Breastfeeding: What Works for You is Key
By Ana Pantel, M.D., PGY IV Obstetrics and Gynecology
In my culture, breastfeeding is considered the norm, and it is assumed that all women will do it. There is much less stigma attached to it than in the United States. But after having breastfed my first child for 14 months, and my second until 17 months, I realize that when it comes to breastfeeding, one should do whatever works for her. For those who decide to breastfeed (even for the most dedicated of us) this can become an exhausting task, often with a rapid decline in milk supply once we return to work. Integrating breastfeeding into the workplace, however, can lead to success.
During medical school, I remember standing in a bathroom, turning to the wall for some privacy. The lack of breaks, the inappropriate place for pumping and the concern about the sterility of my child’s food certainly contributed to the decrease in my milk supply and the need to supplement with formula. In residency, I was lucky enough to have a private room near my work. The privacy and comfort of the space, and a refrigerator where I can store my supply, allowed me to continue pumping.
Use these breast feeding tips to get off to a good start:
- Ask for help right away, and get help from a lactation specialist if needed.
- Make sure you get enough rest and don’t feel guilty about having to go back to work.
- Talk with your employer about your plans for feeding and pumping and how you can be accommodated in the workplace.
- Invest in a good quality pump, and make provisions for cold storage in a safe and sanitary location at work.
- Transport milk in an insulated bag.
- Understand that breast-feeding is often more difficult than anticipated and realize that there is no standard length of time that works for all women.
The AAP, the WHO and ACOG recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. However, with the support of my working place, co-residents, nurses, and supervisors I was able to breastfeed longer.
The stress that I experienced during medical school was very different from satisfaction during residency simply for being able to achieve my personal goals as a mother.