Many working mothers can continue breastfeeding thanks to breast pumps that even come handy while travelling. This is a great option if your baby is in NICU. Experts claim it’s safe to use if you follow the rules carefully.
CHENNAI: When a baby is born, the mother’s body automatically begins the process of lactation to provide essential nutrients and antibodies to the child. It is universally advised to follow breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months, and carry on for six more, along with solid foods till the baby is two. But with maternity leave allowance of only six months (and in many offices, it’s still three or less), and lack of feeding and nursing rooms in offices and public spaces, how should mothers balance work and provide nutrition for their baby? During World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), CE looks at the use of breast pumps by mothers to collect and store breast milk.
For Charanya Vanchinathan, who works as a project administrator in an IT company, breast pumps were a boon. “I had to return to work when my baby was five months, but I wanted to continue breastfeeding her. Every morning I would make sure I pump enough milk for two to three feeds, and feed her directly when I get back at 5 pm,” she says.
She also adds that her office has recently introduced a nursing room where during work, one can use a breast pump to collect and store milk. “Once the number of feeding reduces, milk flow reduces. If offices provide such facilities mothers can breastfeed for longer periods,” she says, adding that such rooms can also reduce discomfort caused by accidental leaks, in the initial stages of returning to work.
Travel & special care
Breast pumps also come in handy when mothers have to travel, as breastfeeding in public is not an option most of the time, and there is lack of nursing room facilities in public places. “When I had to travel to Coimbatore to meet my mom, I was sceptical of breastfeeding in the train, over the 8-hour journey. Using stored breast milk (expressed breast milk) thus really useful,” says Charanya.
It is also useful in cases where babies require special care. “My first daughter was in the NICU after birth due to low platelet count, and she required a lot more milk. As my wife had undergone a C-section, using a breast pump was far more convenient,” avers Pradeep Sarkar, a father of two.
Though there are obvious practical benefits from using breast pumps, certain emotional values are lost when mothers instantly choose breast pumps over direct feeding. “In many cases, when the child is held close and feeds from the mother, it helps them bond,” says Dr Jayshree Gajaraj, senior consultant obstetrician, Fortis Malar hospital.
She explains that lactation takes anywhere between 24-72 hours. “When it doesn’t happen immediately, mothers become anxious and promptly choose a breast pump,” she opines. “As important as breast milk is, so is the process of breastfeeding. Healthcare professionals should prepare mothers in the last month of pregnancy about lactation and its processes.”