Help for nursing working mothers

In a few months, Carol Roberts will give birth to her first child. Like many mothers, Carol plans to breastfeed her baby for at least a year as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But, Carol worries about what will happen when her maternity leave ends. Will she be able to successfully nurse her infant when she returns to work?

No one can answer this question better than Jamie Mathews, mother of two. According to Jamie, determined mothers like her can make lactation in the workplace possible and successful.

“I was living in Denver when I had Dylan. Other new moms that I worked with were still breastfeeding after returning to work and my work was supportive by letting you take extra breaks to pump and providing us with two private rooms we could use for pumping. So, I thought I would try and see how it worked for us. It worked out great and Dylan was breastfed exclusively for ten months,” Jamie says.

Returning to work can be a major hurdle for new mothers struggling to balance working and breastfeeding. Lactation support programs like the one Jamie had at her job in Denver can make all the difference.

Jamie and her husband relocated to Pittsburgh when her first son Dylan was ten months. Currently, 24 U.S. states have legislation related to worksite support for breastfeeding. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania does not require employers to provide lactation support. Nevertheless, working moms who want to continue to breastfeed can make it work and no one can tell them otherwise.

“We moved to Pittsburgh and I started a new job that was not as supportive and did not provide a private room (you had to use the restroom) so I decided to nurse Dylan only when I was with him and use formula when I was not. He was eating more solid food and not nursing as much so that helped to make the decision easier,” Jamie says.

When Jamie had Colin, her second son, she changed jobs and made her nursing requirements clear. “When they hired me I was upfront with them about breastfeeding my son and needing breaks and a place to pump. My manager was fine with that and they provided me with a room that could be used for pumping (not a restroom). Colin never had formula and nursed for 15 months.”

Workplace nursing support is not only the law in many states it is also a “win-win-win” for mothers and babies as well as employers. Research shows that breast milk contains vital nutrients that promote brain growth and nervous system development.

While most people are aware of its health benefits employers may not realize that breastfeeding benefits companies too. Babies who are breastfed are healthier, resulting in lower health care costs and lower absenteeism rates for parents. Their mothers are also healthier, with lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes and even cardiovascular disease later in life.

An ideal workplace lactation support program includes a private area for women to breastfeed or express milk, time to express milk (approximately every three hours during the work period), and support from supervisors and co-workers. Nursing mothers should talk to employers to explain their lactation requirements. With careful planning and forethought, mothers can break through all the barriers that hinder lactation in the workplace.

Mona Chabra is a freelance writer from Sewickley, PA.