Shortly after returning to work from maternity leave, my boss asked me to travel to Olympia for an assignment. It was just a day trip but I still was faced with a dilemma. At that time, I had to pump milk for my baby about two times during the workday (it usually took only 15 minutes each time -- I also never took coffee breaks and I ate lunch at my desk so the pumping never took time away from work). I was lucky to work for a company that had a designated room for breastfeeding moms, but I couldn' stick to my routine during my business trip. The courthouse where I was supposed to be covering a story didn't have a similar room for breastfeeding moms.
I was torn. On one hand, I wanted to tell my boss that I couldn't go on the trip and that she needed to find someone else. At the same time, I didn't want to seem incapacitated and incapable of doing my job.
I ended up going to Olympia for the day with my breast pump. Fortunately, a colleague was able to find a room in a nearby building for me to use. I had to "pump and dump" instead of bringing milk home for my child because the airlines weren't too keen on carry-on liquids. Despite that, it was a still a huge relief for health reasons.
I'm sharing this personal bit of information because of a post on the Washington Post's Juggle, a blog for parents who juggle careers while raising children. In "The Economic Consequences of Breastfeeding," reporter Ruth Mantell discussed why she decided not to pump milk at work.
"I’m well aware that breast milk is considered the optimal food for babies. That’s why I happily nursed for the past six months, " she wrote. "But working moms may face stiff penalties for breastfeeding, a price that I’m not sure my family can afford. My job’s irregular schedule makes it impractical to pump milk at work. And given that my husband and I have financial goals, such as saving for retirement and a healthy portion of our daughter’s education costs, I don’t want to quit or downshift my career to accommodate a regular pumping or breastfeeding schedule."
Mantell also interviewed Phyllis Rippeyoung, a sociology professor at Acadia University who's also doing research on the economic consequences imposed on women who choose to nurse their babies. Rippeyoung noted that women who breastfeed for more than six months experienced steep declines in income "mainly due to their increased likelihood of reducing their work hours or quitting."
Moms: Were you able to continue breastfeeding when you returned to work? Did your decision to continue nursing your child affect your finances?