumping a try. You might be surprised to see how quickly you are able to establish a workable routine.

Cheryl Morgen

Mother's Response

I planned on weaning before I returned to work full-time as a middle school teacher. I knew it would be difficult to find the time and privacy to pump at school. However, I felt that leaving my then six-month-old son all day was a big enough change for the time being. He is now 10 months old and our nursing sessions are a great way for us to bond and reconnect at the end of the day. At work, I am able to pump while eating my lunch. My pump has a cooler compartment, which makes it convenient to store my milk.

Investing in a high quality pump will be worth your while. It will also help to have supporters around you who understand your choice to breastfeed. This can be tough at work. If questioned, I usually explain that "Breastfeeding is a very personal choice and it is working best for our family right now."

My husband is a huge supporter as well as my sister, who also happens to be our day care provider. Finding an understanding day care provider and educating her on storing and handling human milk will also help ease your mind while at work.

Knowing that you are providing the best nutrition and comfort for your baby while you are away should reassure you that you are making the right decision. The greeting I receive from my son at the end of the day as he curls up in my arms to nurse reminds me that I've made a great choice. I can't imagine nursing not being a part our relationship!

Wendy Hutchison
Pittsburgh PA USA

Mother's Response

Having just nursed my five-month-old son to sleep, I can say that this is one of the ways I enjoy mothering him best. I returned to work full-time six weeks after he was born. I purchased a high-quality electric pump and I pump twice a day in the privacy of my office. I am fortunate to have this privacy and a boss who supports my desire to continue breastfeeding.

I see formula feeding as a much bigger hassle with constant preparation and bottle washing. Whether we're at home, shopping, at a restaurant, or visiting relatives, the easiest and simplest way to feed him is breastfeeding. There's nothing else to pack, prepare, or warm up. I've found that my son can go from happy to hungry in a matter of seconds and I can feed him immediately instead of listening to him wail while a bottle is being prepared.

I began breastfeeding because I knew it was healthiest for my baby. At first I viewed him as my needy ball and chain or a time bomb that might go off at 3 am or in the long line at the grocery store. I never realized how much I would grow to appreciate the closeness of breastfeeding. Watching my drowsy, satisfied son fall asleep at the breast in contentment is a joy. I also feel pride when I look at my chubby son and realize that I alone have nourished him through pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Pumping isn't glamorous or effortless. The first time I used a pump I felt like a cow hooked up to a milking machine. Forty minutes of my work day is devoted to pumping and it can be a hassle to stop in the middle of a project to pump, but the benefit is continued breastfeeding when I'm with my son. If you give up breastfeeding to avoid pumping, you'll also miss out on all the great close times you could have with your child on nights and weekends. Breastfeeding is healthiest, but I continue to breastfeed and pump because some of the moments I cherish most are when I'm nursing my son.

Elizabeth Emmert
Salisbury MD USA

Mother's Response

My son is 11 months old and I have been working full-time since he was eight weeks old. He has been exclusively breastfed the entire time. I totally understand the concerns about it being difficult to go back to work; however, here is what inspires me to pump.

My son is healthy because of my milk. Watching him grow and hearing from the pediatrician about how healthy he is is truly the ultimate reward. I also have to take less time off from work due to illness than the other mothers at work who do not breastfeed.

For me, pumping is impersonal and boring so I work while I pump. I close the door to my office and keep on working. There are "hands free bras" on the market to facilitate this. I find that this time is actually very productive because my door is closed and the time is uninterrupted.

My baby's care provider is minutes from work. This allows me to breastfeed him one last time in the mornings before going to work. I spend every lunch break with my son to breastfeed him. I find that this breaks the day up for us nicely and I feel as though I am a part of his day no matter what!

He is growing up so quickly. I feel confident that I have done the best I possibly could for him during his first year of life. I cannot imagine a better way to start the lives of our children, than to breastfeed.

Cynthia Spidell
Odessa FL USA

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