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>Breastfeeding and working


Working and breastfeeding are widely assumed to be incompatible. The popular view of a career woman is perceived to be at the opposite end of the spectrum of womanly roles to the nurturing, breastfeeding mother. Even amongst those supporting women in the early months of motherhood, there is a perception that the two roles cannot be combined and that its a take one or the other choice.

I beg to differ. There are in face a small, dedicated group of mothers quietly combining careers with a steely dedication to breastfeeding. These working mothers have a determination to ensure that, despite their commitment to return to work, their children will receive the same benefits from breastfeeding as they would if they had chosen to remain at home with them.

Call us the working cows – we set off for the office equipped with breast pumps, storage bags and ice packs hidden in our handbags. Instead of having coffee breaks, we can be found in first aid rooms pumping away, usually whilst catching up on email gossip from the Mummy world on our blackberries. The stubbornness that keeps us working is the key factor that enables us to commit to hours attached to breast pumps, the indignity of explaining away bags of breast milk at airport security (especially when the regulations seem to prefer you to travel with baby, not without) and the comments from others that it is ‘better’ to switch to formula.

Better for who ? In my view not for my baby and certainly not for me. After a day away from my little girl, there was no quicker way for us to reconnect than to snuggle up for her evening breastfeed. Her smiles up at me whilst at the breast reminded me of the important things in my life and pushed away the worries of the work day in record time. And more importantly I knew that despite my choices I was still able to give her the benefits of breast milk, that she was still gaining those advantages and for me that made it all worthwhile.

I won’t pretend that expressing for a prolonged period is easy. It requires organisation and commitment but it does provide a real alternative to weaning from the breast to formula if you are returning to work before you and your child are ready to fully wean. There are great resources out there on the internet to support you in your decision and employers are gradually realising that providing privacy and a fridge are only the first steps. My employer is working with me to create a breastfeeding support group that will hopefully spread the word that mothers have choices and that you are not alone if you chose to go down this path.

This was published in the Summer 2009 magazine of the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers – they are a great organisation dedicated to support women in breastfeeding and training mothers to provide that support

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5 comments to >Breastfeeding and working

  • The Dotterel

    >I'm glad you beg to differ. Don't you think that the notion of breastfeeding and working being incompatible is just lazy, sterotyped thinking?

  • spudballoo

    >Bravo to you…you're absolutely right, it's not unachievable by any means. But it DOES take a lot of commitment and organisation, but your daughter will benefit from it and thus it's so worth it.


  • Clare

    >You're right of course, it's not unachievable, but it is difficult and time consuming, and therefore not for everyone.

    I'm still breastfeeding my daughter, despite working 3 days a week. I went back when she was 9 months old. She wouldn't take a bottle, so I couldn't do the expressing thing (and I have to be honest I wouldn't have – if she'd taken a bottle she'd have had formula – I cannot express for the life of me, I just get next to nothing out, perhaps because it has horrible associations for me of my son in SCBU and expressing for him.) She's nearly 1 now. It works ok. I feed her just before I drop her off and immediately after picking her up and then before bedtime. On non-nursery days she has 4 feeds, so she loses out on 1 on a working day.

    Far from ideal, but manageable for me.

    Well done to you for all the expressing, a great achievement.

  • platespinner

    >There are so many people who think it isn't possible to combine the two but I agree it is do-able. I was very lucky when I returned to work that my daughter was in nusery next door so I could pop over on my lunch break and feed her. I exspressed in the evening after she had gone to bed so she'd have milk to tide her over the next day. I had also built up a freezer stash of expressed milk in the couple of months before I went back which helped (although it is amazing how fast it goes).

    Those lunchtime feeds were difficult though, as it effectively meant two separations a day which was tough on both of us.

  • upthestick

    >I'm also a working cow :). It's hard, especially as I'm Captain Disorganised, but I'd much rather my baby had the option of expressed milk rather than formula. Just reading the ingredients list on formula made me feel a bit sick, so a bit of mooing and sterilising and washing up is worth it.

    I'm struggling with expressing, and The Baby doesn't really take anything from a bottle, but fortunately I have a very understanding employer who lets me work at home so I can pop in to nursery and feed her.

    I realise I'm in a very privileged position, but it would be great if everyone knew what their options were, so great article!

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