It's no secret that working moms face an uphill battle. It's hard to take time off from work to even have a baby, since paid maternity leave in much of the country is nonexistent. Once moms are ready to reenter the workforce, they often have to work their way back up to the position they held once they left, or face a huge workload in order to catch up.
And let's not even get started on the constant push-and-pull working moms face. When they're at work, they're missing out on what's going on at home. When they're home, they're often thinking about work. It's such a hard balance, and it may be even harder for breastfeeding moms. Breastfeeding working moms may face long-term consequences when it comes to their careers, which can greatly impact their decision to continue breastfeeding (or choose breastfeeding in the beginning).
A report by Vox published in February 2018 showed that motherhood is one of the leading causes of the gender pay gap. The report found that having children caused a 20% drop in earnings for women over the course of their career. For breastfeeding moms, that drop in earnings is coupled with a culture of hostility and resentment.
There are policies and laws in place to protect breastfeeding working moms, sure. Accommodations must be made to allow breaks for pumping or nursing during the workday, and employers are required to provide a private, non-bathroom space for women to use. However, that doesn't mean it's easy, by any means.
A recent Bloomberg report cited a 2012 study that showed that moms who breastfed for six months saw a severe loss of earnings when compared to women who nursed for less time or not at all. Employers may view the time breastfeeding moms take to pump as work time that is being sacrificed. The fact is, the workday doesn't stop for pump breaks, and when you're pumping several times a day (at 15-20 minutes a session), it's easy to fall behind or for coworkers and supervisors to take issue with the time spent away from work. Even when workplaces make accommodations, there's still a stigma against breastfeeding moms and how much time they take away from their jobs to keep up with their breastfeeding journey.
Not being supported is a big reason a lot of women stop breastfeeding before the one year mark that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. It's crucial that we change the way workplaces think about breastfeeding moms. It's one part of their lives that we can definitely work harder at making easier.