Yes, I am bringing up the topic that many mothers fear to discuss. Breastfeeding. It seems in the last decade it has been continually a hot topic of conversation among mothers, media and contributed to much unnecessary mayhem everywhere. Outside of the beauty that is childbirth, mothers are then facing diffculty taking the proper time to bond, heal and even have time to establish breastfeeding. Women in the United States as a whole really struggle to have maternity leave and job protection should they choose to return to work. An invesigative study for In These Times by Abt Associates, wrote, “…a 2012 survey it conducted for the Department of Labor of 2,852 employees who had taken family or medical leave in the last year, looking specifically at the 93 women who took time off work to care for a new baby. Nearly 12 percent of those women took off only a week or less. Another 11 percent took between one and two weeks off. That means that about 23 percent—nearly 1 in 4—of the women interviewed were back at work within two weeks of giving birth. The educational divide between those who took shorter and relatively longer leaves is striking: 80 percent of college graduates took at least six weeks off to care for a new baby, but only 54 percent of women without college degrees did so.”
I was blessed to have 12-weeks maternity leave with both of our girls. This is actually a small amount of time compared to some countries that offer 9 to 18 months or longer! I hope that someday that period of bonding between mother and baby can be extended as it is some of the most important and delicate time. There are numerous emotions, fears and sometimes guilt. For mothers who are breastfeeding it also begins another task of discovering how to now divide your day between baby, body and bookkeeping. My journey through breastfeeding was not easy with either one of my children. Without going into great detail, I read and educated myself with countless tips and knowledge, went to classes and even hired lactation consultants. It was a beautiful struggle through the entire 4 months I was able to breastfeed with my first and 6 months with my second. I would not change one day of it but I will not fool you into thinking it was an easy task for me. I was so proud of what I was able to offer my girls and didn’t want to lose that on account of returning to work.
Your mind is focusing on that precious baby, your heart is focused on providing for them and your current surroundings are focused on doing the job others depend on you to do. I can assure you without a doubt this was in my lifetime thus far the hardest thing I have ever done, not just once, but twice. The first couple weeks will be hard but it will get easier. You will start to create a routine and truly value the time you spend with the little bundle of joy. Today our family is complete and I have healthy, vibrant and smart 5 and 2 year old girls. I want to share with you what I learned through this experience as encouragement and advice to working mothers. Whether you are expecting or know someone that is, I encourage you to read and share these tips knowing you’re not alone on this journey that so many other women have also voyaged before and will continue for years to come.
Know Your Rights
It is important to do your homework early on and know what your company offers in the way of Maternity and Parental Leave. The Family & Medical Leave Act allows 12 weeks of unpaid leave for companies with greater than 50 employees and you have to have been employed for over a year. Make it your intention to do your research and envision what will work for you and your family. Talk to others, maybe even you employer, and plan ahead. Pregnancy and childbirth are very unpredictable, so try to eliminate any surprises early on to get the most time establishing a routine with the new family addition.
Set Your Intentions
Set your intentions to breastfeed and ask for help! Remind yourself consistently why this is important and how it is benefiting you and baby. I recall also reminding myself that “This is only temporary.” As beautiful as it was, the days were long and at the end of the day I was exhausted. I can assure you everyone will offer advice from all over, both solicited and unsolicited. As you are making a plan to return to work detail out what questions you have weeks before that first day back as you seek to put your mind at ease before that first day. Begin pumping several weeks prior to get your body used to it, build up a supply if you can and feel comfortable with the device. Not all devices are created equal. I do not claim to be an expert on pumps but outside of the hospital grade which was hands down the best for home use, try Medela. Now you can even get one for free through some insurance plans because of the Affordable Care Act. I eventually had to supplement and so I also did my research on that too. I highly recommend looking into reputable donation banks or making your own formula if you have the time and dedication to research and do it correctly. I also recommend Earths Best Organic as my daughter did well with this brand.
Don’t be Ashamed
With my oldest, the most private space offered for me after returning to work was a powder room attached to a women’s employee bathroom. Looking back, I should have asked for more privacy but I made it work. It was awkward the first couple of days and I tried my best to downplay how uncomfortable it was around my colleagues, but I’m sure it showed. Don’t be ashamed of what you are providing for your little love and if the options given to you make you feel that way keep pressing until you are able to create an environment that makes you feel comfortable and secure.
Eat Well, Often and Continue with Frequent Hydration
This is truly an important part of your day! When you pack up your accessories the night prior also pack a healthy lunch, snacks and a water bottle! Eat a good protein filled breakfast and start your H20 consumption before you even leave the house. From personal experience, when your day starts to pick up with distractions you may get away from remember to nourish your body consistently. Your body still requires extra calories and healthy fats and you will burn upwards of 500 calories breastfeeding each day! Here are just a few ides of healthy snack options best for new mamas!
Hummus and Carrots
Salmon Salad & Whole Grain Crackers
Realize the Example you are Setting for Other Women
You may never really know just who you are inspiring and the example that it is setting for them as mothers to be as well. You may already be viewed as a leader or mentor to others and the stigma that is still associated with breastfeeding and to a degree even being a mother in the workplace, can only be changed by women who continue to set the example for other women.
Know Your Body and Your Limits
Please do everything in your power to take it easy those first couple weeks. Everyone will be requiring your attention, asking questions and in general may just be excited to have you back. Remember that you have just went through a life changing event and right now simple is best. Don’t jump right back into over extending yourself, working early or late hours and taking on additional stress. Stress can be a major hindrance to a woman who is still feeding and you can not be everything to everyone all the time. Ease back into your new routine and be flexible as it will take time.
Becoming a mother in many ways has made me a better employee. I learned the value of routine, patience and now discipline. Believe it or not, these are all transferable skill sets that have helped me up my game on the career front. I hope you will share in that experience as well. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish each and every day but it starts with believing in you.
Tell me about your experience! I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.