Being a breastfeeding mother affects your relationship with your job and with your co-workers. Your colleagues may wonder about your frequent breaks, your pump, the milk stored in the refrigerator, or the way you leave work promptly to spend time with your baby. Some mothers may feel uncomfortable if co-workers make comments, or you may worry that taking time to pump milk could cause others to feel resentful. Here are some suggestions for heading off difficulties and enlisting the support of the people you work with. Depending on the culture of your workplace, some of these strategies will work better than others.
• Be open and honest about your need to pump milk for your baby. After all, breastfeeding is nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s just the best way to feed a baby.
• Use humor. Laugh off any teasing that comes your way.
• Be very discreet, if this is what your workplace demands. Some people are clueless and will never guess what you’re keeping in the lunch bag on the refrigerator shelf.
• Cite a medical reason for continuing to breastfeed, such as “My baby is allergic to formula.” (This isn’t necessarily a lie, since most babies, we believe, have at least microscopic allergies to formulas.) By claiming a medical reason, you aren’t putting a guilt trip on the co-workers who chose not to continue breastfeeding.
• Share information about the benefits of breastfeeding, especially the ones that are important to you. (“My husband has terrible allergies, but breastfeeding will lessen the risk for our baby.” Or “Six months old and no ear infections yet!”) If you’ve missed work because of the flu, point out that your baby had only a mild case–or no problems at all–because of the antibodies in your milk.
• Talk about how breastfeeding at home and pumping at work help you feel connected to your baby.
• Acknowledge and thank people for the times when they’ve covered for you while you’ve been pumping or feeding your baby. Return the favor when they need your help.
• Listen with sympathetic interest when co-workers share their breastfeeding stories with you– especially when breastfeeding didn’t work out in their families. Acknowledge that they did the best they could under the circumstances.
• Wow them with facts and figures about breastfeeding, or just tell them that you’re continuing to breastfeed because your pediatrician–and the entire American Academy of Pediatrics recommend it.