Guest Columnist
There Is a 32% Decline In Breastfeeding When Maternity Leave Ends
Apr 26, 2009 - 6:11:41 AM

( - When breastfeeding mothers return to work after maternity leave, they find themselves shouldering new time constraints, competing priorities and a large dose of sleep deprivation. Corporate mothers, in particular, may have to duck out of meetings to pump, they pump in cars and planes, and attend business dinners and conferences carrying the telltale black bag.

Because existing nursing clothes are inappropriate for many work environments, mothers add precious minutes (and stress) to pump sessions by also having to get undressed, not to mention the additional challenge of pumping in spaces that are less than private.

According to a joint study by the National Women’s Health Resource Center and Medela breast pump company, 32% of mothers in the U.S. stop breastfeeding 7 weeks after returning to work. If 4.1 million babies are born in the U.S. annually, and 25% of mothers return to work post-birth, (both stats from the U.S. Census Bureau), some 328,000 babies per year are being switched to formula at 5 months even though their mothers are capable of breastfeeding.

For a working new mother, every minute counts in the office or on the road in demonstrating her contribution. Pumping is a visual reminder to herself and to her colleagues of perceived reduced time on the job, even if it’s not true, and it is therefore tempting to give up.

The new clothing line HadleyStilwell grew out of “mompreneur” Holli Harris’ experience of returning to the work force, which included all and more of the pumping situations mentioned above. Through classic designs that provide quick and discreet access to breasts, Harris hopes to minimize the challenge of pumping at work and therefore encourage mothers to breastfeed that much longer. The pieces are meant to become long-term staples regardless of motherhood status.

The HadleyStilwell website also provides nursing and pumping advice in a section called Milk Notes, including a chart of the breastfeeding phases, tips on presenting the business case for breastfeeding to your boss and the art of pumping in a car. Customers can sign up for weekly Milk Tweets via Twitter, through which Harris shares vetted sources for new mother information, and the HadleyStilwell home page features profiles and working mom tips from the models, who are all real mothers in various careers.

Harris, whose past careers include investment banking and oil and gas, lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband and 2-year old daughter.

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