World Breastfeeding Week 2015 - Let's Make Breastfeeding Work...Against all odds!

From 2007-2012, I breastfed my children. The last 3 years - between 2009-2012 - I continued to breastfeed while I went back to work. This, of course, required that I pump my breast milk at work to give to my kids and maintain my milk supply. Now, I should make it clear that during this time, I actual had multiple jobs and also my studies that kept me out of the home. This means that I pumped my bewbs in many different situations at my various outside-of-home commitments, including:
  • In my car between classes (or even during classroom breaks) at my university teaching job.
  • In empty lecture halls/classrooms at my uni or at my teaching job.
  • In a lovely VIP room at my PR job where there was a bathroom with a shower (!!) and also a comfortable couch for me to sit on and a lock on the door.
  • A small pantry without a lock but with lots of snacks (at my PR job). This was before my boss told me about the VIP room, of course!
  • At various sets when I did the occasional acting gig
  • In a dusty store room at my teaching job when I parked my car too far for me to quickly get away for a quick pumping session :(
That last situation was the most uncomfortable: no chair (so I had to sit on the floor), very dusty, quite dark, and overall just really not conducive to a pleasant pumping experience. I should say that I probably had to do this 5-6 times in the years that I taught at that uni, only when there was no other option (no empty classroom or my car was too far). It was very much a last resort. But this doesn't mean that this isn't a daily reality for a lot of breastfeeding moms at work!

I made it clear when I got hired at all my jobs that I need a place to pump and also the freedom to take time out of my day to do it. I was very lucky to have incredible bosses, colleagues, and also students who were all supportive and understanding. Sadly, many others are not as lucky.

This video by MyNutriBaby illustrates the dilemma faced by a lot of working and breastfeeding moms when it comes to a lack of facilities that allows them to pump comfortable at their workplace, often ending up in a small pantry or dusty store room several times a day. So what happens when people are asked to eat in a store room? Check it out:

 

If this video resonates with you, make sure you take this poll to make your thoughts known and improve the conditions of breastfeeding moms at the office.

Mothers who need to maintain their milk supply NEED to pump at least every 2-3 hours. Not only is it very uncomfortable to go much longer than that in the short term, but when it happens too often, it also sends a signal to the body that the milk isn't needed...which causes a dip in a mom's milk supply that can be difficult and sometimes impossible to get back up.

Mothers who breastfeed at work need support. They need a comfortable, clean, and private area to pump their milk, ample time to do it (15-20 minutes, every 2-3 hours), and people around them who are supportive. What's in it for the rest of the workforce? A woman who is empowered to provide for her family and also contribute at work as a happy and contented employee! 

Some might feel it is "unfair" that a woman can have a "break" every 2-3 hours, but these people clearly don't understand how pumping works, lol. There is a machine pulling on your boobs ok - seriously, it's not like these moms are getting foot massages while sipping cocktails. They're attached to a machine that sucks milk out of their boobies. Not fun.

A few years ago, my friend Farhana and I actually started the Malaysian Breastfeeding Friendly Facilities in a bid to encourage breastfeeding mothers and places of work/leisure to come together and discuss how facilities for breastfeeding moms can be improved. I wish we could say we had the time to manage the page full-time, but we don't right now (congrats, Farhana, on her new baby Harmoni!). But that doesn't mean that y'all can't carry on discussions there if you want to!

So what are your experiences with continuing to breastfeed while going back to work? What's the best and worst thing to happen during your journey?