Sunday, March 23, 2008

Working and Breastfeeding

There was an interesting article in the Herald today, discussing a law change which will force employers to provide facilities and breaks for breastfeeding mothers.

Labour Minister Trevor Mallard said yesterday all employers would be required to provide breastfeeding breaks and set aside appropriate facilities, where reasonable and practicable.

This part concerns me - how easy is it going to be for a work place to say - oh no, sorry, not reasonable or practicable to have that set up here. I am a teacher when working, and I would almost guarantee that most, if not all, schools would argue that they cannot (a) find room for a woman to feed/express in relative private; or (b) cover breaks that fall outside the normal daily school breaks. Certainly I would expect there to be complaining around how unfair it is that breast feeding mothers do not have to do playground duty as they are expressing/feeding. Breaks would be unable to be lengthened to allow mothers to whip down the road to the child's care place as there are 30 children waiting for their teacher to return.

I have a friend who is a lawyer and is returning to work later this year, when their child is around 7 months old. They will be able to continue feeding if she chooses, due to the nature of the job. The daycare is nearby and she has the power to choose when she takes breaks and for how long, within reason, without any change to the law.

Isn't it somewhat ironic that a so called 'parent friendly' job like teaching will be unable to support the new law like other professions? And what could be a way to enable them to support breastfeeding continuation?

Don't get me wrong, I completely support any changes that make the workplace more mother/child friendly. I just feel that laws like this are somewhat naive in thinking that it will go beyond the people who already have better conditions than others.

Dr Judith Galtry points this out:
"The people this provision will help will be those who have clout in the workplace and whose employers don't want to lose them. People working in the biscuit factory or as night-shift cleaners are going to find it hard to get that right."

And not just the real blue collar workers either. If I can instantly see problems with teaching, a huge employer of women, there must be thousands more women in jobs that the law change will not make the blind bit of difference to, and as usual, the women that need support the most will be the ones least likely to have positive change.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Formula Debate

Before I get started I want to make it clear that I do not have any problem with people who need to use formula for whatever reason. I do not even have a problem with people who choose to use formula for any reason, so long as it is an informed choice, made with the knowledge of the difference between breast milk and formula. This is not intended to beat up those mums at all (but I will look at mummy wars in postings to come).

Lily is now a little over 8 months old and I continue to breastfeed. It is easy - free (bonus for a SAHM) and works well for us.

What I am finding interesting is that breastfeeding support follows something like this:

Pre-birth: 'Oh you are going to breast feed, aren't you, it is the best for the baby...'

Birth: 'It is so great that you are giving breast feeding a good go, it is the best for the baby...'

3 months: 'Great that breast feeding is working so well for you, it is the best for the baby. So, when do you think you might introduce a bottle - it will help baby sleep through, give you a break...'

6 months: 'Wow, you have been so good with breastfeeding. So when are you going to start weaning?'

8 months: 'Oh, still feeding then, will you stop at a year?

1 year: *uncomfortable silence*

Why does this happen? Why is it great to start feeding your baby, but then have to move onto a formula so that other people feel comfortable? And why do some people feel uncomfortable about such a thing anyway?

For the record, I used to think it was a bit icky when people fed past 2 years. I still don't think it is a choice i would make, but now I can see why they might choose to feed. Not to mention the longer you feed, the better the health benefits are for the mother!

I think that it is no coincidence that the general societal acceptance of weaning onto formula at around 6 months occurs at the same time that formula is allowed to be advertised. Currently formula companies cannot advertise new born products. Most maternity carers are very limited in the information they give so they can push breast feeding. That means that many people who need advice on formula early on, when their milk supply is low or non existent for example, cannot access information easily.

Then at 6 months they suddenly come out of the woodwork - ta da! Formula time! So it becomes more normal to give formula than to breastfeed.

There is even an ad for a 'follow-on' formula for babies over a year - so you can be sure as to give your child all the nutrients they need.

Perhaps their parents haven't heard of food? You know, vegetables and fruit and well balanced meals? Why are they guilting parents into getting something they don't actually need?

So, next time you see someone feeding past 6 months, a year, 2 years... stop and think about why you feel the way you do, especially if it is negative. Chances are that the feelings are created by advertising, rather than from something you really believe.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Sleeping, sleeping, sleeping.

Well after such a long break, it seems best to return to the most recent topic. Sleeping. Ah, dear to my heart indeed!

We have had success here - Lily is now sleeping through the night from around 7.30 pm till 6.30 am, with a feed at 10.30 pm and a brief wake up around 5 am where I resettle her. The wake up is due to her new skill of crawling - she prefers to sleep on her tummy now but when she wakes in the early hours of the morning to find herself on her tummy, she forgets that she can get back to her back by herself. So in I trek, flip her back and off to sleep she goes.

Every now and then she doesn't wake at 5, and that means a longer stretch for me - bliss! Of course it took ages for me to sleep through - i keep waking, expecting her to wake and would lie there trying to hear her. That has stopped now, thankfully.

The key for us was getting to the end of a tether! After trying to settle her for 45 minutes at 1 am one night, I decided I had enough! So I put her into bed and left her to it, popping back in every 5 to 10 minutes to put her back on her back and giving her a pat. Within 30 minutes she was down to intermittent grizzling, then by 40 minutes she was asleep! Less time than I had just spent rocking her!

So further to my post on doing what is right for you, I really want people to know that you will probably know when you can change things without getting upset.

Trying to settle Lily this way any earlier would have been too traumatic for us all and would have failed. But this was the right time - and I just knew. Night 2 she resettled in about 10 minutes, night 3 it was about 5 - and now she goes off to sleep each night happy, even on those nights you would swear she was wide awake!

We do still have to pop her on her back at times, but as she gets better with crawling, she learns how to do this herself.

I know the reason this was so successful was the nights spent stretching her out beforehand (as discussed in the previous entry), so it wasn't too much of a shock to the system.

Of course now I actually sometimes miss those snuggly middle of the night feeds where you feel like the only 2 people alive. You can't win really, can you!