To commemorate World Breastfeeding Week, which was the first week of August, a group of male health care leaders at Covenant Health participated in a “simulated breastfeeding challenge,” as FOX34 reported.
Covenant Health is a Christian health network located in Lubbock, Texas.
For four days, the men simulated the act of breastfeeding every three hours for 20-minute stints, the report stated. They summarized their daily experiences in video diaries.
The goal was to get an idea of the challenges working mothers face when breastfeeding and having to pump milk at the workplace during the day.
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“Wondering why I agreed to do this,” Matt Mitchell, interim director of critical care, said in his video diary, according to the report.
“First day was pretty rough,” he also said. “It got a little bit easier once you got the schedule down, but a whole new perspective for sure.”
Some of the men reported missing pumping sessions, as it was challenging to schedule them around work obligations, they said.
Others said that given the difficulties of breastfeeding, they would opt to use formula instead.
“There was no way to multitask,” said Walt Cathey, CEO of Covenant Health.
“I mean, you’re basically having to hold the two pumps, so you couldn’t really do anything for 30 minutes.”
“There was no way to multitask … you couldn’t really do anything for 30 minutes.”
Another challenge the men faced was finding private spaces to pump.
“I made the effort to go sit in a public restroom for 20 minutes,” which was “uncomfortable from a vulnerability standpoint,” Mitchell said.
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“Finding a place that you feel is secure for you is definitely difficult,” Cathey said in his video diary, noting that he did not have enough privacy in his office or in a conference room, per the report.
“Even with my two rooms, I was always sitting there going, ‘Man, who’s gonna walk in?’” Cathey said.
While Covenant Health offers a “lactation lounge” for moms who need to breastfeed at work, the report said, the men said the simulation helped them understand the logistical challenges involved.
“This is the first time we’ve really kind of challenged ourselves to look in the mirror on this situation,” Cathey said, per the report.
“What we had to do was minimal in comparison to what our working moms go through.”
“We have to create a more open environment for our moms to feel comfortable — I mean, we are health care.”
“It was a huge eye-opener for me,” he continued. “The dedication that they put into this — you can’t have anything but respect for these ladies.”
The men said the exercise deepened their respect for what working mothers must juggle.
“What we had to do was minimal in comparison [to] what our working moms go through — being pregnant, giving birth, and even after that, sustaining life for this infant. It’s incredible,” Mitchell said.
Amy Wenger, co-executive director of the Vermont Donor Milk Center and a childbirth and newborn educator, agreed that the biggest challenge is for women to have the “appropriate time and space” built into the day in order to pump, as well as the feeling that they can do this consistently without being made to feel “like a burden,” she said.
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“There should be mandatory policies … that support this,” Wenger told Fox News Digital.
“It should be a conversation prior to delivery about what support their business can have for them when they get back to work.”
“There should also be policies on how the states can support employers to make this happen,” she added.
Regarding breastfeeding simulations like the one done at Covenant Health, Wenger said they cannot replicate the full spectrum of the challenges women face.
“Not only is there the hormonal piece, but there is the discomfort, the expectations and the overwhelming feeling of not being able to feed your baby.”
“Not only is there the hormonal piece, but there is the discomfort, the expectations and the overwhelming feeling of not being able to feed your baby,” she said.
“The mental load that women have as the sole responsible person to feed their baby is more than any simulation” could represent, Wenger said.
There is also the “grieving” that comes with not being able to feed one’s own baby and not being supported to do so, she said.
“That feeling becomes a core memory that is carried throughout a woman’s life,” she said.
“It affects [women’s] mental and sometimes physical health.”
Wenger called for giving postpartum and lactating women the “space and support they need with their babies, more than just a couple of weeks when they themselves are healing.”
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The benefits of breastfeeding include better nutrition, growth and development for babies, as well as the prevention of certain illnesses and diseases in both mom and baby, per the CDC.