Band of Mothers: Breastfeeding at Work

All too often these days, I notice that mothers are the first ones criticizing other mothers, and it breaks my heart.

I recently wrote about a Canadian politician trying to breastfeed her baby without losing her seat as Councillor. And my awesome friends and followers shared it out. One of the first negative comments was from another mother, and it made me sad. I’m going to break it down here.

“She shouldn’t get to bring her baby to work with her in her ‘seat’ all day. This is not what other working moms who breastfeed have to do.”

Unfortunately, you’re right. Most moms can’t bring their babies to work, and I think it’s utter bullsh!t. (See what I did there? With the udder thing?) It’s time to evolve a little faster, people. Not much has changed when it comes to working mothers and childcare. Our society views breasts as sexual, and women as either mothers or working women. In most office situations, we can do a damn fine job with a baby attached, and I’m determined to show that to the world.

“Newborns at work will never be the norm.”

Why not? Because that’s not the way we’ve always done it? You’re either a mom or you know one; you know how well we multitask, and how quiet an attached newborn can be. There are already women doing it; I read a lot about the flack they get, but not one word about the child actually causing any disruption.

Let’s face it, many people just don’t want to be in the same room as a baby sucking on a nipple, which is ridiculous. It’s like we’re a bunch of nine year old boys saying “ew gross!” while pointing and whispering. It’s a mother feeding her child. That’s it.

20140106-232106.jpg

Our society has this thing now where if one person is uncomfortable, something must be done to rectify it. Some will read this and say “I wouldn’t be able to work if there was a woman whipping out her boob at work.” Is she getting her work done? Yes? Then why can’t you do yours? If she has a baby latched on and is working fine one-handed, what is stopping you?

“I love breast feeding and support it 100% but this lady is causing trouble.”

Aaaaand there it is. The big but. I support breastfeeding, but [insert non-supportive and/or judgemental statement here.] The crazy thing is that the commenter is currently breastfeeding. And it’s not her first time. She knows how hard it is, but she still can’t just say “you go, girl!” Why can’t we just step aside and let mothers do what they can to provide for their child and also pursue their personal goals? Why do we keep making mothers choose?

I’d like to see a society that values and supports the mother-child pair and recognizes the amazing abilities of women.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, and continued breastfeeding for at least two years. Yet the U.S. is one of only four countries in the developed world with no mandated paid maternity leave. Sure, we have pumping rooms, and pumping laws are getting more common, and pump this and pump that.

We need to shift our priorities so that the focus at work is breastfeeding, with pumping as an emergency backup.

Breastfeeding our babies at work is better, faster, healthier, and easier for everyone involved. Pumping at work just sucks.

I have heard mother after mother talk about how they couldn’t keep up with their baby’s demand while pumping at work. I pumped when I was still active duty, and I couldn’t either. As any pumping mother will tell you, it takes a lot of work to build up a supply when you have a pump instead of a baby at your breast. A pump doesn’t signal the same as a hungry baby. A pump can’t respond to a baby’s saliva and make antibodies specifically designed for the infant’s current state. A pump doesn’t bite either, but you know, trade-offs.

20140106-232122.jpg

Shifting our focus means a lot of change. It means changing how and where we do childcare. It means caring more about the next generation of humanity than an individual adult’s comfort level. It means upsetting the status quo in a big way. It means “causing trouble.”

But it’s so worth it.

Mamas out there, I beg you. Please let’s just support each other’s choices, even if we don’t agree. If every mom’s declaration is met with support and acceptance, we can accomplish amazing things together. Heck, you don’t have to be a mother. Let’s just support one another. Then we’ll know better and do better. For ourselves, each other, and our kids. Let’s heal the world.

Much love to you all,

Eve