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Breastfeeding Encouraged By All, But Not Made Easy For New Mothers

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I’m going there. I’m writing an article about breastfeeding, with no apologies.

The American Pediatrics Academy encourages mother’s to breast feed for at least six months. Mayor Bloomberg of NYC has initiated a “latch on” program which not only encourages new mothers to breast feed after birth, but actually discourages formula in the hospital. In order to get formula in hospitals in NYC post birth, it has to be requested and then signed out and accounted for by a nurse, like any medication or controlled substance.

I am a huge supporter of breast feeding. All studies show how good it is for the baby. There truly is nothing better than mother’s milk. It’s natural and easy for the baby to digest. It supports immune development. It can help any parent avoid the allergies sometimes associated with formula feeding. It’s convenient. The milk is always ready. There’s no stumbling around at two in the morning in the kitchen, mixing formula, cleaning bottles, getting the temperature right. We were made to feed our young.

With all of the support from medics and hospitals and now politicians, here is what I would like to ask. Why are there no laws or systems in the workplace to make this possible or somewhat attainable for women by their employers. Here’s a run down of a typical woman’s maternity situation and options:

1) A woman can take her vacation time unused concurrently with her FMLA (family medical leave). She will be paid for vacation time. FMLA allows a woman or parent up to three months of leave (unpaid).

2) A woman can use short term disability after vacation time is used and make 60% of he salary.

That’s a pretty standard overview of a woman’s choices. Most places, unless you work for an organization with more progressive benefits and attitudes towards maternity leave, follow the above practice, which is the bare minimum required by federal law.

For any woman who has returned to work after the 4-6 weeks that a typical maternity leave averages while also trying to continue to breast feed, a common obstacle arises. Milk production for the baby is based on supply and demand. The more time a mother spends away from her child, the more she is forced to supplement with formula, due to low production. Even an expert will tell you that pumping does not empty a breast the way a baby does.

Many women I know, including myself, have been faced with this choice. It’s not that we didn’t want to breast feed the full six months, we couldn’t. Is it selfish as a woman to want my career and want to be a good mother? I think women need better options. We need to know that our jobs are protected and that we won’t go poor in the process. We sacrifice what’s the absolute best for our baby out of fear of losing our jobs. We can do better, can’t we?

Whether you’re a man or woman, we all got to earth via the womb. Sure dad contributed one night. But we wrecked our mother’s figures. We made them uncomfortable for nine months. We made them labor to have us. We should honor mothers.

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