By Jennifer Stover
How can we make breastfeeding and work, work? This is the question being asked by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. They know that most economies around the world rely on women working and that there are a host of challenges a breastfeeding working mother faces. For World Breastfeeding Week this year they chose the slogan, “Breastfeeding and Work; Let’s Make It Work” which brings many images to my mind. I see women juggling breastfeeding babies with the demands of a job need breast pumps, bags of frozen breastmilk, and bottles left for day care providers as they strive to provide the very best financially and nutritionally for their families. For a woman working in an office this slogan sets her dreaming of pretty, private, lactation rooms with cozy chairs, a clean sink to wash her pump parts, a refrigerator for storing pumped milk, counter space and electrical outlets to plug in her double, hospital grade, hands free, electric pump.
But what about the many women standing at a cash register, working the sales floor, making motel beds, tending the sick, picking vegetables, or flipping burgers? What is she dreaming of? There are two things they want when they hear “Let’s Make It Work”. First a long enough break to drain their full breasts often enough during the day. Breasts are demand and supply creatures. To keep their body producing enough of a supply to feed their hungry baby they must fully drain their breasts as often as their baby eats at home. Breasts and babies work on schedules but they are body rhythm schedules not patient care schedules, class time periods, or bus schedules. If a woman misses her bodies own unique time to empty her breasts it sends a message to her brain that she no longer needs to make so much milk. If this pattern continues her supply will lower to the point she cannot pump enough to satisfy her baby’s nutrient needs and will be forced to supplement with formula which will continue a downward spiral until her body gives up all together.
Second is privacy. Where can a highway patrol officer pump while on duty? How can a field worker manage out in the fields? A childcare provider cannot step away from nor pump in front of her young charges. These are important questions to ask. The Central Coast Breastfeeding Coalition has begun a community wide conversation on this topic. How can we support not only the women who are pumping behind closed office doors but also the women who need to pump during a break from picking strawberries? The CCBC has joined Labor of Love in sponsoring our local Big Latch On event, Saturday August 1 where we will be encouraging the dialogue to continue to move forward. This is a family friendly event with a media stunt to focus attention on the important topic of normalizing breastfeeding everywhere, at home, in public, and at work. Visit our Facebook page at Labor of Love Big Latch On SLO.
Jennifer Stover is a La Leche League Leader, Certified Intuitive Birth and Postpartum Doula, founder of the Birth & Baby Resource Network and “Whole”istic Mamas & Papas, and the current education chair for the Central Coast Breastfeeding Coalition.