GUEST POST: Motherhood begins at conception and continues for a lifetime, and in the early days, a big part of caring for babies unique to moms can be breastfeeding. It’s not as easy as people might assume, especially when real life and work enter the picture. But countless mothers undertake that kind of effort to feed their babies by breast feeding, even as others make alternative plans.
Surprisingly, the New York Times recently featured four moms embracing the joys and challenges of breastfeeding.
The story took readers through a typical day in the lives of working moms, showing when and how they manage to breastfeed, pump, and bottle feed their babies. The reality is likely eye-opening for anyone who has not been around the day-to-day needs of a baby under one. We associate sleepless nights and round-the-clock feedings with newborns, but, as any parent will tell you, those wakeups and the non-stop need for liquid nourishment keep going many months after birth.
Medical experts have studied the health benefits of breastfeeding, and the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its recommendation for exclusive breastfeeding earlier this year. The group now recommends exclusively providing human milk for the first six months and continued breastfeeding up to two years and beyond. With that recommendation, the AAP issued a statement “encouraging social and systemic changes to support mothers who choose to breastfeed.”
As seen in the stories of real moms breastfeeding throughout an average day, many factors can significantly affect the success of breastfeeding.
For mothers working outside the home, how understanding an employer is of the need for a private pumping space and regularly scheduled breaks to accommodate pumping can derail extended breastfeeding.
Yet, many mothers aspire to breastfeed, knowing the health benefits and potential for bonding.
The New York Times notes that 83 percent of babies receive breast milk in the early days. By six months, however, the percentage drops to 56, with just 25 percent are receiving breast milk exclusively. Why the precipitous decline? As the stories show, committing to continued breastfeeding takes lots of work.
Mother Aleigha Harris told the Times, “Breastfeeding is a full-time, unpaid job. It’s time-consuming. It’s physically draining. It’s not free, nor can every parent do it — it’s not like turning a tap on.”That sums it up!
For moms who cannot breastfeed or adoptive moms, feeding a baby around the clock is also challenging and no less essential for the baby’s health and wellbeing. The formula shortage is unacceptable when our most vulnerable lives rely on its supply, especially children with specific allergies who need specialty products to survive.
One of the women interviewed, Dr. Laiyin Ma, an ophthalmologist, noted the irony that mothers in the field of medicine understand more than most the benefits of breastfeeding but often have work environments that are least conducive to it.
She said, “I really don’t think that people realize how hard it is for women in medicine to breastfeed.”
Dr. Ma, who now has a private practice, tries to take a mid-day break to pump. When she was still in training when she had her older children, she did not have her own office to pump in and sometimes had to perform long surgeries with no option to pump.
Another mother followed for a day was a public-school teacher who could appear in the piece on the condition that she only use her first name. Lauren combines time in the car with pump to work around having to pump during the school day. When she does pump at the school, it is in a closet. She said, “I feel extremely fortunate to have an extraordinarily supportive boss, and, even then, my pumping space is a closet with excess curricula, defunct technology.” Compared to many women’s working environments, this is seen as extremely supportive.
Lauren noted that her experience nursing her older son was extremely difficult and caused a great deal of stress. If the updated AAP recommendations had come out when she was struggling to breastfeed she would have been “devastating.”
Meaghan Nash, a mom of two and yoga instructor, stays with her baby throughout the day and opts for an on-demand feeding schedule which has her nursing at all hours. She remarked, “I just marvel at every mother. I’m like, ‘How do you do it? How do you figure this out?’ How are we all doing it?”
Babies, of course, are one of the reasons moms keep going. Aleigha Harris described the joy of her son’s greeting each morning, saying, “He gives me a huge smile and kicks his little legs in excitement every morning for the first feed. It’s honestly the best part of my day.”
It is not chestfeeding; it’s breastfeeding.
Only moms can do it, and the benefits are significant for them and their babies, and thanks to all the moms making sure their children are cared for from day one. No matter how a mom cares for those nutritional needs, all require employers working to facilitate healthy choices for young families, including breastfeeding accommodations.
Behind every working working mom should be employers who value their commitment to family and career who facillitate things like breast feeding that allow children to grow up strong and healthy.
Share this post