Happy World Breastfeeding Week 2023: Making a difference for working parents

Logo by WABA

We’re abuzz with excitement for World Breastfeeding Week: Making a difference for working parents! This year’s theme is especially relevant in the U.S. with the recent passing of the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act and Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Yet, we remain one of the only countries with no paid family leave.

In celebration of the triumphs and in hopes of a better future paved by the hard work and passion of countless advocates, we’re looking back on Our Milky Way stories in the workplace.

  • The 2015 World Breastfeeding Week theme, Breastfeeding and Work Let’s Make it Work!, inspired Alyssa Sheedlo’s, RD LDN, CLC sharing of her story about providing milk for her triplets. Her story was originally published by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). Read it here.
  • In a male dominated field, Alameda County Sergeant Misty Carausu blazed  trails for mothers working in law enforcement. Carausu was granted an initial three thousand dollar budget to renovate an existing lactation closet at the county jail. Read that story here.
  • Laura Westover PA-C, CLC, a provider at Castle Rock Pediatrics, dove into helping transform her office into a Breastfeeding-Friendly Employer and ultimate Breastfeeding- Friendly Medical Office.Westover worked alongside a  breastfeeding policy specialist to create their policies and lactation spaces through a six-point plan which includes policy, staff and provider training, patient education, environment, evaluation and sustainability, and continuity of care. Read the whole story here.
  • Learn about Zambian Investment Management and Banking Professional Musa Imakando-Mzumara’s perspective on breastfeeding and how it fits into the solution of national challenges here.
  • Look back on efforts by Scott Behson, PhD, creator of the Fathers, Work and Family (FWF) blog, to shape work policies here.
  • Passionate about breastfeeding support from both a personal and social standpoint, clinical researcher at the University of Colorado Dr. Bridget Young, PhD, CLC volunteered her time redesigning three lactation rooms and adding four newly designated lactation rooms at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Read about her efforts here.

 

We’d be honored to share your story about balancing employment and breastfeeding on Our Milky Way! Please email us at info@ourmilkyway.org with interest.

Cheers to a Happy World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month! Follow the WBW social media channels to stay up to date on all of the festivities @waba.wbw, @wabasecretariat, @waba_global and @wabasecr!

 

Helpful resources from A Better Balance and WorkLife Law:

Talking to your boss about your pump (Spanish)

Talking to your boss about your “bump”

 

‘Full pandemic mama’ becomes full spectrum doula

Allysa Singer was, as she describes, a “full pandemic mama.” Singer became pregnant with her first child in the winter of 2019. As she became aware of the threats and the consequences of COVID-19, she started researching her options and her rights in the delivery room she’d find herself in August 2020.

What started as personal preparation– How many support people would she be allowed? Would she be allowed a support person at all? What restrictions would she encounter? How could she advocate for herself? What were her options?–  propelled her into a world of birth support and autonomy advocacy.

“I was just dumbfounded by the disparities that exist in maternal health,” Singer begins.

In 2020, Alabama, where Singer and her family live, had the third-highest Maternal Mortality Rate in the nation, at 36.4 per 100,000 live births.

BIPOC families suffer from massive disparities in maternal and infant deaths. In a recent piece, Childbirth Is Deadlier for Black Families Even When They’re Rich, Expansive Study Finds, Tiffany L. Green, an economist focused on public health and obstetrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is quoted: “It’s not race, it’s racism…The data are quite clear that this isn’t about biology. This is about the environments where we live, where we work, where we play, where we sleep.”

Still, unlike so many of her peers, Singer reports having had an amazing birth experience.

Inundated by birth horror stories, she decided to change care at 27 weeks in hopes that she would be better supported in her choices at a different institution.

Here, she was allowed a doula and support person to accompany her during her birth.

“Not a lot of women had that luxury,” Singer comments.

Knowing well that birth support is a right and not a luxury, she started her own doula practice in December 2021. 

Singer shares that she experienced severe postpartum depression, but she was able to divert and ultimately reshape this energy into her doula work.

“My doula training was the lifeboat that saved me from drowning in my PPD,” she says.

And now her practice, Faith to Fruition, has become the lifeboat for many of the birthing people Singer supports.

She shares: “I don’t believe that a birther’s desire to have more children should be dictated by their birthing experience. I have heard so many stories from people who had one kid but say, ‘I would never do this again because my experience was so traumatic.’ One of my biggest missions and goals is to support birthers to feel empowered in their process; not as bystanders of their process.”

Singer also holds a full time position as an industrial psychologist where she channels her advocacy work, pushing for organizational change and understanding of proper maternal support.

In fact, as part of a public speaking course for a training curriculum, Singer presented on why it’s important to support breastfeeding. She reports that her audience of roughly 25 was engaged, especially as she pointed out the absurdities of infant feeding culture in our country: How would you feel if I asked you to eat your meal in the bathroom? How would you like to eat with a blanket tossed over your head? for instance.

Singer also points out the “insanely amazing public health outcomes” breastfeeding affords.

If 90 percent of U.S. babies were exclusively breastfed for six months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent an excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be in infants ($10.5 billion and 741 deaths at 80% compliance). [Bartick, Reinhold, 2010]

“Not only is there a personal investment, there is a public investment and value to understanding the larger implications,” Singer comments. “As a taxpayer, [breastfeeding] impacts you; as someone who utilizes our healthcare system, [breastfeeding] impacts you.”

With the recent passing of the PUMP Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act coming soon, Singer says “We still have a long way to go.”

Organizational policy doesn’t support motherhood; instead it fuels detached parenting which goes against nature, Singer goes on.

“Mothers feel the brunt of that more than ever,” she says.  “[We aren’t] supported to be able to care for our children the way that we want to.”

Singer says she sees it as her mission as an organizational psychologist to encourage change that supports parenthood, so that women don’t feel threatened to care for their children the way that they want to. This means ensuring that women are provided with ample space to pump their milk while away from their babies and empowering them to approach HR when there aren’t appropriate accommodations.

“Outside forces shouldn’t be able to dictate how you care for and feed your child. The end of one’s breastfeeding journey should be a personal decision.”

She continues, “It’s amazing that legislation is catching up. The thing that I fear with any law, there are still people behind those laws that have to enforce them and carry them out. Education and garnishing an understanding of what this looks like is a key component to implementation. The people behind those policies have to make them successful, but this is  moving things into a very good direction, and I hope that more changes to legislation follow suit, especially with paid parental leave. It’s a catalyst for change; I am hopeful but cautiously optimistic.”

Singer says she owes her personal success continuing to breastfeed her two-and-a-half year old to Chocolate Milk Mommies, where she now serves as a board member.

Through Chocolate Milk Mommies, Singer started a subcommittee to focus on education for individuals within the breastfeeder’s support system.

“The people in the village need to be supportive. When you don’t know better, you can’t do better,” she explains.

Singer recently completed the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC) as part of Chocolate Milk Mommies’ mission to best support their constituents and as a way to benefit her doula clients with more well-rounded support.

“I really loved the training because I already thought that our bodies are amazing, but learning more science was great. I would text my friends the ‘Boobie Fact of the Day’,” Singer shares. “[The science] allows me to really appreciate my journey that much more and how impactful I’m being with my daughter.”

You can follow Singer’s work here and here.