What about the cost, companies can't afford it at the current time! it will make mothers unemployable! Women will be forced back to the workplace early and with all those bonding hormones going on won't be able to focus on work anyway!
Before I start tackling some of the employment issues, I thought I would start with some of Bridget's comments (or consequences as she prefers to call them). Of course Bridget as a nursing mum is entitled to her opinion, but it's also important to realise this isn't the opinion of every nursing mum.
Breastfeeding is exhausting and emotional. Unless you have done it, it is difficult to fully understand what an intimate and consuming experience it is.Breastfeeding in the early weeks can be hard, no doubt about it - but once established it's a lot less exhausting for many than the rigorous formula preparation now advised. Mothers who return to work co-sleeping and breastfeeding, often report much lower levels of exhaustion than those up a lot with a waking baby. Realistically having a baby can be exhausting and emotional, regardless of how they are fed. Breastfeeding only uses the same calories as a gym workout - rather than the equivalent of Superman facing kryptonite!
It seems to me though this isn't about forcing women to breastfeed - if a mum hates expressing, she is as free to use something else as she ever was. If she has a hellish commute or nobody to bring the baby in - she doesn't have to! But not all mums feel the same as Bridget - some feel empowered they can continue to provide milk, happier to return to work knowing baby is still getting it. Some babies will refuse formula, causing upset and stress for mum if there is no way she can continue to provide milk.
Bridget feels her first child was less clingy because she bottlefed when returning to work, compared to number two who had the "biological tie" and was distressed when she was absent. The reality is this is far more likely to be about different children! My first always waved me off with a grin and was happy as larry all day, despite being breastfed! My second was far more limpet like, because well they have different personalities. I don't understand how this will force women back to work - most make that decision based on other considerations such as finances. Bridget herself went back earlier with her second child, she herself says "too early", was that because she could provide breastmilk at work? nope
Breastfeeding is generally so undervalued in our society that I don't often hear of women not returning to work because they breastfeed - instead they are far more likely to not start at all (no point when I'm back to work soon) or wean before they return because their employer may not allow expressing breaks, and this is the crux of the issue.
That said, there are thousands of women who do bravely manage to combine breastfeeding with work.At least there's some acknowledgment that despite the anxious, guilt ridden, exhausted, emotional mess that apparently is the working breastfeeding mother - some women "bravely" do both. But what Bridget seemingly doesn't get is that not all employers are as nice as hers clearly is. Unlike women in 80 other countries in the world, mothers in the UK have no legal right to express milk or breastfeed during work hours.
They carry breast pumps in their handbags; slip off discreetly to pump and store the milk in specially designed cooler bags. I support wholeheartedly their right to do so.
But since they are already managing this, why do they need the Government to intervene on their behalf?
The costs could "cripple" small companies - what a screen, a chair and a coolbox? sure the mum might get a couple more breaks - but when you consider non breastfeeding mums are absent from the workplace up to 3 times as frequently as non breastfed (due to increased rates of illness in non breastfed children) where's the cost?
In fact, there are a lot of benefits to employers that don't seem to have been considered. According to the NHS breastfeeding and work leaflet these include:
• Reduced absence due to sickness
• Increased staff morale and loyalty, and a subsequent higher return to work rate
• Lower recruitment and training costs
• An extra incentive to offer potential employees.
The Health Promotion Agency also adds:
Women who breastfeed are healthier and are less likely to suffer certain serious illnesses, such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer or osteoporosis.
The HPA make suggestions very similar to this as to how you can choose to combine working and feeding:
• If you can arrange childcare for your baby close to where you work, you could breastfeed during breaks and immediately before and after work.
• You could continue to breastfeed at home and then express milk while at work. This way you will be able to keep up your milk supply and your baby can be fed your milk from a cup or a bottle.
• You could ask to work flexible hours outside the times your baby would need fed. Alternatively, you might be able to reduce your hours for a short time, just until your baby needs fewer breastfeeds.
So the HPA obviously don't think these ideas are so "out there" they are ridicule worthy.