Thursday, March 4, 2010

Economic Consequences of Breastfeeding

Today's Wall Street Journal blog has an interesting post by Ruth Mantell on the Economic Consequences of Breastfeeding. Deciding how and what you can physically do to feed your baby is an extremely personal choice, one fraught with emotion and, cultural influence and health statistics, but this article struck me as the first time I'd seen a financial downside to breastfeeding. When faced with the to-breastfeed-or-not-to-breastfeed decision with my first children, twins, cost was a major factor. Have you seen the cost of formula?

All of the costs associated with breastfeeding that the author lists (pump, nursing bras, etc) are really small in comparison to the cost of formula. More and more health insurance policies cover lactation consultants and even the rental of a hospital grade pump (Tip: get your pediatrician to prescribe it under "failure to thrive" and file a claim under durable medical equipment).

But the data described by researched Phyllis Rippeyoung from Acadia University is interesting; "In terms of long-term earnings, women who breastfeed less than six months have similar income trajectories to those who never breastfeed, but those who breastfeed for six months or longer have far steeper declines in income, mainly due to their increased likelihood of reducing their work hours or quitting.”

Before coming to Momentum Resources I was a management consultant at a Big 5 Firm returning to work with 6 month old preemie twins. After pumping exclusively for 6 weeks until they reached their due date the boys finally learned how to breastfeed with a very supportive husband and miraculous lactation consultant. I still consider tandem breastfeeding one of my greatest accomplishments in life! But with the stress of returning to work I decided to breastfeed just twice a day and not pump at work. After all, I was starting work on client site and sharing a physical office with my client on a military base. I didn't think I could waltz in and say, "excuse me sir, would you mind vacating your office so I could pump?"

A couple of years later I worked in our corporate office which was blissfully outfitted with a pumping suite, replete with recliner, locked door and small fridge for storage. One day I noticed a middle-aged man walk into this suite, toting a bag from the deli across the street. Moments later, the scent of raw onions came wafting out. It suddenly occurred to me: this man was eating a stinky onion-laced sandwich in the coveted pumping room!

Feeling slighted from my own experience, I marched right up to the door, knocked and calmly explained to the man reclined in a chair, eating his stinky sandwich with his feet propped up on the fridge, that this room was reserved for pumping mothers. Looking embarrassed, the gentleman quickly packed up his stinky meal and exited while I triumphantly marched back to my cube. The next day I discovered he was a Regional Vice President visiting our office. Perhaps that was my personal economic consequence to breastfeeding.

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