Money & Career

10 tips for breastfeeding at work

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

10 tips for breastfeeding at work

1. Plan ahead!
If you plan to express (pump) milk at your workplace, your toolkit should include:

• Extra bottles, breast shields, and an ice pack if you plan to keep the expressed milk
A picture of your baby -- looking at him or her makes the pumping easier
A bottle brush with a nipple-brush attachment, for cleaning bottles
A bottle of water for yourself (drinking promotes milk flow, and it's important for your hydration), with a granola bar or an apple for a snack
A handheld or electric breast pump (unless the company has a pump available for your use), and
A bag to carry everything in

If you will be breastfeeding your baby instead of expressing milk for him or her make sure you have a blanket handy, and a nursing-friendly dress, blouse or sweater. (Some moms nurse in their cars in the parking lot, where their caregivers bring the baby once or twice a day -- or you might use a private area near the company's reception desk, where your caregiver can bring the baby at mealtimes.)

2. Work out logistics before you return to work
Talk with your boss and your company's HR representative about your planned breastfeeding arrangements. You might pump milk (or nurse the baby in person) during your lunch hour, or during a break, or you may bring work with you to the pumping or nursing spot and work right through. If you'll be pumping in your office, create a friendly Do Not Disturb sign for your door, plus instructions on how to leave you a message; and if you need to reserve space in a company lactation room or other pumping or nursing space, make sure you get that straightened out. Know before you return to work where you'll store your expressed milk (keeping it cold until it's time to go home) and where you can wash bottles afterward. Decide whether you will always try to save expressed milk for your baby, or pump-and-dump (to keep the flow of milk for your at-home time) or a combination.

3. Share your news
Let your workmates know your plan. They may wonder why you're disappearing a few times a day, so fill them in on your baby-feeding plans and get them enrolled in your informal support group. Breastfeeding or pumping milk at work takes some time and energy, so you'll want all the support you can get.

4. Use time wisely
If you plan ahead, you may be able to work while you nurse or pump, and many women like to do that rather than break the flow of their busy workday. You can use the pumping or nursing time to catch up on snail mail (or even catch up on e-mail if you can get access to a computer in the location where you're pumping or nursing), make phone calls, or browse the latest business periodicals.

5. Take it slowly
You may not pump all the milk you expected to right at first, or you and baby may be uncomfortable nursing in an unfamiliar spot and have trouble getting down to business. That's OK. Making the effort to keep nursing your child when you return to work is a huge achievement on your part. Don't hold yourself to an unrealistically high standard for milk production, calm nerves, or seamless integration of mom-time and work-time. It's not easy, but you will get better with every nursing or pumping session.

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6. Dress the part
Remember that certain outfits make pumping milk or breastfeeding easy, and others make it very difficult. The worst possible way to express milk or to nurse your baby is with your one-piece fitted wool jumper smashed up around your shoulders. Invest in nursing attire -- it's worth it, and you can sell it to a mom-and-children's resale shop once you've stopped nursing.

7. Be sensitive to the variety of perspectives
Your workmates may range, in 'breastfeeding orientation' terms, from totally casual ("Go ahead and pump if you want to, I just want to tell you about this one customer call I made") to very freaked out. Try to be sensitive to this range of views and experiences.

For some of your colleagues, the idea of a woman breastfeeding or pumping at work may be brand new. To the 18-year-old who delivers the interoffice mail, it may be just plain gross. It's not your job to educate everyone or make them comfortable, but it's good to be aware that people have many different perspectives on the issue of milk, moms and work.

8. Find support
Seek out a mom's group at your office or nearby, or even an online discussion group for mothers, to get support for your breastfeeding-at-work adventure. Plenty of people have walked this path before -- the La Leche League is a great resource, and there are others in almost every region.

9. Speak up
If you're in a meeting and you're about to burst from unexpressed milk, don't be a martyr -- excuse yourself. Your need, for a period of months, to pump milk or nurse your baby during the workday is no different than another person's need to take regular medication or otherwise manage his or her health in the workplace. Your nursing or pumping shouldn't affect your work output, so don't be apologetic about it.

10. Have pride
However long you continue to nurse or express milk while working, be proud of yourself! Women who make this great, healthy choice for themselves and their children deserve a ton of praise. Every month that you prolong your child's nursing days is a boost for his or her overall health, and yours. And when it's time to stop nursing or pumping at work, know that you've done something tremendously positive for your family, and served as a model for other women in your workplace. Pat yourself on the back!

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1. Communicate the program
Far too many employers remain silent on the subject of breastfeeding and expressing milk at work, although more forward-looking organizations are getting on the bandwagon every day. A great project for every corporate HR department is to create a New Mom's Handbook that includes information on breastfeeding and pumping milk in the workplace.

However evolved and sophisticated your organization may be (offering state-of-the-art lactation rooms, peer group support, and education for new moms -- or none of the above), let your employees know what they can expect and how your organization responds to new moms' needs.

2. Create some space
A lactation room is about the simplest kind of space to create in a workplace, and an important way to support mothers in their desire to keep feeding their children in the healthiest way after returning to work. A lactation room can be a former conference room, a tiny interview room connected to the reception area, or even a converted closet, as long as it's ventilated, has electrical power, and enough room for a mom to sit comfortably with her pump on a table. In the best case, a lactation room includes a sink for washing up, a small fridge and freezer for storing expressed milk (and cold drinks for moms) and labels and Sharpies for labeling expressed milk. Nice-to-haves include a phone, computer with internet connection, rocking chair, and a stack of magazines.

3. Get involved
Too many companies leave breastfeeding and pumping arrangements up to individual employees and managers, instead of getting involved with some simple guidelines and statements of support. Even if a dedicated lactation room is not practical at your company, you can let managers know that breastfeeding or pumping is a strongly supported activity in your company, and help them accommodate new moms who want to nurse or express milk. Manager training -- even a half-day session on the benefits and logistics of providing mother's milk to infants -- can allay concerns, cultural biases against nursing, or other issues.

4. Inquire
It's a great thing for a manager to say to a mom fresh back to the workplace, "How is everything going, Nancy? I see you are expressing milk; can I help make that easier for you? Anything else I can do?" Your support need not be confined to the milk department, of course, but it's wonderful for a nursing mom to feel that she has an ally in her endeavour to feed her baby as nature intended.

5. Create a support group
It costs nothing and it's a very strong gesture for an employer to establish an informal Mothers' Support Group that can meet at lunchtime in an empty conference room. You can invite local speakers to talk to the group, or let people share their own experiences and advice. It's also easy to connect moms to one another via a companywide e-mail discussion group, so that people can participate in the discussion even when they can't attend meetings in person. There is nothing more helpful to a new mom than non-judgmental peer advice.

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6. Use the EAP
Most sizable employers use Employee Assistance Programs to help support their employees with personal, family, psychological and other off-work issues. An EAP can provide great support to new moms on many topics, including breastfeeding. Check to see what types of services your EAP offers to working moms, and then get the word out!

7. Examine your rules
One new mom had to make a presentation to her company's facilities committee just to get them to put a lock on her door, enabling milk-pumping in her office, because door locks were typically only granted to VP-level employees. Breastfeeding mothers don't need special treatment, but they may need reasonable, human-centred problem solving to help them get their baby fed while keeping up with their work. An audit of your facilities, break times, and employee-access policies may point out areas where your rules are keeping moms from nursing or expressing milk at work (for instance, because the only suitable lactation place is on a limited-access R&D floor of the building). Fix them!

8. Publicize your support
It's not only the nursing moms themselves who need to know that your company supports lactation -- it's every stakeholder in your organization, from employees to shareholders to vendors and customers. A company that supports mothers and children makes a strong statement for its commitment to individuals and to the community. You will also make it easier for nursing moms -- who often feel embarrassed as they sneak off to pump milk -- by promoting your company's family-friendly practices.

9. Invest in the hardware
An electric breast pump in the $1000 range is a great investment that can prevent many women in your company from having to purchase or rent, and then lug, their own heavy pumps back and forth. If you find that several women at a time in your workplace are expressing milk -- or see that trend emerging in the future -- save your employees trouble and expense by providing the pump for their use.

10. Take a poll
Query your past and present nursing moms, via paper survey or online, and ask them what their experience of nursing or pumping milk at work was (or is) like. How can your company improve in supporting them? Publish the results to this group and to other employees to let them know that you are committed to supporting working parents and their families. Celebrate your successes, and start planning Phase Two!

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WorldWIT, hailed 2004 Woman's Business Association of the Year, is a global resource for women in business, offering on and offline services and discussion communities for professional women to network, mentor, and learn on a local and global level. Visit them at www.worldwit.org

 

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