Supporting working women
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Supporting Working Women. Sneak Preview – Section 5. Learning objective: Identify at least 3 common challenges to sustaining breastfeeding after women return to work, and a strategy for addressing each. Topics: Solutions for emotional, physical, and worksite considerations

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Supporting working women

Supporting Working Women

Sneak preview section 5

Sneak Preview – Section 5

  • Learning objective: Identify at least 3 common challenges to sustaining breastfeeding after women return to work, and a strategy for addressing each.

  • Topics: Solutions for emotional, physical, and worksite considerations

  • Handout E: “Solutions for Working Mothers”

  • Resources in The Business Case for Breastfeeding

    • Folder #4, “Employees’ Guide to Breastfeeding and Working”

    • Folder #5, “Outreach Marketing Guide”

Supporting working women1

Supporting Working Women

Ways to Use this Section

  • Provide classes at businesses

  • Train health care professionals

  • Guide support group discussion

  • One-on-one counseling

  • Integrate into community education for new families

Your role in supporting new families

Your Role in Supporting New Families

  • Support the family’s goals

  • Advocate for the family

    • Encourage worksite support

    • Offer education and support

    • Share resources

    • Work for community changes

  • Serve as liaison with employers

    See Folder #5, “Outreach Marketing Guide”

    for lesson plans and other ideas

Welcome to my world

Welcome to My World

Cultural perspectives

Cultural Perspectives

  • Considering cultural issues are critical in assisting both new mothers and their employers

  • Avoid making generalizations or assumptions about cultural groups

  • Exercise sensitivity for cultural differences that are relevant to specific population groups you serve

Balancing breastfeeding and employment

Balancing Breastfeeding and Employment

  • Delicate balance

  • Infant formula advertising/prominence in society

  • Breastfeeding can seem dispensable in the face of challenges

  • Provide solutions framed as “options”

Ideas that work return to work options

Ideas that Work:Return to Work Options

  • Explore options with supervisor

  • Return part-time at first

  • Work a 4-day work week (take off a day mid-week)

  • Telecommute

  • Job share

  • Split shifts

  • Return toward end of the week

Emotional considerations

Emotional Considerations

  • Role and family conflicts

  • Competing demands

  • Fatigue/sleep deprivation

  • Sadness

  • Depression

  • Guilt

Ideas that work preparing the mother for separation

Ideas that Work:Preparing the Mother for Separation

  • Plan ahead

  • Breastfeed exclusively during maternity leave

  • Get help with early concerns

  • Practice milk expression (especially at early a.m. feeds)

  • Attend classes

Ideas that work preparing the baby for separation

Ideas that Work:Preparing the Baby for Separation

  • Breastfeed exclusively the first 3-4 weeks

  • If mothers choose to offer milk in other ways, they can choose from several options, including bottle, cup, dropper, spoon, or syringe

  • “Reverse cycle feeding”

  • Start baby in child care early to ease transition

Ideas that work dealing with mommy sadness

Ideas that WorkDealing with Mommy Sadness

  • Breastfeeding helps mothers connect

  • Babies usually cope well

  • Connect with other working mothers

  • It’s normal to feel guilty about wanting to work

Ideas that work minimizing stress after returning to work

Ideas that Work:Minimizing Stress after Returning to Work

  • Plan ahead

    • Think through options beforehand

    • Develop routines

    • Take a practice “trial run”

    • Download checklist and

  • Enlist partner support

  • Take care of herself

Child care considerations

Child Care Considerations

  • Financial Impact

    • Can cost more than tuition

    • 10-30% of family income

  • Many mothers turn to family

  • Child care centers not always supportive

Ideas that work child care options

Ideas that WorkChild Care Options

  • On-site child care

  • Bring baby to work

  • Bring baby to work during meal period

  • Choose a provider near workplace

Physical considerations

Physical Considerations

  • Breast concerns

    • Uncomfortable fullness/engorgement

    • Leaking

    • Real or perceived low milk production

Ideas that work maintaining milk production

Ideas that Work:Maintaining Milk Production

  • Milk production a continuous process

  • Frequent breast drainage necessary

  • Breastfeed early and often

  • Access professional lactation support

  • “Find a Lactation Consultant Directory”

    See “Resource Guide” in Folder #3 for lactation resources

Ideas that work the magic number

Ideas that Work:The “Magic” Number

  • When home with baby count number of times baby feeds on cue

  • This is her “magic” number

  • Keep the “magic” number steady after returning to work to maintain production

    • # of direct feedings + # of milk expression sessions = magic number

  • Using stockpile of expressed milk without continuing to express will decline production

    Concept used with permission from Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC

Ideas that work how much milk baby needs

Ideas that WorkHow Much Milk Baby Needs

  • Milk production constant at 25-35 ounces daily (3-4 ounces per feed) from 1-6 months (Kent 2006)

  • To calculate baby’s needs:

    • Divide 24-hour period into fractions

      • 8-hour work day is 1/3 of 24 hours

      • 12-hour work day is 1/2 of 24 hours

    • Divide average of 30 ounces into fractions

      • 1/3 of 30 ozs. is 10 ozs.

      • 1/2 of 30 ozs. is 15 ounces

  • Baby’s needs highly variable

  • Store milk in 2-3 oz. amounts to minimize waste


Ideas that work rebuilding declining production

Ideas that Work:Rebuilding Declining Production

  • Breastfeed more often at home with baby

  • Breastfeed at night

  • Add a milk expression session when milk volume is higher

  • Know impact of medications

  • Be sure pump is working

  • Contact an IBCLC

Ideas that work milk expression tips

Ideas that Work:Milk Expression Tips

  • Bring baby items that appeal to 5 senses

  • Drink something warm

  • Warm washcloth

  • Massage

  • Visualize milk flow

  • Avoid looking at collection bottle

Workplace considerations

Workplace Considerations

  • Lack of privacy

  • Job settings and work schedules

  • Jobs that require constant physical presence

  • Travel

  • Schedule disruptions

  • Inappropriate comments at work

  • Shyness in discussing needs with supervisor

Considerations of low wage earners

Considerations of Low Wage Earners

  • Physical environment at work

  • Erratic work schedules

  • Multiple jobs

  • Lack of familial support

  • Lack of job security

  • Perception of being easily replaced

    (Ehrenreich 2000)

Ideas that work dealing with supervisors and colleagues

Ideas that Work:Dealing with Supervisors and Colleagues

  • Discuss how lactation support benefits the company

  • Approach a company nurse or wellness staff

  • Document your need. You can use the template letter in Folder #4 to communicate your needs.

    See Folder #4, “Employees’ Guide to Breastfeeding and Working”

    for “Dear Supervisor” letter and

    Folder #5, “Outreach Marketing Resources” CD-ROM

    for template letter to a supervisor from mother’s physician

Ideas that work dealing with other workplace challenges

Ideas that Work:Dealing with Other Workplace Challenges

  • Express milk before meetings

  • Communicate needs to supervisors

  • Seek creative ways to gain privacy

  • Access other working mothers for support

Resources for supporting breastfeeding mothers

Resources for Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers

  • International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) “Find a Lactation Consultant Directory” at and local US Lactation Consultant Association “chapters”

  • La Leche League, International at

  • Human Milk Banking Association of North America for milk storage guidelines at

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