As a mom that cares deeply about nutrition, that care is magnified threefold when it comes to my three babies. Like any mom, I want my kids to get the best start in life and, for me, part of that means breastfeeding my little ones. It is completely up to you as a mother whether or not you breastfeed and if you’re not able to or choose not to, formula now available on the market is leaps and bounds ahead of where it used to be and is a completely safe alternative. I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed all three of my girls, so I did (and still do). Today I’m sharing some of the challenges I encountered while breastfeeding as a working mom and how I was able to work through them, how society is changing to support breastfeeding and working moms and what your rights are if you do decide to breastfeed your little one.
My work life was vastly different for each of my girls. I breastfed my first daughter, Divinaka, for 17 and a half months around the clock all while I was in a Ph.D. program for psychology, helping to start a holistic wellness center in San Diego and just starting to get Once Upon a Farm off the ground. With Skyla, my second daughter, I was working full time at Once Upon a Farm and breastfed her 24-7 until she 18 months old (the few Once Upon a Farm employees we had at the time were working out of my house, so I was able to feed her whenever she was hungry). With Solkaiya, my third daughter, I plan to breastfeed for at least a year, if not longer. She’s currently 11 months old and I’ve been able to go into work (no longer our home, but an actual office!), travel quite a bit and breastfeed her regularly as well.
Let me start by saying that because I own my own business, I’ve had the luxury of flexibility when it comes to my schedule. I’m able to work from home when necessary, for example, and am surrounded by supportive team members (almost all parents), but the flip side of having your own business is that your work day doesn’t end at 5pm. Because of this, I need to make a conscious effort to make breastfeeding and pumping a priority. The old adage “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is true when it comes to breastfeeding and the key to ensuring your little one what they need is to eat enough and stay on a regular schedule (calendar reminders are your friend!). This can mean interrupting meetings or calls to take a break or leaving early which can be uncomfortable to communicate, but I do it anyway because it’s important to me and it’s important for my baby.
Oh, the places you’ll pump! Finding a location to pump or breastfeed isn’t always easy but I’ve found ways around it wherever I am. From airport and airplane bathrooms to cars and even under a desk in a room that only has open windows, I’ve pumped in many places. Society may not be totally set up to support the working mom quite yet, but I believe that we’re getting closer. MAMAVA nursing pods in airports, for example, are becoming more prevalent and offer a nice private room instead of sitting in a bathroom stall with a wireless pump. We’re also building out a pumping/breastfeeding room at Once Upon a Farm where moms can pump whenever they need and are focusing on creating an environment in which there is no shame to take a break to pump as often as you need.
Aside from wanting and needing to provide nourishment for your baby, breastfeeding is your legal right. In fact, publicly breastfeeding was just recently made legal in all 50 states! When it comes to working outside the home and breastfeeding, the extra energy, work, commitment and sometimes added pressure of an unsupportive work environment (1) can lead to a shorter breastfeeding duration compared to mothers who stay at home or work from home (2). This needs to change. Companies need to support the working mom and that support needs to trickle down from the top. CEOs and Boards need to encourage and foster a supportive environment for the working mom so we can collectively support a culture where moms can breastfeed.
For me, all of these challenges have been worth it. I have been lucky enough to be able to breastfeed all three of my girls and willing to make the sacrifice and bear the challenges as I see them because the bonding moments I get with my daughters as well as the assurance that I’m setting them up for a lifetime of health both outweigh all the hardships. Now it’s time to rally together to ensure any other working moms have the same experience or the option if they want.