Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Breastfeeding And Employment: My Experience

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This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on The Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about Breastfeeding and Employment. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!

I went back to work after the delivery of both of my babies and breastfed them long past their first year. Noah to 21 months, Seamus I plan to allow to child led wean.

I feel lucky being in the UK in that we get six months paid leave (now nine months). So I didn't have to deal with returning to work within weeks of having a new baby as my American friends do.

I was full time before I had Noah, worked up to 39 weeks pregnant so was able to return just short of his turning six months old. My work was very accomodating with me changing my work pattern, I returned working two 7 hour days, on a Tuesday and a Friday. I had introduced a bottle to him at four weeks old and had given him a bottle every few days filled with expressed milk to try to ensure that he would take a bottle when necessary without incident. He was happy to be fed by either method as long as his little tummy was being filled. I responded well to the pump and had a good supply.

When I returned to work though I found the pumping facilities lacking. At first I was told I would have to pump in the ladies toilet. Then someone else found out I was doing that and arranged for me to use the first aid room. However, there was no lock on the room, and water cooler was inside, therefore people would come barging in unannounced. There was a bed and a curtain in there and I took to sitting on the bed and putting the curtain around myself just to be able to afford some privacy.

Then there was the issue with pumping breaks. In a seven hour day, I was only allowed one half an hour break in the day, and that coincided with my lunch. So I would have to pump whilst eating, the first aid room was two floors away from my desk, so I would feasibly only have 20 minutes to pump, with the rest of the time being taken up with washing and drying pump parts, using the toilet, and walking back and forth to my desk. At home I had a baby that would eat every two hours or so during the day. So it was inevitable really that my supply suffered as I was away from him eight hours or so with only one opportunity to pump. At first it was fine but by 10 months or so he started to refuse my breast during the day and he was mix fed from then up to when he weaned completely at 21 months, having two bottles of follow on formula (he refused straight cows milk completely) in the day time and breastfeeding first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

When my second son was born two and a half years later, I was determined I wasn't going to let the same thing happen again. By this time I had looked into child led weaning and wanted to do this with him, I regretted prematurely weaning my oldest and wanted to go at least two years with Seamus. I stopped work this time a month before my due date, so had to return when my baby was five months old. This time, I was told before I went on maternity leave that I would not be able to have half an hour break when I returned, it would be fifteen minutes per day. Completely impossible to eat and pump in that time. So, I decided I would have to change my hours completely in order to preserve my breastfeeding relationship with my youngest son the way I had not been able to with my first. I opted to work three hours a day, five days a week, feeding him before I left and the second I got home. This way I would have one break of four hours each day without feeding including travelling time, but would not have to pump. This worked very well, I did go back to working three days at 7 hours a day when he turned two, but breastfeeding worked much better this time and Seamus is still nursing at 3.5 years old.

What do I think employers could do to improve the situation for nursing mothers?

Firstly, a decent place to pump is important. A lockable room, with a power point and a comfortable place to sit. Not a bathroom. A sink to wash the pump in after is nice but not essential.

Secondly, decent pumping breaks are a must, ideally every 2-3 hours or so. I do not personally expect to be paid for these breaks but they must be available, it's no good having a policy about providing a pumping room for lactating mamas if you don't actually allow them any time to pump. Amount of time allowed for a pumping break may vary between mamas. This should be negotiable.

Some employers allow breastfeeding mothers to have someone bring their children to work to feed them. I was advised recently that my work policy has changed regarding this and this can be allowed. I was told when my children were small that I was NOT to breastfeed on the premises by a senior member of staff. By this time I had already fed my son in the car outside. I never had to do this with my second son so it never came up. But glad to hear that this has now changed. This is very much preferable to pumping at work if it is possible, as it is much quicker than pumping, and allows mama and baby some time to reconnect during the working day!

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1 comment:

  1. This post makes some excellent points. Thanks for sharing!