I took a breath to brace myself for any possible negative feedback to come.
“Thank you for meeting with me,” my supervisor started. “As you know, we need to go over last month’s metrics.”
“Your metrics are average. However, I’ve noticed an influx in your time off the phones. Let’s talk about your extra-long breaks….”
“Extra -long breaks?”
I thought to myself.
Upon my return from maternity leave, I started combining my two 15-minute breaks so I could get another pump in for the day.
The only other time I could pump was during my lunch.
I would literally pump and eat my lunch within 30 minutes so I could squeeze a 15-minute nap in before I headed back to my desk to work.
Being a new mother was exhausting.
But being a new mother who had to compete with her male counterparts in a high pressured sales environment was BRUTAL.
I smiled, “Yes, let’s talk…”
You would think that I was referring to Corporate America in the 90s but my daughter will be 5 years old this year.
Yes, you read it right.
In 2014, I was faced with making a life-changing decision–sacrifice my sales driven income or combine my two 15-minute breaks in order to squeeze in a second breast pump session at work.
Talk about an ultimatum.
I was already facing the hurdle of never having breastfed a child.
Not to mention the lack of support I received from family and friends because I was the first mother among them who decided to breastfeed.
I cannot tell you how many times I was asked, “Are you sure the baby is getting enough to eat?”
A question that would cause any first-time mother to doubt herself. And it didn’t help that the following statements were usually, “You should give the baby…cereal, formula, water, etc.” I knew their concern came from a loving place for me and my child, however, the lack of support—especially for a young black mother—was disheartening.
Thankfully, I have a very supportive husband. And just like I did during my pregnancy, I shut out all the noise of any negative person or comment that came my way.
I replaced it with prayer and a positive filter of answers to my endless breastfeeding/pumping/nursing questions from my doctor and late-night Google searches. Companies like Medela, Traditional Medicinals Mother’s Milk Tea, and (believe it or not) Gatorade (to help milk production) became my best friends.
Two years later when I was pregnant with my son, I read an article about the US Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) officially declaring August, #NationalBreastfeedingMonth. The more I came across mothers who were open about their breastfeeding journey, the more I felt confident in my decision to breastfeed my child.
I truly believe that social media had a lot of influence.
By 2016, my employer had received so many “suggestions” from myself and fellow first-time mamas that they began implementing nursing-friendly options in the office. Postpartum mothers were no longer being reprimanded for time off the clock if they made the decision to pump at work.
Could you believe some of my colleagues considered a pump break a luxury?! If only they understood what really went into a pump session. Think about it: You hook your nipples to suction funnels that literally squeeze the milk out of your breasts. The entire process takes about 30 minutes and it drains you of nutrients and energy. Sounds fun, right? Pumping was far from luxurious but the reward outweighed the inconvenience so much that I am here writing this as I breastfeed my third child.
By the end of my time with that particular employer, the company had designated a private room just so that nursing mothers wouldn’t have to walk halfway across the building to use the building’s designated “pump” closet.
There are a lot of the things I know now that I didn’t know as a first time mom. As a 3x avid breastfeeding advocate, here are a few things that I would advise every first-time mama to do:
The last thing you need is stress added to your daily work schedule. Make sure to have a conversation with your immediate supervisor AND Human Resources before/on the date of return to work. Don’t expect them to already know the reason why you started taking “extra-long breaks.”
With every employer, I made sure I had a copy of their handbook. As laws change regarding women’s’ rights and their reproductive rights, it is always wise to equip yourself; Not just with your employer’s policies but the state and federal laws that pertain to you and your child in the workplace. Unfortunately, I had to address my employees’ handbook or laws to management during all three of my pregnancies and postpartum nursing decisions. I truly believe that many of the obstacles that I have faced were due to the fact that pregnancy, as well as breastfeeding, is considered a liability for many employers. From their perspective, they will either be losing you as an employee temporarily during maternity leave or losing proficiency due to the nursing mother being away from her position to pump. Therefore, I make it a point to let my employer know that I am well versed with the employee handbook and state/federal laws. That way they won’t take advantage of me.
Stock up on your current favorite snacks! That one lunch break that you’re assigned for the day will not cut it! I have even resorted to meal supplement or proteins shakes. During this (3rd) pregnancy and postpartum return, I preferred Boost or Ensure because they were easy to drink, digest, and were good for me and baby. As a caution, I wouldn’t drink too many a day. Personally, I gained an exponential amount of weight with this meal replacement shakes.
Make sure you use one of your 15-minute breaks and/or part of your lunch to take nap. You may clock in from 9 to 5 but your body is working 24/7 to provide food for your baby. Please take the time to get at least one nap in during the workday. No matter how heavy your workload is, rest is the key to help you get through your day. You’ll always be happy you did! For more about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”) and break time for Nursing Mothers, please visit here: I kid you not! I get approached about breastfeeding on a daily basis. I’ve actually made friends in public bathrooms over this topic. Nevertheless, there have been times that I’ve cried my little eyes out when I couldn’t pump a sufficient amount of breastmilk for my child to take to daycare. Ladies, this is not something we should downplay. I encourage all first-time and many-times mamas to leave yourself a daily reminder of your superpower on this emotional journey.
Breastfeeding has been one of the toughest yet rewarding experiences I’ve ever gone through. If I were to focus on all of the inconveniences that came with it, I would have quit a long time ago. However, every month that passes by reminds me why I decided to breastfeed.
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns that I didn’t address above. I would be more than happy to answer directly.
You can find me right here on the gram!
Fancy, meeting you here! My name is Francesca (a.k.a. “Fancy”). I am dedicated to sharing my ever-growing knowledge of fashion, love, and the adventures of being a mom.
On my blog, Young • Fab • Fancy, I empower and uplift young and fabulous ladies such as yourself through my content.
As a wife, #Mommyof3, and creator of Handwritten By God (@HandwrittenByGod), I enjoy creating photo-ready personalized blankets exclusively handwritten for your child.
Until next time,
Contributing Mommi Francesca