I've often spoken of how I didn't give breastfeeding much thought until I was pregnant, even considering a breast reduction, and not preparing myself in advance of birth. Knowing what I know now, as the mother of two breastfed babies, a friend to many other breastfeeding moms and as a certified lactation counselor, I was extremely lucky because I had no problems getting started with breastfeeding. I also had support from my mother and mother-in-law. I also had access to La Leche League and the financial resources to call in an IBCLC just to make sure everything was ok. I also did not plan to return to work so I didn't need to provide milk for my daughter when I wasn't with her.
Most women want to breastfeed. In fact, in the United States, 74% of women initiate breastfeeding at birth. By three months postpartum, the percentage of women breastfeeding exclusively, meaning not supplementing with formula, is 32% and 12% of women are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months postpartum. Forty-three percent are breastfeeding at least partially at six months but an abysmally low 21% are breastfeeding at all at 12 months which includes babies eating solid food. What happened to those women to make them stop breastfeeding or breastfeeding exclusively?
If they make it to the three month mark, chances are, that beautiful relationship is interupted by the mother needing to return to work. In the United States, most of the reason women stop breastfeeding is because they have to return to work as early as 6 weeks postpartum, but usually by 12 weeks postpartum, a major milestone in which most women who are finally getting into a good rhythm with breastfeeding their babies. Instead, mom and baby are suddenly spending as much as 10 hours away from each other. The lucky ones are able to find a private space with an electrical outlet to plug their pump into, a door with a lock hopefully and a place to sit while they pump.
Others have to make do in rest rooms, closets, airplane bathrooms. And even more don't have the time flexibility or the stamina to keep up with the milk needs of a growing baby that requires pumping as often as they would nurse their baby.
And all moms face the realistic fact that a machine will never remove as much milk from your breast as your baby will so, like our working/pumping moms of the Bravado Breastfeeding Diaries Class of 2010, Jenn, Abbie and Mona, you become obsessed with keeping on top of your stash to ensure your baby will have enough milk.
I was extremely fortunate that I worked from home the entire time my daughter was nursing and until my son was over a year old. When I needed to leave home three days a week to work in an office, Asher was 14 months old and though he was still nursing, I only pumped for him for a month and only to keep up my supply before learning from an IBCLC that my supply was already established. In this limited experience as a pumping mom, I