August is National Breastfeeding Month, Because this year’s theme for the first week of August is Breastfeeding at Work: Let’s Make it Work, we wanted to share with you the very best advice, hands down, that you may not hear anywhere else. Because the United States is one of very few countries that does not offer paid maternity or paternity leave (Swaziland, Liberia, and Papua New Guinea are the others), U.S. nursing moms who go back to work face more obstacles than parents in Sweden, for example, who get 16 months combined leave which can be taken any time until the child is eight! (If you want to change this, get involved with www.usbreastfeeding.org) Our goal is to help you hit the ground pumping, er, running, so you can meet your personal breastfeeding goals, regardless of what they are. Here are our best tips:
1. Learn hand expression. Long before pumps were invented, mothers expressed milk manually with their hands, a little known fact is that many mothers produce more milk this way than with pumping! Learn how to massage your “girls” and express milk in this video from Stanford University, which can also help increase your milk production in the first few days after giving birth. Honestly, we believe every nursing mama should learn this technique, whether she goes back to work or not.
2. Know your rights. Luckily, most employers are now required to provide break time for nursing moms, but you still need to advocate for yourself! The law is only a few years old so be prepared to educate, educate, educate and stand your ground. Then, if your employer goes above and beyond to accommodate your pumping needs, you will be pleasantly surprised! Lactation programs save employers $3 for every $1 spent, so ultimately it is in your employer’s best business interest to support you.
3. Educate your care provider. You are working hard for the money, and you are working hard for the liquid gold you give your baby, so make sure your sitter or daycare knows about “paced” or “baby-led” bottle-feeding, so your pumping output meets your baby’s needs and is not being guzzled down. Share “The Babe’s Guide to Bottle-Feeding” with your care provider, and check out A Babe’s Guide to Pumping so you can pump up the volume!
Make sure that as you are celebrating #NBM15 that you are celebrating yourself for any amount of breastfeeding or pumping you are able to do, and let go of any guilt or regret. Motherhood is a long journey, so be gentle with yourself.