5 Ways to Support Breastfeeding Moms

Breastfeeding Mom

Being a Breastfeeding Mom is not always easy…

I love being a breastfeeding mom.  Trust me, I am not saying it is always easy, because it isn’t. Once I finished having babies, there are two things I will miss:

  • being pregnant and feeling their little feet and hands moving inside me.
  • the closeness and the quiet serenity that envelopes us when we are breastfeeding.

There a ton of challenges that can come with nursing from:

  • tongue ties,
  • lip ties,
  • milk letting down,
  • hormonal fluctuations,
  • leaky breasts at the worst possible time,
  • pumping,
  • plugged milk ducts,
  • breast engorgement to
  • sore nipples.  

And, this list doesn’t even cover the social challenges or those that working moms have to face while breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Mom

Being a Breastfeeding Mom at Work

As a breastfeeding mom, I have felt uncomfortable nursing my children in public and have been subject to ogling while I nurse. 

Male co-workers have questioned me about why I get to have a mother’s break.  They have asked me what a mother’s break is when I have to leave a meeting to go pump.  I used to feel like I had to justify needing to pump and the inevitable awkwardness that ensues after I tell them.  (I have to admit I do get a little pleasure out of the shock now). 

I have endured snarky comments like “oh, that must be nice to able to take a 45-minute break a couple of times a day”. 

Well actually, as fun as it is having two machines hooked up to my breasts…

Oh and missing the last 45 minutes of that meeting…

So now I have to figure out what I missed and unlike school, asking for someone’s notes doesn’t usually work…

Unfortunately, my experience as a breastfeeding mom is not uncommon. 

According to the American Nurse Association, many mothers encounter pressure from supervisors and co-workers not to take breaks to express milk. 

I was fortunate to have worked for a large company that was very progressive with how they support new and breastfeeding moms.  

At the time they were one of the few companies that provided mom’s with 12 weeks fully paid maternity leave.  In their central offices, they had beautiful nursing rooms with recliners and fridges that could be reserved. For breastfeeding moms that traveled, they also covered the cost of Milk Stork. This was a great benefit so nursing moms could ship their milk home while they were on the road. 

However, even progressive companies still have a way to go for breastfeeding moms….   

In 2017, I was returning from maternity leave with baby number 2 and learned the office near me was moving locations. I was asked to join the project team and was shocked to learn that we had built out the facility, but it did not include a spot for nursing moms.  Being the HR representative this was a big concern for me personally and professionally. 

I brought this oversight up to the Vice President leading the project and reminded him that there is legislation to provide a private place to nurse that was not a bathroom.  After reviewing the floor plan, I suggested that change the door on one of the small floater offices to be a solid door and have a lock to meet this need. 

He said he would look into it.

I followed up a week later, no response.

I followed up again, no response

Being persistent, I followed up again and I finally got a response…

They are going to but a folding chair in the handicapped bathroom that had its own entrance. The team didn’t want to take away from the limited office space. 

What?!?! I am sorry did you miss the part I put in writing about it not being in a bathroom? 

Breastfeeding Mom

There has been HUGE Progress for Breastfeeding Moms, but….

I recognize that there has been enormous progress in acceptance and advocating for mothers to breastfeed.  Personally, I cannot imagine what our mother’s or grandmothers had to go through.  

Over the past decade, moms all over the world have exercised their rights and supported each other to breastfeed in public by speaking out, having nurse-ins, and protesting unfair treatment.  These actions have influenced changes in social media policy and legislation.   

In the US, we are very fortunate that all 50 states have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. 

It was only in 2010 that the US government passed legislation for nursing moms to be provide a break and a private place to pump.  

So here’s the but…

Despite these advances, every year, nursing mothers in the US and around the globe are told to cover up or leave public places while breastfeeding there babies.

  • 2020 a manager at Evans Chick-fil-A asked a mom to cover up while nursing her baby.  Mom’s on Facebook rallied around her and arranged a sit-in. Augusta Chronicle
  • 2019 dozens of moms hosted a nurse-in to breastfeed outside a Mexican museum, after they expelled a mom for breastfeeding inside the building. USA Today.
  • 2018 dozens of breastfeeding moms showed up at a public pool in Minnesota after two women were confronted there for breastfeeding. CBSN.
  • 2017 Larissa Waters, a Senator in Australia, made headlines for nursing her 14-week old daughter during a parliamentary vote. ABC.
  • 2016 women in San Francisco staged a protest after a security guard berated a woman for breastfeeding in a waiting room. SF Gate.
  • 2015 mothers gathered to breastfeed outside a Goodwill to protest a tweet from an employee who was not happy about a mom nursing while she was in the check outline.
Breastfeeding Mom

Why is There Still a Stigma for a Breastfeeding Mom?

There is still a stigma around breastfeeding for a few reasons. 

First, in American culture, breasts are still sexualized in the media. The media has downplayed the nurturing, life providing function that breasts play.  Due to the perception of breasts as primarily sexual objects, many women feel uncomfortable breastfeeding, particularly in public NCBI.

Second, as a society, we have not done things to make more ‘normal’. While you can find bare breasts all over TV and movies, you see a lot less of a nursing mom’s.

Even while I am searching for images on Pixabay to use with this article, they have many photos of nursing moms blocked for adult content and nudity.   I have included the ‘censored’ photos in this article.

Nursing Mom

5 Ways YOU can Support and Advocate for Breastfeeding Moms

In honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month (which is August!), there are steps we can all take to help further support and advocate for breastfeeding moms!

  1. Help to normalize the conversation! Talk to others about nursing, whether that is your friend, father, brother, cousin, aunt, uncle whoever! The more we can start mainstreaming the conversation and remove the taboo around breastfeeding, the more we can normalize it!  Join the charge to #NormalizeBreastfeeding on social media!
  2. Respect each mom’s choice on breastfeeding! I love breastfeeding and am a huge supporter.  However, I also recognize that it is hard, and it’s not for every mom for a wide range of reasons! We have to support and RESPECT each other and each mom’s decision to breastfeed and for how long!
  3. Support other moms! If you see something, say something! Help stand up for other moms that you see are being asked to cover up or shamed for nursing in public!
  4. Contact your local representatives and let them know you want to see expanded benefits for moms! Let’s start with paid family leave!
  5. Let your employer know what they can do! “One of the most significant reasons a mother decides not to initiate breastfeeding is her need to return to work” (American Nurse Association).

Ways to build a supportive workplace

A supportive workplace can have a massive impact on a mother returning to work and feeling comfortable continuing to breastfeed.  The benefits include lower sick days, higher engagement, organizational loyalty, and it can be a great recruiting tool!  

Some ways employers can make a more inclusive work environment are:

  • Providing flexible work hours,
  • Create a private place express milk & store milk
  • Provide PAID leave benefits
  • Offer job security even when not required to under the Family Medical Leave Act.
  • Reimbursement for premium breast pumps like the Elvie.
  • Provide reimbursement for overnight shipping of breast milk for traveling moms.
  • Give cash gifts.
  • Flying nannies – some companies are covering the flight for a caregiver during the first year for moms that have to travel.
  • Reimbursement for child care.
  • Sensitivity training

If you are a nursing mom and have extra breastmilk that you are interested in selling or donating check out my article on Donation of Breast Milk

I would love to hear your experience with breastfeeding please take a moment to leave a comment!

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