As we wrap up this month long celebration of breastfeeding birthing families, HealthConnect One, reaffirms our commitment to supporting equitable breastfeeding and lactation assistance nationwide, promoting an inclusive environment for all families to thrive. This year’s National Breastfeeding month theme for World Breastfeeding Week, Enabling Breastfeeding- Making a difference for working parents, signifies the importance of ensuring lactating parents feel protected, persevered, and supported. *Source link: https://worldbreastfeedingweek.org, https://www.usbreastfeeding.org/national-breastfeeding-month.html.*
We interviewed Rebecca Lesperance, Strategic Project Manager/Trainer, a mother who is currently breastfeeding and Free Gemerew, Impact Analyst, a doula who has helped many mothers with breastfeeding about the challenges of breastfeeding in the workplace, the biggest misconceptions, and their advice to make breastfeeding at work, work.
Did/Does your job provide the necessary means for you to breastfeed?
Rebecca- “I have been fortunate enough to work remotely for HC One, an organization that prides itself in having parental / family-focused policies that have supported and encouraged my breastfeeding journey. Our safe work environment allows you to nurse your child while you are presenting during a meeting on Zoom and travel policies that allow you to bring your young child to a work trip to be able to show up fully as a professional and parent.”
What did support look like for babies and lactating parents?
Free (doula perspective)– “In my opinion, it’s extremely important to increase support for babies and lactating parents due to the many benefits of breastfeeding/chestfeeding, but also due to the many barriers that make it challenging for parents to breast/chestfeed. There are so many evidence based findings (and they’re discovering even more new evidence!!) that show how amazing breastfeeding/chestfeeding can be for the lactating parent and the child, however there are still many barriers that exists in our society that discourage or even make it impossible for someone to breast/chestfeed. I think policy advocacy is a huge factor in getting some accessible rooms and breastfeed/chestfeeding friendly workplace policies, however I think even having access to a lactation specialist or support is another barrier. In some cases, access and affordability of a support system for breastfeeding/chestfeeding can be a barrier and I think it’s extremely important for parents to have someone to turn to for advice or assistance with any questions or concerns that they might run into without the concerns of being able to pay for it, or having someone who is knowledgeable in close proximity.”
What is the biggest challenge you have now while breastfeeding or have overcome?
Rebecca- “The biggest challenge I overcame while breastfeeding was establishing a proper latch with my daughter to prevent pain while she nursed. I was referred by my doula to a local IBCLC, who taught me how to latch correctly and showed me various techniques to address possible muscle tension that may have contributed to her shallow latch.”
Free (doula perspective)– “Based on what I hear from the parents I work with, I’ve heard about the challenges of being able to pump without it appearing disruptive to their work or to their leadership. It is not fair that parents cannot have breaks to pump or even have a place to store their milk safely without the fear of being punished or reprimanded by their job.”
What is the biggest misconception you have seen or heard about breastfeeding?
Rebecca- “One big misconception I have heard about breastfeeding is mamas feeling like they are not producing enough milk early on in their breastfeeding journey. They are not given education to understand that their baby does not need them to produce 8 ounces every feed on day one of life. It’s all about supply and demand, the breast will make as much as the baby needs, and in the early days/weeks of life, babies do not require that much milk since their stomachs are so tiny.”
Free (doula perspective)- “I think the biggest misconception about breastfeeding/chestfeeding that I’ve seen so far is whether or not someone can breastfeed/chestfeed based on having a c-section. When I first entered birth work as a postpartum doula, I’ve worked with some moms who’s birthing experience involved a c-section. In that postpartum period, many were concerned about milk not coming in immediately or within the first few days. Thankfully, I was able to connect with a friend who became a IBCLC and learned that with time, and certain techniques and consistency, milk can be produced, just a little delayed!”
What advice can you give people to help make breastfeeding work?
Rebecca-“I advise people to find the resources they need to support them through this journey. If they are having difficulties with breastfeeding, seek an appointment with a CLC or IBCLC as soon as possible. I learned so much from my one appointment with a CLC that saved me at the beginning of my journey, from learning what flange size I should be using to pump to understanding what a proper latch looked like to avoid pain while my daughter nursed. I also advise people to connect with other breastfeeding mamas to talk about breastfeeding in general.”
Free (doula perspective)- “When I’m working with new parents, I always try to emphasize to the parents to give their bodies some grace when running into any concerns or frustrations. It can be physically, mentally and emotionally taxing when things aren’t going as planned or when you run into a challenge, and to remind yourself that you are doing the best you can, and if you’re able to or have access, tapping into your community and support system when needed makes a big difference when building your confidence, knowledge, and persistence in breastfeeding/chestfeeding.”
As we continue to celebrate National Breastfeeding Month, this month and every month, we will continue to advocate for maternal and child health equity. We look forward to working with our partners across the country to advance policies and initiatives that promotes breastfeeding for all families, and individuals, especially for those who need it most.
This blog was authored by Gabrielle Grimes, Digital Communications Manager at HealthConnect One