Sunday, August 3, 2014

Breastfeeding Obstacles: The Working Mother

When I received my first pregnancy book and read about all the benefits of breastfeeding I thought - of course, I'm going to breastfeed. I'll do whatever it takes to give my child the best start and it is going to start with what I feed him.
After my first child, Ethan, was born I was in such a state of happy shock! At the hospital he latched on and off and all the nurses seemed happy with the fact that he was latching even if it was for short durations. So, I took him home, but on the third day he had trouble latching and started wailing during every feeding. My milk had not yet come in. I could only stare at him in awe and helplessness during these feedings, but I did not cry. I felt really determined to make this work! The fourth day my milk painfully came in but he still would not latch and feeding time became overwhelming. My husband wanted me to pump to express milk, but I was nervous about that. I did not want him to have nipple confusion - something I had read about online. However, knowing that he needed to eat I reluctantly expressed milk. I awkwardly learned how to operate a breast pump and was able to feed him a bottle until we could see a Lactation Consultant.

The Lactation Consultant did an evaluation and gave me a nipple shield. That was like magic. Suddenly, he was eating and eating a lot. He doubled his weight in weeks and I was so happy. Though I wasn't really sure how to wean him off the nipple shield and decided to go to another Lactation Consultant that my friend used. She was wonderful and showed me how to properly hold him and latch him. After that he latched without the shield! Their help was invaluable though at the time it seemed costly.

After a three month maternity leave I went back to work and expressed milk every 2-3 hours. At first I had an over abundance of milk so I froze my extra. But when Ethan turned six months old things got more stressful at work and my supply started to dwindle. My company at the time did away with the privacy room and I worked in a cubicle. I refused to pump in the bathroom so I talked my manager into letting me work from home part-time so that I could feed him directly. In the afternoon my mom thawed the frozen milk I had stashed. When he turned twelve months old I went back into the office full time and nursed him once a day when I came home from work. At fifteen months he naturally weened.

I should mention that all large companies are now required to provide a location that is not a bathroom for a nursing mother. It is part of the Healthcare Reform Act. This became a law when my son was about eight months old and my HR department sent me an email letting me know that a storage closet was the new privacy room. I should also mention that much of the stress I had was due to the fact that I did not have a proper place to express the milk and I had escalated to many executives with no change until a law was passed. I fought hard for what I believed!

It was a struggle, but the bonding experience was unlike any other. I loved the quiet time I had with him; holding him and providing for him. My goal was to make it twelve months and I was happy to surpass that. I felt accomplished!

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