A couple of months ago I had a conversation with a mom on Twitter who had struggled with breastfeeding, and had been unable to find a support group either within or outside of her place of employment that accomodated working mothers. She was extremely frustrated and disappointed. Since not finding a breastfeeding support group can be a big “Booby Trap” that moms need help navigating and overcoming, I thought her story would be a great springboard to open the discussion and find out what mothers in a similar boat have done that works! Please read excerpts from her story below, and share your strategies and resources in the comments. We will use this discussion to generate a “Best for Babes Guide” to finding or creating a breastfeeding support group for working moms, either within or outside the workplace, and list your tips & suggestions! To get the Solutions section started, underneath Anna’s story I am sharing the success of @crafteegirl in starting a workplace support group. Please note that we are NOT talking about employer lactation programs, that is a whole other kettle of fish; for more information on starting an employer lactation program see www.workandpump.com, or our Champion for Moms Juanita Ingraham’s story, complete with resources and advice.
The hospital breastfeeding class I took gave me a handout that included coupons for new-parent groups by age (which you could pay to continue) which, given they’d be made up of people in the classes, might be BF’ing friendly. Unfortunately, all were Tuesday-Thursday in the middle of the day (between 9 am and 3 pm). So much for the working mother once back to work! I didn’t bother going – the first months are hectic and the hassle didn’t seem worth it, all for something I’d have to give up. No evening options. No weekend options. Clearly, working mothers don’t need support.
So I checked out La Leche League. None within an hour’s drive of my house meets at a time that a person working standard office hours could make, unless perhaps they happened to be just down the street and did it on their break. Unless their day care was local, they’d be doing it without the baby, too. Over half were on hiatus. Some people have suggested that I should have just emailed the leaders. But I am very shy about approaching strangers, and didn’t want to come across as asking volunteers to turn their schedules around to accomodate me. Nothing on the website pages indicated any sort of openess to any change in schedule. It would have been at least nice if the website simply ACKNOWLEDGED the shortcomings of these schedules, for example, “We apologize for not having an evening/weekend group, but the organizers of this group have schedules that don’t allow for it.” or “We don’t currently have a weekend group but would be open to restarting a Saturday morning group if there is enough interest again; please email us.” . . . Seriously, just acknowledge the working moms exist. Not having a support group would still stink, but at least we wouldn’t be invisible.
There’s also a local mother’s group, part of Mom’s Club, in my city. Let me just quote: “We are specifically aimed at supporting moms who choose to stay at home with their children, including those who work out of their homes, as well as those who work part-time. We are the first, largest and fastest growing support group specifically for at-home mothers.” / “In order to become a member, you must be a mom and live in Wilsonville. Although any mom can join, most of our activities are during the day.” At least they were up front about it. And of course, they’re not a breastfeeding support group.
Message heard loud and clear, here: mothers who work outside the home are not in need of, or are not deserving of, support. In parenting, in breastfeeding, in anything. Never mind that just like being a stay-at-home mother, being a working mother has its ups and downs; never mind that breastfeeding really does need support. Yes, I wouldn’t expect a mother who works in the home and never pumps to have my concerns with storage of bottled breast milk, but the latch issues and the social support for extended nursing and so on would be welcome. If, you know, there were social support, which for people like me in this area there actually isn’t.
The good thing has been the internet. The breastfeeding community on LiveJournal, the Twitter community…you folks have been hugely supportive and informative. I think I’d have kept BFing anyway, I hope I would, because I operate on sheer stubborn and I WAS going to give my son the best I could. But you are the people who made it seem doable, who gave me the information I needed to tell off the medical professionals when they were being stupid (once I started reading and asking, anyway!), who have made me feel that I am not alone.
Locally? Except for one coworker, with whom I don’t really discuss issues, I am alone. On the internet, I’m not. But surely it can’t be right that the internet is the only place to find support. Where’s the community of likeminded people locally, with whom I could hang out, share a pastry, visit if we become friends? Not that I don’t love the people I meet on the ‘net but there’s a distance (literally and figuratively), and it seems unfair that there ARE local resources…if I didn’t work. It would seem less unfair if any of them even acknowledged that they are, by their schedules, excluding an entire class of mothers. But it seems like we don’t exist, to them. Very alienating and frustrating, at least for me.
(And my son? No supplemental formula since 6 weeks, almost none after 4 weeks, still breastfeeding strong. AND we got rid of all of the FREAKING hardware. My pediatrician was surprised-and-pleased that he was still BF at 6 months and going strong – she was very encouraging but with the start the hospital got us off to, she didn’t expect me to pull it off. Stubbornness, and information, are good things….)
(*name changed to protect anonymity at writer’s request)
From @crafteegirl: I work for the State of Michigan and a co-worker and I started a support group for pumping moms. We called it Express Yourself because it fit the idea that we were “expressing milk” and that we wanted moms to feel free to talk about what worked for them and their goals without fear of judgement. We meet once a month on our lunch hour and talk about whatever the group wants to discuss. Not all of us are pumping anymore and not all of us are nursing at all anymore. We even have some moms come when they’re pregnant! We love that. We also keep a list of everyone’s e-mail address and send out information that moms might find exciting (i.e., resources in the community, new studies about breastmilk and breastfeeding, etc.). Though a friend and I started the group, we want every mom to feel like she can offer her experiences or opinions to the group. We don’t always talk about just breastfeeding…as moms there’s so much that goes on in our lives and we want to be able to share and discuss all aspects of motherhood. We started in March of 2009 and we already have had 2 babies born to our moms, who are both nursing successfully! It’s been a great group of women and we’re proud to have been a part of it!
Now, it’s your turn, working moms: please share your story, what resources you used and what worked for you!