Work vs. Breastfeeding: The Fight for a Working Mom’s Time

Work and breastfeeding don’t get along.

I’m sure this is a hard pill to swallow for fellow working moms, breastfeeding activists and the mix of the two. Now, don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that I’m not breastfeeding Keira or that I intend to stop breastfeeding. But the truth is that it’s hard to continue to exclusively breastfeed when you’re a working mom.

Us working moms already have a strain on their time when you’re balancing the stress of working and trying to spend as much quality time with your children as possible. My little girl is only awake for 13 hours during the day. With commute time and lunch breaks in there and assuming I’m only working an 8 hour day, that means I only have 3 hours a day to spend with Keira. On top of trying to make dinner, get ready for the day or get in a breather.

Lately I’ve noticed the strain that pumping during my work day has put on the time I get to spend with Keira and the rest of the family. The work load is up. The overtime is increasing. And I’m constantly counting the numbers of hours it’s been since I fed Keira or pumped, trying to figure out if it’s better to go on a pumping break and have to work that much longer to get the work done or if I should just try to make it out of the office as soon as possible. It’s the one time I feel like breastfeeding is actually taking away from my family.

I’ve been on the lookout for a role model. Looking around my company with the many women who’ve recently had children, the number of women using the mother’s room is dwindling. And certainly, I’m finding that I’m the one who uses it most often. That doesn’t give me a sense of encouragement. I’ve raked through friends who have been able to manage working and breastfeeding and I’m finding there’s a huge divide. There’s the moms who work a standard 40+ hour office job who supplement or feed 100% with formula and then there’s the moms who breastfeed and either don’t work or have the awesome ability to work an alternative schedule or at home.

So, here’s my cry for help. Show me the working moms who have made it work! Show me moms who have continued to breastfeed even going through long works hours. Show me the breastfeeding moms who provide milk for their baby when they’re still traveling around for work. Show me the moms who don’t have to constantly count the amount of ounces they’re producing over and over during the work day, wondering if they’re really making enough for their baby.


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jessica
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 20:11:09

    I’m not a 100% role model because we supplement Charlie, but only because I don’t produce enough. Still, I try to pump three times a day (in fact, I’m pumping in the office as I type this!). It can be a huge inconvenience, and yesterday was the first time I seriously thought, “Wow, my life would be a lot easier if I stopped this.”

    But then I paused and recommitted myself, which is something us working moms have to do often, it seems.


  2. Lindsey
    Oct 07, 2010 @ 20:11:43

    I’m not your role model. But boy, do I ever feel your pain.

    I nursed and pumped for my first daughter to 11 months (until I got pregnant again and dried up), for my second daughter to 10 months (until, um, I got pregnant again and dried up again), and for my third to 10 months (she’s still nursing at 11).

    I know what it’s like to wash a pump a zillion times a day, to store and label and freeze and thaw and transport, to jealously guard every ounce I can manage, to constantly have an ache in the pit of my stomach that it’s not or won’t be enough. I know what it’s like for my husband and day care workers to just not get why it’s a big deal to waste milk. I know what it’s like to have a big disaster happen at work and dry up to almost nothing overnight from stress.

    I know what it’s like to have people suggest to “just pump more often” or “nurse through the night” to up my supply, when pumping more often costs me more hours at work, and costs me some career reputation, and nursing through the night (once baby’s sleeping) costs me sleep I badly need for my mental health, which I need for parenting ability and milk supply.

    For most of the time I’ve done this (I’ve been pregnant, nursing, or both, for 4+ years now) I’ve been the ONLY one at my office doing it. The only younger female lawyer and certainly the only lawyer with kids. I just started a new job and I’m less alone at this one as far as demographics go- but, until I stopped a couple weeks ago, still the only pumping mom.

    It’s been easiest on this third go-round, since I had a mad oversupply early on and didn’t fight it- during maternity leave I just pumped and pumped and froze and froze, so during all the months once I was going at a defecit, I could make up the difference. But it ran out and so did my patience recently, and I decided that pumping to 10 months would be enough. I’m really happy the baby still seems able to nurse and I’d like to do that a little longer, since I felt like I stopped before I wanted to twice before due to pregnancy.

    Anyway. I could write a novel about it but tell me if you want to talk- a friend saw your entry and sent me here.


    • Kirsten Deeds
      Oct 23, 2010 @ 18:29:28

      So, what you’re telling me is that breastfeeding isn’t effective birth control? 😉

      Thank you so much for your comment! It’s nice to know I’m not alone in dealing with the problem. It’s certainly a balancing act! And you work in a similar industry where you can’t just ignore deadlines. Thanks for giving me some hope that I can make it work.


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