Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Triumphant Tuesday: Working and Pumping

Employment shouldn't spell curtains for nursing mothers. Not only is breastfeeding best for mother and baby, it is also in the employer's best interest. Employers who accommodate breastfeeding retain experienced employees; have a reduction in sick time taken by both moms and dads for children's illnesses; and enjoy lower health care and insurance costs. Win-Win!

Yet despite these incentives, the marriage of work and lactation is a rocky road for many. In 2009, the Society for Human Resource Management reported that only 25 percent of companies had lactation programs or made special accommodations for breastfeeding (SHRM 2009). Furthermore, these employers do not specify whether this means there is a private room in which to pump on-site, professional lactation support, subsidies for breast-pump purchases, or whether the “lactation program” consists of no more than allowing employees to pump in their own offices.

To make matters worse, many mothers encounter pressure from coworkers and supervisors not to take breaks to express breast milk, and existing breaks often do not allow sufficient time for expression (Rojjanasrirat 2004). What’s more, small businesses (fewer than 100 employees) are the least likely to have lactation programs, and whether the workplace is large or small, infants are generally not allowed to be there.

So how does this pan out for working moms? Meet Chantie. Forced to return to employment, having to navigate erratic pumping facilities and a bullying boss, then being stopped by customs officials for travelling with a breast milk ‘bomb’ – it’s all in a day’s work...

One of my first pregnancy memories was sheer confusion at the information and disinformation. I expected the birth experience would be the hard part, but the "feeding" portion was much more stressful. I received so much unsolicited advice.

Not-so-subtle formula-pushing

At the hospital, they did a nursing consult for me to see if I was doing something wrong. I was told that my technique was fine, but that sometimes it takes time for the milk to come in. The shift nurse told me that I wasn't getting any sleep since my baby was hungry. She was telling me that if I would give her a bottle that I would get more than an hour of sleep.

After we went home, we were back and forth to the pediatrician as my daughter just was not regaining her birth weight. I was sent home with a directive to start supplementing with formula.  I was very disappointed with this turn. It came with a lot of unsolicited advice on how I should just stop breast feeding and switch to formula, how it was easier, etc. I did the research on a lot of the homeopathic treatments that were aimed at increasing my supply with minimal success.

Back to work

I was able to stay at home with my daughter until she was three months old. Then, being back at the office translated to pumping for me. Work had a mother's room with a refrigerator for the pumping moms, so that made it easier.  The room had 7 stations, and only pumping moms had the code for the door.  5 of the stations had a commercial pump, and each mom could buy the piston attachment kit to use them. I worked hard at pumping and feeding to give my daughter the best start possible. 

Over the course of the year, I travelled to other office campuses on day trips, and made use of their pumping rooms. For one campus, there were no pumps in the room, so I brought along my own. On one trip home, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) officer could not understand WHY I had breast milk with me but no baby. I tried to explain that my baby was at home, and that I was travelling for business. I was simply bringing home the milk for her later usage that I had pumped on the trip. After more than 20 minutes of questions and the bomb test for each bottle of milk, I finally asked for a female supervisor. I did make it thru security eventually, but it was just beyond me why he had such a hard time understand why I had milk with me along with a breast pump.

Troublesome boss

However my boss, who had her daughter a day after me, was the one that caused the most stress. I had returned to work and was there for about a month before she came back. I know that she was breastfeeding, but she would still book meetings over my scheduled pumping times.

Also, despite us negotiating no travel for a year, at around 9-10 months, my boss tried to bully me into a 3 week business trip to Europe. I turned it down and made it the year point.

My daughter is incredibly healthy and happy, and I think her good start has a lot to do with that. To me, my body makes milk and it includes everything that she needs. It's kind of like you can buy fast food and it's food, but it's a lower quality than if you made the same items yourself. While I acknowledge that formula has a place, I just do not think that it is as good as what my body made for her. I try to limit our diet to limited processed food, organic, etc. That just really isn't the case with formula, at least it sure doesn't look like it when you look at the ingredients.

My best advise...do your research, listen to your heart, and do what you think is right. Breast feeding was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it as it was an unrepeatable bonding experience for my daughter and I.”

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