Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Breastfeeding - not as cheap or easy as it sounds!

I read about some research that was published in the American Sociological Review this week that showed that women who breastfeed ultimately earn less than women who formula feed.    Basically they have shown that the longer you breastfeed, the more severe and prolonged the losses in your earnings.  I've never seen any discussion of the downsides of managing breastfeeding before and it's an interesting issue that certainly isn't mentioned in the early days when you may be considering whether you will ever offer your baby a bottle.

The research is no surprise to me as I have been grappling with how I am going to manage to get back to work in three weeks time while I am still expressing for my six-month-old bub.  I actually work for an excellent employer in terms of family friendliness (a State Government department).  There is a lactation room and I am sure my bosses would be totally understanding if I wanted to take breaks to express milk while I'm in the office.  The fact is that I just don't want to do this.  There seem to be so many logistical issues around bringing the pumping gear in, storing and transporting the milk, arranging my work around half hour breaks, wearing clothes that I can get in and out of easily etc etc.

What this shows though is that even in the best of circumstances where I have a supportive employer, I'm working part-time and I'm a skilled milk expresser, breastfeeding and work still aren't a great match.  Worse still, there isn't necessarily anyone to blame or an easy answer to the problem - except perhaps to suck it up and deal with the inconveniences, stop breastfeeding, or not go back to work and deal with that loss of earnings (not really an option unless we want to somehow rid ourselves of the mortgage). 

While the easiest option is to stop breastfeeding, it's funny how hard and emotional that decision is proving.  While I would objectively like to stop and get my body and time back, for some reason I can't stand the thought that I've got milk and it's not going to the baby.  So thank you researchers for adding to this complex discussion and best of luck to all of those with these tricky decisions ahead!