Big Decisions, Big Changes
Breastfeeding is getting a lot of attention these days. It even has its own awareness month – August.
It’s a topic of interest to me, since I’m a breastfeeding mother. I’m also a working mother. As you can imagine, that makes for some challenges. If you decided to breastfeed your baby, going back to work doesn’t mean the end. You can combine the two – breastfeeding and work – and many moms do, by taking breaks to express (pump) breast milk for their babies while at work, and nursing their babies when they’re together.
With my first child, I was a stay-at-home mom, and the year and a half I spent nursing him was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done as a parent. With my second, I knew I was going back to work after 12 weeks, but I was determined to continue nursing. And so far I have.
The Workplace Shuffle
It’s not always easy. There are the awkward conversations with co-workers about breastfeeding. There was the time I was almost walked in on, mid-pumping, because I forgot to note the Mother’s Room as “occupied.” There are the meetings that run over into my scheduled pumping breaks, when things start to become physically uncomfortable. I have to constantly remind myself that it’s worth the effort.
There are countless health benefits of breastfeeding for babies, but what’s in it for the working mom? Plenty! Here are five reasons to keep breastfeeding when you return to work.
Why It’s Worth It
- You become a queen of multi-tasking. While it’s nice to just close your eyes and relax for a few minutes while you pump, there’s nothing to stop you from working on your laptop or checking your work email on your phone. You don’t have to feel guilty about being away from your desk 2-3 times a day – you can take your work with you.
- You don’t have to spend money on formula. Save your money for a rainy day. You will need to invest in an electric breast pump, but some insurance plans will cover the cost of this purchase . Call the number on the back of your insurance card to see if your plan qualifies for a free pump. On the other hand, formula isn’t cheap.
- You can unwind when you get home from work. When I get home from work, it’s true that I have a million things to do – kids that need attention, dinner that needs to be made. But there’s no bottle preparation. And the reunion with my baby is made even sweeter by nursing her.
- You can exercise your rights. You have a legal right to a non-bathroom space to pump, and a right to use reasonable break times for pumping. At BCBSNC, we have really nice rooms for just this purpose in all of our buildings, each equipped with a multi-user, hospital-grade pump. About 45 percent of our employees returning from maternity leave use these rooms for at least some amount of time.
- You don’t have to do it forever. Though we’d like for them to stay sweet and little forever, babies grow up. They turn into feisty kindergarteners. Then they’re sullen teenagers. Then they (hopefully) leave your house. In the scheme of life, the time you spend breastfeeding and pumping at work is just a blip. Nor does it have to be all-or-nothing. Many people supplement with formula, and that’s fine too.
In North Carolina, only about 20% of babies are still exclusively getting breast milk at six months (in addition to solid foods), according to the CDC, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding at least through the first year. The World Health Organization says at least two years.
Breastfeeding is a personal decision, and there’s no right or wrong answer – we’re all just trying to do our best. But I hope that if it’s something you want to do, that you can do it. Despite all of the challenges, it’s worth it.