WBW 2016: 5 tips for a strong nursing relationship while working away from home

wbw2016-logo-textEditor’s note: Among the 17 Sustainable Development Goals central to World Breastfeeding Week this year is a call for better workplace support of breastfeeding women. Certainly employers have a large part to play in meeting this goal, but women also need step up to advocate for themselves, their babies, and their right to express breastmilk while at work:

It’s that day…the dreaded day that no new mother wants to face — the last day of maternity leave.

For a mother able to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave afforded by the Family & Medical Leave Act, the last 3 months in baby bliss may instead feel like 3 short weeks, but regardless of the maternity leave length, the end of that special period arouses many emotions, especially for a nursing mother.

Naturally, a nursing mother’s mind becomes occupied with fears and questions:

  • How will I be able to provide enough milk while I am away?
  • What if my baby refuses a bottle?
  • Where will I find enough time to pump while I’m trying to work?
  • How will my boss and coworkers feel when I need time to pump?
  • What will happen to our nursing relationship?

This uncertainty creates even more stress and anxiety for the breastfeeding and working-away-from-home mother for she knows the important role breastfeeding plays in a secure attachment in addition to the numerous health benefits.

Mommy Kissing Baby LContinued nursing after the maternity leave period helps maintain a strong attachment between mother and baby. In his book, The Attachment Parenting Book, Dr. William Sears includes a chapter entitled “Working and Staying Attached,” in which he points out that giving your baby your milk is a very important way of staying attached to your baby after returning to work. Expressing milk for baby to drink during the day allows mother to, in a sense, be with baby while she is away at work. When mother and baby are reunited, their attachment through breastfeeding can resume as if she never left.

Nursing beyond maternity leave not only helps strengthen attachment but also provides numerous health benefits for the nursing mother and her nursling.  In 2012, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published their policy statement, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” in Pediatrics. In this document, the AAP notes the numerous benefits of nursing, including those of nursing beyond 3-4 months. Some of these benefits for baby include a lower risk for developing serious colds, asthma, and other allergies; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; and childhood and adult obesity. For the nursing mother, benefits include a lower risk of diabetes for mothers not diagnosed with gestational diabetes, a lower chance of arthritis, and breast and ovarian cancers. Essentially, the longer a mother can provide her baby with mother’s milk, the more health benefits received by both mother and baby.

In order to continue a secure attachment and experience the health benefits of breastfeeding, nursing mothers can maintain a strong nursing relationship while working away from home by following a few simple tips:

  1. Know your breastfeeding rights — Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many U.S. employers must provide a nursing mother with break time and a place to pump for up to 1 year after the birth of her baby. It is to be noted that companies with less than 50 employees are exempt from this law and instead offer pumping breaks at the discretion of the employer. Information, along with instructions for filing a complaint, can be found through the United States Department of Labor. Many other countries have generous allowances for nursing mothers at work, so be sure to check with your nation’s laws.
  2. Plan a pumping schedule — This schedule will differ from mother to mother. Planning to nurse right before being separated from baby and as soon as mother and baby are reunited can help reduce the amount of pumping sessions needed at work. While at work, a mother should try to pump about every 3-4 hours. For a mom working an 8-hour shift, she might pump once in the morning, once during her lunch, and once in the afternoon. The idea is that for each time baby receives expressed milk from his or her care provider, mother is pumping. In doing this, mother should be able to pump the amount of milk that baby will consume the following day. Talk with a local breastfeeding specialist for a pumping schedule tailored to your work environment and other needs.
  3. Discuss needed accommodations with employer — When a mother meets with her employer, she should be prepared by knowing her legal rights. A working-away-from- home mother should inform her employer of the needed accommodations before returning to work. The employer may need some time to make changes in order to accommodate the nursing mother. When the mother meets with her employer, she should provide her employer with a copy of her nursing schedule. This may also include pumping space accommodations. For example, the room where milk will be expressed needs to have an easy-to-access electrical outlet and should be heated and cooled.
  4. Nurse on demand — Although a working mother must have a pumping schedule while at work, at home, she can nurse her baby on demand. Nursing on demand means that a nursing mother nurses when cued by the baby. This might be every 30 minutes or every 2 hours. Since how much milk produced is based on demand, a nursling can help increase a mother’s supply by nursing frequently. Nursing on demand also allows baby to re-establish the nursing bond that was missed during the day. Nursing on demand can continue during the night. Frequent night nursing may lead to reverse cycling, meaning the baby will nurse more frequently during the night than he or she does during the day. Some mothers who encourage reverse-cycling find that they don’t need to pump as much while at work during the day. For example, a baby may only drink 4-5 ounces of milk while his or her mother is at work, but the remaining amount of milk needed will be attained during the evening and all through the night. Essentially, in 24 hours, the baby will have consumed his or her total amount of milk needed.
  5. Get support — Most nursing mothers need support throughout the breastfeeding journey, and nursing mothers that work away from home are no exception. La Leche League International and other nonprofit organizations provide local and online opportunities for mothers to connect and support each other.

While the end of maternity leave marks a transitional period for mother and baby, a strong nursing relationship can be maintained by carefully preparing for this changed and remaining dedicated to the desire to nourish baby with mother’s milk.

To 3 and beyond: An interview with Janell Robisch on breastfeeding

to three and beyond coverI received a copy of To Three and Beyond: Stories of Breastfed Children and the Mothers Who Love Them at a critical point in my parenting journey.

At the time, I was breastfeeding my third child at 2-1/2 years old. The longest I had breastfed my other two children was 9 months, and my original goal with my third baby was 1 year. I was thrilled to make it to 1 year, and so changed my goal to 18 months. My breastfeeding journeys with my daughters had always been rocky, a struggle to make it month by month it seemed. So I was unsure how long my good luck would last with my third, my son.

At 18 months, I changed my goal to 2 years. And at 2 years, I made a firm decision in favor of child-led weaning. But about 6 months later, I was surprised by my feelings of feeling touched-out and tied-down. I felt ready to wean, but at the same time, I was very sad at the thought. It was evident that my son was not ready to wean. I never thought, in a million years, that I would be struggling with these feelings.

And then the book, To Three and Beyond, arrived in my mailbox. It was sent from Praeclarus Press, owned by Kathleen Kendall Tackett, member of API’s Resource Advisory Council and co-editor of API’s 2013 Journal of Attachment Parenting. What a Godsend! The book is a collection of stories by mothers who breastfed children to 3 years old and beyond, choosing to allow their children the full benefit of extended breastfeeding and child-led weaning.

The book was my main source of support and comfort during the rest of my breastfeeding journey with my third child. It was my “support group” on paper.

(Photo credit: Allison Profeta)Today, I share my interview with To Three and Beyond‘s editor, Janell Robisch, whose own breastfeeding story graces the pages of the book. A former La Leche League Leader, Janell breastfed her 3 children to the ages of 5, 4-1/2 and 3-1/2 years.

API: Janell, I do so love your book! Please begin by telling me what inspired you to write To Three and Beyond. How do you want your book to benefit families?

JANELL: My own experiences with breastfeeding a young child and the lack of resources for mothers nursing a child beyond toddlerhood inspired me to create such a resource.

During the writer’s process, which was fairly long — about 10 years — at least one other book on the topic was released, but I wanted something more personal, a book that mothers could curl up with and be able to empathize and connect with. I see this book as kind of a La Leche League group meeting for long-term breastfeeding mothers. It is a collection of stories, and there are all kinds of mothers with all kinds of experiences. They are ready to share their experiences and give their support to the reader through their words.

This book will give mothers a sense of belonging to a greater group of mothers doing what they feel is right for their families and maybe an idea of how things might go along their own journeys. It also provides some resources for getting more support and evidence about what science has to say about natural-term nursing.

API: How do you offer support to mothers breastfeeding a toddler or older child who feel isolated and unsupported in their choices, and who may be reconsidering those choices?

JANELL: Remember why you have made the choice to continue breastfeeding.

You are not alone, not by far. I feel comfortable saying that at this moment, there are thousands — if not more — mothers nursing beyond infancy and even toddlerhood.

One of the most important things to do is to find support. It means the world, even if it is only online or from one friend or family member in your life.

There is a list of resources in the back of To Three and Beyond, but parents can also join the “Breastfeeding to Three and Beyond” online discussion group on Facebook. It is a closed group that started out about the book but is now mostly a discussion group for mothers with questions, stories and things to share about nursing older children and breastfeeding in general.

API: How does your book fit within the mission statement and vision of Attachment Parenting International (API)? What are your views of API?

JANELL: I am happy that such an organization exists, and I believe that API’s tenets of parenting reflect a safe, nurturing and loving way for preparing for parenthood and raising our children.

The website is full of great resources for parents, especially those looking for ways to approach parenting in a way that respects not only their feelings and needs but their children’s feelings, needs and development.

While no two mothers’ experiences are the same, one of the main threads running through the stories in this book is that of individual mothers carefully considering their children and their families and making decisions about breastfeeding and parenting based on the family’s needs as a whole and the children’s needs in particular. There is compassion and respect here for children’s needs, even when they contrast with what society presents as the “right” way to do things, and there is balance as well.

API: Thank you, Janell, so much for you time and insights. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

JANELL: I just want to give a shout out to all the brave mamas out there who fly in the face of tradition, not to rebel but to parent in the best way they know how, those who are brave enough to question parenting practices that ignore the needs and developmental stages of children and do what feels right for their children and families.

(Photo credit: Allison Profeta)

Content Protected Using Blog Protector By: PcDrome.

© 2008-2022 Attachment Parenting International All Rights Reserved -- Copyright notice by Blog Copyright