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Breastfeeding and Working–An Impossible Combination?

Categories: breastfeeding

48 comments

Have you read the article on breastfeeding in this month’s Atlantic? Dramatically titled “The Case Against Breast-feeding,” it isn’t an anti-breastfeeding treatise at all but a critical examination of modern breastfeeding culture, which, according to the author, rests on decades of specious research and can, in some cases, lead to the virtual enslavement of the mothers it’s taken society even more decades to “liberate” from their gender roles. What the author, Hanna Rosin, says about breastfeeding culture–that it has become the line in the sand that divides mothers everywhere–is true, but what she says about its role in working women’s lives struck me as dangerously one-sided itself.

The article presented facts and observations that had me both nodding and shaking my head, but the one paragraph that really stood out did so because when I read it I felt its implications in the pit of my stomach. Addressing breastfeeding while working–something I’m going to at least attempt starting next week–Rosin writes:

“The debate about breast-feeding takes place without any reference to its actual context in women’s lives. Breast-feeding exclusively is not like taking a prenatal vitamin. It is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way. Let’s say a baby feeds seven times a day and then a couple more times at night. That’s nine times for about a half hour each, which adds up to more than half of a working day, every day, for at least six months. This is why, when people say that breast-feeding is “free,” I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It’s only free if a woman’s time is worth nothing.”

Okay, I get what she’s saying and, yes, breastfeeding is a serious time commitment, but does it really “guarantee that [breastfeeding mothers] will not work in any meaningful way”? I sure hope not. And I have to believe it’s not true either, otherwise what’s the use in even trying, right?

I’ll agree that breastfeeding while working will certainly make things harder–typing with one hand comes immediately to mind as I support my nursing son with the other–but it’s just one among many adjustments all new parents (yes, men too) must make. Breastfeeding is a commitment, but so is driving a child to and from daycare before and after work.Of course having a child complicates having a career, but then who ever had a baby and expected life to simplify?

Where I take issue with the article here is its judgement that no “meaningful” work can be done by a breastfeeding mother. Not only is that discouraging to those of us who are going to try, but it’s dismissive of the millions of women who are successful at balancing those two parts of their lives. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible, and to say it is does a disservice to everyone out there who has made the hard choice to make a go of it in the first place. Returning to work after having a baby is hard for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is feeling like we’re up against the impossible before we’ve even started. What we don’t need is anyone telling us it can’t be done or that, if we somehow manage to pull it off, we’re less valuable because of it. 

 



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48 comments so far...

  • I read this article last week (linked through a message board I read) and was pretty annoyed at how misleading the title was - it’s NOT an article AGAINST breastfeeding, but highlights the difficulties many women have with breastfeeding, working, and calling research about the benefits of breastfeeding into question.

    I thought of you when I got to the part you highlighted in this post. I think it’s terrible that someone would discourage working moms from TRYING to breastfeed; they’ve got it hard enough already what with most workplaces not having good spaces for pumping and very little employer support, let alone women who work long hours in service-type jobs. I also think that the article doesn’t do much to push forward the idea that really, mothers and fathers make the decisions that work best for their families: breastfeeding vs. bottle, cloth vs. disposable diapers, working situations, daycare, etc. As long as something works for you and your family, you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about it.

    MLE  |  March 25th, 2009 at 10:14 am

  • I didn’t have the opportunity to breastfeed, but I’ll just say a couple of things I observed from watching my mom. First, you can breastfeed while you are working or doing a lot of other things. It’s not like you just sit and stare while the world passes you by. I remember my mom doing everything from paperwork to chasing her other kids with a baby at the breast. Second, you can breastfeed part-time. Your body will adjust to your schedule.

    Women can’t do it all. That’s a dream, and the sooner we realize it, the less we will suffer. I don’t mean that women can’t manage it all, though. We have to set priorities and delegate. There is nothing wrong with delegating some of the feeding of your child in order to address other priorites that are higher in your estimation. It’s more important to be healthy and well-rested than to be Supermom. Does that mean you can’t or shouldn’t provide all your child’s sustenance? No, that’s really up to you, but do yourself (and your child) a favor and don’t try to do that AND kick ass in a high-power job just now.

    SKL  |  March 25th, 2009 at 7:41 pm

  • You certainly can work meaningfully and breastfeed exclusively. Personally, the most challenging thing about working full time and pumping is cleaning the dang pump parts. I HATE cleaning the pump parts. One thing that is really important to working and breastfeeding and is totally out of your control, is how often you have to pump to produce enough milk for your baby. Some people only have to pump once or twice in a workday and the baby just nurses a ton at night. Some people pump several times a day to get enough milk. Obviously one is a lot easier to sustain than the other. Practically speaking, I do think that in the first several months if you want to work full time AND nurse exclusively you should consider taking the baby to bed with you and nursing at night. If you have to pick between nursing and having the baby sleep through the night, what would you pick? That might help you decide how much effort to put into pumping. But remember, babies start eating solid foods at six months, so the time when you are the sole food source is measured in months. Eat your oatmeal, drink lots of water, snuggle with your baby a lot when you’re home and don’t stress about giving some formula. My 16th month old still nurses AND sometimes asks for formula. Figures.

    kbc  |  March 25th, 2009 at 9:49 pm

  • Hmmm. The thing that jumped out at ME from the paragraph you quoted was people’s assumption that women’s TIME is worth nothing. Which is sometimes true. If EBF an infant really takes that much time (I wouldn’t know because I only breastfed for a month), then it really isn’t “free.” As she said. Because that woman’s time is worth something. It’s an opportunity cost.

    I get what you are saying, though. And I think she is wrong about that. BUT, not having read the article, I assume she is referring to the breastfeeding nazis who insist that the only way to be a good mother is to have a baby attached to your breast at all times, while lovingly staring into its eyes. It’s an extreme stance. I’ve known many women who were able to either pump at work or mix bf and formula feeding successfully, all while accomplishing very MEANINGFUL work.

    And I do agree that some of the “research” used by the extremists to justify their position that formula feeding your child is akin to giving them rat poison is sketchy. Just saying.

    Robyn  |  March 26th, 2009 at 7:07 am

  • What I meant to say is that it’s true that people ASSUME that women’s time is worth nothing. Not that it’s truly worth nothing.

    Robyn  |  March 26th, 2009 at 7:08 am

  • I was all ready to read this article and rail against it for having the audacity to suggest that working mothers couldn’t both work and breastfeed. But then I read it, and thought a bit about my own experience, and realized that it IS pretty tough to do both.

    I think the language in the quoted paragraph is a bit stronger than the viewpoint of the rest of the piece, which simply seems to question why mothers feel such a compulsion to breastfeed exclusively given any situation, from 10-hour work days to pumping in a janitor’s closet.

    I’m lucky. I have a desk job and was able for awhile to steal away time to pump after returning to work. But I also remember being very happy when it was done. It is hard to do both, and it’s time to give women who want to say “I’m done” or “No thanks” permission to do so. No judgment. No guilt.

    NO_momma  |  March 26th, 2009 at 10:25 am

  • I did read this article and it really hit a nerve. One of the biggest surprises for me about parenthood was how much I hated breastfeeding. I did it for 15 months and resented every second (and found it incredibly painful). And am just about to start with my second. (I was going to blog about this article myself actually.)

    However, I would disagree about the time committment required to breastfeed. It is a time committment that I wasn’t prepared for but I definitely was not nursing 9 times a day for 30 minutes a session for 6 months. This was the case for maybe the first month. After that my son hardly nursed longer than 15 minutes at a go, 5-10 minutes was most common. When he was 10 weeks I returned to school full-time and was gone for most of a full working day (or longer). I pumped every 2-4 hours and only needed about 10 minutes per session generally. And nursed him on demand at home.

    After 6 months this started to decline and by 12 months I just nursed him in the morning and at night, no pumping.

    And I got very good at typing and breastfeeding! Or breastfeeding and making dinner, etc.

    But my point is that the time required to breastfeed can vary a lot depending on the woman/baby.

    MaybeMBA  |  March 26th, 2009 at 11:00 am

  • Just like everything else, breastfeeding is a choice. It is not for everyone. It does take committment and a good sense of humor, a tolerance for pain early on and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to multi-task.

    Early into my maternity leave with my second daughter, I distinctly recall being on the phone with my husband, holding my newborn to my breast with one hand, preparing dinner with the other hand and talking out the side of my mouth to my toddler.

    Like many other women, I have survived. My career is intact. The three 10-minute visits I make to our lactation room (a rare treat in the corporate environment, I know) have not seriously impeded my ability to get my job done; smokers take more frequent and longer breaks!

    Sure it can be frustrating that breastfeeding isn’t the end to all ear infections (my 9 month old who has never had a lick of formula has had 6 - and counting!). It also astonishes me that my daughter needs vitamin supplements BECAUSE she is breastfed, but what I gain from nursing, in terms of time alone with my infant is more than any dollar amount can convey.

    AmyBow  |  March 26th, 2009 at 11:30 am

  • For me, it took much less time to breastfeed than it did to make a bottle, warm it up and feed it to my son. When you’re nursing, you always have the bottle ready.

    I also take exception to the phrase around meaningful work. That assumes that anyone not engaged in breastfeeding is diligently working their entire work day. My experience was that I had to replace what would have been typical breaks (coffee chat, lunch, etc) with 10 minutes of pumping in between meetings when I returned to work. So, just call it your smoke break or your watercooler hiatus, and let your meaningful work prove the naysayers wrong.

    Brenda  |  March 26th, 2009 at 11:31 am

  • I went back to work full time when my daughter was 10 weeks old. I worked and pumped until she was 1. It definitely was hard, but I don’t consider the work I was doing at the time to be any less meaningful than it is now that she’s 7. One also has to consider the fact that not only breastfeeding mothers are sitting around, not working, while their infants feed. It also takes time to prepare a bottle, feed the baby, and clean everything up afterward when using formula. Regardless of what you choose to do, there’s definitely a large time committment!

    Jeanne  |  March 26th, 2009 at 11:31 am

  • I completely disagree with the notion that breastfeeding “pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way. If you have a good breast pump and any degree of flexibility in your work (ability to escape for 15-20 minutes a few times throughout the day) breastfeeding and working is absolutely do-able. Is it easy? Absolutely not. But as you find with parenting, nothing worth doing ever is. I breastfed both of my daughters while working in an office full time and part-time. It is certainly a commitment to breastfeed, let alone breastfeed and work but it CAN be done. I even traveled for business with a breast pump and cooler in tow so as not to waste my pumping efforts. Working might make breastfeeding more challenging, but it does not make it impossible.

    I also take issue with the image the author presents that you will be chained to a couch doing nothing but feeding your child for 6 months if you choose to breastfeed. Don’t get me wrong, there are days it will feel like all you do is feed the baby. But as you get comfortable with breastfeeding you will get better and so will the baby. I was able to walk around the house and nurse, play games with my older daughter, fix dinner, surf the internet, etc. while nursing. I think I even once had to give a bath to the older child (not that I would recommend this).

    In conclusion, I am definitely a breastfeeding advocate. It was a very positive experience both times in my life. However, I believe everyone makes their own choices and no choice is wrong. I just home soon-to-be moms won’t be discouraged by others before they even try!

    Jennifer Walker  |  March 26th, 2009 at 11:37 am

  • I’m loving these comments. So many of you are hitting on issues that I didn’t have the space to cover myself, and others are expanding the dialogue even further. Let’s keep the conversation going!

    Leah K  |  March 26th, 2009 at 11:40 am

  • My comment is more about the comments than the article. As someone who did not and will not be breastfeeding-I am due again in a few weeks, I was thrilled at how open everyone seems at doing what you choose to do.
    Not one person got on the breastfeeding pedestal. Everyone seemed really open about people making their own choices. Thanks.
    As far as the topic goes, I feel if you think you can work and nurse you should give it a try and see how it goes. It is the only way to know if it will work.

    Christine  |  March 26th, 2009 at 11:41 am

  • I returned to work full time when each of my daughters was 8 weeks old and they came to the office with me (the first until she was 10 months old and the second until she was 6 months old). I breastfed exclusively during that time in each case and maintained my meaningful work. Challenging? Yes. Impossible? No. You adjust and learn new ways of managing time and workload. I am right handed so when nursing on the right breast, I read needed materials (both hard copy or on the web, or read only emails). When on the left side, I typed emails (many people hunt and peck one handed through lack of typing skills, no open breast required) or edited materials. And when not nursing, I focused on other tasks. And, quite frankly, I often felt more productive than co-workers as my need to get things done in certain ways honed my focus and time management. It also forced me to only look at emails in certain time periods, a productive habit I’ve continued to this day. And, when they went into daycare I started pumping - again, something which I have managed to incorporate into my day using time management skills and focus.

    If a man broke his hand, no one would question his ability to do meaningful work (although the concept is the same) so this really irks me.

    Diane Feirman  |  March 26th, 2009 at 11:46 am

  • I appreciate this article from a researchers/statisticians point of view because she calls out the “studies” that have been done and critically looks at them.

    My personal favorite is the IQ one. The difference of, what?, six or seven IQ points may be statistically significant (at least according to their study), but I can flat-out tell you that holds no practical significance.

    That is not the difference between your child being the valedictorian or asking people if they’d like fries with that.

    In conclusion, is breastfeeding better? Maybe
    Does it matter? No

    CAH  |  March 26th, 2009 at 11:56 am

  • I breastfed both my sons while working full time and going to night school (and the boys were only 19 months apart). It was hard and there were challenges, but I was properly supported by my husband (who is a true co-parent), my employer (pumping room available onsite & flexible schedule as long as I got my work done), my college (breastfeeding/pumping room with fridge, sink, comfy chair, & available hospital-grade pump if you provided your own attachments), and my babies (who were both fairly easy to breastfeed and flexible about taking a bottle).

    If women are properly supported at home, in the workplace, at school, and in public, I think a lot more women would be able to extend their working juggle to include some level of breastfeeding. A huge step in the right direction (besides mandating nursing/pumping rooms & breaks) would be extending maternity leave benefits so mom & baby could get breastfeeding established, build up reserves of frozen milk, and generally settle into parenting before having to go back to work (often 6 weeks postpartum or earlier in the U.S.).

    yasmara  |  March 26th, 2009 at 11:58 am

  • I have not read the article — no time yet. BUT I am the CEO of a tech company and I breastfed both my kids (now ages 2.5 and almost 5). I breastfed the first until he was 19 moths old, and the second until he was a year old. I did it and worked full time. I am the boss- so I could decide the breastfeeding policies –which of course helps a TON. But breastfeeding did NOT distract me at work at all. I also know I was lucky. Both my kids were tremendous latchers — and I could walk around with them in a sling, feeding, and no one else knew it was going on. I even conducted a few interviews this way.

    Sabrina- Mommy CEO  |  March 26th, 2009 at 12:01 pm

  • I breast-fed each of my children for their first 12 months *and* I worked full time the whole time. Anyone telling Mom’s they have to choose or can’t do both is full of malarky.

    I agree, just because something is hard does not mean it is impossible. You have to be committed. I pumped during breaks and during lunch hour. I spent less time talking with coworkers in the halls and more time making those hours at my desk count, so I could fit it all in.

    Anyone who tells you different just doesn’t want to give folks credit for being able to manage their time and choose what is important for them.

    RocketScienceMom  |  March 26th, 2009 at 12:17 pm

  • I agree! I have been a working and pumping mom with two kids and also continued nursing even after I stopped pumping. I wrote a reply to Rosin’s ridiculous arguments too:

    http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/03/17/the-case-against-breastfeeding-is-it-anti-feminist/

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting  |  March 26th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

  • @CAH The IQ issue is one where there is a slight benefit if you breastfeed. But there are other areas (e.g. SIDS risk, mom’s breastcancer risk, etc.) where the difference is significant (cuts risk in half). But she just didn’t bother to talk about those.

    Annie @ PhD in Parenting  |  March 26th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

  • I agree with this post. The only thing I’d like to add is that when I read about Hannah Rosin impatiently tapping her foot waiting for the baby to finish nursing, I felt so sorry for her. What a missed opportunity for her to relax and enjoy a break from the relentless demands of older kids and work! Nursing a second child was often my excuse to duck out of the fray of home life and have a moment to myself. Also, as a writer, I was able to pump and/or nurse while working. As long as there was a computer screen and/or phone handy I could nurse and lactate simultaneously.

    Katherine  |  March 26th, 2009 at 1:21 pm

  • I think the author seriously exaggerated in the paragraph about doing meaningful work while breastfeeding, but on the whole I really liked the article.

    I get so tired of hearing how if you’re just *committed* enough you can make breastfeeding work. My son had a great latch and everthing was fine for the first 3 months. Then he had a growth spurt and I simply could not produce enough milk to keep him satisfied. I tried it all — oatmeal, 96 oz water, 12 fenugreek capsules a day, pumping to increase supply — and it was making me miserable. At 5 months I gave it up and let him have all the milk he could get and all the formula he wanted, and we were both much happier. My milk dried up completely at 7 months and for a long time I felt sad and guilty, which in hindsight was completely unwarranted. The breastfeeding lobby needs to get a dose of common sense.

    SoftwareMom  |  March 26th, 2009 at 3:02 pm

  • Yikes, what a negative article! I myself have been doing “meaningful” work and maintaining milk production for almost 11 months now, and I don’t think I’m an exception. Most of the mothers in my PEPS group have managed to work (out of the home) and pump as well. Pumping really doesn’t take that much time, and if you can rig up a hands-free system (not hard to do) you can still get all sorts of things done. Of course, some workplaces are inherently more pump-friendly than others, which is a problem in of itself. If there is a will, there is a way.

    Lauren  |  March 26th, 2009 at 3:56 pm

  • My daughter will be turning 2 in June and i still nurse and work full time. It takes time to adjust but once you get the hang of it it will be second nature, I mean, thats why god gave us boobs, to feed our babies. I must point out that I woek for a huge compnay and they have what is called a moms room. They provide you with the time you needs to do what you gotta do!

    Denise  |  March 26th, 2009 at 4:58 pm

  • I did it. I breastfed both my babies until they were about 18 months old. I went back to work full-time after 2-3 months of maternity leave. (I pumped in my office). Never had to use formula.

    It doesn’t have to be done that way, but rest assured, it can be done.

    momara  |  March 26th, 2009 at 4:59 pm

  • Annie — My overall point is any breastfeeding studies done are flawed from the get-go. The main issue is they’re structured as between-subjects designs, when in reality, they need to be within-subjects designs.

    All people differ on more variables than science will ever be able to corral, so doing a study and then saying breastfeeding was the ’cause’ or ‘reason’ for a difference is pure magic. It is impossible to tease out all other variablese (environment, parents’ genetics, diets, level of activity, mental health, etc.) and be able to conclude any differences are due solely to breastfeeding. Can’t be done.

    In order for a perfect study to be conducted, the same individuals (babies) would need to be studied twice, meaning, babies would need to be born, breastfed (or formula-fed, doesn’t matter), then (and here’s where it’s going to get difficult) find a rip in the space-time continuum, have the babies be reborn and feed them formula (or breast milk) with the parents raising them the exact same. Then, and ONLY then, would any differences that emerge be of any use because it would pertain to that individual.

    Even then, I’m willing to bet the results would be null.

    CAH  |  March 27th, 2009 at 3:49 am

  • As a sidenote, my ‘rant’ about the methodology of breastfeeding studies isn’t limited to ONLY the BF vs. FF debate. There are a lot of studies conducted on other issues that are not using the correct methodology. That may be due to time, money, or other constraints, which is understandable, but should also be taken into account.

    Meaning, numbers are not the be-all and end-all for answering a question. They’re a good start, but they need to be examined under in a critical light.

    CAH  |  March 27th, 2009 at 4:28 am

  • Although the breastfeeding/pumping/working combination is difficult, it is manageable and worth it. I work full time and have two small children, my youngest just turned a year last month. I breastfed both and worked full time while pumping until around 10 months of age. Many of my coworkers were having children prior to my first, and they were able to manage. I realize that sitting in a locked bathroom in an office chair wasn’t the most desirable pumping place, but for those 20minutes, it was some mental down time. Pumping also helped to make me more efficient because it was just part of my daily schedule and time management was key in my fast paced work environment. It was difficult sometimes but it was worth it.

    CG  |  March 27th, 2009 at 5:22 am

  • I’m headed over to read that article now but I’m pretty sure I’ll be furious. I just wanted to offer you a little bit of support. I went back to work in an office full time when my first son was 6 weeks old. He stayed with my mother while I worked. He was exclusively breastfed until he started solids and continued to nurse until he was 19 months old (I was 5 months pregnant when he weaned).

    Because my son had some issues when he was born, I started pumping immediately. The irony is that he got exclusively breastmilk, but while I was on maternity leave, he got it exclusively from a bottle. He didn’t actually start nursing until AFTER I returned to work! Anyway, I was already a pro at pumping so it worked out well for me. I usually pumped twice a day while I was at work and nursed all the rest of the time. Was it easy? No! Was it the hardest thing I did as a working mom? Absolutely not! It was just my routine.

    When my second son was born, I was working exclusively from home. I started back to work when he was 2 weeks old, keeping him with me of course. He spent a good part of the day in a sling but it worked out well for both of us. He was exclusively breastfed and it was not a problem. I wasn’t very good at the one-handed typing while he nursed. I generally used his feeding times as an opportunity for me to read e-mails, read the news, or just zone out for a few minutes. Still, it worked out fine and life went on.

    Here’s the really funny thing, when my youngest was about 9 months old, we wound up switching him to formula for several reasons. He and I were both having some issues and it was the right choice for us. Over the next few months, I was MISERABLE! Formula was SOOO much harder than breastfeeding! Especially when we went on vacation. I was always grumbling that I wished I hadn’t switched.

    Sorry to write a book here, but absolutely breastfeeding and working can go together and I resent the notion that they couldn’t!

    Barbara Thompson  |  March 27th, 2009 at 6:11 am

  • I love this stuff. I make over $100k a year - am the only woman on the management team (for a construction company). I have had two kids, nursed both for over a year. I also donated about 500 ozs to the international milk bank. I work full time. I have an office (with a door)and I am on the road about 1/3 of every week. I pumped 4 times a day for a handful of months and them 3 times for 6 months….I pumped in my office. I pumped in my car, I pumped in male co-workers car (by myself of course) I pumped in bathrooms, I pumped in lockerrooms…everywhere. I carried a cooler and a plug adapter so I could plug into any car lighter outlet. I never made it a big deal and never announced what I was doing. I did my business and took my bags of milk to my daycare provider…proud of my daily accomplishment. We all take daily breaks. I love the smoke break comparison and then we get back to the task at hand….wouldn’t one of my male employees in my department (40 of them) love to know that wierd noise they heard in the background (while I was one the phone with them and emailing and signing checks for payroll) was actually my breasts being milked liek a cow’s utters?

    It’s terrible to have to leave the babies with someone else. It was my way of staying connected to them and it’s one of my proudest accomplishments!

    ab  |  March 27th, 2009 at 6:38 am

  • I can only comment on my own experience which is that breastfeeding and working full time (successfully and meaningfully) at a high level position is both feasible and enjoyable. I pump three to four times a day for about ten min. each time. It’s a break to reset my brain and has made my actual work more productive. It’s also allowed me to continue to feel connected to my baby while I am at work so being apart has been a lot less difficult for me. My baby is seven months old and thriving. If breastfeeding is something you enjoy and feel is a priority, there is no reason to think that you cannot make it work.

    Laura  |  March 27th, 2009 at 10:31 am

  • Fascinating - both your post and the comments. I worked in a child care center when my second was born. I was advising the infant room staff on how to store and handle breast milk for other mothers even as I was pumping for my own, who was at home with his dad. Meaningful work? I sincerely hope the parents of the children in my care thought my work was meaningful. I was lucky to work in child care and leave my baby at home with a pumped bottle fed to him by my Husband.

    Daisy  |  March 27th, 2009 at 2:18 pm

  • By the way, I worked on the computer regularly while breastfeeding my youngest. Granted, I had gotten quite skilled by having (and nursing) twins so one baby was a piece of cake. You can do it!

    LeeAnn  |  March 27th, 2009 at 2:46 pm

  • Let me start by saying this is the biggest load of crap i’ve heard in awhile. She’s saying that if you breastfeed it takes time out of yor day…so is she just saying DON’T feed you child? Because going to buy the formula, buy bottles, sterilize bottles, clean the bottles, make the bottles, feed the baby, start over again seems quite a bit more time consumming than simply sitting down, holding your baby and feeding them, which is why we have breasts in the first place and not once I’m sure she thought about all the benefits breastfeeding has to offer. I’ve breastfed and paid bills, grocery shopped, ate meals, went for a walk, worked, took a bath, read books to my children, went fishing, oh and i’m doing it right now. Did I mention I work and have nursed all my children over the age of 2? It is not difficult. The first few weeks are awkward and sometimes uncomfortable but there are soooooo many benefits and not just for your children but you, the envoirnment and your wallet.

    Roxy  |  March 27th, 2009 at 3:03 pm

  • Being a working mom and pumping is a bit more difficult but it is workable. Just have to find a way to manage and I am still productive during this time. I am usually updating my class website and answering emails. It has also been a great excuse to have a little me time every day during my work day.

    For a family like us, it was a very important choice. My son had allergies, that he has now outgrown. My daughter has not been effected by any allergies because I did a special diet to try to reduce her allergies and the one, that we found during a scratch test at the allergist, has never been consumed by her little body. It is wonderful to not have a screaming baby this time.

    My daughter turns 1 next week and there is no stopping her on her breastfeeding. I will be pumping at least through the end of the school year. My son and I got to 14 months.

    KLF  |  March 28th, 2009 at 7:13 am

  • I wanted to breastfeed my daughter for at least six months, but I found it impossible to pump at work. I had a job where I could not control my break times, and I found it very difficult to relax enough to get any milk while in the work environment. I tried for about two weeks and gave up.
    I’m very glad that someone had explained to me that I could continue breastfeeding at night and in the mornings, and that my daughter was able to transition between formula and breast milk.
    It’s great that pumping at work was a solution for other working mothers, but every mother is in a different situation. For some women, breastfeeding really is too much of a burden.

    STL Mom  |  March 28th, 2009 at 8:09 am

  • I read this article with some pretty big grains of salt. I BF my son exclusively for 6 months, then went back to work and pumped on the job, and he weaned at 15 months. So I feel pretty solid in having experienced just about every BF scenario.

    I think the author is talking about a very upper-middle class group when she talks about mothers being aghast at non-BF moms. Your average middle-class mother probably doesn’t have the time or energy to spare judging other moms for something like BF.

    That said, her comment about BF and work being mutually exclusive, to me, pointed out another class dichotomy. I work in a hospital, in a professional office, and pumping rooms are provided and well-used. Pumping only interfered with my work when I was in clinic and patient schedules kept me running late. But if I drove a bus, absolutely, there’s no way to pump during work hours. Is this something that will seperate “blue-collar” moms vs “white-collar” moms? Maybe, but there’s a lot of things separating those groups.

    What I wish she’d addressed more is that we are the only Western country that doesn’t offer any maternity leave, and I don’t think the current system is sustainable. I’ll be curious to see if Michelle Obama, as a working mother, won’t take on this issue at all. to me, it’s only logical to support the people who are carrying and raising and feeding the future citizens of our society.

    Elizabeth  |  March 28th, 2009 at 12:10 pm

  • I feel so sorry for moms who never experienced the true joy of a breastfeeding relationship, but I support their right as mothers to decide how they will feed and nurture their babies.

    My son is now 26 months old, and during nursing breaks something magical happens that makes nursing every bit as relevant and key to his development as it ever was. He relaxes, I relax, the endorphins get flowing in both of us, and it’s such a retreat for us.

    There are such wonderful community and professional resources available to moms who want to nurse or need some help. I cannot imagine mothering without nursing- It’s been such a wonderful thing for me. I’m so proud to read about all the moms who accomplished nursing while balancing careers.

    At my son’s 1 year well baby visit, a resident doctor shadowing our pediatrician came back into the room to congratulate me for “nursing past 1 year.” At that time she said her daughter was almost 2 years old, and nursing was the way she felt closest to her daughter and most bonded to her, and was so great for them both when reunited after a long work separation each day. She told me that nursing in the toddler years was one of the most important things I could do to maximize his health and vitality.

    It has proved to be such an advantage for him, because he has such a calmness about him and an incredible ability to emotionally regulate.

    Here’s what I see as the central issue: We as mothers are trained to believe we CAN’T do it (birthing, nursing, etc.) It’s not true. We can do it and we have support.

    I don’t have anything against mother’s who don’t nurse, but I feel so badly for mothers who believe the dominant corporate message that they can’t nurse. They can. The tragedy is mama’s who don’t believe in themselves and lose out.

    MumFu  |  March 29th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

  • You can do it! Don’t listen to Rosin for a second. Forget the fact that lots of women DO work and breastfeed. Lets pretend that those of us that breastfeed all remain stay-at-home mothers. I promise you that stay at home moms are not sitting on the couch nursing the whole time dad’s at work. Cooking, child care, cleaning, laundry, mending, canning, gardening and all the other traditional female gender rolls are meaningful and labor intensive and nursing mothers have been doing them for… forever. So writing articles is perfectly doable without formula. Rosin knows this and I wish she had said it.

    Julie  |  March 29th, 2009 at 4:14 pm

  • I think the author was actually supporting the working-breastfeeding mom’s dilemma in stating how difficult it is to work and breastfeed and how society doesn’t value that which can’t be measured by money. I think this paragraph speaks to our society’s (skewed) priorities and implies that breastfeeding mother’s be able to work with their infants in tow no matter what kind of work she does (as long as it’s not dangerous).

    Angelique  |  April 6th, 2009 at 5:39 pm

  • I’ve got pumping down to a science and it takes me 20 minutes (15 to pump, 5 for set up and breakdown) twice a day. That’s 40 minutes total. I have an office job and I rarely took lunch before baby. I supplement 1 bottle a day because I really can’t justify an hour a day hooked up to a machine (and I would like to eat once in awhile).

    I breastfed exclusively for the 3 months I was on leave. My daughter gets about 85% breastmilk now and I plan to stop pumping at 6 months and move to morning and evening feedings.

    That works for me and that’s really the only thing we can all do - what works for our situation.

    TJ  |  April 10th, 2009 at 12:52 pm

  • What a great post. I recall when it came time to decide whether to nurse or to bottle feed, there was no clear answer. If you talked to a bottle Mom she was 100% bottle and the same w/the nursing Moms. I chose to nurse, but noticed when I went to a breast feeding support group that those Moms were almost crazed about it. I recall a group meeting (and it was almost 10 yrs ago now) where a woman was relating a story and heard a great quote - “choosing to bottle feed your baby over breast feeding is like choosing 2nd hand smoke over fresh air. I knew right then I had to find my own “acceptable” and didn’t return to the support group. I worked FT (out of the home) with 2 kids and nursed them both and would have paid a million $ for my Medela pump because w/out it I’d have been lost.

    Great article to bring forward you can do both (breast feed & work), it is worth it to do it but but the great follow-up comments show that its equally OK if you don’t.

    Carrie  |  June 12th, 2009 at 4:44 am

  • I knew women like the one’s Carrie is mentioning; it is the reason when I was breastfeeding I could never go to something like La Leche League. I had friends who did; I just couldn’t.
    While I could breastfeed, I could not successfully pump. We tried everything from Medela down to handhelds; nothing worked. So I had a child who was both for a year. She had a bottle in daycare, she had me at home. Happy baby, non-crying mommy, so I would be furious at those who felt the need to berate my attempts to do the best I could for my child.

    Mich  |  July 17th, 2009 at 10:05 am

  • It seems every BF nazi I meet is a SAHM. I went back to work fulltime as a nurse 6 weeks after my baby was born. As a nurse I KNOW all the benefits to BF, and the next time one of these SAHM moms tries to act like I’m not BFing because I don’t know the benefits, I’m going to throw them out a window.
    But as a nurse I rarely get my lunch break let alone other breaks to pump. I wish I could find another nurse, that exclusively BFed while working fulltime and talk to her, because I just don’t see how its done. I’m tire of these BF pushers who have never been a nurse just assuming I can takes breaks whenever I want to pump. It doesn’t matter if I’m entitled to it, any practicing nurse that’s reading this UNDERSTANDS what I’m talking about. We don’t get our breaks just because we are entitled to them, and its not like working in an office where yo can just go off the floor when you want.
    Ugh! The last two BF nuts I talked to did not even work, and they are like “oh there’s no excuse”….they don’t even work, who are they to pretend like they know what its like the BF while working. GRRRRRRRRRRRR! This is so frustrating. What am I supposed to do, quit my job?? Unfortunately that’s not an option. I want to BF, I’d love to do so without any supplementing with formula, but I jsut don’t have the luxury to be home.
    Oh yeah, and I wonder if the women that get up several times a night to BF, have to go to work the next day and HAVE PEOPLE’S LIVES IN YOUR HANDS! With formula, my husband can get up at night too, and I can sleep and you know, not make serious errors at work that could cost someone their life, because I’m severely deprived. How do other nurses do it??????

    HELP  |  November 3rd, 2009 at 1:14 pm

  • My son is 19 months old and still breastfeeds at least three times a day and often much more. I returned to work full time when he was eight months old. I have a demanding senior management job in the music industry and work long hours but I have created a flexible working pattern which means I always drop my son at nursery in the morning and collect him at 5pm. I retunr to work later when he is in bed. I have found breastfeeding an excellent wasy to stay bonded with my son throughout the difficult return to work process when so many women feel emotionally torn from their babies. I think the prolactin produced while breatsfeeding has em=nabled me to stay calm and deal with the stress of work and high demands of a baby/toddler. My son still feeds at night very regulalry particulalry when going through growth spurts or teething and it is tiring but it is VERY possible to work full time in a demandng job and breastfeed continuously. I pumped at work until my son was one year old so that i could send my mikle to nursery with him. Now I just breastfeed him when I am with him and he drinks cows milk if he wants milk during the day at nursery. I work a four day in the office week with rest of my hours made up in evenings or at weekends. To anyone retruing to work and dreading it and feeling they have to give up BF, my advice is dont think about the BF bit. Just return to work. If its going to work out for you to carry on, it will/ Dont give yourself hell worrying about how you will do it. It is possible and after a couple of weeks adjustment, its really doable, like anything else if you put your mind to it,

    All I need now is for my son to decide to wean himself…something that doesnt seem to be happening anytime soon!!

    workingfeedingmum  |  December 8th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

  • Breastfeeding & working can be done! And done well. Get a good hospital grade pump and find a quiet place to take care of “business”. I found that my sons adjusted without problem from eating from mommy to dad & the bottle of breast milk. Hint: Wear a shirt for a couple of hours per day, especially when you breastfeed baby. Then have the shirt ready for dad or other person to use when they feed the baby a bottle. Baby will smell Mommy and relax.

    mama2boyz  |  February 16th, 2010 at 7:02 am

  • Here’s what I see - women with very presence-oriented jobs (nurses, receptions, industrial lines) trying to describe the Herculean efforts to BF exclusively being “nicely” cheered & chided simultaneously by those who have the ability to flex their schedules & nice quite offices in which to pump.
    If you don’t have either of those, it really isn’t a thing that is easily done. If I worked where I am now while my daughter was small, I probably could have kept it up longer. But in the environment I was in, it was so stressful to try & even get off the floor to pump, and then when trying to do so constantly having the bathroom door (the only private space) rattled (3 stalls for 150 women meant lots of traffic) tugged on, it was too much stress for this new mom.
    She continued to receive some benefits as I still BFed when home but even the lactation consultant came down on the side that there’s only so much you can do.

    Mich  |  April 12th, 2010 at 11:46 am

  • I’m currently pregnant with my first, and I really liked Rosin’s article. I think it does a god job of helping to alleviate the mommy guilt women feel if they don’t–for whatever reason–breastfeed. I plan to breastfeed, and hopefully exclusively, but I know that after I go back to work, it may not be possible. I only have 2 breaks a day, and in 4 years, I’ve rarely taken either of them, because I’m usually too busy to stop. Plus, if I want to pump, I’ll have to lock myself in a stall in the bathroom where I won’t be able to sit down and where there are no facilities for sitting down any of my supplies, because it wasn’t designed to accommodate nursing mothers. I’ll be lucky if I can pump twice a day while at work, and that’s assuming pumping works out.

    I don’t want to seem like I’m preparing to fail at exclusively breastfeeding after returning to work. I’m going to try very hard to make it work. I think the thing I appreciated most about Rosin’s article, though, is that it tells women that it’s perfectly okay if you decide not to breastfeed. If it’s too uncomfortable, if it’s too stressful, if it’s too much work, if you physically can’t…your baby is going to be fine, and you’re not a bad mother for switching to formula. I think this is a message that mothers don’t get enough–that it’s actually OKAY for you to make these choices and that you’re not a bad parent if you don’t manage to stick it out to the bitter end.

    If you managed to exclusively breastfeed and work, that’s great! If you don’t though…that’s fine, too. This is just sort of the mantra I’ve had going in my head since we first started talking about trying for a baby. Do your best, but if things don’t always go exactly as planned or according to your ideal, it’s going to be just fine and don’t stress. Being a parent is hard enough. There’s no point in stressing out over things like this when the alternative might not be as good, but certainly isn’t bad.

    Katie  |  October 19th, 2011 at 9:49 pm

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