I need to address breastfeeding at work, clearly. But I never felt really qualified to do so since I pulled out of the full time workforce when my first baby was born, and have been puttering about this world for ten years now taking odd jobs such as babysitting and customer service, and mostly, doing the unpaid and noble volunteeer work that is called mothering.
I know we are all WORKING MOMS, but it is a phrase I am going to using here to mean women who go to work full time outside of thier home for pay, and cannot bring their babies or children with them.
So here is what I know:
My sister pumped at work and nursed her first baby until he was 8 months old. She had a decently supportive boss, and worked in a small office in a high position. But it was still awful, from what she said. At first, she had tons of milk, a freezer overflowing..but then her supply dwindled. She would pump 3 times at work, I think, and nurse the baby as soon as she got home, and all through the evening. I don not think she slept with him, but I could be wrong.
I would love to have some submissions in the form of guest-essays submitted to me via email@example.com for me to publish with permission on here. Or just leave your story in the comments section.
For me, I know we need a much more supportive environment at work for nursing moms. They need specific, private, peaceful, clean rooms in which to go and pump for their babies, no teasing, no shame, no limits. I am willing to bet that people who get smoke breaks get more respect--getting to walk away from the desk 3, 4, 5 or more times a day to get away, go outside, see the sun, have a stretch...I know alot of people who refuse to give up cigarettes just because they would miss that getting away from the desk--sorry if this seemed unrelated...
So, moms, dads, partners, what would help? What would really help nursing moms feel 100% supported at work? Tell me so I can try to do something about it.
I wonder for how many women it really worked..because nursing a baby isn't every ___ hours some days. Some days you run around to a million stores, and you don't nurse the baby for a long time...but then there are those days, nights, weeks where you are so attached it seems almost 24/7. Growth spurts. Teething. Illness. Mysterious other baby reasons.
And then, I also slept with my nursling babies, who nursed on and off all night. To me, it was the only semblance of sleep I was gonna get. To me, waking up, waking "down the hall" to the "nursery", sitting in some chair, nursing for 1/2 hour wide awake, then trying to lay the baby down and tiptoe away, only to arrive at my own bedroom to hear the baby screaming bloody murder....well that's just not sleep. So all that night nursing was telling my body what the baby needed. But what if the working mom doesn't sleep with the baby, doesn't nurse all day, but has 3 good pumping sessions at work? Is that enough to tell our bodies we are exclusively breastfeeding? I do not know.
Also, of course, the USA has the most abysmal maternity leave in the developed world. We have all heard about Sweden and its ONE YEAR FULLY PAID maternity leave, and its paternity leaves, and we have heard about the other countries...but our country devalues women's work devalues traditional work, devalues dependence and values isolationism and separation of child and family more than any thing else, and so these mamas and babies, often still setting up milk supplies, often still bleeding, often completely exhausted, are teetering back into their work places, feeling like bewildered heroes, and then get to catch up with the giant inbox stack AND sheepishly remind their boss that they really, REALLY need to go pump, NOW.
What am I trying to say? I feel like this whole post is smacking of "don't have a baby unless you've also got a rich hubby" and OF COURSE that is not what I am saying or thinking, ever. But it is what this country and it's policies are shoving us towards, despite the fact that this scenario represents a very small minority of any American's reality.
Working moms, pumping, maternity leaves, respect, support, is this what its all about? Or is it about some way more radical seeming stuff? Working with our babies, like the pictures show us in Mothering magazine. Intentional communities aka communes? Tribal living?
Is all of natural parenting in danger? Are we all just making due in these 2007 times, trying our damnedest to create tiny pocketed facsimiles of what we really need to raise a child?