Career

"My boob is her only source of nutrients right now," The REAL struggles of breastfeeding at work

It's never going to be an easy transition but knowing what you're entitled to and having the right support can make breastfeeding and returning to work less painful.

By Holly Royce
By now you're probably sick of hearing about the benefits of breastfeeding - yet many mothers are being forced back into the workforce when their babies are just 5-months-old due to financial necessity.
The return to work creates not only bonding obstacles between mother and baby but many social and cultural barriers in the reassimilation to working life.
Let's recap breastfeeding statistics 101.
In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended mothers exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months of their lives.
Further studies found continued breastfeeding until two years (and beyond, if possible) was advised for the optimum in mother and infant well-being, as well as the child's cognitive development. The adverse effects of early weaning transform quickly into higher levels of illness and disease.
So what exactly is the problem with breastfeeding at work? Why not just give your baby the bottle?
Ah, if only it were that simple...
Alongside this adorable black and white shot, new mum Liv Tyler wrote, "Sunday morning snuggles with my baby girl. So grateful for this precious gift."
Charlotte is a first time Mum who is about to go back to work but is facing a dilemma; she's still breastfeeding her 5-month-old daughter.
"I return to work on the 29th of January," Charlotte told NTL.
"My daughter is 5-months-old, and financially I have to go back to work."
"After trying for months to get my daughter to prepared for drinking expressed milk (my milk) in a bottle... she just will not take a bottle."
"My boob is, therefore, her only source of nutrient/water etc. and I feel insanely guilty leaving her to go back to work."
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen proves she's an incredible multi-tasker by getting her hair, makeup and nails done - all while feeding baby Vivian! "What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours flying and only 3 hours of sleep?" she shared.
"I now have to leave work in my lunch breaks to go and breastfeed her so she doesn't starve," a frustrated Charlotte reveals.
"I am entitled to additional breastfeeding/expressing breaks but these fall during my lunch and short breaks."
"It's also incredibly hard to keep up my milk supply on the days I am at work because I have to express/empty my boobs regularly, so my body continues to produce it."
"Expressing takes up to 20-30 minutes and is most effective if you are relaxed."
To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, Alyssa Milano shared this sweet moment with the hashtag, "#normalizebreastfeeding".
"Pretty hard to relax when you're sitting in a locked room (with your boobs sitting in something that resembles a cow milking machine) in constant fear someone will walk in."
"I also have to cart an esky with me to store milk and pumping equipment. While I'm sure I could, I don't feel comfortable leaving my breastmilk in the communal staff fridge."
"All that expressed milk, if I had a baby who drank from a bottle, would be put to use - instead I have to freeze it while I pray that one day she'll start taking a bottle."
"I am gutted that I have to go back to work, a process which is stressful enough on its own, and now my entire days are structured around pumping or driving to my child to quickly feed her before handing her over to someone else," Charlotte finishes.
Charlotte is a teacher, and her strict breastfeeding breaks take place over recesses and lunch.
Amelia is a nurse and agrees that time frames add to the pressure of young mums going back to work.
"I went back to work while breastfeeding and had to express in a cubicle on a time limit, was hard work," she told NTL.
All states have legislation that protects your right to combine breastfeeding and paid work - meaning it's illegal for someone to treat you differently for breastfeeding or for your status as a parent.
According to Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace, it's also generally unlawful for your employer to refuse to make "reasonable" arrangements to assist you to breastfeed at work.
But, to get the benefits of these laws it's up to the individual to discuss what is needed with their employer, and that will mean different things for different jobs and different people.
Creating a supportive environment for breastfeeding at work is simple when the right tools and communication are involved, all of which is readily available on The Australian Breastfeeding Association's website (ABA).
Most important is always knowing your rights - your well-being should be in the best interest of your employer.
For the barriers faced through mother and baby bonding, the ABA recommend talking to other mothers, taking part in the ABA online forums or contacting the trained counselors on the Breastfeeding Helpline, who are always available to discuss your individual situation and help you put a plan in place.
Breastfeeding at work and away from you baby is never going to be an easy process, but with the right information and support it can certainly be less painful.
For any concerns around breastfeeding and returning to work head to the ABA website.