Did you know that it's World Breastfeeding Week? Twenty three years ago, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) started the event, and since then the week of August 1–7 has been designated to promote breastfeeding globally.
Beyond that important goal, each year's WBW also focuses on a special theme, and this year it's one that's especially relevant to me: "Breastfeeding and Work: Let's Make It Work!" In keeping with the theme, WABA is calling for "concerted global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby's right to breastfeed."
As a working mama who breastfed two children, I couldn't agree more. Breastfeeding requires time, education, dedication, and lots of support. If any one of those is missing, it can derail the whole process. And too many moms go back to work in an environment that doesn't support nursing. (We got a reminder of that just last week, when news broke that back in 2011 Donald Trump called a lawyer and breastfeeding mom "disgusting" during a legal deposition for pulling out her breast pump. This is a business leader and a presidential candidate, people!)
Related: Balancing Work and Breastfeeding
I'm lucky that I never experienced any workplace negativity while I was nursing. With baby number one, there was never even an issue—I was a freelancer who worked from home and nursed (or pumped) as I pleased. With baby number two, back at work in an office full-time, I found myself with access to a comfortable lactation room, an understanding boss who let me pump two to three times a day, and coworkers who never batted an eyelash when I washed breast pump parts at the shared kitchen sink.
Even then, pumping was a challenge. There were times I mixed up the parts to my pumps and had to run out to purchase new ones (expensive!), and times I was so tired when I got home from work that I forgot to put the results of my hard work in the fridge. (I could cry over the wasted effort and, more importantly, the wasted milk.) Even so, I was dedicated to breastfeeding, and my supportive workplace helped make it possible.
I wish every nursing mama could say that—but I'm glad there's at least one week out of the year where we can focus our attention on helping to make that wish a reality.
Erika Janes is Parents.com's Digital Director, the mom of two boys, and a believer in the benefits extended breastfeeding.