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Success Stories for Lactation in the UK Workplace

Ashley S. Tabb, UKIT Communications Manager

Two years ago, I was worried that there wouldn't be a room available or that my manager would not support my efforts to breastfeed. I was completely wrong. When I asked my manager, she was fully supportive and even found a vacant room down the hall in my office building. I was able to leave everything set up throughout the day, so additional time was not wasted. I found that this timeout from work was refreshing; I enjoyed the time to read, complete Sudoku or crossword puzzles or just relax. Occasionally, I even brought my laptop and checked e-mail or surfed the web. Thanks to the encouragement and support from my husband and manager, I was able to breastfeed my daughter for nine months (six months while working full-time).

I highly encourage women to talk with their managers and discuss their desire to breastfeed. Find out if there is a local space already used for the purpose, or if a vacant room can be used for a few months. Bring a picture of your little one, and enjoy the small breaks from work!!

Here are a few books that I recommend.

  • The Milk Memos
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block
  • Baby Wise
  • This is How We Do It: The Working Mothers' Manifesto
  • What to expect the First Year

Lauren Goodpaster
Program Director, Leadership and Service
Office of Student Involvement

I breastfed Samuel exclusively until he was six months old and then kept breastfeeding him until he was about 15 months old. I can't say that it was easy, but as a working mom, it can be done. I definitely had to be more organized with my time (two 15-minute pumping sessions- one around 10 and one around 3) and then I actually fed him at lunch. What makes it much easier is finding a daycare/place that is close to campus. Sam is at Maxwell Presbyterian, which is only one block from my office in the Student Center, and that helped a TON (plus I absolutely love it there!).

The hardest part of pumping at work was finding a place to do it. I usually used a storage closet (not ideal, but it did have a door that locked), but occasionally I couldn't use that so just had to wander around and try to find a private place. It would be great to have rooms around campus for this. I know many other moms that would really appreciate that! I had a few people tell me I could just use the women's bathroom/lounge on the 3rd floor (next to the Grand Ballroom), but I am a pretty modest person and did not feel comfortable at all doing that out in the open (breastfeeding would be different, but pumping is a whole other ballgame!).

Christy K. Fitch, HR Employment Consultant

Fortunately, I was able to breastfeed my daughter until she was eight months old and began teething. If you're considering pumping at work, I would recommend the following tips to consider based on my experience:

  1. Have an honest and open conversation with your supervisor/manager regarding pumping at work before you go on maternity leave. Make sure that you discuss locations where you could pump, as well as the need for you to maintain a strict pumping schedule, and how often you will need to work in the alternate workspace. If you're lucky, you may not need to leave your workspace. I was fortunate to have a private office and simply had to shut my door when it was time. But if you do have to leave your workspace, see if you can have a laptop and phone in the location so you can continue to work.
  2. Try out your work pump before you return to work. I had purchased two pumps - one for home and one for work, so that I wouldn't have to carry them back and forth. Unfortunately, I didn't try out my work pump until I returned to work, and it wasn't as effective as the pump I had at home.
  3. Schedule pumping on your calendar and stick to it! This is something that I didn't do, but I wish I had. I felt guilty pumping at work and tried to be accommodating with my schedule and it often interfered with pumping.
  4. Finally, put a reminder on your calendar to get your breastmilk from the refrigerator before you leave work. There were many times that I would forget at the end of the day and have to go back to the office to pick it up!
  5. I also recommend starting back to work in a part-time status, if possible. It's difficult trying to juggle work, child care, and being a parent all at once. I returned part-time for a few weeks and it was a big help!

Shari Levy, Program Coordinator
Family & Community Medicine

The first steps toward success are having:

  • an understanding and supportive supervisor/department
  • an understanding and supportive workplace (top down and down up)
  • a good (portable) pump
  • a quiet place that is also somewhere where privacy is possible (e.g. not in a bathroom)

My kids are 10 and 6 now. Both were given breast milk for their entire first year. I took the 'traditional' amount of time for FML (& was back to work) and once I was back it was hard to keep at it (namely due to demands at work).

Also, my kids were in a daycare that was too far away for me to "drop by during lunch" to resupply the center or simply reconnect with them personally. So, another piece that needs to be there for success is having:

  • an understanding/supportive spouse/significant other (to pick up the 'slack' - especially once there are two kids) - which allowed me additional time at night to keep my supply going. That became especially important once my kids got to the point that I was no longer giving them 1 or 2 AM feedings. It's all about "supply and demand."
  • an understanding group of family/friends (that would allow me to go someplace private when visiting).