Celebrating Breastfeeding: The Benefits, Challenges and Your Rights

By Cassandra HealthMotherhood

Breastfeeding

As a mom that cares deeply about nutrition, that care is magnified threefold when it comes to my three babies. Like any mom, I want my kids to get the best start in life and, for me, part of that means breastfeeding my little ones. It is completely up to you as a mother whether or not you breastfeed and if you’re not able to or choose not to, formula now available on the market is leaps and bounds ahead of where it used to be and is a completely safe alternative. I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed all three of my girls, so I did (and still do). Today I’m sharing some of the challenges I encountered while breastfeeding as a working mom and how I was able to work through them, how society is changing to support breastfeeding and working moms and what your rights are if you do decide to breastfeed your little one.

My work life was vastly different for each of my girls. I breastfed my first daughter, Divinaka, for 17 and a half months around the clock all while I was in a Ph.D. program for psychology, helping to start a holistic wellness center in San Diego and just starting to get Once Upon a Farm off the ground. With Skyla, my second daughter, I was working full time at Once Upon a Farm and breastfed her 24-7 until she 18 months old (the few Once Upon a Farm employees we had at the time were working out of my house, so I was able to feed her whenever she was hungry). With Solkaiya, my third daughter, I plan to breastfeed for at least a year, if not longer. She’s currently 11 months old and I’ve been able to go into work (no longer our home, but an actual office!), travel quite a bit and breastfeed her regularly as well.

How?

Let me start by saying that because I own my own business, I’ve had the luxury of flexibility when it comes to my schedule. I’m able to work from home when necessary, for example, and am surrounded by supportive team members (almost all parents), but the flip side of having your own business is that your work day doesn’t end at 5pm. Because of this, I need to make a conscious effort to make breastfeeding and pumping a priority. The old adage “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is true when it comes to breastfeeding and the key to ensuring your little one what they need is to eat enough and stay on a regular schedule (calendar reminders are your friend!). This can mean interrupting meetings or calls to take a break or leaving early which can be uncomfortable to communicate, but I do it anyway because it’s important to me and it’s important for my baby.

Where?

Oh, the places you’ll pump! Finding a location to pump or breastfeed isn’t always easy but I’ve found ways around it wherever I am. From airport and airplane bathrooms to cars and even under a desk in a room that only has open windows, I’ve pumped in many places. Society may not be totally set up to support the working mom quite yet, but I believe that we’re getting closer. MAMAVA nursing pods in airports, for example, are becoming more prevalent and offer a nice private room instead of sitting in a bathroom stall with a wireless pump. We’re also building out a pumping/breastfeeding room at Once Upon a Farm where moms can pump whenever they need and are focusing on creating an environment in which there is no shame to take a break to pump as often as you need.

Why?

Aside from wanting and needing to provide nourishment for your baby, breastfeeding is your legal right. In fact, publicly breastfeeding was just recently made legal in all 50 states! When it comes to working outside the home and breastfeeding, the extra energy, work, commitment and sometimes added pressure of an unsupportive work environment (1) can lead to a shorter breastfeeding duration compared to mothers who stay at home or work from home (2). This needs to change. Companies need to support the working mom and that support needs to trickle down from the top. CEOs and Boards need to encourage and foster a supportive environment for the working mom so we can collectively support a culture where moms can breastfeed.

Your Rights:

  • Public breastfeeding is now legal in all 50 states!
  • Reasonable break time at work:
    • Obama’s provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010 states employers with greater than 50 employees must provide reasonable break time for nursing moms.
  • A private room at work:
    • According to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers need to provide a private room for breastfeeding and/or pumping. (3)
  • Costs of breast pumps and lactation consultants are covered through insurance
  • You can fly with an unlimited amount of breastmilk and you do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk (also your pump does not count as a carry-on item with most airlines, but be sure to check beforehand).
  • In California, jury duty is optional for breastfeeding mothers (click here for more laws by state).

For me, all of these challenges have been worth it. I have been lucky enough to be able to breastfeed all three of my girls and willing to make the sacrifice and bear the challenges as I see them because the bonding moments I get with my daughters as well as the assurance that I’m setting them up for a lifetime of health both outweigh all the hardships. Now it’s time to rally together to ensure any other working moms have the same experience or the option if they want.

Sources:

  • Duration of breast milk expression among working mothers enrolled in an employer-sponsored lactation program. Ortiz J, McGilligan K, Kelly P Pediatr Nurs. 2004 Mar-Apr; 30(2):111-9.
  • Murtagh, Lindsey, and Anthony D. Moulton. “Working Mothers, Breastfeeding, and the Law.” American Journal of Public Health 101.2 (2011): 217–223. PMC. Web. 31 July 2018.
  • “134 (3).” Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Sept. 2014, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/134/3.

2 responses to "Celebrating Breastfeeding: The Benefits, Challenges and Your Rights"

  1. Lizbeth Camacho says:

    Let me tell you a story. I was at a tradeshow for one of the largest NATURAL industry distributors and needed to feed my child. Not only was my child not allowed to come inside the tradeshow floor (my husband had to stay outside and wait for me to come out even though he had a badge, but anyone under 18 was not allowed in), but the tradeshow coordinator also confirmed that there was no assigned nursing room and encouraged me to use the bathroom. I didn’t lose it, but I was close. Here was a woman, telling another woman to go feed her little baby in a casino/hotel bathroom. Do you know how disgusting that is? Would she eat her lunch there herself? I was a first time mom experiencing all of this for the first time but I knew I was not comfortable feeding my child in a bathroom stall. So, I sat on a chair in a quiet hallway and had my boyfriend shield me from public view. It was humiliating and strengthening at the same time. I vowed to never, ever, be ashamed of the fact that I was keeping a human being alive. I was traveling a lot from work, and after that little episode, I always made sure I mapped out nursing rooms in areas that I was close to, to either feed my child if he was traveling with me, or to pump. After my second child (they are 1.5 yrs apart) I had a harder time working and nursing them both so I weaned one out of necessity, and I still carry some guilt on that because neither one of us was truly ready, but I had to go back to work after 6 weeks and could not possibly allocate the time to pump for the needs of both kids. My youngest is 14 months and I cherish our breastfeeding time together more than anything else. So I value companies like OUF that encourage and embrace a working mom who breastfeeds because, unfortunately, not many companies do. Thanks for sharing!

    1. says:

      Hi Lizbeth,
      Thank you so much for reaching out and sharing your experience. I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you and that you had an even harder time finding the time to breastfeed with your second child. It certainly shouldn’t be that way! I hope that sharing stories like this will only help to improve the way the world views and treats breastfeeding, so thank you again for sharing.
      -Cassandra

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