Can a Mother Breastfeed While Working?
In the ongoing struggle to maintain work/life balance, a question is posed: can working mothers successfully breastfeed their babies? Is it realistic for a working mother to breastfeed a child for the first six months of its life?
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics examined the correlation between length of maternity leave and initiation and maintenance of breast feeding. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study interviewed working mothers before and after giving birth. The researchers looked at the total duration of maternity leave, whether or not the maternity leave was paid, and the duration of time before the mothers returned to work. While the nature of the maternity leave (paid or unpaid) had no significant correlation with breastfeeding, not surprisingly mothers who returned to work 1-6 weeks postpartum were significantly less likely to breastfeed than women who had maternity leaves beyond six weeks.
No surprises here. Breastfeeding is a complex, involved process which requires time and patience. Young infants breastfeed on average every two to three hours. In order for a woman to maintain an adequate milk supply, the child needs to suckle every couple hours. While manually pumping one`s milk may help to maintain lactation, most women are not going to be able to accomplish this at 2-3 hour intervals during a normal work day. It stands to reason that women who have to return to work within the first couple months of their children`s lives are not likely to initiate breastfeeding.
In Canada, women are fortunately entitled to up to twelve months maternity leave, during which time they are able to collect employment insurance benefits, and their job is guaranteed by law when their leave is complete. I breastfed both my children, and took a six-month maternity leave with each child. It was a blessing to be able to take the time to nurse my children, without the worry of having to return to work. When I finally did return to my job, it was much more difficult to continue to breastfeed. I was only able to manually express my breast milk once during a 9-hour day, and gradually my milk supply dwindled.Continued on the next page