Week 7: RN as Healthcare Policy Leader
Week 7: RN as Healthcare Policy Leader
Week 7: RN as Healthcare Policy Leader
I agree with you about the importance of working mothers being able to have a clean and safe place to pump and store expressed milk for their babies. We built and moved into a new hospital a few years ago and there were lactation rooms built into the new facility. They are set up like a small break room with a sink, microwave, refrigerator, TV and seating. For a while there was a problem with non-breastfeeding mothers using the rooms as a break room, but that problem as since been solved with a door passcode that general employees do not have access to.
One problem that I have noticed is that there are no additional break allotments for employees that need to pump. Currently, they have to pump on their 15 minute breaks and their lunch. This doesn’t seem right to me. I feel that they could be allowed an additional 15 minute break so they don’t have to eat while they pump. Our hospital being a small-community one, is like a big family, so people will cover for them, sort of off the record. However, when they are off the unit, we are out of compliance with your nurse/patient ratios and on busy days it can be pretty challenging to let them go several times a day. One of our doctors flies from Illinois one week/month and works a 7-day stretch. Her husband comes with her because they have a 6-month old baby. He brings the baby to the hospital several times/day for her to nurse. They make it work, but it is such a challenge. Life while our children are infants is already so challenging with sleep deprivation and it is a shame that trying to make breastfeeding work can be so hard for some working mothers.
One area that society can improve on is the acceptance of breastfeeding in the workplace. Breastfeeding not only has benefits for the baby but also for the mother (Kozhimannil, Jou, Gjerdingen, & McGovern, 2016). Babies will experience reduced rates for conditions including GI infections, SIDS, diabetes, and obesity (Kozhimannil et al., 2016). Mothers can also gain benefits by having a decreased risk for postpartum depression, diabetes, arthritis, and even some cancers (Kozhimannil et al., 2016). The recommendation is for mothers to only breastfeed for the first six months of the child’s life (Kozhimannil et al., 2016). In recent years, the number of women breastfeeding has increased, but the number of women who continue the practice upon returning to work does not support this trend (Kozhimannil et al., 2016). When women were asked why they were not breastfeeding, returning to their full-time job after maternity leave is the primary reason (Kozhimannil et al., 2016). Even though the government has mandated that places of employment allow mothers frequent breaks to breastfeed during the day, there are issues with having adequate space for women to pump besides a bathroom, facilities to store expressed milk, and a lack of workplace support (Kozhimannil et al., 2016).
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I have seen some of my coworkers experience these trials when they return as new mothers. We have an office space that is the unofficial breastfeeding room. In one instance, a mother was in the room when a physician came to the floor; he was upset that he could not use that room to chart. Even though there were plenty of other spaces with computer access, he caused somewhat of a scene. Most places of employment have policies for breastfeeding, but the execution of those policies might be problematic (Anderson et al., 2015). An open line of communication between the mothers and employers should exist to ensure that the mothers have what they need to continue with breastfeeding upon returning to work (Anderson et al., 2015).
Breastfeeding is a health practice that can have lifelong benefits for children; a mother should have complete control when deciding if she wishes to breastfeed. Not having approved time or sufficient space to pump while at work are not valid reasons that should prevent any mother from breastfeeding. We should advocate for procedures to be in place so that the choice of whether to breastfeed is simple for those mothers who wish to continue this practice when they return to work. In the past, some of my coworkers have confided that they were sometimes scared to complain about problems with breastfeeding at work because they did not want to cause any friction. They had already been absent from work due to maternity leave and did not wish to raise any concerns asking for special treatment. No mother should feel this way. We, as a society, should do a better job supporting our mothers.
Anderson, J., Kuehl, R. A., Tschetter, L., Drury, S. M., Schwaegerl, M., Yoder, J., & … Lamp, J. (2015). Policies Aren’t Enough: The Importance of Interpersonal Communication about Workplace Breastfeeding Support. Journal Of Human Lactation, 31(2), 260-266.
Kozhimannil, K. B., Jou, J., Gjerdingen, D. K., & McGovern, P. M. (2016). Access to Workplace Accommodations to Support Breastfeeding after Passage of the Affordable Care Act. Women’s Health Issues: Official Publication Of The Jacobs Institute Of Women’s Health, 26(1), 6-13. doi:10.1016/j.whi.2015.08.002
Very good post. I can relate to what you said about having the time and location to pump while at work. When I had my first daughter I was working in the Intensive Care Unit. I was only able to breastfeed her for about 5 or 6 months, because I was not allowed the time to breastfeed her at work. Of course no one came right out and said “no you can’t” but coverage was very limited and often times I didn’t feel that it was safe for me to leave my patients. When my now 21 month old was a baby I experienced the same type of response while I was in ICU. I would call to get coverage and someone may come an hour or sometimes three hours later. I remember times where I just wanted to cry because I was so frustrated and because I was kind of in pain to be honest. The times when I was able to pump, I was often interrupted which was so very frustrating. Doctors, housekeeping, other nurses, and even family members on a few occasions would come into the break room when I was trying to pump. I never felt like I had privacy. Other nurses would get annoyed because I actually got to “take my breaks.” Anyone who has ever pumped knows that that is not a break. When I took my new job as an Instructor RN, I had a whole new experience. I could now pump whenever I wanted and I had a private office where I wasn’t worried about being interrupted. Having had both experiences, I think breastfeeding mothers definitely deserve their privacy. Of course, I wouldn’t ask for special treatment and I think they should limit their times where they pump, but they should be allowed the time and space. When I worked a 12 hour shift I would try to pump once in the morning, at lunch, and once in the afternoon. I felt that was reasonable, as technically we were allowed two 15 minute breaks and a lunch break. I wish that people wouldn’t shame mothers who try to breastfeed as it is already such a selfless and time consuming thing.
I also chose the topic of breastfeeding in the workplace. This topic is so important and should be an issue of concern for our community. Just as you mentioned mothers should be the ones deciding what type of nutrition their child receives. There should not be a forced decision for mothers to stop breastfeeding because lack of support and resources in the workplace. In my hospital currently we have added a lactation room for our nursing mothers brought about by the NYS Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act. This room must a sink, a lock on the door, and an area to store the milk. No one should feel intimidated by others or forced into a makeshift room because of their decision to provide breast milk for their child. I hope the doctor who made the commotion about the mother you spoke about in your discussion was educated on the lack of resources and support many mothers face when choosing to breastfeed. Education is the first step to changing the public perspective on breastfeeding after returning to work.