“Returning to work today doesn’t mean a mother has to stop breastfeeding,” says said Kimberly Congden, MSN, RN, IBCLC, manager, Lactation Services and Parent Education, at Baystate Medical Center.
Yet, a study in the journal Pediatrics, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), noted that only a third of moms who planned on exclusively breastfeeding for three months went through with their plan.
One of the reasons? The stress of returning to work, wondering if her workplace will be supportive, and the added need to pump, transport and store breast milk.
August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, sponsored by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, and calls for support of women to combine breastfeeding and work and to feel empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.
“Working and breastfeeding need not be stressful for mothers. With the right breast pump, which thanks to the Affordable Care Act is often covered by insurance, a breastfeeding supportive childcare provider, and early communication with the employer about maternal pumping needs, breastfeeding can continue,” said Congden.
“This breastfeeding relationship is important because breastfeeding promotes a bonding experience between mom and her infant and plays a role in decreasing a new mother’s stress. Also, breastfeeding mothers who return to work have a greater sense of connection to their baby during the workday,” she added.
The benefits of breastfeeding – considered the “gold standard” in infant nutrition – are many. Human milk is uniquely suited for infants, is easy to digest and contains many components that babies need in the early months of life. Resistance factors in breast milk also protect infants from the risk of diarrhea, ear infections, and respiratory and other illnesses such as diabetes. Children who have been breastfed have less risk of becoming overweight or obese, even as adults, and breastfeeding has been shown to lower the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Also, research has shown that children who had been breastfed had slightly higher IQs.
The AAP believes that breastfeeding is the optimal source of nutrition through the first year of life. They recommend exclusively breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby's life, and then gradually adding solid foods while continuing breastfeeding until at least the baby's first birthday. Thereafter, they say breastfeeding can be continued for as long as both mother and baby desire it.
According to the AAP, companies now realize that it pays to help employed women reach their breastfeeding goals with fewer infant illnesses, less absenteeism, more satisfied and loyal employees and lower training costs.
The Affordable Care Act requires employers of hourly workers to provide private space that is not a bathroom and adequate time to allow nursing women to express their milk while they are on the job.
Additionally, Massachusetts and many other states have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location and exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws.
The Parent Education Department at Baystate, as part of its Before Baby Is Born classes, offers a Prenatal Breastfeeding Class, including helpful tips and techniques to breastfeed baby, followed by a second class after your baby is born.
Baystate Children’s Hospital also holds a free gathering for breastfeeding moms and their babies two times a month. Facilitated by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, the gatherings are designed to provide breastfeeding support and to answer any questions. Mothers are encouraged to share their own challenges and solutions with others in the group and offer mother-to-mother support during open discussion. Groups meet on the first and third Wednesday of each month from 2-3 p.m. at the Baystate Health Education Center in Holyoke.
Baystate Medical Center’s Lactation Team and its Parent Education Department have again been recognized this year with the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBCLC) Care Award. The Lactation Team holds the prestigious IBCLC certification and provides services five to seven days a week for breastfeeding families. The award recognizes the program providing breastfeeding training for medical staff caring for new families and for activities that help protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.
For more information, or to register for any of the above free programs, call 413-794-BABY (2229). For more information on Baystate Medical Center, visit baystatehealth.org/bmc or for more information on Baystate Children's Hospital visit baystatehealth.org/bch.
(Baystate Lactation Services is sponsoring a World Breastfeeding Week table in the Wesson Women and Infants’ lobby from 9 a.m. to noon from Aug. 3-7. Learn more about breastfeeding and register in a free raffle. Winner, who need not be present, will be drawn on August 7.)