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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

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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

  • 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 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

  • 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

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Role and family conflicts

  • Competing demands

  • Fatigue/sleep deprivation

  • Sadness

  • Depression

  • Guilt

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

  • 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 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

  • 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

  • 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 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

  • Breast concerns

    • Uncomfortable fullness/engorgement

    • Leaking

    • Real or perceived low 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

  • 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 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

  • 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

  • Bring baby items that appeal to 5 senses

  • Drink something warm

  • Warm washcloth

  • Massage

  • Visualize milk flow

  • Avoid looking at collection bottle

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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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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