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A Working Mother's Experience of Extended Breastfeeding

by Kathleen Finch(more info)

listed in women's health, originally published in issue 37 - February 1999

When I discovered that I was unexpectedly expecting, I decided that I would give breastfeeding a try. My late mother bottle-fed all three of her children, so I had no idea whether or not I would be 'able' to do so. During the pre-natal period, mothers are led to believe that breastfeeding is exceptionally difficult, and the message we are given is that breastfeeding is usually safely abandoned after about six weeks! But I decided to throw caution to the wind and try anyway.

Soon after Maryanne was born, the midwives in the hospital showed me how to breastfeed her. I could not believe how easy it was! We both took to it like ducks to water, and soon Maryanne was thriving. I have found breastfeeding to be the most natural thing in the world, and certainly one of the most rewarding.

The author, Kathleen Finch, with her daughter, Maryanne, aged 9 months

The author, Kathleen Finch, with her daughter, Maryanne, aged 9 months

However, we attended my ante-natal class reunion when she was about four weeks old, and several mothers had already stopped breastfeeding – one had never even bothered trying! I have been in contact with several of these mothers since then, and most of them gave up breastfeeding at around six weeks, thinking that this was sufficient to set their babies up for life! So the midwives' unintentional message had got through: you are meant to breastfeed your baby for six weeks, and then give up!

Unfortunately, many mothers today are forced by their financial obligations to return to work at around the six week mark. I must admit, the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life was to return to work three months after the birth of my daughter – as all my instincts were screaming at me that my most important duty in life – indeed, for the next twenty years – is to care for and nurture her.

Maryanne Finch at 10 months: happy, healthy and breastfed

Maryanne Finch at 10 months: happy, healthy and breastfed

However, I was determined that my daughter would not suffer nutritionally or health-wise from my returning to work. Therefore, I have now been expressing breast milk for the past ten months. This has been incredibly hard work, but the rewards are great, as my daughter is healthy, intelligent, well-adjusted and thriving... and certainly far healthier than my bottle-fed brother was at the same age!

I believe that in order to continue breast feeding her child, a working mother needs two important elements: a supportive employer and a supportive childminder. My employers have never once complained within the last ten months that I keep disappearing to express yet another bottle, and my mother-in-law, who cares for Maryanne during the day, has always been supportive of my decision to continue breastfeeding and continues feeding her on demand.

I shall continue to breastfeed Maryanne for as long as she needs me to. However, there must be a cut-off point – probably when she is old enough to speak properly and describe the implications of breastfeeding, because then it would be exceptionally uncomfortable to expose myself to someone who is old enough to hold a conversation about such an intimate part of my anatomy!

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About Kathleen Finch

Kathleen Finch is a mother of two, working full-time in publishing. Maryanne was breastfed until the age of two, when her younger sister was gestating.

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