We started a weekly series on our Instagram account, @merryweatherlc, back in March. Every Wednesday, we profile a #pumpinghero. It's an opportunity to celebrate some of our moms and grow this amazing community of women working hard and managing breastfeeding at the same time. The fact that a small business and small community like ours brims over each week with new stories of support, challenges, and triumph is a credit to women everywhere. We work HARD.
This week, we're taking our little Instagram success story to the blog, because Rachel, a mother of two and lawyer in Washington, DC has a ton of wisdom to share. Check out the whole interview. Rachel reflects on her breastfeeding journey and return to work and gives some good advice along the way.
What did you find most challenging/rewarding about bfing?
Most challenging: Living life based on 3 hour (or really 2.5 hour by the time you account for all the logistics) increments. After being pregnant for close to a year, you still don't have your body back and have to constantly be watching the clock whether to nurse with the baby or go through the whole pumping escapade either at work, offsite meetings, car, bathroom, whatever. It's like feeling chained to something and always having to think ahead. I found that I was less likely to take on new opportunities at work, travel, or even do any personal social things due to the inconvenience of dragging the pump, accessories and having to explain myself.
Most rewarding: Having my babies look deep in my eyes and giving them what they need to flourish. Knowing how hard I work for it and the deep connection I receive because of it.
How did you prepare to return to work?
Easing back in. First telework, then half a week, then a full week. My boss also let me tack on an additional telework day to my schedule. Two days of telework and 3 days in the office was much more manageable.
With my first, talking to other pumping moms to understand the "hacks" and making it work with my schedule. By my second, this wasn't as necessary but I did buy a pumping pouch which I thought was really useful.·
Talked to my husband and agreed upon household duties.
Childcare: Who would do drop off and pick up. Who is the primary contact for my son's school and my daughter's nanny. Who would do doctor's appointments and stay home with the kids if they were sick. How we would do bedtime. Weekday evenings seem to be the most challenging with dinner, bath and bedtime for both kids so we have been adjusting this depending on needs.
Bfing/Pumping: I was obviously in charge of the bulk of this due to the nature of it. But, I did have my husband clean the pump parts daily, sanitize and be in charge of storage. I hated doing those things after already spending hours of my day devoted to bfing/pumping and it made a huge difference.
Other Household Duties: Our life was a lot more fluid before we had kids. Picked up groceries whenever, cooked when we felt like it, went out when we felt like it. We had to get more regimented about doing these things otherwise it felt like we were playing catch up all week long. As an example in terms of food, I do most of the cooking and the meal planning so my husband does food shopping, clean up and trash/recycling.
What kind of support did you receive?
Employer: my immediate supervisor is a mom of three young kids so she "gets it" and has been incredibly supportive and helpful as mentioned about. We also have great lactation facilities. There are two private rooms in the nurse's office with hospital grade pumps, sinks, fridges, etc. I only needed to bring my pump attachments and not drag my entire pump to commute. This was HUGE, and there's no way I would have nursed both my kids for a year without this.
Husband: My husband helped where he could, but overall I think he had trouble understanding all the work that needed to be done to keep it going. I know he mentioned several times why we just didn't give formula to make it easier on me. He did go to a breastfeeding class with me at the hospital while I was preggo with my first.
Friends/mom networks: This is ultimately what helped me get through all the bfing/pumping logistics. Talking to other moms and what has worked for them. I did sometimes use kellymom as a resource but that website and laleche league seemed more geared to stay at home moms and either didn't address pumping issues or did as more of an afterthought.
What do you want other new moms to know?
That it gets easier and it is SO rewarding. With my first, breastfeeding was awful due to a combination of things (tongue tie, nipple shield, inexperience, pain) for the first 6 weeks. It slowly got better after that and then finally when we were in the swing of things it was time to go back to work. With my second, it was a lot smoother since I knew what I was doing. But the deep connection, bond and empowerment I received was so beneficial to both me and my babes. When I think back on nursing that's what I remember and it was truly an amazing experience.