pressured at work for breastfeeding and what to do

It’s pretty hard juggling breastfeeding and working, even if it’s your fifth baby! To think of staying up late into the night to nurse your baby, have your sleep interrupted many times over, and then continue at work expressing milk to keep up milk supply after you manage to get a corner ‘safe’ enough to do that, and then you worry about storage… breastfeeding can be such a task!

No wonder many mums today provide alternatives for their babies and save themselves the stress. Although many thereafter would flog ourselves with guilt for not breastfeeding their babies they way we would want to.

I read the story of a mum who returned to work after the birth of her son. The new mum knew how important breast milk was to her then 3-month-old but felt scrutinised every time she went off on her break to express.

When she told my employer she needed to express milk, she (the boss) was very negative. She only let her do it because she told her it was her legal right.

The only place made available for her was a lunch room frequented by other workers. And was told to hide her equipment despite it being in a black bag and when she expressed it was referred to as doing ‘that thing’.

The new mum felt she was doing something unnatural and was asked at least five times when she was going to stop breastfeeding her baby.

Here is what she did: She ended up leaving her job after two months and started her own home-based company importing baby clothes, a business she named Express Baby which has over 6,000 fans on Facebook.

This mum is not alone in her experience.

A recent study by Women’s Health Action in New Zealand found a fifth of workplaces had no support for breastfeeding mums. More than a third of the 75 employers and 484 employees interviewed were unaware of workplace breastfeeding legislation. The study, according to the maternal advisor of Women’s Health Action showed an urgent need to educate businesses about breastfeeding benefits and employers’ legal responsibilities.

Some organizations are feeding-friendly and provide private rooms dedicated for breastfeeding and flexible break times for mums. This is a huge help for working mums who may not have continued without that.

If you find yourself pressured at work over breastfeeding, here are a few things you could do:

  • Let your employer know it is your legal right to be able to breastfeed you baby as a mum and ask that you be allowed to.
  • Make provision for all equipment and material you would need in order not to inconvenience other employees, which should include an apron or breastfeeding cloth for cover.
  • If you wish to store some milk for your baby in the office refrigerator, have your container marked properly to avoid colleagues mistaking it for theirs.
  • Get adequate rest so that you are not tired and sleepy at work, that could mean having your spouse or someone hold the baby after nursing so you can catch some sleep.
  • If the pressure is unbearable and you are not able to cope, like the new mum whose story I shared in the post, you could get creative and think of starting a business of your own that would give you some flexibility and more time for your baby.

How have you managed pressure at work over breastfeeding? Please share in the comment section. We’d love to hear about your experience and how you managed it. Thank you.

Feature image: huffingtonpost.com

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