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Every Working Mom Should Consider Opting Out of Breastfeeding

Photograph by Twenty20

There's a fast, surefire way to make working new moms' lives easier... but you might not like it.

What's the secret? If you're one of the millions of mothers returning to work just weeks or months after baby is born, here's what you do: Opt out of breastfeeding and pumping. Period.

Told you that you might not like this.

Is breast milk best? Yes. It’s a living food. It’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends for all new mothers and babies. And I absolutely do not dispute those facts and recommendations at all. No way.

RELATED: Why I Chose Not to Breastfeed... Twice

But in the name of being resilient, confident and capable in today’s climate of overwhelmed working moms trying to live the lives of three different women simultaneously in a pressure-cooker of career, home and in-between, I say, “Shut down the milk factory.”

Because sometimes, new moms have to make tough choices to serve everyone in the name of staying focused and functioning after babies—and that includes choosing not to breastfeed.

Let’s cut to some realities which make this rash idea of mine less threatening than it sounds:

1. Breastfeeding doesn’t make our kids smarter.

Although the AAP firmly advocates that the health benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risk factors, a new study in the journal Pediatrics cites that breastfeeding does not affect a child’s intelligence in the long run. The benefits of certain cognitive skills and reduced hyperactivity related to breastfeeding disappear by the time kids turn 5, so our kids won't be getting into Harvard just because we breastfed them in the empty corner office or pumped milk in the hallway bathroom.

2. A lot of women don’t enjoy it.

Leave a question in any new mom Facebook group and you’ll find that growing numbers of working moms identify breastfeeding as their most dreaded, anxiety-inducing, demanding or painful duty of new motherhood. True, I’ve known plenty women who haven’t had drama and have absolutely treasured nursing their children, but most of these same women were stay-at-home moms who had flexibility with time, resources and being in the comfort of their own home whenever baby’s hunger called.

3. Producing milk is physically and emotionally taxing on the body.

Returning to a job when a baby is just a few weeks old is stressful. Stress can inhibit the body from producing enough milk, and not producing enough milk turns even more nerve-wracking if your baby is depending on only your breasts for food. Add that issue to the complications of pumping at work and you've got a big pile of guilt, anxiety and stress that negate most all benefits and joy out of nursing in the first place.

So why are we, as mothers, killing ourselves in the name of inconvenient breastfeeding when there are options to help us?

4. It might put women at risk.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has cited, “Women who experience breastfeeding difficulties are at higher risk of postpartum depression and should be screened, treated and referred appropriately.” I don’t relay those words with any kind of sleazy intention to mislead that breastfeeding contributes to postpartum depression (it doesn’t) but the OB/GYNs do cite that those with difficulties are “at higher risk.” Find me a working mother who has room in her life for more risks…

Expecting a working mom to live a life of a breastfeeding/pumping stay-at-home mom is ridiculous and overwhelming. Expecting ourselves to function as two separate women at the same time (a working mom and stay-at-home mom) is not practical or healthy.

That’s not sexism, that’s just reality.

No one judges adoptive or gay couples for feeding their babies with formula. No one judges working mothers who enlist childcare to help them with managing their family’s needs when they return to work.

So why are we, as mothers, killing ourselves in the name of inconvenient breastfeeding when there are options to help us?

RELATED: Pumping at Work Already Sucks and It Could Get Worse

Why are we demanding so much from ourselves at the cost of our own health? Click on any article about the importance of self-care and you will inevitably find something that says, “take care of you.” Does that include ongoing panic about “my breasts feel like they’re going to explode if I don’t pump them now [right in the middle of a meeting]” or the depletion of “my body is so damn tired from producing all this milk, I can’t even think straight [in the middle of a conference call]?”

And don’t get me started about the poor mom who spends her lunch hour pumping in the bathroom, only to head home and have someone bump into her in the parking lot or on the train and splatter her hard-earned liquid gold labors all over the pavement.

If it's working while you're working, then it's working. But if it's not...

Stop the guilt.

Stop the self-imposed demand of doing too much as women who work with babies.

Just stop the stress.

Making tough choices—without guilt—so our families may survive and thrive is the most important skill we can unleash to cope with circumstances we might not have the luxury to change—like having to go back to work weeks after having a baby.

And that’s what’s really best.

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Jill Simonian is a Parenting Lifestyle Contributor for CBS Los Angeles television news and author of the new confidence-building book for first-time moms, The FAB Mom's Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby. (Because bouncing back is not about the body... it's about being "focused after baby" to make tough choices through the bumpy, first-year of motherhood.)

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