Boob Job: The Working Mother's Breastfeeding Dilemma.


What’s a woman to do?


She grows up, does well in school, goes to college, graduates and vigorously pursues a career. Eventually, she turns 30. She may or may not get or be married by that time, but one thing’s for sure, if she’s ever contemplated becoming a mother, by the time she hits her mid-30s – at, ironically, the same time careers tend to take off – she knows she needs to get things rolling if she wishes to give birth to a baby.


So this Generation X woman -- who’s been told all throughout her childhood and early adulthood that she can do everything she puts her mind to, anything her male peers can do -- gets pregnant. Then she smacks into a misogynistic, old school wall. Hard. And not many people, it appears, seem to care.


During her pregnancy, she’s inundated with ominous recommendations from the medical community and any one of the many “parenting experts,” about how she should raise her child. She’s faced with suggestions about everything from the use of pacifiers and child-proofing her home, to what kind of safety seats she should purchase. One of the most forceful pieces of medical advice she’s given – as she’s trying to plow her way through her career while trying not to let her pregnancy get in the way of her work – is that she should breastfeed her baby. In fact, she’s told by the august American Academy of Pediatrics, that she should feed her baby only breastmilk for the first six months, and continue breastfeeding until the child is 12 months old. The federal government, through the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health, does its part to aggressively promote breastfeeding including paying for a pro-breastfeeding ad campaign that compares feeding a child baby formula to log-rolling or riding a mechanical bull while pregnant. One U.S. senator, in discussing breastfeeding recommendations, even went so far as to suggest to the New York Times that the federal government ought to consider putting warning labels on baby formula “similar to those on cigarettes.”


Given the onslaught of pro-breastfeeding advice, this modern woman, who really wants to keep working after having her baby, makes a mental note that she’s going to breastfeed so she won’t be feeding her child what some pro-breastfeeding folks call the equivalent of poison. Several weeks after giving birth, she returns to work, breast pump in hand, with all the best intentions to lactate and work.


Not so fast.



I did not take this article to be hostile about the recommendations toward nursing, only to the mixed messages about what the "right" thing to do is. This really is a no-win situation. We should be able to be good workers and good moms, but if we do one, we have to sacrifice the other. I nursed my son exclusively for about 4 months, but was not able to pump enough at work to produce enough breastmilk to feed him while I was gone from him. I was lucky- I scheduled most of the meetings that I needed to attend, so I would make sure I have at least 15 minute pump breaks a few times a day. I also had access to an empty office with a lock on the door. I worked while I expressed milk (answering emails, etc.) but would have been in a bind had my job not been flexible enough to allow me to take the breaks when I did. When my first child was born, though, I was a receptionist and did not have sufficient breaks to be able to pump throughout the day. Some people just don't get the support necessary to sustain a nursing relationship, but end up feeling as though they are shortchanging their children by supplementing or using formula exclusively.


This was something I noticed while working for the Federal Gov't. We want you to breastfeed, but don't expect us to give you a place or time to do it. These mixed messages don't make sense. And while some people make it work, the fact is breastfeeding in public is not considered socially acceptable. I admire those who have offices that make a place for breastfeeding women. I admire those who have the guts to do it in public despite the looks and rude attitudes. But the fact is we get one message to breastfeed, but not the support to actually do it. I loved the tone of this article because it shows the frustation I felt when I realized the contradictions of what I was told would be best for my baby and what I could actually do in real life.

Cate Colburn-Smith

Oh Golly! I have so many comments about this, I wrote a book! The book is called The Milk Memos. Please check it out - MommyTrack'd did a nice feature on the book this Spring:
MommyTrack'd founder, Amy Keroes, offered a great endorsement quote which is printed on the book's back cover!“The Milk Memos is hilarious – and also smart, informative, honest, non-judgmental, thought-provoking and even moving. I have read nearly every book that touches the working mother experience, and there is absolutely nothing out there that so perfectly captures what it's like to return to work after maternity leave.”
I'm cheering all the working, breastfeeding moms on!!!
Best, Cate Colburn-Smith
Co-author: The Milk Memos: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business with Babies - and How You Can, Too!


I had trouble with this article. I breast fed because I knew it would be good for my son but also loved doing it. It was a wonderful bonding experience. Expressing milk was fine and I found that the men did understand but had more trouble with women. They were the ones making the comments. Your article felt hostile to me, maybe there is some within you that needs to be addressed so that you won't continue to have those experiences. Whatever our beliefs are, that is what we will attract.


It is not my place to be judgemental but I did not like the tone of the article. Most moms don't nurse because it is a hassle. I managed to nurse twins for over a year with only 6 weeks mat leave and 2 wks vacation. I pumped twice a day at work with a hand operated machine. I could read, dictate, and other duties in the privacy of my office. I paid for a dedicated small fridge. I got a throw lock on my door and a do not disturb sign. Some days meetings ran long and I was uncomfortable, so I went out. Have you noticed how often people are allowed to leave their station to smoke or to use the toilet?? I had a rude male coworker ask what I was doing once too many times and I showed him my pump and began to explain. This worked really well as most men are freaked out by it. My boss was not so sure at first, but he was a dad; I showed him articles about why it is important. He was a convert (his stay at home mom nursed too). Formula should be a last resort as far as health of the baby is concerned. There is no other truth about that. You position it as a choice and that nursing proponents are like Nazis. I think for too long the propaganda was in the other direction that formula was preferable; it clearly is not. Research shows that only one thing predicts how long a mom will nurse: not support, not work regs, not bosses, not how many kids, but her DETERMINATION to do so. Peace and love.


Reading articles of this type frustrates me. I am a full-time working Mom - with a very busy job - as a school administrator and I have nursed both my kids until they were over 1, pumping once a day while eating lunch, sending email, calling parents, etc. I think that being a Mom is not an excuse for me to do less. Only if we continue to do our jobs can we expect to be treated equally.