By Briana Vannozzi
New mom Stacy Szurek is going back to work just seven weeks after giving birth to her beautiful daughter Lily.
“I’ll be away from Lily for 10 hours a day so I’m going to pump several times,” Szurek said
Breastfeeding proved enough of a challenge, but making sure she keeps up her supply by pumping at work adds another layer.
“Now when I’m at work I’m not just a manager or an employee. I’m still a mom when I’m at work,” she said.
It’s a common problem for mothers hoping to nurse their newborns. Especially if they’re aiming to reach the American Academy of Pediatrics‘ one-year guideline.
“I know new moms who can’t continue breastfeeding their babies because they’re not able to pump at work, whether their schedule doesn’t allow it or they don’t have the facilities to do so,” Szurek said.
Szurek is at Virtua Voorhees Hospital, taking part in the annual World Breastfeeding Week, where the topic is breastfeeding and work.
“So what can we do to support them in producing the milk that the babies need and providing the emotional support that they need as well?” asked Virtua Voorhees Hospital Director of Family Health Services Lisa Smith.
“It’s so important to have all of that at the work place and it’s definitely an everyday struggle,” said new mom Corin Beyers
Virtua provides lactation consultants a resource center, free support groups and classes for moms in the community, even if they didn’t deliver there.
“I think the first three weeks is the hardest because moms need that support. They go home, they have a lot of support in the hospital. They go home and they feel like it’s dropped off,” said Elizabeth Corcory, IBC lactation consultant and RN at Virtua Voorhees.
“Pumping is crucial. If you don’t pump when you need to, your supply drops and then it affects everything that happens when you’re not at work,” Beyers said.
By law, employers in New Jersey must provide a designated space for nursing moms to pump — a space that isn’t a bathroom. Nurses at Virtua are advocating for this.
There’s also a sense from some moms that breastfeeding has become a moral obligation, too much pressure to make it a cultural norm. When in fact, research shows up to 5 percent of new moms are biologically unable to produce enough breast milk and some babies, for one reason or another, can’t catch on. Some doctors say the conversation may need to shift.
“Definitely pressure from myself and from society in general. I mean, I never heard it from my family or friends or husband that I have to breast feed, but it feels like almost like you’re failing as a new mom if you don’t do everything correctly,” Szurek said.
“We still support them, we still help them bond with their babies and do other measures that help them because we think it’s important that all moms are supported, not only here but in the community,” said Christina Stone, RN assistant nurse manager.
“It’s such a personal experience for everyone and not only do I have to make it work for me, it’s got to work for her and I mean she didn’t know how to do it either,” Szurek said.