I love being a working mother, I love being able to have my “own identity” at work and earning my own money. I love being a mother slightly more though, and my children are by far the greatest gift I have ever been given and the most important thing in my life.
The hardest thing you will ever have to do is “go back to work” after having a baby. I have been extremely blessed so far in my career to work for organizations that are flexible in terms of hours and working conditions, something I am pleased to say is becoming easier in South Africa. I only truly “went back to work” with my eldest, and I did that for 4 months before finding a role that allowed me to work from home and be with my boys for over 4 years. Now on baby 3 I find myself “returning to the workplace” once again, leaving a little 3 month old baba at home.
Yes, part of me wants to “run back to the office”. Lets be honest here, and don’t judge me, having been a “stay at home” mum and a “working mum”, it’s a hell of a lot easier on some days to run away to the office and let your caregiver take care of the crying, nap times and feeds. A large part of me however, also wants to stay at home and soak in every single cuddle and sweet smile. The years fly by and in the blink of an eye she will be walking and talking. But, like 90% of South Africa’s women, I need to go back into the office and I am beyond grateful that I have a super nanny to look after my babygirl and I don’t need to put her into a creche yet.
The hardest part of going back to work is always the preparation stage. If you are breastfeeding, it’s making sure whenever you have a free moment, that you are pumping milk to freeze. It’s getting baby used to the nanny/ caregiver and allowing them to learn each other. It means sitting in another room and using all your might not to run and hold baby at every single cry. Hearing your baby crying but knowing that you need to let another person get used to her and understand her cues, to learn her signals like you do as her mother.
The one thing I can do for my babygirl is feed her, and I wouldn’t give that up for the world. Breastfeeding for me is just the most special journey. I breastfed my eldest for over a year, my second son for over 2 years and although circumstances are different now, I fully intend to feed my babygirl for over a year too. Maintaining a corporate career and breastfeeding a baby is a full on commitment in itself and one that I certainly wouldn’t be able to do with some help along the way.
If you are planning on keeping up your supply whilst working there are a couple of things you can do to help you on your journey:
- Firstly, a really great double pump, and make sure you get a hands free bustier. I’m currently using the Medela Freestyle and loving it! Its compact and small and has a fully chargeable lithium battery, meaning I can pop down to my car to pump (open plan offices and clear glass windows in meeting rooms aren’t great for pumping). It takes 17 minutes from start to finish for me to pump out a full feed for Raya, and with the hands free bustier I can even carry on working. Nothing makes you feel more like a superwomen then multitasking 🙂 They key is to try and pump as close to baby’s normal feeding times as possible. I make sure I have enough of a freezer stash available to last a week or two and then whatever I pump that day gets replenished. As soon as I am at home, baby feeds from me as normal.
- Mrs Milk Lactation Bars – Different to traditional lactation cookies in that Mrs Milk provides nutrition, for both mum and baby. “Mrs Milk” bars are fantastic for busy mama’s, not only providing you with key “milk boosting” ingredients like fenugreek, flax and brewers yeast, but also providing you with nutrition and energy for the day ahead. Calories are important when breastfeeding and life is chaotic! We often forget things like breakfast or snacks when you are running between work and kids, and Mrs Milk bars are the perfect in between! They fill you up with all the right things and come in two flavours, the classic and the green apple and moringa (my favourite).
- Lactation Cookies – I have also been munching my way through “Nursing Mama” cookies. The ULTIMATE pick me up treat 🙂 No more mid afternoon or late night choccies for me, because these lactation cookies curb every craving. They are super yummy and come in 3 flavours, coconut and almond (my favourite), peanut butter and chocolate as well as white chocolate and almond. There is even a range to help curb morning sickness. I find some of the flavours a little sweet, but I love the fact that you can buy pre-mixes, because honestly, who has time to run around looking for ingredients like flax seed and brewers yeast? When I bake the pre-mixes I just add a little less chocolate or sugar in to suit my taste.
- Hydration – Goes without saying. Water=Milk, in this case anyway. If you do not increase your hydration, you will not produce enough breastmilk. It’s that simple. So whether its herbal, nursing teas, or plain old water; drink drink drink!
- Finally a crucial item you need to consider, and it just occurred to me whilst I was pumping in the car, is your clothing! So here’s a HUGE shout out to companies like Cherry Melon, Sophie and Jane as well as Mama Noo nursing, who make breastfeeding friendly underwear or clothes. There is a BIG difference in being able to pump or feed discretely when it comes to the clothes you wear. Cherry Melon has some fantastic feeding cami’s that unclip at the strap, I wear these under my work clothes everyday, which allows me to maintain a sense of dignity whilst pumping 🙂
Wherever you are in your breastfeeding journey, know that you aren’t alone. Its tough but it is manageable. Its also a very personal journey, so if you feel that the natural cycle has come to an end, that okay too. This post though is here to encourage you. You can do it, if you want to. There will be ups and downs and ebs and flows, but we have incredible support in this motherhood community, and if you feel you don’t have any, I am here for you!